What once seemed to be a fruitless venture suddenly had a focus. It started as a flood of senseless information that, with a bit of guile, became sensible. Workable. It was a nice turn of events for Detective Whelan after brooding over the complication of it all just a few hours before. Now he was on his way to what could possibly be a new lead on a dead case. Instead of a thousand different pieces separate from each other, things began to appear as one. Something deep inside of him knew that there was a connection between all of the cases he had been assigned. It just made sense in some way; though he couldn't say for sure why.
He found himself on the way to house of the former Mrs. Morris Kyle, whom originally stated that she hadn't heard from her husband for days before his disappearance. They had been on the outs, but still lived together. That didn't seem to make sense to Shane, and he wondered why the previous Officers assigned to the case hadn't found it odd. Two people live in the same house, one of them vanishes, and the other claims to have no clue where they are? It just didn't add up.
“So, what is it you're expecting to learn from this woman again?” asked his new partner, Laura, from the passenger seat of their unmarked patrol car. “I mean, she checked out before, didn't she?”
“You don't think it's a little strange that she hadn't bothered to tell anyone that it was days since she had seen the guy?” he said as he glanced towards her from behind the wheel.
She bit her lip, as her face curled into a look of deep retrospection, thought, and concentration.
“Nope.” she finally replied after a longer than required pause and a smile.
“That's helpful.” he said in a dry manner. “But really...”
“Have you ever been in that situation? I could go weeks without talking or going out of my way to see someone if I didn't want to talk to them. They were on the outs, I think. She probably just did all she could to ignore the guy.” she said very matter-of-factly.
“I'd at least wonder after a day or two.” he said.
“Well, I guess she didn't. Can't say I blame her, really.” she said, a bit less jovial this time.
It wasn't a far drive from their office, but the nature of the job always made drives like this one seem a bit longer. Though it had been a few years since her husband's disappearance, and though they hadn't been on the best of terms, it was always a sensitive situation to bring back up after so many years. Family members need time to move on and once they do, they never expect to be drawn back in. The reaction could end up all over the place in terms of emotions. Sometimes they get angry that you're digging the issue back up with no good news to offer in return; other times you just bring the grief back into their life. It's not a fun place to be, but it's something that has to be done. Actual closure would mean much more in the long run, if something new was to come of it.
“I think we're close. It should be a little green house up on the left.” said Laura as she scanned back and forth from her phone to the street. “Should be a red car in the driveway, if Street View is updated.”
“Got it, right up there.” he said as he maneuvered the car onto the side of the street opposite of the house.
The weather had been quick to shift from moderate to cold, as it's known to do, so close to the ocean this time of year. Laura had on a heavier coat, knit cap, and gloves, which made her look more like a garbageman than a cop. Shane hadn't bothered to worry about the weather, and was stuck with nothing but his suit jacket. And a pair of icy-cold hands, he realized as he went to ring the doorbell of the house.
“Fuck it's cold out here.” he said before even realizing it.
“Typical rookie mistake; forgetting a winter jacket.” she said.
“I'm not a rookie. I've been on the force for years, and worked VICE in White Center.” he replied in a defensive tone that surprised even himself. He felt the need to correct himself quickly in front of her. “I just forgot my jacket. Like a rookie would.”
She smiled and nodded, but was interrupted from replying by an unassuming looking woman opening the door. The now former Mrs. Kyle looked more annoyed than concerned by their presence.
“Can I help you?” said Nora Thornton, the widow of Morris Kyle.
“Hello, Ms. Thornton, I'm Detective Whelan and this is Detective Culver. We're with Seattle Homicide. We'd like to speak to you about your ex-husband's disappearance.”
The woman was an eye-roll away from full blown apathy at the suggestion.
“What about it? He ran off years ago and you people couldn't find anything. Why hassle me again now? I was cleared back then and I haven't done anything since.” she was clearly uninterested in helping and becoming aggravated at the thought.
“Ma'am, we're not here to accuse you of anything. We'd just like to ask a few things that maybe they might have missed the first time they questioned you.” said Laura, trying to diffuse the situation.
“Look, I don't know what you expect me to say. Morris and I hadn't said more than a handful of words to each other those last few months. We grew apart because all he would ever do is sit on that damn computer. I got sick of it, and told him I was done. And then he'd spend more time on that thing. Then he was gone. That's all, now please, you're wasting all my heat.” she nearly shut the door on them in the middle of her statement. “I really don't know anything else. Just let it be.”
“I understand, Ma'am. I'm sorry to bother you about this again. Please understand that we're just trying to find out what happened to him. Thanks for your time.” said Shane as she shut the door on them.
“I'm cold.” he said.
“So is she.” said Laura. “Let's get out of here.”
The optimism felt by both of them earlier in the day was starting to wane; they weren't able to get in touch with other witnesses and family members from other cases. They were both reminded why these cases were considered “cold” in the first place. All the motivation in the world wouldn't solve any of them if they couldn't find something new to go on. They had one final chance, for the day at least, and it was to meet with the roommate of one of the men who went missing. The college student who was majoring in Computers had shared a dorm room with the person they were on the way to speak with now.
After such a long day, full of disappointment, neither of them were in much of a talkative mood. They simply rode in silence, other than the sound of the radio chatter. Shane had his elbow resting on the door with two of his fingers placed on his temple. He couldn't shake the feeling he had earlier; they were on to something. But what was it? They spent the entire day getting shot down or running around circles trying to find people. In his heart, he knew better than to give up. Soon, he would find that one break that would make it all worth it. He had spent days mulling over the many different aspects of the cases and why they seemed to have a link that wasn't clear. He wondered how long he could use “It's a hunch.” as an excuse to keep looking. He wasn't just trying to look good by closing cases; he wanted to find out what happened to these seemingly innocent men. They deserved a bit of justice after all this time.
“This guy seems like he wants to help.” Laura's voice brought him out of his self-induced mental haze. “He said he'd tell us everything he could remember about the night Billy disappeared.”
“That works for me, as long as it's not stuff I've already read a dozen times in his original interview. There's gotta be something they forgot to ask, right?” he replied.
“Hey, it's more recent, so you never know. See, this is me being positive.” she said as she raised her hands palms up.
“I like this new version of you.” he said with a half-smirk.
“And what was wrong with the old versions?” she had a look of feigned anger before softening a bit. “Too snarky, right?”
“I would have went with rude, but that works too.” he said, this time he was fully smiling.
Billy Belton's former roommate was now working as an IT Specialist for a bank chain in Seattle. They had agreed to meet up with him at one of the local branches to discuss what he could recall that night. Because the bank itself had already closed for the evening, they would speak in the parking lot. Andre Johnson, the roommate, said he'd be waiting for them near the door. They saw him as they turned into the parking lot. He was a hefty guy wearing a windbreaker that was a few sizes too small for him. He waved to them when he noticed them and walked towards the car as Shane parked.
“Officers! Hello!” boomed Andre as they were getting out of the car.
“Good evening, Mr. Johnson. Thank you for taking the time to meet up with us. Sorry we couldn't get here sooner, I know it's pretty cold out here.” said Laura as she extended her hand to his.
“Oh, it's no worry! I've got enough padding to stay warm.” he said as he patted his stomach. “Besides, I'm hoping you guys might finally find out where Billy went.”
“That's what we are hoping you could help us with, Mr. Johnson.” said Shane as he shook the man's hand.
“What makes you think he went someplace? Instead of, you know, having been abducted?” asked Laura.
“Oh, that's an easy one. He took his keys, his wallet, and his glasses case with him. He never leaves...well, never left, that stuff if he was going out someplace.”
Shane took a step or two towards the building to try and block some of the wind which was causing his face to go numb.
“So you don't think he was in a rush or anything like that?” he asked the man.
“Oh, not at all! He never went anywhere in a rush. Not that I ever remembered, anyway.” said Andre shaking his head. “He actually didn't go out all that often. Maybe just here and there to get food.”
“What would he do all day? Study?” asked Shane.
“Not usually, he wasn't much interested in classes. He'd do just enough work to pass and not have to worry about retaking the class. He was a whiz with computers and didn't really need to take classes anyway. All self-taught, too.” Andre said with a hint of sadness now seeping into his voice as he remembered his friend. “He was on the computer all the time, either playing games or programming. He was always on his phone, too. Tech savvy sort of guy. I miss him.”
Laura placed a hand on his arm as a way to comfort him. It shocked Shane a bit to see that, as he wasn't use to it having come from the beat. Perhaps he had forgotten that police work wasn't always about “Cops vs. Robbers” and that there was an innocent party involved in most cases.
“We understand that it's not easy to talk about, but we do appreciate that you're helping.” she said to him. “What sort of things did he like doing on the computer other than games? And how about the sort of stuff he'd look up on the phone?”
“I know he was into those bulletin board type things that have different subjects. Nothing crazy, I don't think.” he seemed to be trying hard to remember. “Oh, and he was always trying to pick up girls on those dating apps on his phone. I don't think he ever got any of them, though. He wasn't a confident or well spoken guy. At least not when it came to stuff that wasn't computer related.”
“Did the Detectives who questioned you the first time ask about this sort of stuff?” asked Shane, his eyes lighting up.
“I don't think so. They asked me if I had seen him or if he had said anything to me about where he had went.” he snorted with laughter. “I was the one who reported him missing! Of course I didn't know!”
“Don't let a couple of lazy Officers ruin your view of us. Detective Whelan and I are both very interested in finding your friend, or at least finding out what happened the night he went missing.” said Laura. She was very thoughtful and determined in the way she spoke to Andre. Again, it was something that he had yet to see from his new partner. He was surprised, in a good way.
The rest of the conversation didn't yield much in terms of anything they could go off of, but Shane knew that he may have found his link. Every file involved in this investigation mentioned something to do with the missing person being involved with computers. And the two people they managed to speak with today brought it up without him mentioning it. Clearly it was something that they should look deeper into. The original Detectives assigned to the case either missed the connection or just weren't concerned by it. He finally had something that he could go off of now. They ended their questioning of Mr. Johnson and headed back to the precinct building.
The day was over, but he had renewed vigor. He'd waste no time trying to get a hold of the electronic records of all the missing men. There was going to be something there, he just knew it. Soon, he'd finally have solid proof of it. And he could finally do something about it.
No one would hear her screams. Her cries for help. He made sure of that long ago. He knew how to get away with it. He had for so, so long. She just wanted it to stop. He never wanted it to end.
“Please, someone! You have to help me!” she screamed into the silence. Or what she had wished was silence. The sounds she heard only terrified her even more. Deep, heavy breathing. Wet, moist thrusting. She wanted to die.
She was so confused. And scared. And it hurt.
Again she screamed but nobody heard. This time was more quiet than the last.
And she wanted to die.
But she couldn't. And she wouldn't. She had to go away now. The pain was just too much. She couldn't die but she could escape. She just had to escape.
Away she goes now. The sounds that frighten her slowly fade.
Away she goes. She doesn't want to die.
She wants to live. Here, in this place. Forever.
But she cannot.
She may as well die.
The screams turn to tears.
She knows she will go back soon.
And it will start all over again.
And she wants to die.