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Party Of the Year
Jake Alan stood outside, on the patio deck, where the ice-box and crowds of people lingered. He rested his hands on the wooden banister; he could feel the vibration of the booming music that flowed from the speakers, which where inside the two-story house.
“Hey there, stranger,” someone purred from behind.
Recognizing the voice, Jake smiled as he spun around while saying, “Hi Brandy. I thought you weren’t coming tonight.”
Brandy tilted her head to the side, her chocolate brown hair sliding off her shoulder. “You didn’t want me to come?” asked Brandy, her eyebrows rising quizzically.
He shook his head. “No, no, that’s not it. I just thought, you know, you wouldn’t…”
“—come because it’s Madeline Jackson’s party? Why let that ruin a good night of celebration?” she shrugged, her persona basically pouring out optimism. That was one of the things Jake loved about her—she could brighten anyone’s day.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her closer; his arms coiled around her waist. He whispered in her ear, “You’re beautiful. You know that?” She laughed and leaned against his chest.
“Thanks. Oh, hey, so you know…” Brandy started rambling, which make Jake laugh. Nevertheless, everything came to an abrupt halt when an ear-piercing scream echoed through the house. Jake and Brandy sprinted into the house, only to find a big circle incasing the owner of the living quarters—and the hostess of the party.
“Oh my God,” Jake muttered. Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched Brandy’s hand fly up to her gaping mouth. Shock and silence screamed throughout the room; no one spoke, the only noise that could be heard was the frigid breathing.
Jake looked to his side, about to console his girlfriend, however, she wasn’t there. She had moved across the room and was frantically punching buttons on the phone. Evidently, the operator picked up and that was when Brandy began speaking into the receiver. “Help! Madeline, she’s—she’s lying on the floor! I think she might be dead! Come quick!” Brandy yelled. “Yes, Madeline Jackson… What was that? You know that address? What?! You’re her mother?” Gasps erupted from mostly everyone in the palace-like home.
Once the police arrived, several officers were assigned to interrogate the teenagers who attended the party and Madeline’s neighbors. There was one detective, Tailor Nash, who chatted with every person who was remotely important, meaning Jake and Brandy.
“You weren’t present when she was murdered?” Nash asked, her pen looming overhead of the small, lined paper she held. Jake shook his head while he held a traumatized Brandy in his arms. Nash scribbled something onto the parchment before returning her gaze to the teens. “We’ll be in touch. Thank you for your time.” Then Detective Nash moved to other suspects.
Tailor Nash was a well-enough respected detective that worked in the precinct. She was known for getting confessions, having a perfect amount of evidence and presented her cases magnificently in court. Nash was tolerant and laid-back, although she was quick to anger in certain times—most likely times: when a kid was involved.
“Nash,” someone said in a gruff voice. “You find anything worth looking over?”
“Hamlet,” the woman answered, “I might have. But I will take on this case. Don’t lose any sleep over it, all right?”
“Are you sure you can—” Officer Hamlet started.
“I can take care of myself, Hamlet. Thanks anyway,” Nash replied before getting inside her black Sudan. Her hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly; her knuckles began to fade to a white color. She didn’t need a babysitter—especially not at her job; she’d been in the sleuthing industry for five years now. Sighing, she jiggled the keys into the ignition and glanced up, into the mirror. A notebook with bright-colored ribbon laid in the backseat. Nash pondered aloud, “That wasn’t there before.” Her arm stretched around the seat she was occupying to snatch the notebook that was, evidently, titled Madeline E. Jackson’s. What in the world was Madeline’s diary doing in her car? Nash slid off the ribbon and flipped open the cover which exposed papers with scribbled handwriting. As the detective scanned through them, she noticed a worn picture taped to one of the pages. It showed Madeline’s smiling face, but the other person’s face was cut from the photograph—Nash had just found herself possible critical evidence.
Jake drove Brandy home, even though it was only a block away. He claimed it was ‘better safe than sorry.’ Brandy rubbed his arms lovingly, but she couldn’t muster a smile. Not tonight and probably not for the next few weeks. It was hard losing someone you knew—it was even worse losing someone who you used to be close with.
“Hey,” Jake called out as he touched Brandy’s hand. “Are you okay? Never mind, don’t answer that; I know you aren’t but will you be all right eventually?”
She hesitated, but complied, “Eventually.”
The remainder of the car ride was silent, except for the occasional conversation starters given out by Jake. Once he pulled up beside her house, he leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. Afterwards, Brandy said her simple good-bye before hurrying out of the car—Jake just drove away, not wanting to cause a scene. As he drove, the streetlights seemed to grow dimmer, until he was nearby a 7-Eleven store; more lights surrounded the small building in this devouring darkness. He pulled into a parking spot slowly, and then a vision of Madeline standing before his vehicle made him slam down on the brakes. Just as she appeared, she vanished; Jake thought he was imagining things now. Jake shut the car down and leaned back in his seat, unaware of people’s harsh glances because of the screeching halt. Jake tried to calm himself down. “It isn’t real, just chill,” he murmured to himself. A knock on his passenger-side window dragged him back into the cruel sense of reality. Jake turned to see better and only saw Madeline once more. “What the—” Jake shouted. He blinked a few times and saw a familiar face. “Cam? What do you want?” asked Jake.
“Hey, old buddy,” Cam said. “Did you hear what happened to Maddie? She’s dead.”
“Yes, I was present when Madeline was, supposedly, murdered.”
“Oh really? That must’ve been hard—seeing your old girlfriend lying on the floor, not breathing.”
“God, do you always have to be such a jerk?” Jake questioned. He could practically taste the venom on his tongue. “Get lost. And don’t touch the ride; it doesn’t need vermin germs on it.” Jake unlocked his door manually and got out, then quickly locked it. He wandered in the store, not looking for any exact item. Cam and his new girlfriend, Vanessa Cho, also followed Jake into the convenience store. Jake made sure to keep a good distance from the two and stood in the candy-bar section. Randomly, he picked out a Snickers bar and a pack of gum and headed towards the counter.
“Jake… Jake, turn around,” a soft, quiet voice preached to him. He pivoted around, and lo-behold, there stood Madeline again. “I’m dead.”
That’s a bit of an understatement, Jake thought. He moved closer to her, but never seemed to be close enough. Jake thought, I probably look like a complete freak right now.
“You look like you always did,” Madeline giggled; however, her face became stoic within seconds. “You need to find out who killed me.”
How am I going to do that? Jake wondered. You’re dead. This isn’t happening.
“Yes, it is,” Madeline told him. “You have to be a sleuth tonight, Jake. You’re going to have to scavenger the truth.” Madeline stepped back several steps and waved around her hand, which was holding a champagne glass—half empty, half full. She purposely dropped it, the glass shattering; while Jake focused on the fancy cup, Madeline’s ghost disappeared.
I’m going insane. Yup, that’s what this is… Jake silently hoped. He stared at the glass for what felt like hours until finally, he decided it was poisoning—that’s how Madeline Jackson was murdered; poison. The real question was: who slipped the poison into her drink? There were a hundred guests, if not more, loitering about her house last night.
With poisoning, you didn’t have to be with Madeline to kill her…so her killer must’ve been someone who kept a distance from her all evening, except for when they put the tablet into the champagne that Madeline was gulfing down. Someone who’d hugged her or tipped most of the liquid out when they ‘accidentally’ smacked her hand as they shuffled by. That person must’ve put the tablet in there then.
“I’ve got it. The killer is”—he paused.
A mellow voice inside his head finished, “…is Brandy.”
“What? No, it couldn’t be her. She’d never kill somebody—no matter how much she despised them. That’s crazy! Brandy is against animal-slaughtering, for crying out loud!” Jake protested, but a strange doubt was knotted in his stomach when he tried to defend her. Could she really have killed Madeline? If so, for what reason, really?
A hand gripped his shoulder gently, causing a rush of panic to fly through him. He turned and saw Brandy standing there, half-smiling at him, still shaking with some intensity. “Hi,” she said quietly. “What are you doing? You act like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“How did you know I was here?” Jake’s newfound authority became clear when he spoke.
“I just ran down to get a drink, and then I spotted you. Are you going to answer my question?”
“Well,” Jake started. “I know who the killer is. I figured it out, Brandy.”
A distinguished light appeared in her eyes, like she’d been waiting for this moment. “Who is it then?” Brandy pressed.
“It’s a girl. Someone who was probably jealous of Madeline all along,” Jake commented, making a face at the young woman standing before him. The next words that came from his mouth were like word-vomit. “Why? Why’d you do it, Brands?” Jake asked.
“What? You think I killed her? How could you!” Brandy shouted, her shaking immediately vanishing and a stronger tone filling her early-distressed voice. “Jake, I would never…”
“I don’t”—Jake inhaled a deep breath and looked away from his girlfriend—“I don’t believe you. I’m calling the police.”
“No! You can’t!” Brandy ran in front of him as he began walking towards the nearest pay-phone. “I’ll have jail sentenced to life of maybe even get the needle.”
“You stole someone’s life, Brandy. Why shouldn’t someone take yours?” Jake snapped.
Her gaze dropped to the floor. “Fine then. Call them, I won’t run,” Brandy confessed.
A MONTH LATER…
Brandy Smith had been convicted of murder in the second degree; she’ll be getting the highest penalty for her crimes—death herself.
Jake heard it was Brandy’s day for lethal injection and decided to be there for her last words; in case some of them were addressed to him. So that’s why he was dressed in a plain whit T-shirt, black jeans, and a black tie dangling from his neck—it was as close to a tuxedo that he could manage. He drove his car down to the county prison and entered the building. He got into the elevator and pressed the button that was labeled with the biggest number. Jake shoved his hands inside his pockets, trying to push away the fear and uncomfortable feeling that was starting to rain upon him. Finally, with a few stops along the way, he reached floor five and got off. He wandered down the long hallway and came face-to-face with his currently-ex-girlfriend in an orange jumpsuit.
Once everyone got inside the room—that was concealed behind a wall, with a glass that allowed them to watch the injection happen—they hooked Brandy up to the crucifix-styled object. Everyone went into that small room, except Jake. He went into the room that Brandy was being held in. Five things happened next: One…they hit the switch to start pumping the chemicals through her veins. Two…Brandy smiled sickly and turned to stare at Jake. Three…her time was running out, the even was almost over. Four…she said to the boy, “There’s another thing, baby. You haven’t solved the rest of the murders. There’s one larger one. Good luck.” She howled in laughter, which died down when her body realized it was shutting down.
Five…the fifth floor exploded.