The things that I’m afraid of actually exist. The things that gross me out are real. I’ve always wanted to write a thriller or a scary story. This might be a good first start? Enjoy. Happy Halloween–a day early!
You’ve seen The Butcher
by dc edwards
The detectives arrive at our home at 6pm. I use all of my 6 foot frame to block the doorway. The two police officers smile but the grins don’t make it to their eyes. They both look like they’ve stepped out of one of my Grandma’s 60’s television shows; perfectly lined haircuts, crisp white shirts, black ties, tan suits. The black cop looks like a rookie though; shiny shoes, shiny buttons, creased pants, his ready but shaky smile in contrast to the white cop who is still pulled together but a little less shiny.
I spend most nights sketching on walls and train cars. The week before I’d lost one of my cans running away from an overweight rent-a-cop. I am sure they are here for me.
“We have news for your parents. Can you get them,” the white cop says as they squeeze past me, not waiting for my answer.
The clump of their shoes across the oak floors twists in my gut. I flip the black hood on my sweater over my head and follow.
“Mr and Mrs. Williams,” the black cop says, stepping down into the sunken living room, his arms stretched outward his pale palms down and spread apart. He seems to be tip-toeing on his shiny black shoes.
I slink past the two cops and wait near the full bay window. My father nearly jumps out of his Lay Z Boy; all 6’5 of him. He played pro football for the Raiders as a young man. He met my mother in college. Two black kids from Mississippi meeting at USC. They used to call it kismet.
“What the hell did you do now, Brandon?” My pops grimaces at me; his hands on his full hips, frown lines deep in his forehead. I shift into the hood of my sweatshirt.
“Sir,” the black cop steps slowly towards my parents; his arms still outstretched but palms up.
“Him,” my pops points at me with a rolled up portion of the sports section, “what did he do?”
“No, sir, not him.”
My parents and I stare at the cops. I hear my brother Ephram’s name as the black cop moves even closer to my parents. Every noise becomes highlighted as the detective explains the reason for his visit. A fly buzzes past my eyes. Its large black body lazily glides rising and falling on the strength of its thin wings. The ding of the dryer in the laundry room just beyond the archway. The beginning whistle of the teapot on the stove in the kitchen. The sportscaster yells above cheering fans. I glance at the television to see LeBron dunk on Kobe in a replay. Just as a low growling wail erupts to my right. I am suddenly aware of the red and blue reflection blinking around the walls of the living room. My father restrains my mother. Her face is contorts into a torturous grimace as tears streak along the lines of her face. I look up at the black cop. He looks nervous, his lips thin and tight; his runners body seemingly poised for a sprint. The white cop is looking around the living room; picking up picture frames, examining the Greek lettered paddles nailed along one of the walls. He comes back around the sofa to pat my shoulder his face soft and sympathetic.
“What the hell happened,” my pops demands, his arm around my moms heaving shoulders.
“Drunk driver, sir,” the black cop answers.
“Ephram was drunk?”
“No, sir a drunk driver hit him.”
“Well we don’t believe he was drunk. But it was after 1 am,” the white cop says.
“Ephram wouldn’t drink & drive,” my mom rasps through her tears.
“Yes, ma’am,” the black cop says.
He glances at his partner. The white man’s reddening face looks like a question mark. The white cop pushes past me. He slaps a hand on the black cops shoulder.
“Can we ask you some questions,” the white cop asks.
“Wait, Ephram was here,” my pops asks.
“Yes sir. Well, not too far. Right inside our jurisdiction.”
“Probably coming to surprise you good folks,” the black detective offers.
“Did you know about this Brandon? You talked to him last night, right,” my pops turns to me his dark brown eyes searching for answers.
I shake my head; shove my hands deeper into my jeans, my fingers clench into fists.
The answers I have they don’t want.
Modern technology. Facetime every Thursday. My parents made me a deal a year ago when my grades began to slip. They promised Ephram and I could go to Puerto Rico for my Junior year spring break without them. Their rules though meant that I had to stop tagging and talk to Ephram once a week. Ephram has been a straight A student since he was born. So he tutors me and we talk about his classes, the girls we think are cute.
And his hobby.
“I talked to him. But he never mentioned coming home,” I lie.
The white detective cocks an eyebrow at me. I shuffle my feet. My Chuck Taylor’s make tiny squeaking sounds on the wood floor. My pops settles my mom in the kitchen with the black detective. I try to excuse myself but the white detective shakes his head and my pops points to his Lay Z Boy.
“Can you tell us more about your son,” the white detective asks.
“He’s a good kid. First year in Law school. Going to join me in the firm when he’s done. Tutors, this knucklehead here,” my pops points at me, “volunteers at a homeless shelter on weekends.”
“He sounds perfect.”
“Ah well you know kids, he’s good though. Makes us proud.”
The white cop lobs another question; my pops hits it back. Like a tennis match they go back and forth. I get lost in my thoughts.
I was seven the first time I saw Ephram as his true self; in his true element. We had a fort in the woods behind our house. Ephram told me before I was born, our pops had found it and restored it just for him. It was originally an old hunting blind in a tree. Our pops tricked it out for us; creating a spiral staircase up to the blind. He patched and sanded the floor and upgraded the roof. He put glass in the window and kept it stocked with sleeping bags, first aid kit and snacks. When I was old enough Ephram took me to the fort. I thought it was beautiful. In the summer, the full branches nearly hid it from sight. In the winter, the wood blended into the barrenness of the trees. When Ephram became a teenager he snuck girls to the fort.
That day I followed him.
“I’m sorry, Detective…”
“Detective Brooks, I feel like you’re leading to something. I really need to tend to my wife,” my pops says.
“Yes, well, Mr. Williams. I think it’s best we finish our talk at the station.”
My mother and father gently argue with the white detective when he suggests I ride with him and his colleague. I sink into the back seat of the Mustang; hiding under my hoodie.
“Your brother seems like he’s the champ of the family,” Detective Brooks suggests.
“Your mother is broken up,” the black cop offers.
“You think,” I say.
“Ephram always a good brother to you,” Detective Brooks asks.
“I think you know something.”
“I bet you do.” I focus on the passing scenery as memories of that day play out in my mind.
Even then I was light footed. I liked to pretend I was a ninja. I got good at it. I could tip toe my way through the whole house without so much as a squeak on a board. Ephram was always impressed by that. That day he told me to stay home; to play with my toys in my room and not come out until he came to get me. Our parents trusted him to watch me when they went on their weekly date. Most of those nights, he’d make popcorn and we’d watch a movie. But every now and then he’d bring a girl home. Sometimes it was girls from the neighborhood. Beautiful brown skinned girls, with braids, quick smiles revealing retainers were my brothers thing. When he was allowed to date; he dated a lot. My dad liked that he didn’t want to settle down. My mother stopped remembering the girls names. I kept a list. I like lists. That day though; the girl wasn’t from the neighborhood. She was brown skinned and had braids but looked older; a little more worn around the edges. She was short and thick; a tiny pooch of a belly peaking out from under her tight t-shirt just below full breasts. Ephram promised ice cream if I stayed in my room.
I wish I had stayed in my room.
The Detectives keep me and my parents apart. They put them in a room together and me in another. I haven’t ever been arrested for tagging. Most of my friends have. But I run five miles a day to keep myself fit. Ephram and I usually run together when he comes home. He has a regimen which he forced me to start when my grades started slipping. I stick to it. He’s not someone I want to piss off. I guess I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Detective Brooks taps the manila folder in front of him. We stare at each other; neither wanting to break eye contact first. I consider it a win for me when he glances away.
“You love your brother,” he asks, as he stands up and leans against the two way mirror.
“What did you two talk about last night?”
“He helped me with my homework and we talked about a girl he was going out with.”
“He didn’t say her name.” I shrug
“So he talks to you about a girl but he doesn’t say her name,” he sighs.
A young uniformed cop opens the door; hands the detective a coffee and places a soda in front of me. I look up; my lips pursed.
“Excuse me,” Detective Brooks asks.
“You want my DNA.”
“No, I thought you were thirsty.”
“I know my parents have a lawyer.”
“Why are you worried about a lawyer when I gave you a soda?”
“I watch SVU.”
Detective Brooks shakes his head and leaves the room. Leaving the soda and the manila folder behind. I look at both. They’re a trap. Clear as muthafucking day. My problem has always been that I have FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. I should fix that. I should have already fixed that. But I’m nosey. I should know better. Just like that day I went to spy on Ephram and the girl at the fort. I should have kept my ass in my bedroom.
I heard them giggling just ahead of me. The girl complained about the twigs and her heels. He promised her it wasn’t far. A place they wouldn’t be disturbed. It was getting dark and Ephram had a flashlight. I followed as tightly behind as I could. I knew those woods. I’d explored them with Ephram and without. I had my own favorite secluded spots to play. I buried my GI Joe’s when I played at war. I knew the knobs on each of the thin and thick trees. I knew the musky scent of the mud near the stream and the iron scent of the driest dirt. There was a downed tree near the fort. Hollowed out by weather, animals and insects. It was my most favorite place. When all was quiet you could hear every sound in the woods from that spot. I waited behind a large oak and watched them go up the staircase. The girl, was laughing about how childish this place was. He promised what they were going to do wasn’t childish at all.
I crept into my hollowed out log. I always kept a plastic bag of stuff in there. Some jerky, some candy, my favorite assembled Joe’s and the binoculars I found rummaging around in a junk pit about a mile up the creek. I’d seen Ephram kiss girls before. He’d let me watch him, from the darkness of his closet, make out with one of his nameless girlfriends. He started taking girls to the fort because he got caught naked with that same girl. It was one of the few times I heard him get yelled at. That girl didn’t come around any more. I expected to see kissing. I didn’t get that it was dark and I’d see nothing; just shadows. I listened though. Her laughter was throaty and heavy. I could hear Ephram say, “get undressed,” “lay down,” “come closer.” I got distracted by my toys and ate a piece of jerky. After 15 minutes I’d decided to creep back to the house.
Then I heard a yelp; like a kicked dog. I sprinted towards the fort. Forgetting I was supposed to be in my room waiting for ice cream; giving Ephram his privacy.
Detective Brooks appears in the doorway of the interrogation room with my mother beside him. Her red rimmed gray eyes sweep over me. I think its pity I see in them. I can’t tell so I look away. She sits in the silver metal chair next to me then drapes an arm around my shoulder. Her affection startles me. I try not to flinch. The white detective doesn’t say anything as he opens up the folder in front of us. A multicultural cavalcade of women spills out in front of the two of us. Nearly all the same age; mid twenties, mostly brown and black–a couple of Asians–no white women, shoulder length hair or braids, otherwise they were just average women none of them in any way remarkable or memorable. Except one. There she is. The older one. I think the first one. I try not to linger too long on the picture. I will my hands to stay in my pockets; to not reach out for her. Her picture is different from the others. It’s a mug shot. The date, a week before Ephram brought her home.
The closer I got to the fort; the louder the choking sounds got. Behind the choking was a gurgling sound like when water spirals down the drain of a sink. I charged up the stairs, my plastic sword tapping the wood behind me. I could see Ephram’s bare back bent over the woman. The flashlight flickered; abandoned in the corner away from them. I could hear slurping; gulping satisfied moans.
“Ephram,” I whispered; my breathing slowing as the tinny scent of warm iron filled my nose.
I could see the shadow of his arm wipe across his face. He didn’t turn towards me.
“Hand me that towel,” he said; his arm swung towards me, hand outstretched. I handed him the towel.
“Ephram, I’m sorry,” I stammer.
“It’s ok to be curious. I’ve…I’ve wanted to tell you for awhile. I was your age when The Thirst started. I figured you followed me ’cause it started for you too.”
I didn’t understand him. I didn’t want to understand him. I backed down the stairs as fast as I could and ran to the house. I locked my bedroom door.
“You know these girls don’t you Brandon,” Detective Brooks says, shaking me out of my memory. He slips into the chair opposite from me.
“I think you do,” he says, tapping the mugshot of the older woman with the eraser of his pencil.
The young cop opens the door again and escorts my mother into the room. She sits in the chair next to me. My mother pats my back. I feel nauseous as sweat drips down my spine. I’m happy I have on my hoodie.
“Your brother, Ephram, did he keep trophies?”
“He was good at sports,” I say.
“You watch SVU. You know what I’m talking about.”
“Detective, I told you, Brandon doesn’t know anything,” my mother offers.
“As I told you and your husband, these young women are part of an on going missing persons investigation, we think your son Ephram knew something about that. He was being investigated by the police near his school,” Detective Brooks offered.
“Detective,” my mother began, “Ephram was a good boy. And although Brandon has his problems he can’t possibly know anything about these girls.”
“Mrs. Williams, I don’t think you understand. There was a charred girl’s body in the trunk of your son’s car. We are already searching his apartment. We will get a warrant for your house.”
“And if we find out anything, Mr & Mrs. Williams will be happy to help in any way they can,” the voice behind Detective Brooks says.
John Brown is my father’s portly cigar chewing co-partner at his firm. He uses his girth to push into the room; making it feel smaller with his presence. The detective and John size each other up as John places a possessive hand on my mothers shoulder before scooping up the pictures and sliding them into the manila folder. He grins at the detective all the while chewing on an extinguished stogie. We leave the room faster than we came. Handshakes and business cards exchange, apologies and promises are made. We drive home; the three of us in silence. When we get home, I want to run to my room; lock the door and roll a joint. Better yet, find the nearest toilet. But as I mount the stairs my pops hand grabs my hoodie and pulls me into the living room.
“Brandon, we’re proud of you,” my mother says as she hands my pops a tumbler half filled with whisky.
I sink into the leather couch; taking in her words. Neither of them ever say proud or my name in the same sentence. My pops puts his arm around my mother and pulls her close.
“Yeah son, we thought you were going to lose it. But you didn’t. You kept your head on straight and you didn’t say a word,” my pops says as he raises his glass to me.
“I don’t understand,” I stutter.
“I mean you are the odd one. Not having The Thirst and all. But, we thought, well, maybe you’d get it when you turned 18,” my mother offers.
“Ephram, whew, that boy took to his Thirst right away. Had to make sure that fort out there could be a good place for him to take care of his needs,” my pops says.
“Our needs too,” my mother replies, swirling the whiskey in her tumbler.
“But he was so foolish sometimes,” my pops says shaking his head before draining his glass.
“Yes, the girl in the trunk, what a mistake. How are we going to clean that up?”
“John is going to work on it. Don’t worry, don’t worry,” my pops hushes my mother.
“Well, we have a lot of work to do tonight. Ephram left a mess so we have to clean it up. Plus we have to get that body out of the basement,” my pops says, as he claps me on the shoulder while heading toward the basement door.
“Yes, I suppose we should,” my mother says, “he would have been the best Butcher any one of us could have raised.”