The pain began to subside the instant the crowbar plunged deep into her skull. Blood began to stream down the once beautiful face of the woman. He had not intended to kill her. The crowbar in his jacket was only to show her he meant business. He only wanted to talk. They smoked their cigarettes and she seemed friendly. Then things got ugly. She got greedy. She wanted more money. All at once the pain began again. The pain never seemed to go away for long. His headache spread throughout his entire body and he no longer could hear her words. Before he knew what he was doing, he grabbed for her. He remembered thinking how soft her blouse felt, as she jerked away leaving the two ivory buttons in his hand. The next part was a blur. Glass shattered as she plunged through the coffee table. The intense struggle led down the hallway, until she stumbled and he pounced on her in the bedroom. Now here he stood with a crowbar in his hand and a dead woman at his feet. Thinking quickly, he dropped the crowbar and darted towards the kitchen. He found what he was looking for in the pantry—glass cleaner. He remembered seeing a crime documentary that mentioned glass cleaner would make crime scene fingerprints virtually unreadable. Back in the bedroom he wiped down the crowbar and placed it next to the body. Suddenly it occurred to him how good killing the woman made him feel. He felt alive and free, almost like a new man. He backtracked looking for anything he might have left behind. Eventually feeling content, he left the house and locked the front door. As he got in his car he pulled the code to the community gate from his jacket pocket. He had several more people to see. But that could wait until later. For now he wanted to go home, relax and relish this new feeling he had.
A few minutes later he parked in his driveway and walked casually towards his front door. As good as he was feeling, he couldn’t help but think he had missed something. As the key hit the door lock the pain began again. He collapsed in the entryway with one thought filling his head. “The cigarettes, I forgot the damn cigarettes.”
Jack Rabbit looked at the woman before him and immediately felt a sickness in his stomach. Not the kind you'd get from bad Panang meatballs, (although he did love Thai food), no this was a sickness he felt, every time he saw a dead body. The woman was stunningly beautiful, with short-cropped black hair and a perfect complexion. She was about five foot eight, one hundred and twenty pounds, give or take a pound or two. She lay on her back with her head cocked to the side and her legs pointing in opposite directions. The top three buttons of her white blouse were undone. Two appeared to be missing. Her blue skirt was rumpled and a large rip at the waist suggested there might have been a struggle. She wasn’t wearing shoes, but there was a tear running down the length of the right side of her mesh pantyhose. The back of the woman’s head was covered in blood. A few inches from the body lay the probable murder weapon, a small crowbar. This crowbar was not unlike the one currently in the trunk of the black 1967 Chevrolet Impala that Jack drove to each and every crime scene. Taking out a pair of latex gloves, Jack put them on and began to examine the body. Above her right eye was a small gash. Had she been alive it would have required several stitches. She had cuts and scrapes all over her arms and neck. Inside the woman’s blouse pocket Jack found four items: one cigarette – Marlboro Light, two quarters and a matchbook from the Blue Saloon, a local bar about two miles away. “Odd,” Jack thought, the woman looked much too sophisticated to frequent a seedy bar like the Blue Saloon. With nothing else to note, he bagged and tagged the evidence and continued his investigation.
Jack pulled out a small notebook from the pocket of his trench coat and began to survey his surroundings. He was standing in the larger of two bedrooms. Jack took note of the large canopy bed in front of him, probably a king. A rustic oak dresser took up nearly the entire right wall. On either side of the bed, dark brown end tables hugged against the back wall. A quick review of the contents produced the usual fare. Reading glasses, aspirin, eye drops and a copy of a book called "Twisty Tales and Other Stories" by Stone Nousha. The dresser also yielded no additional clues. It simply contained bras, panties, pantyhose and nightshirts. To his left was the Master bathroom and behind him was a walk-in closet. Jack turned around, glanced at the body in front of the closet and walked in.
The closet was huge. Clothes hanging on rods lined the back, right and left sides of the walls. On the left pants and skirts of every color hung lifelessly. Red, yellow, blue—every color of the rainbow it seemed. There were also a large number of formal and sun dresses. The right side contained blouses and shirts. On the back wall, hung what Jack’s mother referred to as “unmentionables”. Numbering at least thirty, Jack eyed everything from lacy negligees and leather corsets to bustiers. It seemed as if the dead woman had a bit of a naughty side. Lining the floor were hundreds of pairs of shoes. After searching the closet cubbies and all clothing pockets, Jack turned around and left the closet empty-handed.
Standing outside the bedroom Jack looked down a long hallway. To his right was the guest bathroom, a guest bedroom and the entrance foyer. The foyer contained a wooden door, which led into the garage and a large rustic door which lead out to the front yard. Having already searched the bathroom and bedroom, Jack moved down the hallway.
A few feet down the hallway a large living room opened up to the left. Glancing in Jack noticed an overturned chair and couch, scattered papers, a nearly full ashtray and a coffee table cracked in half. Jack began to gather his thoughts and recreate what he believed had happened. The struggle had started in the living room. He had found no evidence to suggest that there was more than one attacker. After an argument the woman was thrown through the coffee table, as evidenced by the broken glass and shattered wood. She got up and ran down the hallway towards the main bedroom. Scrapes and scratch marks in the hallway, suggested the violent struggle had continued all the way to the bedroom. The confrontation ended in the bedroom. After envisioning the attack, Jack turned his focus back to the living room. Bills, newspapers, circulars and envelopes were scattered everywhere. A single piece of folded yellow paper, sticking out of one of the envelopes, caught Jack’s attention. Jack recognized the writing on the envelope as freestyle script and it was addressed to:
1278 Cherry Lane
Town of Marchen
There was no return address and the envelope was postmarked three days ago. Being careful to grab only the edges, Jack pulled out the yellow paper and read the handwritten letter.
I saw you leaving the bar with him last night. I confronted him when he came home and he confessed everything. He is mine and you will NEVER have him. Leave him alone. You have been warned.
P.S. If you contact the police I’ll reveal your secret.
So it seems our dead lady had a secret life chock full of enemies, Jack thought. He placed the envelope and letter in a sealed bag and gave it to one of the many crime scene technicians wandering the hallway.
“Fingerprint that as soon as possible.”
Scouring the room revealed no additional clues. In the far right corner of the living room an archway led to the dining room. Jack stopped under the arch, in front of him was a rectangular table surrounded by eight Victorian style dining chairs. Each chair had an elegant placemat with lace trim in front of it. A centerpiece made up of fresh-cut flowers adorned the middle of the table. To Jack’s right he could see the kitchen, and across the kitchen he saw another door to the garage. To his left a sliding glass door led to a covered patio and a spacious backyard. Moving slowly, and visually inspecting everything, Jack entered the kitchen.
Surprisingly, the kitchen was nothing special. Standard refrigerator, standard stove, standard wood cabinets. Jack glanced up at a wall mounted clock. It read 1:30 p.m. He had already been at the scene for over an hour. It suddenly struck Jack that his partner had still not arrived. This was certainly unusual; his partner normally beat him to the crime scene. Casting the thought aside, he once again focused on the kitchen. A strange smell permeated the air which Jack quickly identified as some kind of leftovers dumped in the trashcan. A quick look in the refrigerator revealed the likely culprit. Inside were literally dozens of take-out containers. Chinese food cartons, pizza boxes and wrapped hamburgers covered most of the bottom two racks. The top rack contained milk, juice, wine and several six-packs of beer from a local brewery. Food was the last thing Jack wanted to see. His stomach still queasy from the initial viewing of the body, Jack quickly closed the door.
Working his way back through the dining room Jack headed for the sliding glass door that led out to the backyard. The sliding glass door opened with a squeak and Jack stepped out on to the patio. A nice set of patio furniture sat directly in the middle of the patio. The center of the table contained a large ceramic green ashtray. The ashtray held at least fifty crumpled cigarette butts and a thick layer of ash. Judging by the amount of cigarettes here and in the living room, our victim was a serious smoker. Most of the butts had red lipstick on the brownish filter. Just above the filters you could make out the wording “Marlboro Lights”. Exactly like the cigarette he found in the dead woman’s blouse pocket. Within an instant Jack spotted three filters that were not like the others. It reminded him of the song the people and puppets used to sing on Sesame Street when he was a kid.
One of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others?
By the time I finish my song.
Jack could tell which thing was not like the others. These three filters were black and white speckled. He instantly recognized them as belonging to a locally produced cigarette company called Marchen Values. Jack preferred cigars, but he had been told that these cigarettes were cheap to make and tasted like dirt. Even so they were wildly popular with the penny-pinching population of smokers in Marchen. Jack bagged two of the Marlboro Lights and two of the Marchen Values and moved on.
The backyard was small but well-manicured. Lush green grass populated nearly every inch of the ground except for a small pond which occupied the center of the yard. Jack could see several large Japanese Koi fish swimming in the pond. Surrounding the pond were dozens of ornamental rock slabs, which served as a walkway around the pond and leading back to the patio. As Jack was finishing his inspection of the yard, he heard the loud sound of the screeching of tires coming from the front of the house.
As he made his way back through the living room, Jack’s partner of three years nearly knocked him to the ground.
“It’s about time you got your ass out of bed Hunt.”
“Sorry Boss. I missed the call,” apologized Hunt. The shiny badge around his neck proclaimed him Hunt Lapsis, Detective.
“Where is the body?”
“Go down the hall and look in the bedroom on the right,” Jack answered. A few minutes later Hunt returned with a serious look in his eyes.
“Is that who I think it is?”
“It sure is.”
“Wonderful,” said Hunt. “We’ll have the media and the mayor here as soon as they find out.” Jack nodded as he glanced back at his notes. In his scribbled handwriting it read—deceased: Rose White, sister of Snow White.
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