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The Feeling Afterwards (pt 6)
I pounded my fist on the metal table. Knuckle flinched, but stayed speechless.
“For last time, who is Trudy?”
“She is my ex-wife.” Knuckle said softly.
Finally, I thought. I’d been asking the same question for the past half-hour with no answer.
“And why do you have to pay her and Frank?”
“Whose Frank?” Sheckley asked as he’d suddenly walked in the room with a doughnut in his hand. Knuckle stared at it longingly.
“The guy Knuckle was talking to on the phone. Don’t know much else though.”
I glanced down at my watch. It was 11:30pm. We’d been at this for 2 and half-hours already, and we still didn’t have much information.
Knuckle was beginning to look nervous, and I took that as a good sign. Maybe he’d break soon.
“Mr. Knuckle,” I smiled falsely, hoping to sweet talk some information out of him. “Please tell us, why do you owe Frank and Trudy money?”
Knuckle opened his mouth to answer when the phone rang.
I closed my eyes and sighed. We were so close.
“Ignore that please Bruce, and tell me, why do you owe Frank and Trudy money?”
Knuckle opened his mouth once more, when the phone rang.
Frustration filled me. “ Get the phone Sheckley!”
Sheckley rushed out to get the phone, and I turned to point a finger at Knuckle.
“Alright Knuckle, let me get a few things straight with you…”
Ryan’s head popped out through the doorway.
“Err, Detective Robinson?” I could practically hear the regret in his voice
I threw my hands in the air. These interruptions were making me really disgruntled.
Sheckley grimaced. “ Phones for you. It sounds important.”
Huffing and puffing, I marched over to the phone.
“Yes?” I said in a harsh voice.
“Karen?” a weepy voice whispered.” Its Tess White.”
My mood changed almost instantly. I knew something was wrong.
“Yes? How can I help you?”
“Oh...” Tess voice cracked. She was on the verge of tears.” Jenny is missing. She’s gone! And…”
I could feel my throat closing. Jenny, brave and broken Jenny was missing. “ And what, Tess?”
“There's a mannequin in her place.”
My eyes widened. “ We’re working on it now Mrs. White.”
I smashed the phone down and did something I hadn’t done in years.
I began to cry.
Sheckley was observing me a worried look on his face. He’d thought I’d gone mad. I just shook my head. I couldn’t get weak now. I had to stay strong and figure this out. For Tess…for Jenny.
“ We have to work fast. The Mannequin Murderer has struck again.” My voice was surprisingly forceful for some one who had just been crying.
Ryan gave me a blank look. “ What happened?”
I quickly filled him on everything that’d I just found out.
“ So we have 3 suspects right?” I demanded, more as a statement than a question.
Sheckley nodded. “ Since Jenny is the one kidnapped, I doubt she's the murderer, so we have Tess White, Lauren Samuels and…”
We both looked towards the door that led to the interrogation room which currently held Bruce Knuckle.
“ Well I guess that knocks down a suspect. We’ve been with him since we left the school, so it couldn’t have been him.” I said thoughtfully.” Which leaves Tess White and Lauren Samuels as our two suspects.”
Sheckley went over to the door and grabbed his hat. “ I’ll go over to the Whites to check to make sure no funny business is going on.”
“Fine.” I replied. “I’ll stay here with Knuckle, and I’ll call the Samuels. If there's no answer, I’m going over.”
Ryan answered by slamming the door shut. I crossed over to the phone, but had difficulties pressing the buttons. My hands were cold and clammy with sweat.
Once I’d finally got the number right, I heard the phone rang. My heart beat quickened. The phone rang once more. I began to breathe faster, and the phone rang for a third time.
“Hello?” a pleasant voice said.
I felt a sudden urge to hang up, but stopped myself. With a deep breath, I answered.
“Hello, is this Lauren or Mrs. Samuels that I’m speaking to?”
“Mrs. Samuels. Who may I ask is speaking?”
“Hello, My name is Karen Robinson. I’m a detective. May I please speak to your daughter?”
Not sounding overly concerned she responded, “ Why of course! One moment.”
I could hear the faint sound of footsteps. A door creaked open.
“Lauren?” Mrs. Samuels said, not into the phone.
“I was supposed to give you something, but I can’t remember what…”
“Is it the phone?”
“Oh right! Here you go honey”
I swallowed because my mouth was so dry.
“Hello?” Lauren murmured into the phone.
“Hi Lauren, this is Detective Robinson. What did you do once you left the school?”
“Uh…”Lauren sounding confused. “I came home, did my homework, and now I’m getting ready for bed.”
“ Alright, thanks.” I quickly hung up. If it’s not Lauren, it must be Tess.
Sadness erupted through me. How could it be Tess? How could a mother murder her daughters’ best friend?
I began to contemplate my options. But what motive did Tess have?
That when a sudden thought rushed back to me. “ Believe Tessie.” Jenny voice sang through my head.
So I did. I grabbed my car keys, and rushed out of the station.
My feet pounded on the cement stairs when I realised Ryan had the truck. I’d have to run. Thankfully, I knew the address and it wasn’t too far.
My legs pumped up and down, and I felt beads of sweat run down my face. I had to get there. I had to. Each step sent an electric shot up my leg, causing me to wince. I didn’t stop though, because I couldn’t. I had to keep going. I took a few breaths, but just continued. Everything made sense now. All I had to do was get there in time. Then everyone would be okay.
Once I reached the house, red and brick with a large brown door, I didn’t keep my manners. I pushed open the door and found myself in a large main way. I didn’t have time to admire the decorative paintings though, so I focused on looking for the stairs. I noticed a gap in the wall, and rushed over. The stairs.
On my way up, I ran into another person, but I didn’t even bother to apologise. There’d be plenty of time to apologise later. felt my heart pump faster and faster as I accelerated on each step. I’d reached the top, and call it my sixth sense, but I just knew what door it was.
I pushed it open, gun in hand.
“ Freeze!” I yelled.
“Good Call Detective.”
I nodded is acceptance of the compliment. “ Thanks Sheckley.”
It was 1am, the mystery was solved, and we were both bushed.
Ryan took a sip of his coffee, and then leaned back in his chair. “ How’d you figure it out?”
I smiled. This was the part of the story I was most proud of. “ It clicked in my head after you left. I called the Samuels, and Lauren did answer, so when I hung up, I remembered something. Something Jenny said to me.” I hesitated, hoping I wasn’t being too garrulous.
Sheckley motioned me to continue.
“ Jenny told me to believe Tess. So that’s what I did. Tess told me that Laurens mother had an illness where she couldn’t remember what she was doing. Or what she’d just seen. So I thought, even if Mrs. Samuels did see Lauren with Jenny, she would go to the phone and forget what she saw.”
Sheckley gave a low whistle, impressed by my quick thinking. “ So what was Lauren doing to Jenny?”
I gulped. I’d never forget what I saw. “She had her knocked out on the floor. She had beaten her, because her face was covered in bruises, and her nose looked as if it had been bleeding…” I stopped. I couldn’t believe Lauren had done this to her.
Sheckley raised his eyebrows. I knew he was curious, but he wouldn’t press for more information.
“Well,” I started, knowing I’d have to tell someone sooner or later. “ Lauren was shaving parts of her hair off, and… cutting off her toes.”
Sheckley stared at me in disbelief. “ How many did she…?”
“Only two. Hopefully the doctors will be able to sew them back on.”
“And what about that knife? Was is the murder weapon for Jesse Timbers as well?”
I nodded, and reached in my briefcase for the evidence. “ Yeah. I got the lab to take a look at it. Had some of Jesse’s blood dried on it and everything. As well as Lauren’s fingerprints. She’s our killer.”
Sheckley shook his head in disbelief, and it was silent for a few minutes.
“Hey, what about that footprint?” Sheckley asked.
“Ah, that. It was just a red herring. It was Tess’s footprint. She must have left one when she’d found the body.” I replied quietly.
I took another sip of my coffee, enjoying the caffeine smell and the warmth of the liquid in my mouth.
“So what happened after you went to the Whites?” I asked, curious.
Ryan crossed his arms on the table. It was his turn to tell the story.
“Well, once I got there I immediately knew it wasn’t Tess. She was on the floor crying and she showed me the mannequin in Jenny’s bed. It’s the same type and everything: an exact replica of Jenny and the replica looked like she’d frozen. I tried phoning you a few times, but once I got the radio message that you needed back up, I knew that you’d done something already. So I drove over to the Samuels and, well you know the rest. We arrested Lauren, and although Jenny was knocked out, she was fine. She’s in the hospital now recovering.”
“Is Tess with her?”
Ryan smiled his killer white smile. “ Of course.”
I smiled, and took a final sip of coffee. The suspense and exhaustion of the night filled the air. I was about to get up, when a question popped in my head.
“ So, do we know what the phone call was all about with Knuckle?”
“ Yeah” Sheckley replied. “ Franks is his brother. He owed him a ton of money because he paid for his divorce. He also owed Trudy a lot of money because he apparently cheated her on some deal during their marriage. He couldn’t get the cash with his principle job, so he stole a bit from the school funds and he was trying to quit because he had a great job offer in the town over. He also needed to get away because he could get in a lot of trouble for stealing from school funds.”
I snorted. I knew Knuckle would do something stupid like that. That’s the first impression I had got from him, sleazy and stupid.
I began to stand up, tucking in my chair.
Ryan cocked an eyebrow. “ Where you going?”
“ I need to get some fresh air.” I shuffled over to the door, and softly clicked it behind me.
With my hands in my pockets, I surveyed the neighbourhood our station was located in. It was a nice neighbourhood, with picturesque houses and wallowing trees. Not ever one you would expect a disturbed kid who murdered children would live. I wandered down a few streets, lost in thought of the night’s events. I felt a sudden shiver down my spine, and looked at the building behind me. It was the prison house associated with the station. It’s where we kept people before their trial or for them to settle legal disputes. It’s where Lauren Samuels was right now. I took a deep breath and went inside. I had to talk to her. She had no one, and she was only 18.
I showed my badge to the front desk and they allowed me in. I walked past cell after cell, until I saw a name plate with L. Samuels on it. I peered in through the bars and could see Lauren, pretty and blonde in an orange suit. Her face was red. I knew she’d been crying.
“ Lauren?” I called.
She looked up at me with her big light green eyes. “ What do you want?”
I pondered that for a moment. What did I want?
“I want to know why you did it.”
Her back straightened up a bit. No one had asked her this question yet.
“ Well, Tess told me to.”
I gave her a weird look. “Tess told you to?”
Lauren nodded. “ Yes. She said keeping my anger bottled up was wrong. I had to do something about it. So I did. What angered me more than anything was to see other mothers happy with their children. They’re happy, healthy, alive children. It wasn’t fair. So I took that away from them. I made them feel the pain I did.” Laurens voice was cold. Her green eyes had never looked icier. She scared me.
“ Is that how your baby died? He froze to death?”
Lauren nodded once more. “ I got the mannequins from the store I work at. They had to be perfect. The parents had to feel the pain.”
I turned to leave, but I had one more question. “ Why Jenny?” I asked, curious.
Lauren evilly smirked.
“ I’d gone to Tess for help. And everyday, her daughter came, happy and alive. Loving her mother, her mother loving her. Tess helped, but she caused even more anger. I wanted her to suffer. Her to understand my pain.”
I nodded. I didn’t understand. I never wanted to understand, but my curiosity was still hungry.
“ Why did you kill Jesse first?”
Lauren’s hands shook. “ I didn’t want just Tess to feel pain. Jenny caused pain too. Jesse was her best friend. And the only person she loved besides her mother was Jesse.” Lauren smiled evilly. “ And I took that away. That pain will haunt her forever.”
I gulped. Lauren was a horrible, evil person. Knowing I’d regret it later, I asked one last question.
“ Lauren, if you liked doing this, why are you crying?”
Lauren’s eyes flared with rage. I’d hit another bad spot.
“ Because I don’t get to do it anymore.” Lauren jumped up, she was yelling now. “ BECAUSE OF YOU! I DON’T GET TO RUIN ANY MORE LIVES! THE PAIN WILL NEVER GO AWAY NOW!” tears were streaming down Lauren’s face.
I backed away. That was all I needed to know. Lauren didn’t feel guilt for what she’d done, only mad that she couldn’t do it more. I stepped out of the building and back into the humid night.
On my way back to the station house, I wondered if I should tell Tess that she was partly the reason Lauren thought killing all those children was the right thing to do. Tell her that how much pain she had caused Lauren. A thought crossed my mind. I saw Tess sitting by Jenny in the hospital. Holding her hand, praying that she’d be fine. And I saw Lauren, creepily smiling at the thought of dead children and crushed parents.
And I knew. Love may not be enough to safe a life, but sometimes, its all you need to get through a day. Jenny was loved, and would make it. Lauren wasn’t. Her mother forgot about her, and her son was dead. Lauren needed love, and with out it, she’d lost everything. And with that final thought, I walked down the street feeling an emotion I’d never allowed myself to truly feel.