Broken Lives

David stared at the computer screen. His mind was shattered, and his heart was broken. Tears trailed down his cheeks. Had it been a year since Susan’s death? “Why?” he asked out loud to the empty room. He knew nobody was there answer him. Just like there were no answers to his wife’s murder.

The website Justice for Susan had been created by a group of helpful web developers to pull together clues about the fateful day of Susan’s murder. On the day of her death, David was away at his office, and Susan was home working in their bedroom. She was a freelance web developer for various companies. According to the police, the attacker walked into the house through the unlocked front door.

The front door was never locked. It was one of the perks of living in a gated community in an otherwise rural area. The perpetrator made his way up the stairs towards the bedrooms. The police believed Susan heard the footsteps at some point and walked to the bedroom’s doorway. The attacker fired two shots. The first bullet hit Susan in the shoulder, and the second passed through the drywall and embedded itself in the far bedroom wall. She staggered back, and the attacker kept coming. One more bullet hole embedded in a stud over the bed showed the only other projectile to miss. The rest of the ammunition landed in Susan’s body.

Nothing was taken. David found his wife’s bloody body contorted on the floor when he arrived home. The rust color stain in the carpet still testified to that fateful moment.

“Why shut the website down?” David stood up and began pacing. The website was instrumental in finding new clues. The police said they were closing in on the killer. What would happen now?

David had gotten to know the community of developers that maintained the Justice for Susan website. Many of them had worked with his wife. They were now a family and often communicated with one another. That link would soon be broken when the website shut down. This site had not only been a cache of clues; it had become a lifeline to David’s sanity. Many of the developers had contacted David to help him through his loss. Over the past year, others had heard of his plight and joined the website. Some wanted to be sleuths, and others were people who had lost a family member unexpectedly.

David picked up the phone and tapped in the often used phone number. Charles’ familiar voice answered on the other end. “Charles Wallace.”

David continued his pacing. “Charles, this is David.”

“Hi, what’s going on?”

David leaned up against the wall and stared at the notice in his email. “I just wanted to know why you are taking down the website.”

There was a pause for a few seconds, and then Charles said, “Who said I was taking down the website?”

David pushed off the wall and sat down in his chair. “I assume you did. I have an email saying the website for Susan is being shut down in a few days.”

“Oh, yes. I didn’t realize the email had already gone out. To be honest, David, after a year I just felt like we’ve done all we can do. After all, this site doesn’t run for free, and the donations have slowed down.”

David’s eyebrows crinkled, “I don’t understand. Just last week Denise said she received a check for several thousand dollars to keep the website running.”

“Yeah, well, that fell through.”

“It was a bad check?”

Charles’ voice seemed to have a touch of glee in it. “Something like that. I’m sorry, but we all have work to do, and most of us agree it’s time to move on. I have talked with the police on an almost weekly basis, and they have more than enough clues to solve the crime.”

David started tapping his desk with his left index finger. “What do you mean? How can you possibly know if they have enough clues.”

Charles’ sarcasm dripped through the earpiece of the phone, “David, I thought you of all people would have figured this out by now. She was your wife after all.”

The room began to spin, and David grabbed his desk with his left hand. “You killed her?”

An audible chuckle cut through his hearing, and then Charles said, “You’re taking the fun out of it. It’s not worth my time to have to spell it out. Normally, I would have just walked away, but since I’m no longer anywhere you can find me I thought I would be merciful. I like you David, and I liked Susan. That’s why I picked you both.”

David’s left hand clinched into a fist, and he slammed it down on the desk. The keyboard skipped for a moment, and trinkets tumbled over. “I will find you.”

Charles laughed. “No, no you won’t. You had a year. I gave you every chance in the world. I created a whole community to find me, and nobody figured it out.”

“But, why? Why us, why Susan?”

“David, one day you will understand what an honor it was for me to choose you. I only pick the best a brightest. I bring a little suffering into their lives and make them better for it.”

David pulled in long breaths of air and tried to stop the room from spinning. “We will find you.”

Charles paused for a moment, and then answered, “Perhaps. If anyone can find me, you might be the one. I hope you do; I like you, David.”

David started to respond, but pulled the phone away and hung up. He began to dial the detective who was assigned to Susan’s case but stopped mid-dial. There would be time for that. A smile crept across his face. Charles had made David better in the last year. David had taught himself web development as well as deep search skills. During that time he had found another community. This community worked independently of Charles’ little group. Now that he knew who the killer was they could comb the globe to find him.

Susan would get justice, and so would Charles’ other victims, if there were more. Finishing his post to his international brotherhood of sleuths, David dialed the detective’s number. It was only a matter of time now, and that fact replaced David’s rage with a sense of peace.


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