Interrogation Room

“Come on, Carl. Quit wasting my time.” Sargent Tony Sanchez smacked the corner of the wood laminate desk. Carl Jones jumped in his chair. Tony knew Carl had information about Julie. Tony grabbed the young girl’s photo and slammed it again in front of Carl for effect. Carl startled again, but not as much this time. Tony watched Carl lean down towards the photo.

Carl’s index finger traced the outline of the child’s face. A chill ran down Tony’s spine as Carl ran his finger down the thirteen-year old’s black hair. He raised his hand and resettled it on the girl’s high cheekbone and tan skin.  Suddenly, Carl raised his hand, extended a second finger, and poked out the photo’s two brown eyes. A gasp left Tony’s mouth before he could stop himself. Tony could feel his chest tightened and rage began to build.

Tony jerked the photo away and slapped it down on the far side of the table. Carl’s eyes followed it, and the corner of his lips curled up. Tony stood over Carl, placing himself between the photo and the disturbed, evil man that sat before him. “Tell me, Carl. Tell me who has her.”

Carl shrugged, “How would I know?”

Tony slapped the wall of the interrogation room. “Don’t play dumb with me. Not after that little show.”

Carl crossed his arms and smiled. Tony’s knuckles turned white as his balled-up fist shook to restrain themselves. He cleared his voice and spoke to Carl in what sounded almost like a growl. “I promise you, Carl, if you don’t help me, I will make sure you go down for this.”

Carl lifted an arm and waved off Tony’s threat. “Really,Sargent? How do you propose to do that?”

Tony took two deep breaths, turned his back to Carl and walked over to his chair. The old metal groaned as Tony rested his weight in it. There was a broad smile across his lips by the time he sat down and faced Carl.

Carl frowned, “Why are you so happy all of a sudden?”

Tony crossed his legs and watched himself pat the top of his knee. He looked up at Carl. “Well, I was thinking about how much fun it’s going to be to have you put back in jail. Those boys over in County probably won’t let you make it to the state prison.”

Carl’s voice grew higher. “You can’t do that. I ain’t done nothing wrong. I want a lawyer; you’re bluffing.”

Tony raised his hand, and Carl took a breath.Tony leaned towards Carl. “I was just trying to help you out, but you’ve made it clear that you don’t want my help.”

Carl scowled, crossed his arms and legs and glared at Tony. “Don’t play your games with me. You didn’t help nobody but yourself. You had me arrested. I wasn’t doing nobody no harm until you showed up at the halfway house.”

Tony nodded, “I know, and we know you didn’t take this girl.”

Carl nodded his head furiously.

Tony continued, “Now hear me out, we also know who did. Of course, you know we need evidence for the jury. I happen to know that you know who has her, or I should say who had her.”

Carl looked at the floor and said nothing.

Tony continued to press. “See, here is my problem. Because the two of you associate in the same, um, social circles, one might argue that you had something to do with it.”

Carl bristled, “You can’t prove that cause it ain’t true.”

Tony shrugged, “Perhaps, but it’s still a violation of your parole. You know you aren’t supposed to be hanging around your old crowd. I was doing you a favor by letting you return to town to be with your sick mother when she passed away.Now, you need to do me a favor and tell me where to find the man who has Julie.”

Carl pulled his legs up on the edge of the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. His dull brown eyes peeked over the top of his dirty, faded jeans. Tony stared into the angry, dead eyes. There was something about them that seemed to exude evil. Carl spoke from behind his knees, “I ain’t no snitch.”

Tony sighed and said, “Well, Carl. Then I’m going to arrest you. You know what prisoners do to convicted child molesters. You’d be safer being a snitch.”

Carl grabbed the back of the chair, “I won’t go, I can’t go. They’ll kill me,” he screamed.

Tony lifted his hands, “Now calm down, take a breath. All I need to know is where your buddy is keeping the girls. That’s it; I have everything else I need.”

“What buddy?” moaned Carl. “Do you mean Curtis?”

Tony nodded.

“Curtis is staying in that abandoned cabin just outside of town, near the edge of the lake. But he has booby-trapped the woods,so don’t just go walking up and knocking on his door.”

Tony had his lead, but he focused and kept his calm. “Do you mean the cabin right off the road on the south side of the lake?”

Carl shook his head. “No, there’s an old place on the north side. You can only hike to it. It’s about a mile through the woods. Most of the trail is overgrown,that makes it hard for people to find. Curtis told me it was the perfect place.”

Tony pulled out a legal pad from the corner desk and began to write furiously. “Perfect place for what, Carl?”

Carl released his knees, and his feet slapped against the linoleum floor. He leaned forward on his elbows, “You know what for,Sargent.”

Tony felt queasy to his stomach as he nodded his head. “How do you know all of this?”

Carl’s voice was flat, “Curtis and some of his friends told me.”

Tony flipped the page and kept writing. “Friends? Are you on the internet again? You know that’s against your parole.”

Carl shook his head, “No, I’m not violating my parole. We talk in the park some days. The fellas find me out there reading or feeding the squirrels.”

Tony nodded, “Do you know what happened to Julie.”

Carl closed his eyes and nodded, “Yea, she’s gone. Curtis said she tried to get away twice and kicked two of his friends in their groin. They let loose on her, and then buried her in the mud about a foot under the water.”

Tony worked to keep his lunch in his stomach. “Okay, Carl. You helped me. Now I’m going to help you. I’m putting you in protective custody.”

Carl jumped to his feet and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. He turned to Tony, “You can’t do this, they’ll kill me if I go back to prison. I ain’t touched a soul, just like I promised. I wanted to, but I’ll kill myself before I do that again.”

Tony grabbed Carl’s arm and pulled him away from the door. “Easy, you aren’t going to general lockup. We’re putting you in solitary in a nearby town until all the arrests are made. It won’t take Curtis long to figure out you snitched on him. I want to make sure none of your friends show up at the halfway house.”

Carl crossed his arms and shivered, “Two of the guys live there.”

Tony nodded, “We’re aware. Well, turn around and let me cuff you so we can be on our way.”

Carl took a step back. “Wait. If this is protection, why can’t I go without being handcuffed? Believe me; I’m no flight risk now.”

Tony nodded, “Okay, Carl. I suppose you did do the right thing. Have it your way.”

Carl stepped back to let Tony take the lead, and then he gently put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and spoke, “You know, Sargent, I know I’m a monster, but even monsters can be redeemed if they really want to be.”

Tony nodded, “I hope so, Carl. I hope so.”

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In The Dark Wood

Cyrus walked with his head down. The familiar dusty trail had given way to mud, leaf litter, and ruts of the unexplored forest floor. The sun was disappearing. Cyrus kept trudging along the natural path. He was not concerned with getting back. He hoped he never saw home again. Mary had humiliated him in front of all of their friends. It was true that he lost his temper at work and given his boss a right cross to the jaw, but Frank had it coming. Who was that guy to think repeating a rumor about Mary and Lewis being together was a good idea? Frank was lucky he was still breathing.

Cyrus could not understand why Mary was so upset that he lost his job. Why would she want him working for that jerk? Well, he was confused until Lewis showed up an hour later at his doorstep. The epiphany of truth cut through his heart like a sword, a very dull and painful sword. Lewis’ smirked as he pushed Cyrus out of the way and made himself at home. To add insult to injury, a string of ten friends followed him inside. The cowards had wanted to make sure Cyrus avoided doing something stupid to Mary or Lewis.

There was not much Cyrus remembered after that, just walking. Mary’s voice hollered for him to come back, and Lewis laughed in a tone that ripped his heart apart with a feeling of despair and hatred he had never known. Cyrus finally stopped when the woods grew so thick the trail disappeared. Moonlight broke through the black sky, but Cyrus knew that it would do him no good to force his way through the branches and saplings in front of him. To his right, several limbs and twigs snapped, and there was a crunch in the leaf litter. Cyrus looked over and saw a figure dressed in white walking towards him.

As the phantom came into view, Cyrus realized it was no phantom at all. Olivia walked up and gave Cyrus a long, compassionate hug. Her dark skin formed a silhouette beneath the white sundress in the moonlight. Her short tightly curled black hair highlighted her strikingly beautiful face. Olivia’s large black eyes glistened as she stared into Cyrus. She seemed to reach in and soothe his very soul.

“How did you find me?” asked Cyrus.

“Where else would you go?” answered Olivia. “You need to be careful, the woods and the swamp aren’t like they were when we were kids. A few more yards and you’re in alligator country.”

Cyrus nodded, “I’m aware. I was trying to decide whether to push on or not.”

“Why would you want to do a fool thing like that?” asked Olivia.

Cyrus leaned against the tree that brushed against his shoulder. He crossed his arms and tried to pull the tension from his back as he remembered his day. “I thought you heard about what Mary and Lewis did to me. Not to mention, losing my job. I owe Frank a big apology.”

Olivia reached over and gently stroked Cyrus’ bicep. “Frank’ll forgive you.”

“Forgive me? He fired me,” said Cyrus.

Olivia nodded her head, “I know, but you both got heated. I have it on good authority he’s planning on taking you back tomorrow. He heard about the stunt Lewis and Mary pulled tonight. Frank’s good people, most people in town are. You’re going to be okay. I think it’s Mary and Lewis who need to worry about where they’ll be living.”

Olivia took a step forward and leaned toward Cyrus. Cyrus pushed himself off of the tree towards Olivia. Her cool dark lips felt soft against his pale warm cheeks. Lewis turned his head, their lips met, and the two embraced. Olivia’s breath smelled like jasmine. Cyrus closed his eyes and held her there for a while. He finally released her and exhaled. “I wish we could be together.”

Olivia’s voice had a sad undertone to its beautiful lilt. “I do too, but you know what trouble we caused as kids.”

Cyrus’ voice was tense, “What they did wasn’t right. You know, a lot of people blamed Lewis’ dad.”

Olivia tilted her head. “Speak of the devil. I believe Lewis is looking for you.”

Cyrus scowled, “How would he know to come here?”

A smile spread across Olivia’s face that ran a chill through Cyrus’ body. She pointed to their right from where she had approached him. “Go stand over there about five yards. There’re some trees you can hide behind.”

“What about you?” asked Cyrus.

Olivia’s voice spoke barely above a whisper, “It’s time to teach daddy’s boy some manners.”

Cyrus walked over where Oliva had pointed. The forest floor was wetter and a bit muddier. He could see Olivia’s sundress glowing in the moonlight. She glided past the saplings closer to the where the alligators nested. Cyrus was about to say something when Lewis’ voice broke the silence to his left.

“Where are you, boy? When I find you, I’m gonna do to you what my daddy did to your no account girlfriend. Mary is mine, and we’re gonna make this a quick and easy separation.”

To his right, a man’s voice responded, “You ain’t got the guts, come and get me.”

Cyrus heard the sound of footsteps moving quickly towards Olivia, and then saw Lewis’ silhouette in the moonlight. He was moving at a quick pace until he tripped on a rut while trying to make way through the saplings. “What’s the matter, don’t know the swamps?” The deep voice asked, and then a cackle sent a shutter through Cyrus. Lewis yelled, cursed, and climbed his way out of the wooded trap. “Where are you?” screamed Lewis, and he continued to move forward.

Cyrus could no longer hide. What if something happened to Oliva? He stepped from behind his hiding place and quickly made his way to the branches. Through the contour of the limbs and moonlight, he could see Lewis jerking his head left and right as he kept a deliberate pace forward, and then Lewis stopped and stood straight and still. The ghostly white moonlight caught Olivia’s dress, and she appeared to almost float in the darkness.

“What, do you think you can hide your old boyfriend!” screamed Lewis, and he dove at Olivia.

“No,” hollered Cyrus and he tried to reach through the limbs. To his horror, Lewis passed through Olivia and tripped over something in the dark. With a growl, and then a scream, Cyrus watched the giant mouth of an alligator open and then snap shut on Lewis’ skull. He covered his face and tried to block out the sound of bone collapsing against teeth. Cyrus focused on trying to breathe and not release the contents of his stomach. The smell of jasmine filled his nostrils again. Cyrus opened his eyes. His beautiful love stood before him.

“Did you have to do that?” asked Cyrus.

Olivia nodded, “There was a gun in his pocket. He would have killed you and then that would have been you, instead of Lewis over there.”

Cyrus sighed and dropped his head. He felt Olivia’s cold dark fingers lift his chin. Her lips sent a thrill of electricity through him. “I miss you so much.” bemoaned Cyrus.

“One day, my love. One day we will be together as God intended. He’s promised me. Now clean yourself up at the spot we used as kids, it’s still safe, and get yourself to town. Everything will be okay. Just do me one favor, stay away from women like Mary.”

Cyrus took Olivia’s hands into his own. “I can’t find a good woman. There isn’t any woman as good as you. I miss you so much. Maybe I should come and join you.”

Olivia’s eyes grew wide, and she shook her head, “Don’t you dare! Don’t you go pining away for me and do something stupid. You know exactly where to find me, and I’m always here for you. Find yourself a good woman, or live alone, but don’t go off and do something stupid.”

Cyrus nodded once and dropped his head. He could feel Oliva looking at him. He raised chin up and met her lips for a long kiss. His world filled with jasmine, a breeze shot through his body, and she was gone. With a sigh, and tears in his eyes, Cyrus made his way back to town.

Guarding The Innocent

Steam poured from under the hood of his Ford Focus. John stood there cursing himself. Earl’s voice played over in his mind, “John, you better summerize that little car. It’s gonna get real hot this year, let me tell you.” John kicked the car’s front tire, and his foot bounced back. “Idiot” grumbled John to himself.

He looked down the road in hopes of seeing the tow truck he had called for earlier. The hopeful sound of a truck engine was non-existent. John looked at his watch, had it only been five minutes? It would be at least another hour before anyone showed up if he was lucky. Why did I use that dirt road? John thought, I could have stayed on the main road, and it would have been easier. Stupid.

At least the moon was full so that he could be on the lookout for snakes crossing the road. The heat and humidity were so thick on this southern summer night that it formed a low-lying mist that covered the ground and extended into the dark woods. John swatted at the occasional mosquito and the gnats that continually buzzed his face. He began to pace back and forth, hoping to break free of their incessant buzzing. Twenty feet from his car the cloud of bugs seemed to dissipate.

John stopped and tried to relax. The sound of frogs singing back and forth, and an owl hiding somewhere in the forest helped his nerves to settle. John began to breathe more naturally, and then a twig snapped just inside the tree line. John started to walk back towards his wounded car slowly.  He listened carefully, trying to estimate the size of the hidden animal. A moment later a figure emerged from the dark woods.

A woman stumbled into the light of the moon. She had red clay covered hair, but John could see golden strands of blond locks poking through the muck. Her mud smeared face was hardly recognizable, and a white sundress clung dirty and wet against her body. She walked stiffly towards John, and he froze. Everyone had heard the stories about the woman in white. It had been used for decades to scare teenagers from parking with their dates in the lonely woods. John could barely breathe.

“Help me,” she said. “I need help.”

John felt light-headed and didn’t move. She stumbled up and grabbed his shirt with her dirty hands. “Please help me, somebody tried to bury me alive.”

John grabbed her wrists. She was human and very much alive. Her skin was slick with mud and sweat. The woman’s frightened blue eyes pleaded with him. “Please help,” she said again.

“What’s your name?” asked John

The woman gave her head a quick jerk to the right. “Rebecca, Becky. People call me Becky. I need help.”

“I have a tow truck coming. Are you hurt?”

The woman looked and felt about her body. “I think I’m okay, but my legs are sore.”

“How did you get out here?”

Becky looked back at John. “I can’t remember.”

Becky started trembling, and John put his arms around her. “It’s okay. You’re going to be alright.” John could feel her ragged breaths. He held her until her breathing became more regular, and released her. “Tell me what you do remember.”

Becky looked around. John could see she was trying to get her bearings. “Well, I was at a bar and met this guy. His name was George, John, Jason, Jeff.”

“Jim?” asked John.

Becky nodded, “Oh no, where’s Jim?”

She ran back towards the woods screaming, “Jim, Jim, where are you!” Her voice echoed back for several seconds until the forest became a cacophony of “Jim.”

John walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder, “Please, stop. There’s nobody else out here.”

A colony of bats flew overhead, and then the forest was silent. “Is it possible Jim did this to you?” asked John.

Becky stood there silently thinking. “No,” she said. “I can’t remember what happened to Jim, but he wasn’t with me anymore at some point tonight. Another man put me in the back of his car.” Becky looked around and noticed John’s car steaming on the roadside. Fear enveloped her face, and she pointed at the Focus, “Oh God, it was you. You put me in the back of that car and raped me. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. Then you tried to bury me, but something scared you, and you left.”

John shook his head and raised his palms up in surrender, “I promise, it wasn’t me.”

Becky stepped back towards the woods, “Yes it was. I remember your hands and your disgusting shirt that smells like rotten pork.”

John sighed and shook his head, “Why did you have to remember?”

“Get away from me,” screamed Becky.

John’s clenched his fists as he approached the retreating woman. The sound of a branch breaking behind him stopped his movement. Becky’s expression changed to one of relief and then fright. John spun around. A woman with wet raven hair stood before him. Her black eyes seemed to disappear into nothingness. A pure white gown hung loosely from her body.

She spoke with a  guttural growl and pointed her finger at John, “It was you.”

John screamed and the black-haired woman pulled John into the woods so quickly that Becky thought they had simply vanished. The wildlife in the woods screeched and hollered in harmony with John’s cries, and then everything was silent.

Becky folded her arms in front of her and slowly made her way up towards the road. The headlights of a truck appeared on the horizon. A tow truck pulled up and stopped between her and the wounded car. A large man got out of the cab and Becky trembled at the thought of what might happen next.

The driver rushed around with a cell phone in his hand. “Don’t worry ma’am. I’m calling the police right now. I’ll get an ambulance here too. I don’t know what happened to you, but help is on the way. Feel free to sit over there on my truck’s bumper until they get here. I’m gonna check out your car and stay right over there until help arrives.”

The driver headed up towards the car with the cell phone in his ear. In a few minutes, she could hear sirens fill the distant air. Becky sat on the rear bumper, bowed her head and began to weep. She was safe at last.


Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day – summerize

Misguided Justice

Oliver laid on the ground feeling his lifeblood flowing out of his body. Elizabeth stood over top of him grinning. The small 9mm pistol was only visible due to its silencer. “What’s the matter?” she asked with a smirk, “Surprised?”

Oliver tried to draw in a breath, but the bullet had entered his chest, and he found it difficult to get air. The burning pain in his back and the warmth of the ever-increasing blood pool beneath him told Oliver some part of the bullet had managed to escape from his body. He gasped, “Yes.”

Elizabeth’s laugh sounded demonic. “What, did you think I was some trophy girlfriend? Did you think I was nothing more than a turophile and wine connoisseur? You type of men are all alike. You’re vain, self-centered, and you think every beautiful woman thinks just like you do.”

Oliver was not sure if he understood Elizabeth. Perhaps it was a growing pain throughout his body and the slowly darkening room. He gasped out, “What, are, you, talking about?”

Elizabeth squatted down next to Oliver’s head. The smell of lilacs and roses he had enjoyed just a few moments earlier entered his nostrils that were now desperate for air. She grabbed his chin in her hand, “Come on, you’re at death’s door. Don’t play stupid with me. Don’t you remember a woman named Sharon?”

Oliver attempted to shake his head no. Elizabeth released his face. A painful slap met the left side of his face. The stinging effect brought him back into the fading world. A white flash of pain enveloped his mind. Instinctively he drew in his breath and nearly passed out from the agony. The room spun, and Oliver thought he saw Elizabeth standing up. She now stood over him like a hawk over its prey.

“You’re an idiot. Do you think denying killing my sister will get you off the hook? You’re dead already. You’re just too stupid to realize it. It was your company that put the pipeline through my sister’s neighborhood, even though everyone warned it could cause a catastrophic explosion if there were ever a leak. It was your company that paid off the politicians to make the pipeline happen. It was your company that tried to cover up the explosion that killed my sister. Did you think nobody would figure out that terrorists weren’t in the middle of Kansas?”

Oliver forced the words from his mouth. At first, he coughed up a mouthful of blood from his throat, and then he finally managed to get the words out, “Not me.”

“What do you mean it’s not you. Of course, it is. You’re Oliver Church. We’re inside your Manhattan condo. You’re the CEO of EcoGas. You’re to blame for the death of hundreds, including my sister.”

Oliver gasped, “No, not CEO. That’s my brother, Owen.”

Elizabeth shrugged, “What’s difference does it make. You’re just as complicit.”

Oliver shook his head, and the world spun. He stopped and focused on talking past the pain. “No, I fought my brother on the pipeline.  I don’t own any shares in his company. I work for United Nations Environment Programme.”

“Oh, God,” said Elizabeth.  Oliver closed his eyes and tried to keep breathing. He felt Elizabeth put a pillow under his head. A few moments later she carefully rolled his body over on its side and laid him back down on a soothing cold compress. “What have I done?”

Oliver spoke through the darkness, “I forgive you.”

“Don’t you leave me,” begged Elizabeth.

Oliver tried to speak, but could only mouth 911.

“What?” asked Elizabeth.

Darkness, and then light met Oliver as the pain, and the room slipped away.

“Oh my God,” said Elizabeth as she stood and paced. “What have I done? Oliver, please speak to me,” but Elizabeth knew he would not answer. She had heard the death rattle. Elizabeth prayed she was wrong. In desperation, Elizabeth grabbed a mirror off a nearby table and put it next to Oliver’s lips. No air passed from them. Elizabeth dropped the mirror, paced the condo, and spoke to herself, “What have I done? All I wanted was justice, and now I’m a murderer just like Owen. In fact, I’m worse than Oliver’s brother. His brother wanted money, I wanted to kill. What have I become?”

A dark voice inside Elizabeth’s mind spoke, You know what you have to do. You’ve killed an innocent man. Tears flowed down Elizabeth’s cheeks, and she nodded to the empty room. The voice was right. Only violence could stop her violence. She had to hate her hate. Elizabeth raised her trembling hand towards her mouth. In a moment it would be over. She would pay for Oliver’s death, and then peace.

No,  said a voice somewhere inside. You’re forgiven. Elizabeth looked down at Oliver’s body, had he said something? That was right, he had forgiven her, but how did that change anything? No, came a thought from inside her. I forgive you. Inside her memories, she could hear her Sunday School teacher telling her stories of Jesus and his forgiveness.

“This is stupid,” said Elizabeth to Oliver’s corpse. “I took your life, and I need to face justice.”

Then face it, came another thought.

Elizabeth looked down at the gun in her hand. She thought for a moment longer and then threw the weapon across the room.  Elizabeth reached into her pocket, got her cell phone, and dialed 911. “I need to report a murder,” she said to the operator. After giving the address, Elizabeth sat down in a nearby chair and looked at Oliver’s ashen body. “Thank you, for forgiving me.” Then, Elizabeth closed her eyes in prayer and waited for the police.


Dictionary.com word of the Day – Turophile

Dividing the Truth from a Lie

“Come on, honey. It isn’t as dramatic as all that.” Charles was poised with his back against the wall. Charlene stood there with tears falling down her cheeks. In her right hand was a large Shun chef’s knife. It had been part of a kit that was given to them as a wedding gift five years earlier. In Charlene’s left hand was a pair of women’s pink lace panties that did not belong to her.

Parts of Charlene’s long auburn hair stuck to her wet cheeks. Anger and grief had changed her normal porcelain skin to a bright red. Her blue eyes flashed, and she screamed. “Don’t honey me! I find these under my bed, our bed, and you tell me it isn’t that dramatic? Do you think I’m afraid to use this knife?” Her right arm swung quickly through the air.  Years of aerobics and other exercise regimes had made her body firm and quick. Charles tried to press himself into the wall as he felt the tip of the knife barely touch his polo shirt that was loosely hanging off his body. “Who is she?” demanded Charlene.

Charles held up his hands, “She was a mistake, it was a long time ago.”

“How long?”

“Six months ago, when you went to visit your parents.”

“Do you think six months is a long time? How many women have you been sleeping with?” Charlene held the tip of the knife up to Charles’ throat and in a blink of an eye pulled back her arm. Charles trembled inside. Years of desk work had taken him from the muscular man he used to be to a flabby desk jockey. Charlene was faster and possibly stronger than him.

Charles stood there fearful. Instead of calming her down he was making it worse. He had forgotten about Sophia’s lingerie the night she left. They had spent two days together in bed. Her olive skin, raven hair, and lustful needs were everything Charlene was not. Sure, he had cheated, but it was over as quickly as it started. Sophia wanted “serviced.” There were no expectations. In Charles’ mind, there was no harm and no foul. At least not until today.

“Please,” pleaded Charles, “lower the knife, and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

Charlene took two steps back and lowered her knife. Charles sighed and took a step forward. Charlene’s blade shot up in front of her, “I didn’t tell you that you could move.”

Charles nodded, stepped back against the wall, and Charlene lowered her knife. He took a deep breath and spoke slowly and quietly, “Honey.” Charlene’s knife came up in front of her. “Sorry,” said Charles. “Charlene, it was a mistake. Sophia from work dropped by and was distraught over some family matters. I had drunk a couple of beers before she showed up. I had no idea she would be here. The next thing I know, I’m hugging her and telling her everything will be okay, and then we have our clothes off. It was over before it started.”

“Don’t try to Disneyfy this. I didn’t find her panties under the couch, I found them under our bed. How could it be a moment of passion if the clothes came off in the living room? Her panties ended up under the bed, stuck between two boxes of winter clothes.”

Charles knew he was in trouble. “I have no idea. Maybe I found them and threw them under the bed. I honestly can’t remember.”

“Give me your phone.”

“What?”

Charlene raised the knife again, “I said, give me your cell phone out of your pants’ pocket.”

Charles nodded, reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. Charlene dropped the panties and quickly swiped the phone from Charles’ trembling hand. “Password,” demanded Charlene.

“5563” responded Charles.

Charles prayed he had deleted his text history, although he was sure the past two days were still present. Charlene began to scroll, and her voice became angrier as she read off the first few names, “Who are Michelle, Denise, Chloe, and here is Sophia again. You were texting her today?” Her hand shook as she opened the text. A semi-nude photo of Sophia appeared on the screen. Charlene dropped the phone and began to sob.

Charles saw his chance. He ran up behind Charlene and wrapped his arms around her biceps and chest. “Honey, calm down. This whole thing isn’t worth you going crazy.”

Charlene mumbled through her sobs, “You’re right.” With a swift motion, Charlene’s forearm rose and came down. The knife easily sliced through Charles’ khaki pants, into one side of his thigh and out the other. Charles released Charlene and stumbled as he retreated towards the wall. He stopped and looked down. Blood was beginning to soak his pant, but the knife did not hurt as badly as he thought it would. In fact, it barely hurt at all.

Charles reached down and pulled the knife out. A sharp flash of pain filled his mind, but then quickly disappeared. The warm flow of blood down his leg felt good, even soothing. His eyelids narrowed, he raised the knife in front of him, and fear flashed across Charlene’s face. “Well,” said Charles with a half-smile. “How the tides have turned. You stupid witch, you couldn’t just leave well enough alone, or even just leave. You had to go all crazy on me, but now it’s my turn. Maybe I’ll stab you in the chest and claim self-defense. Better yet, why don’t I just divorce you for spousal abuse and leave you destitute. Then you can watch me romp around town with my girlfriends.”

Charles started to feel a little dizzy. The sides of the room seemed to be getting dimmer. He noticed Charlene had crossed her arms and was grinning. Why is she smiling? He thought. Charles felt light-headed, stepped back into the wall and slid down to the floor. That is when he realized he was sitting in a large pool of his blood. She must have hit an artery, thought Charles. Then the entire room went black.

Charlene was smiling as she reached down and picked up the phone off the floor. She counted off another sixty seconds before calling 911. A woman on the other line answered.  Charlene spoke quickly, “This is Charlene McMurray. I need the police and an ambulance. My husband tried to attack me with a knife when I found out he was cheating on me.”

“Are you alright ma’am. Where is your husband?”

“He stabbed himself when we wrestled for the knife. He’s lost a lot of blood. Please hurry.”

“I’m dispatching them now.”

Charlene hung up the phone, tossed the panties on the bed, and ambled towards the living room to wait for the police.


Dictionary.com’s word of the day – Disneyfy

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.


 

Alone in the Woods

Billy stood behind an old oak tree relieving himself in the forest. The cool, dry air of the passing cold front had been a welcomed change from the hot, humid day. The campfire was just within Billy’s view. He watched Lauran sit there by the fire. She had bleached blond hair that hung in tight wet curls with droplets of water that fell from their tips. Lauran had gotten caught in the storm that Billy had avoided by hovering in his tent.

After the storm passed over, Billy was able to recover his campfire. Lauran appeared out of the woods thirty minutes later. Her hollow gray eyes penetrated Billy’s heart with sadness when he looked into them.

Billy muttered to himself about lousy timing and attempted to hurry up his business with the tree. He was not sure where Lauran had been, but he knew she needed help and could not stay alone out in the woods. His small two-man tent might feel a bit too personal, but he would have to convince her he would keep her safe. The campsite was only a half a mile from the road. He would take her to authorities in the morning so she could get checked out and call a loved one.

Billy finished and walked back to his campsite. “I’m sorry, ” he said. “I was not expecting company and had a few beers before you arrived.”

“Oh,” responded Lauran. “are you upset about something?”

“What? No, it’s not like that.” Billy pulled up a log he intended to burn later and sat across from Lauran at the fire. “Why would you think that?”

Lauran shrugged, “I don’t know. Jerry used to drink when he was mad. Unfortunately, he’d just get angrier.”

Billy pointed at Lauran with a stick he had just picked up. “Who’s Jerry? ”

“He was my boyfriend.”

“Does he always take you hiking dressed like that?”

“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?”

“Most people don’t wear a sundress to hike in.” Jerry tossed the stick back on to the muddy ground.

Lauran looked down, picked up a stick and drew an arrow on the ground as she spoke. “Well, I needed to get away from him in a hurry. Jerry doesn’t mean to be angry. He’s had a hard life. Jerry grew up without a father, and his mother’s boyfriends would beat him. She kicked Billy out on his seventeenth birthday. He’s a hard worker, but it’s tough to hold a job when you never even finished high school. I guess all his hardship made him a hard man.”

Billy sat quietly and listened. He was concerned Jerry might be nearby. “Is he looking for you?”

Lauran shook her head. “Not anymore. I was finally able to escape.”

“Then why are you in the woods?”

Lauran shrugged, “I’m just trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go now.”

Billy nodded his head. He noticed her playing with a silver heart-shaped locket. Lauran looked up from her twiddling fingers and said, “Jerry gave me this locket. He worked two months to save up the money. What makes a man love someone so deeply and hold on to so much hate?”

Billy picked up a nearby twig, looked up at Lauran and shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe he couldn’t let go of his pain. You know, forgive his mom or those boyfriends.”

“But he became just like those men.”

Billy nodded, “That’s how hate usually works. It grows inside until it twists you into the very people you despised. I hope Jerry can get some help before he hurts somebody.”

Lauran let go of the locket, and a tear trickled down her cheek. “He already hurt me, but I’ve forgiven him. Besides, I won’t have to worry about him anymore.”

Billy asked, “Does he live nearby?”

Lauran shook her head, “Oh no, he’s at least fifty miles away.”

“How did you end up here then?”

“Jerry brought me up here.” Lauran was about to continue to story, and Billy held up his hand.

“Excuse me. I’m afraid I need to get rid of some more beer.”

Lauran gave a slight smile and looked away. Billy got up and felt a bit awkward as he rushed to the tree. His bladder was not in a joking or social mood. As he finished watering the tree he looked around its trunk to look at his beautiful but sad new friend. To his surprise, she had disappeared.  Billy quickly zipped up and rushed back to the campfire.

He looked down and noticed three equally spaced arrows leading out of his campsite. Billy picked up his flashlight and began to walk where the arrows were pointing, but stopped. What if this is a trap?  Billy considered the fact that Jerry could still be with her, but why would they lead him away from his campsite? He was just as vulnerable by the campfire.

Billy grabbed his taclight and hunting knife and left the camp. There were no footprints on the trail. Billy backtracked and walked the perimeter of his temporary shelter, but the only tracks he could find were his own. Intent on solving this mystery he prepared to follow the arrows once more. Billy checked his right pocket to confirm his cellphone was there. Pulling it out he found the signal a solid four bars, just as it had been earlier in the evening.

The trek through the woods was treacherous even with the flashlight. Ruts, roots, and mud made for slippery walking. Fifty yards from his tent something caught his heel and Billy went sprawling into the mud. He picked the taclight off the ground and wiped the dirt away from it. Looking back, Billy instinctively jerked his leg away from the pale human hand sticking stiffly out of the mud. He backpedaled on his hands and feet ten more feet before stopping to catch his breath. Billy reached in and pulled out his phone. He called authorities for help.

Rangers and the state police arrived thirty minutes later. They found Billy leaning up against a tree. He was muddy and pale, but he did not leave the body. A ranger took a shovel and began to expose the corpse slowly. As the mud started to clear strands of bleach blond hair began to stick up in small places out of the mud. Billy watched as the ranger reached down and pulled up a silver heart-shaped locket.

A nearby state policewoman grabbed Billy as his knees buckled.

“Are you going to make it?” she asked.

Billy forced himself to stand up. “Yeah,” he said in a shaky voice. “I think the guy inside that locket killed her. His name is Jerry.”

The ranger walked over, “How do you know?”

Billy pointed towards the body, “That’s what she told me.”

The ranger looked over his shoulder at the corpse and back at Billy. “I doubt it. She’s been dead at least a couple of weeks.”

The policewoman gently took Billy by the shoulder. “Why don’t we get you out of here. I think you’ve been through enough.”

Billy wiggled free of the officer’s grip. “Just promise me you’ll follow-up on that locket.”

“Don’t worry, we’re going to follow every lead.” the officer responded.

Billy nodded, and the two of them started the half a mile trek to the road.


 

Death and Betrayal

Anger and hatred had infected George’s mind. He sat there seething, and spoke to the empty room, “How dare he! Who does he think he is? What kind of man steals his best friend’s wife? I can’t believe he’s in my house now!” George looked down at his cell phone. The webcam he had hidden in his bedroom fed the live stream to his five-inch screen. George’s stomach felt hollow and churned inside. His right thumb subconsciously flipped the safety on and off on his forty caliber pistol.  George watched the pair finish dressing and leave the bedroom. George looked his watch.  Lewis would be home within the hour.

George turned his attention to the pile of love notes that sat on the table in front of him. Janice thought she could get away with the affair because they had gone back to basics. Instead of exchanging texts they exchange short love letters. George smiled at her cunning. I have to give it to them, he thought, nobody uses love notes these days. The smile left George’s face as he read Janice’s intimate details of the things she planned to do to Lewis’ body. The gun trembled in his hand. George stood up and started walking around.

Above the mantle sat three photos of he and Lewis on their getaways to the beach. George began to wonder how long Lewis had cheated with his Janice. He walked down the hall and into Lewis’ bedroom. George furiously opened dresser drawers. The bottom drawer was filled with women’s lingerie. A bottle of Janice’s perfume sat on the side. George pulled the drawer out and flung it across the room. The drawer landed with a thud into the drywall and then fell to the floor. He then turned and tore the bedding off the mattress.

George searched Lewis’ nightstands. He found a nine-millimeter pistol inside the piece of furniture on the left. He pulled out the magazine and emptied the round in the chamber. George spoke to the empty room, “There’s no reason to give him a fighting chance.”

George went back to the living room, slid his gun into his waistband, sat down, and waited. A few minutes later the knob on Lewis’ front door began to move. “Hello?” said Lewis as he poked his head through the door. “Oh, George, you frightened me. How did you get in?”

George forced a smile, “My key. You know, we have keys to each other’s place to keep an eye on things.”

Lewis laughed, “Of course. I’m sorry, I’m a little distracted. You would not believe how crazy work was today. What brings you by?”

George noticed Lewis’ eyes glance over to the stack of love notes. George stood up and walked over towards Lewis. “I wanted to show you something I found on the internet. It’s pretty interesting.” George handed Lewis his phone and replayed the stream from the webcam.

Lewis began to quickly back up and raise his arms in front of him. “Now, George. Try and understand. We didn’t mean for it to happen.”

George’s fist tightened at his sides. “How long?”

Lewis backed up until his body pressed against the wall. “What?”

“How long have you been sleeping with my wife?”

Lewis was quiet, and George wondered what story Lewis was trying to make up. He finally answered. “Around a year. We started seeing each other when your job took you on the road six days a week, and I lost Sheila to cancer. Janice was trying to comfort me, and I guess we were both lonely. I should have never talked to her when I was vulnerable.”

George stood there a moment. Lewis had a point. He was gone a lot, and then there was Sheila’s death. Lewis and Sheila were talking marriage when she got the news. The cancer was exceptionally aggressive, and Sheila was dead within six weeks. George couldn’t kill Lewis, but he was not sure what to do next.

“Do you love her?” asked George. He could feel his heart breaking as the words escaped his lips.

“I don’t know. I mean, I thought so, but now, I don’t know. I mean, you’re like my brother. I love you like a brother. I can’t decide. Why? Are you going to let her go?”

George looked down at the floor and spoke in a raspy voice. “I’m letting her go alright, and she’s going to pay. I’ll make sure I get every penny the law allows, and I’m going to drag out the divorce as long as possible.”

“But why?” asked Lewis. “I just told you what happened. How can you blame her?”

George looked up and glared at Lewis. “I understand your grief doesn’t disappear, but I stopped going out on the road two months after your whole affair started. If she was just lonely, she could have cut things off then. Not only that, she moved some of her things over here, that isn’t a lonely woman.”

Lewis started to say something, but then rushed pass George to the bedroom. George walked over and leaned against the counter. He felt his world spinning out of control. His best friend had made a mistake, but Janice had taken advantage of the situation. Did she ever really love me? He wondered. The sound of Lewis woke George from his thoughts.

Lewis emerged from the hallway into the living room. His nine-millimeter was extended with both of his hands holding it. He aimed it squarely at George. “Why did you have to ruin things, George? Why couldn’t you let us be happy? I can’t let you torture Janice with a long drawn out divorce.”

“So you think murdering me will solve your problems? Were we ever really friends?”

Lewis nodded, “We were, until Janice. I can’t lose her too. I’m sorry.” With a pull of the trigger, the gun clicked once, twice, three times. Lewis looked down at his pistol confused.

“Doesn’t it feel a little light?” asked George

Lewis pulled back the chamber to find it empty and flipped the gun over to find the magazine missing. He reached into his pocket. “How many rounds are you planning to shoot me with?” asked George.

Lewis clumsily pulled a spare magazine from his pocket and slid it into the butt of the pistol grip. Lewis’ head raised up to aim the gun when George’s weapon discharged and the sound reverberated around the living room. Lewis’ lifeless body hit the wood flooring with a thud. George shook his head, and then spoke to Lewis’ corpse, “Self-defense.” George pulled out his phone and dialed 911.


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