What Happened?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A boy is found murdered in the woods, but every witness/suspect doesn't remember what happened.

Four of them went into the woods. They weren’t up to anything particularly sinister. Mainly looking to drink some beers, bought with a bad fake ID, and blow off some steam. It was mid basketball season after all, and they were experiencing their first free weekend of the last two months. Time off was rare for student athletes, and they had every intention of taking full advantage of their limited reprieve by heading into a secluded part of Nelson’s Pines with a case of cold ones and hitting pause on their hectic lives. The pressure from parents, the strain of coaches, it was a lot to bare. And so, like most, if not all, high school kids, they seized an opportunity to cut loose and act like kids. The fifth boy wasn’t with them, which is to say he was an “uninvited guest.” Not a trespasser, being that Nelson’s Pines wasn’t private property. It was a public park, but it was mostly covered with woods that people rarely venture into. So it would be fair to see him as an intruder, being that the four boys were quite deep into said woods and had not asked him along. But he was certainly not trespassing. Whether he had followed them out there in a curiosity spawned by jealousy or had simply stubbled across them while doing his own thing remains to be seen. What is known is that he’s dead. Dismembered in a most ghastly and horrific way. Cut from stem to sternum, skin peeled back, organs removed. Absolutely brutal. A passing jogger found the “fifth” boy, his would be assailants sitting around what would soon be found out to be their usual haunt in the woods. No effort to conceal the body had been made. They all just sat there with their blank gazes, emotion free, until the cops arrived. The sirens and flashing lights in the distance brought them to life. Not panicked, not fleeing, but certainly more animated than they had been when the jogger had stumbled upon them. None of the boys resisted arrest, and the drive to the police station was filled with an eerie silence that both scared and pissed off the arresting officers. Standard protocol requires contacting the parents of any minor arrested for any crime. This applied to one of the four. The other three had seen their eighteenth birthday and required no such courtesy. 

They arrived at the precinct around 8 am. The crime scene was roughly 90 minutes from the nearest precinct. The sheriffs station was closer, but for crimes like murder, the small town outsourced to neighboring police departments that had the resources to handle such things. The local sheriff actually seemed almost palliative to see Detectives Roger Barnes and Clay Thompson arrive at the scene to relieve them of their suspects. 

The boys were split up, each sent to a different part of the small station. Barnes and Thompson made sure none of the suspects had any contact with each other, starting from their arrival on the scene and continuing in the four cars that took them from the crime scene to the station. Separate officers lead each of the boys to individual holding quarters. Barnes and Thompson spoke quickly in a separate room, discussing a general strategy, before heading towards their first interrogation.  For the most part, their scheme hadn’t changed much in the past 12 years they had spent as partners. After a short discussion of facts, they came to the same amicable game plan as always and headed out to their first suspect. On their way to the interrogation room, Barnes stopped at a table near the front door of the station and dug into an old leather satchel that sat solo on top of a faded, splintering desk that some poor receptionist called home. He smiled at the unnamed lady as he pulled an old tape recorder, along with a power adapter and a tape that looked like its sticker had been pulled from it and reapplied several times before. 

“Not that again.” Thompson groaned. “Get a fucking app or something, that thing is the size of a fucking PC. Some Judge is gonna deem it inadmissible on account of it being a fucking antique and some asshole is gonna go galavanting out the front doors of the court house one day, all because you can’t mosey on into the 21st fucking century.”

“Hey, this is good luck.” Barnes replied, holding the old tape recorder up in the air, like it was a trophy that he was proud of. 

“It’s bologna and you know it, ya’ dumb asshole.” Thompson responded, but already knew it was fruitless. They’d been through this before and he knew, better than anyone, that Barnes had a certain way of doing things. “Old School” he would call it. He’d use that old tape recorder, and go with his gut even when the evidence suggested otherwise. It was fucking annoying, and he was usually, if not always, wrong. But it was easier to go along with it, rather than fight it, so the antique tape recording came in to all interviews. Thompson would record the interrogations with his digital tape recorder regardless, but only referred to it when Barnes tape recorder failed. And even though it failed a lot, it always seemed to make it into the interrogation room regardless of its past interview performance.

First up was John. He was the oldest of the bunch, having turned 18 years of age about 6 months ago. He was also the one with the bogus ID. He sat on a folding chair in a small interrogation room with only one additional folding chair and a table that looked like it had seen better days. He was not handcuffed, and an untouched cup of water sat perspiring on the shitty table. Detectives Barnes and Thompson entered, coffees in hand.  Neither of them took the empty folding chair opposite of John, they simply stood there for a moment, staring at their suspect. Finally, after a minute or two, Barnes placed his tape recorder on the table and spoke. “Rough night, John?”

He didn’t respond. Barnes continued. “I’m going to record our conversation, John.” He leaned over and pressed record on the old tape recorder. The tape began to spin, as John sat there, silently looking at the floor. 

“We’d like to talk about what happened in the woods, if that’s okay with you, John.” Barnes’ tone was friendly enough, but not overtly jovial. John looked at him, then returned his gaze to the floor. 

“John, what happened to Billy?” Again, Barnes held a amicable, yet stern tone. Still nothing.

“This is gonna go a whole lot easier if you shoot straight with us from the get-go, tough guy.” Thompson chimed in for the first time, the first sign of a good cop, bad cop routine. 

“We were out in the woods, drinking, having a good time. We caught that little weirdo spying on us. Taught him a lesson. That’s all.” John spoke blatantly, without much emotion at all. 

“So what happened then, John? You caught him spying and then what?”

Barnes sipped from his coffee cup, as if he had all the time in the world. At this point in his career he was a pro at interrogation. He knew it was all about temperament, and not intimidation. People who admitted things under duress were useless. It was a game of finesse, and he’d logged more hours than most. 

John continued of his own free will. “We grabbed him, smacked him around a bit. He said he was out bird watching or some bullshit. We chirped him for that. Poured some beer on him, took his backpack. Shit like that.” 

John was loosening up, but still had an unsettling calmness about the whole situation. He wasn’t smiling, but it almost looked like he wanted to. Barnes wrote a thought down on his notepad. John watched him write for a moment before turning his eyes towards the old table again.

“What happened then, John?” Barnes asked, not looking up from his notebook. The old tape recorder continued to roll, filling the silent room with the soft, mechanical sound of the tape spinning. But John said nothing for the rest of the night. 

 

 

Mark was another one of the older suspects. He had parents, just like the rest of them, but they didn’t need to be present during questioning due to his age and, therefore, would not be invited into Barnes’ office, where Mark was being held. As previously stated, it was a small station, with only one interrogation room, one holding cell and a small break room. With four suspects that needed to be separated, one had to end up in a fourth location, and that someone was Mark. Barnes office had been prepped, albeit quickly, before mark was ushered in. Personal photos had been removed, and a bottle of Jack along with a low calibre sidearm had been moved to the small locker of a rookie traffic cop. Mark was cuffed to the leg of Barnes desk. Unlike the interrogation room that held John,  the rooms door did not lock, and so cuffs were an unfortunate necessity. He had been looking at the ground, studying the tiles when Barnes and Thompson entered. They went through the story just like they had with John, right up until...

“So you smacked him around a bit. What was in his backpack?” Barnes asked.

“Don’t know, we didn’t look inside.” He responded, flatly.

“Then why take it?” Thompson interjected, clearly perturbed by the answers they’d received thus far. 

“‘Cause he didn’t want us to have it.” Mark replied in, what most would consider a snarl.

At this point the pathologist, culled special from out of town, had arrived and begun examining the body of Billy Horowitz in the basement of the police station. Barnes and Thompson were eagerly awaiting the results. Although it was fairly obvious what had killed the boy, mysteries remain. Why was he out there in the fist place and why didn’t any of he arrested boys seem nervous. Even better, why aren’t they covered in blood? The dismembered body suggests a horrific crime scene, yet none of the participants are soaked in red? The real mystery was the lack of restraints used and the complete absence of and kind of weapon that could have caused such a gruesome scene. 

“What happened next?” Barnes asked calmly. 

“Our ears popped.” 

“What?” Thompson chimed in.

“Our ears popped. Like when you’re on a plane.” Mark stuck his figure in his ear as he stretched his mouth open, as if he was showing them how to un-pop their ears. 

Thompson was losing his patience. “What happened next with Billy, Mark?”

“He died.” 

 

The door opened and a young and slightly nervous deputy informed Barnes and Thompson that the pathologist had arrived and wanted to see them. It’s a hard decision, having to choose between a suspect talking and a pathologist with new information. But the pathologist always wins because of the insight they provide. It’s always good practice to go into any interrogation with as much accurate information as you possibly can, and Barnes was all ab out “good practice”. And so, eagerly yet lightly reluctant, Barnes and Thompson left Mark in the office and headed down to the basement to hear out the dead body expert.

Dr. Shaw was standing over the sink washing his hands when they arrived. The horrific remains of Billy Horowitz lay on the table partially covered with a white sheet. 

“Detectives.” Shaw greeted them very casually, as if the butchered body of a 16 year old wasn’t laying only a few feet away. 

“What’s up, doc?” Thompson asked as he snickered at his own stupid joke. Shaw ignored him and turned his attention to the corpse. 

“Cause of death was blood loss, a result of extreme mutilation to the front torso of the victim. He was cut stem to stern, skin peeled back and the sternum cracked and separated with precision.” Shaw seemed animated but definitely not excited. Barnes and Thompson were equally intrigued and disturbed as the short, weird pathologist continued on. 

“Some of his organs have been removed, the kidneys, liver, both lungs. Heart is missing, the only piece missing, all others had been placed back in their original place, severed cleanly and methodically.”

“Any idea how four drunk teenagers could pull something like this off?” Barnes asked.

“YouTube?” Shaw responded, with a shrug.  

“Better question for you, Doc. What’s the murder weapon and why aren’t any of the perps covered in poor Billy-boy’s blood?” Thompson asked, as he helped himself to a cup of water from the sink.

Shaw didn’t answer.

 

Paul was next on the list but, by the time the detectives had finished with the pathologist, his parents had arrived. He was the youngest of the bunch, and was therefore unable to be questioned without his legal guardians present. They arrived, and they were outraged by the whole ordeal. They insisted that, of course their “baby” had nothing to do with the murder of Billy. He wouldn’t be talking until their lawyer arrived. They said the word “lawyer” like he was some high roller they kept on retainer and had frequent contact with, but in reality they had probably met for the first time when Paul’s parents dialed his number after receiving a call from the cops. Barnes and Thompson tried to reason with Paul’s parents, that it was innocent questioning and their son was not an official suspect. It didn’t work. “You have nothing to ask him until his counsel arrives.” Mr. Johnson repeated for the fourth time. Barnes finally conceded and they moved on to their next guest. 

 

Kevin was last on the list. He was of age, and like John and Mark, had not asked for an attorney. Barnes entered first and set his recorder on the table, along with his cup of coffee. He grabbed the cord of the recorder and plunged it into the closest outlet to the table, right next to the nearly empty vending machine in the break room. At this point Barnes and Thompson were tired. It had been a long, unproductive night, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Follow up interviews with John and Mark were to follow, as well as a long and assuringly painful conversation with Paul’s attorney. He though of the nights future as he sat down and placed the mic of his tape recorder in the center of the break room table. 

“How’s it going, Kevbo?” Barnes was relieved when Thompson took the the lead. He glanced down at his recorder, and was please to see the wheels spinning. Kevin didn’t respond to Thompson. 

“Your friends told us all we need to know, Kevin. We’re just trying to dot the “i’s” and so on.” Barnes was relaxed, knowing there was still so much to dig into. No reason to rush, even thought it was the last round of their first interviews.

“Our ears popped.” Kevin replied, in a low voice.

“Speak into the mic, buddy.” Thompson said.

Kevin grabbed the mic to the tape recorder and repeated himself, louder. “Our ears popped!” The tape continued to roll.

“Yea, we heard about that. What happened with Billy?” Barnes asked, for the final time that night.

“We were in the woods, and Billy showed up…” Kevin started when Thompson lost his cool.

“We’ve heard this over and over. Yeah, Billy crashed your party, ya’ll took his bag and teased him a bit. But at what fucking point did you little assholes torture him to death?” Thompson wasn’t yelling when he said it, though he was far from calm. Barnes put a hand on Thomspon’s arm in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Kevin seemed unfazed by the verbal assault. 

“We were just out there enjoying ourselves.” Kevin said this very calmly, given the tone Thompson was taking with such a young kid. 

“What happened after your ears popped, Kevin?” Barnes asked as he reached towards the mic to shift it closer to Kevin. The interviewee realized this and grabbed the mic again, ready to tell his tale. As he did, Barnes’ arm shifted back, knocking his cup of coffee over, spilling its hot contents all over his tape recorder. The liquid infiltrated the electronics of the device and delivered a shock throughout, frying the tape inside, as it traveled up through the cord to the mic, shocking poor Kevin. He yelped a bit, yanking his hand back from pain as the device sizzled and the mic dropped to the floor. Thompson was ready to call the perp a pussy when he saw a small puff of smoke pillar from behind Kevin’s ear. Kevin tilted his head to the left and brought his hand up to his right ear, as if some unknown entity had smacked him on the side of his head. Barnes scrambled to pick up the recorder and save it from the damaging liquid as Thompson opened the door and yelled for some napkins. He closed the door and, just as Barnes realized his “lucky” tape recorder was toast, the suspects demeanor changed completely. He went from a calm and collected kid to a panicked mess almost instantly.

“What the fuck?” Kevin screamed, jumping from his chair and shoving his back to the wall of the break room. Thompson hopped back from the table, part in shock and part ready to defend himself. Barnes dropped his ruined tape recorder on the floor and heard it shatter to pieces, but never took his eyes off Kevin.

“Where are they?” Kevin asked, his head turning left to right, then back again, as if he had just seen the mother of all magic tricks. 

“Calm down, kid” Thompson said, as he raised his hand towards the kid. Kevin slapped Thompson’s gesture with his right, while tossing the small folding table to the side with his left hand and bolting for the door. Barnes snapped out of his temporary shock and bear hugged the frantic kid. 

“Calm down, clam down right fucking now!” Barnes shouted as he struggled to contain the boy before Thompson regained his composure and assisted Barnes. Together they were able to return Kevin to his chair, for a brief moment until he bolted for the door. The detectives shoved him to his seat once more. Another moment passed before Kevin tried once again to escape the room, only to be seized and shoved to his seat yet again.  The boy finally realized it was pointless and tried to calm himself with deep and heavy breaths. His hands shook as Barnes and Thompson, satisfied that they had secured the suspect, returned to their own chairs.

“They killed him!” Kevin blurted out, while trying to catch his breathe.

“Who killed him? John and Mark?” Barnes asked.

“No, what? No they didn’t, the grey men did!” Kevin replied, confused and out of breathe.

Thompson chimed in. “What the fuck is “The Grey Men”? Is that what you call your ‘posse’?”

Kevin took a second, like someone had asked him a confusing question. “No, what? We were in the woods. The fucking Grey men came out of nowhere and they fucking killed Billy. They cut him open in-front of us.” Kevin was in tears at this point, recalling the horrific events of Billy’s death.

“They injected us with something, they held us down and put something in our heads.” He had finally caught his breathe but still spoke in a panicked voice as he held his hand the his right ear. “I remember. I remember both, i think. I remember the memory they gave us, but I also remember what really happened.”

“What the fuck are you saying, you little twerp?” Thompson grabbed Kevin by the collar, and shouted in his face before Barnes grabbed him and shoved him back to his cheap folding chair. 

Kevin continued, completely unfazed by Thompson’s assault. 

“They appeared out of nowhere, right after we found Billy spying on us. I remember it. I remember both!” He paused for a moment, Iike he knew what he was about to say next was going to be a tough pill to swallow.

“I remember us killing Billy, cutting him open with a fucking knife that none of us brought with us. But I also remember the grey men killing him. They cut him open while the others held us down and made us watch.” Kevin started tearing up. He wiped the tears from his eyes with his sleeve and looked to Barnes. The detective nodded towards him, encouraging him to go on. “They removed his organs slowly, methodically like it was some kind of sick, twisted surgery. The rest held us down and made us watch. We tried to look away but they turned our heads and made us watch the whole fucking time.” The boy was hysterical at this point, but some how managed to continue his story.

“They cut his fucking chest open with some kind of laser thing and pulled out his fucking heart! Took it out of Billy’s chest with it’s hand and put it in a small sack that one of the other grey men carried. The main one who cut through Billy made some kind of hand gesture, and the others carry billy’s corpse away. They dumped him on the floor of the campsite and looked back at the dissector. He motioned towards Mark and they grabbed him, dragged him to the the one that cut up Billy. As they were dragging Mark we heard the jogger’s footsteps in the distance and the grey men stopped what they were doing and disappeared.”

Neither detective said anything for quite some time. They simply stared at the suspect in disbelief. After a while, the silence broke. 

“That’s quite a tale, Kevbo.” Thompson leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. He clearly didn’t believe the story, but was entertained none the less. 

“Please, I’m telling you the truth!” Kevin pleaded. Thompson remained seated, his arms crossed, clearly unamused. Barnes said nothing, he just looked at the boy with his mouth slightly open. He was either an extremely disturbed young man or a very gift liar. Either way, he did not see a point in continuing. They would reach out to a child psychologist in the morning and go from there. Barnes got up from his chair, followed by Thompson. 

“We’ll continue this in the morning, I think.” Barnes said, as he collected the remnants of his tape recorder.

“We’ve set up transport to a youth facility that can house you boys until the hearing on Monday. Should be here in a few hours, make yourself comfortable until then.” The detectives turned to leave a very upset and shaken Kevin. The boy said nothing, he just sat there silently stared at the wall, trembling, as tears streamed from his eyes. 

Barnes sighed and turned towards the door. As he reached for the doorknob, his ears popped.


Submitted: January 30, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Ben Driver. All rights reserved.

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