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The Feeling Afterwards
Author's note: Emotion is something some people (like me) don't like to deal with. But sometimes, you need to in order to really get fulfillment, to really understand the people around you... even if its not easy. If not, you'll take a turn for the worse. Everyone needs to express themselves somehow.
My hands were shaking, but the night wasn’t that cold. Was it just rage, or the fear of what I was about to do? The rage seemed to fit with me better, so I went with that. I stared down into my victims’ eyes. She had pretty eyes, blue with specks of hazel. I thought it unfortunate that those eyes- now full with life and fear, would soon be cold and lifeless. I could feel the smooth wood handle of the knife in my hand, and I knew the blade was sharp enough to cut silk cloth. I held the knife in front of my victim’s throat, and I could feel spit on my hand that was covering her mouth. It filled me with joy to realise this child’s fear. The fear, and the want…the need for her parents. The parents she wanted so badly, and yet they would never come. They would never say, “I love you” or “its okay” ever again. I should know. Nothing is ever okay. And with that final thought, my blade cut this child’s throat, stealing her last breath. I watched with amusement as the blood leaked down the side of her pale neck, and as all life and warmth left her eyes. Her neck stiffened, and I knew she was dead. My job was almost complete. I reached over and dragged a mannequin over to the child’s corpse, and I was done, a family would be broken, for their child was dead. I stared at my handy-work, and I felt pleasure begin to fill me up inside- but dread did first. In the distance I could hear the pattering of footsteps against the moist grass. I grabbed my knife with my gloved hand and ran across the green field.
Someone was coming.
We had a long way to walk. Jenny was gripping my hand tightly, and I could feel the sweat build up on my back. The field between the school and the front gate was ridiculously long, but once you got to the other side it wasn’t too far to walk home. The field was a nice green colour, but in the dark you could hardly tell. The only light was from a few windows in the school, and some streetlights on the street outside the gate. It was only 7:30 in the evening, but it was still pretty dark. So dark, that you could hardly make out the playground that sat in the centre of the field. I began to realise that my nine-year-old daughter, Jenny, was pulling me towards it.
“Honey, not now. It’s getting late, and you must be hungry.”
Jenny stopped suddenly and glared up at me with her big, green cat-like eyes.
“You are right Tessie, I am hungry. Jimmy stole my lunch today. But I still want to play on the playground.” Jenny had never called me mum or mommy-she’d always called me Tessie, although my name is really Tess.
I kneeled down so my face was the same level as hers. I’d suddenly remembered something. Something important.
“ Jenny, do you know what day it is?”
Jenny gave me a vexing look, but it cleared when she finally spoke. “Is today the day daddy died?”
I shook my head, feeling ashamed that she would think that. “ No sweetie, today is a happy day.”
“ Is today my birthday?” Jenny asked very determined,” because if it is then we should go to the playground.”
I smiled, grateful that she had realised the day. My late husband wasn‘t one to celebrate birthdays, strange man that he was. Jenny often forgot her birthday, as she saw no reason to truly celebrate. Something I‘d tried to teach her since her father died. “Of course! I’ll race you to the swings.”
Jenny and I began to race to the swing set. It was a bit rusty since the school couldn’t afford a new one. The playground wasn’t that large in general, only with a set of monkey bars with the paint peeling, a blue metal slide with dents, and a pair of rusted red swings, which were moving back and forth in opposite time, although there was no wind. I began to have a hunch that someone may have been here, but I pushed the thought back when I remembered it was just a junk set. A junk set that Jenny loved to play on. I purposely ran slower than Jenny, just so she could have the pride in beating me to the swings. I was about fifty steps away, when Jenny suddenly tripped over a mound in the ground and she fell with a thud. I quicken my pace so I could be assured Jenny was all right.
Even with me running fast, Jenny was already standing and staring at what she’d tripped over by the time I got there. I did a quick oversee to assure that Jenny’s hands and knees weren’t scratched up. When I realised she was fine; I bent down to look at large mass on the ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
What we were staring into wasn’t just a bump in the ground. It was a person. More than that, it was a dead person. A dead girl, who happened to also be my little girl’s best friend.
It was Jesse Timbers on the playground floor. I couldn’t bear Jenny to see this, so I began to move my hand over to cover her eyes. She continued staring however, and pushed me away when ever my hand got close. I eventually gave up and began to examine the corpse with my eyes. Her face was pale and thin, and her neck had a nasty gash, with some blood still gushing out of it. I began to lower myself in to a sitting position, but with I sudden jolt, I stood up again. There was something located where I had been just about to sit down.
“Not another body, not another body.” I silently prayed to myself.
Thankfully, it wasn’t, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant either.
It was a mannequin. A mannequin that was an exact replica of Jesse. They had the same pretty blue eyes, the same thick blonde hair, and the same little scar on their left cheek. I was astonished that someone would put this much effort into making the murder of Jesse even more gruesome, when I noticed a small difference between the two Jesses.
Mannequin Jesse had blue lips and blue tinted skin, but no gash on her neck. Dead Jesse just had the gash. Before I contemplated this any further however, Jenny coughed slightly.
I surveyed her and saw that her face was blank and emotionless, and her green eyes looked more cat-like than ever. She didn’t look like my Jenny at all.
“Well,” Jenny began her voice very monotone. “You promised she’d come back for my birthday.”
“Where are those blasted cops?” Mr. Knuckle shouted angrily.
“Um, sir, I’m right here.” Officer Sheckley replied, doing a little wave
Mr. Knuckle looked over at the officer with annoyance.
“Yes I understand that you’re here, but where are the more, uh, qualified cops?”
Now, If Officer Sheckley had been a veteran cop, then he would have been extremely insulted. He was actually only 23, with light brown hair, kind brown eyes and a handsome firm chin. This was only his third month as an official cop, so he was used to questionings about his crime solving skills.
“They’ll be here soon. I believe Detective Robinson will be taking over the case.”
“Male or chick?” Mr. Knuckle asked with a snort.
“Does it really matter?” A harsh voice said from behind.
It was Tess White, the schools guidance counsellor. She had short light brown hair and light blue eyes. She had a young face, but her expression made her look older, more worried. In her left hand, a young girl who was blatantly Tess’s daughter, Jenny, with the same colour hair but long and in braids. They looked very similar the only real difference being in the eyes. Jenny had bright green eyes that were disturbing to look into.
Mr. Knuckle’s face turned red, making his double chin more noticeable “Uh, well I suppose not Ms. White.”
“Well, that’s good then. If you are not a male chauvinist pig, you will please refer to us “chicks” as either women or females, because being called a “chick” is an insult.” Tess stated angrily.
There was an awkward silence until a car screeching tires were heard in the distance.
“That’d be Detective Robinson. A…um, female detective.” Officer Sheckley said nervously.
Most of the lights had been turned on around the field, but no one went near the playground, except for the few crime investigators examining the body. From the other side of the field you could spot out a slim figure moving towards the group of people on the other side.
“Is she a decent detective?” Tess asked a worried expression on her face.
“Oh, she’s the best on the force.” Officer Sheckley answered confidently.
As the figure moved closer, you could see that she was pretty. Extremely pretty. She looked young, with short black hair that was very straight and silky. She had big light blue eyes, and very pale, snow-white skin. She was dressed in all black, with a button down blouse, jeans and a brief case. The most unusual part of her outfit was the shoes that appeared much too big.
“Hello everyone.” I said in a business type of voice. “My name is Karen Robinson. I’ll be in charge on this case.”
Mr. Knuckle was the first to introduce himself.
“Hello Detective.” Knuckle stated, extending a sweaty hand. “I’m Mr. Bruce Knuckle. I’m the principal of this...”
Ignoring the hand, I interrupted. “I know who you are. I never come to a case unprepared.” I pulled a file out of my black brief case.
“Let’s see… you sir” I said, pointing at Mr. Knuckle. “You are Bruce Will Knuckle. Principle of this school and... well. That’s interesting,”
Mr. Knuckle eyes widened. “What? What does it say about me?”
I looked up, my eyes curious.
“Yes. Bruce Knuckle.”
“Well Mr. Knuckle.” I said with a smirk. “I’d like you to come with me.”
Mr. Knuckle was behind me, and I could sense the panic coming off of him. He was a middle-aged man with thinning hair, and a hefty pot belly, and the air surrounding him had the distinct smell of tobacco. We were walking towards the benches on the side of the school. I couldn’t allow anyone in the school, because valuable clues may be found there, and no one wanted to go near the playground, where the corpse still lay. So the benches were really my only option for questioning.
“You may sit down here Mr. Knuckle.”
He gulped. I knew he was trying to hide his fear, but he was doing a horrible job of it.
His voice was surprisingly calm for a man that was this nervous.
“May I call you Karen?” His lips were held in a smirk pose, but his eyes shined with fright.
I turned my head towards him and gave him the evilest glare I could. “Mr. Knuckle, I am here to investigate the brutal murder of a 9 year old named Jesse Timbers. A murder that happened on your watch. If you so much as want to get clever and cute with me I will make sure that you do not get off this case innocent or otherwise.”
The mischievous glint left Bruce’s smile and seriousness took over. “Yes Detective”
Feeling content with myself I sat down on the wooden bench, and scooted as far away from Knuckle as I could get.
“Now Mr. Knuckle, do you know what time it is?”
Bruce looked startled by this question, but peered down at his Tag Heuer watch.
“That’s quite an expensive watch you have there Mr. Knuckle.”
Knuckle blushed, and he covered his watch with his hand. “Um, its 8:15 PM Detective.”
I looked down at my own watch, a black Velcro watch that I’d found at my sister’s house.
“You’re actually 3 minutes off Mr. Knuckle. It's actually 8:12pm, according to satellite time.”
“Pardon me for asking Detective, but how does the time have anything to do with the case at hand?”
I looked at him curiously. “Why, everything of course.”
Bruce frowned, a confused look still on his face.
“Mr. Knuckle, My crime scene investigators have informed me that Jesse Timbers has only been dead for 20 minutes now, and was murdered on the spot she was found, which means that when Tess and Jenny White found her body at 8:05pm, she had only been dead for 13 minutes. So who ever killed Jesse, had to have been at this school of yours between 7:50pm and 8:05pm. So my question to you is who was at the school during this time period?”
Bruce frowned, obviously thinking hard. “If teachers or cleaning staff stay late, they have to be logged in.”
“And what is “late” according to school rules?”
“Any time passed 6:30pm”
“And what teachers logged in?” I leaned in, getting interested.
“Well, Mrs. Ruth Grunther tutors one of her students every night from 6:30pm-7: 30pm.”
“What is the name of the student she tutors?”
Bruce cocked his head to the side in thought. “Lauren Samuels.”
“You, Lauren Samuels, Tess and Jenny White and Ruth Grunther. Anyone else we don’t know of?” I asked patiently.
“Well, no. But there is something you should know about Tess White.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but Knuckle just continued talking.
“She doesn’t usually stay this late. She is the guidance counsellor, so she always leaves when her daughter gets out of school.”
I nodded my head in understanding. “Thank you Mr. Knuckle.”
“It’s my pleasure Karen.”
I glared at him.
By the time Knuckle and I got back to the field two more people had joined us, a petite blonde teenager and an elderly lady with white hair. I assumed these would be Lauren and Mrs. Grunther.
“Hello folks. I’m Detective Robinson. I’m in charge of this assignment.” I announced with a fake smile.
I look over at the crowd of our suspects. Mrs. Grunther appeared weary and disturbed. I immediately doubted that she could be our murderer, but she still was a suspect anyway. Lauren Samuels was a pretty girl. She had blonde hair, green eyes, and an athletic body, but she was still pretty small. I doubted her as a suspect as well; she looked too fragile to end a child’s life. Knuckle was the type of man I expected to immediately claim he was innocent, so when he hadn’t it surprised me. I glimpsed over at Tess and Jenny. Tess was hugging her daughter; I backed away a bit. Emotion doesn’t fit with me well, and Tess was giving way too much. My emotions fit Jenny’s face perfectly: blank. Her eyes were the only things that looked alive, but not in a good way. In a creepy way only disturbed people should look, not a nine year old girl. A tap on my shoulder disrupted my train of thought.
“Excuse me Detective. We’re done here. Its safe for you to investigate the body.” declared one of the crime scene investigators.
I nodded my approval and walked towards the middle of the field where the dead child lay.
I roamed around the two figured on the ground with a flashlight in my hand looking for clues. As a detective, I’d seen some pretty gruesome murders, but I’d never seen so much effort put into a murder. So much time used to make an absolute perfect model of another body.
What puzzled me was that if the mannequin model of the child was supposedly dead as well, then why would they die of different causes? The mannequin model had obviously “frozen” to death, hence the blue lips and skin. While the real Jesse died from a slit throat. I’d also found out from my files that Jesse has been missing for the past three days, which made the crime even stranger for her to just show up here randomly at the school play ground at 7:50 one night. Nothing seemed to make sense.
I stopped suddenly when I shone my light on something strange in the ground. There was a footprint. A fresh foot print. I whistled and Officer Sheckley came over.
“What do you need Karen?”
“I need you to go receive the…” I quickly glanced at the imprint in the ground. “Right shoe of all our suspects. Except for Jenny. Her feet would be too tiny.”
Sheckley gave me a queer look before staggering over to where all the suspects stood.
In less than 10 minutes, I’d taken pattern and approximate size matches of all 4 shoes and had three approximate matches. Lauren Samuels, Tess White and Bruce Knuckle were all matches to the print.
“Mrs. Grunther...” I started.
“Oh call me Ruth honey.” Grunther said in a scratchy tone, her dark brown eyes friendly.
“All right, Ruth then. Seeing as your print is not a match, you may go home. But before you go, Officer Sheckley will be interviewing you quickly. And Tess too, if you don’t mind Sheckley?”
“No, just fine with me detective.” Sheckley reported, signalling Tess and Ruth to come with him.
“Alright then. Lauren, Jenny, you two can come with me.”
Lauren, Jenny and I crossed over to the benches where I’d questioned Knuckle.
“Alright, Lauren, you first. Your file says you work at the department store on 27th street. Is this true?”
“Yes, detective.” Her voice sounded a tad shaky, but she was only a kid, so I assumed she was a little nervous.
“Lauren, please tell me exactly what you did tonight.”
Lauren coughed. “ Well, I went home first, like I always do, to drop off my things. I ate dinner quickly, and came to school at about 6:30-ish. I then went into Mrs. Grunther’s room and we had our usual lesson. I left at 7:30, and Mrs. Grunther was still in her room when I left.”
I scowled. Something wasn’t right.
“Lauren, what did you do between 7:30 and 8:00?”
“Oh, I was just going around the school, looking for my cell phone.” She smiled sheepishly.
I gave her a questioning look.
“Well, I lost it today, and if my mum finds out she’ll kill me. So I was looking for it and when I found it, I began to leave. On my way out, that officer guy found me and escorted me out of the building.”
I nodded, keeping note of this conversation in my head.
“Lauren, it says here that you were, pregnant about a year ago?”
Lauren face hardened. Her hands began to shake. I knew I’d hit a bad spot. “Yes. I was.”
I cocked my eyebrow. “So was your mum looking after the baby, or what?”
Her eyes widened, filled with rage. “The baby died.”
“No. Later.” Lauren said through clenched teeth.
I took a step back. I can’t stand people crying or get upset.
“Let’s move on to you Jenny. What did you do tonight?”
Jenny cat eyes stared up at me. “Today’s my birthday.”
She only said three words and her voice sent shivers down my spine.
“Well, I’m sorry, but that still means you have to answer some questions for me.”
Jenny just stared at me.
“Jenny, what did you do tonight?”
“I sat in Tessie’s office. She was busy doing work stuff for her.” She’d pointed at Lauren.
I glanced over at Lauren.
“You go to the student counsellor often?”
“I go every day. Tess helps me.” Lauren’s hands were shaking even more furiously now.
I looked back at Jenny. “What did you do while in her office?”
If possible, Jenny’s eyes suddenly got even greener. “I was thinking about Tessie's promise. She promised that Jesse would come back. And she did come back.”
Jenny looked down at her feet. I knew she wasn’t going to cry, and I felt happiness in knowing that someone understood. Jenny understood that emotions were something that could stay inside. They weren’t something that everyone had to know. I felt I sudden fondness for Jenny.
I patted Jenny’s head and bent down. “Jenny, is there anything else you can tell me?”
Jenny looked up, her face close to mine.
“Don’t.” She whispered quietly so that Lauren could not hear her.
“Don’t what Jenny?”
“Don’t believe Lauren. Don’t believe Knuckle. Believe Tessie.”
I gulped. Out of everything I’ve heard little kids say, that has to be the most meaningful. I held Jenny's hand and we were silent for a few moments. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lauren. I thought she was going to explode.
“Stop it. Stop RIGHT NOW!” Lauren screamed. I jumped up instantly, unsure of what I was doing wrong.
Lauren’s eyes were bright with rage, and you could practically see smoke come out of her ears. “Stop touching her. Stop talking to her like you understand. YOU’RE NOT HER MOTHER!”
I stepped back, a little shocked from Laurens out burst.
“Lauren, calm down.”
“DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!” Lauren cried.” MY BABY, MY TINY SMALL BABY DIED. I DIDN’T GET TO BE HIS MOTHER. I DIDN’T GET T KNOW HIM AND LOVE HIM!”
Some where from the point of Laurens outburst to the word “him”, Tess and Sheckley had appeared.
Tess was briskly whispering things in Lauren’s ear, and she began to calm down. Her eyes seemed less furious, and her hands were shaking less.
Sheckley escorted Lauren and Jenny back towards Knuckle and Ruth, leaving me alone with Tess.
Tess peered at me, her eyes dark.
“What did you say to her?” I asked, curious. “To calm her down, I mean.”
“What I always tell her. That she can make a difference, and being angry doesn’t help her.”
“Is it because she lost her baby?” I wondered out loud.
Tess gave me a peculiar look. “Yes. She has seen me everyday since he died. How did you know about that?”
“It’s in her file. Not the death, just having a child part. I’ll have to update it.”
The silence of the talk of death filled the next two minutes. “How long ago did he…” I asked to break the awkwardness.
“About 4 months ago. He was only 18 months old.”
“How’d he die?” I asked before I could stop myself. It didn’t sound very sensitive, but my curiosity just got the better of me.
“Lauren’s mum isn’t quite right in her head. She’ll forget what she saw or did last, and she just moves on to something else. Anyway, Lauren had to leave urgently one day, and they didn’t really know about her mum’s disorder yet, so she left the baby with her mum and, things happened.”
I opened my mouth to ask what, but decided it was rude to press for more information.
Tess turned suddenly. “There’s something you need to know about Bruce.” Tess urged suddenly.
Startled I asked, “What?”
“He’s been trying to quit the principle position. He wants to get out of here, skip town. The board won’t allow him to quit until the end of the school year. He’s only allowed to leave if he is seen unfit as a principle."
I pondered this thought. “Ms. White, are you accusing Mr. Knuckle of murder?”
Tess blushed. “He’s apparently in some money scandal. I only know because I over heard a conversation of his last month. But I’m just saying a murder would make him an unfit principle.”
Tess began to turn away, but I stopped her with my hand.
“Mrs. White, how is Knuckle when it come to, his relationship with the children at this school?”
Tess eyes widened. “Well, you see here detective, Bruce has some… anger problems. You should have seen him when the school board refused his resigning notice. He almost beat up a tenth grader.”
I cocked my eyebrow. “Do the other teachers know about this?”
Tess shook her head. “They may have their suspicions, but none of them have any proof.”
“Mrs White, does Mr. Knuckle have any access to department stores that would have mannequins in them?”
White gave me a curious look, but then responded, “Well, his ex-wife works at the clothing store just down the street.”
“Thank you Mrs. White.”
Tess turned on her heel and walked back towards the other suspects in reply.
Lauren was leaning against the wall, her face tight. Tess was moving side to side, and Jenny and fallen asleep on the ground, her head lying on her mums foot. I looked at my watch. It was past nine thirty. Ruth had just left, but I still and 4 suspects on my hands.
Sheckley caught my eye and he motioned me to come over. With one last a glance at my suspects; I began to amble over to my partner.
“Do you want me to copy it?” Sheckley asked, not looking up from his clipboard.
“Copy what?” I asked, confused.
“Knuckle’s phone call.”
I looked around, and noticed for the first time that Knuckle was on his cell phone, talking fast and quietly to someone on the other line.
“Yeah, it could be important.” I answered.
Sheckley pulled some sort of device from his blue uniform pocket. From what I’d heard, he’s a whiz with electronics.
Not bothering to ask what it was, I knew it would just confuse me, I asked how the questioning went instead.
“Well, I didn’t get much out of Tess except the fact that she was working late. But I think we can pretty much cross that Grunther lady off the list. She allowed me to check some of the video cameras in her room. She was there at 7:50 PM.”
“Was Lauren there?”
“No, but remember, she said that she was looking for her phone at 7:50pm”
“The question is, do we believe her?” I wondered thoughtfully.
Before Sheckley could answer however, his device beeped.
“His phone call is done. We can listen to the message now.”
He handed me the device and went over to retrieve the cell phone from Knuckle. Knuckle hesitated before finally giving up the phone. We plugged a wire in to the device, connecting it with the cell phone and we listened carefully.
“Hey, so did the board hear about this yet?” said the unmistakable voice of Bruce.
“No,” said deep voice of the other line, “but they will soon. When are you going to pay me?”
“Soon man, just wait till I get out of here. If this doesn’t get me off the hook, then you’ll get paid in about a month. Go tell Trudy won’t you? She’ll be happy to know that she’ll be getting her share soon.”
There was a soft beep and the copy was done.
My mouth gaped open, and I looked over at Sheckley. His sandy brown hair was damp with sweat, and his soft brown eyes were wide. This was exactly the type of evidence we needed.
I walked quickly over to my suspects, while Sheckley put cuffs over Knuckles wrists. Knuckle looked bewildered and in pain (the cuffs were too small for his fat wrists) but I ignored this. We may not have enough evidence to clarify that he is guilty, but we had enough to know he needed to be taken in to the station.
“All right, this mystery is not solved, but Bruce Knuckle here will need to be taken in to the office for further questioning.” I sighed; knowing this would be a long night,
“You are all welcome to go home, but you may need to come in later for more questioning. Good night everyone,”
Tess leaned down to wake up Jenny, while I noticed Lauren stayed where she was, her eyes fixed on Tess and Jenny. Poor kid, I thought to myself.
“Take him to the truck Karen?”
“Yeah sounds good…” I blushed when I realised I didn’t know Sheckley’s first name.
He smiled widely, “Ryan.”
“Oh, right.” I looked away, embarrassed.
Lauren was gone, and I looked across the field to see a figure moving fast. I guess she decided to go home finally.
Tess was holding hands with a sleepy Jenny, strolled to the other side of the field, around the playground, where Jesse still lay. It troubled me thinking that Jenny’s life would be broken for a long, long time.
I moseyed over to our truck, with heavy despair over my shoulders. We had a long night ahead of us.
I pounded my fist on the metal table. Knuckle flinched, but stayed speechless.
“For last time, who is Trudy?”
“She is my ex-wife.” Knuckle said softly.
Finally, I thought. I’d been asking the same question for the past half-hour with no answer.
“And why do you have to pay her and Frank?”
“Who’s Frank?” Sheckley asked as he’d suddenly walked in the room with a doughnut in his hand. Knuckle stared at it longingly.
“The guy Knuckle was talking to on the phone. Don’t know much else though.”
I glanced down at my watch. It was 11:30pm. We’d been at this for 2 and half-hours already, and we still didn’t have much information.
Knuckle was beginning to look nervous, and I took that as a good sign. Maybe he’d break soon.
“Mr. Knuckle,” I smiled falsely, hoping to sweet talk some information out of him. “Please tell us, why do you owe Frank and Trudy money?”
Knuckle opened his mouth to answer when the phone rang.
I closed my eyes and sighed. We were so close.
“Ignore that please Bruce, and tell me, why do you owe Frank and Trudy money?”
Knuckle opened his mouth once more, when the phone rang.
Frustration filled me. “Get the damn phone Sheckley!”
Sheckley rushed out to get the phone, and I turned to point a finger at Knuckle.
“Alright Knuckle, let me get a few things straight with you…”
Ryan’s head popped out through the doorway.
“Err, Detective Robinson?” I could practically hear the regret in his voice
I threw my hands in the air. These interruptions were making me really disgruntled.
Sheckley grimaced. “Phone is for you. It sounds important.”
Huffing and puffing, I marched over to the phone.
“Yes?” I said in a harsh voice.
“Karen?” a weepy voice whispered.” It’s Tess White.”
My mood changed almost instantly. I knew something was wrong.
“Yes? How can I help you?”
“Oh...” Tess voice cracked. She was on the verge of tears.” Jenny is missing. She’s gone! And…”
I could feel my throat closing. Jenny, brave and broken Jenny was missing. “And what, Tess?”
“There's a mannequin in her place.”
My eyes widened. “We’re working on it now Mrs. White.”
I smashed the phone down and did something I hadn’t done in years.
I began to cry.
Sheckley was observing me a worried look on his face. He’d thought I’d gone mad. I just shook my head. I couldn’t get weak now. I had to stay strong and figure this out. For Tess…for Jenny.
“We have to work fast. The Mannequin Murderer has struck again.” My voice was surprisingly forceful for some one who had just been crying.
Ryan gave me a blank look. “What happened?”
I quickly filled him on everything that’d I just found out.
“So we have 3 suspects right?” I demanded, more as a statement than a question.
Sheckley nodded. “Since Jenny is the one kidnapped, I doubt she's the murderer, so we have Tess White, Lauren Samuels and…”
We both looked towards the door that led to the interrogation room which currently held Bruce Knuckle.
“Well I guess that knocks down a suspect. We’ve been with him since we left the school, so it couldn’t have been him.” I said thoughtfully.” This leaves Tess White and Lauren Samuels as our two suspects.”
Sheckley went over to the door and grabbed his hat. “I’ll go over to the Whites to check to make sure no funny business is going on.”
“Fine.” I replied. “I’ll stay here with Knuckle, and I’ll call the Samuels. If there's no answer, I’m going over.”
Ryan answered by slamming the door shut. I crossed over to the phone, but had difficulties pressing the buttons. My hands were cold and clammy with sweat.
Once I’d finally got the number right, I heard the phone rang. My heart beat quickened. The phone rang once more. I began to breathe faster, and the phone rang for a third time.
“Hello?” a pleasant voice said.
I felt a sudden urge to hang up, but stopped myself. With a deep breath, I answered.
“Hello, is this Lauren or Mrs. Samuels that I’m speaking to?”
“Mrs. Samuels. Who may I ask is speaking?”
“Hello, my name is Karen Robinson. I’m a detective. May I please speak to your daughter?”
Not sounding overly concerned she responded, “Why of course! One moment.”
I could hear the faint sound of footsteps. A door creaked open.
“Lauren?” Mrs. Samuels said, not into the phone.
“I was supposed to give you something, but I can’t remember what…”
“Is it the phone?”
“Oh right! Here you go honey”
I swallowed because my mouth was so dry.
“Hello?” Lauren murmured into the phone.
“Hi Lauren, this is Detective Robinson. What did you do once you left the school?”
“Uh…”Lauren sounding confused. “I came home, did my homework, and now I’m getting ready for bed.”
“Alright, thanks.” I quickly hung up. If it’s not Lauren, it must be Tess.
Sadness erupted through me. How could it be Tess? How could a mother murder her daughters’ best friend?
I began to contemplate my options. But what motive did Tess have?
That when a sudden thought rushed back to me. “Believe Tessie.” Jenny voice sang through my head.
So I did. I grabbed my car keys, and rushed out of the station.
My feet pounded on the cement stairs when I realised Ryan had the truck. I’d have to run. Thankfully, I knew the address and it wasn’t too far.
My legs pumped up and down, and I felt beads of sweat run down my face. I had to get there. I had to. Each step sent an electric shot up my leg, causing me to wince. I didn’t stop though, because I couldn’t. I had to keep going. I took a few breaths, but just continued. Everything made sense now. All I had to do was get there in time. Then everyone would be okay.
Once I reached the house, red and brick with a large brown door, I didn’t keep my manners. I pushed open the door and found myself in a large main way. I didn’t have time to admire the decorative paintings though, so I focused on looking for the stairs. I noticed a gap in the wall, and rushed over. The stairs, finally.
On my way up, I ran into another person, but I didn’t even bother to apologise. There’d be plenty of time to apologise later. I felt my heart pump faster and faster as I accelerated on each step. I’d reached the top, and call it my sixth sense, but I just knew what door it was.
I pushed it open, gun in hand.
“Freeze!” I yelled.
“Good Call Detective.”
I nodded is acceptance of the compliment. “Thanks Sheckley.”
It was 1am, the mystery was solved, and we were both bushed.
Ryan took a sip of his coffee, and then leaned back in his chair. “How’d you figure it out?”
I smiled. This was the part of the story I was most proud of. “It clicked in my head after you left. I called the Samuels, and Lauren did answer, so when I hung up, I remembered something. Something Jenny said to me.” I hesitated, hoping I wasn’t being too garrulous.
Sheckley motioned me to continue.
“Jenny told me to believe Tess. So that’s what I did. Tess told me that Laurens mother had an illness where she couldn’t remember what she was doing. Or what she’d just seen. So I thought, even if Mrs. Samuels did see Lauren with Jenny, she would go to the phone and forget what she saw.”
Sheckley gave a low whistle, impressed by my quick thinking. “So what was Lauren doing to Jenny?”
I gulped. I’d never forget what I saw. “She had her knocked out on the floor. She had beaten her, because her face was covered in bruises, and her nose looked as if it had been bleeding…” I stopped. I couldn’t believe Lauren had done this to her.
Sheckley raised his eyebrows. I knew he was curious, but he wouldn’t press for more information.
“Well,” I started, knowing I’d have to tell someone sooner or later. “Lauren was shaving parts of her hair off, and… cutting off her toes.”
Sheckley stared at me in disbelief. “How many did her…?”
“Only two. Hopefully the doctors will be able to sew them back on.”
“And what about that knife? Was it the murder weapon for Jesse Timbers as well?”
I nodded, and reached in my briefcase for the evidence. “Yeah. I got the lab to take a look at it. Had some of Jesse’s blood dried on it and everything. As well as Lauren’s fingerprints. She’s our killer.”
Sheckley shook his head in disbelief, and it was silent for a few minutes.
“Hey, what about that footprint?” Sheckley asked.
“Ah, that. It was just a red herring. It was Tess’s footprint. She must have left one when she’d found the body.” I replied quietly.
I took another sip of my coffee, enjoying the caffeine smell and the warmth of the liquid in my mouth.
“So what happened after you went to the Whites?” I asked, curious.
Ryan crossed his arms on the table. It was his turn to tell the story.
“Well, once I got there I immediately knew it wasn’t Tess. She was on the floor crying and she showed me the mannequin in Jenny’s bed. It’s the same type and everything: an exact replica of Jenny and the replica looked like she’d frozen. I tried phoning you a few times, but once I got the radio message that you needed back up, I knew that you’d done something already. So I drove over to the Samuels and, well you know the rest. We arrested Lauren, and although Jenny was knocked out, she was fine. She’s in the hospital now recovering.”
“Is Tess with her?”
Ryan smiled his killer white smile. “Of course.”
I smiled, and took a final sip of coffee. The suspense and exhaustion of the night filled the air. I was about to get up, when a question popped in my head.
“So, do we know what the phone call was all about with Knuckle?”
“Yeah” Sheckley replied. “Franks is his brother. He owed him a ton of money because he paid for his divorce. He also owed Trudy a lot of money because he apparently cheated her on some deal during their marriage. He couldn’t get the cash with his principle job, so he stole a bit from the school funds and he was trying to quit because he had a great job offer in the town over. He also needed to get away because he could get in a lot of trouble for stealing from school funds.”
I snorted. I knew Knuckle would do something stupid like that. That’s the first impression I had got from him, sleazy and stupid.
I began to stand up, tucking in my chair.
Ryan cocked an eyebrow. “Where are you going?”
“I need to get some fresh air.” I shuffled over to the door, and softly clicked it behind me.
With my hands in my pockets, I surveyed the neighbourhood our station was located in. It was a nice neighbourhood, with picturesque houses and wallowing trees. Not ever one you would expect a disturbed kid who murdered children would live. I wandered down a few streets, lost in thought of the night’s events. I felt a sudden shiver down my spine, and looked at the building behind me. It was the prison house associated with the station. It’s where we kept people before their trial or for them to settle legal disputes. It’s where Lauren Samuels was right now. I took a deep breath and went inside. I had to talk to her. She had no one, and she was only 18.
I showed my badge to the front desk and they allowed me in. I walked past cell after cell, until I saw a name plate with L. Samuels on it. I peered in through the bars and could Lauren, pretty and blonde in an orange suit. Her face was red. I knew she’d been crying.
“Lauren?” I called.
She looked up at me with her big light green eyes. “What do you want?”
I pondered that for a moment. What did I want?
“I want to know why you did it.”
Her back straightened up a bit. No one had asked her this question yet.
“Well, Tess told me to.”
I gave her a weird look. “Tess told you to?”
Lauren nodded. “Yes. She said keeping my anger bottled up was wrong. I had to do something about it. So I did. What angered me more than anything was to see other mothers happy with their children. They’re happy, healthy, alive children. It wasn’t fair. So I took that away from them. I made them feel the pain I did.” Laurens voice was cold. Her green eyes had never looked icier. She scared me.
“Is that how your baby died? He froze to death?”
Lauren nodded once more. “I got the mannequins from the store I work at. They had to be perfect. The parents had to feel the pain.”
I turned to leave, but I had one more question. “Why Jenny?” I asked, curious.
Lauren evilly smirked.
“I’d gone to Tess for help. And everyday, her daughter came, happy and alive. Loving her mother, her mother loving her. Tess helped, but she caused even more anger. I wanted her to suffer. Her to understand my pain.”
I nodded. I didn’t understand. I never wanted to understand, but my curiosity was still hungry.
“Why did you kill Jesse first?”
Lauren’s hands shook. “I didn’t want just Tess to feel pain. Jenny caused pain too. Jesse was her best friend. And the only person she loved besides her mother was Jesse.” Lauren smiled evilly. “And I took that away. That pain will haunt her forever.”
I gulped. Lauren was a horrible, evil person. Knowing I’d regret it later, I asked one last question.
“Lauren, if you liked doing this, why are you crying?”
Lauren’s eyes flared with rage. I’d hit another bad spot.
“Because I don’t get to do it anymore.” Lauren jumped up, she was yelling now. “BECAUSE OF YOU! I DON’T GET TO RUIN ANY MORE LIVES! THE PAIN WILL NEVER GO AWAY NOW!” tears were streaming down Lauren’s face.
I backed away. That was all I needed to know. Lauren didn’t feel guilt for what she’d done; only mad that she couldn’t do it more. I stepped out of the building and back into the humid night.
On my way back to the station house, I wondered if I should tell Tess that she was partly the reason Lauren thought killing all those children was the right thing to do. Tell her that how much pain she had caused Lauren. A thought crossed my mind. I saw Tess sitting by Jenny in the hospital. Holding her hand, praying that she’d be fine. And I saw Lauren, creepily smiling at the thought of dead children and crushed parents.
And I knew. Love may not be enough to safe a life, but sometimes, its all you need to get through a day. Jenny was loved, and would make it. Lauren wasn’t. Her mother forgot about her, and her son was dead. Lauren needed love, and with out it, she’d lost everything. And with that final thought, I walked down the street feeling an emotion I’d never allowed myself to truly feel.