A scream rang out from somewhere near the back of the convenience store, followed by the choke of a woman’s voice as she began to sob. The rest of us who were shopping stopped in our tracks, our postures slumping as we realized what had happened. Another person had been taken, the third one this week. It had started about five months ago, people randomly disappearing, the only trace left behind a shoe or a bracelet. At first, it was only once every couple of weeks, but now it was nearly every other day. None of us knew exactly what happened to the people after they disappeared, but we knew one thing for sure: they were never coming back.
“Who do you think it was this time?” Samantha, one of my neighbors, asked me.
“Who knows? It’s always someone random,” I told her.
“C’mon, Kelly. There has to be some connection between them.” Samantha was always like this. She always spoke about wanting to get to the bottom of things, but never once has she actually done anything to investigate.
I sighed, “Well, I'm sure there a reason, but it's not something we’re going to be able to figure out without looking into what’s going on. I don't know about you, but I need to be getting home.” I left her standing there with an inquisitive look on her face, then checked out at the cash register and drove back home with my bag of vegetables on the seat beside me.
When I pulled into the garage, I looked noticed that my husband's truck was gone. Before I had left, he spoke of needing to get some more food for our pigs, and I assumed that was where he had gone off to. I started making dinner after pulling out some of the ground hamburger I had put into the fridge to thaw, and when it was nearly ready, I heard the sound of the garage door opening and the hum of his truck cutting off when he switched off the ignition. He gave me a brief greeting but walked right past me in the direction of the shower.
It was only on the days where he had had trouble with something that he was this quiet. Normally, he would wrap his arms around me and kiss my cheek before heading to the shower, but today he did no such thing. He looked exhausted when he sat down across from me after returning from his shower, and his movements were sluggish even as he scooped his meal onto his plate.
“Long day?” I asked, running my gaze over him in worry.
He nodded, “I had to help Jack move the cattle. He has to clean out that filthy barn, so we moved them over to a temporary field so he can spend the next couple days cleaning it up.”
“Jerry, you know you don't always have to help everyone. Just last week you helped fix someoneś tractor and now this? You've got to give yourself a break sometimes.”
He let out a long sigh, then ran a hand over his face. “Yeah, well someone’s gotta help,” he paused a moment, “What about you? Anything interesting happen today.”
“Not at the office, but when I was at the store someone else was taken.”
I nodded, “I didn't stay long enough to see who it was, but I'm sure that by tomorrow someone’ll tell me.”
He grunted his reply and returned his attention to his plate, and we finished our dinner in silence. I settled on the couch and turned on the TV, scrolling through channels as Jerry went about his business around the house. He was always on some mission, always looking for something else to do, even on these days when he was exhausted. Around ten, we went to bed, hoping to catch a good nightś rest before having to return to our daily lives in the morning.
The next few days went by quickly, and when I came home one night, I saw that Jerry was still home, but after searching the house, I found no trace of him, not even the mug of coffee he always left out when he planned on being back in a few minutes. Wanting to see him, I trudged out to the barn where we kept our pigs. When I was only ten feet from the door, I saw Jerry as he slipped out the front door of the barn, his posture slouched.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, the dried blood on his hands making me worrisome.
“Yeah, just…” he trailed off, but picked up his sentence a few seconds later. “One of the pigs got cut on the fence, I had to patch him up.”
It seemed too simple of a situation, and it took him too long to come up with an answer. Something was going on, I just couldn’t figure out what it was.
“Jerry what’s going on?” I couldn’t help the fear that leaked into my tone.
He shrugged, making an attempt to seem nonchalant but ending up too stiff, too forced. “I told you, one of-”
“No,” I cut him off, “I’m not stupid. I can tell by the look on your face that it’s not the pigs, so what is it? What’s going on in that barn?”
When I moved towards the door, Jerry stepped forward to stop me. My anger building, I tried to shove my way past him.
“Kelly, it’s fine, nothing happened. Do you want me to tell you the truth?”
I stopped struggling against him and stood back, crossing my arms over my chest. I raised an eyebrow at him and made a small gesture with my right hand to urge him to speak.
“It wasn’t one of the pigs that got hurt,” he paused when I scoffed, continuing after I rolled my eyes, “it was me. I saw that one of the fence posts was broken, and when I went to pull it out to put in a new one, I cut my hand.” He took his hands out from where he had hidden them behind his back and showed me the gash that interrupted the calloused skin of his left palm. It was still bleeding, the red liquid slowly oozing from the wound.
“Why didn’t you just tell me that in the first place?” My voice had lost its harshness, more like satin now rather than sandpaper. I gently grabbed his hand and looked over the cut, tugging slightly on his arm to get him to follow me back to the house. He came obediently, but there must’ve been something else worrying him, as he kept looking back at the barn. I ignored it for now, focusing on cleaning up his hand.
After we went to bed, I waited until I knew Jerry had fallen asleep, then carefully removed myself from the bed and quietly made my way out of the house. If Jerry wasn’t going to tell me what was going on in the barn, then I was going to find out myself. I grabbed the flashlight we kept in the kitchen, then sauntered over to the barn. I eased the door open, knowing the pigs were likely all asleep by now, then flicked the lightswitch up. What I saw in the middle of the room was something I wish I could tear from my mind, but it has been forever burned into my brain.
You have to understand, it’s not often I go into the barn. When I do, it’s usually Jerry who has asked me to fetch something for him. Otherwise, I stay in the house because it’s Jerry’s job, not mine. I spend my days in the post office, and he spends his days fixing broken fences, replacing boards, or helping out the other farmers in the area. Until now, I’ve made it a point to stay out of the barn because it’s Jerry’s workspace, and Jerry’s never come poking around my office.
But boy, do I wish I had come in here sooner, for maybe I would have been able to stop the madness my husband had been causing.
The stench that wafted through the air was revolting, but it wasn’t nearly as horrible as the thing it came from. What was once a person, was now just a pile of bones lying in a pool of blood along with pieces of flesh that had yet to be eaten. Some morbid curiosity had me walking further into the barn, looking closer at the skull that had been dragged a few feet away from the main pile. Half of the face had been gnawed off, and I recognized the bite marks to be from the pigs, but I could still recognize the face. It was Melanie Sherman, a girl known by almost everyone in the town as she was the daughter of the owner of the local flower shop. She was the one who had gone missing at the convenience store, only her flower bracelet left behind.
It all clicked in my head. Every time someone had gone missing, Jerry was out ‘helping someone’. The police could never find anything on where the missing people had been taken, because they had been looking at them as kidnappings. Without a body, there was no way to prove it was murder. Instead of looking for a killer, they looked for places that the people could have been held hostage. Jerry had fed the bodies to the pigs so they were never found, and without an expert, there was no way to find out who the remaining skeleton belonged to. It all made sense.
“I knew you’d figure it out sooner or later,” a gruff voice broke me from my musing. “I really hoped it would take you longer; we could have spent so much more time together.”
“Jerry,” I croaked, “I… I don’t understand. Why?”
He let out a deep chuckle and shook his head. “It’s all about the planning; knowing how I’m going to tear apart people’s lives by taking away the only person important to them, leaving them to wallow in sorrow without ever knowing what happened.” He reached into his back pocket, dawning the pocket knife I had given him for our anniversary this year, blood stains covering the luster of the metal underneath.
“J- Jerry, what are you doing?” It was the first time I had ever truly feared for my life, but I could only picture the looks people would give me when they discovered it was my husband who was responsible for their loved ones’ disappearances. If I made it out of here alive, I would be regarded as a freak.
“Keeping the mystery,” is all he said in response, walking towards me slowly, backing me further into the barn. There was nowhere to run, no escape. This was the end of my life.
It was almost as if everything was moving in slow motion, I tripped over the half eaten skull of Madeline Sherman, falling onto my back. Jerry put his knees on either side of my torso, and pinned down both of my hands with one of his, but when he went to bring the knife to my neck, his grip faltered.
I’m not sure what came over me in that moment, what flipped in my mind, but I saw one simple solution in front of me. I could survive this, but everyone would know what Jerry had done. But, and this is a truly genius thought on my part, if I were to kill Jerry, I could pull this off as just another missing person. The only way to keep suspicion off of me - it would be too obvious if the kidnappings stopped right after Jerry went missing - was to continue on with his little game.
All of this I concluded in a second. When the knife dropped from his hands, his hold on my wrists loosened, and I quickly pulled them free and pushed him off of me. His surprise at my sudden movement was just enough time to retrieve his knife and plunge it into his neck. I smiled when I pulled the blade from his neck, for there was no need for me to clean up or hide the body: the pigs would take care of that.