An Unknown Man: Mystery Short Fiction By David Connor
David Connor, author of An Unknown Man, has received honorable mentions from Glimmer Train and Allegory Magazine. His work has appeared in Shadows and Light Anthology. Currently, he is a full-time, disabled writer.
After Harris’ former partner, Officer Hassett, clears the crime scene, having the body sent–no, whisked away–to the medical examiner’s office, having any blood wiped up that may have spilt from the single “GSW to the head”, after he reports it over radio to your boss, your boss lifts his gaze from his papers long enough to bark over the phone at Harris, who speeds to Hillside, single warning light flashing. Motive, Detective Harris writes upon quick arrival, is unclear, which is understandable, for the body isn’t even present.
You were in the academy with Harris. Squinting through smoke rising like a swami’s snake from the cigarette clenched between his fingers, he vowed to make the streets safer any way he could. They are all guilty, he said; to be even near the crime scene is to be guilty.
Some of that initial evidence gathered by the two cops is “lost” in the stacks at Two Police Plaza, or so the rumor goes.
Funny, how Harris and Hassett are so close to Hillside when it happens. It isn’t all that funny to Police Chief Constance, who stumbles upon something in their investigation, just as they are about to start interviewing, that causes the sweat stains under his armpits to broaden into pools. What that something is, well, it is never divulged to you when Harris and Hassett are removed from the case, even though you are assigned to it, with all its warts and scars, in the wake of their dismissal.
And you may never find out. Some of that initial evidence gathered by the two cops is “lost” in the stacks at Two Police Plaza, or so the rumor goes. As it is, you are now stuck trying to solve a case of what looks like murder, going over a well-trodden crime scene with little else besides a cop’s imagination, and the words of possible witnesses who all share one trait: mental illness.
The staff, and the residents, of Hillside, the residential house where the crime took place, clear out at around midnight on November 20th so you can peruse the spot where the body was found by Officer Hassett. The stack of newspapers, the hacky-sacks arranged like a pyramid and the Homer Simpson doll, all on the side table in the foyer, which is situated right next to the kitchen, are to be left as found, including everything else. In agreement with Stefanie Beadle, the house manager, you smile, showing her teeth stained by chewing tobacco.
Holding an empty cup to spit in, you now stand at the entranceway to the kitchen. Light from above swamps the area, drowning everything in it. A young man, teaching at a Boston University program, successful by all accounts despite his recurring fits of psychosis, was recently murdered and nobody has a clue as to why. Photos of him have made their way around the precinct: red, curly hair, a smile that defied the nature of his existence, which was pills every day that slowed him down, made him fat, and doctors who prodded him like he was a cut of meat and they the butchers. You drop your head, eyes crinkling closed, trying to feel his pain.
In the process, the light switch comes to gleam such that it burns into your mind. The one thing that Chief Constance says, thus concurring with Hassett, is that the body was found early in the morning, while it was still dark outside, when the interior lights were all off. Stepping to the switch, you flip it down.
Darkness presses on all sides. Moonlight comes to lurk through a dining room window. As soon as it appears, it vanishes behind cloud cover. You recall reading your horoscope on the day after the murder, how it said that the moon that night would be slightly past new. That made the night before the actual full moon, rendering the crime quite visible, if said moon had not been blocked by clouds at that moment. You hope to find out about that, but until then, you decide that the murder can be imagined like this:
Standing in the foyer, about a foot from the entrance to the kitchen, Tom Everett, preparing to go to bed, turns off the lights, becoming either bathed in darkness or limned in moonlight. About to climb the expansive spiral staircase to his bedroom, he heads through the foyer, until someone creeps up on him, that someone probably emerging from the computer room as it has a flimsy door to the outside. (It has to be an outsider who did this, you think; another resident would be too empathetic to his plight, yeah?) That someone, that murderer, cocks his gun and shoots him in the head, running away into the silence of an early Medford, Massachusetts morning.
You recall reading your horoscope on the day after the murder, how it said that the moon that night would be slightly past new.
After a pause, you flip up the switch. Blades of illumination scrub scalp and skin with their sharpness, like the bristles of a metal brush. Tom Everett, Tom Everett. You shake your head at the waste of a life.
Motive: unclear. You sit behind your desk, tapping a pen against your front teeth, thinking.
“Detective, have you begun to interview?” booms Lieutenant Drinkwater. In the question there is a hint of an unhinged man, one who would not mind sweeping his own desk free of all the clutter–coroner reports, eye witness statements–of vanquished lives. He has just been assigned from Vice to replace Lieutenant Bastille, the supervisory officer who oversaw Harris and Hassett.
“I’m waiting on Reginald Phillips. I should meet him soon.”
Grunting, Drinkwater wheels on his feet and storms away, barking at an officer to get him a coffee. The officer does so, scrambling like eggs.
Then from a corner slinks Detective Weiner. “Hey, your man is here,” he announces. He asked to help out on this case, but with his shifty eyes, you made it clear, in a considerate way, that one cop would intimidate the possible witnesses, who were the mentally ill, the disabled, far less than two. He agreed to stay away.
Now you eye him, eventually nodding to him, and stand, leaving the squad room.
Striding down the unadorned hall, pushing open the door to the interview room, a young man–hunched before a foldable metal table, rubbing his cheek as if he’d been punched–comes into view. You enter, closing the door behind you with a muffled click.
“I know it’s late…”
“Gotta get some sleep.”
“Right, just… Would you like a glass of water?”
Reginald Phillips shakes his head, his gaze fixated on his now folded hands before him. You take a seat, pulling up close, your thick waist pressing against the side of the table, and take out a pad of paper.
“Ok, Reginald, let’s go over this quickly so you can get that sleep. When we spoke over the phone, you said you were in the TV room, talking to Tom…”
“I’m not a kid, Tom.” Reginald clicks the remote, his eyes never leaving the screen. Boisterous reality TV personalities cavort across the expanse of a resort in the Mediterranean.
“Dude, I’m just saying that you’ve been on that couch for five-”
“So what do you want me to do? Sit in my room, staring at the walls?”
“Reggie, I know TV is a treatment issue-”
“Oh, ok, and you have no treatment issues?”
Tom Everett can’t help but sigh as he rubs his worry lines. Slowly, he turns his back on the TV room, on his friend. He is about to schlep upstairs, when Reginald bolts from the couch and stalks towards him, his eyes ablaze with the fire of the “unduly” confronted.
Breathing deeply, Tom, his own eyes somber, watches his friend change his mind, pivot around him, stomp through the foyer, pound his way up the spiral staircase, and then, arriving at the landing, he watches him come to a stand-still, leaning against the bannister.
From atop the staircase, Reginald stares down at him. Plans on what to watch tomorrow after his shift at Safeway will end coalesces in his mind. So clouded with anticipation is he, he almost misses the expression on Tom’s face.
And yes, Tom stares back at him, believing, according to Reginald, that Reginald’s game is a losing game, one that will hollow him out by the drill bit of a life spent in front of the TV. Whatever, he thinks. He doesn’t know everything. He sees Tom glance at the side table, where the stack of newspapers, the pyramid of hacky-sacks, the Homer Simpson doll and a coiled rope all lay. Letting fall from his distracted hands a crumpled letter, Tom’s gaze finally narrows on the rope. His mind whirls. He crinkles his brow in confusion and fear. He feels his whole body fill up with emotions, heavy like sand, making him ungainly. His mind plummets down the shaft bored by his mounting terror, and his consciousness crashes against his instinct, both breaking into a million fragments. The rope, coiled on the side table, seems to glare at him. The crumpled letter now lays on the wooden floorboards, unseen by Tom, lost.
From atop the staircase Reginald’s eyes widen in comprehension: His friend is struggling, though why he doesn’t know. At that moment, he’s not sure if he wants to, being still upset from the argument.
Then the lights die. Reginald, with decisiveness, has turned them off from upstairs. Replacing it is the full moon, presiding like a priest at a funeral, its light blue rays crossing the boundary of the house’s windows, touching Tom’s shoulder…
Just long enough, Reginald thinks, for him to grab the rope and…
You finish jotting down Reginald’s dying thought.
“I think he did that, but I was going to bed, remember?”
“Well, you assumed several things about Tom’s mental state, which is why-”
“I was just working off his facial expressions and also my knowledge of him. Anyway, I flipped the lights off after seeing him looking so…” Reginald drops his head, stares at his folded hands.
“How did you feel at that moment?”
Now fidgeting with a piece of gum stuck to the side of the table, he says, “Well, we had never argued before, not like that, so I wasn’t too sure how to feel. Part of me was, I guess, mad, and part of me was confused. And maybe I was also a little glad: I love my TV, and had plans to come back downstairs in an hour, after Tom had gone to bed, to watch some more. But I know I shouldn’t.”
“And you said the moon was out.”
“Yeah, I think.”
“Let’s discuss that.”
Interrupting the talk is a hard knock at the door. Standing from the table, barreling across the small interview room, throwing open the door, you now eye Drinkwater, who juts his bulk forward, filling the doorframe. Face to face with not just a fellow cop but your brand new supervisor, you pull your irksomeness at the interruption back into the pit of your raging indignation. Indignation, for when victims’ last moments are ones of pain, hatred for the offender takes over, and you focus even more on the case, and on presenting a solid face to Drinkwater.
“Detective, Adriane Lynn is here,” says the Lieutenant, gazing over your shoulder at Reginald. “Looks like it’s going to be a hell of a night.”
Inside the interview room, Adriane Lynn, his face drawn, sits at the metal table, gazing up at you. His fingers do an interesting ballet of intertwining. He’s fidgety, clearly. Your notebook idles in your own unmoving hand. Sitting across from him, silent, your detective eyes shift back and forth, taking him in.
“I saw Reginald Phillips just leave,” he says.
“I had a few questions for him.”
“Well, we’ll get to that. For now, just tell me of the night of Tom Everett’s death. Consider his mental states as you conceive of them and anything else you can think of.”
Adriane begins tapping his thumbs on the table, a whistle forming on his lips. You scrawl, sudden casualness betrays his underlining nervousness?
Putting the pen and pad down, you mutter, “Ok, let’s go to the night in question…”
In Hillside’s kitchen, Adriane whips up a cup of tea, the steam from the kettle trailing past his face. He hears a door close, which causes him to shuffle over to the kitchen’s open entranceway and then peer across the foyer. There, he sees Tom Everett meandering from the computer room. Head down, he seems to search the wooden floor as if the meaning of life is inscribed on the boards. Suddenly, abruptly, he then stops in the middle of the foyer. The actor, Adriane Lynn, ducks behind the corner of the kitchen, continuing to watch him. As it is unclear exactly what Tom is doing, and for that matter, what he himself is doing, Adriane assumes the BU teacher is conceiving of a new story, one he will write and most likely get published in a small magazine.
The reason he is interested in Tom’s artistic success unrolls for you like a red carpet lining his memory:
“Never mind,” said the casting director, “We’ll try yet another choice for you”. Adriane Lynn’s muse, at the outset, failed to snuff out a fire in his mind that burned so hot it melted the mental defenses he erected against rejection, and after building a conflagration out of scripts in his tinder box of an LA apartment, he was carted to Hillside for treatment for suicidality. Once there, they almost convinced him to give it up, the acting.
Now watching Tom stare at the wall, Adriane renters the kitchen, pours another cup of tea, pads back into the foyer, and clears his throat. He’s smiling.
“Here you go, man.”
With a tentative smile of his own, Tom takes it, nodding thanks. “What is it?”
Shaking his head, he says, “Oh boy, I have writing to do tonight. I should probably-”
“No, no, just have some. It’ll relax you into writing,” says Adriane Lynn.
And so he sips, dragging from out of his pocket a crumpled letter, holding it tightly. Standing there amidst the silence, Tom, still gripping the letter, lands his gaze on Adriane and says conspiratorially, “I just finished my first article for The Boston Globe.” He winks, stuffing the letter back into his pocket as if forgotten for the moment, a look of utter glee breaking free in his eyes.
Adriane doesn’t know what to say, save to back up a step, encouraging Tom with quick movements of the hand to drink up. Drink up, my friend.
Time slips past them, like swimming in molasses.
Preternaturally still, Adriane watches him try to fight off the fluttery closing of his eyes. He watches as Tom almost falls into a seat in the foyer; he catches him, though, placing his own tea cup down to do so.
“Maybe you should just do that writing tomorrow,” he comments, easing him into a chair.
“But I have another deadline…”
“They’ll understand,” he says, smiling, shrugging his shoulders. Adriane glimpses, out of the corner of his eye, Reginald–inside the TV room, which nestles next to the foyer–turn up the volume on the Sony. Tom’s eyes spring open, and he mumbles to himself as much as to anyone else, “He needs to slow down on that.” As he stands and strides toward Reginald, the failed actor imagines Tom, brimming with energy from what looks to him like an upcoming confrontation with his friend, assuaging those nerves by writing more, and doing so tonight no less. He’ll probably publish by the end of the week whatever he pens. Yeah, probably.
Adriane hesitates a moment. As Tom and Reginald argue, he makes for the staircase, reluctantly going to bed.
Pen careening across the page, you jot down all impressions of the case that Adriane’s story gives you, even the textures he is trying to hide, like his suspected true motive for giving him the Sleepytime. “When was that, Mr. Lynne?”
“Around… 11:55pm? The only thing after that, after I went to my room and got into bed, that is, that I noted, was the loud banging sound coming from downstairs, like a gunshot almost.” He added quickly, “But I don’t know anything about that other than what I just told you.”
Your eyes still shift back and forth, but faster now, driven by commandeering thoughts and impulses. A lone question stands, one molded from the calloused hands of experience. Placing down the pen, you ask him, “What films have you been in, Adriane?”
“Well… just a short, but it won an award at the Arkansas State Film Festival.”
“Big festival, that is?”
“Well… not exactly,” he says, glancing about the interview room, unable to settle his eyes.
“And Tom Everett, he was a pretty good writer?”
“Yes, somewhat. I mean, he publishes a lot–published, that is–but I never really got into his work.”
“Just another talentless hack making it, right?”
You lean back, letting the silence become a magnet, finally saying, “That’ll be all, Mr. Lynn.”
After releasing Adriane, after a minute alone in the interview room, you stride down the hallway, notebook in hand, eyes searching the squad room. Empty desks lined up without partitions look like hunched animals needing to be fed.
Spotting Drinkwater, you cross the room until standing just before the man. Looking into his squinty eyes, the words spill forth from you, “I think I like Lynn. Jealousy is always a good motive. It’s just that…”
Stomping up to the two of you, Detective Weiner, his suit jacket creased from sitting at his desk too long, barks, “Sheila Blackburn is here.”
Slowly turning to him, you say, “They all arrived in a line?” A smirk crawls across your face, relieving tension.
“Actually, after you spoke to Phillips, I called all the residents here that had been at the house that night. I thought I’d simplify it for you.”
That smirk vanishes. “I can do my job, Detective.”
“Yeah, but after landing this case from a bunch of what I assume, what we all assume, are crooked cops like Harris, Hassett and Bastille, I figured you could use a little help sorting through it all.”
You stumble on your own sense of fair play. It is manifested as a lump in the throat. Historically, this lump has kept you from “swallowing” most of your cases and thus hiding evidence in the darkness of the gut. True, you didn’t close many, and truly needed to–the help is appreciated, if not welcome. So muttering to him, “Thanks,” you grip your notebook in your hand and trail through the herd of desks to the interview room, to Sheila Blackburn.
Before the door, you pause, spitting Copenhagen-infused spit into your cup, thinking. According to her file, which is rife with misdemeanor arrests, Sheila makes a habit of playing with the truth, kicking it around like a cat tosses to and fro a ball of string. It could turn ugly, misleading information driving you farther and farther away from the culprit of the murder. You jot in your pad, it is a murder, right?
Hell, maybe not. At both interviews so far, each witness has commented on, or described, how troubled Tom was, or at least how upset he could become. Yes, you think, he had been under a lot of stress, his whole career culminating in how well he wrote for The Boston Globe at that exact moment, a perfect storm of letters brewing in his ambitious little heart. Yet according to Adriane, Tom, having grinned about inevitably publishing with The Globe, was also able to offer a lighthearted smile when taking the proffered cup of Sleepytime. Those two moments of happiness, what to make of them? Sometimes, or so it goes, those troubled, very troubled, will offer a false front. You, having lost a mother to suicide, know that that belief is the actual falsity. No, it was a murder, for suicide does not come to those who can still smile.
It was murder. And maybe Sheila Blackburn can enlighten you on the situation, seeing as how she is the only possible witness who does not live at Hillside, and as such, might play a much different role in the incident.
“No, I just tear the tickets. I don’t work the register, or even sweep up the crap off the floor. Just tickets,” says Sheila, her jaw stamping her words as if they were little sheets of metal on a conveyor belt.
“But you did rip Tom Everett’s ticket, right?”
She leans back, kicks out her feet in front of her, saying, “Yeah, damn jerk.”
You flinch, saying, “Why that, Ms. Blackburn?”
“Oh hell, he thinks he’s so great. But I know how to handle myself. Every time he gives me that wide-eyed look, I just sting him with an insult, like a bee, like a damn hornet.”
“I take it you didn’t like him.”
“’Didn’t like him’, now isn’t that nice?” Her smile is pulled tight, making it look more and more like a sneer. “Isn’t that nice, indeed? Let me tell you something about proper old Tom Everett…”
A coiling line of customers before her, Sheila, teeth clenched, hardly makes eye contact when she rips a movie ticket. She doesn’t care about customer service, about anything. She has savings, a good amount of it from her father’s passing (fifteen thousand dollars, to be exact), and to hell with what Hillside wants from her, that “attitude of gratitude.” She isn’t totally in their care; she doesn’t have to do everything they say.
Looking forward to ripping that final ticket and getting the hell out of there, Sheila is exasperated to see that the last customer is Tom Everett. Overhead lights haloing him, an unopened letter in his hand, he approaches her and murmurs, “Aren’t you in extended community, you know, from Hillside?”
Pointing a toothpick at him she pulls from between her lips, she grabs his ticket and mutters, “Yeah, three.” As he turns around, she watches him wander into theatre four.
She hears that he is writing a review for The Boston Globe, some article that might land him a consistent gig with them. Well, of course, she thinks, his parents are rich, and he knows people, and he was born into it. Even though Sheila grew up without much, she also understands that despite that fact, or perhaps because of it, she has the heart of someone who should be famous–even though she doesn’t really want fame (money, yes). If she ever has it, though, fame, she’ll change the way Hollywood, TV, publishing, or music does things, rewarding those who have nothing with everything, and those with everything, like Tom, nothing better than the nose-bleed section at her screenings, readings, or shows.
But the rich, they just keep getting richer, and the “ticket-tearers” keep tearing tickets.
It is just about then, after Tom’s eyes have become downcast, after he has turned from Sheila, that the lights in both theatres three and four dim, and the movies begin to play. Tom, still in the wrong theatre, will miss the beginning of Bad Influences, might even screw up his review. Well, well, well, some people aren’t meant to be elite, she thinks.
Leaving the interview room, standing dead cold in the hallway, staring past the walls, you scrawl in your notebook, each witness seems to have an itchy trigger finger, some more than others: Reginald—the confronted, Adriane—the jealous artist, and now Sheila—the bitter, resentful, impoverished one. What in God’s name do I do?
You, tired and flummoxed, leave the hallway and trundle to your desk. Running a finger along battered gums, into the waste basket plunks a dollop of Copenhagen, your mouth still swimming in gritty bits of it. Sitting, you open the bottom desk drawer and pull out a bag of Brach’s hard candy, popping them in. The sound of crunching is like rounds being fired from a gun.
You reread your notebook. Each witness seems to have an itchy trigger finger… According to the only official report by Harris and Hassett, it is a murder, no doubt–“GSW to the head” they wrote. But they were removed from the case for suspicion of corruptness, and you know that Harris bent the rules to his favor at the academy, so there’s that. According to recent rumor, too, there is some other filing, some other piece of evidence that can shed light on this case. Police Chief Constance claims he handed over everything he got from Bastille, everything he could find. But knowing Bastille, Harris and Hasset, it’s probably a deep hole they dug in records, in the burying of something exculpatory–if the rumor is true, that is.
Crooked cops, even the ones just suspected of it–you hate them enough to throw a Hail Mary. Grabbing your proverbial shovel, you stand up, hearing your old knees pop, and head for the exit.
In the deepest trench of Two Police Plaza, among the ventilated stacks, a box of evidence, having been removed from the crime scene at Hillside, stares at you with its near-emptiness. Not tough to do, for it contains just a single casing from a Beretta. Rubbing your eyes, about to turn around, you think you see something behind the box, crammed against the back of the shelf. Fumbling with it, it chaffs the skin. A length of rope, is it? Didn’t Reginald describe Tom staring at a length of rope before he ascended the spiral staircase, right after their argument? Yes, he did–but you shake your head in dismissal. To what ends would anybody have needed it, especially to kill someone?
You leave the Cold Cases room, wandering up and down the underground hallway, thinking about rope. Stop. The fact of this case, the murder of a schizophrenic who was making it big, rises in your mind like the Phoenix. A schizophrenic making it big. It’s big itself. You need to crack this.
Back through the door, into the guts of Cold Cases, you reenter, look more diligently, and stumble upon something, a folder whose contents are, soon seen, not only situated behind the box of evidence, but situated behind a blue wall of silence. “It may be… There could have been… In speculation…” At first dismissing it as inconsequential, a realization joins the most tragic fact of this case–a brood, a flock of thought forming: This one of three reports within the folder, scoured clean of certainty and conclusiveness, serves as the cops’ initial findings from Tom Everett’s crime scene investigation. It was filed by Lieutenant Bastille, placed behind a near-empty box of evidence, so as to be present, in theory, at least, but concealed–just like the rope, you think. You read through it again, one of the three reports of Harris’ and Hassett’s, your forehead wrinkling at the part that states that Tom, in addition to being shot, was also “possibly” strangled. By a goddamn length of rope.
The second report by the ME reiterates this.
Still staring at it, you write in your pad, God, this is really strange. Shot and strangled?What the hell happened?
And then you recall how each witness described Tom as having a troubled expression on his face. Even Sheila said that his eyes were downcast after she ripped his ticket. Though Tom tried to hide it, at least when he was not in direct conflict with someone, he was definitely processing something difficult that night. Was it caused by his irate friend, Reginald, with his desire to indulge his TV addiction unfettered? Adriane, the jealous, failed artist? The bitter Sheila? Was it the fact that he was the only successful resident of Hillside, and as such, was perhaps tired of carrying all of their animosity, latent or otherwise, around with him? Did he kill himself from the burden of it?
It seemed such a distant possibility back when you considered his grin, the one he showed to Adriane concerning the tea and The Boston Globe, but now…
Now you read the cops’ and the ME’s buried reports again, finding nothing additional, however. It is when the folder shines dully from an automatic overhead that the presence of the third report within it collapses like a star into a black hole; so you grab it, that third report.
It is not, in fact, a report but a crumpled letter, stating this: “Dear Professor Everett: Due to your failing James Hassett, a mentally disabled student in your Writing and Ethics class, the university is forced to request your resignation. Even though we are aware you did try to help him, he was to be passed, per an agreement with his father, which you knew of.” Now an image in your mind blazes to life and it all makes sense: A young man, his career sunk, grips a crumpled letter he’d received from his boss. He stands in the foyer of his residential house until all are asleep, the lights turned off, the moon casting blueish-white beams through the dining room window. (How else could he have seen what he was doing?) The moonlight’s translucence is like a bolt of sheer satin, ephemeral, inviting, and its immanent disappearance behind cloud cover will be his demise. In darkness, you have been told, psychosis intensifies. But before that, with the blueish-white beams slanting through the dining room window, the young man grabs the rope he eyes and makes of it a noose, hanging it from the thick pipe that runs along the length of the ceiling. Just as the moon slides behind cloud cover, plunging the whole first floor of Hillside into darkness and he into the beginnings of psychosis, Tom indulges an impulse: He goes through with it. He hangs himself, and his body, ultimately too heavy for the rope, snaps free, crashing onto the floor, making the gunshot-like sound Adriane heard.
It is a sound loud enough to draw to the scene Officer Hassett, who, it will be said later by Chief Constance, is skulking somewhere close by. You now understand that that is because revenge for his son’s failure festered in his heart. He enters the house, coming to kneel before Tom as the corpse of him lies on the floor, a noose around his neck—yes, that now dead mentally ill guy who gave his son an F. The father, silencer twisted onto his piece, shoots him in the head. By the body’s side, he places the spent casing of a Beretta, but not the Beretta itself (an atypical service piece among other things), making of Tom Everett a murder victim, denying him the proper closure he deserves.
Hassett then calls to have the body whisked away, then, after such is completed, he radios in the crime to Lieutenant Bastille, who calls for Harris to go to the scene. Together, they write it up twice, the first time accurately, if vague, the second time deceptively. Harris’ fledgling need to be honest is squashed by Hassett’s desire to remain free. They will hide the accurate report, bury it deep, for destroying it could create tempting clues as to its existence. It’ll hide in plain sight.
Exhaling, shoulders slumping, you turn from the Cold Cases room, about to meander through the underground halls, about to head back to the streets. Stop. Stand before the initial, near-empty box of evidence. Think.
A schizophrenic making it big. Such success could have done this country some good, to see he was just as talented as anyone else.
Suddenly, gratefully, you feel closer to old Tom, closer than ever before. Wherever he is, among the stars or open fields or wherever made him happiest, perhaps among the shelves of a heavenly library, a hope fills your heart that he feels close to you, as well. He deserves it, you think, and of his death, the tragedy of it, no more thought is spent. Just on his legacy. Just on his dreams, you write.
You place your notebook into the evidence box. If the case is ever perused again, it’ll show that at least one person had not erased Tom Everett, and that person is you.
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