How could I have been so blind?
Ms. Emily Sanderson had great magnetism and such a look of innocence that I, a detective trained to see past manipulative tactics, ate up every word she spoke, every lie she fed. I’d nearly fallen in love with this petite housekeeper who charmed me with stories of her impoverished roots and dreams of overcoming the many obstacles thrown in her path. Any man would have wanted to save this beautiful, fragile creature. After peering into those deep brown eyes that transformed into dark pools of emotion while retelling one of the several tragedies that plagued her life, I was almost addicted.
Given the circumstances of our meeting, our entire relationship (or whatever it was) was clouded by a fog of suspicion. I was hired to investigate the gruesome murder of her landlord and employer, Dr. Charles Edds. The scene was one of the worst I’ve witnessed in all my years on the job: an axe murder. The man was chopped to pieces while reading in his study. Blood stained the floor, walls and furniture, as you’d expect. The strangest thing, however, was the fact that the murderer took the time to smoke a cigarette and put it out on the victim’s forehead. Such a sick display, it seemed wrong to suspect Emily or any of the seemingly nice people that surrounded Dr. Edds on a daily basis, but those closest are always heavily scrutinized for they usually have a motive.
What looked to be an isolated incident quickly became a serial murder case after Marceline Edds, Dr. Edds’s 18-year-old daughter, was slaughtered in the same manner, cigarette on the head and all. The following week saw another tragedy, this time the gardener for the Edds’s, Jon Jetis. Three murders by the same person on the same family indicated that this wasn’t simply a psycho killing at random. This matter was personal.
Emily appeared terrified in our initial interviews, worried that the killer would come for her next. She said she knew it would happen to her because she had terrible luck in life. I shouldn’t have asked her to go on, but I was intrigued. What could this seemingly untouched beauty have possibly endured?
It turned out she’d survived many terrible instances of abuse, neglect, violence, malnourishment and poverty. She ran away from her hometown out West to try and start anew here just last year. The details of her stories were so realistic and the emotion on her face, in her eyes, drove me to want to pull her away from this life of fear and torment. I wanted to make everything perfect because something about her said she deserved perfection.
But it was all a façade. She’s nothing more than a murderous actress.
I’d been taking her out for awhile before I was invited to her room for drinks. The place was very functional with few ornamental elements. Perhaps she had no memories to preserve or reason for decorating, but it still looked oddly bland.
She left momentarily, and I, being the inquisitive person I am, snooped around. Though I didn’t find much, a pack of cigarettes hidden beneath papers in a drawer brought about the question of why a non-smoker would have this item, especially the same brand that was left behind at the crime scenes. As much as I tried to convince myself that there must be a logical explanation, I couldn’t silence my intuition.
After returning to my place, I decided to phone a few contacts to see what, in any, information I could gather about Emily from her hometown. The task proved difficult; apparently no one had ever heard of an Emily Sanderson. I was about to give up the search when I received a call from a sheriff in a town near the one she called home.
The man informed me that my description of Emily matched that of the presumed-dead Patricia Haire. The entire Haire family had been slaughtered about a year ago, but Patricia was never found. I asked the details of the crime with much hesitation; afraid to hear the words I knew were coming. “Axe murdered,” he tells me, “with cigarette burns on the heads.” I think I have my girl.
I approach the house to confront Emily. I will inform the police, but I need to see her one last time. I need that closure. I need to know why.
I’m surprised when I reach the front door of the Edds estate. On a dark, rainy night like tonight, no one in their right mind would leave their door ajar, let alone as wide open as this one is. Something’s not right. I enter without knocking.
I nearly vomit as I take in the scene before me: Emily’s once beautiful body butchered and thrown about the room like meat. Her head that previously housed those soulful eyes is now lifeless with a telltale burn of a cigarette upon the forehead. I’d made a terrible mistake.
I curse myself for not trusting her. Why am I so suspicious? Why couldn’t I have just listened and protected her? If I had spent my time investigating the crime more than investigating poor Emily, the latest victim, I might have prevented this. I might have found the real culprit.
For the first time in my career, I break down. I reach in my pockets hoping to find a napkin or tissue to cry into, but there’s nothing. All I find is a small box. It’s strange; I can’t think of what it could be.
I pull out the box. It’s a pack of cigarettes, the same I saw in Emily’s drawer; the same used for all the crimes. How did they get in my pocket?
I’m still holding the cigarettes, still completely puzzled when I hear a voice behind me.
“Drop the smokes, Buddy and put your hands on your head.”
I immediately recognize it’s the police.
“I’m a detective. You’re too late; the person who did this has escaped again.”
“A detective, huh? Try telling that to the boys downtown.” He then turns to his men “Let’s bring this sicko in. Cuff him!”
Soon I’m in an interrogation room. I retell my story to the officer who questions me, but I’m still not allowed to leave. They keep insisting that I am not Detective Jeffery Knight but rather Ralph Webster, an escaped mental patient who just murdered Dr. Edds, the psychiatrist who presided over him in the hospital, along with three other members of the Edds family. I tell them of my love for Emily or Patricia or whoever, but they say there is no such girl.
I don’t know what’s happening. I just know I’m innocent.