I guess locking doors was for poor people who weren’t literally encircled by a small army of trigger happy ex-cops. I knew because she was out prepping for the prom she wouldn’t be here. I also knew she had a brother but he was rarely home in the day, myths of an expensive heroine habit abound. So I was guessing he’d stumble home much later if at all. The house should be empty possibly but for an annoying little yappy dog she was banned from taking into school in her purse. Hopefully since the prom wasn’t at school that meant she’d probably have the annoying little rat with her. And I wouldn’t be tempted to pulp its head into an eight hundred dollar Persian rug.
I did say I loved animals but not that particular one.
I took a quick precautionairy glance across the street but thankfully aside from a team of illegals gardening two houses over they were quiet. I guessed everyone was out living the good life, lounging around a golf course or a yacht or something.
When I was sure no one was looking I slipped into the house and closed the door firmly behind me. As I stood in the cool sweet smelling entryway I felt ok. I was just a pretty rich white girl coming home from yogalates, walking into her own home no big deal. Nobody could call the cops over that. It’s not like I used a grappling hook and scaled the wall garden.
The interior was fresh and clean, cream interior walls with off white, I guess eggshell tiles on the floor. A stair case carpeted in a darker cream snaking off from the oddly angled front door up to the bedrooms on the right as you entered. A big curtain-less window at the turn of the stairs letting in lots of light. I stopped in the entryway and just listened to the steady creak of silence. When I was sure the house was empty I let go of my breath and began to pad the tiles and dust off this new set of leathery predator wings.
The entryway opened up into a huge but very minimalist carpeted living room which seemed to take up a whole corner of the house. It was very eighties deco, devoid of colour with a high ceiling that spanned both floors cut off by a balcony onto the second floor. A door off to the left lead into a relatively small galley kitchen which was nevertheless very nice.
But needless to say I wasn’t here for the tour. I doubled back to the front door and started a slow ascent up the stairs. Looking outside the huge window at the turn hoping not to see some nosey old woman staring at me and memorizing my face for a sketch artist to reproduce.
I figured if I was going to find any evidence at all of her guilt it wouldn’t be lying between the pages of a copy of teen vogue on the coffee table. “Hey remember when I poisoned my dad and framed my mom for the money lol smiley face smile face xoxox”. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities but it seemed unlikely. But who knows. She wasn’t like me, not the same kind of monster, a normal killer for a normal reason, a sane reason to do something insane, money was the root of all this. So there was a chance she wasn’t like me at all, there was a chance she had emotions. One of those possibly being guilt and if that was true she would leave some trace of it behind.
I figured my best bet was finding her computer and working a little slack hack magic on it, basically shake it and see what fell out.
I turned the corner checking the window but it was just the bare windowless face of the neighbouring house staring back at me. I continued on up the second flight noting an open bathroom off the stairs, seemed an odd place to put a bathroom but ok.
The second floor split off in two directions leading to the bedrooms. As far as I could remember her bedroom was off to the left and her parents ensuite was off to the right. But considering her parents weren’t in the picture anymore it made little sense to not occupy the empty ensuite. It’s what I would do, you’d have to be crazy to let all that closet space go to waste because of what? Sentimentality? Ghosts maybe?
I padded the carpeted floor delicately, hoping my light frame wouldn’t leave any telling footprints. Thankfully I’d remembered to not wear heels and opted for a set of flat tread-less pumps.
Taking the right looking over the second floor balcony down at the living room and the large windows. It seemed like an average sleepy day in this neighbourhood, not a curious dog walker in sight. Just sun shining and birds chirping. Oh how I longed for the huge savage moon and that black canvas of night to paint red, ‘soon’ it hissed and I knew it was right. Soon I’d have my starry night and my bloody moon.
Really there was no rush, I’d started as early as I could. Depending on the schedule they’d be at the preparations until late into the afternoon. Factoring in frappachino and pastelito breaks, maybe some California tuna rolls, suddenly realising skipping breakfast was a mistake. New rule; never break and enter on an empty stomach.
The hallway got a little narrower, I passed an airing cupboard and I could distinctly smell signs of a lived in nature. More specifically Wendy’s perfume, it seemed my estimation of her and our shared desire for closet space was on point.
I opened the door and was sort of surprised that the room was so small then I turned my head and realised that I’d stepped into her closet, oh.
I opened the door to her actual room and was instantly taken aback.
It was so… so-
Horrifying, truly horrifying.
I knew she was sort of anal and a bit of a control freak. But beside from the smell and the obvious personal effects the room seemed like a movie set or a window onto a dolls house. The bed perfectly made, almost creaseless, like it had been ironed, big and fluffy with pillows that seemed to go on for days. Not a sock on the floor not a sagging poster, the walls were bare and smooth. No litter, not even a bin with litter in it. Her dresser was immaculate, the mirror looked like it was brand new and all her makeup was neatly arranged almost seemingly with a ruler.
It was for lack of a better word; ‘creepy’ even for me.
The room was large and the closet was basically a room on its own. It wasn’t even a walk in closet it was just a room the size of an average bedroom only a little smaller than my actual bedroom, turned into a closet filled to the brim with clothes and shelves full of shoes hanging over my head.
The room like all the others in the house was sort of an odd asymmetrical shape. The ensuite was on the right wall at something like forty five degree angle from the rest of the room. And of course it too was spotless and it seemed pointless rooting around for clues in there.
I was hoping her online activity was a little less neat.
Walking around the room with a spectral lightness of foot. I opened a few draws on her dresser until, oh you’ve got to be kidding me, could it really be that easy? I started to get a little nervous, first the door and now this. Her diary was lying right at the top of the first draw down. On top of a stack of neatly pressed pink panties that smelled like lavender and dollar store candy.
I picked it up carefully and thumbed through it, sadly it was putridly average. Vomit inducingly so, saccharine and pointless and banal. So much so I felt myself slipping into bored unconsciousness as I scanned it. I hardly expected to just stumble upon…”Dear diary today I was thinking about how I poisoned my dear papa for cash, oh how silly of me”.
I clapped the little purple book shut and put it back in the drawer just as I found it. Feeling slightly deflated, nothing, not a chuckle not a whisper from the darkness below, just dull ringing silence.
There has to be something, I looked about the room planning to save the laptop sitting on the desk by the window for last.
I had some time to soak the room in, it was pretty, like a little girls room honestly, lots of pastel colours and stuffed animals. It was a fairy princess room for a little latina fairy princess. Maybe I was jealous, there was a picture on her side table. The whole family, her mom and dad and their little princess in the middle with the toothy grin missing the two front teeth. She must have been around six or seven. Maybe I was jealous of her, she had everything I could only dream of, and to my estimation she’d tossed it down the dark well. Only to live a long and empty existence here in this castle alone. Or that’s what I assumed. I found myself staring into the black gap of her tooth and hearing some building scratching in the dark back seat. I flipped the picture over and there was a small pieces of paper hidden in the frame. They wouldn’t have even been noticeable if there weren’t so many of them.
Check stubs, made out to Denny Vargas, Her brother, the amounts seemed to fluctuate, growing larger by increment. My guess was because of his little habit Wendy was put in charge of the estate and was dolling him out an allowance. Hmm. A small tick coming from the dark well, a drip.
Was it blackmail I was smelling, was I in some noir mystery? Still not nearly enough, no telling the amount of scandals a girl her age with her money could get into besides murdering her father. A tiny blip on the dark radar.
Ok time to skip to the good bit.
I strode across the room starting to feel a little rushed. I needed to find something good enough to justify a house invasion at the very least or I would feel very silly. And would have to reconsider a great many things about myself.
I sat at a white wicker chair she had at her clear desk, her laptop positioned perfectly central to the desks edges. I opened it and let it boot up, it was password locked but it wasn’t too hard to crack. Went through her parents’ names, her birthday, ‘Smoochie’ the name of her annoying little dog, of course it was the same as her password at school, let no one accuse her of being an original thinker.
I was in, no notes on the desktop, no elaborate confessions or future suicide notes stored away for good measure and her wallpaper was a pink glass slipper with pink fluffy trim.
I opened up a browser and started looking into her history. I wasn’t expecting to find much on the surface, after all, this all transpired what, a year ago, maybe two. So I wouldn’t even expect this to be the same laptop let alone that she didn’t delete all her search history. But considering how neat her room was I expected she was the kind of person who took care of her toys. So there was a chance this was the same computer she used back then, or at the very least it was backed up with files from her previous computer.
Despite the fact she probably deleted her search history, it’s never really gone, nothing deleted ever truly stays deleted. It’s always there in some form or another, waiting for some clever little nerd to pick up and dust off.
It didn’t take too long because I had a rough idea of what I was looking for, key words; ‘poison’, ‘murder’, ‘getting away with murder’. Ethylene glycol, that was anti-freeze to the uninitiated. A perfect household poison, colourless and odourless and with a sweet taste that allowed it to be ingested rather easily. But resulted in a slow painful death after consuming very little. When broken down in the blood stream it was almost impossible to detect unless you knew exactly what you were looking for. And most hospitals didn’t even have the facilities to test for ethelyne glycol. According to Wikipedia.
A dull humming laughter sent ripples through the dark water. A suspenseful breathing from the dark watcher, it was enough, more than enough for him. But this was nowhere near enough for Brodsky. I’d need something hard, some proof he couldn’t deny.
Bending a knee I probed under the bed, the wide window giving me ample light to see all the nothing underneath. No dust or cobwebs or bloodied baseball bats to be found. I took a closer look and ran my fingers underneath the frame of the big white bed. My fingers coming to rest on something that felt jagged and creased and out of place. Stuffed between the mattress and the frame of the bed were what appeared to be wads of paper. As I pulled them out I saw them to be what they were, opened lettered with a women’s central jail postmark. They were from her now convict mother, no doubt she was still awaiting arraignment before sentencing. The wheels of justice turn so slowly here in this laid back state. It was not uncommon for someone to be warehoused in a jail awaiting trial for years at a time.
They were carefully opened but not so carefully pressed under the mattress so I didn’t see the need to put on gloves and a hazmat suit.
I just opened them and eased the paper out of the first letter and allowed it to unfold. The first letter was fairly average, talking about her trial sprinkled with general niceties, ‘how do you dos’, stuff normal people say. No damning Shakespearean pros or accusations, no hamlet uttered at all but as I scanned on I noticed some parts were for lack of a better word ‘Redacted’. That is some parts were scribbled over with a black marker. Not unlike you would with a yellow marker if you highlighting a portion of text but instead they were blotted out. Conjuring a wry chuckle from the dark watcher.
The letters seemed to be kept in the order they were received. As I got further along the lettered got a little juicier a little more frantic and raw needing a lot more redacting. Whole paragraphs were taken out of this to a point where I wondered why even keep them at all?
I really doubted these were admissible in court since I assumed prisons read the letters of inmates coming and going.
Some terminal sentimentality I could never understand. Some piece of the puzzle I thankfully lacked.
There were small portions that had been drying out for so long I could read in the light, “I understand, he was…” The letter was written in an odd way too. It didn’t seem like a mother writing to a daughter it felt more like a student writing to a teacher. It was laced with a manic devotion, an obsessive maternal bond. I felt like I was reading a fan letter to the night stalker. “I love you, I’ll do anything to protect you-anything”.
A flutter, a swift uplift of dark wings and I knew it was satisfied a while ago but this might be enough for Brodsky. Scribbling out a sentence with a black marker I was sure was not enough to hide the truth. Some lab geek with a laminate at Brodsky’s behest in Washington undoubtedly could cast some sort of forensic wizardry on it. And that would be the tip of the iceberg of circumstantial evidence to sink Wendy. Although how well it would hold up in court would be anyone’s guess and I would assume Wendy wouldn’t go down without a fight.
She’d hire the best lawyers available and she’d probably beat it.
None of this would hold up in court of course, but there was a totally different court we were arranging for Wendy with a very different type of judge and the sentences were a lot more creative to say the least.
The last letter was thicker and although I thought I would have enough I could see no harm in probing further.
I gently removed the letter and tipped the rest the content of the envelope onto the soft carpeted floor. A few pictures came tumbling out, little passport photos of them together as a family when she was a baby, cute couple. There were a few more shots of her as a baby forming a little pile on the cream carpet.
I gave a dry breathy chuckle as I saw the letter was merely one page of entirely blacked out letters. Maybe I should buy her a shredder for her birthday.
There was a standard high gloss photo of Wendy in a diamond tiara at her sweet sixteen, her hair done up like a princess. I was pretty sure I went to that. I remember wearing some hand-me-down dress that looked like a black vacuum bag. She had a professional photographer take our pictures like this in front of a painted screen made up to look like a tropical sunset. It wasn’t too dissimilar to the one that would be at the prom.
I turned the picture over and there was no secret esoteric message written on the back with blood just a regular photo.
There was another from that day but it was a little different. It was her in her brother’s lap but there was something strange about it, something in the way she was smiling. His faced was turned into her neck with his arms around her waist and hers around his head. There was just something off about it, her eyes shut like that, her smile not of happiness but of almost. I wanted to say ‘shame’ or something like that, she looked almost like she was being tickled and she liked it, a little too much. But not being an expert on human emotions I didn’t put too much stock in my evaluation. But it garnered some attention from the dark backseat, some probing question, some lingering intrigue. A dark smirk projected onto the inside of my skull.
I idly flipped it over like the picture before, not sure what I was expecting but it seemed vital in the moment and I wasn’t disappointed. I froze, spittle welling up in my mouth and I suddenly felt very small and very thirsty, my heart tightening with a vice grip in my chest. Written on the back in pencil were the words ‘DO YOU SEE?’
I had no time to think how he knew or how he got in here but I knew it wasn’t a coincidence.
A car horn outside, shit. Calm down Diana, this isn’t some shitty rear window knock off. She isn’t coming home in the middle of your little fishing expedition. She isn’t putting her key in the lock and she isn’t talking loudly in the hall on her cell phone. Or loudly walking up the stairs as we speak and I’m definitely not frantically stuffing the letters back under the bed and hiding there myself.
This was not how I expected today to go.
She came in and sat on the bed and I could do nothing but admire the excellent spring retention, you really get what you pay for. I guess guilty consciences are no match for space age mattresses.
She was talking on her cell phone, to whom I couldn’t fathom as I was desperately trying to remember if I’d left anything out of place in her room. I was sure I closed the computer, I put the check stubs back. I hoped.
I mean, I guess I could have played this off “Oh hey this isn’t my house, my bad”. But that was really a longshot. And I was already in the doghouse for missing the set up, I didn’t really want to add breaking and entering to that list of friendship testing events.
She didn’t seem too pre-occupied with searching her room. She was having what could have been described as a ‘heated discussion’ with someone on her cell phone. The doubt came from the fact she was talking in fast fire Cuban which was like Spanish which remember I suck at but working against an imaginary clock. It was pretty much completely beyond me.
So it was hard to tell if she was actually anxious or was having a perfectly normal conversation about sandwiches. It was only when she broke into a few sentences of rushed English that I picked up the reason she was home.
“I got another one”
“Another what?” The small voice on the other end said. I could barely make it out over the sound of her breathing, evidently speaking Cuban didn’t allow for breathing pauses.
“Another one of those fucking notes, someone knows Denny, someone fucking knows!” She said in a harsh whisper.
“You’re talking crazy” Denny said.
“I got one in my locker the other day and now I found one in Smoochie’s basket, someone knows and I have no idea what to do” She sounded frantic and teary eyed.
“Ok calm down, I’ll come over in a day or two and we’ll figure something out. If someone does know they would have gone to cops, this is just straight up blackmail, we can make that go away.”
How would they make me go away I wondered. He was so sure he could. Almost like he’d done it before. But then something stuck out at me.
I didn’t write a second note.
And I certainly didn’t put it in her dog basket while prepping for the prom since I was here. And as far as I know didn’t have a clone and thus could not be in two places at once.
I had been very busy but not that busy. I left the first note just to gauge her response, see a flicker of something certain and deadly behind those eyes, some glimmer of guilt and fear. I wanted her to see the slowly descending guillotine, just for a split second, just enough to know she did but so little that she could tell herself she didn’t. But that was all, I had what I needed, a second note would just be more of the same. Psychological torture sending her into this messy flurry of emotions and planning and readying. I wanted to nudge her not send her over the edge like this.
So then who sent the second note and why?
I had a rough idea but it seemed petty and silly and childish almost like a deadly prank. Someone wanted to see her rushing around like a headless chicken for their amusement. They wound her up like a toy and sent her reeling at me. It didn’t seem like something a cold blooded killer would do. Someone circling, waiting for the right time to strike making me feel like he was god’s hand. Everywhere, always watching, knowing my every move before I made it. Knowing that at any moment he could reach down and snuff me out.
It felt almost like a game.