The girl who lived in the shadow

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20. Rayan Birsen

16. 09. 2018.

It was around 5 p.m. when we returned to the motel. Amari was walking ahead of me, her head low, and her hands curled into fists. She was angry throughout the whole day. Her aggression was making me and the rest of the police uncomfortable. Even when we were interrogating Roman Schneider’s family, her mind wasn’t in place. She was lost in her thoughts, batteling her fucked up demons in her mind.

I stood behind her as she took out the keys of our room, and with shaky hands, she placed the key into the hole.

“Do you want me to open the door?” I asked, but I only got a cold glare.

She pushed the door open, and I watched her walk to the kitchen sink. She took out a glass, poured whiskey in it, and reaching in her pocket, she took out her medication. She placed three pills into her mouth before swallowing it down with whiskey.

“It’s not wise to mix pills with whiskey,” I told her, but just like before, she glared at me, not saying a word. Her phone buzzed, and she took it out to check her message.

I took off my jacket, folded it, and placed it on my messy bed. I glanced at hers and saw that it was just like her, perfect. Everything was straight, not a single wrinkle on the white bedsheets. I saw her straightening them ten times before we went to sleep until she was finally satisfied with how they looked. Sometimes during the night, I would hear her redoing her bed all over again only because her quilt moved a little from the bed.

“Are those comments from the news reporters bother you?” I stood in front of her. “They are just comments you shouldn’t...”

“Shouldn’t what?” She stood up from her bed. Her face was serious, almost deadly. “Listen to them? You don’t know shit how it feels to hear those comments. You will never feal people’s stares, racist comments behind your back because of your skin color. People trying to drag you down, kill you just because you aren’t born white.” She poked my chest with her finger as she continued, “I’ve been dealing with those comments all my life, Birsen. And now you are telling me with your white privileged ass that I should ignore them?!”

“I’m not telling you to ignore them, I’m telling you to keep your mind straight,” I said, “You are acting weird all day. Didn’t you see the way Ana Schneider looked at you? She thought you were nuts.”

Amari nodded her head, but I could still see her anger in her brown eyes. It wasn’t just those comments that were bothering here. There was something else too. I remember seeing her freak out over Roman’s dead body. She looked like she saw a ghost instead of that boy.

“Dr. Helen has just sent me a text. She is almost finished with the autopsy. You should go talk to her.” She turned around in her hills, walked to her nightstand, and started taking out her pistol and badge.

“What about you? You aren’t coming?” I asked, already putting my jacket on.

She shook her head. “No, I could get in trouble if we come across someone who will smell alcohol on me.”

I nodded my head, my voice soft as I said, “Fine. I will call you after I hear the results.”

“Rayan?” I heard her calling me by my first name for the first time.

“Yes?” I turned around towards her.

“If someone asks, I’m here doing paperwork.”

~ - ~

I parked the car between two bearly visible lines on the empty parking lot. It was raining so hard that it made the lines invisible under the heavy rain. I looked around for another car, perhaps, doctor Helen’s car, but there was no sign of her black fiat. No one was here except for me.

Turning off the engine, I stayed for a moment int he car, staring at the old building in fronto f me. No lights were coming from the old half-busted windows on the first floor. The door seemed to be locked too, not a single trace of forced entry. But I can’t tell for sure from this distance. I would need to see it up close. I looked over the building, my eyes catching the only source of light coming from the small cracked window bellow the first large window. The light was bright, but not as bright as it would come from the lighting bulb. I’m guessing that the power went off, but when I looked around at the neighboring houses, I saw that almost every house had its lights on.

Taking out my gun, I opened the door and slowly walked under the heavy rain to the building. The gun was resting against my wet pants, my wet fingers securely wrapped around the trigger, and my mind was set to shoot at any person that I suspect of committing a crime.

My heart was pumping so hard that I could hear the heavy beat in my ears. My legs were shaking under the high pressure that I’m facing for the first time. I’ve shot many things during my training. Dolls. Card-bord people. The people I “arrested” were arrested with a gun that rubber bullets. When it comes to real-life situations, this was my first experience with a real gun in a real situation.

I breathed heavily as I checked if the door was locked. Strangely, it wasn’t. I pushed the iron handle towards me, trying to be careful to not make any loud noises. I stepped into the dark hallway, searched for a small flashlight in my inner pocket, took it out, and turned the light on. The light hit a running rat, and I swore under my breath.

“Fucking town,“ I muttered under my breath.

I lifted my gun in the air, placing it under the flashlight. I held the gun with my right hand, while with the left one, I held the flashlight. It was much safer and easier to walk like that down this fucking hallway. I watched every step I made, listened to every creepy noise in the building. There was a sound coming from down the basement. A melody of some kind of music I’ve heard before, but I couldn’t remember what was the name of it. It sounded sad, like the person who made it was at the edge of ending his own life, leaving only this masterpiece behind so that the people he thought loved him, would miss him. This was his way of saying goodbye.

I followed the music down the same old stairs. The portraits of abstract dead people were watching my every move. Their soules expression, staring at my hard one. I could feel their stares on my back. I wasn’t a superstition man, but this place, this fucking town, made me question everything I believe. Wattkins was already at the edge of insanity. Her mind was starting to shatter under the pressure of this case. I know that this will be her hardest case yet. Her previous ones were hard, but not as hard as this one is.

I reached the end of the stairs, tripping over a pair of muddy rain boots. I pushed the boots away with my feet while my gun and eyes were focused on dim light coming under the metal door. The music suddenly stopped, and I could hear a pair of heels clicking under the tiles until the music started again. It wasn’t the same melody from before. This one is softer. Almost like the person who made it for the love of his life.

I knocked on the metal door and asked, “Dr. Helen? Are you in there?” I waited for an answer, but I didn’t hear anything back. Perhaps she couldn’t hear it due to the loud music.

Placing my gun back to its holster, and my flashlight back into the pocket, I reached for the handle and pulled the handle as hard as I could.

“Dr. Helen?! It’s Rayan Birsen from the FBI. I’m here about the autopsy results,“ I said.

The first thing I saw when I stepped into the room was a dead body lying covered with a white cloak on the autopsy table. The smell of rotten flesh stung in my nose. It was an intense smell that I will never get used to.

I walked further into the room, to the old record player on one of the broken shelves. I moved the needle away from the record, and suddenly the music stopped. Everything in this room became quiet. Only the sound of my heavy steps could be heard.

“Dr. Helen?” I called her again, and there was no answer just like before.

I made my way past the dead body on the table to the backside of the autopsy room where she keeps her dead bodies locked. As I was about to step into the room filled with dead bodies, I felt a hand on my left shoulder. Instantly the instincts kicked in as I turned around and smashed the unknown person into the wall next to me.

Dr. Helen let a scream out. Her body was trembling under my strong grip. My eyes went to her face and I saw the fear in her eyes. I immediately release the hold I had on her and move away from her body.

“I’m so sorry. I thought you were someone else,” I apologized.

She nodded her head, moved away from the wall, and straightened her black skirt. “It’s okay,” she said, “It is me who should apologize. I should have said something before I touched your shoulder.”

“I was calling your name, but no one has answered.” I put my hands in my pockets and looked at her. Her petite body was still shaking, and her face turned a shade paler than it usually was.

“I was in the bathroom. I didn’t hear you coming in.“ Her eyes went behind me and moved around the room. “Wattkins didn’t come with you?” she asked.

I shook my head. “No, she…” I paused for a moment, “She had to take care of something.”

“So that means you will have to tell her everything I will tell you.” Her face lighted up for a moment before she started leading me back to the dead body on the autopsy table. I took my time looking around the room, taking my time to find the source of light. When I find the source, I see a pair of backup lights shining in each corner of the room.

“The power went out?” I asked as I watched her take off the cloak from the body. The smell of the rotten body was worse than it was the moment I stepped into the room. It made me sick.

“Yes, but luckily I have some backup generations here,” she answered back, giving me a pair of rubber gloves to put on. She smiled a little when she saw the face I made when I looked down at the naked body. “You are not used to the smell?” she asked, making fun of me.

I shook my head. “Not really.”

My eyes left hers and moved down the exposing body oft he eighteen-year-old body who allegedly committed suicide. His body was pale, and in some disgusting way, he still looked like he was alive. His body was cleaned from all of the glass shreds that were sticking out of his body, washed from all of the blood that was dripping down. He looked ready to be presented to his family.

“What is the cause of death?” I asked.

“A blunt force trauma on the head.“ She moved her fingers to the small indent part on the backside of the boy’s skull. It was small, but still enough big to see. “The person who killed him struck him with some kind of a metal bat because I found small fragments in the skull.”

“So he didn’t die in the crash?” I looked at her.

Dr. Helen shook her head. “He was already dead. I’m guessing that he died somewhere else, and then his body was moved in his car to the current crime scene, where he was positioned so that it looked like it was an accident.”

I stared down at the body. He was still a young boy who had its life ahead of him. Whoever killed him had something to do with the previous death. It would be a strange coincidence if it doesn’t have anything to do with it. But I hope that those thoughts won’t come true. This investigation was already crazy, and having his death too. It would be a nightmare.

“I also didn’t find anything in his tox screen. He didn’t have any drug or alcohol residue on him,” she said and I nodded my head.

“Fuck,” I whispered, throwing my rubber gloves on the ground. Dr. Helen stared at me for a moment, seeing how frustrated I just became. She could tell by the look on my face that I didn’t want to hear that.

“Do you think that his death has something to do with Margaret Larson’s death?” she asked.

I moved my fingers through my wet hair. “I’m not sure.” I throw my hands in the air. “If this kid had some kind of drugs in him, I would think otherwise. A couple of kids playing with drugs, you know. Things got messy, people started pushing each other around, and then of them snapped and struck him with a metal bat. All of them freaked out, and they decided to make this look like an accident.”

“Perhaps it was. You can’t base a murder on just a theory. You need evidence.” She took the white cloak and draped it over Rayan’s body.

I rubbed my forehead. “I know,” I said, “Did they take all of the evidence?”

She nodded her head, taking off her rubber gloves. “They did,” she answered, “You know, perhaps this one is just a coincidence.”

“There isn’t such a thing as coincidence in this town.”

~ - ~

Dr. Helen walked behind me with a bigger flashlight in her hand. She was lighting the way for us to the main door. The sounds of my wet shoes and her high hills echoed throughout the empty dark hallway. We left the smell of death a long time ago, and now that smell was replaced with fresh rain.

“Do you want me to drive you home?” I asked her as we reached the door.

She shook her head. “I have something to take care of, but thanks for asking.”

I nodded my head, lifting the autopsy results in the air. “Thank you for this.”

She smiled. “It’s my job, agent Birsen. Just keep in mind what I’ve told you. Perhaps Roman Schneider’s death doesn’t have anything to do with the previous murder.”

“I will keep that in mind, doctor.” I opened the door, and before walking out, I said, “Have a good night.”

“You too,” she said back.

Closing the door behind me, I pulled my jacket over my head and made my way to my car. I tried not to step into deep water, but what was the point of that? Half of my body was already covered in rain, mud, and not forget to mention the smell of death. When I reached my car, the first thing I saw was a plastic bag tied to the handle of my car. The bag was clear and I could see a folded paper in it. There was something written on it, but I couldn’t see what it is without taking the paper out.

I opened the door, sat in the car, placed the autopsy results next to me before carefully opening the plastic bag. I took out the letter, slowly opened it, and read what was written on it before throwing the paper on the autopsy results, and getting out of the car back to the rain. I stood there for a moment. My eyes going through the parking lot before making it’s way to the dark forest behind me. I stared at the forest, searching for any kind of shadow that might be watching me. Seconds become minutes, and I still couldn’t find any trace of a person that might be watching my every move.

I finally convinced myself to let my paranoia go for a moment as I entered back to the car, and turned on the engine. I hit the gas paddle beneath it, finally making my way out of this place. The paper was lying next to me. It’s a creepy message making me glance at it every couple of seconds. It made me ask myself questions that I didn’t ask myself before. Paranoid questions. Maybe Wattkins was right. Perhaps her paranoid instincts weren’t just a sign of her delusion.

I turned my attention back to the road ahead of me. With no street lights guiding my way, I had to be extra careful with how I drive. One wrong turn and I could easily lose control over the car. I slowly drove down the main road through the forest, watching everything around me. I tried to be focused, but my thoughts only keep going to the letter.

I closed my eyes for a second, shaking my head, but when I opened the eyes, I saw a person jumping out from the forest on to the road. I quickly hit the breaks, but due to the poor road condition, the car slid for a couple of meters before finally stopping at the edge of a small cliff that leads to down to the forest. The car lights were shining in the forest, and the person who jumped out to the road was gone. He was nowhere to be found. I undid my seatbelt, got out of the car, and then walked around the car, searching for a possible dead body.

“Fuck,” I whispered to myself as I stared at the neverending forest ahead of me.

~ - ~

An hour later of a long drive, I found myself standing in front of our door. Taking out my keys, I unlocked the door and pushed the door open so I could walk in. I immediately find Wattkins sitting on a chair, reading through a bunch of papers. She was leaning on her chair, her eyes focused on a piece of paper in her left hand. Her eyes left the paper for a moment as she looked at me throwing my coat down on the floor. I didn’t bother to undo my shoes because I didn’t have any more strength to that too. Instead, I walked to the table, sat on a chair next to her, and threw the autopsy results on the table. She looked at the file before focusing her attention back on me.

“You know that I had a car accident five years ago?” she asked and I nodded my head. “Of course,” I answered.

She took a deep breath before finally speaking, “My daughter and my husband were badly injured. Both of them almost died. My husband had severe burning, while my daughter had pieces of glass stuck on her face. She almost bled out in front of me,” she paused for a moment before continuing, “′Mommy please help me. Please help me, mommy.′ She was crying, and I couldn’t help her. Today, when I saw that young boy hanging out of that car, I saw my daughter instead of him. I saw her hanging out of the fucking windshield, her entire face covered with glass. And again, she was crying out for me. That is the real reason why I was acting strange today.”

I stared at her for a moment, trying to process what she just had said. It took me a moment to realize that I need to tell her something too.

“I’m a Muslim,” I finally confessed.

Amari leaned further into her chair, crossed her arms, and waited for me to continue, “My parents both immigrated from Turkey before me and my sisters were born here in Washington.” I took out a picture of my wallet and showed it to her. “This is my father Burak.” I pointed to my grey-haired father than to my mother that was standing next to him. “My mother Farya.” My fingers went down the picture until they reached my two younger sisters Reyan and Azra. “My twin sisters Reyan and Azra,” I said, staring down at their blond hair and grey eyes.

“I’ve never thought you were a Muslim,” she commented.

I took out a cigarette and placed it in my mouth. “It’s hard to talk about something like that in a country we live in. People are not usually acceptable to people like us.”

“I know how that feels.” she let a dry laugh. Her eyes went down to my shoes covered in mud. “What happened to you?”

I threw the piece of paper that someone left me on the table. “You were right. Someone is watching us.”

She picked up the paper and read it out loud, “Roman’s death wasn’t an accident.”

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