Sue Mackenzie (Late morning of September 10, 1994)
Today had been only my second time down in the basement since the move. It was eminently dim and at least ten degrees colder than the rest of the house. The only light source that wasn’t completely burned out was the sunlight, shining through a small, crack-in-the-wall of a window. I had to make sure to wear a pair of slippers when I went down there so that I wouldn’t blacken my feet from walking on the dirty concrete that made up the floor. Also, in the few months this place was on the market, a whole family of daddy long-legs had made themselves right at home in each of the nooks and crannies of the room. Certainly, it looked straight out of a horror movie, but it was the only room in the entire house with both a washing machine and dryer already installed.
“Well, this looks inviting,” Jeff commented in a sarcastic tone as he came down the stairs.
“It will definitely take some getting used to,” I agreed as I started unloading the colored laundry into the wash. “If I see one rat though, I am burning the place to the ground.”
Jeff walked up behind me and started rubbing my shoulders ever so lovingly. I tilted my head back and took a deep breath; it had been exactly what I needed. “Now, Hun, no need to commit arson. It just needs some sprucing up, that’s all.”
“Yeah? Which one of us is gonna do that?”
“I’ll go down to the hardware store right now. Just tell me what color paint you want. I’ll clean and paint all of this.”
“Really? You’re gonna paint the basement?” After shutting the washer’s lid, I turned around to see him, nodding his head. “And where exactly are you gonna find the time to do a big project like that, huh?”
“Well, I can either start today or tomorrow. And then have Jacob help out throughout the week,” he explained, wrapping his arms around my waist as if to go in for a kiss.
“And by ‘help out’ you mean—”
“Do most of the work, yep,” Jeff confirmed, giving me a gentle peck on the lips afterwards. “But hey, isn’t that why we have an eldest son? To delegate a little bit of manual labor onto?”
“Is that why?”
“I’m pretty sure,” he replied and grinned, widely, before kissing me once again. This time, much longer and a bit more passionately. “Although,” he began to resume. “I may have to pay him for it. That’s the difference between kids these days and the ones back in the 1800s : they never do anything just ’cause you tell them to. There’s always gotta be something in it for them.”
“That and he’s gonna need all the money he can get now that he’s found himself a girl,” I commented, pivoting myself back to the task at hand. I twisted the dial to turn on the washing machine. At this rate, it will already be nightfall by the time this laundry gets done.
“Yeah, you wanna explain what that was all about earlier? It seemed as soon as Jake brought up Adeline’s name, a switch flipped. What’s so bad about her? She say something to you?”
“No, actually, she was very polite when I met her.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Jeff leaned the right side of his body against the dryer, gazing up at me and waiting for my response.
Once again, I wanted to tell someone all about my suspicions, but, at last, I couldn’t, not yet. “I just have this gut feeling about her that’s something’s off.”
“Like her ol’ man being a psycho killer kind of ‘off’? I didn’t realize you were one of those people who judge other people’s character based on where they came from, or who they came from, I should say.”
“That’s the thing, I’m not sure he did it,” I finally said aloud. Up until then, it’d only been an intrusive thought that refused to leave my head. Now that it was out, it felt all too real.
Jeff stared at me, blankly and in silence. I then got the sense of deja vu. He had been looking at me the same way all those women did in the salon when I tried to defend Louise Grace’s honor: like I belonged in a psych ward. I waited for his reaction for a solid minute and a half before he resumed speaking. “What do you mean you aren’t sure he did it?”
“I mean I’ve been looking more into his case and—”
He snickered at me and crouched to take a seat at the bottom of the stairs. “Here I thought you resigned, Detective Dexhart.”
Detective Dexhart. I haven’t heard that name in years; I almost forgot what it sounded like. I sighed and looked down at my feet, shameful. Maybe he is right; maybe this case isn’t any of my business and I should just let the actual authorities deal with it. How could I though? When there’s still the possibility of a dangerous killer on the loose? I walked over to take a spot next to him on the step. “I know, I am. It’s just that—”
Benevolently, he lifted my chin up and combed a lock of my back behind my ear. “It’s okay to say you miss it, Sue. Hell, I miss seeing you in that courthouse, walkin’ around in them sexy pant suits you’d always wear.”
My face, flushed red, I smiled at him. “I do miss it at times. It gave me a sense of pride, you know? Solving all those cases.”
“You regret leaving?”
“I regret how I left. It’s just that I spent all those years trying to prove sexist pricks across the country wrong, showing that police work wasn’t just a man’s job. And for what? To run at the first sign of danger?”
“You were thinking about your family. You had a six-year-old at home and had just found you had another on the way. You did the right thing by keeping yourself out of harm’s way.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” I sighed. “Speaking of which, how are the boys doing up there?”
“Fine, I guess. They went back into the woods for some reason?”
“Already? Didn’t they just come back from that?”
Jeff nodded. “Pat claimed it’s because they ‘left something’ there. I could tell right away he was lying through his teeth. I’m just not sure why he would.”
“Well, our boy, Pat’s a smart kid. He knows not to go to far or do anything too stupid; especially if Zack’s with him.”
“I know, I know. It’s not so much that I don’t trust them, per say. It’s just that when I went to go check the mail earlier, I saw a couple of hoodlums get out of the red GMC parked out front.”
“The Sierra? I think I saw it when I drove up.”
“Yeah, well, these guys headed into that exact forest. Looked like they were up to no good either. One of them had a neck tattoo.”
“Now who’s being judgemental?” I poked fun at him, but in reality, I felt just as concerned as he did. “Maybe you should go out and look for them; just to be safe.”
I didn’t have to tell him twice. Jeff nodded in agreement and soon went back upstairs. Once again, I was left alone in Buffalo Bill’s basement and after a few minutes of waiting, the washing machine stopped. I went back over and opened the dryer, only to find something peculiar, duct taped to the top of it. I ripped it out and examined it closer.
It was someone’s journal; a diary, perhaps. Bound in bright red suede, it was thick with creamy white pages. They smelt of that aged paper smell with a subtle lilac, as if someone sprayed them with perfume. The first page, unlike the others, had no lines and was almost completely blank, except for a few cursive scribbles at the very top. In blank ink, she wrote: Property of Amy Russo.