The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
“You remember the smell of blood, don’t you?”
Reid looked contemplatively down at his hands. They had been haphazardly bandaged with inadequate amounts of gauze and blushed a bright red in places. He’d been in the small windowless interrogation room for hours at this point. They hadn’t been able to crack him, and he smiled like a Cheshire cat.
“’Course you do. Everyone does. Its innate. It’s a survival tactic, knowing the smell of blood. And sitting there right now across from me, you can recall it. I saw the look cross your faces.
Sickly sweet, familiar, warm.”
“Mr. Reid, we can dance like this all night if you want. We aren’t going anywhere until you tell us what happened to Jessica” Detective Bridgeman had had his fill of Reid 3 hours ago.
“Jessica? You don’t really want to know what happened to her. You want to understand why I’m the way I am. I don’t expect you to ever understand it.”
“I understand you’re full of yourself. I understand that Jessica didn’t even register with you. The only reason you remember her name is because we’ve repeated it over and over and we’re going to keep repeating it, because you’re responsible for this. You did THIS.”
Bridgeman knew she had been important to him, but he wanted to illicit a response. He held up a photo of Jessica Miner laying face down in a pool of blood, naked and bruised. She’d been found in her bathroom by police officers after her mother requested a wellness check. She’d been missing for 3 days. 19 years old. Just moved away from home. Her mother’s worst nightmare come to life. He was determined to get answers.
“Jessica. Was. EVERYTHING.” Reid shook with the last word he spoke so hard that his lanky hair fell in front of his face.
Bridgeman knew Reid had grown obsessed with her. They’d found evidence of surveillance and even some of Jessica’s mail in Reid’s car when the warrant finally came through. As well as blood evidence. They had most of the pieces together, but the more disturbing details sat in the pit of Bridgeman’s stomach like a stone. Jessica’s injuries had all the blind rage of a spontaneous act, but from a wider angle, it felt very metered. Planned.
Bridgeman produced a manilla folder from his well-loved laptop case and placed it on the table very slowly. He opened it up, revealing a crime scene photograph. He slid that photo aside revealing the one beneath it and positioned them carefully side by side. He turned the opened manila folder, and the gore that bloomed from it toward Reid and looked at him expectantly.
Reid looked down at the photographs set before him. Each picture was a close-up of a clear glass chess piece. King and queen. Both were spattered with blood.
The queen they’d found lodged in Jessica’s right eye socket; the King was in his car in the center console cupholder covered in Jessica’s blood.
Reid had been sure, dead sure, that Jessica wanted to play. She had been so friendly at the coffee shop. She’d stood behind him in line and when he dropped his 5-dollar bill, she’d tapped him very softly on the shoulder and handed it back to him, her fingers momentarily brushing his. A secret sign.
He followed her back to her workplace, an old used bookstore up on 7th, cheerily named “7th heaven” They were a family owned affair and had sweet little biography for each of their hard-working employees on their website. Her favorite book was Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. When he’d printed her bio page, he circled the word “five” carefully, suddenly knowing it held deeper meaning.
When he followed her home the next week, he noted that she lived in apartment D4. D4, Slaughterhouse-FIVE. Suddenly it clicked. This was an opening chess move. He broke into her mailbox and scrutinized every bill, every mailer, every correspondence. Her dentist office reminded her of an upcoming appointment with a bright yellow postcard. A smiling anthropomorphized tooth had a speech bubble with the date hand-written by a clerk in black ink. Every number, every letter meant something. She had made careful choices, stunning moves that he countered on the board he had set up reverently in a shrine he’d crafted for her on his small kitchen table. It had the 5-dollar bill she’d returned to him, the dental postcard, a copy of her favorite book, and the employee bio he’d printed from the bookstore website. All of this, the police were carefully combing through while Reid tried to figure out how his capture had been part of her plan all along.
“Jessica was everything… but…” Reid’s eyes glistened, and Bridgeman couldn’t tell if it was from excitement or remorse. Likely both.
Reid continued; the arrogance suddenly stripped from his demeanor, his blue eyes turning grey under the harsh fluorescent light.
“She was everything… but she WON.”
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Michelle Joy Gallagher:
This collection of twelve stories and artwork by women is truly a collection of the macabre. Make a reservation for terror and get ready to delve into the deepest, darkest fears of some of the best writers and artists in the fiction game. Leah McNaughton Lederman has collected an anthology of the truly strange… a tome of the weird. Take a seat and order a cup, you’re dining at Café Macabre!
A fascinating story. Loved it.