Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
“It seems doubtful if Bronson had anything to do with Jenny’s disappearance,” Hank said.
Jake added, “Unless Bronson stashed her somewhere first, and then somebody killed him.”
“Maybe, but I can’t see that happening,” Annie said. “It seems more like somebody killed Bronson, and then grabbed Jenny.”
“I think you’re probably right, Annie,” Hank said.
“Or . . . what about a kidnapping?” Jake suggested. “Perhaps Bronson had a partner, and they kidnapped Jenny for ransom. Then, something went wrong. There was an argument. Bronson’s partner killed him, then held on to Jenny. Perhaps Bronson was the brains behind it, and now he’s dead, and the partner doesn’t know what to do with Jenny.”
Annie frowned. “It seems likely to me if Bronson had a partner who was cold-blooded enough to kill him, then, why wouldn’t he just kill Jenny as well? Instead of holding on to her?”
“I’m no expert,” Hank said, “but it looks like Bronson has been dead about a week. So yeah, Annie, I think you’re right. If it was a kidnapping for ransom gone wrong, that means the partner has been holding Jenny for a week. That seems doubtful.”
Annie said, “Maybe the original intent was for our killer to grab Jenny, Bronson was just in the way, and got himself killed.”
Jake looked thoughtful, and then spoke slowly, “So that brings us back to where we started. What’s the kidnapper’s motive?”
“A sex slave?” Hank suggested.
“Let’s hope not,” Annie said.
Friday, August 12th, 2:48 PM
JEREMY was taking a break. He’d been hard at work, stacking stuff up, restocking, running around doing all the crap his boss had demanded, and now it was break time.
He sat back and propped his stubby legs up on the table in front of him. He munched slowly on his peanut butter and tomato sandwich and looked at the tiny television mounted on the wall in front of him.
He thought about how much he hated his job.
He thought about that old woman he’d had to punish that morning.
He thought about how boring TV was during the day.
A reporter came on the television. Jeremy sat up straight. He recognized the spot where the reporter was standing. He opened his mouth and stared, his sandwich falling to the table.
“A body has just been discovered buried in a wooded area off County Road 12.
“The victim hasn’t been identified yet, but it appears to be the body of a man, possibly in his early twenties.
“I spoke to the detective in charge briefly, but he declined to comment.
“We will bring you breaking news as it happens. In an exclusive report, I’m Lisa Krunk, live for Channel 7 Action News.”
Jeremy’s mind was buzzing at a thousand miles an hour, his mouth still hanging open. Abruptly, he leaned back again and relaxed. He put his feet back up on the table and nibbled at his sandwich.
That’s ok, he thought. They don’t know who did it. They’ll never know. How could they know?
He looked at his watch. Break’s over. He packed up the rest of his snack in a brown paper bag, put the bag in a small locker by the wall, yawned, and trotted back out to his boring job.
On the way from the break room, his boss, Mr. MacKay, stopped him. “Jeremy, you have blood on your shirt.” He pointed and frowned.
Jeremy looked down at his shirt. There was a patch of blood on one side. Oops. He should’ve been more cautious. Now what could he do? Don’t panic! Just don’t panic!
The boss continued, “I told you to be more careful around the meat. You know the packages leak sometimes. Now go and change your shirt.”
Jeremy looked meek. “Sorry, Mr. MacKay,” he said, and then turned and smiled.
He went and changed his shirt.
Friday, August 12th, 3:00 PM
ANNIE knew she would have to fill out a police report, detailing how she’d found the body, and the events leading up to it.
She looked at her watch. Matty would be coming home soon. She didn’t have time to get to the precinct, fill out the report, and get home before Matty arrived.
She’d instructed him in the past, when he got home, if nobody was there, he should go next door to the Pascuals. Her friend Chrissy was almost always there this time of day, but she wanted to be sure.
She dialed Chrissy’s number, and explained she would be late, and could she please cover for her?
“No problem,” Chrissy said cheerfully. “I’ll watch for him.”
Annie thanked her and hung up.
She looked towards the woods. They were still busy there. It may be a while longer.
She climbed into her car, steering carefully around a cruiser protruding greedily into the roadway. She drove towards town, heading for the precinct.
Friday, August 12th, 3:10 PM
JAKE parked his Firebird in a vacant slot adjoining the apartment complex on Canderline Street.
Hank looked at Jake from the passenger’s seat. “This is the worst part of the job,” he said. “Informing the victim’s family their loved one is dead.”
Jake nodded. “I don’t envy you.”
Hank climbed wearily from the vehicle. “Well, let’s get it over with.”
They took the elevator to the third floor and stopped in front of 3B. The door opened a crack at Hank’s knock. Mrs. Bronson recognized them as she peeked around the chain. The door closed, a rattle, and the door swung back. She was wearing the same faded housecoat. She pulled the belt tighter and ogled them.
“Mrs. Bronson, I’m Detective . . .”
“Yeah, I remember you.”
“May we come in a moment, ma’am?”
She sniffed. “I’m not a ma’am.” She said the last word with a note of distaste. “But come in. Watch the floor. Don’t trip over the rug.”
Hank avoided the bulging rug as he stepped inside. Jake followed him.
“Well, what is it this time? I told you, I don’t know where Chad is at.”
“May we sit down, Mrs. Bronson?”
She frowned, and turned and walked into the small kitchen beside the hallway and sat at the table. Jake saw a plate with an unfinished meal on it. It appeared to be eggs or something. A cigarette butt protruded from a piece of toast, with ashes decorating the rest of the plate. She pushed it aside and propped her elbows on the table, staring at them.
Jake pulled a chair back and sat carefully. The air smelled of something stale. Maybe rotting food as well. He tried to avoid the odor as he watched Hank sit and pull his chair into the table.
She lit a cigarette and blew smoke at them. “Did you find Chad?”
Hank looked at her. “Mrs. Bronson,” he began, and hesitated, covering her hand with his before continuing, “I’m sorry I have to inform you, your son has been killed.”
There it was. The thing he hated doing so much. He waited for her reaction. It was always the same.
She looked at him in disbelief. “Are you sure?” she asked.
“Yes, Mrs. Bronson. We’re sure.”
She continued to stare at him. Finally, the reality hit her. Her eyes moistened and a tear rolled free. She jammed the unfinished cigarette into the toast.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Bronson, but it appears to be homicide.”
She cocked her head at him. “What’s that?” she asked.
“He was murdered, Mrs. Bronson.”
Again, she was silent, and only stared, unseeing, and vacant. Hank watched as the second revelation finally hit her.
He spoke again. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Bronson.” His voice was low, soft, and sympathetic.
“Who done it?” she whispered, hoarsely.
“We don’t know yet, but we’re doing everything we can to find out.”
She was crying freely now. “Can I see him? He’s my only boy,” she sobbed, as she pulled a well-worn tissue from the pocket of her housecoat.
“Yes, you can. We need you to identify the . . . him, just for the record.”
“Ok,” she managed.
Hank leaned back and looked at Jake. Jake was looking at the floor, and then the walls, and then around the room. His eyes were moist and didn’t appear to be focusing.
They made arrangements for an officer to pick her up later that day, and take her to the morgue to identify her son’s body.
As they were about to leave, Hank said, “We’ll let you know as soon as we find out anything, Mrs. Bronson.”
She thanked them as she let them out.
As Jake pulled the car onto the street, Hank looked over. “Are you getting a cold?” he asked. “I thought I heard you sniffling in there.”
Jake laughed. “Must be contagious. I think I heard you sniffling too.”
Friday, August 12th, 3:25 PM
BASIL Johnson trudged up the two flights of stairs to where his apartment was located. A small brown terrier scampered around his feet, up one step, and then back, as if trying to hurry his master up. His nose was on the floor, constantly sniffing, and he yipped a small dog yip, tugging and testing the length of the chain.
Basil had been for a long walk that morning. It was a beautiful day, so later, he sat in the park for quite some time, munching a small lunch he’d brought with him. He’d watched the kids try to injure themselves on those infernal things they climbed around on. Oh, to be a kid again. He fed some pigeons from his lunch, scooped up dog poo, and had a wonderful time.
But he was tired now. He needed a cup of tea, and a quick afternoon nap. Then, he would feel better. But first, he had to get up these dern stairs. They need to fix the dern elevator some day.
He finally reached the top of the steps, and opened the door to the hallway. The dog dashed through, yanking on the chain, and still yipping away.
He passed doors with dumb homemade signs on them, like, “Home Sweet Home”, and “Welcome to My Humble Abode”. Mostly made from wood or leftover stuff lying around. One said, “Please Use Other Door”, and pointed to the neighbor. Basil enjoyed knocking on that door some times as he passed, just because it was such a stupid sign.
But today he kept on walking.
The terrier tugged at his chain, two steps behind him.
Basil pulled. “Come on Pup.”
Pup just kept tugging, his nose to the floor, sniffing near the bottom of a door.
Basil pulled a bit harder.
Pup pulled back.
Basil stopped tugging. “Whatyu diggin’ at there?” He leaned over a bit and screwed up his eyes. “What the heck is that!?”
He could see some thick red stuff had oozed out from under the door. He stared at it a moment, scratching his head.
“Looks like blood!”
He stood, looked at the door and read, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. He looked underneath the sign, and said aloud, “Number 204. That’s Mrs. Bellows.”
He cocked his head, pulled at his ear lobe, and tested the door. It was unlocked.
He gently pushed at it, but it would only open halfway. It seemed to be hitting something. He poked his head around the door and looked.
“Oh, dern,” he said.
Thirteen Years Ago
JEREMY swung open the school door and stepped outside. He huddled his shoulders, trying to force the already upturned collar of his coat a little higher. The cold air snapped at his ears as he tucked his hands in his pockets, sniffled, and hurried down the steps.
“Jeremy you little faggot!”
He didn’t look. He knew who it was. He paid no attention to the voice, as he jumped the last step onto the sidewalk, hurrying for the parking lot where the busses waited.
“Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!”
He glanced over quickly this time, long enough to see three boys heading toward him. He walked faster.
His tormentors were closer. He started to run. Too late. One had his arm wrapped around Jeremy’s neck, choking him.
“Leave me alone, Joey,” he pleaded, trying to breathe. “I didn’t do nothing to you. Just leave me alone.”
Joey laughed, and mocked him. “Leave me alone, Joey. Leave me alone, Joey.”
One of the other boys grabbed his feet. They lifted him up, swung him back and forth, finally tossing him in a snow bank running along the edge of the pathway.
Joey jumped on him, holding him down. “Wash this faggot’s dirty face for him, Cole.”
Cole scooped up a handful of snow and rubbed it vigorously in Jeremy’s face. The snow was hard-packed, and Jeremy tried to wiggle free at the discomfort. The cold bit into his face.
“Let me up,” he gasped.
Joey looked at him, and sneered, “Your father’s a murderer, isn’t he?”
“No, he’s not. He’s not.”
“And your mother’s a whore.”
Jeremy struggled again, the words hurting more than the cold.
“My mother is not a whore. Yours is,” he screamed.
Joey smacked him across the face. The hit dazed him, and made his face more numb. He winced in pain.”
“Your father killed somebody. That’s why he’s in jail. I hope somebody kills him,” Joey said.
Joey rubbed another handful of snow in Jeremy’s face and stood. “See you around, Jeremy,” he said, as he laughed, and walked away.
Jeremy got up, rubbed his sleeve across his face, sniffled, and cursed to himself as he hurried to catch the bus.
Friday, August 12th, 3:50 PM
TO AVOID drawing on-lookers and the media, who would undoubtedly be monitoring the dispatch frequency, the radio message Hank received was brief, not revealing the full nature of the incident.
When he arrived at Mrs. Bellows apartment building, the entire premises were taped off. Sentries at all entrances had been put in place, and admittance to the building was tightly controlled.
A uniformed officer was leaning against the doorframe at the main entrance. Hank showed him his badge, and was directed to the scene of the homicide.
He climbed the stairs, two at a time, and stepped into the hallway. He sniffed, testing the air. It smelled stale, musty, not unlike the odor from a wet dog. Or dirty socks. Hank wasn’t sure which.