Monday Morning: October 21st
Scarlett, who wore a white tube dress and a pair of black heels, sat cross-legged at the table with her jean jacket folded over the back of her chair. On the table was a small stack of paper cups and a green paper clip. Gripping the edge of the table, she pulled herself in. Turning her head to the left, she saw a large mirror. Smiling, she waved at her reflection knowing that someone was watching from the other side. Looking over her shoulder she glimpsed at the wall clock. It read: 8:15.
“They’re gonna kill me,” she whispered.
Arms crossed in front of chest, she stared across the table. In the corner of her eye, she saw the door she came in. The light from beneath the door was stained by the shadows spread across the floor from approaching footsteps. The knob twisted to the right. Scarlett slid her right hand in between her legs, beneath her kneecap. The door opened. In the doorway stood a man wearing a blue button-down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, a pair of disposable rubber gloves, a name tag that read Clyde Michaels over his right breast, and black slacks with suspenders. In his right hand he was holding a few manilla folders and a pot of coffee in his left hand. His hair was gray; the hairline receded nearly to the center of his head. The ends of his eyebrows curled like a hook. He kicked the door closed with the back of his heel and placed the folders and coffee pot on the table.
“Hope you like it strong,” he said pouring himself a cup. “Couldn’t find the cream.” Before pulling out a pen and pad of paper from his back pocket, he took a sip.
“How long is this supposed to take?” Scarlett uncrossed her legs.
“As long as needed. Why? Aren’t you having fun?” He sorted through the files.
“I just have to be at work by nine -”
He looked up from the files. “Well, you need to be here until I hear what I want.”
Scarlett crossed her legs again.
Clyde sat in his chair with pen and pad in hand. “Where do you work, Scarlett?”
“Michael’s. Arts and, arts and craft store.”
He began to take notes. “And what’s your position?”
“Sales associate in the seamstress and sewing section.”
“For how long?”
“Just a few months. I work there seasonally. Usually when I’m on break for school.”
“School? Where’s that for you?”
“Chosen a major yet?”
“Sounds like you must be happy with your job then?”
“How often do you get to make your own clothes?”
“Well, I’ve been designing my own clothes for a while now. I pay for only my bras, underwear and shoes.”
“So it’s something you really enjoy?”
“Yes. I even keep a travel pack sewing kit in my purse.”
“May I see it?”
Scarlett leaned down and picked up her purse from the floor. She zipped it open and stuck her hand in; she started to pull out a few twenty dollar bills, some lip balm and her keys, and placed them on the table. “I just used it a few days ago.”
Clyde opened up the manilla folder that topped the pile and took out two plastic Ziploc bags. He slid one bag across the table. “Looking for this?”
Looking past her purse items, Scarlett stared at the Ziploc bag. Inside was a travel pac sewing kit and a needle tipped red.
Sliding over the second bag, he said, “Ever thought about being a surgeon?”
Scarlett picked up the second bag that sealed a picture. The picture was a close up of a man from the neck up. His clavicle was stained with blood. The blood had trailed down from the center of his throat where it looked like a circular incision had been made and then poorly stitched. Still attached, hanging from the last stitch, was the needle; the needle, looking like a pen leashed to the upper jaw of a clipboard.
“Not your best work I am guessing?”
“Who, who is that?”
“Sounds familiar doesn’t it?” He removed a cell phone from his pants’ front pocket. After flipping open the screen, he dialed a couple buttons and then pushed the phone towards her. “If not, maybe you’ll remember sending this.”
Scarlett leaned in closer to the table and read the message across the screen:
Sent: 8:15 p.m October 15th
I’ll be over there in a few…”
“He was found dead in his closet roughly around eleven. But you probably already know that.” Clyde picked up the phone, closed the screen, and pocketed it.
“I-I had no idea.” She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. “He, he said he wanted to see me.”
“And you were the last person he saw. His wife wasn’t even home.”
Scarlett grabbed the paper clip and uncoiled it slowly.
“Veronica Jones,” Clyde added.
She rubbed one end of the green-coated wire against her cuticles.
“Ring any bells?” Clyde leaned back in his chair, removed the cell phone from his pocket and flipped open the screen.
Scarlett brought the wire up to her mouth like it was a cigarette.
“Hey!” He swiped the phone across the table and struck the stack of cups. The cups tilted to the right and collapsed onto the floor. “Focus, Scarlett!” He closed the phone and returned it to his pocket. “Didn’t you say you had somewhere to be? Work maybe? Stitchin’ shit. Shit like this.” He pointed to the photograph. “You’re quite crafty.” He opened the sealed bag and took out a pile of photos and spread them across the table.”
Scarlett glared at the photograph on the far right: Robert laying on his back, right arm over his head, hand closed, left arm over his chest, hand opened, mouth opened with sewing pack in between his lips. The picture on the far left: a close-up of a deep gash along his jugular vein.The picture in the middle: a close-up of his left hand. Scarlett dropped the green-coated wire and picked up the photo. In the center of his palm were chips of bone and pink flesh. “What’s that?”
“Something I’ve never seen been done on a victim. Our crew found a baseball bat at the scene. We suspect that the killer must have broken Rob’s thyroid cartilage after a few swings after cutting his jugular.” He paused. “I say after cause, I have hope that there’s at least one nice thing about this psycho. He,” he swallowed, “or she, must have let the fucker die from blood loss before beating his throat in, making the incision, removing the broken cartilage and sewing back up his throat.”
“How was the incision made?”
Clyde raised his eyebrow.
“Do you know?”
“There was no evidence of that at the crime scene. Neither was there evidence of who did this. Either the fucker wore gloves who wiped his prints like a real professional.” He picked up one of the photos. “Seems like this person had done this many times before.” He looked up from the photo. “Or was planning it for a while.” Putting the photo back down, he asked, “Now tell me, who would remove a man’s Adam’s apple?”
“Thyroid cartilage, technically. But it was Robert’s apple that was removed.”
“Oh my God, Adam.” She grabbed the green-coated wire and nibbled on it like a naked lollipop stick.
“That, that night, before I went to Robert’s house, he went to his friend’s house. Adam’s.” She removed the wire from her mouth and tapped one end on the edge of the table. “I don’t know what happened after I left. I don’t think Adam came over.”
Clyde took a sip of his coffee.“Do you know anything about Robert and Adam’s relationship? How long have they known each other?”
“Years. Probably almost five. Ever since Rob and Veronica got married and moved here.”
“Close relationship, would you say?”
“Just friends?” Clyde took another sip and raised his eyebrows as he swallowed.
“No one is just friends.”
Clyde leaned back and laughed. “Cute. So do you think Veronica suspects anything?”
“Have you asked her?”
“I tend to interrogate in-person.” He looked at the wall clock. “And as of now she is on a train coming home from New York.” His eyes glanced at Scarlett. “So, no.”
“When was she in New York?”
“She arrived the night of the murder.” He took a last swig of coffee from his cup. “It’s not your job to question. We already know who it is.”
“I don’t have the right to tell you who I think it might be?”
Clyde crumpled the paper cup and squeezed it in his hand. “You’re a suspect, Scarlett.”
Scarlett shook her head, grabbed the green-coated wire and coiled it back into a paper clip.
“You and Adam, of course.”
Scarlett’s eyes widened. “Adam?”
“He’s artsy too, as you may know. Owning the local tattoo shop and all. They found one of his tattoo guns, traced with prints, at the crime scene.” He pointed to the picture that was a close-up of Robert’s neck. “He made a few cuts himself.”
A black asterisk marked the center of Robert’s throat. Clyde opened up another manilla folder and took out Adam’s mug shots. “Guess he counts himself as a victim in his own life.” He pointed to Adam’s profile: on the side of his neck was a tattoo of a small asterisk. “Adam is categorized as a brander. Almost like a cult, huh?” He scratched the back of his neck. “Pretty clever that Adam is. Pretty fuckin’ stupid too.”
Scarlett shook her head. “No. Not Adam. He loved -”
“A married man! The motive’s simple. Jealousy. If Adam can’t have him, no one can. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.” Clyde sorted the pictures and returned them to the Ziploc bag.
“Where’s Adam now?”
“Locked away, like he should be.” He placed the bag into a manilla folder. “His court date is in two weeks.”
“Already? So, so, why did you need me?” She crossed her arms.
“Even professionals doubt themselves, Scarlett. We wanted to make sure we had the right guy. Sorry for wasting your time. You’re free to go.”
She stood up and pointed at the folder. “But, but, that’s my sewing kit.”
“You said you were friends with Robert weren’t you? You saw him the same night Adam killed him.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe you took it out and left it on the table.”
“That’s it?” She rested her hands on her hips.
“We knew it was Adam before you got here. We just needed you to confirm that, which you did. So, thank you.” He stood up and pushed his chair in.
“Well, then I feel awful.” She sighed. “There has to be more to this. I just, I just know it’s not Adam. It can’t be -”
“Case closed, Scarlett. We’ll keep in touch.” Clyde opened the door and closed it behind him. The spread of shadow from his shoes lessened as he walked further away.
Scarlett glared at the mirror and shook her head. “It is not Adam.” She stepped closer to the mirror. “I know you can fuckin’ hear me! It’s not Adam! I’m not leaving this room until someone comes back in here.” Left arm up, she pressed her palm against the glass and leaned in. “I could always just talk to myself. That’s why the mirror is here, right?” She stepped back and laughed. “So I can watch myself act like a fuckin’ lunatic, and you can all laugh as I do it.” She approached the mirror again and knocked on the glass. “Anyone in there? Knock-knock.”
A knock came from the door. Scarlett looked over and then back at her reflection. She ran her fingers through her hair and pulled down her dress. “Come in,” she said as she walked over to her chair.
The knob twisted to the left and then right. The door opened and standing in the doorway was a man and a woman. The man had short blonde hair and was wearing a pair of black leather pants, sunglasses, a red button-down shirt, and a pair of black cowboy boots that were scuffed on the toe. The woman had red hair that went down to her shoulders and was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt, a pair of denim jeans and black clogs.
“Sounds like you have a lot of your mind.” The man stepped forward with his hand out. “The name’s Crowne, Detective Crowne.”
Scarlett hesitantly offered her hand, which Crowne grabbed and shook vigorously.
Pivoting to the right, he motioned towards the woman with opened hands like he was presenting a number in a musical and said, “And this here is my lovely lady, as well as wonderful side-kick, Laura.”
Laura stepped forward with her hands pocketed in her front pockets. “Nice to meet you.” She smiled as her eyes’ gaze wandered from Scarlett’s face to her waist, back to her face.
Crowne took out a pack of gum from his back pocket and removed three pieces of gum, popping each one into his mouth.
“Three pieces, really?” Scarlett giggled.
“You know it!” Crowne blew a bubble before adding, “You could say I’m orally fixated.” He winked.
Laura rolled her eyes.
“So, Scarlett, what do you want to prove here?” Crowne asked as he put the pack of gum back into his pocket.
“That it’s not Adam. If it turns out that it really was him, that’s going to be really hard to fathom.”
“I believe you, Scarlett. But then again, I never think it’s the person they catch.” He shrugged his shoulders. “All I’m going to need to get started is a witness.”
Tuesday Afternoon: October 22nd
The door of the coffee shop opened and a man of a very small build – merely five-foot-six – entered. He was wearing a pair of denim jeans that hung low, revealing his red boxers, a brown leather jacket that was all the way zipped and a pair of a white sneakers with the blue Nike sign. Covering his eyes were a pair of yellow-tinted sunglasses; covering his hair was a black beanie hat that went over his ears. Pulling out his wallet, he walked over to the counter and ordered a cup of coffee.
Crowne and Laura sat on a couch in the back of the coffee shop. Laura stirred her cappuccino with a plastic spoon as she watched Crowne pour a couple sugar pacs into his large cup of black coffee. He took out his pack of gum and popped another piece into his mouth before taking a sip of his coffee.
“Taste good?” Laura brought the spoonful of foam to her mouth.
Crowne caressed her thigh with his pointer finger. “Looks good,” he winked.
“Then what are we doing after this?” She slid over to Crowne, their thighs were touching. She tucked her right arm beneath his left and hooked arms.
“Speaking to Veronica.” He spit his ball of chewed gum into his hand and stuck it to the top of his coffee lid.
“I hate when you do that in public.” She slid back.
“You always hate when we are in public.”
The man wearing sunglasses pulled out a five dollar bill and tossed the change into the tip jar. When given the cup of coffee, he removed his sunglasses. Pushing one leg in with his chin and slipping the other leg in his collar, he let them dangle, giving his chest vertical eyes. He walked to the center of the coffee shop, facing Laura and Crowne, and took out his cellphone. He flipped open the screen and began typing.
“How much do you wanna bet that that’s him?”
Laura leaned down and picked up her cappuccino. She took a sip and continued to stare.
The sound of a phone vibrated. Crowne smiled as he removed his from his pocket. He flipped open the screen:
Sent: 1:15 pm October 21st
“Ron, over here!” Crowne called, waving his hand.
Ron looked up, smiled and titled his chin upward, nodding slightly, before walking over. He pulled up a chair in front of the table. He offered his hand for a shake to both Laura and Crowne. “Great to meet you both.” His voice was a bit raspy and he tended to murmur.
“Thanks for meeting with us on such short notice!” Crowne removed his pack of gum and took out a piece.
“Hey, could I have a piece? I left my pack at home.” Ron smirked. His upper lip lifted slightly, showing a glimpse of his teeth.
Laura smirked, too.
“Sure, sure,” Crowne handed him a piece. “You an addict like me?” He popped a piece in his mouth.
“Guess you could say I’m a bit orally fixated.” Ron winked at Laura.
Laura laughed – mouth opened wide, head titled back laughing – and then smiled.
Crowne shifted his gaze to Laura and glared. He looked back at Ron. “What is your relationship with Veronica and Robert?”
“Don’t really have one to be honest. I was just driving by their house, coming back from my buddy’s house, when I heard someone yell for help.”
“You heard yelling?”
“Ya. Well, I mean, someone yelled. All I know is, as I was driving by, the lights in one room on the first floor were on, but as soon as the yell happened, they went out.”
“You must have been driving by pretty slow to have noticed this.”
“You saying I speed, Detective Crowne?” His left eyebrow raised.
“No, just sounds like you’d notice this if you were walking or standing -”
“Let him finish, dear.” Laura touched Crowne’s knee. “Continue, honey!” She smiled at Ron.
“Thank ya.” His eyes glanced at Laura’s face, down to her chest, back to her face. He smirked again. “So I drove back to my buddy’s place and he made the call.”
“Why didn’t you make the call?” Laura crossed her legs.
“My phone didn’t have service.”
“That’s it, Ron?” Crowne took a sip of his coffee.
“Sir, I’m the witness. You need to know anything else, ask your suspect.” He stood up with coffee cup in hand. “You have my number though.”
Laura unzipped her purse and took out her cellphone. “I would love to have your information as well. In case you can’t reach one of us.”
Crowne glared at her. “Laura.”
“Tristan,”she looked over at him and bit her bottom lip.
“If you want my number, I can put it in your phone.”
Laura nodded and handed her phone over. After entering his number, Ron handed the phone back. He spit out his ball of gum and pressed it onto his coffee lid. He took his last swig. “Tastes so much better with out the gum, don’t it?” He smiled at Crowne.
Crowne just nodded.
“Nice meeting you both.” Ron pivoted on his heel and walked towards the door. As he pushed the door open, he unfolded the bent leg of his sunglasses with his mouth and then put them on.
Laura turned towards Crowne, smiling. “So sweetie, you want to visit Veronica?”
“I’m thinking that Adam deserves a visit from us.” He took a sip from his coffee.