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That Place

By Starr Smith All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Scifi

Short Story

That place—that horrible apartment that sucked me in and then took everything away from me—is what I blame for the beginning of the end of my sanity. My psychiatrist tells me it’s therapeutic to write down my feelings and since I’m a novelist by trade, I thought it best to tell you my story.

I used to think being kicked out of the house was one of the worst days of my life. My wife and I had been having trouble for quite a while before Rachel came into the picture. She was beautiful with porcelain skin and piercing blue eyes. She was everything to me and I spent all my free time with her.

Mia used my desire to be with Rachel more than her as an excuse. Just because Rachel consumed most of my entire waking moments, did not give Mia carte blanche to have an affair and blame me when our marriage fell apart. That is precisely what happened six months after Rachel came along.

To say bickering and verbal wars were something that happened on a weekly basis seems a bit understated. That’s how it was before Rachel was born. For the first few months of her precious life, our world revolved around Rachel. Mia and I put all of our energies into caring for our little girl and along the way avoided our marital problems. I guess we hoped Rachel would pull us back together again. The reverse happened and my love for our baby created a huge cavern—an abyss, if you will—in my marriage.

That’s how I ended up in the apartment—what I like to refer to now as the evil dwelling. Mia had an affair, claiming I paid no attention to her and she had to find it elsewhere. She kicked me out and I rented a two bedroom apartment on the top floor of a twelve story building at the outer edge of town. They say thirteen is the unlucky number. I disagree; try living on the twelfth floor.

The day I looked at it, I immediately felt a sense of something out of place. In hindsight, I see it was more than that. I felt like a shroud covered me as soon as I walked in the front door. The atmosphere was disconcerting, but I cast my concerns aside and signed the lease. If I’d only known then what I came to find out later, I would have high-tailed it out of there in seconds.

I need to stop analyzing my preceding perceptions and tell you what drove me to end up seeing a shrink. The first few days I spent writing my novel. I hadn’t even bothered to unpack. I’d wake up early in the morning and finish penning my next great mystery novel late at night, barely stopping to eat. I think that’s why I didn’t notice the weird things happening at first.

It was my third night there, and I was standing in front of one of the small windows to the side of the fireplace. My mind was wandering to the murder suspect in the tale I was weaving, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman standing just out of the reach of the lamppost down below. When I focused on the person, I saw her walking around the corner toward the front of my building. My living room windows looked down over the side street. Even though I couldn’t explain it, I was a little uneasy. I figured it was my overworked, maniacal, thriller mind at work, dismissed it and went to bed.

I woke up to my bedroom door being slammed against my bedroom wall, which I knew I closed before retiring for the evening. I shot up in bed and a woman stood in my doorway. The hall light was shining into the bedroom and I could see she was mouthing the word, ‘help.’

I must first assure you this is not a story about spirits or ghosts or anything like that. She was not an apparition, she was real. At first glance, I thought she was just an elderly lady who walked into the wrong apartment, but when I looked closer, blood was seeping out of the front of her nightgown.

I quickly strode over to help her and found a knife sticking out of her back. Immediately alarmed, I steered her toward my bed and sat her down. I then rushed to the nightstand and grabbed my pistol. At the same time, I grabbed the cordless telephone that sat next to my bed and dialed nine-one-one. I whispered into the telephone to send an ambulance then set the handset down, leaving the line open.

The woman slumped sideways on my bed. I quietly left the room and surveyed the rest of the apartment. The front door stood wide open. I could see that it had been jimmied, more than likely not the handiwork of the injured woman.

To make a long story even longer, the police ascertained the killer was probably trying to break into my apartment when the woman surprised him in the hallway. The explanation didn’t sit well with me. The woman—whose name I found out later to be Gladys—died on the way to the hospital. She had been my neighbor immediately to my left and I never knew it.

Days later, complaints from neighbors, including my own, began to rain down on the landlord. Smells beyond anything I’d ever encountered lingered in the hallway of the twelfth floor. Units below were even accosted by the stench. The smell was finally located in the last apartment at the end of the hallway on my floor.

I didn’t know the man who resided there and other neighbors claimed they hadn’t seen him in days. The only thing I could tell the police was that he was a normal looking fellow. He was shorter than me and a bit stout with brown hair. He was average. That’s what all killers look like, or at least that’s what the cops told me that night. A person that is non-descript supposedly blends in well and very few people—if any—would pay him any mind. Other tenants in the building either could not remember him at all or gave completely different descriptions than mine.

The woman living right next door said the smell was so bad she was gagging. The door was smashed in after no one answered. It took dogs to sniff the apartment to find the bodies whose heads had been severed. They were buried beneath the floorboards of the guy’s bedroom. There were six women. Identification—I heard—was not going to be easy because the victims’ fingers had all been cut off and their heads had yet to be found.

They stationed policemen outside of the building and commandeered the woman’s apartment next door, which she gladly gave up. They were waiting for the tenant to come back to arrest him. I had a feeling they would be waiting a long time.

The heads were located three days later when a young boy was out walking his dog in the park next door. The dog ran off and was found in the woods bordering the park. He dug up the heads. This young kid will probably have nightmares for the rest of his life.

Finally the six victims were identified. That’s where I come in. You see, they were all previous tenants of my apartment. I was questioned and harassed by not only the local police, but by the rest of the tenants on my floor. My door was painted with the word killer and elevator doors were shut in my face. I didn’t kill these women. They just happened to live in the same apartment. I tried to explain this to everyone, but no one believed me. My wife filed for divorce and refused to allow me visitation of Rachel.

My psychiatrist tells me that lying to someone is one thing, but deceiving oneself is worse. I wasn’t fibbing to anyone, least of all myself. As I predicted, the police found their serial killer. Their profilers led them right to the person. They were dead on the mark, with the exception of one very important portion of their summation they neglected to take into account.

First, I should probably tell you how I know all these details. I’m neither a cop nor a news junkie. I know because Stan confessed everything to me. Every sordid facet of his evilness came out. He is the one who stabbed Gladys, the woman I found late at night in my apartment. He messed up the doorjamb to make it look like someone broke in. He rented that place—that horrible place—in order to have somewhere to stash the women’s bodies. He buried the heads. When I asked him why he did all those things, he said it was because of Mia, the bitch—the one who broke my heart and threw me out of the house after she had an affair.

I wasn’t responsible for Stan’s actions. Just because he lived inside my head doesn’t mean I should be punished for his crimes. The jury didn’t believe me and now I sit on death row with no one to talk to but my shrink. It’s all because of that place. If I hadn’t moved into that apartment, I think things would have been all right. They wouldn’t have found me, but I ended up being too close to the bodies.

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