In three hours I would find the killer, or there would be hell to pay. It was that simple. Either find him or suffer. I didn’t like being on the receiving end of this directive, nor did I like having to question my neighbors about what happened. This was way too close to home.
What I mean by that is early this morning, on the most idyllic street you could find, a tree-lined slice of suburbia, a murder happened. Right next door to my home, a family of three was brutally hacked to pieces as they prepared for the day, presumably with an axe. The killer came in through the back door and left the same way. As far as I could tell there was no motive, no attempted robbery, no sexual assault, no clues. Well, one clue: the killer ran through my backyard. He left a bloody trail of footsteps that led out of the back door and to my yard. The trail led almost to my cellar door before fading away, which means he must have made it to the street, running right past my kitchen window. If Carla was here she would have seen him as he ran past. Usually she would be in the kitchen preparing coffee for us. Where was she by the way. Upstairs I hope. I don’t want her to see this.
I stood on my front porch watching the local police work, a cup of coffee in one hand, while my other was in my pocket. They were doing the usual cop stuff, taping off the crime scene, gathering evidence, questioning anyone who happened to be about, which wasn’t many. At 6:27 in the morning, the time of the murders, most people were either preparing for the day like they were, or still asleep. I wanted to help, being a detective, but ironically this was not my jurisdiction. The local cops made sure I understood this when I offered my help. They were both polite and stern, with a hint of hostility. Maybe that was because they wanted to search my house. After all, the tracks did kind of lead there. Nothing really definitive, but it never hurts to check, I guess. Now they’re mad because I forced them to get a warrant. After all, it’s not my jurisdiction, and if they want to be hard-asses about it, so can I. Hence my three-hour limit. I knew that once they got that warrant, they would tear through my house with wild abandon, just to be jerks. So what if I was going through a tough time right now. They wouldn’t care. No one cares.
I wish Carla were here. She would know just what to say. She would make everything feel better, tell me not to worry, it’ll work out for the best. She had that way about her, her charm, her dignity. She knew things were very stressful at work, and she always greeted me with a cold scotch when I got home. One ice cube, just the way I liked it. I could sit in my chair and just let the day melt away while she got dinner ready. Sometimes, when the stress was too much, we would have sex, anywhere we happened to be. In the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, the pantry. Nothing like a strong release to make everything ok for a while. The house was clean, the beds were made, the laundry was in the hamper, my clothes were neatly pressed and ready for the next day. My home was perfect, and she helped make it that way, with a little encouragement. Sometimes I would bring home flowers and she would always be surprised. Always have a smile on her face. Always grateful for any little thing I did.
Yes, this was my sanctuary, my escape from the outside world. I could be myself here, do whatever I wanted. And then she had to ruin it by disappearing. No note, no warning, nothing. When I find her she would be sorry she left. It’s because of her the alarm didn’t go off. She would always make sure it was set for the right time. It was one of her few jobs, to make sure I woke up on time. Out there on the streets was complete and utter chaos. All I wanted was for this house to be ordered. For things to be in their right place and for Carla to be the perfect wife. Was that asking too much? I don’t think so. But now is not the time to think about that. I was actually pretty calm, all things considered. Being a police detective meant you saw all of the things they don’t show you on television, or even mention. This particular scene was a case in point. And as I was the one to find their bodies and make the call, I was a chief witness. I couldn’t leave to ask around the neighborhood because of that. My chief, when I called in, told me to do what I could and he would check on me later. He sounded a little off when he said that, usually yelling at me about cases I need to work on. If the case load wasn’t so huge he wouldn’t yell so much. Or maybe he would; he seems like the kind of guy that can only get his point across through yelling. Either way, it did’t help with the stress level at the precinct. But his calm demeanor did help me keep my calm this morning, which was strange. You would think that with Carla gone and a mass murder next door, I’d be pretty tweaked. But for some reason I felt like a giant weight was lifted off of my shoulders. So amongst side glances from the police, I walked back into my house. The coffee I was drinking was almost done anyway, good time for a refill.
I walked into the kitchen and topped off my mug. Then I grabbed my phone and called the office so that they could give me the number of the woman across the street from me. If anyone saw anything, it would be her. She has a pretty direct line of sight down the space between my home and the crime scene. So if anyone saw anything, it would be her.
I just didn’t know her name. All I knew was that she was alone, drove a Camry, blue, and no pets. I didn’t bother knowing the neighbors, they just came and went as far as I was concerned. Carla was friendly with the murdered family. The few times I would come home early I would see her talking to the lady of the house. Our backyards are bordered with hedges but our driveways are side by side, which is where I would catch them. She would take one look at me and then say her goodbyes. I never learned their names either. It was a waste of my time. I didn’t like Carla talking to them. Neighbors tend to want to get in your business, not something I liked. I would discourage Carla from talking to them, but every here and there I would catch them.
That’s how I discovered them in the first place. When I realized she was gone they were the first people I thought of. That’s also how I became a chief witness. I walked up to their back door and knocked. When no one answered I opened the door and found them. I think I walked inside, and then out, hence the bloody footprints leaving their home. But the killer had to have taken the same route, and the woman across the way could have seen him.
I got the number, thanked the operator, hung up, then picked up the phone again and dialed her number, a Miss Rachel Greene. It rang a few times and then she picked it up.
“Hello” came the response.
“Hi, Miss Greene. I don’t know if you know me, I’m your neighbor from across the street, Detective Brown. I was hoping to ask you about what happened earlier today and if you saw anything. Do you have a moment?”
There was a slight gasp that seemed to have been cut short. That sounds like a potential.
“I just wanted to ask you a few questions. Is that alright?”
She seemed nervous when she replied. “Um, ok. You’re a police officer? Is that how you got my number?”
“Yes it is”, I said. “I was just wondering if you happened to see anything this morning. Across the street. If you did I would like to come over and talk with you.”
“No no, I didn’t see anything” she rushed out. “ I swear, I was in the kitchen at the time, I didn’t see anything!”
“Easy now, easy. You’re not in trouble or anything.” Another quick-to-answer witness. That’s how you know they know something. The trick is to get them to open up. “I’m not accusing you of anything. I just want to know if you saw anyone running down my or the next door neighbor’s driveway. Anyone suspicious looking, or someone you’ve never seen before.”
There was a long pause before she answered. Then, “N..no, I didn’t see anyone suspicious, I think.” She sounded confused, dragging the words slowly out.
“Well did you see anyone at all?” I asked, beginning to think I was getting nowhere with her.
“The only person I saw was…was you.” It came out meekly, like a child admitting he was guilty of something. I was losing my patience with this woman, who clearly only saw me as I left the house next door.
“Ok, I just have one more question” I said. “Did you happen to see my wife? I’m not sure when she left the house and I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“No, I haven’t seen her” was the reply. Great, I said to myself. This whole situation would be a lot easier to tolerate if Carla was here, and this woman was no help. So I said thanks and hung up the phone. I needed to start thinking of who else I could call. In this entire neighborhood someone had to see something.
As I took another sip of my coffee someone knocked on the door. Probably one of those cops looking to ask me questions. It took them long enough. Maybe it was the suspense of when they would get here, but now that they are a little more pressure eased it’s way off of my shoulders. I couldn’t wait to get this over with, then I could get back to looking for Carla.
I took another sip of my coffee, to the sound of the second knock. Right, Carla’s not here and she always answered the door, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with nosy neighbors wanting me to join in on anything, or people doing surveys or wanting you to join their cult or whatever. Any other time this would be an inconvenience, but as I know who’s there I can let this one slide. So with mug in hand I left the kitchen and answered the door.
Patiently waiting on the other side was a detective, no doubt. A slim, tall man with black hair in a dark suit that was just above cheep. His badge hung around his neck like jewelry, still standard issue, just real shiny. “Hello, Officer Neal Brown is it?” he said. “I’m Officer Darren Trent. Im investigating the murders next door. Do you have a minute to talk?”
“Sure”, I said. “Took you guys long enough to get here. Wait, don’t you guys usually travel in packs?”
“Usually, but my partner is asking around too. Figured we’d divide and conquer, know what I mean? There’s a few houses around here and we want to be thorough. May I come in?” He had that cop voice, both warm and cold, like he’s been doing this a while.
“If it’s ok with you we can talk right here.” I didn’t want him in my house. They were getting a warrant anyway, why make it easy for them? “Oh, and I’d offer you some coffee but I just ran out.” I didn’t, nor was I feeling generous.
“This is fine,” he replied. “And just so we’re clear, you’re not a suspect. I’m just following up on what you reported earlier. Now if I understand correctly, you discovered the bodies?”
“Yes I did”.
“May I ask why you were there?”
“Well it’s like I told the other officer. I woke up to find my wife missing. I thought she may have went next door and that’s where I found the bodies.” Over his shoulder I could see his partner knocking on the door to Miss Greene’s house. I could tell he was his partner; he wore the same suit. Good luck with that.
“Does your wife go missing a lot?” asked Trent.
I looked at him, and wanted to say that that was the stupidest question anyone could ask. Instead I said “No”, with the just the right amount of incredulity. Does this guy really know what he’s doing?
“Perhaps she had an early appointment somewhere. I wouldn’t worry just yet. Next thing you know she’ll be walking down the street with groceries probably, or maybe she had a doctor’s appointment or something.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Can we get on with this? I’ve got to get to work.”
“Sure, sure,” was the reply. “That’s right, you work in the city. I’m sure you’ve seen worse things than this, with all that big city crime. Probably be too much for us small town cops. It’s not everyday we see a family butchered like that. I think the wife got it first, followed by their ten-year-old daughter who looked as if she was eating her breakfast when the assault happened. The husband must of heard the screams and came running from upstairs and walked right into it. None of them had a chance.”
Was this guy trying to make friends? His friendly tone was really getting on my nerves, and my patience was slowly withering away. I had other things to deal with, and this guy was keeping me from it. My first priority: where was Carla.
The look on my face must have said more for me than I wanted to say myself as he continued. “I’m sorry, I can tell that I’m keeping you. I just have a few more questions.” I looked over his shoulder again and saw that Miss Greene had opened her door, just a little bit, to talk with Trent’s partner. Maybe later I should go over there and ask her a few more questions. For some reason I felt like she knew more than she wanted to admit.
Trent continued, “So what time did this happen”
“Which, me discovering the bodies or the time of the murder?” I asked.
“Well, both. I’d like to get your opinion on this.” The chummy thing again. I gave him my aggravated look, like I was talking to a grade schooler, and said, “I discovered the bodies around 6:45-ish. I’m usually up at 6am, but my wife didn’t wake me. So fifteen minutes later I awoke to her being gone, which is when I discovered her missing. That’s why I went next door. They seemed to be friends, I thought maybe they knew something. The scene looked fresh, like it happened maybe fifteen minutes earlier.”
“Are you friends with them?”
“No, I like to keep to myself. Besides my hours don’t give me much of a social life.”
“Of course. My wife tends to get on my case about that too. I guess we do have something in common, besides the job.” Over his shoulder I saw the door close to Miss Greene’s home and his partner was walking this way. This should be interesting.
“Ok, I think I have enough, unless you can think of anything else?”
His partner reached the bottom of the steps to the porch and got Trent’s attention. “Excuse me, one second” he said, and stepped off the porch to talk to his partner. He whispered something in Trent’s ear, and Trent whispered back. Back and forth they went for a minute, and then both looked at each other silently.
Trent turned to me and said, “I think we need to see what’s in your basement.”
I chuckled at them. “Not without that warrant.” Not that I had anything to hide. I just liked making things difficult.
“The thing is,” began Trent “we have a witness who saw someone going into your basement. That’s enough for Reasonable Suspicion, as you well know. At the very least, we can see if the killer made it into your home. I don’t think it’s safe until we check. Do you mind?”
Now I was intrigued. And I was curious about what that old biddy across the street said. I sipped at my coffee, and said “Sure, why not. Right this way”, as I motioned into the house.
“Actually, we’d like to go in through the basement door, if that’s ok. Unless it’s locked…”
I took another sip of my coffee, then said “Yes, it is. But I have the key on me. Shall we?”
I closed the front door, placed my mug on the porch railing and stepped off of the porch. As I led the local talent around the side of the house I said “You’d think I would know if there was someone other than me in my house.” “I’m sure you would” came the reply, from which detective I didn’t know.
As we walked I noticed one of the uniformed cops pop up his head. He then tapped his partner and they both joined us by the door. Too bad being summoned couldn’t be more subtle, but these were small town cops. I fished the keys out of my pocket and descended the three steps to the basement door. I looked back at Trent and asked “Are you sure about this?”
Trent looked right at me and said “Yes sir.”
I just shrugged my shoulders and opened the door. I was closely followed by Trent and his partner, with the uniforms right after them.
I flipped the light switch to show I had nothing to hide. Yet right in the middle of the room were my pajamas, covered in blood, as well as my axe which should have been hanging on the wall. As I wondered how they got there, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look, to find Carla at last. But she wasn’t standing there ready to serve me breakfast. She was hanging from a rope by her neck.
That’s when it all came flooding back. I found her here this morning. She had left me, and had gone to the only place I couldn’t follow, leaving nothing more than an empty husk. How could she leave me like this. Life here wasn’t bad, and all she had to do was keep the house clean, and my laundry, and cook, and have a drink ready for me when I got home. How could she!!! I put up with her many flaws, helped her to be a better wife, taught her what she needs to be to me, and this is how she repays me!!!
Yes, it all came back. Yes, she needed to be punished, but because she was gone the punishment would be wasted. Yes, someone had to suffer. Yes, I did grab the axe. Yes, I did go over to my neighbors house. Yes, I chopped those bastards up for putting ideas in Carla’s head. Damn neighbors, always trying to get in your business. If they just left well enough alone they wouldn’t be a pile of pieces now, would they? Would they?!
I felt the anger rising again, from deep in my soul. It was like a heating coil that starts off black, then turns red, and gets brighter and brighter, eventually becoming a white hot heat. The detectives were talking to me, but I didn’t hear them. I was being consumed again by anger, rage, hate, all of the things I try to leave at my door, now un-bottled, bubbling up and out, a white energy that was filling my eyes, first around the edges, slowly working its way around my vision. My fists clenched, my teeth gritted, my face contorted, a low growl left my chest, up and out through my throat, and the whiteness was getting bigger and brighter and all consuming. I think someone tried to grab my arm, but instead I lunged for the axe…
I woke up, not knowing where I was. My eyes were only half open, but I could tell I was not at home. I tried to look at my watch, only to find my arm strapped down. I was on a gurney with my limbs strapped to it. What the hell is going on? I struggled a little bit, then a bit more. I looked around and saw that I was in what looked like a hospital room, except the windows had bars in them. I was confused and restrained and I didn’t like this one bit.
“Hey!” I yelled at the door. “Somebody out there? Hey!!!” I struggled more with the straps, but they were on good. Still, I struggled, making as much noise as I could. Somebody better come in here and let lm loose.
The door opened and a doctor came in, followed by two policemen. “I see you’re awake” said the doctor.
“Yeah, I’m awake”, I snarled, “Now get me outta this!”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
“What? Why? What’s going on? Who are you?”
“I’m Doctor Phillips. I’m here to help you.”
“Great, you can start by getting me out of this.” I gave the straps another spirited shake.
“Easy now, we need to talk first” said the doctor.
“How ‘bout we talk about getting me outta this?”
“In a moment, first let’s talk” He put his hand on my shoulder and looked down on me. “Just take a few deep breaths and we can get through this together.” Maybe he thought he was being comforting. I saw it as taking liberties. But the only way out of this was through him. I wanted to rip his face off, and then shred it into a thousand little pieces, but first things first, and I guess that’s just talking.
“That’s it, let’s just keep calm and you’ll be out of there in no time. Just breath, in and out, in and out.” This doctor was really annoying.
“Look, maybe you don’t know who I am, but my name is Detective Brown…”
“We know who you are, now please, try to relax, just calm down and everything will be explained to…”
“Well if you know who I am then let me go!” I yelled. “Now!” I turned my attention to the two uniforms in the room. “Hey, you guys want to help me out of this?” I was getting pretty frantic, and the doctor’s hands on me wasn’t helping.
“Ok” said the doctor, “I’m going to call a nurse with a sedative. Perhaps after you’ve calmed down a bit we can talk.” He turned his attention to the door and called for the nurse.
“No no, no sedative. I’ll calm down. See, I’m breathing, in and out, in and out.” I started taking deep breaths. Better that than the groggy juice. I needed my wits about me if I was going to get out of here, so for now I’ll play the doctor’s game. It seemed to be working too. Doctor Phillips watched me with a cautious eye, and when the nurse came in he waved her off. Great, it was working. “See, we’re all just happy, calm people. Now what would you like to talk about?”
Doctor Phillips, satisfied that I wouldn’t cause any more trouble, turned to the policemen and the nurse and asked them to wait outside. He closed the door behind them, pulled a chair next to the bed and sat down. “Well”, he began, “we certainly do have anger issues, don’t we?”
“Yea, well, if you woke up in a strange room strapped to a bed you’d be upset too. By the way, where am I?”
“You’re at the hospital, but that’s not what I mean. I was referring to what you did to your neighbors. And to those officers.”
“What are you talking about” I said, confused as to where this was going. “I discovered my neighbors chopped up bodies and called it in. And I have no idea what you mean about those officers.”
The doctor looked at me in earnest. “Don’t you remember? You grabbed an axe and attacked them.”
There must have been the most stunned look on my face, because I couldn’t believe what this quack was telling me. But looking in his eyes, it seemed he really believed this. There has to be more to this story. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. And I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”
“It was after we discovered your wife’s body. Do you remember that?”
That’s when it all came flooding back. I found her there this morning, in the basement. She had left me, and had gone to the only place I couldn’t follow, leaving nothing more than an empty husk. How could she leave me like this. Life here wasn’t bad, and all she had to do was keep the house clean, and my laundry, and cook, and have a drink ready for me when I got home. How could she!!! I put up with her many flaws, helped her to be a better wife, taught her what she needs to be to me, and this is how she repays me!!!
The rage was beginning to rise again. I vaguely heard the doctor say my name a few times, but I wasn’t hearing him. The anger at Carla for leaving me the way she did was just too much. The whiteness was beginning again, that white hot heat of all consuming anger once again slowly filled my eyes. By this time the doctor had called in the police again, and they were holding me down while the doctor prepared the sedative. I began to growl, and struggled at my restraints. It wasn’t until after the doctor injected me that I began to calm down, cool down, rest, relax, sleep,…