Twisted Roses

Page 51

An awkward second passes. My gaze slides between Brenda and Chester. “Yes… I remember him… as Chester.”
“I go by Chet now.”
“And you live in Northam?”
He nods. Brenda goes on to ramble about their disastrous first date at a bar—a story I’ve heard at least five times before—but I’m stuck on the strange coincidence of the situation. Though we were in the same graduating class, Chester and I never ran in the same circle.
He was more band geek, video gamer. I was more focused on racking up as many extracurriculars as possible, including Class President and Editor of theWestoria Prep Tribune.
I met Salvatore over Chester. So many years ago, I’d rushed outside to stop Brett Gannon from dunking the boy into the pool, drowning him. Only for Salvatore to appear when I was about to be dunked myself. The walk down memory lane leaves me feeling so strange, I make up an excuse and leave.
Brenda pleads with me to stay, claiming I never come out for drinks. I lie and promise I’ll make up for it another time.
Outside, the summer breeze carries an uncomfortable warmth with it, even at so late an hour. I walk the downtown streets, considering the rest of my evening. I could go home and unwind with Salt and Pepa and an episode ofHousewives ofSouth Valley. The old Delphine would’ve done this; after twelve hours of intense work as an ADA, she’d come home and lounge on her sofa to unnecessary drama among socialite housewives.
In the wake of the last year, it no longer interests me.
I could spend my time researching more about NorthamNeptune123. I still haven’t figured out who his next victim will be.
OrI could go to Skip Little’s house. I could take care of the grave injustice once and for all. It’d be earlier than I planned, but I’m ready. I’ve done enough planning and figured out the finer details.
I’ve also promised myself I would do better and refrain from any after-hours activities. The urge rises up too strongly inside me, the thirst to right a wrong where the justice system failed. Skip Little has spent the last seven years escaping the fate that should’ve befallen him given his horrific crimes. He got off on the luck of his housekeeper withdrawing her testimony.
She disappeared from public life after that. So did his grieving ex-wife.
After doing some extensive digging into his finances, he made major lump sum payments to both before they dropped off the map.
With my mind made up, I stop halfway down the sidewalk and turn towards traffic to flag down a taxi. First stop, a change of clothes. Next stop, righting a wrong.
So much for behaving myself.
* * *
Skip’s dead end street is silent enough to hear a beating heart. My taxi drops me off several blocks away. Familiar with the neighborhood, I pull my hoodie up and opt for the scenic walking trails the rich and powerful use to get their steps in and walk their dogs. The area is shrouded by thick trees and shrubs with only the occasional lamp post.
I come up on Skip’s red-brick mansion. The rectangular-shaped home feels vacant and unalive. The windows are all dark except one. Skip has headed upstairs to his bedroom.
I put my mask on and then approach the iron-wrought gate along the side. The last bar is broken. It’s been that way for a long while now, but with his music producer career long since in the toilet, Skip lives on a fixed income of royalty checks and can’t afford to pay someone to repair it. I slip through the narrow opening and dart out of the purview of the security camera attached to the side of the house.
He keeps his spare key under a potted beechwood topiary. I let myself in.
Skip doesn’t hear a thing. I’m silent, moving like a ghost in the dark house. I take my time making it upstairs.
It’ll be several days before he’s found. No one comes by to see Skip and Skip doesn’t go anywhere to see anyone.
The only person who checks in is his personal assistant once a week. She’s not due back until Monday. In which case, she’ll call 911 and report she’s stumbled upon a dead body. Police will arrive on the scene believing they have a home burglary turned homicide on their hands.
Skip is about to die in the same manner several others in recent times have died. At the hands of a still-at-large homicidal burglar who breaks into homes, steals valuable possessions, and then strangles his victims. He’s currently wanted by Northam and Westoria PD with a half-million-dollar reward for any meaningful tips leading to his arrest.
His death will mirror that perp’s MO so closely, investigators will believe he’s yet another victim.
I’ve studied enough about the open cases to know how to mimic the crime scene. As an ADA working with Northam PD, I’ll be around to give gentle nudges leading detectives in that direction.
Nobody will know therealreason Skip was murdered. That his death was no happenstance, another victim of an already existing perp. They won’t have a clue it was me and why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Skip stands at his bedside table, large and doughy, guzzling down his medications with a glass of water. At sixty-two-years-old, he has a couple medical ailments he suffers from. I’m so careful, the door doesn’t creak. I slip into his bedroom and pad toward him. He’s holding the glass up, draining the last few mouthfuls.