“Hello there.” I crouched to be at eye level with the girl. “What’s your name?”
“Jessica,” she said, not looking up from her Barbie doll.
“Nice to meet you Jessica. I’m Detective Bell.”
I was met with silence. We were in a small room, a bed lined against the wall and a modest wardrobe in the corner being the only furniture. Guess you wouldn’t be able to put anything more in here even if you wanted. There weren’t a lot of toys, I’ve counted three plush animals on the bed and the Barbie in Jessica’s hand.
I guessed this is normal in a neighborhood like this. If you lived here, you could afford only that much.
“Can I ask you a few questions?” I tried talking to the girl again. I didn’t want to be too forceful, or she might have gotten scared of answering my questions.
“I guess,” Jessica said, still avoiding eye contact.
“What’s your friend’s name?” I attempted distracting her before actually asking anything important.
“She’s not my friend, she’s my mommy.”
Jessica undressed the doll and reached for a new outfit. That’s when I noticed something on the doll. It looked like blue and purple marker on the doll’s body, as if they were bruises. They were everywhere, except the arms and face.
“Hey,” I said softly, trying to get Jessica’s attention again, and pointed at one of the marks. “What’s that?”
“Daddy hits mommy, she always has these.” Jessica dressed the doll in ragged handmade pants and T-shirt, her expression completely calm. “This is what mommy wears at home.”
“Jessica, do you know what happened today?”
“My parents were fighting again, they’re always fighting. I try not to listen.”
She rose from the floor, ran to her bed, and hugged her plush bear. Then she whispered, “Did mommy kill him? It was her, wasn’t it?”
I didn’t answer. This had been set up as a perfect suicide. Either it really was suicide, or the wife was smarter than she looked.
“She said that she hated him. Right before the shot.” Jessica’s voice was barely audible.
I talked to the wife after that, she made a pretty good show of caring and being heartbroken. Tears and all. Said she didn’t know why he did it. But I saw relief in her eyes. I knew she killed him and I didn’t do anything.
I left the house, hoping the girl would live a happier life without an abusive father. I told everyone it was just suicide.
Ten years later...
I couldn’t believe it when they called me. I hoped to never hear from that place again, but here we were. Another suicide. No. Another murder.
“Detective Bell,” Jessica called my name. After all these years she remembered. “Well isn’t that the asshole who left me with a murderer. Are you happy now? Will you let me go too?”
The angry teenager looked me straight in the eyes. She truly hated me.
“I thought I was helping you back then,” I said. I knew defending myself was stupid, but I wanted to feel better.
“How is leaving a little girl in the hands of a psychopath murderer helping?” Her eyes filled with tears. She screamed, “Do you have any idea what my life was like? That bitch abused me, just like my father abused her. She hated me because I reminded her so much of him.”
I didn’t know why, but this case was the worst of all. It killed me to know that I ruined an innocent girl. No other deaths were as horrible as this girl’s life.
“I’m confessing, you know that right?” She straightened her back, face impassive. “I won’t let you get away with covering up for my mother. I’ll tell everyone. You will never let a murderer loose ever again.
“I’ll tell them how you left me with her, how I lived the past ten years beat up and bloody. How I finally snapped and stabbed her in the back while she was eating. How I cut out her face with a kitchen knife and wrote your name on the wall using her blood.”
I couldn’t handle her stare any longer, I needed to get out of there.
I’d been driving with no direction for the past two hours and found myself lost on a deserted highway. Still dazed by today’s events I parked my car and went out to get some air. The firearm strapped to my body felt heavier than ever.
Twenty years of work seemed worthless when you’re responsible for a little girl’s life of misery.
The sunset was a bright violent orange, almost bloody. It was still a wonderful last view for an old man about to pull the trigger.
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