The night air feels colder than normal, perhaps it is the fact that it is late autumn. I sit in my 1965 Ford Mustang, a feeling of suspense wells inside me. This is my hundredth case working for the NYPD but the feeling before I catch a criminal seems as fresh as ever. I stare out my window at the Denney’s across the street. The dark outlines of figures stand inside, talking over something. Inside are a group of murderers, they are responsible for the deaths of twenty-four young men and women.
“Mr. Barker,” calls the voice of a young man to my right, “when do we go in?”
“Cool your jets rookie. We gotta wait for some backup. These guys are dangerous,” I reply, my stare is still fixed on the window.
I have found minutes seem to feel like hours when waiting to bust in and take down dangerous people. This is why I decided to become a detective, the thrill of all the action and the reward of knowing you’re doing something with your life, something good. As we sit and stare at the window I notice that the figures haven’t moved the entire time we’ve been here. My partner, Liam, notices this too.
“Odd how they aren’t moving,” Liam says.
“People like this tend to do that,” I lie, “You’ll get used to it.”
“You think they know we’re here?” Liam asks.
“No, they would’ve done something about it by now,” I reply, not sounding so sure myself.
“I’m gonna go check it out,” says Liam, opening his door and stepping out of the car.
“Hey, rookie, what the hell do you think you’re doing,” I say in a harsh whisper.
“Come on, let’s go check it out. I want to know why they aren’t moving,” Liam says before closing his door.
I step out and shake my head. I know that this is wrong but I am curious. Liam stands to wait for me. He is tall and bulky with short brown hair. His face already has the lines and wrinkles that show a lifetime of experience. He was a perfect fit in the academy, top of his class through high school, everyone knew he was destined for something great. I had to agree, he was the type of man who clearly had a great career ahead of him.
I pull out my gun, a Sig Sauer, I’ve kept this gun by my side my whole career as a sense of pride. I walk slowly in front of Liam and we advance on the building. We reach the doors and I motion for him to stop. I press my ear against the door, trying to hear the conversation going on inside, Liam does the same. Liam gives me a confused look, we both can’t hear anything from inside. I step back and try to open the door, it swings open without much force. I look at Liam and he shrugs. I hold my gun up before walking in, this gun is like my barrier between life and death. The inside of the Denney’s is trashed, tables and chairs are flipped all around the establishment. As soon as we take a few steps inside the lights turn off.
Liam pulls out a flashlight and shines it over to the table where the figures were sitting. A look of disgust and terror fills Liam’s face, the bodies of two Denney’s workers sit. Their eyes have been gouged out and multiple lacerations cover their faces, a trademark of the killers. Liam quickly moves the beam of light from the bodies to the kitchen. I understand Liam will be traumatized for the rest of his life after seeing the bloody scene in this diner. I’ve experienced similar things over my career, though I’ve gotten used to them over time.
Liam takes the lead and starts towards the kitchen. The inside of the kitchen isn’t much better than the outside, pots and cooking implements cover the floor in a disorganized clutter. Liam moves over to the sink that was overflowing with water and shuts it off. From there Liam decides to move to the freezer. Liam pulls open the large metal door, as he does mist flows across the floor and dissipates. Inside the freezer are five or so bodies, each mutilated in a different way than the last. Liam begins to turn around but as he does a voice comes from one of the bodies.
“H-help me,” says the person. They sound like a young woman but it is hard to tell. Liam immediately turns back and steps inside the freezer. Liam is the type of detective to help someone in distress no matter what. As he steps in I hear a click, I look down and see Liam’s foot on a tripwire. Liam turns, a horrified look on his face. A loud boom echos throughout the diner and I stand there, petrified, as Liam’s face is blown off by a shotgun. He falls to the floor, arms twisted and blood pouring from where his face used to be.
I stumble back but someone catches me and puts an arm around my waist.
“Do it Wade, the cops are gonna be here soon,” says a voice to my left. I hear distant sirens begin to wail.
I feel the cold, sharp, metallic edge of a knife press against my throat. The sirens are getting closer. The person holding me draws the knife across my neck and lets me drop to the floor. I feel a tingling sense of pain shoot through my neck. I lay on the floor, blood spurting from my neck as my attackers run away. The sirens wail seems to grow quieter. I drag my barley living body away from the freezer and out of the kitchen. I can make out the blurry shapes of people outside the restaurant, the people all stand in front of flashing lights, blue and red. I can’t remember what the lights are but I remember they aren’t bad. Everything feels so cold. I try to drag myself a little further but I can’t. This is it, this is how I die. I lay down and let my body relax, letting the blood trickle from my neck. I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.
I don’t have a clear memory of what happens next, it all comes in glimpses. I remember being lifted onto a surface. I remember being in the back of a van, filled with beeping machines. I remember laying in a comfy bed in a white room, surrounded by people in white suits.
I slowly open my eyes, I lay in a white room, surrounded by medical equipment. A tube is inserted down my throat, several other tubes and wires protrude from my body. Doctors come in and out of my room, checking in on me occasionally. I lay in the bed for what seems like years, but in all reality, I lay there for two weeks.
Checking out of the hospital feels good. I can only think about getting back to the station, hunting down more criminals, and finally getting to rest in my own bed. With all these good thoughts comes the inevitable bad ones. Brief flashes of Liam’s bloody corpse flood my mind. I try to push them away, suppress them but to no avail. I am driven home in a squad car, a man with a large bushy mustache and huge forearms sits behind the wheel. He tries to make small talk but I ignore him, I stare out the window at the large brick buildings flying past.
We finally arrive at my place, a tall, brick apartment building. As I climb out of the car the officer stops me.
“Detective Barker. The station wanted me to tell you not to come back to work for at least a month or two. They want you to take some time off and rest up,” he says.
I simply nod, clearly let down, and turn towards my apartment building. I walk up to the front doors and walk inside. Ugly green wallpaper is plastered everywhere I look, the stained carpet still smells of mildew, and the old landlord is still sitting, reading the paper, behind his short desk. As I walk past the landlord looks up and grunts before going back to his paper. I turn to the left and take a flight of stairs up to the tenth floor. I walk down the halls of green wallpaper until I reach room 107 and walk inside.
The inside of my room is much better than the rest of the building. The previous owner had the decency to put up some yellow patterned wallpaper. I walk into my living room, a white couch sits behind a small coffee table. I pick up my remote and turn on the television for some white noise. I go to my bedroom and lay down on my small twin bed. I stare at the ceiling for hours, thinking about Liam. It’s all my fault, I let him die. I could have done something about it. A lonely tear leaves my eye and slides down the side of my face. It takes me a while but I am finally able to fall asleep in my own bed.