The silver badge gleamed at me in the dim light and I blinked to clear my thoughts. I was sitting on the curb in front of Mr. Neeson’s house, staring at the asphalt street. A police officer was hovering above me, holding out his badge and yelling something, but I couldn’t hear anything. I could still see the horror that was in the house behind me. Let me explain myself a little, my name is Mackenzie Thomas and I’ve been sentenced to 20 plus years in a correctional facility. Why, you ask. I’ve been accused of killing my best friends.
It was the summer after the year we graduated, I was 18 and my two friends were 19. Susan Bell and Trisha Michaels were my two best friends, granted they were a year older than me but we were close. Susan was 19 and had long light brown hair and hazel eyes; Trisha was also 19 and had long dark brown hair and blue eyes. I was only 18 and had long black hair and dark green eyes. We lived in the smallest town in the northern part of Texas, and it was always hot. We were driving around in Trisha’s new blue Dodge Charger and she drove past the post office. It wasn’t used anymore because a new one had been built on the other side of town. A small house had been built beside the old post office and it had recently been set on fire. The house had already been fixed up and Old Man Neeson had his tents set up outside again.
“Why do you think he keeps those things outside?” Susan asked turning around in her seat to look at me. I glanced out the window at the black tents and shrugged my shoulders.
“I don’t have the slightest idea” I said. I caught a wide smile growing on Trisha’s face and I stuck my head in between the two front seats to look at her. She looked at me, startled, but the smile never left her face.
“Mackenzie, what are you doing?” Susan asked pushing against me; the front seats were kinda small.
“Trisha knows something.” That was all it took, for the next fifteen minutes, Susan hammered Trisha with questions about Old Man Neeson’s house.
“Alright, shut up Susan!” Trisha exclaimed, slamming on her breaks as the light in front of us turned red. Her face was red and she was gripping the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles where white.
“Why did you say anything, Mackenzie?” Trisha snapped looking back at me. I smiled and chuckled lightly.
“Because I knew Susan could get it out of you” I said. Trisha growled lightly and hit the gas when the light turned green. She drove the next few blocks, going over the speed limit, with Susan and I gripping tightly to our seats.
“Okay calm down Trish, I was just messing with you. You know something, spill it” I shouted. Trisha slammed on her breaks again before pulling into an empty parking lot.
“Okay, fine. My brother told me that the tents were used to hide something. Mr. Neeson caught him and his friends in them one night and scared my brother to death” she said. Susan and I were quite for a few minutes and Trisha just stared at us.
“Did they ever tell you what was hidden in the tents?” Susan asked, her voice timid. Trisha sighed and looked down for a moment. When she looked up, her eyes were bright and shining.
“They found it. A skeleton key, he told me is goes to Old Man Neeson’s back door” she said, her lips quirking into a crooked smile. “And we’re going to find it too.” My eyes widened and my mouth fell open.
“Are you out of your mind, Trisha, do you want to end up like your brother?” I questioned. Trisha looked down and I knew I’d hit a tender spot. She didn’t like talking about her brother, and when she did, it was always hesitant.
“That wasn’t the reason my brother ended up in a mental hospital, he had problems before that. My point is, if you’re with us Mackenzie, we’re going to find it” she said, her smile growing. I sighed and closed my eyes. I had a reputation for being able to find small things in the most difficult places. I ended up with the reputation when I found a classmate’s earring back after class one day. When I looked up, Susan and Trisha were both staring at me, a look of hope in their eyes.
“I guess I don’t really have a choice, do I?” I asked in defeat. Susan cheered and bounced in her seat while Trisha just laughed.
“You’ll be fine, we’ll all watch out for each other. I’ll pick you guys up tomorrow night.”
Two police officers led me into a small square room and pushed me towards a table. I sat down in one of the chairs and the officer handcuffed me to the table.
“Why don’t you start from the beginning Miss Thomas, tell us how you knew about this house?” Officer Dixon asked. I sighed deeply and stared at the dull grey wall behind his balding head.
“Trisha’s brother and his friends had been in our situation before, she found out from him and told us” I muttered. I put very little energy in explaining what had happened.
“And even after hearing what happened to him and his friends, you still decided to go along with Trisha’s plan?” the other officer, Keegan, asked. I took a deep breath and looked down at the table. I pulled hard against the handcuffs, trying more to pull the table out from under him than to get free of the hand cuffs.
“Like I had a choice, Trisha and Susan would have made me go, you didn’t know them like I did” I replied without looking up. I heard the two officers discussing something and I put my forehead against the cold table top.
“You said this man’s house had been burned down, why did you want to go inside?” Keegan asked. I drew my hand across my lips, wiping away the blood that had started dribbling from my nose again, and looked up.
“Trisha told us that Old Man Neeson was loaded, he had millions. We didn’t think it was fair because of who he was, we all wanted the money, but it was Susan that made us go” I said. The two officers looked at each other before walking through the door out of the room, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I leaned my forehead against the table top again and let my eyes fall closed.
Trisha’s consistent honk outside my window broke into my thoughts and I threw open my front door.
“Alright! Knock it off!” I yelled before stepping out the front door and trudging towards her car. I pulled open the passenger seat and climbed in beside her, she looked over at me.
“You don’t look to happy” she muttered as she backed out of my driveway. I looked at her out of the corner of my eyes as I put my seat belt on.
“You know I don’t want to do this Trish, I didn’t want to do it yesterday. What made you think I would have changed my mind within a day” I snapped before looking out my side window. She sighed and put her car in gear, heading towards Susan’s house. When we pulled up in front of her house, Susan was waiting for us on the front porch. She hurried to the car and climbed into the backseat. She had a small knapsack with her and she stuck her hand in it and rummaged around.
“Here, I figured we would need these tonight” she said reaching into the front seat with two flashlights in her hand. I took one and dropped it in my lap before looking back out my side window.
“What’s wrong with Kenzie?” I heard Susan whisper to Trisha. I sighed angrily and turned to look pointedly at her.
“You know exactly what is wrong Susan, you were the one with this ridiculous idea in the first place” I snapped. Susan sunk back into the backseat and Trisha stared blankly out the windshield. When Trisha pulled up in front of the post office, I didn’t move.
“Come on Kenzie, we need you to do this” Susan said. I sighed and threw open the passenger door, climbing out of the car. I stalked past them and waited on the curb at the edge of Old Man Neeson’s yard. Trisha and Susan came over to me carrying the flashlights. Susan handed me one and I scoffed before ripping it out of her hand. I walked over to the tents in front of his house and threw back the flap on one. I turned to look at Trisha and Susan and saw that they were still by the curb.
“Well, you guys were the ones who wanted to do this so bad” I muttered before disappearing inside the dark tent. I chose to let my eyes adjust to the dark instead of turning on my flashlight. When Susan and Trisha came in after me, the first thing they did was turn on their flashlights. I immediately took them away from them and turned them off.
“What are you doing Kenzie, we have to see!” Trisha whispered urgently. I threw the flashlights outside the tent, along with mine.
“Then let your eyes adjust, we can’t risk Old Man Neeson seeing us” I muttered. I made a point of separating myself from the girls when I went looking for the keys that were supposedly hidden in the tent. After a few minutes of looking in one tent, Trisha and Susan separated into the other tents, using their flashlights. I stuck to the tent I was in, and continued looking. I found all sorts of things in that tent: batteries, whistles, shoelaces, a couple buttons, paperclips, a crystal doorknob, and a phone battery. In the very last pouch I looked in, that was in the very top of the tent, I found them. It was a set of two keys, two very distinct and detailed skeleton keys. They were a shimmery white color and were slightly rusted, but other than the rust, they were still in good shape. I didn’t understand how they fit a modern door knob like the one I was sure was on the back door. I stood in the tent for what felt like an eternity, staring at the keys, when I glimpsed Susan stick her head inside and point the flashlight at me.
“Trisha, she found them!” she yelled before rushing over to me and snatching the keys out of my hands. I snatched them back. Trisha ran in and over to us, looking at the keys in my hand. They started cheering at this point, whistling and doing cat calls. I finally had enough of their noise and stepped out of the tent, leaving them in it by themselves. A moment after I left, they followed me out, still cheering.
“Come on Kenzie, let’s go in!!” Susan cheered.
“So, let me get this straight, you found the keys?” Dixon said. I had finally gotten them to take the handcuffs off, so I was sitting comfortably, in a ball in the corner of the room. I nodded my head.
“But you straight out refused to go inside with them, why?” Keegan asked. I sighed and looked up at them. They seemed to be scared because they were standing on the other side of the room from me, and Dixon’s hand never left the door knob.
“I already told you, I don’t know why. When Susan and Trisha started making all that noise, I got scared. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it in the first place, but the thought of getting caught by that creepy old man finally caught up to me. I made them go in alone” I said. I rested my head on my knees again and closed my eyes.
“Where did you go after they went inside the house?” Keegan asked. I sniffled lightly and cleared my throat.
“I wanted to stay close, just in case something got out of hand. I went to the playground that was across the street from the old post office. The one that was never used anymore because it was so overgrown” I said. I heard the two police officers mumbling to one another and I fought the drowsiness that threatened to drown me.
“That’s where you saw him right?” Dixon asked. I picked up my head and leaned it back against the wall.
“Yes, he walked through the swing I was on and the one next to me. He was less than a foot away from me, and he never even touched me. When I saw his face, I’d never felt so scared. As soon as he was gone, I got up and ran. I ran until I couldn’t breathe and that’s when I called the cops” I said. I stood up and walked back to the hard wooden chair, I saw the two officers visibly tense up.
“If you had already called the cops, why did you go back to the house?” Dixon asked. I sat there for a moment, staring at the cracked white ceiling, before responding.
“I don’t know why I went back; I guess part of me was hoping that Trisha and Susan were still alive. Looking back, I don’t know why I did. That’s when I found all the blood” I muttered. They left the room after that and I was left alone again.
Trisha and Susan continued to make noises until it got to the point where I was getting scared.
“Shut up!” I hissed. They didn’t hear me and even seemed to get louder. My fear level rose and goose bumps appeared on my arms. I really didn’t like this.
“Shut up! If you want to go inside, you can go by yourselves!” I yelled shoving the keys into Trisha’s hand. This didn’t seem to unnerve them at all, as they looked down at the keys and ran around the back of the house. I sighed and walked across the street to the playground. It was a small playground; most of the equipment couldn’t even be seen anymore. The only things visible were a small swing set, a big slide and monkey bars; the rest was hidden by the unkempt weeds. The playground hadn’t been used in years, not since the ice rink had been put in down town. I sat down on one of the few swings, facing away from the house, and waited. I was waiting to hear earsplitting screams, a gunshot, or the sound of glass breaking. Anything that alerted me that something was wrong inside the house, but no such noise ever came. I sat there for what felt like hours, waiting for them to come out or for me to turn around and see Mr. Neeson’s face in one of the top windows. I looked away from the house, into the darkness further into the playground, when I heard footsteps. For a few moments, I didn’t see anything, and then a man came out from behind the trees and made his way towards me. My breath caught in my throat and I gripped the chains of the swings tightly. My body went rigid and I fought gravity as it threatened to pull me backwards. The man had to be Old Man Neeson, and he was creepy. He towered a good foot or two above me, but then again, who didn’t. He was walking slowly, with a slight limp, and looking straight ahead. Only when he passed between the swing I was on and the one beside it, did he look at me. A scream built up in my throat but I never opened my mouth. The right side of his face and his neck were horribly scarred. His right eye was closed and I didn’t think he could even open it. I couldn’t even think straight, all I could do was focus on how close he was to me. He smiled a crooked smile, his one eye shining, and continued towards his house. I was frozen for a moment but when I heard the front door slam, I got up and bolted from the playground. I ran until I couldn’t breathe anymore and I collapsed onto the street. I sat there for a few minutes trying to catch my breath, before pulling my phone from my pocket. I dialed 911 quickly and put the phone to my ear. I stood up slowly and stared at the street sign in front of me. The town was pitch black, but for some reason the green sign was clearly illuminated.
“911, what’s your emergency?” the operator’s voice was eerily comforting. I took a deep breath before replying.
“I’d like to report a murder” I whispered. I didn’t know why I assumed they were already dead, but I couldn’t shake that bad feeling.
“What is your address?” she asked. I fought the sudden urge to hang up the phone and took another deep breath.
“It’s the corner of First and Bishop, the house next to the old post office” I said. I heard the soft clicking of a keyboard and her voice spoke again.
“Can you give me your name, honey?” she asked. I suddenly started thinking about what horrors Trisha and Susan would be going through.
“Mackenzie Thomas, I’m 18” I whispered. I heard the soft clicking of a keyboard again and I didn’t hear her next questions.
“Do you know the victims?” she asked. I stood in the middle of the street, my thoughts racing, and I heard her ask again.
“Miss Thomas, do you know the victims?” she asked. I shook my head slightly and sighed.
“They’re my best friends.” I hung up the phone when she gathered all the information she needed. I found myself heading back towards the house, and all fears inside me were gone. When I got back to the playground, I found I’d run over a mile after seeing Old Man Neeson. Without stopping to think, I walked across the street and straight through the front door of Mr. Neeson’s house. I stopped inside the living room and flipped on the light. A scream built up in my throat but my mouth never opened. Every inch of the living room was covered in blood splatters. The last thing I remember doing before I ran from the house screaming, was touching the arm of the couch, leaving my fingerprints in the drying blood.
That’s how they caught me. After they found my fingerprints in the blood, they searched close to the house and found me curled up in a ball under a weeping willow. It took over an hour for them to bring me back to semi-consciousness. The two police officers that were with the group that found me, fought to drag me back to Old Man Neeson’s house. It was at that moment that I lost the last sliver of sanity inside me and started screaming again. I was loud enough to make the police officers release their hold on me and cover their ears. Something hit me on the back of the head hard enough to make me shut up, but not knock me out. The next think I knew, I was being pushed into the back of a cop car. I watched out the window as four EMT’s wheeled Trisha and Susan’s bodies out of the house and loaded them into the ambulance parked behind the police cruiser. I pulled my knees up to my chin and rested my head on them, before covering my head with my arms. I had to have looked like I was insane, but at that moment, I just wanted the image out of my head. Even when the cruiser pulled away from the curb, I kept my head down. Only when the door I was pressed up against opened, did I look up. The two police officers pushed me into the precinct and took my fingerprints. Then I was led into a small square room and pushed harshly into a hard wooden chair. The taller of the two handcuffed me to the table and they both stood across the table from me. The balding man leaned over and slammed his hands on the table, making himself shorter than the other man. He was trying to intimidate me, but all I did was blink.
“Why don’t you start from the beginning Miss Thomas, tell us how you knew about this house?” he asked.
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