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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chapter Twenty One

David finally dozed off.  It had been a terrible day and he needed some rest: tomorrow would be equally challenging, and so when he closed is eyes all he could think about were the countless twists and turns of the case. David needed the peace that only sleep could deliver. 

As usual, David rarely made it to his bed. His eyes closed with his head propped on the arm of the sofa and his shoes lay on the carpet just below his feet, the television his only company. Within minutes, the sounds of the television were overwhelmed by the throaty, exhausted snores that echoed out of the cop and he slipped into feverish dreams.

David was usually a peaceful sleeper but not tonight. David found himself falling into a misty abyss. It wasn’t a fast fall but rather a slow spin and with each revolution David seemed to shrink. He could see his arms and hands becoming smaller until they had the softness of a little girl’s. David found himself on a city street. His perspective was lower than usual; he seemed to be looking up at the many adults who hurried along the sidewalks. The metamorphosis concluded as David’s identity disappeared in favor of the little girl’s. It was as if they were both looking out of the same set of eyes, but the little girl had complete control.

Amy Schultz looked up at the street signs. She was sure that she was on the right street; she wanted to check. She had used the same route home from school just as she had done for the past three years. Amy wasn’t as scared of the city as she had once been: the smells, noises, and sometimes odd-looking people didn’t faze her anymore. She knew to look straight ahead, walk quickly, and not to engage anyone in conversation. She didn’t need to be reminded to follow these patterns because everyone she knew looked straight ahead, walked quickly, and didn’t speak to strangers in the city.

Nevertheless, she couldn’t contain her excitement when she spotted the huge bunch of balloons a man was carrying into a building. The man’s hand clutched the strings tightly as the helium filled balloons pulled and pushed by the wind flew in every direction. Amy couldn’t help but think that there was someone very lucky who would be receiving them: maybe it was someone’s birthday.  The man was having trouble opening the door to the building because the number of balloons were simply too large to maneuver through the door, so Amy responded quickly to a wave of his hand.  She held the door open as he clumsily pushed them into the space between the outer and inner doors of the building. Amy followed him into the area between the doors and ducked under the balloons so that she could open the inner door. She glanced over her shoulder and looked back toward the first door, which was now closed. Sunlight filtered through the glass and a rainbow of colors caught Amy’s eyes. 

The man’s hand reached out to take Amy’s. He asked if she wanted to help him deliver the balloons to the birthday party. Amy pursed her lips and thought hard, knowing full well that she shouldn’t be in the building, but the man seemed so nice and it was a party. She turned towards the inside of the building, her excitement overcoming her sense of danger. She couldn’t wait to see the wonderful surprised look on the face of the birthday girl or boy when they saw the balloons. 

Amy followed the man down one hall and then another. All of the doors looked alike and when Amy and the man took one last turn and they began to descend an old wooden set of stairs, her heart suddenly lurched in her chest. She turned quickly, trying to tear her hand free from the man’s, because no one she knew had a birthday party in the basement. The man’s silhouette now blocked the single light bulb that shone behind him. The balloons had been released and were now scattered against the ceiling. The man’s overcoat enveloped Amy’s entire body and head. 

David woke up with a start and the sofa and his body was drenched with sweat.  He rolled onto the floor and gasped for breath. The man’s silhouette that towered above Amy Schultz was his own.

David stripped away his soaked dress shirt and went directly to the bathroom. He needed a towel to capture some of the moisture that stuck to his body and he wanted to be in a position to retch if what he felt came to pass. After about three minutes, David rose from the tile floor and cautiously moved towards his laptop computer.

This was not the first time he’d had this dream: all of what he’d seen through Amy’s eyes were clips from the surveillance tapes that had caught little Amy’s last moments alive. The rest…well, the rest was supposition based off the hideous splatters they had found on the floor, walls and ceiling, as well as the look of anguished terror that had been on the girl’s face.

The archives on the Amy Schultz case were easily accessed, and David reluctantly looked over them for what had to be the thousandth time. Her murder had the entire country riveted to their screens long past the allotted seven days, and Atlas had even run two prime time specials months after the murder. Despite everyone’s efforts, the case was never solved and in David’s mind and heart, he knew that it should have been: the clues just never added up. There were only a handful of times that David felt that he had failed the victim’s family, and the Amy Schultz murder was the first and foremost of those instances.

            David remembered every image from his dream just as he remembered every detail of the investigation. Police officers found had found Amy’s body after a desperate search in every building along Amy’s route to and from school. The only found her after pouring through the building’s security feeds, and once they had, it had become obvious how brilliant the murderer was. The two glass doors that led into the aging apartment complex created a natural mirror effect that the security guards wouldn’t immediately notice, the balloons would have blocked anyone’s view from the street, and by the time anyone had thought to question what they were seeing, the man and the girl would have been lost in the labyrinth of the unfinished basement. 

            David reviewed once again the clues in the case. Security cameras had caught a partial view of the suspect’s face: his tweed hat and overcoat weren’t unusual but they were no more distinctive than what most people wore. The balloons were scattered across the ceiling of the basement and they had to have been purchased somewhere in the city, but despite checking into that lead, no one could seem to remember anyone fitting the killer’s description. Amy’s body was wrapped in the same overcoat that the man wore when he entered the building, but there was nothing on it: a bit of fiber or saliva or even a few hairs would have help identify the killer but Amy, the coat, and the floor held only traces of Amy’s blood. 

The killer had been there and yet it was like he never had existed. The cause of death was strangulation and then the killer broke her neck, but there were no bruises to show the size of the man’s hands, nor were there finger prints on the girl’s skin. There were virtually no cases in the police or the private investigator’s databases where a killer killed his victim twice, and so it was impossible to trace him via his M.O. As gory as the implications of what the killer did were, the brutality should have made the killer easier to find because he demonstrated psychotic behaviors.

            David knew from experience that his sleep was over for this night.  He closed the files on Amy Schultz and opened the crime scene photos of Darcy Tucker. The images were already burned into his memory, but he poured over them anyway, groping in the dark for anything to shed some light on the case.
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