Murder Was The Case

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic


After the murder of a popular woman, the small settlement gathers to figure the crime out.

Submitted: September 22, 2017

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Submitted: September 22, 2017

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Murder was the Case

A sharp scream cut through the wintry air, sending an icy chill down Lizzie’s spine. The young girl spun from the fireplace and dropped the ladle in the pot of boiling stew. She eased over to the wooden door as the night breeze blew through the bottom crack with a whine mimicking the shrill cry from outside. Yet, as she reached her small hand out, the door opened.

Donner stormed in and shivered, knocking the snow off his shoulders.

“Father, what is going on out there?” Lizzie asked.

Donner ripped the scarf from his mouth and bent at the waist, planting a warm kiss on his daughter’s forehead. “I don’t know, but I wanted to check on you before finding out.”

“The town needs their Bailiff.”

“I know, dear.” Donner knelt in her line of sight. “But, I promised your late mother…”

Lizzie stared blankly at her father without a tear in her eye. “What’s wrong, poppa?”

“No remorse for your loving mother?” Without hearing an explanation, Donner hugged her tightly. “I promised I’d take care of you before anything else… before anything else.”

Bailiff!” a voice shouted.

“Poppa, I’m safe,” Lizzie said. “Go and see.”

***

The snowflakes crashed against Bailiff Donner’s long coat, fracturing into a thousand sparkling pieces like shattered glass. His head down, he followed the loud rumblings of worried residents. His worn boots dug into the snow with each step, leaving a trail from his front door. Before entering the crowded area, he peered out of the corner of his eye.

To his left, a malnourished man sat near a dying fire, a raggedy Victorian Ballgown fitted over his dirty long-johns. His arm draped over a boney dog while the other pulled the battered boot from his foot.

Donner surrendered a wave and thought, ‘Ole Gein Berkowitz, what has happened?’ The sight of the familiar face weighed heavily on the Bailiff. He remembered Gein arriving to the new world as a portly, jolly fellow. Although the smile never wavered, the man’s sanity and weight did. Donner paused, his eyes fixed on the sick figure as though looking into a crystal ball, which foretold his own inevitable future.

With his barefoot in the snow, Gein bit into the tongue of his leather boot and yanked his head back, tearing at the food like a lion breaking the skin of a gazelle. The dog awaited its turn while pacing to and fro, guarding the territory with a low growl.

It will not get that bad for Lizzie. Donner looked away, sighed. His breath reached out in the cold air like a gentle hand, pushing the crowd aside.

Noticing their leader, the residents quieted and stared back with hopelessness. Their jaws poked through their cheeks. Their clothes, dirty and torn, hung from their bodies as if previously worn by giants. Tears bubbled from their eyelids and acted as tiny mirrors for Donner, reflecting his own poor site as well.

The lane of solemn looks led to a popular, lascivious woman named Dahlia. The beautiful girl lay dead in the snow with her eyes wide open, staring toward her destination in the starry night sky. She looked peaceful, calm, but her mutilated body told a different story. Her severed legs, and detached arm, were piled next to her corpse. A strip of muscle kept the other arm dangling from the shoulder, and blood from her severed limbs transformed the cold, white snow into a warm, red blanket.

Questions and accusations flooded Donner’s ears, and he quickly raised his hand, silencing the opinionated crowd. His eyes scanned the faces. “One at a time! Who found her?”

“I did.” Mr. Bundy stepped forward; his shoulders squared and chin in the air like a proud noble. He was cloaked in the mangled clothes of a peasant, and a scraggly beard covered his dirty face. Nevertheless, he presented himself before the listeners with grace. He combed his fingers through his oily hair, straightened his wrinkled coat. “Hopefully, my heroic deed of scaring off the killer will not turn me into a suspect—”

“You saw who did this?” Donner asked.

“Well…” Mr. Bundy eyed the suspicious faces. “It was dark, but I found her behind Gacy’s cabin.”

Gacy cleared his throat, stepped forward. “Just because she died in the alley—”

“Shut up!” Bundy exploded in anger, breaking the shell of his gentlemanly act. “Everyone knows the rumors about you back in the old world, rumors about you sodomizing young boys.”

The crowd gasped.

Bundy grabbed the pedophile’s collar, balled his free fist.

Gacy cowered, saying, “What does that have to do with me killing someone?”

“It shows that your mind is as warped as Gein’s.” Bundy eyed the crazy man by the small fire.

Gacy jerked away from Bundy’s clutch. “Since you gonna accuse me, what were you doing out this late?”

“I did it?” Bundy asked. “I’m the one that alerted everyone.”

Good way to throw the attention off,” a voice uttered.

The townsfolk swung their heads to the accuser.

“After all, Bundy, don’t they call ya a lady-killer?” Dr. H. H. pushed his way to Dahlia’s body and crouched at the victim’s side. After rubbing her soft cheek, he rolled his sleeves up and reached inside the girl’s gutted abdomen. “She’s missing a liver and…” He felt around some more. “Heart.”

Bundy charged the doctor. “I will not let you desecrate her body!”

“Hold on!” Donner stepped in Bundy’s path and looked back to H. H. “Why would the killer take that?”

“Whoever it may be… is, uh,” H. H. surveyed the crowd and shook his head at the disgusting truth, “…eating her.”

The crowd panted, and a woman in the back shrieked before fainting to the icy bed below.

Donner lifted his arm, quieting the murmurs. “Now, hold on a sec—”

“No!” Bundy shouted. “Something has to be done!”

“I say, we string up the one that obviously did it.” Gacy spun on his heels and pointed to the man behind them.

Gein laughed aloud while smacking on the rubbery texture of his boot like a piece of leather bubblegum. His dog howled at his side as if in on his master’s joke.

“It’s not Gein,” Donner said. “For Christ-sakes, he’s eating his boot. According to the doc, if he were to kill Dahlia, he’d be eating something different.”

Gacy glared at Donner. “I’ve seen him dig up graves.”

“You’ve seen him?” Donner asked.

“Well…” Gacy paused. “I’ve noticed graves unearthed.”

“And, how do you know he did it?”

“Could’ve been animals,” H. H. said, “depending on how deep you bury them.”

“He talks to his dog!” Gacy flung his arms in the air and turned to the crowd, apparently confounded by the objections of Gein’s guilt. “I have seen that! And, if I know anything about crazy—”

High heels clunked on a wooden porch, interrupting Gacy and gathering the attention of everyone in the crowd.

On the staircase, Aileen watched as the community swung open like a wooden gate, allowing a pathway to the body. She strutted over and glanced down upon her deceased friend. “I know who did it.”

“Who?” Donner asked.

Aileen looked to Bundy. “You said you spotted the killer doing this tonight?”

Bundy nodded.

“Well, to make those cuts in the dark, to find the vital organs in a swipe,” Aileen said, “it must come from a practiced hand.”

The crowd, again, unanimously inhaled a deep breath.

Hearing the ostensible accusation, H. H. hurried to his feet. “Say, what now?”

“Just stating the obvious,” Aileen returned. “We know what you do in that inn of yours.”

H. H. raised a brow.

“Tis true,” Bundy replied. “You dissect small animals without sharing any meat with the rest of us. At least, our fair Bailiff shares his kills!”

H. H. narrowed his eyes at Bundy. “What I do with my kill doesn’t concern any of you. I wasn’t elected to lookout for the settlement like Donner! I’m a doctor! In my field, we look after you for a cost. Speaking of, you might thank me someday for practicing on these rodents!”

“Why?” Bundy asked. “So you can fix us at a price no one can afford? You want us to forever be indebted to you!”

H. H. scoffed. “Indebt? Over here, you finally know what the rest of us feel back home, you silver-spoon motherfu—”

Bundy started after H. H., but Donner quickly intercepted, creating boundary between them once more.

“Everyone knows your wife left you before setting sail, Bundy! She dropped you for a fuckin’ deckhand,” H. H. said. “A man like you, of high regard, being dropped for a schmuck who makes peanuts. Ask me? You’ve been taking out your anger on lustful women ever since.”

“Dahlia wasn’t anything like my ex!” Bundy struggled against Donner’s grip.

“She was,” H. H. replied, “and she was known for it.”

“You’ve accused me twice now!” Bundy reached over Donner’s shoulder, pointing at the doc. “Do it again, and I will—”

The crowd quieted, waiting for the murderous threat as if that would prove Bundy’s guilt.

“H.H. is right,” Aileen declared, cutting Bundy off. “She had a free spirit.”

A smile graced H.H.’s face, and he motioned toward Aileen as though seconding her sudden honesty. He relaxed his posture, but upon dropping his guard, Aileen redirected the topic back to H.H.’s guiltiness.

“And our beloved physician was known to visit Dahlia late in the evening. I know. I lived with her. As I lay awake at night, I’d hear the window open and the quiet whispers of affection,” Aileen said. “Ask me, our doc became jealous with her ‘freedom’ and killed her. He’s the one who should hang for this!”

“Please. Don’t believe her.” H. H. held his hand over his heart. “It is true. I did come to their cabin at night, but to say I was in love, or anything of the sort, is ridiculous.”

Aileen shook her head.

“What about you?” H. H. inched closer to the woman.

“What about me?” Aileen asked.

“Everyone knows you were abused as a child,” H. H. said. “What psychological damage that must’ve done.”

Aileen crossed her arms, pursed her lips. “What does that prove?”

“That alone… nothing.” H. H. looked to the crowd. “But, combined with the fact that Aileen already murdered one of our residents…”

The words acted as a poker to the fire, and the crowd enflamed with roars.

“That man tried to rape me!” Aileen shouted over the crowd. “And, I did what was necessary to preserve my innocence.”

“Ha!” H. H. bellowed.

“I was acquitted by our dear Bailiff Donner,” Aileen yelled back at the hollering faces.

“Everyone calm!” Donner commanded. His voice, however, blended with the loud buzz of chatter. He stepped to the center of the circle. His strained tone carried through the icy air with force, shattering snowflakes. His warm breath melted the falling snow. And, his growl finally silenced the crowd. “Calm… CALM!”

“How can we be calm?” Bundy asked. “Several people have either moved, disappeared, or starved to death. Tell me, how are we to stay calm?”

“Our settlement is dwindling,” Gacy seconded.

“That’s why we should’ve brought seeds and farming utensils,” H.H. aimed his finger at each individual in the group, “instead of your confounding contraptions for digging gold!”

The crowd’s scattered animosity became unified and directed on the doctor.

“Am I wrong?” H.H. asked. “What’s the point of finding riches when you can’t buy food with it? Over here things are different!”

“Enough!” Donner silenced the ruckus. “You’re right, doctor. We underestimated the living conditions of this new world. But, there is nothing we can do about it now. We must carry on with the hand we have.”

“And, how are we to do that?” Aileen asked. “Not only are we fighting cold and starvation, now we have a killer on the loose.”

“I need to take her back,” H.H. grumbled, staring into Dahlia’s light-green eyes. He nodded as if agreeing to her soul’s request and raised his gaze to the strange glares from surrounding faces. “I need to perform some tests, but I believe it will help find her killer.”

“No way, in hell, am I letting you perform experiments on her body, you sick bastard!” Bundy’s fingertips tickled the handle of his Snaphaunce firearm, dug into his waistband.

Gacy sharpened his eyes at Bundy, dropped his hand to the Matchlock gun on his hip. “Don’t you dare draw-down on our only physician!”

“Are you afraid I might discover something?” H.H. asked Bundy.

“I told you not to accuse me again!” Bundy withdrew his Snaphaunce, aimed, and fired. The black powder emitted a dark cloud, but Bundy stepped through the smoke and gazed upon his wounded foe.

H.H. looked down as blood seeped from his chest. He crashed to his knees and raised his bloody hand in the air as if trying to say one, last peace. Before he could speak, his soul vacated the vessel, and his body collapsed face-first to the snow like a used wardrobe.

As the smoke dissipated around Bundy’s head, Gacy raised his Matchlock and pulled the trigger. The bullet exited the steel tube and collided into Bundy’s temple, blowing a hole in his head; blood sprayed the surrounding townsfolk and bits of flesh rained upon them like hail.

Bundy relinquished his six-shooter to the snowy ground before falling back, squishing the frozen blanket below and making a snow angel from his lifeless corpse.

Before the loud echo of gunfire petered off, Donner drew his Flintlock and aimed it at Gacy. He sighed and squeezed the hammer, putting to rest Gacy’s weary soul as well.

Clearly disconcerted, the crowd spun to their honorable Bailiff with looks of disgust. Yet, a voice came to his defense, which silenced all others.

“The odds are, one of these three was the killer,” Aileen asserted. “One was a quack doctor who experimented on dead bodies; the other, a deeply depressed man looking for vengeance against women who wronged him; the final one… a child molester. I say, we’re better off without them.”

Donner eyed Aileen, bowed his head in thankfulness.

“We’ve been here for a year, and it was something none of us expected.” Aileen scanned the worried faces. “But, who hunts? Who brings food every couple of days? Who has always been the rock for this ‘Plymouth?’”

The crowd relaxed its stance and head’s nodded like members of a congregation, listening to the powerful proclamation from their pastor.

“Who, you ask? Our Bailiff.” Aileen pointed to Donner. “Nobody else is bringing food to the table. So, I say, his decisions are for the betterment of our settlement.”

***

Lizzie sat at the table in the cozy cabin, and with a wooden spoon, she swirled the stew in her bowl. She stared ahead, entranced by the flames in the fireplace. With each blink, the fire leapt and logs popped, exposing the burnt wood beneath it. But as the door opened, she awoke from the daydream and spun in her seat.

Donner walked inside, tossed his scarf to the floor.

“Everything okay, poppa?” Lizzie asked.

He nodded but quickly averted the topic. “How’s the stew, dear?”

Lizzie shrugged. “I should be thankful.”

“Yes. You should.” Donner twirled a chair around and sat backward, resting his arms on the backrest. “Sometimes we have to do things that we’d rather not.”

“Like mother.” Lizzie dipped her spoon in the soup, digging out a piece of liver. “She was sick, and it was better that I just—”

“Stop…”

“In the bible, it says we go to heaven when we die,” Lizzie said. “Why not just go?”

Tears distorted Donner’s vision, but he looked to his daughter, caressing the side of her blurry face.

Lizzie slurped the juices from her spoon and bit into the chewy organ. “Why not just go?”

“When God wants you, there is no choice in the matter. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Donner said. “But, there’s something I can do to prevent us from starving to death. Therefore, he wants us to live. He gave me options, so it’s not our time yet.”

A knock at the door startled Donner. “What do you want?”

The same thing, I think,” a voice said. “Can I come in?”

Donner recognized the scratchy, high-pitch of Aileen. He plodded over, opening the door.

Aileen hugged herself, keeping warm as she hurried inside. She brushed the snow from her shoulders and walked by the young Lizzie as she ate her soup. “Is that good, child?”

Lizzie answered with a scowl.

“Do you know what you’re eating?” Aileen asked.

Lizzie slowly rotated her head. Her fiery glare never strayed from Aileen as she scooped up the soup and took another bite. After wiping her mouth on her sleeve, she lowered the utensil in the bowl, sat back in her chair, and glanced to her father like a princess being bothered by a peasant.

“What are you tryin’ to say?” Donner stepped forward.

“Please, Bailiff, relax.” Aileen made her way to a small window in the back of the cabin. In the distance, snow covered the land and a gloomy forest surrounded them. “Most people might not notice. But, I do,” Aileen said. “Every time someone passes, after the funeral, you bring their bodies behind that tree line.”

“People watch me bury them.” Donner grabbed a butter knife from the tabletop.

Aileen glanced over her shoulder at him. “Like Gacy said, many graves have been unearthed; sometimes the day after burial, but most times, the day before a big settlement meal. That you so happen to provide.”

“If you don’t bury them deep, the snow on top of the graves will refrigerate the meat.” Donner inched closer, knife hidden behind his back. “Is that what you want to hear?”

“Yes, and I’m expecting a big feast tomorrow.” Aileen looked back out the window, watched as Donner’s reflection crept closer. Still, she remained calm. “Some think our inner voice is just the devil poisoning our minds. Others, however, think its God showing us a sign.”

Donner stopped. “And, what do you think?”

“I think it’s a blessing.” Aileen forced a smile through the fear. She wheeled around, saying, “I think it’s a sign to survive.”

Donner released his hold on the knife. A weary smirk flashed across his scruffy face. “I think you’re right.”


© Copyright 2017 MELEL. All rights reserved.

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