CONSCIENCE KILLER

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2 | 'MAIN SUBJECT'

The ruckus of the front door slamming against its frame sent the floorboards rattling under Sherrie’s feet. All the way up to the second story, she was able to feel the force of the closing door. However, it sent a sensation of relief washing over her rattled nerves; James left for the day.

The unsettling intuition which knotted her stomach chased the sweet chance of sleep away. Not that she craved any dreams, for that matter. Somehow, the surge of adrenaline managed to numb the fatigue eating away at her muscles and mind, having not had a wink of sleep for the past twenty-four hours. The last time Sherrie recalled the feeling of her comforting pillow, was the night she received her dead husband; packaged in a colossal mail box by her door step – after being heavily sedated by the paramedics who couldn’t handle the mental break down she succumbed to.


Sherrie was surprised by the amount of limited time it took her to get ready for her day. Perhaps, she might have been too agitated about her plans to even give the passing time any mind. She skipped down the flight of stairs absentmindedly; as she went over everything she rehearsed in her head.

Hildegard was sitting by the wooden table centering the tiled kitchen floor, staring into what appeared to be the emptiness; the oblivion which she considered her life, occasionally sipping on her caffeinated beverage as though she needed any less sleep. Her strawberry-blonde, thinning tresses were confined in an effortless low bun, wearing the baby-blue satin robe gifted to her by her late husband.

“Good morning.” Sherrie said quietly, making her way towards one of the vacant seats, facing her mother. “Good morning, love.” Hildegard smiled tiredly yet warmly, rubbing her daughter’s hand that rested on the table to show what a delight it is to have her there. The latter returned the kind smile, unable to help the spasm of shame she felt while fully knowing the motive which pushed her to come down, was anything but longing for her mother’s company.


The awkward stretch of silence settling in the air gave Sherrie enough time to debate the righteousness of her intentions; she was definitely going to Hell for it. Hildegard had shuffled her way to the kitchen island to fetch the plate of the three reserved pancakes, with syrup dripped on top and berries sprinkled all over. “I saved you some before James ate it all.” She laughed feebly, setting the platter in front of Sherrie, a beam of eager anticipation stretched upon the older woman’s face. Reluctantly, Sherrie helped herself to a couple of bites of the sweet breakfast; it was mouthwatering even though she tried to savor it in her mouth, she didn’t just have the appetite for the tastiest dish in the world.

It was better for Sherrie to put everything to action, before Hildegard could display any more kindness that would make her feel even worse about herself.


And with her mind centered upon that goal, Sherrie pushed away the platter of the delectable sweet breakfast. “I’m not that hungry.” She muttered frigidly, keeping her eyes glued to the translucent black leggings she was sporting. “Oh,” was all the woman in baby-blue satin could say. “You look lovely today.” She complimented the burgundy little winter dress Sherrie wore, warmth radiating from her smile.

The woman in burgundy only nodded with a strained smile, fidgeting with the soft hems of her dark dress.

“Did James mention anything about Devin’s case?” she blurted out suddenly. Gradually, Hildegard nodded knowingly, a pained smile stretched her thin lips. Go figure.

He didn’t, sweetie.” She shook her head, turning her head to gaze out the kitchen window. All of the motherly tenderness in her aging features diminished like the sunlight behind the ominous clouds outside, replaced with her usual bleak stare.

After her mother directly dismissed the actual gravity of the situation; refusing to look past the web of make-believe that James did a marvelous job at weaving. It was safe to say that Sherrie no longer needed to act as if she was furious, because she was genuinely fuming.

“But he’s doing a pretty good job; brainwashing you.” Sherrie stated in an exaggerated nonchalance. Hildegard finally turned to face her daughter, her jaw clenched as her eyes remained passive as before; empty. Sherrie fought a victorious smirk, succeeding at making her mother tick. The pale knuckle the strawberry-blonde woman used to support her chin before, was slammed against the wooden table, rattling the platters on top.

“Or maybe you’re just getting—“ Hildegard stopped herself, pressing her fist against her lips to keep whatever words she had in mind from coming out. But the damage was already done, and there was no erasing her unspoken word. Sherrie braced herself for such collision between her and her mother – that was her main goal; she was planning to provoke her and even go as far as being crass. However, Sherrie was playing pretend. While her mother wasn’t; she was speaking her mind.

It was more cutting, much more cutting than she had anticipated, something like that coming from her mother. As though the constant other reminders weren't enough, which kept appearing everywhere; she was on her own. Sherrie scoffed feebly to herself, biting her lip to keep it from quivering and giving her welling tears away. She averted her moist gaze elsewhere from her mother’s repentant one.


Crazier.” She finished what her mother didn’t, nodding her head gradually to allow the word to pierce through her mind. A hurtful smile crept to the corners of her mouth before she quietly abandoned her seat, heading towards her bedroom to fetch her pre-packaged belongings.

The aftermath left Sherrie torn between carrying on with her strategy, or running away from it all and accept that she was all alone and getting crazier. It was frustrating, infuriating, and inconsolable to the point where she began doubting her sanity. What terrified and confused her so much was how part of her started believing her brother and mother’s speculations about her state of mind.

Hurling the hefty suitcase off the ground, she bounded down the stairs and headed towards the exit of this designed Hell of a home. She shouldn’t have ever come here. She should have left the moment the effects of whatever drugs the paramedics injected her with wore off, and never looked past her shoulder.

But she never learns her lesson, does she? Because she, yet again, resorted to her brother for assistance, like the silly girl she always is.

Before her right foot touched the outer perimeter of the Myers’s residence, never to return or turn around, Hildegard came hurriedly from the kitchen.

“Sherrie, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it like that; I-it just slipped—“ Sherrie hurled her figure to face her mother so quickly, it made her head spin temporarily. “—‘Just slipped’? Words don’t just slip, mom. Not unless you’re constantly spinning it ‘round and around in your head, and trying to convince me with them!” never in her life, had Sherrie imagined herself using that deep, pent up voice to address her mother, let alone the harsh curve of the grimace twisting her lips. Despite the vulnerability in her tearful eyes, they held such animosity that shredded Hildegard apart.


“That’s when words just slip, Hilda.” That was the last thing Hildegard might ever hear, and see of Sherrie. And without further due, Sherrie stormed out of the house, dragging her belongings behind her as she slowly disappeared from view. Becoming nothing more than a blur of the daughter her mother used to know. And Hildegard could no longer deny the reality – the reality she needed to face a long time ago.


There goes yet another child; the last of them; all of them.





- - - -




As much as she hated accepting that she, indeed, had successfully came up with one of her spontaneously idiotic ‘plans’ – the anguish burning in her chest was all she could think of, instead of dwelling on her naïve nature. From the beginning, she should have kept her ‘fucked up conclusions’ –according to James- to herself. Instead, she made a fool of herself; appearing as an unstable individual even to her own mother.

And James was the only one to be grateful for.

Her belongings dragged behind her wide and rapid strides, the heels of her thigh-high boots clicking profusely against the pavement. Her nostrils flared with each breath, the reality of having to find a method to get herself back to her house made her all the more frustrated.


And out-of-the-blue, the sound of the piercing shriek of swiveling tires belonging to the flash she barely managed to process through her peripheral vision, reached her ears. She nearly doubted her reality, thinking that perhaps she imagined it all. The moment she gathered her scattered concentration, she was met with a familiar Mitsubishi Lancer, watching it as gradually came into a halt to her right. The woman in burgundy was taken aback by the speed of events; she had a difficulty registering in the features of the reckless driver.

Elliot. It was Detective Elliot O’Malley behind the leather wheel.


The older man rolled the window of the front passenger seat, the blemished glass awkwardly lagging along the way. A ghost of a smile flashed across his features, “Good morning,” he greeted amiably, his smile dropping to an apologetic frown when he noticed the damp streaks across Sherrie’s cheeks. “Even though it might not be as good as I hoped.” He trailed off. His dark eyes drifted downwards to examine the case of belongings Sherrie had, which looked heavy. “I reckon you need a ride.” It was more of a fact, rather than a kind offer.


Surprisingly, Sherrie was more than grateful and eagerly accepted. The brunette male took the black case and shoved it inside of the chaotic trunk, as the woman climbed inside the front passenger seat, with Elliot getting in his previous seat shortly after.


Uncomfortable silence settled between the two of them. Sherrie distracted her eyes by looking out through the window, taking in the calm and desolate sidewalk at the early hours in the morning, a thousand thoughts and possibilities to begin her hunt for the desired evidence and answers. On the other hand, Elliot wasn’t ashamed to drink in the young widow sitting an arm-length away from him.

“You look beautiful in that color,” he complimented quietly. “Huh?” She turned to him, confused, as if she was just back to earth. “It compliments your hair-color.” He pointed a finger to her strawberry-blonde waves, a gentle smile on his thin lips. Sherrie returned the kind smile, mumbling a little ‘thank you’.

Even after the many years which passed, Elliot still hadn’t gotten over the admiration he developed towards the late Sheriff’s daughter. Perhaps, it might have been the purposelessness that prevailed after the loss of his wife which prevented him from forgetting his feelings fully.

Or maybe, Sherrie and his son were the only colors in his black and white life.

While the thirty-six-years-old man’s thoughts were occupied by the younger woman – the younger woman’s thoughts were occupied with a matter, no twenty-seven-years-old woman should worry about. She also wondered about her next move, and the anxiety of it all was crushing her silently; each time she decides upon a move, it never ended well. However, she had a feeling it might be different; Elliot was always different.


“Do have what asked for?” she was straightforward, voice monotone and dry, not willing for the silent moment to drag much more. Elliot nodded wordlessly, popping open the mini-trunk under the steering wheel, before fishing out a neutral-skinned folder from the midst of irrelevant objects. Sherrie accepted the folder with reluctance, knowing that after the data inside of the categorizer is exposed to her, she would have to begin taking action.

The single sheet of paper consisted of a minimal amount of info, with only the few required leads.


‘CLARA ANISTON’

Stanford graduate; majoring in psychology 1980 then became a licensed psychiatrist in 1991. Married her husband –Brad Aniston- in 1985, had Harper and Sally Aniston, with their marriage lasting 27 years before Brad passed away due to lung cancer in 2012. Aniston opened her own mental clinic in Fulton Street, Buckley Washington in 1992, before declaring its closure after her husband’s passing. Aniston then moved to Mason Avenue with her younger daughter Sally.

Sherrie then furrowed her light brows in a knot of confusion, using her index finger to point at line where it stated Dr. Clara’s husband cause of death, was of lung cancer. Elliot lent towards her slightly, narrowing his perplexed eyes. “That’s gotta be fattest lie I’ve heard today.” She scoffed in aggravation, “Brad Aniston was a perfectly healthy man, visiting the hospital every six months for examination.” She explained, looking into empty space as she attempted to connect the scattered dots. “I helped Dr. Franklin with these tests, Elliot.” Her voice was urgent and frantic, with confusion clouding her memory.

The Detective was just as puzzled; the information he gathered about the psychiatrist was from a reliable source of his. Having Sherrie deem something as false, made Elliot begin to doubt these sources. “Dammit, Leon.” Elliot muttered irritably, slapping his forehead. Sherrie shook her head, “No, ‘Leon’ isn’t the one lying.” She stated.

“Clara Aniston is.”


- - - -


Elliot was parked by Buckley’s Memorial Hospital, as per Sherrie’s request. After she became aware of the allegedly false information provided to her, she decided that her next move would be to have something tangible to further her speculations against Clara Aniston.

His calloused fingers drummed against the peeling leather of the steering wheel in impatience, partially regretting his kind gesture towards the young woman. With that thought coursing back and forth through his head, he eventually settled upon centering his thoughts about her only. He pondered; what if this act of compassion and assistance would, hopefully, cause a change of her heart?


Elliot was somewhat ashamed of himself at times, how he wasn’t able to leave the pain of Sherrie’s rejection in the past, like a bitter teenager. He would dwell upon it every time he was left alone with his thoughts; quite frequently. But later would just blame it upon the emptiness of his life.

The front passenger seat’s door was yanked open, signifying Sherrie’s arrival. As she climbed into her seat, the scent of fruity fragrance wafted through the atmosphere of the vehicle, wrapping Elliot’s senses in a warm blanket of nostalgia. He found it slightly challenging not to get lost in her aroma and focus on the task at hand.

He expected her to return with some kind of a folder, a few sheets of paper, anything physical that fell under the category of ‘tangible’. “You got anything?” he asked, his voice thick with anticipation. Sherrie faced him with a gravely distressed expression, like something absolutely uncalled for just occurred. He noticed how her breathing pattern appeared stressed, quick.

“Sherrie—“

“—it’s gone.” She breathed in panic, directing her widened green orbs to his dark chocolate ones. “All of it. It’s gone.” She was obviously

trying to hold inside her frantic breathing, but failing. She was panicking like a mother who lost her child in an amusement park. Elliot grabbed her shoulders gently in order to still her shaking body, holding her twitching gaze. “Sherrie, slow breathing. Deep, slow breathes.” He calmly ordered. The frantic woman followed by his instructions, gradually relaxing under his burning gaze.

“Good. Now tell me, what is it? What is gone?”

“The records – all of them; Brad Aniston’s examinations and test sheets, the autopsy, I couldn’t even find Dr. Franklin anywhere!” she was losing control of her nerves again, too caught up with trying to decide who was behind it all. Was it Clara Aniston? Was it someone else Sherrie never knew?

Could it even be Mitchell? No, it cannot be. Whoever took these records, it must have been a very long time ago. With the possibility of Clara Aniston being one of the culprits, and Mitchell crossed out – it left the only person she should have thought of from the beginning; James, her brother. Even if she was right, she cannot simply just attack him with that allegation; he would rebuff and never miss a chance to turn the tables around, and make Sherrie appear as a delusional woman, unable to just accept her reality.

Elliot didn’t know how to –or how he should- react, as the importance of these missing records wasn’t known to him. He couldn’t understand why it would matter so much to Sherrie, that it drove her to near hysteria.

“You need to calm down; you won’t be able to think straight when you’re freaking out like that.” He almost scolded her, growing impatient with her poor sense of control. “We’re going to figure it out.” His tone remained composed, his dark eyes holding a silent promise. Swallowing the bile rising in her throat, she nodded forcefully, releasing Elliot’s shirt collar from the grip she didn’t know she had.

After Sherrie’s nerves settled into a much calmer state, it was her mind’s turn to go into voiceless hysteria. Thoughts, theories and oh-so-many accusations bounced against the inside walls of her skull. Could it really be James? – But what could he possibly gain from taking Brad Aniston’s medical records? Where was Dr. Franklin and was Clara Aniston aware of such bizarre things?

While the woman in burgundy stared into her own personal oblivion, Elliot took his time dissecting the situation, with the same plethora of questions going through his head.

“Do you have her exact address?” Sherrie asked, not looking away from the hospital building outside her window. “Aniston’s?” he asked, uncertain of that move. She turned, shooting him an aggravated look to confirm his guess. With a defeated sigh, he turned the keys in the ignition chamber. “Yes ma’am.”



Elliot pitied her. He could see just how torn and lost she was, by the burning look she had in her eyes when she said that the medical records were gone. He wanted to ask her why were they so significant – why was she so determined to prove something he still wasn’t aware of and why did she request Clara Aniston’s file? But he knew her well enough not to, for now at least.

A half an hour had fleeted, as Elliot obliged to Sherrie’s request, following the supposedly correct directions he was provided with. And soon enough, they were cutting through Mason Avenue, before they shortly arrived at their desired destination. The Aniston’s Residence. They both exited the car and made their way towards the front porch of the house.

Sherrie lifted her loose knuckle to knock upon the white painted door, before Elliot stopped her. “No matter what, you keep it cool; no lashing out on the woman and going full berserk when you find out something you don’t like.” He instructed, a cautious warning look in his deep brown eyes, as he already had a vision of what they might uncover. The woman nodded, not quite sure if she could keep her promise


Elliot was the one to knock, ushering Sherrie to stand a few steps behind. The wooden barrier cracked open, a protective chain preventing it from opening further. A pair of light blue irises peeked through the narrow gap, anxiously studying the two standing on the opposite side.

“Who is it?” spoke a frail feminine voice. “Police, ma’am. I’m looking for Clara Aniston?” Elliot announced, flashing his badge briefly for a proof. The woman on the inside closed the door in order to unhook the lock chain, before opening the portal fully. She stood in the doorway at what appeared to be 5’3” of height, with light blonde hair, slowly fading into white with age which was styled in a pixie cut.

“That’s… that’s me.” She answered reluctantly. She was trying very hard to compose the shiver in her limbs; however, Sherrie was able to see the anxiety in her body language. Elliot cleared his throat before speaking, “I’m Detective O’Malley and this is Miss Sherrie Davidson; we were hoping to speak with you.” He introduced, with Sherrie coming into view from behind, smiling faintly out of courtesy.

Clara was smiling warmly at the brunette detective, appearing to almost relax – almost. But when she saw the strawberry-blonde woman reaching her sight, her welcoming expression fell as if she saw a ghost. As a reaction, Sherrie frowned, confused of the older woman’s reason to be so badly astonished to see her.

“Mrs. Aniston, may we come in?” Elliot seemed to snap Clara out of her haze. Consciousness returned to her once distant light eyes, as she shook her head with the best smile she managed to muster, before stepping aside to let them inside.

Sherrie and Elliot were seated by the soft, amber flames of the fireplace, each occupying their own loveseat. Clara soon returned into the spacious living room with a tray of three plain mugs of scorching coffee. She sat in the vacant beige seat facing the other two, intertwining her slender fingers in a tight clutch on her lap.

“Thanks for the coffee.” Sherrie’s voice came out in a soothing whisper, afraid that the woman sitting across from them might break any minute if she was to speak any louder. Clara didn’t even look away from the crackling fire to her right. Elliot directed a glance towards Sherrie, unsure where or how to begin.

“I know why you’re here.” Clara finally spoke for them. “It’s only about time. It’s always been about time.” She said, tightening the clutch of her fingers against her thigh. Sherrie could notice the glistening tears in the woman’s eyes, and that was more than enough to prove what she was suspecting.

“I’m the nurse that used to help Dr. Franklin run your husband’s six months check-ups, Miss.” Sherrie reminded her. “I know, dear. In fact, I know you very well.” The psychologist directed her gaze towards the young woman; her expression was so full of conflicted emotions that it became unreadable. Sherrie parted her lips to question further, but Clara was faster.

“You used to be one of the main subjects in Mitchell’s sessions.” She seemed reluctant at first. Afraid, even; what she had just revealed was certainly something that should have been declared long ago. Elliot felt the need to place a comforting hand upon Sherrie’s arm; the look of appalled astonishment which crossed her face, indicated how Sherrie wouldn’t be able to control her unstable emotions any longer.

“What do you mean ‘main subject’?” was she could answer with, without completely losing it. “Mitchell talked about me?”

Clara’s unease grew thicker, as she witnessed the fear-struck expression the woman was portraying, even starting to regret even letting them inside. She was thinking of a strategy, an alibi to somehow brush it under the rug as some kind of a misunderstanding. However, she was in too deep, and that detective certainly didn’t come by to have a cup of coffee – neither did the young woman.

The longer it took the doctor to clarify her statement, the more simple breathing felt like a chore to Sherrie. She felt her skull throbbing with how rapidly the adrenaline was rushing through her veins, cold sweat made her clothes cling to the clammy skin underneath. The shivering in her limbs and even heart was nearly uncontrollable. Both Elliot and Sherrie anticipated the other’s answer.


Every time.”


And these two words managed to change everything; banishing all the doubts Sherrie ever had about her sanity, and all the other alternative plans she thought of, if this one didn’t.

It took Elliot more than a few seconds to register how suddenly Sherrie had gotten out of her seat, with her feet automatically carrying her towards the front door. She was leaving, because there was nothing left that this woman could possibly provide her with. She was leaving, because she no longer needed to know why Brad Aniston’s medical records disappeared like dust in the wind.


Because she finally had her answer; Mitchell was after her.


Elliot hastily thanked Clara and followed the seemingly unresponsive woman, making her way towards God-knows-where. He tried calling after her, but she never flinched. After a few attempts at gaining her attention, he finally caught up to her pace, before he stopped her from being run over by a passing car in the middle of the street.

“Sherrie, snap out of it!” he grabbed her shoulders in a steel grip so strong, it might fracture her bones any moment. He used his dark glower, holding her in place. “Can you please just stop that fucking switch in her head from flicking on and off?!” he hissed, frustrated by the unexplainable and unanticipated episodes that Sherrie keeps entering.

Her emerald doe-like eyes stared up at the much taller man, bottom lip trembling at the sudden harshness of his features.


Mitchell killed Devin.”





〰️ 〰️


CASTING:

☆ - SHERRIE MYERS DAVIDSON: HOLLAND RODEN.

☆ - HILDAGARD MYERS: JESSICA CHASTAIN.

☆ - JAMES MYERS: CASEY AFFLECK.

☆ - DETECTIVE ELLIOT O'MALLEY: BEN AFFLECK.


〰️ 〰️


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