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I could feel cold sweat dripping down my brow as I surveyed my surroundings, searching for my attacker. I counted the rapid beats of my heart in my head to keep myself calm.
One… two… three… four…
I saw the blade of a razor-sharp knife glint in the moonlight. Two bright eyes appeared out of the darkness and focused on me. Gravel crunched under the attacker’s shoes as they moved closer.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” a voice echoed. It sounded strangely familiar: sweet to the point that it was sickly.
The steps became louder.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
I took off down the poorly-lit street as fast as I could, kicking up loose asphalt as I ran. I could hear my attacker’s labored breathing as they sprinted behind me. I veered off the road and into a narrow alleyway, hoping I could hide in the shadows. There, a rat scurried over my feet, just as desperate to find food in the trash bins as I was to stay alive.
A few minutes passed and I sighed silently, thinking I had finally outsmarted my assailant. The sickly voice echoed down the dark alley:
“I found you.”
I suddenly felt a searing pain as the tip of a knife entered my skin.
? ? ? ? ?
“Have you heard any new info on that assault case in Brooklyn?” I asked my coworker, Bryan, while leaning back in my office chair as far as I could in an attempt to peer into his cubicle.
“Afraid not,” he replied. “The chief says there’s been some issue with the processing of the evidence and no new information will be released until it’s sorted out.”
I sighed heavily and slumped back in my chair, frustrated that this would be my second week at work with no exciting cases to solve. The satisfaction of investigating a crime and bringing a criminal to justice was a feeling unmatched by anything else. I heard the familiar thumping of my boss’s steel-toed boots approaching my desk, and I swiveled around in my chair to meet his eyes.
“Lieutenant Kaiser, what can I do for you?” I asked politely, eager to make a good impression so he would choose me for another case.
“Miranda, I’ve selected you to be one of the chief investigators on a high-profile case. Why don’t you walk with me to the conference room so we can discuss this more in depth?” Lt. Kaiser responded gruffly.
I almost jumped out of my chair in excitement, but I was able to keep my composure. I looked over my shoulder at an approving Bryan before heading into the conference room.
Lt. Kaiser flicked on the lights and motioned for me to sit with his big, calloused hand. He handed me a beige folder containing the alleged robber’s profile.
Priscilla Leroy, a 45-year-old female accused of drugging and robbing an older male at Cosmos Bar on 5th Avenue.
The suspect has blonde hair, a small build, and is not considered to be violent, the file read.
“I want you and a team of investigators to go to this woman’s house and question her. Take a look around to see if you can find anything out of the ordinary,” Lt. Kaiser ordered.
He slid me a piece of folded yellow paper.
“Here’s the search warrant if she’s suspicious for any reason.”
I nodded and smiled, took the piece of paper, and practically sprinted out of the conference room. My team was waiting eagerly for me at the door and we sped off towards the old house in upstate New York inhabited by Priscilla Leroy.
? ? ? ? ?
I knocked on the door of 100 Mulberry Lane gently, as it appeared that it would fall off its hinges if I tapped any harder. The rest of the stoop was in similar condition, with rows of dead foliage and rotting floor panels. Almost instantly, as if we had been expected, a middle-aged, scantily-dressed woman wearing gold eyeshadow flung open the door.
“Looks like I’ve got company!” a voice exclaimed.
“Ma’am, we are from the New York Intelligence Agency,” I stated, holding up my badge. “My team and I are here to search your home for the items you allegedly stole from your date, Mr. Ackerman. Here is our search warrant,” I said, holding up the yellow slip of paper Lt. Kaiser had given me.
The risqué woman grabbed the piece of paper with her long, polished fingers and jumped aside, eagerly motioning for us to come in. She was certainly the most excited person I’d ever seen about criminal investigators showing up at their home.
I ordered my team to begin the search upstairs while I took a look around on the main floor. As I sorted through her kitchen cabinets for the gold watch owned by Mr. Ackerman, she stood cautiously behind me, her hazel eyes intently watching every move I made.
“You know, you are the spitting image of my mother when she was younger. The black hair, brown eyes, thin face, you’ve got it all,” Ms. Leroy blurted out. Her mood suddenly darkened and her voice became quieter. “Mother...mother...mother...” she muttered to herself, twitching.
“Ma’am, are you alright?” I asked, concerned.
“Oh, I’m fine, dear,” Ms. Leroy replied with a warm smile. “I just get so lonely in this old house of mine that I’ve developed the habit of talking to myself, that’s all.”
I nodded and continued looking, unsure of what to say.
Two hours passed quickly. My colleagues came down the rickety stairs, empty-handed, just as I was finishing my search. I stripped off my latex gloves and headed towards the door.
“Thank you for your compliance, Ms. Leroy. My team and I are going to do a quick scan around the perimeter of your home and then we’ll be on our way.” I told her. I ushered my team outside and clicked the door shut quietly, Ms. Leroy’s bright eyes and crooked smile following me all the way out.
I scoured through the unkempt foliage and dead rows of flowers that lined the old house. Suddenly, I tripped on a rock-hard mound of raised dirt and almost fell face-first into a rosebush. Upon further inspection, the mound seemed to run about five feet along the side of the house. I bent down and took a sample of the soil just under the surface of the ground and stashed the vial away in my pocket.
“Let’s go!” I called to my colleagues. We piled into our navy blue police van and sped off, the vial of soil bouncing around in my jacket pocket.
? ? ? ? ?
“Miranda,” Lt. Kaiser mumbled in a gravelly voice as he stood in the entrance of my cubicle, “the soil sample from Ms. Leroy’s property has come back from the lab. It tested positive for human skin cells and type A- blood. The forensics team is still trying to identify exactly who it belongs to. I think you may have more than an alleged robber on your hands.”
My eyes widened. Could Priscilla Leroy be a murderer? I thought to myself, dumbfounded.
“I’ll head to Ms. Leroy’s residence first thing tomorrow morning to conduct a second investigation, Lieutenant,” I said as I cracked a nervous smile. I decided that I would bring mace on my keychain just in case Ms. Leroy decided to try anything funny.
? ? ? ? ?
In the late afternoon, my team and I pulled up to the dilapidated home once again, leaving my shovel in the back seat. As I stepped out of my vehicle, the front door swung wide open, the hinges whining loudly. Priscilla Leroy stood cheerfully in the doorway.
“Back again so soon? I don’t get a lot of voluntary visitors in this neck of the woods,” Ms. Leroy remarked in her usual overly-sweet tone. “I love your lipstick! Bright red, exactly like my mother used to wear it. Did I mention you look just like her?”
She kept her eyes locked on me, scanning me from top to bottom before she abruptly shut the door. My entire body broke into a cold sweat and I felt paralyzed for a moment.
As the door clicked closed, I grabbed my shovel and raced into the tangled foliage on the side of Ms. Leroy’s home. I wasn’t digging for long until the edge of my shovel hit something firm. As I brushed the remaining soil away, I gasped. Bodies.The freshly-bloodied bodies of three young women laid in the shallow grave. I almost screamed out in horror, but quickly covered my mouth in case Ms. Leroy heard me.
“Everyone, come look!” I called to my colleagues in a hushed but urgent voice. As they approached the mass grave, their eyes widened. Some of them, even with years of experience in crime investigation, had never seen such a bloody murder scene.
“These must have been recent killings,” I observed.
All three women looked eerily similar: black hair, brown eyes, and red lips. Their forearms all beared a number carved into their skin: 1, 2, 3. The sickening stench of rotting flesh filled our noses, making us retch. We devised a plan to surround the house and arrest Priscilla Leroy. My comrade knocked on the old door, handcuffs in hand. Ms. Leroy opened the door with her usual crooked but cheerful smile.
“Oh, you again! Did you forget something?” she asked sweetly.
“Ma’am, you are under arrest for the murder of three individuals,” my comrade dictated. He forcibly turned her around and bound her hands tightly with the metal cuffs, searching for any weapons she could have hidden in her clothes.
Her smile quickly turned into a demonic-like scowl. To my surprise, she made little protest while being led into the police van. No words came out of her mouth as she passed me; she only looked at me with fiery eyes. As the sun began to set, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos of the gruesome crime scene, desperate to leave and tell Lt. Kaiser my findings.
? ? ? ? ? ?
It was just before midnight when I arrived from upstate New York at my tiny Manhattan apartment. Still haunted by my grim discovery, I rode the elevator up to my apartment and took out my phone to dial Lt. Kaiser’s number.
My apartment door was unlocked, even though I could have sworn that I locked it before heading to work that morning. As I entered my apartment, I froze in horror. On the wall, written in my exact shade of red lipstick, was a single word. DIE.
Priscilla Leroy emerged from behind my curtains, brandishing a knife as sharp as her gaze.
“H-how did you escape from jail?” I stuttered, dumbfounded and terrified.
There was no answer. She was mumbling something under her breath as she inched closer to me.
“Black hair, brown eyes, red lips… mother.”
“Black hair, brown eyes, red lips… mother.”
She got louder.
“Black hair, brown eyes, red lips… mother!”
“Black hair, brown eyes, red lips… MOTHER!!!”
I grabbed my keys, bolted out of the apartment, and almost flew down the stairs. Ms. Leroy’s maniac laughing was coming closer as I burst out the front door of the building and into the street. I veered sharply to the right and ran into a dark, dingy alleyway, hoping that she would lose track of me.
A few minutes passed and I sighed silently, thinking I had finally outsmarted Ms. Leroy. Suddenly, her sickly voice echoed down the dark alley.
“I found you.”
I fumbled for my keys in the darkness, remembering that I had put mace on them the previous day. I felt a searing pain as the tip of a knife entered my skin, directly under the right side of my ribcage. My assailant shoved a cloth in my mouth as I tried to scream and pinned my arms to the ground. I desperately tried to fight back using methods I had learned in my law enforcement training, but the deep stab wound in my ribs was too painful.
She had a hazy, delirious look in her eyes.
“I’m tired of all the insults and beatings you’ve given me during my wretched childhood. I’m tired of the depression and the loneliness. You stole my innocence and everything that made life worth living. Now I’m going to steal what’s most precious to you: your life. I hate you, mother,” she sneered.
With the blade, she traced the number 4 into my forearm, the gushing blood making the number almost illegible. The severe pain blurred my vision and thoughts, and I was losing blood quickly. With the last bit of my strength, I kicked Priscilla Leroy in the stomach, sending her toppling off of me. I grabbed the mace on my keys and sprayed it in her eyes. Ms. Leroy screamed, clawing at her eyes furiously. I picked up the bloody knife and held it above my head. I plunged the blade into Priscilla Leroy’s heart, killing her instantly. I stood over her body with adrenaline coursing through my veins.
“Go join your mother in hell.”