Chapter Story – Part Three
“Can you describe the man you saw?” Officer Rayne said, jolting Hetty from her friend’s lifeless eyes.
“Can you describe the man? What was he wearing? Build? Color of skin?”
She stepped back into the hideous moment and tried to see the man before he ran away. He was tall, broad shouldered. He wore blue jeans, faded at the knees, and a maroon sweatshirt with a hood. He was young, early twenties maybe. He was Caucasian and had stunning green eyes.
She remembered his eyes clearly, even from the distance she viewed him from. His eyes stood out; their vibrancy emblazoned the evil in them. Hetty shivered.
“Tattoos? Hair color?”
“I didn’t see any tattoos. His hair was hidden under the sweatshirt’s hood,” Hetty said and wiped the underside of her nose with the back of her hand.
“Here,” Officer Rayne said and handed her a fresh box of tissues. “Is there anything else you can remember? Jewelry? Type of shoes? Weight?”
She searched the reel of images in her mind, ticking off what she’d already told him. “No jewelry that I could see. He looked fit. His shoes were . . . white Nikes. I remember the red swish on the side when he turned to run.”
Officer Rayne nodded as he flipped through his notebook, reviewing what she’d told him. She let her eyes linger on the profile of his face. His head was bald, most likely shaved, which added to his appeal and accentuated his jawline. She liked him. Felt safe with him.
“Is there anything else you can think of?” Officer Rayne said and turned to her. A mixture of concern and curiosity imbued his tone.
“No,” she said, but she didn’t know if that was true. She hoped she’d remember more, something pertinent to catching that Monster. Who could do such a thing? Craziness must be imbedded in his soul, an evil thread so corrosive and deep rooted that he was broken beyond repair. Hetty hugged herself. But you’re to blame, aren’t you? You told her to take the underground. You didn’t go with her.
“I believe we’re done, for now. You’ll need to come back in the morning to meet with the sketch artist. Let’s say nine o’clock?” She nodded as Officer Rayne stood, his hand on her shoulder, impressing upon her to stand too. She rose from her seat, her arms wrapped tightly around herself.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get this guy.” Officer Rayne moved her to the room’s door and opened it. “Your parents are here, waiting by the front doors.” He applied more pressure to her back, guiding her out the room.
Anxiety quickened her blood. What if he comes after me? Her eyes darted over the room, as if she’d catch him hiding in plain sight, ready to slice her from sternum to groin.
Then the spinning thought from earlier shocked her like a surge of electricity. He may have taken her life, but you killed her. Remember? She halted.
Officer Rayne stalled next to her; she could sense him staring at her.
Her eyes dropped to her hands, as they squeezed her middle—they held her guilt. Her stomach churned and bile threatened to escape. I killed her! Arrest me! She looked to Officer Rayne, begging him with her eyes to see the truth, but he only smiled and motioned for her to keep walking.
Before she could say anything, she found herself moving, unable to change course. Her head tilted down and the weight of what she knew began to fold her in half.
“Oh, my God!” Her mother rushed her, her arms open wide as if she were going to swoop her up and cajole the pain away. But she didn’t. Her mother’s disgust at her disheveled appearance grew the closer she stepped, until her arms couldn’t maintain the pretense of love over what people might think.
Anger ignited behind Hetty’s eyes. What did she expect? A loving mother? Her mother didn’t really care about her. She only cared about what people thought.
Her mother inspected her, sweeping her eyes over Hetty’s form, tsk-tsking as she went. “I can’t believe they didn’t let you clean up. This is a disgrace. A complete disgrace. Blood all over your clothes, on your hands, and, oh my goodness . . . in your hair.” Her last few words a shame-filled whisper.
Hetty looked for her father and found him, sitting by the front doors, waiting. He looked ready to spring forward at any moment, his hands on his knees and his eyes wide, but he didn’t move.
Hetty headed toward him, leaving her mother behind, along with Officer Rayne’s reassuring hand. Her father pulled her into his arms. She relished his unfettered love, even if it was usually muted by her mother’s disdain and unrelenting control.
“Come, Hetty,” her father said, his voice soft at her ear. Her mother spat stinging accusations at Officer Rayne, as Hetty stepped out through the front doors.
Deep exhaustion cemented Hetty’s body to the front passenger seat, as her father started the sedan’s engine and turned the heat up to warm their chilled bones. They said nothing, each silenced, waiting for her mother to join them.
Hetty screamed and bolted upright. She sucked in air, harsh on her throat. How long had she been screaming? She rubbed her neck. Her skin was slick with sweat. Her body radiated heat. She flung back the heavy covers and swung her legs off the side of the bed.
She now wished she’d had taken her parent’s offer to stay with them. Her father had comforted her, but her mother hadn’t stopped pestering her about her hair and clothes, and “all that damnable blood.”
Then her mother started in on Annabelle. “Annabelle most likely got what she deserved,” her mother said. “Loose women usually do.” Hetty had had enough. “Take me to my dorm,” she’d said and refused to talk anymore.
She now flipped on her bedside lamp. She was still wearing the same clothes, which were stiff with blood. Blood streaked her arms and hands. Numbness surrounded her thoughts, as if the sleep she’d just come from anchored her mind to a black hole where nothing lived, or wanted to live. She wished she could stay there but knew it wouldn’t last.
She went to the bathroom, stripping as she went, and climbed into the shower. Hot water rained down, the heat infiltrating her tensed muscles, and gratitude for a private bathroom instead of the normal communal ones flooded her. Walking down the hall to take a shower terrified her. What if the Monster was lurking in the shadows? Behind one of the shower curtains?
Fear froze her insides. Gratitude slipped away. She flipped the water off and climbed out, grabbing a dry towel. Annabelle’s face flickered in front of her. Different pictures. Some happy. Pleasant. Joyful. Mostly her mind centered on the last few seconds before Annabelle died.
She couldn’t get Annabelle’s sweet blue eyes out of her mind. The utter sadness. The helplessness.
Hetty fell to the bathroom floor, dropping her head on her folded knees. Hot tears of anger and guilt and remorse crippled her. There was no surviving this, was there?
Why should she survive? It was her fault that Annabelle was dead. Only if I hadn’t told her to take the underground. I should have had her wait for me.
She crouched down and lay flat on the cold linoleum. Her bare skin prickled at the floor’s chill, but she didn’t care. She deserved worse. It should have been her in the underground, not Annabelle. She closed her eyes and drifted back into her deep, black hole.