The sound of turning gears awoke me. The door that had kept me imprisoned the night before swung open to reveal Officer James. He stepped forward to hand me a bag.
“Get ready. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” I opened the bag to find a change of clothes and basic toiletries like a toothbrush and toothpaste. I got dressed quickly, and slowly brushed my hair in the small mirror. The minty aroma of the toothpaste cut through the air as I brushed my teeth.
“You can do this,” I said, looking confidently into the mirror before me. “Just carry yourself with confidence.”
A loud knock on the door startled me. I swallowed the lump in my throat as Officer James appeared in front of me.
“Ready?” he asked. I nodded slowly, feeling my confident demeanor vanish in an instant. He grabbed my arm, but didn’t cuff me. Instead, we walked together down the same long hallway, then stopped in front of a small room marked Interrogation Room One. The space was almost completely empty except for a small table surrounded by two chairs. I looked around the walls for anything that could be a one way mirror like I had seen in movies, but nothing jumped out at me. Before I even had the chance to take my seat, I felt the presence of someone behind me.
“Have a seat, please,” Detective Roberts spoke. I whirled around to face him.
“Where are my parents?”
“They have been notified, but have agreed that it would be better if we questioned you without their presence.” This brought me great surprise. Didn’t they want to hear what I had to say? The detective read my confusion.
“I think they were just a little appalled at the fact that you were caught trespassing on a live crime scene in the middle of the night, and don’t know how to react. And frankly, I am too.”
“But what are they doing right now?” I whispered.
They are on the phone with a Dr. Draycott, I believe. Now please, have a seat.” I grabbed the cold hard metal and sat across from him. He cleared his throat and adjusted his chair, leaving an uncomfortable feeling hanging in the air. I clasped my sweaty hands together under the table and tried to arrange my thoughts before he began to speak. He shuffled some papers together on a clipboard and clicked his black ballpoint pen.
“So, did you and Tabitha know each other?”
“What about the other victims? Did you know any of them?” He asked this question as if he already knew the answer.
“Justice was one of my first friends at Scottsdale High.”
“I see. And how close were you and Justice?”
“Not very close. I only really knew her for a day.” He squinted at his brown clipboard.
“It says here that you transferred to Scottsdale High just this year. Why did you feel the need to change schools?”
“Because…” I paused. I knew that my next words were crucial, but my mind could think of nothing but the truth.
“Because I didn’t get along with the other kids.” I figured only half the truth was better than the full truth, but he seemed to see right past my fib.
“I got a chance to read a lot on your file last night. I’m so sorry that you experienced the brutality of murder at such a young age. That must have been hard.” I frowned.
“That’s an understatement.” He seemed to think that my sarcasm meant that he was getting through to me.
“Can you tell me about what happened on the night that CIndy died?” I immediately shut him down.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” I remarked, crossing my arms across my chest. He leaned back in his chair.
“That’s alright. Can I simply ask you a few questions about it then?” I just looked at him.
“I said I’d rather not talk about it,” I declared angrily. He clicked his pen in thought, breaking our gaze to glance at the papers before him. I sulked quietly, wishing to be anywhere but in this moment.
“How long afterward was it before you got your first vision?” He spoke as if there were quotations around the word vision, similar to everyone else who I had ever discussed my ability with.
“My visions are real,” I growled. “I know what the killer looks like, and you guys could have already caught him if you would actually listen to me for once.”
“What does this man look like?” he asked, leaning forward once again.
“He is in his late forties I’m guessing with red hair and green eyes. I could easily describe him for a sketch artist.” Detective Roberts now tapped his pen against his papers.
“And how do you know this man?” Anger surged through my veins. My fists were balled at me sides, and my face was turning bright red.
“I told you for the last time!” I screamed, leaping up out of my chair. The force of my rage knocked to the chair to the floor, and it made a loud thud as it hit the carpet. “I don’t know this man! I’ve only seen him in my visions!” Now it was the detective’s turn to stand.
“That’s quite enough,” he scolded. “Sit back down now.” I grabbed the chair and slammed myself back into the seat. Detective Roberts leaned over the table. “If I am going to help you, you are going to need to be honest with me. There is a girl named Brittany missing out there right now, and the lives of several others have already been taken. If you are somehow involved in this, it would be in your best interest to come clean now. Otherwise, I can’t help you in the long run.” His speech left me completely dumbfounded. If he wasn’t going to believe me, then there was no way I could give him a feasible explanation for being in Tabitha’s house in the middle of the night. An urgent knock sounded at the door. I heard the sound of keys scraping against a lock, and then Detective Howell stood in front of us.
“Roberts,” he said in a concerned voice. “They found Brittany’s body.” I felt some of the color drain from my face. Detective Roberts turned to me with a new sense of urgency.
“Wait here.” He and Detective Howell exited quickly, shutting the door behind them. I heard the sound of a key scraping against metal, but I never heard a small click. Could he have failed to lock the door in his haste? I waited for approximately one minute to be sure the two of them were well away from the door, then crept out of my chair. Anxiety filled me as I reached for the doorknob. It turned. I felt the cold draft from the hallway filter from the cracked door, and peered into the hallway. There wasn’t a soul in sight. I thought back to my conversation with Detective Roberts. The man wasn’t even willing to consider that my visions were actually real. I could provide him with all the information that I had, but the police would always be working the lead that I was somehow involved, impairing their ability to find actual evidence to lead them to the killer. I needed to get out of here, and find the man on my own. Maybe then I could prove his guilt, and all of the victim’s families could finally get some peace. The hallway remained empty, so I slipped out of Interrogation Room One. My heart pounded as I walked through the station, afraid that a police officer could come around the corner at any moment. I walked quickly, but not fast enough to bring suspicion on myself. Ahead of me, I saw the main lobby that lead to the exit, and realized that I would have to walk through it to escape. Several officers milled about, drinking coffee and casually talking to each other. I spotted Officer James among them, and knew he would recognize me immediately. He suddenly began to turn his head. Any second now he would spot me, and my plans would be all over. I threw myself toward a door marked storage, and shut it closed behind me. There were no windows, so the small space immediately became pitch black. My heart was racing and I struggled to slow my breaths. I listened carefully for the sound of pounding footsteps that would bring an angry horde of officers who would cuff me and drag me back into questioning. The air remained completely silent. Once I was convinced no one was coming for me, I began fumbling around for the light switch to get a hold on my surroundings. My hand came across something hard, and a loud thump vibrated across the tiny space. I held my breath, but still no footsteps approached. It was safe to continue my search. Finally, my hand found the outline of the light switch, and the darkness disappeared. The light illuminated a shelf stocked with black shoe polish, notepads, and flashlights.
“Wow, a flashlight would have been so helpful like five seconds ago,” I chuckled to myself. A flashlight wasn’t really going to help me get through the group of officers crowding my escape. I took a step back, and felt smooth cloth tickle my arm. Whirling around, I found myself looking at a handful of police uniforms hanging on a rack. A lightbulb went off in my head. If I couldn’t walk out of here without getting recognized, I would just have to walk out as a fellow officer. I selected the smallest uniform on the rack, and slipped it on over my clothes. A cap that read Police Academy covered my hair quite nicely, but I frowned at my white converse. They contrasted with the dark uniform, and would stick out immediately to the officers. I saw some extra shoes hidden underneath the uniforms. The tiniest pair still looked ginormous, but I tried them on. The shoes were way too large for me and my white socks were just visible around my ankles, but it would have to do. Turning toward the doorknob, I thought about what I was about to do. I just had to walk past the officers with an air of confidence about myself, and then maybe they wouldn’t notice me. The creaking of the doorknob was unsettling as it turned, but I quickly swallowed the lump in my throat. I walked with my head up like a man on a mission. A few of the officers turned their heads as I approached, but simply nodded to me and went back to their conversation. Relief began to flood over me as I passed them, because they could no longer see my face. It wouldn’t take much for them to see right through my confident demeanor. The door was only a few feet in front of me, beckoning to me. Heavy footsteps padded across the carpeted hallway behind me.
“Hey, she’s gone!” It was Detective Robert’s frantic voice. I felt a surge of movement behind me, as the officers scrambled to peer through doorways and in cabinets. I stared straight ahead, and tried not to quicken my walking pace. Accidently drawing their attention was the last thing that I wanted to do. The doors swung wide open with one small push. I took a couple steps onto the sidewalk, then broke into a dead sprint. My arms pumped as fast as they could, and I took large strides. Pedestrians gave me a strange look as I passed, and looked behind them, assuming I was in hot pursuit of someone.I glanced back at the building I had just escaped from. The police station wasn’t quite out of sight, and doors were starting to open. I thought quickly, turning to a girl a little older than me.
“Hey, I’ve got to run, but when my friends come running over here, will you tell them that you saw a girl running that way?” I pointed in the opposite direction. “Sorry, I left my radio at home.” She nodded eagerly, looking so excited that she was helping the police catch a criminal that I felt a little guilty for lying to her. She walked toward the police station, and I ducked into the closest alleyway. My shaking hands grasped my phone in my pocket, and I immediately dialed Jacob’s number. He answered on the third ring.
“Jacob,” I gasped. “I really need your help.”
“Tyler, is that you?” he asked, confused.
“Yes, it’s me.” The shrill screech of police sirens cut through the air, adding to my sense of urgency. “Look, I’m in a situation that I need to get away from immediately.”
“What kind of situation?” I hesitated.
“I’m running from the cops, and it’s vital that they don’t catch me. Please.” His voice got a little deeper.
“Where are you?”
’I’m in the alleyway next to that coffee shop we went to on the square.”
“Ok, I’m on my way.”
“Thank you so much. Please hurry,” I gasped, but the line had already gone dead. The coffee shop was only three minutes from his house, but those moments felt like forever. Any second, I was afraid an officer would come pounding through the alleyway, but the police seemed to have concentrated all of their attention in the way the girl had pointed them. I took off my uniform and put it in the nearest trash can along with the shoes and my phone. The police could track my location on the device, and there was no way I was going to carry it with me any longer than I had to. Jacob’s truck appeared at the end of the alleyway, and I walked calmly to the passenger seat, looking around to see if anyone else on the street had noticed me. Everyone was too busy peering around the corner in the direction of the sirens to pay any attention to me.
“Dang,” he exclaimed. “At the party where we met, I made a joke that you were running from the police. I guess I really wasn’t kidding.” I admired him ability to joke in such a serious situation. A soft laugh escaped my lips, but the more I thought about the irony of the situation the harder I chuckled. Tears began streaming down my face, and I couldn’t catch my breath because I was laughing so hard.
“Just...go,” I gasped. He threw the truck into drive, and sped through the yellow light. Red and blue lights danced across his windshield.
“Get down,” he ordered. “They might see you.” I crawled into the small space below his glove compartment, but I would still be completely exposed if an officer decided to peer through his window.
“Are they searching cars?” I asked.
“No. There’s just a lot of traffic near where all the police cars are huddled.” We sat in the same spot for several moments, my fear of being caught increasing with every second.
“Relax,” he soothed me. “I’ve got this.” When the line of vehicles began to move again, my distress level slowly declined.
“How did I even get away with this?” I laughed, sitting back up in my seat.
“I knew you had a wild streak in you,” Jacob joked. He didn’t even ask me why I was running from the cops. We pulled up to a nice house with a swingset in the front yard. Jacob saw me looking at it.
“Oh, my parents kept that so the neighborhood kids can play on it if they want to. I’m an only child.”
“Where are your parents?” I asked. “They shouldn’t know I’m here.”
“Don’t worry, my dad’s on a business trip, and my mom won’t be back until tonight. She works the day shift at the hospital.” We climbed out of the car and entered the house.
“Do you want anything to eat?” he asked. “I can make us some sandwiches.” I suddenly noticed my stomach rumbling, and realized that I hadn’t eaten since the day before.
“Sure.” I took a seat on the island stool in the kitchen. He set out four pieces of bread on the counter and began to slice some tomatoes.
“How come you haven’t asked why I was running from the police?” I questioned. He shrugged.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but I promise I won’t tell anyone.” I thought about this for a second , but felt that I owed him some sort of explanation. After all, he was putting his own freedom in jeopardy by harboring a fugitive.
“Those detectives think that I had something to do with the deaths of all those girls.” His eyes went wide, and he dropped the knife he had been holding. It clattered to the floor.
“They do? Why would they think that?” I hesitated. My mouth was suddenly extremely dry, and a feeling of dizziness overcame me. I tried to speak, but only tears came out of my eyes. Before I knew it, I was bawling in front of him. He appeared next to me, embracing me in a tight hug.
“Hey, I know that you had nothing to do that. There’s no way they can prove anything. I know you. There’s no way you would do something like that.”
“You don’t really know me all that well.” I cried between sobs.
“I know what a wonderful person you are.”
“No, you really don’t know me.” He seemed taken aback by my adamancy even though he tried not to show it. “There’s something I need to tell you,” I sniffed. He broke out of our hug to look into my eyes.
“First, take a few deep breaths. We can figure this out together.” I focused on breathing in and out as he watched me carefully. A part of me was hesitant to share my truth with him, but I knew that I couldn’t stop the killer on my own. I needed someone else to be on my side.
“I transferred to Scottsdale High because I have a bad reputation at my other school….. as a lunatic.” He frowned slightly, but I continued. “My best friend died in the same room as me when I was eight years old. She was murdered. At her funeral, I looked at her picture, and had a vision of her neighbor. Later, it turned out that her neighbor had killed her. No one believed me that I had seen this in a vision, but I kept insisting that I did, and they institutionalized me. I couldn’t shake this past when I went to high school, and it was really difficult.” He interrupted me.
“What are these visions like?” This was the first time I had ever heard someone ask this question in such a serious tone, and it gave me hope that I wasn’t alone in this anymore.
“First, everything starts to go dark. Then, I see human hands holding a clock, except you can’t tell what time it is because the hands on the clock are missing. There is a big hole in the middle that is burned around the edges. Then the killer steps forward into the light.” Jacob’s face read of no emotion, kind of similar to the faces of the people in my visions. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking, so I continued with my story. “Anyways, I tried to forget about my visions when I was released. I did for a while until we were looking at pictures of murder victims in criminology class. With each picture, I had a vision of a different person. I went home and googled their murderers, and they were they same people that I had seen. I kept this information to myself. I guess I was afraid of being hospitalized again.” He put a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Anyways, I have seen the serial killer who is loose in this town, and I am going to find him. I went to Tabitha’s house to search for clues, and that’s where the police arrested me. I tried to describe the man to them, but now they are even more convinced that I had something to do with it.”
“Did you find anything at Tabitha’s house?” he asked.
“Actually, I found a picture of her and Justice hidden within her wall. That was after I completely shattered her mirror.” I suddenly remembered my black duffel bag, and realized that it was still probably right where I had left it in her neighbor’s yard. “I stashed a duffel bag with that and one of her yearbooks in a bush near her house. We need to go get it.”
“We can do that, but first you need to eat.” Jacob pushed a sandwich toward me. The lettuce crunched against my teeth as I took a bite. He watched me eat, but quickly looked away when I noticed him. We ate in silence, mostly because I was starving. I devoured my sandwich before he had even finished half of his.
“I’ll make you another one,” he offered, standing up.
“No, no,” I said. “Sit back down. You went through all this trouble to bring me here. The least I can do is make my own sandwich.” He laughed and sat back down. “So why did you go through all that trouble for me anyway?” I asked. We were interrupted by the sound of the garage door. Jacob ran to the front window.
“Shoot, my mom’s here. Quick, hide!” I looked around for cover. The pantry was the first thing that caught my eye. I climbed underneath the bottom shelf, and Jacob moved some items around to cover me as well as possible. The front door clicked open.
“Jacob, I’m home!” He slammed the pantry door shut, and I sat alone in the pantry.
“Mom, what are you doing home so early?”
“They overbooked shifts, so they let me have the evening off. Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Yeah, totally!” I could hear right through his false tone, but his mom didn’t seem to notice.
“Since I’m here, why don’t I cook something really special for dinner tonight?” A pit formed in my stomach. “Let’s see what we have.”
“No, no!” he exclaimed quickly. I imagined the confused look on her face.
“I mean, it’s your one night off. You shouldn’t have to cook. Let’s order pizza or something.” There was a short pause in the conversation as she thought over his proposal.
“I suppose that would be fun.” She yawned. “I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a nap, then we can pick out a couple of movies for tonight. How does that sound?”
“Sounds great, Mom.” I heard the patter of her shoes on the hardwood floor. The door creaked open slowly, and Jacob appeared with his finger to his lips. I nodded silently. He moved forward to scoot the trash can out of my way. I unfolded myself out of the small space, but as I stood up, a loud bang vibrated across the entire house. Jacob and I both paused immediately, on high alert. My foot had banged against the aluminum bin. His mom’s door remained shut, so he motioned me forward. Neither one of us spoke until we were completely out of the house.
“What should we do now?” I asked.
“My mom’s going to be asleep for a couple hours at least. That gives us enough time to run over and find your duffel bag, if you’re okay with it still being light outside.” Going back to Tabitha’s neighborhood during the day seemed risky, but the arrival of his mom had left us with no other options.