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The trees were tinged with orange, yellow, and red as fall pushed the warmth of summer out of its path ushering in a cold, new atmosphere. Few people walk along the paved streets of Ohara, Minnesota; a small town encompassed by a large system of oak forests. Deer populate the woods making it an excellent place for hunters during that particular time of year.
Seventeen-year-old Valerie Carter, a young but determined poet struggles to find inspiration, her eyes only noticing the vacancy of words on the leather bound notebook that lies across the desk in front of her.
She peers out the window, briefly watching the rhythmic sway of the oaks as the wind guides them back and forth. The forest beyond was the only thing that darkened the otherwise beautiful, sunny day. That was it, Valerie thought, her poem would be about the forest. The forest did, to her, radiate darkness which was precisely why she had never stepped foot in it. Instantly her pencil was gliding over the college ruled paper, scribbling down notes and beginnings of the poem.
Deep in the woods, a great darkness lies,
A sinister, menacing evil it hides.
Something is rising above us all,
It will invoke our unforeseen downfall.
Valerie paused, setting her pencil down, taking a moment to consider. She never intended to get her work published but couldn’t help wonder if it even would be accounted for. After all, the greatest work starts as a simple yet powerful idea that blooms into something more significant and has a lasting effect. Valerie sighed, wishing that one day her work would become famous and not a single person wouldn’t know her name. If only. Her mother’s voice interrupted her unrealistic daydream.
“Val?” A head poked into Valerie’s bedroom. “Can you please run an errand for me?”
“Um, sure.” Valerie said hesitantly. “What do you need?”
“It’s laundry day. Just take these clothes down to the Laundromat and wash them. And do me a favor, take Marci with you,” her mother said, setting a hamper filled with worn clothes in the doorway.
“Why do I have to take Marci?” Valerie moaned, annoyed that she had to bring her goody-goody fifteen-year-old sister with her.
“Because I said so. She is waiting for you in the truck. Be out there in five minutes or you are grounded for a week.”
“Fine,” she said flatly, ripping the page containing her newest poem out of the notebook, folding it in half and then in half again and shoving it along with a pencil into her sweatshirt’s front pocket. Valerie was not one to enjoy chores, especially when they involved driving somewhere, but she also did not adore being isolated inside the limitations of her house for a week either.
Standing up, she dragged herself over to the hamper and willed herself to pick it up. Valerie descended down the staircase noticing her older brother Liam lying on his leather beanbag playing Call of Duty in the living room. The volume was so loud that whenever he fired at an enemy it felt like the house was actually getting bombed. Rolling her eyes she dropped the hamper and marched over to the computer, turning the volume dial to off.
“Hey!” Liam frowned. “I need the sounds in case any of the Nazis are firing at me!”
“Well the rest of us need our ability to hear!” Valerie snapped grabbing the hamper and proceeding towards the door.
The second she left the house Liam cranked the volume back up muttering, “Since when do I listen to you? Oh, that’s right, never!” Snickering, he went back to killing Nazis with his dwindling supply of grenades.
Valerie opened the rusty door of her family’s old navy truck, throwing the laundry hamper in the backseat. Marci awaited patiently in the passenger’s chair applying a fresh coat of cherry flavored lipstick.
The engine roared to life and Valerie began driving through the downtown area. Their house was only a couple of minutes from the Laundromat so they arrived speedily. Pulling into the deserted parking lot Valerie and Marci jumped out of the truck carrying the hamper into the oddly silent Quick n’ Clean Laundromat.
“That’s unusual,” Marci said, gazing around at all the unused washer and dryer pairs that were always taken; multiple people would normally have to wait their turn to clean their clothes since nearly three quarters of the town didn’t have washing appliances.
“It’s good for us. We don’t have to wait to use one this time.” Valerie smiled walking to the very back of the small building. The back corner contained her washer. The one she always used no matter what. Period.
“Um? Val?” Marci said staring at the door of Valerie’s favorite washer. Valerie’s mouth dropped when she read the white paper taped to the machine.
“Out. Of. Order.” Val said, her words clipped. Then she began to laugh maniacally, “Out of order! That’s impossible! My washer is never out of order!” Marci stepped back having a thought that her sister might be pushing the boundaries of insanity.
“Valerie, we can use a different one!” Marci exclaimed scooping up the hamper.
“No we can’t!” Valerie hissed. Her eyes remained glued to the out of order sign. Marci let out a low sigh, dumping the clothes into the next working washer.
“NO!” Val raged tearing her eyes away from the sign and grabbing the clothes out of the washer Marci was using and throwing them into her own. Marci sat helplessly on the wooden bench watching Valerie shred the paper and push quarters rapidly into the coin slot. Something shined from underneath the clothes before she closed the door.
Marci raised an eyebrow as Val pulled a knife out of the washer. It was no ordinary kitchen knife though; it had a long curved blade and looked dangerously sharp. Without saying a word Valerie sneakily slipped it into her purse and closed the door pressing the start button.
The humming of the washer told them it wasn’t in the least out of order. “See?” Val breathed a sigh of relief. “It is working!”
Marci ignored her, asking, “What did you put in your purse?”
“Um, my bracelet that I found under the clothes.” Valerie lied letting out a nervous giggle.
“Hmmm, can I see it?” Marci asked reaching for her purse.
“No!” Valerie stepped back hugging her purse against her chest.
“Look, Val, I know it’s a knife, but is it yours?” Marci hoped it hadn’t been in their clothes.
“Well…I-I-I think it might have been left in the washer by someone else,” Val stammered.
“Who on earth puts a knife in a washer and leaves it there? You have to show it to mom.” Marci, being the goody-goody of the family always had to do the right thing regardless of the situation.
“Why? It’s really amazing and has unique engravings. Mom would never let me keep it.” Valerie scowled at her purse.
“You want to keep a knife you just found at a low rent laundromat!? Are you kidding me?” Marci was convinced that her sister really was mentally disturbed. “You could get sent to jail for just having a weapon in your possession!”
“Oh, please, there isn’t a police station within a ten mile radius of here. We reside in the middle of nowhere! This place is not even a town! It’s unincorporated!” Valerie yelled glaring into Marci’s wide amber eyes.
“That’s it! The second we get home you are telling mom about the knife!” Marci said returning the glare.
“Or what?” Val said cockily.
“Or I’ll tell her myself! You have no way out of this!”
“What if I don’t come home? I could just go to Jessica’s house a couple nights. You and mom will have forgotten all about it by the time I return home.” An idea that Valerie was going to regret for the rest of eternity began to form in her mind.
“Yeah, right. You can’t leave now; who’s going to drive me home? And I am certainly not finishing all this laundry by myself!”
“Mom can drive you home and you can finish all this laundry by yourself. See-ya!” Valerie raced out of Quick n’ Clean, jumping into the truck and starting it up. Marci rushed after her but by the time she reached the door Valerie had vanished.
Enraged, Marci stomped over to her bag and scooped her cell phone from its depths.
“Hello?” Her mother’s voice rang from the speaker.
“This is Marci! Valerie left the Laundromat and I can’t get home! The laundry is not even done being washed!” Marci said in bewilderment.
“What? Why did she leave?” Her mother asked alarmed.
“Because, she found a knife that has a curved edge inside of her washer and kept it. I said we have to tell you but she ignored me saying she was going to Jessica’s house because she didn’t want to give it up.” Marci stared out the windows at the darkening sky.
“Hold on, I’ll be over in five minutes. When we get home I am calling Jessica and demanding that Valerie come home. She is facing months of grounding. Bye.” The line went dead.
Marci shakily stood up, walking outside a blast of cold night air hitting her face.
Mrs. Carter arrived at the Laundromat to see her daughter Marci sitting behind the supposedly out of order washing machine. Marci was hugging her legs tight against her chest, shivering with fear. After all, it was nightfall. Mrs. Carter raced into Quick n’ Clean, kneeling beside her panic stricken daughter.
“I think something is seriously wrong with Valerie,” were the first words out of Marci’s mouth.
“What do you mean?” Her mother asked.
“Well-” Marci started explaining what Valerie had done over the past hour. “-And she went totally ballistic when she saw that her washer was out of order. In fact she ripped the sign right off and threw the clothes in regardless. Right before she turned it on she found the knife and also found that the machine was working. Val has been acting strange lately, is there something that I don’t know about her?”
Mrs. Carter hesitated because there was indeed more to Valerie than what met the eye but was she ready to tell Marci? Or anyone? She decided against it for the time being and replied, “No, there is nothing wrong with your sister but we need to get her back to the house so I can have a little talk with that girl.”
Marci knew that when her mom started calling Val ‘that girl’ that she was in a load of trouble. Mrs. Carter opened the washer when it was finished and dumped the wet clothing articles back into the hamper.
“These can air dry on the clothes line at home. Let’s go.” With that Mrs. Carter grabbed the hamper and strode to the door. Marci followed closely behind as they proceeded towards her mother’s silver, vintage VW Bug.
Mrs. Carter picked up the phone, rapidly dialing Jessica Hanes’ number, impatiently tapping her foot. Marci initially had been told to go to her room but curiosity had overcome her so she peeked out from behind their leather couch listening intently for the conversation to begin.
“Hello?” Mrs. Carter asked. “It’s Kelly Carter, can I talk to your mother, Jessica?”
“Yeah, hold on.” Jessica responded unsurely.
“Hi.” Mrs. Hanes said happily, concealing the fact that she was slightly annoyed that Valerie’s mother would be calling them at such a late hour. “What can I do for you?”
“What you can do for me is send Valerie home.” Mrs. Carter pressed her lips into a flat line. “I understand that Marci told me that Valerie had gone to your house to stay with Jessica for a couple days because she was upset at something I am not going to get into details with.”
“What? I-I mean Valerie is not here.” Mrs. Hanes was moderately confused.
“She’s not there?” Mrs. Carter’s hands started to shake. Marci gasped when she heard the last sentence her mom uttered.
“Um, no.” Mrs. Hanes looked at her daughter raising a brow then whispering, “Is Valerie here? I need to know Jess, this is serious!”
“No,” Jessica said growing afraid for her friend.
“Alright, I have to go, bye.” Mrs. Carter said, her voice strained. She made her way to the couch sitting down and putting her head in her hands. “Marci, I need to talk to you. I know you are back there, you breathe astonishingly loud.”
Marci sighed, slowly arising from her hiding place. “Where is she mom?”
“You were the last one to see her.”
“I swear, she said she was going to Jessica’s.” Marci felt a tad bit guilty but what more could she have done? Then a thought dawned on her, “What if she was lying and was really going to some other friend’s house?”
“You’re probably right.” Mrs. Carter didn’t want to believe that her eldest daughter was missing. “Tomorrow I’ll call the rest of her friends. It’s getting late now, you should go to bed. Marci nodded and descended to her bedroom. Lying down on her full sized bed Marci had two specific questions swimming around in her head that loomed above all others. Where was Valerie and why was she acting so strange?
Large floor to ceiling windows lined the staircase letting the bright rays of sunlight illuminate the path as Marci walked down them. Her distressed mother sat at the table sipping a cup of steaming coffee. Tears glided down Mrs. Carter’s cheeks making a little pool next to her mug.
“Mom? Is everything okay?” Marci asked concerned.
“No! Everything is the opposite of okay!” She yelled smacking her hand down on the table causing the coffee to ripple, threatening to spill over.
“Where is Valerie?” Marci’s breath caught in her throat.
“I don’t know.” Mrs. Carter sobbed. “I phoned Valerie’s other friends and they all said that they hadn’t seen Valerie since the end of the school year. That was almost three months ago!”
“I’m sure she is fine.” Marci said with depleting confidence.
“No, she isn’t b-be-because…” Mrs. Carter stuttered, pausing. “She isn’t alright because she has a disorder. Last year she was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD.”
“What!” Marci was taken by surprise. “Isn’t that when the person obsesses over certain things?”
“Yes, recurring obsessions. Or compulsions to do something.” Mrs. Carter sighed.
“I guess that kind of explains the obsession over her washer and the compulsion to have the knife.” Marci said uncertainly.
“Different people have different obsessions. Valerie will not part with her washer under any conditions. Lately she has been writing her poems, well…scarier. Her wardrobe has turned from bright colors to black.” Mrs. Carter shook her head.
“Oh, I noticed.” was all Marci could say.
“I am going to look for her this morning. You and Liam have no choice but to join me.”
“If we don’t find her, I am calling the police to file a missing persons report. Allan gets home from his business trip tomorrow; I haven’t been able to contact him so he’ll have to wait to hear the bad news.”
Marci wished that her good for nothing step dad wouldn’t come back from his stupid business trip. After her dad died a year and a half ago her mother had immediately remarried Allan Carter, changing her name and everything else along with it. No wonder Valerie had a disorder, Marci thought.
“Honey, go and get changed. We are leaving in an hour.” Mrs. Carter stood, walking to the sink and dumping her still full mug of coffee down the drain.
“Do you see Valerie or her truck?” Mrs. Carter asked Marci and Liam.
“Obviously, we would have said something if we did,” Liam muttered, sticking his head out the passenger window, letting the cool wind hit his face and blow back his spiked black hair.
Marci was forced to sit in the back seats since she was the youngest, therefore having no roll-down windows to stick her head out like a dog; like her brother.
“No,” she sighed looking out the large back window hoping to see Valerie walking along the sidewalk. But as she figured, there was no such luck.
Mrs. Carter turned into the parking lot of the Quick n’ Clean laundromat, her eyes scanning the area for any possible trace of Valerie. “Alright,” she said. “We are going to split up and search around the Laundromat on foot for any evidence. I have no clue where else she could be. If we don’t find her, I’m calling the cops.”
Jumping out of the VW Bug, Mrs. Carter, Liam, and Marci split up in search of Valerie. Liam went inside the still empty Laundromat, Marci scoured the parking lot, and Mrs. Carter walked to the buildings next to it, examining them inside and out.
Marci bounded to the space that Valerie had parked the truck the day before and searched the cement-covered ground. She saw no visible object but something else came into her line of vision; tire marks. They were faded but still noticeable winding around the Laundromat making a direct path towards the back roads.
Marci called to Liam and her mother who joined her in a timely manner. Without a word the three of them began to jog, following the tracks until they were off the cement parking lot and onto a muddy path. The dirt and mud made the tracks even more noticeable as they curved around the back corner of the building.
When they wound around the corner Mrs. Carter’s heart skipped a beat. There, behind two puke green dumpsters, sat Valerie’s navy blue truck. Mrs. Carter stopped next to it, her eyes widening in terror. All of the windows had been blown out, shattered glass littering both the muddy ground and the interior of the truck.
“Oh my God!” Marci screamed. Mrs. Carter whipped out her phone, immediately informing the nearest police department-which was at least fifteen minutes from where they resided-about their devastating discovery.
Meanwhile Marci noticed large boot prints just outside the drivers’ door and in one of them sat two pieces of paper. Picking them up she noticed the delicate cursive handwriting was Valerie’s. The first of them read:
Deep in the woods,
Something is rising
It will invoke
Marci furrowed her brow in confusion, figuring it was one of Valerie’s poems as she began to read the other one:
a great darkness lies,
menacing evil it hides.
above us all,
our unforeseen down fall.
“Liam!” she yelled. Liam stopped investigating the broken glass to see what his sister needed.
Marci held the dirt-smeared poems in his face. “They don’t make any sense, but I know they’re Val’s.”
Liam took one look at the ripped edge and said, “I think it’s only one poem.” He paused squinting hard at the curling letters. “One that has been ripped in half.”
Marci snatched the halves from his hands and shoved them together reading aloud, “Deep in the woods, a great darkness lies, a sinister, menacing evil it hides. Something is rising above us all, it will invoke our unforeseen down fall.”
“Was she trying to warn us that there is something in the woods?” Liam wondered glancing at the shadowy forest.
“I doubt it. She wouldn’t have had time to write a poem if somebody kidnapped her. I think she may have written it yesterday before we left for the Laundromat. That’s what mom said-”
“The police will be here shortly!” Mrs. Carter interrupted. “What’s that?”
“Valerie’s poem,” Marci said handing it to her panic-stricken mother.
Mrs. Carter instantaneously threw the scraps of paper to the ground saying, “You shouldn’t touch it! It’s evidence! I’m sure Valerie wasn’t the one to rip it up, and the person who did might have left fingerprints. Hopefully your own prints won’t mess it up.”
Ten minutes later the police arrived, bringing with them storm clouds. They were quick to take the poem with their glove-covered hands, placing it into a waterproof plastic bag. Two of them began questioning Marci while the others searched the area hoping to find more than helpful evidence.
A short and plump policeman known as Sergeant Kenny and two of his men followed the deep boot prints-as Marci had indicated to-around the truck and down the alley. There, Kenny discovered something that drew his interest. Another set of smaller footprints-about the size of a teenage girl’s-joined the larger ones, and a few paces before one would reach the sidewalk the footsteps both stopped, replaced by scuff marks.
The scuff marks turned into two one-inch ruts forming a set of parallel lines and deeper boot prints that lead all the way back into the forest. As the other policeman and forensic scientists started casting the footprints, taking photos of the crime scene, and putting up police tape, Kenny wrote down a few notes and possibilities for what had happened:
Big footprints, and smaller ones: Valerie Carter’s, possibly. What Happened?
Valerie’s attacker may have been chasing her, and ended up tackling her to the ground. Then he/she might have pulled her away so that her feet were dragging on the dirt creating the parallel lines/ruts. The deeper boot prints that the parallel ruts slice through could be caused by having to drag at least one hundred and ten pounds of weight.
Ruts lead into woods, and then disappear.
Kenny tucked his notepad into his jacket pocket and strode over to the truck where a couple of policemen worked.
“Have you found anything?” Kenny hoped they had unveiled some fingerprints of the young girl’s attacker or even hair fibers. Any DNA sample would increase their chances of finding their identity. Kenny had determined that Valerie was indeed kidnapped, but a small possibility lingered that she had run away and created the mess all herself for a cover. Even then, how would she have created the two sets of different sized footprints?
“No, we even checked the poem that she had written, there was nothing.” Officer Denaldi spoke.
“Continue to search. There has to be some form of evidence.” Kenny shook his head. He had cases similar to that one before but they always, always left evidence. We just have to dig a little deeper, he thought. It turns out that was precisely what they had to do.
Dig a little deeper.
“It’s time to go home,” Mrs. Carter said to her children. “We need to let the police do their work now. Hopefully they will help us find Valerie.” But would they find Valerie dead or alive was a question Mrs. Carter didn’t plan to share.
“Fine by me,” Liam sighed, walking back to their VW Bug.
“Not by me.” Marci frowned. “I want to help them find Valerie.”
“The police want us to go home, besides Allan will be there soon after we arrive.” Mrs. Carter turned to leave.
“I really don’t care if Allan is home or not. It would be significantly better if he stayed on his business trip forever.” Marci paced toward Kenny. “I will ask them if I can stay.”
“Marci Lynn Carter!” Her mother yelled using Marci’s full name like she always did whenever she was mad. “You are coming home!”
Marci kept on walking until she reached Sergeant Kenny. “Um, excuse me, sir, Mr. Kenny? I was wondering if I could stay and look for evidence of my sister’s disappearance.”
Kenny spun around to face her, resisting the urge to say: What can you do? You’re only fifteen. Instead he said, “I’m sorry but we-”
“I can search the woods for her!” Marci cut in. “Please! I want to find Valerie! After all, I was the last one to see her.”
“Well,” he looked into her sad amber eyes. “If you search the woods, make sure one of my co-workers is close by. You wouldn’t want any accidents happening now would you?” Kenny wasn’t sure what Marci would do if she came across the body of her sister but decided he needed all the help he could get.
“Of course not, I’ll be careful.” Marci tried to smile but failed.
“Kenny!” Officer Young a middle-aged woman with jet black shoulder length hair shouted from inside the forest. “I found some items, they may be evidence!” Officer Young raced over to him holding a plastic bag containing two objects. “I found these buried in some bushes! The shining sequins embedded on the purse gave it away.”
“Those are Valerie’s!” Marci exclaimed, recognizing the purse and crushed blackberry curve that lay inside a plastic bag.
“Examine them,” Kenny ordered.
Just then Mrs. Carter marched over to them tapping her foot against the muddy ground and saying, “Marci Lynn you are coming home with me now!” Mrs. Carter grasped Marci’s wrist and began dragging her back to the awaiting vehicle.
“But…” Marci pleaded. “They found some of Valerie’s stuff!”
“Me and Allan will come back and take care of the paper work once I know you are safe at home.”
When they arrived at their brown tiled house Marci was the first to see the black Honda Pilot parked in the driveway. To her dismay she remembered that it was Allan’s. The blue garage door opened and the devil himself-AKA Allan Carter- walked out putting on the fakest smile that Marci had ever seen from him.
“Allan!” Mrs. Carter smiled practically jumping out of the silver VW and into his open arms. Marci and Liam both grimaced making a beeline toward the house.
“Hey kids! Hold up! I got you guys some presents.” Allan Carter called to them. Liam and Marci froze in their tracks, slowly swiveling around to face him. Allan pulled out three small brown paper bags. On one Valerie’s name was scrawled, the other ones said Marci and Liam, except Marci’s name was spelled M-a-r-c-y.
Marci grabbed hers and reached for Valerie’s but Allan said, “Valerie can get hers herself.”
“Yeah, if she ever comes back.” Marci scowled seizing Valerie’s bag and taking off into the house.
“What?” Allan sounded genuinely confused. Mrs. Carter filled him in on what had happened as Liam grabbed his bag and headed into the house.
Marci sat on the white-carpeted floor of the living room with the contents of both bags spilled onto the floor. “He got me a necklace.” She held up a gold chain with a red rose charm dangling from it in front of Liam. “He got Valerie a new notebook for her poems.”
Liam pulled a pocketknife out of his bag. “Interesting, I swear he knows I already have one.” He flipped the blade in and out as if he were a four-year old playing with a toy.
“Can I see that?” Marci asked.
“Sure.” Liam retracted the blade and tossed the pocketknife to her. Catching it, Marci flipped the blade out examining its sharp edge.
“Liam? Why is there blood on it?” Marci’s voice shook as she pointed to the dried blood covering its side.
“I-I thought it was rust…”
The door opened and their mother and Allan walked in distraught with worry. Liam was about to ask what the blood on his present was but Marci shook her head whispering, “Not now, can’t you see that they are upset? Asking about the blood on your knife would be idiotic. Allan probably used it to gut a deer or something like that.”
“Now you’re sticking up for that asshole?” Liam glared into her amber eyes, seeing his own.
“God, he’s not that bad, but I’m not sticking up for him either. I just don’t want you to bother them right now. Hello? Valerie might never come back!” Tears crept down Marci’s high cheekbones splashing on the brown paper bag that lay beside her.
Liam heaved a sigh watching his sister race up the stairs. Seconds later there was an angry door slam and then…silence. His mother and Allan sat at the table each holding a mug filled with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, conversing in hushed voices.
Liam hoped Valerie was safe, but odds were against it. At least the police hadn’t found a body…yet.
Marci lay on her bed staring at the dull gray color of her ceiling. Wind streamed in through the open window, filling her room with the sweet scents of summer. There was a soft knock at her door and Allan walked in without waiting for an invitation.
“Can I please have Valerie’s present for when she returns home?” Allan glanced at the notebook that he had gotten for Valerie, which was strewn on the floor.
He went to pick it up but Marci leaped off her bed snatching it up, “I don’t think she is coming home. I’ll put it in her room.”
“Why are you so quick to say she’s dead?” Allan asked, his voice tainted with suspicion. Marci ignored him, striding to Valerie’s vacant room, throwing the journal on her bed.
Then she faced Allan and snapped, “I’ve got a question for you? Why did you give Liam a pocketknife? You know he already has one. And why may I ask did it have blood on it?”
Allan paled stammering, “U-uh, I must have forgotten to clean it after I gutted that d-d-deer. I also f-forgot he has one.”
“I suppose you really don’t care. Liam and Valerie are right to dislike you! I tried to give you a chance but you quickly ruined it!” Marci said crossly, folding her arms.
“Listen to me you ungrateful little brat! I got you presents!” Allan roared.
“Presents! Is that the only thing that you think will make us happy? What if we want our loving father back? Or you could at least be nice to us for once!”
“When I am I not nice to you?”
“Whenever mom leaves the house! While she is here you play a pathetic charade!”
A ding-dong interrupted their heated argument causing Allan to jump. Pressing her lips together Marci stalked out of the room to answer the door.
“Hell-oh no.” Marci instantly saddened when she opened the door to Sergeant Kenny.
Lines of grief appeared on his face as he spoke, “Hello, Marci. Can I have a word with your father?”
“He’s dead.” She said flatly, her face expressionless.
“My apologies, I meant your step-father.” Kenny peered into the house.
“Whatever.” Marci said, then shouted, “Allan! The police would like a word with you!”
Allan was at the door in seconds. Shooing Marci away he asked, “What is it? Did you find Valerie?”
“We found a body, but we need you to identify it to ensure that it is your stepdaughter. Is Kelly home? She should be here too.” Kenny sniffed pulling out a handkerchief and absently wiping his nose.
Allan nodded, calling for his wife. Tears streaked Mrs. Carter’s face when she materialized in the doorframe. (Add in description of how they get back to woods?...or add that they would view the body at the police station or morgue)
“Follow me. I suggest you cover your noses, the stench is wretched.” Kenny walked to the edge of the road where a police car was parked and beside it lay a body bag. The Carter’s pinched their noses hoping that the person that was decomposing in the body bag wasn’t their daughter.
Kenny held his breath, opening the large bag. The stench was the first thing to hit them. Even though they had blocked their sense of smell they could still feel the nasty odor creep around their legs slithering up their bodies. The Carter’s peeked into the bag and gasped. Mrs. Carter nearly fainted when she recognized the soft blonde curls of hair that framed the girls pale face. Valerie’s hazel eyes were still open but they no longer carried the dull shine that they did when her heart was still beating.
“No…not Val.” Mrs. Carter broke down, dropping to her knees.
“So this is Valerie Carter?” Kenny tried to ask delicately.
“Yes.” Allan said his voice lacking any emotion.
“What happened to her?” Mrs. Carter sobbed, noticing a slit embedded deep into Valerie’s throat.
“Well, I was walking and a short ways into the forest I saw a shoe sticking out of some bushes and then I found her holding a knife into her neck. She was long since dead but in her other hand she clutched a note.” Kenny handed them a slip of paper.
After a long silence Kenny said, “It appears she committed suicide.”
Mrs. Carter unfolded the dirt smeared note and read, her hands shaking as she clutched the paper.
do not Blame anyone otHer than me For What i did. nothing that i didn’t want Happened To Me. i will soon be safe in the arms of my angel. She will take me to heaven. don’t worry nobody Murdered Me. She Is coming for me. i am Making Me choice. i felt like i needed to Write This Note so you would understand better. She Is here to take me away, goodbye! M.L.C.
“This isn’t right!” Mrs. Carter exclaimed. “First of all why does she have so many capitalization mistakes and ‘I am making me choice.’? This is absurd! Val would never do this too herself! The entire letter doesn’t make sense! And why are Marci’s initials at the end?”
“M.L.C.?” Kenny asked.
“Marci Lynn Carter.” Mrs. Carter was baffled at the note. Her daughter would never capitalize random words in a sentence. Just because she had OCD (You might add more about the OCD earlier in the story because it’s not clear that she has any issues) didn’t mean she was stupid.
“Well, I thought you might want to see the weapon that took your daughter’s life.” Kenny reached into the open window of the police car and pulled out the long curved knife that Valerie had found in her washer.
“That’s the knife Marci said Valerie found!” Mrs. Carter cried. “I just can’t believe that Val would do such a thing to herself. Allan, could you please handle the paperwork and whatever else needs to be done. I’ll be inside.” Keeping the note, Mrs. Carter went back to the house.
Marci stood by the table drumming her fingers on its smooth marble surface. “Valerie is dead, isn’t she?” Mrs. Carter nodded her face wet with tears as she sat down.
“What happened?” Marci tried to stay strong but her voice cracked and tears began to form in the creases of her eyes. Her mother held out the note, her hand trembling.
Marci plucked it, her eyes scanning over the words. Immediately after she finished she muttered, “She couldn’t have written this note. Val wouldn’t have made so many mistakes. And what does M.L.C. stand for?”
Mrs. Carter raised her eyebrows and Marci instantly knew, “Marci Lynn Carter.”
“Why would she randomly write my initials?” Marci pursed her lips. “If you want my opinion I would say that it was not suicide that claimed Valerie’s life. It was intentional homicide.” Marci turned to leave.
“Wait, you don’t know the whole story! She was found pressing a knife, the knife, into her throat.”
“The knife she found in her washing machine?”
“She would never…” Marci paused. “I’ll go tell Liam.” Once she had disappeared up the stairs, Mrs. Carter looked closer at the note. This is definitely Valerie’s handwriting, but it almost seemed as if she was forced to write it, she thought. Mrs. Carter realized that only specific words were capitalized. The words that were supposed to be were not except for the word ‘she’. Why was the “H” in “other” capitalized though, she wondered.
An idea hit her. What if Valerie was writing like that on purpose? What if it was some sort of code? What if…Mrs. Carter stopped thinking and started writing. Taking a pen she wrote down every capitalized word, spacing them with a slant at the bottom of the note.
Mrs. Carter’s eyes bulged. Quickly she swept up the paper, finding her way back to the police car and Sergeant Kenny.
“Sergeant Kenny!” She puffed out of breath from running. Rapidly she explained what she had unearthed from the note.
“Do you think Marci did it?” Kenny asked when she was finished.
“I don’t know, Marci was the last one to be with her and she could have easily changed the story. But I am not going to blame my daughter until there is evidence other than this note, well, and the footprints.” Marci does have big feet, Mrs. Carter recollected.
“She could take a polygraph test.” Kenny suggested.
“A lie detector.” Kenny answered before she could finish her question.
“What if she doesn’t want to?” Allan spoke for the first time.
“If she didn’t kill her sister then she has nothing to fear.” Kenny said casually.
“When?” Allan asked.
“Tomorrow morning, ten o’clock sharp.” Kenny said.
“I’ll go inform her, but I’m not sure how happy she’ll be that she is a possible suspect.” Mrs. Carter shook her head. Her own daughter couldn’t be a killer, could she?
“Tell her that she was the last one to see Valerie so by law she must take a polygraph, innocent or guilty. Don’t tell her this but while she is there we will be taking some DNA samples to look for evidence.”
“Alright,” Mrs. Carter groaned.
Marci sat in Valerie’s desk going through her papers nosily, reading Valerie’s poems that were scrawled in her unique cursive. Every poem Val had ever written was in her leather-bound notebook.
“Marci!” Her mother’s voice came from the kitchen downstairs. “Can you come down here please?”
Sighing, Marci made her way downstairs saying, “What?” in an annoyed voice.
“Tomorrow I am bringing you to the p-police station in Minneapolis to take a polygraph. Now, be-before you s-say anything you should know that the only reason they are doing it is because y-you were the last one with Valerie. Innocent or n-not.” Mrs. Carter stammered, suddenly afraid of her own daughter.
Marci was quick to protest yelling, “I didn’t do anything! They think I killed her, don’t they?” When her mother just gave her a look of unease she turned on her heel and marched back to Valerie’s room. “You can’t make me take that test!”
Warning bells tolled in Mrs. Carter’s head and she muttered to herself, “Why would she be so against taking the test if she didn’t commit any crime?”
Marci sat in a plaster white chair at a small glass table surrounded by a windowless room. On the table sat a laptop hooked up to a machine awaiting use. The polygraph. A security camera pointed to the spot where she sat, a red light flashing every two seconds. She felt trapped.
There was click from outside of the room and the heavy steel door opened to reveal a short, stocky man who was almost completely bald. Without a word he walked over to her and began sticking wires with a sticky plastic film on the end to her skin.
“My name is Dennis Johnson. You will call me Mr. Johnson.” His personality was as sour as the look on his face. He pressed the round stickers into Marci’s temples and her wrists.
Dennis strode over to his computer, fingers instantly gliding across the keyboard. Marci yelped in pain when she felt a bolt of electricity shoot into her skin from the bottom of the stickers.
“What kind of lie detector is this?” she winced.
Dennis ignored her and rasped, “I will ask you a series of direct questions. Answer them honestly. If you don’t it will show an increase or change in your heart rate. This instrument is designed for the recording of variations of several different pulsations simultaneously. In other words, I will know if you are lying.”
“Whatever.” Marci rolled her eyes, glaring at the gray ceiling.
“Let’s begin.” Dennis took a notebook out from one of the table’s drawers and began reading the first question, “Were you or were you not with Valerie Carter when she found the knife.”
“I was with her.” Marci said coldly. Dennis paused, his eyes surveying the computer screen as he wrote in his notebook.
“Did she leave the laundromat by choice?” Dennis said smoothly.
“Did you see where she went?”
“What did you do after Valerie left?”
Marci bit her lip recalling what she had done after Valerie stormed out. “I called my mother asking her to come get me.”
“Is that it?”
“No,” Marci hated being interrogated. She felt like if she said one word wrong they would accuse her of killing Valerie.
“Continue then,” his crystal blue eyes bore into hers with such intensity she had to turn away.
“Well, I told my mother what Valerie found and did.”
“What did Valerie do?”
Marci stifled an aggravated sigh. “Valerie said that she was going to Jessica’s house and by the time she came back we all would have forgotten about the knife.”
“Is there anything else that you did after Valerie left?” Dennis switched his gaze to the laptop.
“Yes, I went outside and looked for her.”
“The authorities said her car was behind the laundromat. How far did you look?”
“How far?” Dennis pressed, getting impatient.
“I looked around the parking lot but it was dark out so I-I went back inside.” Marci wanted to slap herself for stuttering. She could feel her heart pounding against her chest threatening to explode. She could only imagine how high her heart rate must’ve been.
Dennis gave her a sharp look, then read the computer screen scribbling down notes. “Are you sure that is what you did?”
“Yes.” Marci almost stammered but managed to calm herself, slightly.
“Did you harm Valerie in any way?”
“No, why would I-”
Dennis held up a hand cutting her off and snapped, “Yes or No! Did you or did you not harm Valerie Carter?”
Marci hesitated, but only for a mere second shortly confirming, “I did not harm Valerie Carter.”
“Did you force Valerie to write a suicide letter?”
“What!” She heard what he said but couldn’t seem to get it through her head. Dennis repeated the question, a line forming between his brows.
“No I didn’t force Valerie to write a suicide letter!”
“Did you kill Valerie?”
The questions were making Marci sick to her stomach. “No, I did not.”
“Are you sure?” he gave her a questioning look.
“YES! Now let me leave!” Marci was fed up.
Dennis eyed at the charts on the screen and murmured, “Fine.”
As he took the electrocution-stickers off of her skin she yelled, “I can’t believe you people! My sister is dead and I’m your main suspect!” Dennis saw her eyes were glittering with tears and felt a pang of sympathy for her. But all traces vanished when he remembered the evidence.
“I’m sorry but I am going to need a DNA sample from you before you leave.” Dennis said as gently as he could manage.
“Bye.” Marci started toward the door ripping the last sticker off.
“Not so fast!” Dennis grabbed her shoulder, his nails digging into her skin. “Sit!” He pushed her back into the white chair taking out a long cotton swab. “Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.”
When she refused Dennis had no other choice then to pry her mouth open. He stuck the swab so far into her throat that she gagged. “Good enough.” He murmured sealing it in a plastic baggie.
Marci tried to leave yet again but Dennis plucked a piece of her hair making her yelp. Then he grabbed her hand taking all her fingerprints and a small blood sample. When he finished he sighed, “You are free to go…for now.”
Marci jumped out of the chair and bounded out of the room as fast as a rabbit when running from a fox. Dennis sat back down at the table scrutinizing Marci Carter’s results from the polygraph.
Shaking his head, he let out a low sigh.
Mrs. Carter watched as an infuriated Marci stomped through the police department glaring at every person who stared at her for more than a second.
“I’m leaving. Are you going to drive me home or am I going to have to walk there myself.” Marci hissed at her mother.
“Marci Lynn! That is no way to talk to me! Do you want to be grounded?” Mrs. Carter began walking towards the huge set of glass double doors.
Marci tried to lower her voice a few octaves so the whole police station wouldn’t hear their argument. “Mom, they think I did it. They think I killed Valerie.”
“I know,” was all Mrs. Carter dared to say.
“Is the only reason they think I did it because I was the last one with her?” Marci asked as she dropped her purse into a plastic bin and stepped through the metal detector.
“No.” Mrs. Carter held her breath dropping her handbag into the bin. She stepped through after Marci.
“What?” Marci exclaimed as they took their purses and exited through the glass doors.
“That is all I can say. I am not supposed to talk about the other evidence.” Mrs. Carter soughed making a beeline to her VW Bug. She couldn’t tell Marci about the secret message in the note, she just couldn’t.
Marci asked, “If I ask you a question, can you promise me that you will answer it honestly?”
Mrs. Carter’s breath caught in her throat. She had a feeling of what the question Marci was going to ask was. “I promise I will answer it honestly,” she said regardless. Mrs. Carter planned to answer it unless it was about the evidence that made the police turn against her.
“Do you think I killed Valerie?” Marci mumbled so quietly it was barely audible.
Mrs. Carter stiffened sliding into the driver’s seat of her car. Marci sat next to her waiting for an answer.
“Be honest.” Marci was hurt after Mrs. Carter didn’t say ‘no’ the moment she asked the question.
“I don’t know.” Mrs. Carter answered turning the key in the ignition. The car roared to life. Silence lingered between mother and daughter as Mrs. Carter began driving.
“I am going to say this one last time.” Marci spoke, her voice icy. “I did not kill Valerie!” Neither of them spoke for the entire ride home.
Two days after the polygraph, tensions were still high in the Carter household. They were well aware that the police had a search warrant and were on their way to scour the house of any evidence concerning Valerie Carter’s untimely death. Meanwhile Mrs. Carter was busy planning the funeral but only when the forensic scientists were done scanning Valerie’s body could it take place. The family planned to bury her in the local cemetery.
Marci’s polygraph results had come in the mail and suggested that Marci hadn’t answered all the questions truthfully. Allan and Mrs. Carter decided not to mention it to her. Mrs. Carter’s suspicions had been almost completely confirmed; Marci murdered Valerie and made it look like she committed suicide.
Kenny drove down the pavement inspecting the numbers on the sides of the passing houses. He was the only one who believed Marci had not murdered Valerie.
“632,634,636,” he muttered reading the house numbers. “Finally, 640.” Kenny pulled up to the Carter’s driveway search warrant in hand. Officer Young was do to meet him there at any minute. Kenny secretly hoped she didn’t show up since her beliefs were that Marci was a cold-blooded killer. Instead of ringing the doorbell he knocked three times and waited.
Allan Carter opened the door and said, “You’re here, do what you need to do. I suggest you search Marci’s room first.”
“Will do.” Kenny stepped inside following Allan upstairs to Marci’s room.
“Be careful this brat has a temper. She’s locked herself in there for almost a day.” Allan sounded bored. “Marci! Open this door right now! Sergeant Kenny is here to search your room!” he began to pound against her door. It shuddered under his force.
“Leave,” a voice said flatly. Marci sat on her bed watching the door, half expecting it to come crashing down.
“He has a search warrant and that means by law you have to let him search the room you don’t deserve!” Allan thundered smacking the door again. Kenny didn’t particularly like the way he talked to his stepdaughter.
“You don’t deserve anything! And I meant for you to leave! Go sharpen your knives, you have enough of them!” Marci retorted bitterly. Kenny raised his brows when he heard the word ‘knives’.
Allan shook his head scowling. “Are you sure you didn’t steal one? I noticed that my pocket knife is missing.” He sneered disappearing down the stairs.
The door to Marci’s room flew open slamming into the opposite wall. “What did he say?”
Kenny repeated Allan’s words with unease.
“I hate him. He gave Liam his pocketknife a couple days ago as a gift even though Liam already had one and Allan knew that.” Marci spat.
“May I check your room now?” Kenny asked kindly.
“Sure, but I wouldn’t turn your back on me if I were you. I might just stab you and say you committed suicide.” She said sourly.
“Look,” Kenny sighed. “I don’t think you killed your sister and I hope I don’t find any evidence that tells me you did.”
Marci’s heart leaped. “Really?” Her voice was calmer.
“Yes, even though your polygraph tests suggested that you were lying.”
Marci looked genuinely surprised. “I swear I wasn’t lying!”
“Apparently, you stuttered.”
“I know, I was eminently nervous!” Marci wailed.
Kenny nodded pushing objects on her desk aside. “I would’ve been too.” He continued on to look through her makeup box. Pushing mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow out of the way he found nothing.
Kenny went to her bookshelf. Marci sat perched on her bed watching him like a hawk. He shoved books aside peering behind them. One book that was bound with leather slipped off and fell to the floor something rattling from inside it. Kenny frowned picking it up. He shook it back and forth, the rattling started again.
“Oh,” Marci said. “That is a book without real pages, it opens up to store stuff in.”
When Kenny opened the box he inhaled staring at the object inside of it.
“What?” Marci started to get nervous. Kenny held up the item so she could see it. “Oh my God! That’s the pocketknife Allan gave Liam as a present! Why the hell is it in the book?”
Kenny flipped out the blade seeing the blood, “I am going to need to run a few blood tests on this to see if its Valerie’s blood on it.”
“Allan said he gutted a deer with it and forgot to clean it!” Marci said.
Kenny hoped that for her sake it wasn’t Valerie’s blood. Marci followed him down the stairs where he told her mother and Allan about the knife. Mrs. Carter freaked out but Allan just said he was disappointed in her. Then Kenny left, planning to put the blood tests into immediate effect.
The phone rang interrupting the muted dinner of the Carter’s. Allan’s glare burned into Marci’s as he picked up the cordless black phone.
“Hello? Allan Carter speaking.” Allan said.
Kenny’s voice responded hard as stone, “Hello, Allan. I need you to bring Marci to the department ASAP. There are some things…er…that we need to discuss face to face.”
“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” Allan dropped the phone on the table and Marci stiffened.
“He wants Marci at the department, now.” Marci detected a smirk forming on Allan’s face as he said it but it quickly vanished when he turned to her. “Marci, get in the car.”
Marci wanted to break down yet she managed to compose herself for the time being and said, “I need to get my boots.” Taking one last bite of chicken Marci raced upstairs and into Valerie’s room. Valerie’s present lay on her bed right where it was left three days ago.
If the blood on the pocketknife was indeed Valerie’s then Marci new who her killer was. She needed all the evidence she could get to prove herself innocent. Marci grabbed the gift. Sitting on the cheetah print comforter she pulled on Valerie’s black stiletto boots that went up to her knees and stuck the small notebook down the right side.
Allan called her name. Taking once last glance around the room Marci hoped she hadn’t forgotten any thing that could be evidence.
It was a nightmare getting down the stairs for her but she managed, barely. Marci tried to stand strong as she walked through the hallway to the door. Liam walked out of the bathroom intercepting her.
“Liam!” Marci whispered. “You need to come with us!”
“Why would I do that?” Liam showed a faint trace of amusement.
Marci ignored it and said, “You know Allan gave you the knife as a gift. You have to back me up! Please?”
Liam saw the look of desperation on his sister’s face and got a feeling that maybe she didn’t kill Valerie. He thought, why would she? “Fine.”
“Oh, thank you thank you thank you!” Marci hugged him.
“Okay, okay! What’s in it for me?” Liam asked.
Marci thought then smiled, “Pride.” Liam laughed despite the situation and they ran-more like walk for Marci and her stilettos-to the awaiting deathtrap more well known as Allan’s SUV.
When they neared it Allan rolled down the front window and said, “Liam can’t come.”
“Oh, yes he can.” Marci said stubbornly.
“No, he can’t. The police wanted only you and me not an accomplice.” Allan snapped.
Marci turned to Liam her eyes pleading for help. He smirked, “I’m coming.”
“That’s it, get in the car Marci! Your big brother doesn’t have to protect you!” Allan enraged.
“Follow us.” Marci’s voice was to quiet for Allan to hear. “The VW.”
Before Marci could get into the vehicle Allan pushed his door open and strode to her.
“What?” she grimaced.
“Just a precaution incase you are carrying a weapon.” Allan shoved her up against the side of the SUV. “Spread your legs apart. Arms too.”
“Is this necessary?” Marci scowled doing as he said.
“Yes, take off your sweatshirt and boots.” Allan sneered. Marci froze, what if he found Valerie’s present?
Formulating an idea, Marci obeyed first taking off the stiletto boot that didn’t contain the gift. Feigning that the boot was hard to remove Marci stumbled stamping the other one as hard as she could manage on the cement. Pain shot through her foot but to her luck the heel broke. Collapsing on the ground she hurled the first boot at Allan.
Marci snickered when it smacked him in the face quickly ripping off her sweatshirt and throwing it over his face blocking his vision. In one fluent motion she grabbed the small notebook sticking it in the waistband of her jeans. After pulling her shirt over it she took the other boot tossing it at him as well.
The whole time Liam was standing by the garage in a fit of laughter. Marci trudged into the SUV without a word, grinning to herself. Allan-his faced tinted an angry tomato shade of red-scrutinized her clothes sitting back in the driver’s seat thrusting the stilettos into Marci’s arms glowering down at her.
“Where is my sweatshirt?” Marci asked with skepticism. Allan’s scowl began to shift form converting into a direful smirk. His foot slammed the gas and the vehicle shot forward bobbing up as it ran an object over. Marci’s jaw dropped. She looked out the window to see a crumpled ball of blue cotton lying in the driveway; the remnants of her aéropostale brand sweatshirt.
“That was from forty dollars from my pocket! You-” The screeching of the tires muted the long list of curses she had begun shrieking at Allan.
Allan pulled into the parking lot of the Minneapolis Police Department with a smug look stretched across his face. Marci however was near tears, she new what was about to be told to them: Valerie’s blood was the blood on the pocketknife. Her last hope was that Liam would arrive to defend her.
“Let’s go.” Allan said seizing his cell phone from between the seats. Marci leaped out of the SUV praying that Kenny was there and still believed she was innocent. After securing his cell phone inside the pocket of his blue jeans Allan entered the department tailing Marci.
Marci stepped through the metal detector praying that there was no noticeable bulge in the back of her shirt and that the notebook didn’t contain any metal. She breathed a sigh of relief when the security didn’t say anything or seemed to even distinguish the subtle bulge in the back of her T-shirt. The metal detector remained silent also.
Allan dropped his cell phone onto the conveyer belt stepping through the detector. He retrieved it when it came out the other side. They walked to the front desk. The lady behind it gave a stunned gasp when she saw Marci.
“Valerie Carter’s killer!” The lady screamed. “Somebody get her in handcuffs immediately!”
“I didn’t kill Valerie!” Marci cried. Kenny came out from a steel door holding the handcuffs giving Marci a sad look.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered in her ear taking her wrists. He crossed her arms behind her back snapping the handcuffs onto each wrist. Kenny held the chain linking them with one hand and pressed the other to Marci’s back guiding her back through the steel door. Allan followed them into another windowless room.
Once the door was closed Kenny spoke, “The blood tests match up. Valerie’s blood was the blood on the pocketknife. Marci, you will have to set up a court date for your sentence but until then you are required to reside here in this jail.”
“May I say something?” Marci choked.
“No,” Allan said absolutely.
“Yes,” Kenny contradicted.
“I was framed. I spoke only the truth when I took the polygraph. I speak only the truth right now as I say; I did not kill my own sister.” Marci said forcefully. Kenny realized how persistent Marci was and that showed him how much strength she had.
“You should just admit you killed her! It would make it a whole lot easier for all of us!” Allan shouted spraying spit in Marci’s face. Kenny couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I’ll never admit to killing Valerie! Why would I confess to something that I never did?” Marci’s voice broke turning icy.
“YOU ARE A MURDERER! Do the crime, do the time!” Allan screamed.
“Silence, Mr. Carter!” Kenny stormed. “Calm yourself before I ask you to leave! You are required to fill out the paperwork and I can ensure you it isn’t one or two pages.”
“I can ensure you this: Before I fill out any paperwork this, this killer needs to be put behind bars!” Allan was almost frothing at the mouth like a rabid animal.
Kenny hesitated. The paperwork had to have Allan’s signature on it. His lips turned down and he pressed a red button on a panel on top of the metal table. It made a buzzing sound that stung in Marci’s ears.
A minute passed in silence until a man came in holding a gun. Where is Liam, Marci thought.
“Marci Carter, come with me.” he said monotonically.
“Wait!” She shouted suddenly. “I know who killed Valerie!” Marci had planned to announce that when she had found evidence proving her theory but Liam hadn’t yet arrived. Allan’s face became guarded when Marci turned her scowl to him.
“Marci, please, don’t put the blame on others.” Kenny’s frown deepened.
“Allan Carter murdered Valerie and framed me by slipping the bloody pocketknife in my book!” Marci shrieked.
“That’s a lie-” Allan’s dark eyes had flames of fury dancing in them.
“I’m not finished.” Marci interrupted. Before she could continue the man grasping the gun took her wrists and forced her out of the room. Marci struggled against the man’s rough grip as he dragged her down a hall of cells. None of them held inmates.
The man stopped at the fifth cell down retrieving his keys and inserting them into the lock. The barred door creaked open revealing a small space with a cot, sink, and toilet. Oh yes, and a security camera.
“You guys aren’t big on privacy are you?” Marci crinkled her nose. “Or sanitation.” The sink was covered in what appeared to be rust. The cot looked like it was home to pack of rats. Several holes dotted the dull blue surface with wool seeping out.
Once Marci’s handcuffs were removed she was shoved into the cell. The door clanked shut behind the man. She was alone. Wishing she could disable the security camera Marci took the notebook out of her waistband flipping it open to the first page. In Allan’s messy handwriting it said:
Valerie, use it
Marci was half surprised it didn’t say: Use it if you can rise from the dead. Flipping through the pages Marci sat on her cot. Blank lines were all she found.
“Not even a spot of blood?” Marci threw the journal across the dirty cement floor. When it hit the wall the pages flipped to the back of the notebook exposing writing that Marci hadn’t discovered before.
“Writing!” Marci exclaimed dashing over to it.
Read Allan’s texts; you might uncover the truth.
“Marci?” A voice said.
Marci turned to the barred door. “Liam, you came!”
“It wasn’t easy-” he began.
“Not now! I found the evidence that might help me get out of this rat hole!” Marci smiled shoving the journal through the food slot.
“We just need Allan’s cell phone! I knew he killed her!” Tears blurred her vision. “Get Sergeant Kenny!” Marci breathed.
Marci, Liam, Mrs. Carter, Allan, Kenny, and a few others officers sat in a conference room. Allan was hyperventilating.
“Alright, Marci this is your last chance to prove yourself innocent.” Kenny said.
Marci and Liam arose. Marci clutched the journal while Liam laid down the pocketknife and the golden rose necklace (Allan’s gift to Marci) on the wooden table in front of them. Marci had said they were significant evidence in her plea for innocence.
“This,” Marci said holding up the journal. “, Is the present that Allan Carter got for Valerie. Do you deny it? Allan?”
“No,” Allan said bitterly.
Marci pinched the golden chain of her rose necklace dangling it for everyone to see. “This is the present Allan got for me. Do you deny it, Allan?”
“No,” he sneered.
Liam handed Marci the pocketknife. “This is the present Allan got Liam. Do you deny it? Allan?” she repeated for the third time smiling in a sourly sweet way.
“No, I mean yes!” Allan’s voice rose.
Marci showed the pocketknife to Liam. “Did Allan get this for you as a present?”
“Yes,” Liam said simply causing the police and Kenny to raise their eyebrows.
“I did not get that as a gift for Liam! They are lying!” Allan fumed.
Marci leaned forward so her face was an inch from his. “Then what did you get Liam for a present?”
Allan’s face was burning with rage. “I-I-I got him a-”
“That’s what I thought.” Marci said smugly. “He doesn’t know what to say. If he didn’t get Liam the pocketknife then he should have no struggle saying what he did get him.” Mrs. Carter’s mouth gaped.
“I have more evidence,” Marci said showing them the journal again. “I will read you the message I found in this journal that Allan said he got as Valerie’s present.” She flipped to the page with Valerie’s cursive. “Read Allan’s texts; you might uncover the truth. V.”
Kenny took the book reading the message. “It’s true.”
“That is clearly Valerie’s handwriting; you might even be able to find some of her fingerprints in it.” Marci was winning the battle. “Now, Allan can I read your texts?”
“No! That is an evasion of my privacy!” Allan stood up, slamming his fists down on the table.
“Actually we can do whatever we want. This is a case of murder.” Kenny mused. “Hand over your phone or we will take it ourselves.”
“It’s broke, in the trash at home.” Allan crossed his arms.
“No, it’s not. I saw you put it into your pocket before we entered this building today.” Marci grinned. Allan gave her a look that said; I am going to slaughter you.
Kenny proceeded to Allan but he pushed him aside making a break for the door. Quickly, another police officer tased him in the neck leaving an ugly mark. Allan yelped then slumped to the ground.
One of them ripped the cell phone out of his pocket and tossed it to Kenny. The screen lit up. Kenny immediately went to Allan’s text messages. After a few minutes of inspecting Kenny sighed, “He hasn’t sent a text message in the last month.”
Marci’s heart sank.
“Wait,” Liam said, “What if Valerie saw him on his phone and assumed he was texting but maybe he was writing notes. Go to the notes page!”
Kenny did so and what he found there was far from nothing. When he finished reading the three pages of notes he said, “This man is a psychopath! Marci, you were right, Allan did kill Valerie! He wrote about it in his notes! You are innocent!”
There was a thump and every one in the room turned to Mrs. Carter who was sprawled on the floor. Officer Young checked her pulse and said, “She must have feinted from shock.”
“Take the man away!” Kenny commanded. A couple policemen dragged Allan out of the room. Kenny turned to Marci and Liam. “I suppose you might want to read the notes. Allan had a smart plan but it wasn’t smart enough for you Marci.” Marci and Liam read the notes with horrified expressions forming upon their faces.
When Marci finished she spoke, “Allan put the blame on me to draw away from the truth! This whole thing was a mirage!”
Valerie’s eyes narrowed into slits as she watched Marci run out of the Laundromat and notice the empty parking lot. Spinning the wheel Valerie drove behind the little downtown area buildings secreting herself from sight. Her true intentions were to stay as far away as possible away from Jessica’s house because that would obviously be the first place Marci would look to find her. Instead Valerie parked the truck behind some empty dumpsters near a deserted ally.
She dumped the contents of her purse onto the seat beside her. Her wallet, cell phone, and the knife toppled out. Valerie picked the knife up inspecting the intricate designs and engravings that wound up its wooden hilt. They resembled the outlines of two snakes entwining around each other with little black holes for eyes.
The full moon reflected the light off it making the knife’s metal surface glint brightly. There was a click from outside her car breaking the silence. Valerie jumped peering out of the windows at the forest beyond; she thought she saw movement but decided it was just her imagination. Then there was a knock on the door and a man materialized next to the truck. He was covered in black apparel including a matching ski mask.
Valerie shrieked jumping into the passengers seat and fumbling around trying to flip the lock switch but it was too late. The man had opened the door and was eyeing the knife Valerie grasped tightly in her hands.
She pointed it at his chest stammering, “Who are y-y-you? L-l-leave me-e alone or I w-will scream.”
“I see you have found my knife.” He gave a toothy sneer. Valerie noticed that his voice didn’t sound regular; it sounded more like a forced lower toned voice. “Give it to me and I promise I will leave.”
Valerie briefly considered it then said, “Just leave.”
“I’m afraid I cannot leave until I have my knife and I intend to get it.” The man rasped pulling out a pistol and loading it. He pointed it at her and said, “Now will you comply?”
Valerie was frozen in cold fear her heart beating so fast against her chest that it seemed that the whole world could hear it. Never before had she had to face this kind of situation. Against her will she nodded tossing him the knife, “Now leave.”
“You might as well hand over your wallet and phone.” He now aimed the pistol and knife at her; Valerie was utterly defenseless.
Tears slid out of her eyes and with every ounce of bravery she had left she replied, “I’ll scream.”
“You scream, I shoot.” He said his patience dwindling.
Valerie grabbed her wallet and cell phone and threw them at his face. The man frowned blocking them with his arm. He set the knife down and picked the wallet up finding twenty-five dollars and her drivers’ license inside. Grimacing and slipping it into his pocket he knocked the cell phone onto the dirt ground crushing it beneath his foot.
Valerie sobbed not having a clue what to do. If she moved he would kill her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” He said mockingly. “Did you like that phone?” The man bent down, scooped up the shattered blackberry curve, and threw it as far as he could manage into the woods. “Give me your purse and empty your pockets.”
Valerie tossed her sequin-lined purse at him and took the poem and pencil out of her sweatshirt pocket setting it on the drivers seat. He tossed the purse into the forest then paused to read the poem.
“Very intriguing.” He said his voice dripping with sarcasm. Ripping the poem in half he stamped it into the dirt along with the pencil. “Now, if you will just come with me.” He demanded raising his pistol. Valerie made her move fast by opening the passenger door and tumbling out. He shouted but she ignored him getting up and sprinting down the alleyway.
Valerie was fast but the man was faster; he tackled her before she could reach the street. Pain bolted through her when she connected with the ground. In one quick, fluent motion the man had her in a strangle hold, his arm around her neck.
He pressed the pistol into her temple and whispered, “Do you really want to scream now?” Laughing he dragged her away into the night.
A year later Allan Carter was declared guilty and by all means, a psychopath. His sentence was prison for life for the intentional homicide of Valerie Carter and accusing his other stepdaughter of committing his crime.
When Mrs. Carter awoke from her feint the day went Marci proved herself innocent she profusely apologized to her. Eventually Marci did learn to forgive but never to forget.