Authors: Matthew Boyd
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Serial Killers, #Suspense, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Thrillers
©M. Boyd, 2011
Claire closed the door to her room and quietly tip-toed into the master bathroom. In an effort to not wake the children, she closed her bedroom door before opening the faucet and began to prepare her bath. She picked up her towels and slid out of her clothes. A quick glance in the mirror as the tub was filling revealed a body that was not so bad for her age.
Claire looked at the fine lines on her face that had slowly formed over the years. Her Father had always called them “Smile Lines”, but getting old wasn’t really something she thought most people felt very happy about. She pinched at her belly and sucked in her gut a bit before giving up. She didn’t care overly much about how sexy she was, as long as she was healthy. Her family meant everything to her though, and in two more weeks she would finally be free from the rat race and able to spend more time around the house.
Some smart moves on her part with a number of local rental properties would have her set up with a very considerable revenue stream every month. “But first, a vacation,” she said to herself with a slight smile as she entered the now steamy and warm master bathroom.
The water was almost too hot. Almost. That meant it was the perfect temperature to soothe away the trials of the day. Her children were her life, but sometimes she thought they would drive her off the deep end. Rebekah and Matthew fought often, but most of the time they were good kids.
Today had started off peacefully with both of the children playing quietly and coloring in their coloring books, allowing Claire some time to get some work done. Soon though, that peace had been broken when a fight erupted between who got to color with the red crayon. The rest of the afternoon sort of spiraled downward from there and Claire had sent each of them to time out at least 5 times throughout the day. Now they were asleep like perfect little angels and she could finally relax.
The hot water felt great. She could already feel the strain starting to melt away. Claire slid down into the tub, bending her knees and then dunking her head under the water. She closed her eyes and held her breath. The hot water rushed over her face, dulling her pounding tension headache.
The light in the room suddenly seemed to become dimmer and she heard a dull thud reverberate through the water, like footsteps. She snapped opened her eyes while she was still under and could see a dark, blurry figure over her standing beside the tub. Adrenaline shot through her body for a moment.
“Is Mark home?” she thought, and began to rise from the water to greet him, and then complain about him scaring the life out of her, but was never given the chance. She realized in an instant that someone else had entered her home when a hand grabbed her brutally by the hair and she felt the blade of a knife against her neck. She was being held underwater and began to kick her legs frantically. Bubbles of air escaped from her mouth and nose as she attempted to scream out.
The hand roughly pulled her head up out of the water by her hair. Soapy water was in her eyes and mouth. She gasped desperately for air and started sputtering. Her eyes burned and stung. The stranger’s hand held tight as she started to scream and thrash around but the knife blade pressed tighter into the skin of her neck. A small trickle of blood ran down from her neck to her chest, dissipating into the sudsy bath water.
“Shut up now.” The man spoke, with a rough, deep voice. “Scream or try to fight me and I will bury my knife in your children’s bellies while they sleep.”
Nearly overcome with fear, she forced herself to look up at the man. He was tall, slightly overweight, and wearing a black ski mask and green latex gloves. He had on a faded black sweatshirt with a hood and beaten up blue jeans. He had a huge grin on his face as he looked down at her.
Terror and helplessness overtook Claire as she took in his appearance, and tears began streaming down her face. She eyed her cell phone resting on the small shelf above the toilet behind the intruder. It was too far away to even consider attempting to grab.
She was shocked when the man released his grip on her hair and she immediately covered her breasts with one hand. Sweat began to bead on her forehead and her mind swam in a rush of dizziness. Her other hand slid around on the wet bathtub wall, searching for anything she could use to defend herself, but there was nothing. She could do nothing but attempt to back away from the man as far as possible. She was naked in her bathtub and her husband wouldn’t be home for hours. The only people that would hear her scream were this man and her children.
“W-w-what do you want?” She barely managed to get it out.
The man lowered his weapon for a moment, and her eyes fixated on the blade. It was a huge and gleaming butcher’s knife. He reached into his pocket like he was getting change. Carefully he produced an old and rusty utility knife. With a quick motion, the man extended the razor blade inside and twisted the utility knife in his hands around in front of her, watching her eyes open wide in terror. He laughed quietly and then deftly placed it on the bathtub beside her with a dull clunk. Claire cringed away from the man, afraid he was going to cut her with it at first.
“Oh God,” Claire moaned, “Please…who are you? Why are you doing this to us?”
The man pointed his knife at Claire and commanded, “Slit your wrists now or your children die.”
The alarm clock was blaring. Jake Harris groaned, reaching out his hand to silence the object of painful torture that he allowed to wake him every morning. His fingers glided over every button, finally finding the right one, and pressing it. Jake rolled over in the bed, feeling hot underneath the sheets and comforter. His throat felt scratchy and irritated. He cleared it with a slight cough and felt the soreness there. Jake rubbed his neck, stubbed and unshaven. It was official; he was getting sick.
Jake would celebrate his thirty-second birthday in just two more months. He wanted to fight back hard against the effects of growing older by getting in a workout a few times a week, but with the responsibilities in his life he was lucky to hit the gym once a month. The P-80Z workout DVDs he purchased at Christmas were now collecting dust on the top of the television in the living room. Still, he was in reasonably good shape. His short black hair already was turning grey and thinning; something he attributed to being a husband, father of two, and a detective in the WPD homicide department.
The homicide department had been keeping him especially busy lately. They had seen a recent rash of mysterious suicides and each one had to be investigated. Long hours and nights spent camped out at his desk or conducting interviews had taken their toll.
As he stretched his toes to the end of the bed, he could hear muffled noises coming from the living room.
“Sounds like the kids are up,” he thought, and sat up on the edge of the bed.
He could already sense his fever coming on, his cheeks flush and forehead warming up. The air outside the sheets was normal room temperature but felt unbearably cold to his skin.
“I swear this is the last time I get a flu shot. Every time I get one, I wind up sick a week later,” Jake complained to himself.
It was true. His wife told him he was crazy. The doctors said that it couldn’t be the flu shot that made you sick, but up until he started getting vaccinations for free at the precinct four years ago, he had never caught the flu. The department got their allotment of vaccines late this year, but his wife insisted he get one anyway.
Groaning again, Jake got out of bed and stretched. Rubbing his eyes, he yawned loudly and briefly considered calling in sick and just staying in bed all day.
“Yeah, right,” He thought, “Stace would shoot me in the butt if I called in sick with all this mess going on lately.”
Jake turned on the sink faucet full blast and splashed ice-cold water all over his face and neck. The cold erased his grogginess and seemed to bring down his fever a bit, but the relief was fleeting. He toweled off, considered a shave but decided against it, and began searching for his toothbrush, which was nowhere in sight.
He thought to himself, “Samantha must have gotten a hold of it, again. I really don’t want to know what she did with it this time.”
Jake sighed, finally settling on using his daughter’s toothbrush, which was neon pink and emblazoned with a popular cartoon fairy. Jake grimaced as he listened to the thing as it played tinny cartoon music while he brushed.
Jake threw on a pair of old grey sweatpants emblazoned with the Winchester Police Department emblem and sauntered down the hallway towards the sounds of clacking toys and an overly-loud kid’s show theme song blasting out on the TV.
He turned the corner to see his five year old son, Nick, zoned out on the couch. His daughter, Samantha, was slamming toy cars into each other with furious abandon, laughing to herself and making “vroom vroom” noises. Both of them had on their school clothes and appeared to be getting every last moment of enjoyment out of the few minutes they had at home before they had to leave. He smiled to himself as he walked past them, grabbing a fresh shirt off the pile of laundry still unfolded on the loveseat. Jake could hear high heels clomping around in the kitchen.
“Morning, honey,” Jake called out, making his throat hurt. His wife, Heather, stood at the coffee machine fixing her ritual cup of morning go-juice. She was decked out in her favorite business suit, obviously ready for a high-powered day.
“Good morning, yourself,” She said. Then, upon a closer inspection of him, “You look like shit.”
Jake felt a sting of dejection, but realized he really
look like shit.
“Yeah, I think I’m getting sick again,” Jake managed to croak out. He reached up into the kitchen cabinet, withdrew his favorite mug, and filled it to the max with fresh coffee.
His wife walked over to him and with a wink asked, “How do I look?”
She spread her arms out playfully and spun around. He got an eyeful. She was gorgeous, and had long brown hair that was swept back into a conservative ponytail. Today she was wearing her tight black business suit, which looked like she had literally been poured into. But to Jake she was more than just smoking hot; she put in a lot of effort at her job and with the kids every single day. He knew how important to her the happiness of everyone else around her was. Not that they didn’t have their fair share of arguments and battles, because they did. They somehow managed to always come together again by the end of the day, though.
“Amazing, as usual,” Jake managed to sputter out after taking a sip a hot coffee.
His wife flashed him a toothy grin and said, “Well, c’mon and tell the kids goodbye. I gotta hit the road, pronto. Sullivan has us planning a big meeting for the merger next week. It’s gonna be one heck of a day today.”
Heather began to scoop up her belongings. She cupped her hand to her face and yelled out, “Come on kids! Let’s go!”
Surprisingly, the kids were already waiting at the door, wearing their backpacks and lined up for goodbye kisses. Jake hugged them both tight and gave them a cheek to kiss.
“Don’t want you guys getting my cold,” Jake said with a sniffle, “Now go on and have a fun day and be good at school. Love you.”
His wife grabbed her purse and he offered her a kissable, albeit a bit scruffy, cheek to kiss as well. With her other hand she grabbed his butt and planted a big wet kiss right on his lips.
“Had to wipe off my makeup a little,” she said, beaming a sultry grin, “I’m not scared of getting sick from you anyway mister, I got my flu shot.”
Jake shook his head and watched through the window as they left the driveway. As he considered catching the latest news on television, the wooden kitchen table began to clatter underneath his vibrating cell phone.
“Ok Chief, I’m on my way,” Jake said as he shook his head and clapped his phone closed.
The call had informed him of yet another suicide. This was the ninth one in the last 3 weeks.
“Was there something in the water around here?” Jake pondered to himself but didn’t know. One or two suicides in a month were the most his department had ever seen. Jake wanted to get to the bottom of it. Almost all of the recent deaths had not matched up with the typical profile of a suicidal personality. Most of the victims had active social lives and displayed absolutely no traits of depression or other previous psychological problems.