“Excuse me officer, I would like to report a crime,” a placid female voice breaks the silence that had been present in the police station nearly all day.
I look up from my laptop, slightly startled and vexed as I hadn’t heard the door, or even the bell ring when it opened. My eyes meet her wide grey orbs, which had long trails of smeared mascara beneath them. I couldn’t be sure if it was from the torrential rain storm outside, or her own tears, but I was certain I would soon find out if it was from the latter.
“Yes ma’am, if you want, we can go sit in the back room. I doubt anyone else would venture into this storm unless it was dire, so I won’t be needed out here,” I speak in a soft tone, afraid to spook this young girl.
“That would be nice, thank you,” she replies.
She can’t be more than 18, with her tight jeans and long, stringy hair, wet from the storm. Her dingy sneakers squeak against the linoleum, emitting noises that sound like a pig being slaughtered. I lead her to the back room, the one we use to interview those taken into custody. I offer her a seat, and grab two mugs and fill them with the stale coffee that has been simmering all day. Just as I sit down, I place the mugs before us.
“So ma’am, what seems to be the issue?” I start. It’s cliche cop line, but it’s a nonconfrontational way to get the story and start some discourse.
“Well, to understand the crime, you’ll need some backstory sir,” she looks up at me, almost asking for permission to proceed. I nod at her, silently telling her to go ahead and get on with it.
“Where to start?” she asks herself with an anguished expression on her face. “My name I guess… I’m Nicole Cessca. 17. For the past year and a half I’ve worked at the McDonalds on Donovan Road; it’s a pretty nice establishment. Do you know the place?”
When I nod, she continues.
“Well, after working there for so long, you get to know the regulars pretty well. There are some pretty nice people, who come in everyday whether it be for their lattes or for their muffins. They make small talk, and tell you about themselves. Then they move on, and go about their business. Then you have the creepers, the weirdos, the odd-balls. I had a customer who came in every three days and ordered the Big Mac. It sounds normal right?” Nicole pauses, waiting for me to react.
For a moment I’m apprehensive, wondering where she is going with this.
“Uh, I guess; it sounds pretty normal to me, ma’am,” I reply, hoping she’ll get on with her story.
While I wait for her to proceed, I look down at my rough hands, and admire the gold wedding band, which contrasts nicely with my dark skin. I begin to think about my wife, who is at home making meatloaf tonight. I don’t want to miss it.
“Well how normal is Big Mac where the burger is raw meat? It’s illegal to sell it that way, and every three days he comes back and every three days I deny his order. You’d be surprised with how many people have weird requests. Still, no patrons are as odd as Herbert,” Nicole huffs out.
“Who is Herbert? Is he the reason you’re here, ma’am?” I question, and take ameager sip of the coffee, and immediately choke on it.
“ Are you okay Officer…?” Nicole asks, clearly implying she needs to know my name.
“Yes ma’am, just chokin’. It’s Officer Craig Smith, by the way,” I state.
“Good. Where was I? Oh yes! Herbert Poe. Herbert comes in every day, and tries to talk to me. In my year and a half, he has yet to order a thing. He always starts our conversation the same way ‘Hello my lovely, you are looking scrumptious today.’ From there, he just asks the weirdest questions…. One week, my family and I were on vacation, so I wasn’t at work, and when I got back my boss told me that he came in every day asking for me. My boss said that after my third day of not showing up he threw a tantrum; he said that he thought she was keeping him from me,” Nicole looks up at me, tears in her eyes.
“So are you here to report a stalker, ma’am?” I ask.
This Herbert character sounds like your average, run of the mill psychopath. I’ve dealt with them before, and honestly, there is nothing creepier than the way they look at the object of their obsession. I stare at Nicole, noticing for the first time the red paint under her nails. The red paint appears to be all over her, actually. On her sweater, her jeans, there is even speckles of it in her hair.
“I wish, Craig, but I’m afraid it is a bit more serious than that. Anyway, after a few months of Herbert’s company, I got used to him. I’m not saying that I liked him or anything, but I wasn’t afraid of him. I just assumed that after awhile he’d get tired of my company and leave. Boy, was I wrong. After awhile, he started staying for my whole shift, and he’d even try to walk me out to my car, attempting to hold my hand along the way. Yet it was only the past month that Herbert started acting more aggressive towards me. Two weeks ago, he proposed to me while I was working. After I explained to him that I didn’t even see him as a friend, let alone a romantic suitor, he freaked out. He threw my register from the counter, and broke a table clean in half,” Nicole takes a breath but before she can continue, I interrupt her.
“So is this the crime you would like to report, ma’am? Destruction of property?” I question her.
“Not really, Officer, we are nearing the end of our tale. May I continue?” she queries, and when I nod she goes on with her tale. “For the next week and a half, Herbert didn’t show up. I was relieved of the burden of his company for the first time in a year. Sadly, my relief was short lived. Today Herbert reappeared, and in the worst way possible. It was the end of my shift, and I was heading out to the back of my car when he sprung on me and pinned me down,” at this point, Nicole has started crying. “He brought out a long knife and- oh I can’t go on! It’s too terrible! Officer I can’t tell you, but I MUST! I MUST COME CLEAN! I KILLED HIM, I GRABBED HIS KNIFE AND I KILLED HIM. I DON’T KNOW WHAT CAME OVER ME, SIR! I-I WAS AFRAID HE WAS GOING TO KILL ME AND I JUST DID IT. I can’t go to jail Officer, I have my whole life ahead of me. I have a scholarship to Harvard, and I just have so much left to do,” Nicole finishes.
For a moment I think I’m going to have to take her into custody, but even the thought of it fills me with grief. I think back to being a teenager, with so much of my life ahead, and I just can’t imagine having all of my hopes and dreams taken from me. Even though it was self defense I am certain Nicole would be sent to jail. I suddenly get a crazy idea, “Nicole, where is the body?” I demand.
Nicole hiccups a sob and mutters “My trunk.”
“I need you to drive out to the woods on Elm Street and wait for me while I go buy a shovel. Most importantly, I need you to not tell anyone what we are about to do. Is that possible?” I ask her.
“I know the place,” she responds, and suddenly stands up from the table and leaves the room, giving me a clear view of all the blood on her clothes.
How foolish was I to once believe it was red paint. I pick my phone out of my pocket and dial my wife’s number.
“Hello, Craig? Honey where are you?” my wife’s voice comes over the line.
“You may want to put dinner in the fridge, honey. I’m going to be a little late tonight.”