The night seemed like any usual, a wife and a husband, both in their 30’s, sitting in front of a small Tv waiting for the news to begin, a frequent pattern in their lives. As the reporter began to read the headlines, something caught my attention, a murder had occurred once again in our neighborhood. “A serial killer on the loose “, was what everyone believed, that a mastermind was hiding behind these crimes of a bloodbath. But still, something did not make sense to me, I could not match the connection between the victims, a reason that would justify why they had found such a cold-blooded death.
“What a cruel murder, don’t you think love? “
Yes, I wanted to say, maybe my wife was right, and we were just searching for another psychopath who wanted to make something out of his miserable life. But I could not forget what I had seen yesterday morning at the crime scene and while the police’s crime photographer took the pictures, I paid attention to the scene, desperately trying to find something that would give me the ‘perfect story ‘.
Their bodies lay like ghoulish mannequins, the esophagus and arteries sticking out like so much corrugated and rubber tubing. It looked as if a special effects team had worked overtime for some scary movie set, but that smell... That smell could only come from recently slaughtered animals. In this case, the animals were human, and their corpses were still warm, the blood thickening but not yet dried on their waxy skin. Some cases took a while to decide if foul play was involved, but this was murder all the way. And I knew. I knew that right here, before my eyes were standing a clever mind, a genius who found pleasure in torturing the victims until their last breath, who wanted them to have a chance to fight even if they knew that the battle was lost and they would end up as lifeless bodies.
Being a crime journalist, I had seen almost every type of murder – from stabbing with a knife to straggling the victim - but for once I was stacked in a bubble of thoughts and theories. Whoever the killer was, it seemed that they did not have a style, a pattern and instead they killed with every way a human mind could possibly come up with. Last Thursday, the fifth murder occurred -this time the element was fire -. Fire doesn't care if it burns wood, pig fat, or the flesh from your body. Like this knife, it has no preference at all. In all this world it is as blind as you will be just an hour from now when your atoms are just atoms. Every part of your body is no more than a borrowed element forged in a star, and it's time for you to glow hot again – light up the night with the fat under your pampered skin. Burning can be fast or slow, I'm thinking slow, from their toes. In a house fire the smoke puts you out first, it's was a kindness I suppose.
If it hadn’t been for that chemistry course I had taken last year when I was writing the article for the governor’s assassination, I wouldn’t know any of this valuable information which sometimes made my mind go crazy with the amount of pressure I was forcing upon myself, just to get that promotion and finally achieve my high school goals of an astonishing journalist career. Why had they not used poison, one of the easiest ways to kill without putting your hands through blood and smell? The murderer did not seem to be enjoying the murders committed – there wasn’t a satisfaction of twisting the knife or the one-off putting a bullet through someone’s skull. So again, why commit them, what was the motive?
“Why are you stressing honey, it’s not like you are the police! Imagine what those people have to go through every day in their office. Isn’t it just a story for you? ‘’
My wife, couldn’t understand what I was dealing with. She was a chemist at the local hospital’s laboratory, she was a left-minded, a person who learned from a young age to think and act like a stone-cold machine, only with a schedule. And then it hit me.
A stone-cold machine, a chemist, a left-minded.
I felt the panic begin like a cluster of spark plugs in her abdomen. I rushed to the bathroom. Tension grew in my face and limbs, my mind replaying the events. My breathing became more rapid, shallower. In these moments before my personal hurricane, I finally understood the drug addict, the alcoholic... anything to stop the primal surge to flee. In seconds I was curled tight in a corner, my only movement the trembling of my limbs and salty tears darkening my sleeves. How was I so clueless? The signs were all in front of me, like an open map. My own wife, my lifetime companion, was a murderer, a killer, an assassin. I had my own Red Dahlia in my house without even knowing it.
At that moment I realized I had the ‘ideal story ‘ all this time.
I went back to the living room, sat close to her, and observed as she watched the news, probably pleased with how she had managed to foul an entire police system as well as the media. An innocent, young woman who helped the ill and the injured would never be a suspect for a crime, yet all five of them. Watching her take a sip, it took my every urge not to swat the glass away, but it was the only way to end this. She tilted her cup higher, drinking the entire thing in one swig, and wiped the remaining red liquid from the bottom of her lips. I wondered how long it would take to go into effect. I wondered how long it would take before she became dizzy and forgot where she was, or before his vision blurred together and his body went numb. Minutes? Hours? I try to keep my thoughts off my face. Everything seems to switch into slow motion. For a moment, I doubt myself. Her lips are moving but I do not hear a single thing, not even the piano player striking those ivory keys from our old jukebox. I watch those lips until I flit over to look at her eyes. This is it. This is the only way I can live. A fair trade, one could say, one life for another. Her hand reaches across the sofa. Just her touch alone sent shivers through my body. Guilt is creeping into my gut. It takes all of my strength to withhold tears. It quickly fades as she begins coughing, and coughing. The glass tumbles to the ground with her. Wine-colored blood has stained the floor.
Even a saint would turn into a demonic predator once the poison took effect; the newspaper stories were full of folks tearing apart their own families over petty grievances, mostly imaginary. It was the poison she feared, the stuff living nightmares are made of. And to me, she had just become another nightmare.
Had I done the correct thing? Poisoning her?
I would never be sure of that, but I couldn’t live with myself if I just gave her up to the authorities. There, she would be locked up in a cell until a producer decided to make her crimes a Hollywood movie, a documentary for the hungry eyes of the American audience. She didn’t deserve that freedom, she didn’t deserve the attention from anybody, not even from the families that they were now grieving in silence their beloved without having someone to blame, someone to scream for their loss. And to me, it was better that way.
The secret would remain mine until another ambitious mind of a journalist is given the ‘the perfect story ‘.
Art Illustration: Andrea Midence