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The crunching and crackling of leaves and twigs under her black Nike sneakers was the only sound to be heard at 10:00 pm. She was the third person in a week to be out in the woods running this late at night. All around trees were bare and the air was chilled and crisp. Sweat slowly made dark spots on the pits of her shirt, while her heart pounded fast and unevenly.
One single shot right in the chest, stopping its victim from ever moving again. She lay there with eyes wide open and blood pooling on the ground where the bullet had exited the body. As the night grew older the darkness lurked away, blending in with the world around it.
* * * * *
“Alice Rogers, age 22. She was found by a couple hiking through the woods at 6 this morning.” stated a very tired Sheriff Baxter.
He was exhausted from the previous night of partying and consuming one too many Sam Adams. There had been a pretty blonde lady across the bar he so desperately wanted the attention of. Or maybe she was a brunette… he couldn’t remember. Pulling out all his best moves still wasn’t enough to impress her, and he found himself passed out in a booth the next morning.
Baxter had been working this case since the first body showed up at the beginning of the week. But due to his lack of effort and attention, the town was nowhere closer to finding this killer. Citizens didn’t feel safe in their own homes. All of them knew about Sheriff Baxter’s nightlife, it was a small town, but no one was going to speak out.
“I’m going to my office now and reviewing my notes. Don’t disturb me, I might have a lead.” Sheriff Baxter mumbled as he headed back to where his car was parked.
The medical examiner and the few townspeople that had started to crowd around, rolled their eyes because everyone knew that was a cover so he could go take a nap. He hadn’t even asked about the cause of death or any other questions important in solving this case.
Then, a high-pitched voice from behind the standing crowd spoke up and said, “I have a theory, but I must know a few facts about this body. What is the approximate time of death?”
It was a small red headed girl that had come to the front now and stared directly at the body. She wore a pair of unisex cargo pants, and a limp blue tank top. Despite the fact that it was fall, she had a vibrant pink winter hat on with a pom pom sitting on the top. The medical examiner, Todd, recognized her as the local bartender’s daughter. She was known as a strange child, and never hung out with the rest of the children. Todd wasn’t sure if he felt pity for her always being alone, or if he just wanted to tell someone about Alice Rogers. But he found himself answering little Jenny Ryan’s question.
“A little after 10:00 last night.”
“Interesting, and was anything found on the body?”
“For a matter of fact, yes. I found beer drizzled all over her. How’d you know that?”
Jenny nodded slowly and said, “Thank you Mr. Todd I am very confident that I know who did this.”
The medic stretched his back as he stood up and just chuckled, “Care to elaborate on that statement?”
Jenny shook her head so that the pom pom swished back and forth. Then she ran home because it was getting late and her father was probably waiting for her. She had one more loose end that needed to be secured into place, but that could wait until tomorrow.
As she burst into the station the next morning, all the cops looked at her in surprise. Baxter wouldn’t let any of them help with the case because his own narcissism made him believe that no one else could solve it. So, while a killer ran loose all the towns cops were at their desks drinking coffee.
Inside Sheriff Baxter’s office snores were practically vibrating the walls. Jenny snuck up to his desk and quietly opened the bottom drawer. There! She found what she was looking for. Jenny closed the drawer and walked out of the room.
“Attention everyone! I have very important information about the recent killings. I have been studying the crime scenes, as well as witnessed an event that will help this case.” She paused for dramatic effect, “Two nights ago around 9 o’clock, I saw Sheriff Baxter finish 5 beers while flirting profusely with a brunette lady in my father’s bar. They left around 9:40 pm, both having to use each other just to stand up. At 10:30 Baxter returned alone and had 3 more beers. He was talking about how this killer would be caught, and that he knew the killer all too well.”
Looking out at everybody, she could tell that she had their full attention. Jenny was partly surprised that they were listening to a little girl. Probably because they were so sick of sitting around and that they were glad to finally be a part of some action.
“When I saw Alice Roger’s body this morning, I instantly recognized her as the girl that Officer Baxter was with. He has no alibi, actually it seems he was with the victim during time of death. Also, the medical examiner said that beer was drizzled all over her body!”
Jenny takes a moment to get the object from the Sheriff’s desk out of her pocket, “This is Baxter’s gun, the bullets match the one used to kill Alice! Come on guys, we’ve all known for a long time that something is a little off about him and-”
“What’s going on out here? And where’s my gun?!” Baxter is standing in his doorway looking crazier than ever.
All the cops are staring at one another, mostly in shock, slowly piecing together that their boss is the killer this little town has come to know and fear.
The room is full of silent breathing and awkward glances.
Jenny realizes she is still holding the heavy metal gun in her hands, her finger on the trigger. No one could have guessed what happened next... The town killer was dead in an instant, gone the same way all his victims had. Shot in the chest, blood pooling around his abdomen, and never going to move again.