My little brother Mark is dead. No, don't feel sorry for me. This is the story of how I caught the killer.
I heard muffled voices in the room. I smiled; Harriet had friends over. I opened the door and stepped inside. The smell of booze overwhelmed my nose. Harriet’s shortness made her stand out among the men drinking and playing cards at the table. Harriet turned her head away from the table to flash me her perfect gorgeous smile at me, which means “please don't kill me.” The men at the table didn't even look up as I walked by them to the kitchen where empty beer bottles were strewn everywhere. Along with the bottles was an open bag of Cheesy Poofs. I just sighed and walked past the kitchen into the hallway where my bedroom lied. I opened the door and jumped into my bed, not bothering to take off my clothes.
It was a Tuesday morning in February, and I got up as usual, and stumbled into the bathroom to take a shower in the dark because it’s like an extra ten minutes of sleep. I stumbled out of the shower to see the kitchen that was clean and shiny. Still tired, I shuffled into the room to find Harriet making a pot of coffee.
“Want some?” she asked as she moved the coffee pot towards me, almost spilling it onto the ground.
“Uh... sure.” She grabbed two mugs from the cupboard above the coffee maker, and poured the steaming hot coffee into the mugs. Just the smell of it woke me up a little. After I drank more than half my coffee Harriet dared to ask me about last night.
“So.... how was it?”
“Ugh,” I grunted in response.
“So no closer?”
“Ugh,” I groaned again.
I grabbed my book bag, which was hanging on the back of my chair, the usual place, and headed to class.
The second I walked in the door, after class, Harriet yelled from her room,“YOU HAVE A VOICEMAIL!”
I picked the phone off of the wall and pressed 1234 to unlock my voicemail box.
“Hello, this is the police department. We are sorry to inform you that we have closed the investigation of your brother’s death. There were just not enough leads.”
The phone clicked in my ear and the line went dead. The phone suddenly felt like it was made of lead. I dropped the phone and the little cord saved it from touching the ground. I sat down on the hardwood floor. It had been nice to know they were at least trying. I inhaled deeply to keep the rage from spilling out of me. Harriet poked her head out from behind the door.
I made one more call from the floor, to my Mom. She picked up the phone after five rings.
“Hey, honey. Are you okay?”
“Well, sometimes you worry me, calling at this hour.”
“Mom. It’s three in the afternoon.”
“Oh, right. Time zones.”
“Uh, Mom? The police... closed the investigation.”
“Mom? Are you still there?”
I hear a slight exhale in response.
“I was wondering where Mark worked and what his address was.”
As she repeated the name of the brewery where he worked as a bartender, I scribbled furiously on a napkin that had been left on the floor the other night.
“And the address?”
“Oh. He didn't tell me.”
I waited until she hung up. A couple seconds later the phone buzzed, telling me to hang up.
“Hey. You okay?” Harriet said, hearing the phone.
“I’ll just let you be then.”
When I finally stood up I went to the kitchen and by habit I poured water into the red teapot and turned the stove on.
Then, with a warm cup of chamomile tea in my hand I decided that if the police weren't going to catch the killer then I was. I abruptly turned on my heel and walked into my room. Harriet didn't check on me again.
An open suitcase and duffel bag was at my feet and a half empty closet in front of me. I ran to my desk and opened the drawer on the bottom left and lifted the lid off of the princess pencil box that I got when I was five. I grabbed the wad of emergency cash and tossed it into the bag.
I wrapped a scarf around my neck as I stepped out of the taxi and into the wind. I walked the few steps to the door of the train station. People surrounded me as I made my way to the ticket counter.
“One ticket to Milwaukee please,” I said as I set a fifty and a twenty on the counter.
I boarded the train and found my way to seat 10B. I sat down on the blue printed seat. The heat of the train made the car stuffy and uncomfortable. I put the earbuds in my ears in an attempt to fall asleep after a sleepless night.
I finally arrived at the beer capital of the world. I breathed it all in... and then a couple seconds later I coughed up a lung full of smoke. I stuck my hand out into the street to hail for a taxi. One pulled up instantly. I opened the door and slid into the fake leather seats.
“Water Street Brewery,” I said reading off of the napkin.
I stepped in to the brewery, which was made of mostly wood, making it look old-fashioned. I walked up the the counter. A bartender approached me.
“How can I help you today, miss?”
“I was looking for my brother, Mark, he works here. I was suppose to meet him here.”
“He’s been out for at least a few weeks.”
“Oh. Do you know where I could find him?”
“I don't know which apartment is his, but it's the building on Palmer street.”
"Do you want something to drink?" He asked with a hint of hope in his voice.
"No. I don't drink."
The building looked prosaic with it’s red brick and concrete steps. The mailbox in the entryway was grey and fading but I could still read the names.
"Lee Baker, Peter Edwards, Diane Ross, Linda Brown," I said reading the names on each mailbox. I continued reading the names until I saw "Mark Parker, 23." My brother. I bounded up the steps two at a time to reach the wood door of room 23. I grabbed the brass handle but was hesitant to twist it. I finally turned my wrist and pushed open the door. The room was small, just a room with a kitchen nook attached to it and a closed door that I assumed belonged to the bathroom. There was a bed pushed up against the wall. The room was like a miniature version of the building, dull and boring. As I stepped in the room I noticed the hardwood was creaky and rotting. There was a couch in the middle of the room facing a blank wall, no TV. His bed was messy and unmade and the kitchen looked like it was never used.
I walked over to the couch and sat down on its red fabric. There was one pillow on the couch and I picked it up and just breathed it in. It was a scent so distinct it was almost impossible to forget, lemongrass and sage with a tint of musk. I started to cry into the pillow, making it smell like me.
I found myself awakened by the sun streaming through the window. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. The pillow was still damp from where I cried myself to sleep. Just then, someone opened the door. I turned my head to face the intruder. I expected to see a robber or a police man but instead I saw a man in his early twenties in a ripped up varsity jacket. He turned to me revealing a small tattoo that looked like a tribal symbol on the left side of his neck.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
I just stared at him. He looked sad, like he knew Mark, like he still couldn't grasp that he was dead.
“I’m his sister” He nodded in understanding. He then backed out of the doorway.
I examined the place again, there were no personal items. Nothing to remember him by.
I started towards the door and when I got within a few feet from it I noticed there was a key hanging next to the door. I picked it up, off of its place on the wall and examined it.
It was a silver key that looked old like it had been used for many years. It had the numbers 23 engraved on it. It was the key to his mailbox.
I found the mailbox number 23 and unlocked it. Mail practically flew out at me. I grabbed the stack and took it to his apartment. I shuffled through the mail trying to find something useful. Finally I saw an unmarked envelope. I used the letter opener that I found in the mailbox to slice the top off of the envelope. In the envelope was a folded piece of paper. It was an RSVP.
I’m glad that I can make it to your party on the 16th. I might be a little late like 5:30 maybe. I will probably take a taxi to your house. I’m so sorry that I left you in the alley earlier just I couldn't pick you up.
At the bottom of the page there was the mark that I saw on the man’s neck. The letter was a code. It was easy to crack: Meet at 5:30 on the 16th in the alley and take a taxi.
I kept quiet, the footsteps echoed off of the cobblestone in the alley. They talked in hushed voices that I could barely make out from my hiding place, squished between a dumpster and a wall. The wind swept through the alley which filled my nose with the scent of rotten eggs and spoiled milk. I choked back the urge to throw up. The voices stopped, the faint sound of a siren made its way to my ears. I inched along the back of the dumpster to get closer to the unrecognizable voices. I set my foot down. The snap of a twig made my breath catch. The sound of footsteps got louder and louder as they came my way. I stopped breathing. I felt the confinement of the small gap. I tasted my sweat that was dripping down my face. I trained my eyes on the opening just three feet away. My eyes started to prick, and a tear escaped my eye. I blinked furiously.
I saw a man standing in the opening wearing a ripped varsity jacket and jeans with the tribal tattoo on his neck. I stared up at him, terrified. All sound escaped my ears. He took one look at me and his face relaxed. I held his gaze. He was the man at the apartment. He nodded his head slightly and walked away from me. I heard another siren and the people scattered.
One women stayed, her short blond hair flew in the air. She walked towards the dumpster, not seeing me. A couple feet away she narrowed her eyes. I stayed still; she saw me. Her heels seemed incredibly loud as she strode towards me. I stepped out from behind the dumpster to face my attacker. A gun was at my waist before I could even get out of the shadows.
“Who are you and what do you want,” her voice was like a snake, cold and sneaky.
“Hi I-I’m Hannah, Mark’s brother, a-a-and I-I saw the letter and came here to find out what it was.”
“Okay then, come with me.”
She held the gun under her coat as we got in the cab. The driver didn't even notice. We arrived at a warehouse 20 minutes later. As soon as the cab driver pulled away from the warehouse the woman put a rag over my nose and mouth. The last thing I remember was a sweet smell.
I woke up in a blank white room with one wooden door. I was tied to a chair. I had to wait a few minutes for someone to open the door. When they finally did I got a good look at her. It was the woman from before, she was dressed in a pair of black dress pants and a white dress shirt. Since her collar was folded down I saw the tribal tattoo on the left side of her neck. A short second later a man walked in.
“Who is she?” The man asked
“Hannah, Marks brother. She figured out the code.”
“That code wasn't even a code.” The man said with a sneer.
“How do we know that she is his brother?”
“Just look at her, they’re practically identical”.
They slowly approached me.
I sat still watching them. They got closer and closer to me until they were three feet away. The woman's cold eyes watched me. The man however looked sad. Then they asked questions.
“Was Mark your brother?”
“Did you know about his private life?”
“Are you sad?”
“Yes.” The man stopped asking me questions.
“Did Mark ever try to hurt you?”
“Did he ever get mad and try to break things?”
“No.” The questions were getting insulting.
“Did he ever act strange around anyone in particular?”
“No.” Tears started to appear in my eyes.
“Camille, stop.” The man said clearly shaken up from her questions also. She continued to stare at me as if I was her prey.
“CAMILLE! SHE WAS HIS SISTER!” She backed off and looked at the ground in defeat. They left the room shortly after.
I was hungry, uncomfortable, and terrified. I waited and waited for the door to open again, but it never did. That night I cried myself to sleep.
I was awakened by the creak of the door. A figure stepped out from the hall and into the room. I could only see a silhouette. As it got closer I saw that it was a woman. The same one as before. I stayed as still as I could as she approached me. Her footsteps were as quiet as a mouse.
She was so close to me that I could feel her breath on me.
"I know you're not asleep," she whispered slyly, "When you sleep you don't hold your breath." I didn't realize I was until she told me. I quickly released my breath. Her laughter sent shivers went down my spine.
"You know," she said quite simply
"I don't know anything," I said in defeat.
"Yes, you do," she said, placing her hands on either side of my thighs. Her eyes piercing through my forehead.
I said nothing.
"The way you were staring at me," she said in disgust. Then out of the blue she started to cry. Her tears dripped down her cheeks and onto my lap.
"I didn't mean to," she croaked between sobs.
She collapsed onto the floor. Shuddering. I closed my eyes. She was the killer.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," she repeated over and over like a prayer.
I'm not going to tell you how I got out of that place; I'll leave that to your imagination. My little brother Mark is dead and that was how I caught the killer.