The Red Scarf

There had been 2 murders since Memorial Day. It was already the 4th of July and Detective John Henry Bridges was sweating like a nun in a porn shop. The city of Anderson hadn’t seen a murder in 9 years, John’s second year as a police officer. Normally, all three of Anderson’s detectives had the holidays off, but there was just something about 2 murders and the disappearance of the mayor’s 18 year old daughter that made the city uneasy and desperate for the suspect to be captured.

The small office felt more like a crypt with barely enough room for a desk, chair, and filing cabinet. A bulletin board hung behind the desk that held various newspaper clippings and photographs pertaining to the murders of Kelly Jenkins and Trina Barry, the unfortunate victims of Anderson’s first serial killer. An 8×10 color photograph of a smiling Elizabeth Doughty hung by itself in the corner of the board. She had been missing for three days. John Henry wondered if she was smiling now. He doubted it.

He cupped his face in his hands and tried to puzzle together the clues that were staring him in the face. The facts were that there were 2 dead girls, one was found May 5th and the other on Memorial Day. Both victims were strangled with a red scarf that was neatly tied around the neck of the girls. The girls had been placed at the scene, meaning that they had been killed elsewhere. No other evidence or witnesses had been found. It was as if the suspect killed the girls, and vanished into thin air. The information on the red scarf had not been released to the press. Both girls had been in their late teens and were college students that were not acquainted with each other.

In the last month, John Henry had interviewed 14 possible suspects and canvassed the area where the victims were found, 3 times, each time with the same result. The Cooper County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police had assisted in the investigation and appeared even more puzzled than John Henry.

He leaned back in his chair and stared at the massive pile of paperwork on his desk. Somewhere beneath the pile was a 5×7 picture of his 5 year old daughter Jill and 7 year old son, William. He missed them and hoped that he would be able to see them soon. The thought of a crazy man running around in the same community that they lived drove him crazy. He often called his recent ex-wife and reminded her of the current situation. It usually ended in her hanging up on him or her asking for more money. He was the one that had the right to be angry, after all, she was the one screwing his best friend. He was used to getting the short end of the stick. Life was unfair most of the time.

It was almost 6:00p.m. and the office was quiet. The fireworks were due to start in 2 hours. This would be the first year that he didn’t have the kids to watch the display with. He was never one to wallow in self pity, he had plans for the evening. He could see the fireworks clearly from his attic. He would drink a few beers and enjoy the fireworks, despite the looming urgency to get the case solved.

He locked the office door behind him and exited the police department. The air was thick and muggy, it reminded him of trying to breath in a sauna. It was surprisingly quiet, he could hear the cars on the main drag, about 8 blocks away, but the downtown area was dead quiet. He walked toward the parking lot when he saw a thin man in his 40’s walking toward him. He recognized him as Detective Stan Brown from the Sheriff’s Department. He smiled as he neared John Henry and stuck out his hand. John Henry shook his hand, amazed at the strength in the skinny man’s hands.
“What’s up Johnny?”

“Not much, just headed home.”

“Anything new on the case?”

John Henry looked to his vehicle parked a few spaces away. It seemed that was the only conversation to be had in Anderson. “Nothing new, just playing the waiting game.”

“Gotta be tough on the Mayor, don’t know what I’d do if someone kidnapped my daughter.”

John Henry took a step toward his car. He’d heard that same statement a million times, and that was just today. Everyone had the inner fear, so he couldn’t really blame them. How many times had he thought the same thing? “It definitely is. I gotta pick up the kids, you take it easy.”

“You too, let me know if you need anything.”

Stan meant well, but he also knew that he would probably be the last person that he would ever ask for help. He remembered when Stan was a road deputy and how many times he’d screwed up simple cases. He couldn’t imagine what the county was thinking, promoting him to detective.

Traffic was surprisingly light as he made his way across town. He hated living on the north end of town, but for the time being, it was all that he could afford. He pulled into the driveway and walked up to the door of the rundown ranch style home. He stopped at the doorway and was concerned to see the front door ajar. He nudged the door open and removed the pistol from the holster.

It was possible that he hadn’t closed the door, but it wasn’t like him not to double check and make sure that the door was closed tight. There didn’t appear to be any damage to the door lock, but he wasn’t taking any chances. He secured the lower level without any surprises. He stopped in the living room and listened. He heard a faint noise coming from the attic. He stood unmoving, ready to react in an instance. The sound of the clock ticking on the mantle was all that he could hear now.

Slowly, he made his way to the flimsy steps that led to the attic. The steps creaked beneath his feet and he cursed each step under his breath. The sun illuminated the attic through a dusty window. The sun touched most of the attic except for a space in the far corner. He could hear breathing coming from the darkness. Slowly, he moved toward the source of the ragged breathing, seeing more and more definition as his eyes adjusted. He was a couple steps away and could clearly see a twin size bed, but what caught his attention was what was laying on the bed.

The girl was no more than 20 years old with long blond hair and striking features. Her hands were handcuffed to the headboard, and her feet were tied at the foot of the bed. Her mouth was wrapped at least twice with duct tape. Fear filled her eyes and tears ran down her cheeks. She struggled to breath through her snot filled nose.

He put his gun away and smiled at the girl. “Hi, Elizabeth.”

He knelt down beside her and tested the knots that bound her feet. Reaching into the night stand next to the bed, he produced a red scarf from the drawer

The Red Scarf

mattbridge4

Ashmore, United States

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