01 Feb That Wasn’t Him
I hate that stupid alarm clock! It’s amazing how there are so many things we put up with every single day, but that stupid noise is probably the most hated sound in existence. Not only does it wake us up, but it forces us to start our day. I bet it takes pleasure in ruining our rest. Regardless of how much we hate it, we blindly follow the command and wake up.
It’s a pretty normal Monday morning. I enjoy a hot shower while I daydream about breakfast and a nap. Truth be told, the pancakes, biscuits, and fresh fruit I always envision never seem to be a reality. I always end up eating a frozen waffle or oatmeal with the consistency of brick mortar. “Sticks to your bones” they say, but they leave out the reason. It’s actually just rubber cement. I finish my apple cinnamon tar and get dressed. I think I have three meetings today. No wait, maybe I have four? What does it really matter anyway? I’ll spend the day getting my usual work done while eagerly awaiting the chance to go home.
I drive a pretty normal car to a pretty normal job. I’m not necessarily the most unique or exciting person. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not happy though. I make good money and have a nice apartment all to myself. I’m able to afford the food I like, and I don’t ever have to sit around worrying about my budget. To the average person, my life would be considered fairly decent.
Just as it has started, my work day finished. As expected, my day was uneventful and completely predictable. It’s so nice to be home. I really enjoy my apartment and all of the space I have. I’m not sure how I was able to secure such a great place. The neighborhood isn’t the greatest, but it’s not a bad place to live. The only thing that I would change would be living in a second story apartment. My fellow tenants downstairs aren’t always the quietest at night. I’m not complaining though. They are great people, and their food is delicious. Kevin and Sarah Marshall are always inviting me over for dinner. I’m not sure if it’s because they like me or feel sorry for me being alone up here.
I set my keys on the kitchen table and go about making some dinner. Who am I kidding, I didn’t have anything to make. I went to the store last week, but my ever procrastinating spirit kept me from making a list. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I only had enough food for about three meals, but I digress. Once again the question would be which delivery guy I wanted to see tonight. Mark from the Chinese place is nice. I haven’t seen him in a while.
12:10 AM, Tuesday, December 10th
Six hours, 2,000 calories, and half a season of the Walking Dead later, I finally scraped myself off of the couch to get ready for bed. I always wonder why I do this to myself, but it never stops me from doing it. After getting all of my clothes set out and things together, I grab the keys off of the bed side table and put them with my things on the kitchen table. I don’t know why I put my keys in the bedroom when I just planned on bringing them back out here, but I’m too tired to postulate why I do the things that I do. I just really want to go to bed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!!!” The stupid alarm clock wasn’t set, and now I was about thirty minutes behind. I can’t believe I missed it again. That’s actually the third time this month. I’m sure my boss would be uttering the same words to me when I got to work, like he even needs a reason to dislike me. He’s the standard “I’ve been here for x number of years…blah…blah…blah…your generation doesn’t understand anything…blah…blah…blah…you should have seen this place years ago” pencil pushing moron who can’t help but relish in the degradation of anyone below him at the company.
I continue my sprint around the apartment, getting dressed, heating up my frozen waffle, and running into a few things. Looks like I’m going without a shower today, not that anyone will even care. I burst through the door and race to my car, no time to even worry about the waffle I left on the counter.
I can’t wait to get a nice hot shower and enjoy some cold Chinese leftovers. I don’t care what anyone says, leftover Chinese food is delicious. As I was heating up my General Tso’s, I decided to take a look at today’s paper. “Wait a minute.” I don’t recall bringing the paper inside this morning. Then again, I don’t remember too much about the morning. Not eating my waffle left me pretty tired. I think my head was bobbing for the first few hours of work. I continued to read the paper, despite the slight degree of anxiety I felt about the whole situation.
On the second page of the paper, there was an article about my local neighborhood. “It figures.” We were having a small problem with some random breaking and entering over the last two months. A few houses were broken into, but not while anyone was home. There wasn’t anything too surprising about it all, but it didn’t stop people from freaking out anyway. After the second break in happened, my landlord went into full on lockdown mode. She installed a bunch of external cameras and a basic security system which sets itself during the day and night. Personally, I think she was being a bit paranoid.
By the time I finished my food and the newspaper, it was already almost dark. Summer is such an interesting time for me. I don’t really go places or do things with people. I have a few friends, but we rarely get together for anything. It makes the days seem so short. You work all day long, but when you come home, the time flies right past you. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. That’s kind of how it feels sometimes. I’m hoping that’s not the case later this week. I’ve been thinking about asking out this girl I work with. Her name is Chloe, and she’s pretty awesome. I think she’ll say yes, but I’m not assuming anything when it comes to women.
I decide that it’s time for a quick workout before my shower. I’ve known I was going to ask her out for a while now, so I’ve been trying to get in a little better shape. It’s not that I really need to, but it never hurts to improve. Plus, working out makes me feel a little better. I’m not the most confident of people, but that’s glaringly obvious. I think that trying to stay in shape helps build my self-esteem. I’m not a huge exercise guru, but I’m good for about 45 minutes on an elliptical machine I bought a few months ago. That should be enough to work up a good sweat.
I decided to go one last hill circuit. I don’t know why, but I was feeling particularly energetic. Perhaps it’s due to my extra half an hour of sleep that morning. I walk through my dark apartment to my bathroom. It’s time for a very long shower. I would be lying if I said that I only took five minute showers. I love a nice hot shower. It’s not rare for me to spend half an hour soaking it up before I finally decide to get out. After enjoying enough of the relaxing water, I get out of the shower. The cold of the air conditioned bedroom hits my body and sends chills up my spine. I always hate that feeli… “Thud!”. I quickly stop and remain motionless. I know I heard something coming from somewhere in the apartment. It was one of those moments where you become hyper-vigilant. I wasn’t completely sure I heard anything, but I could swear that I did.
Turns out it was just the remote control. I must have left it near the edge of the couch arm, and it fell off. Since my couch sits at the end of where my tiled kitchen floor meets my carpeted living room floor, it was no surprise to see it on the kitchen floor. That would explain why I heard it all the way back in the bathroom. Fortunately, it wasn’t broken or anything. All of that worrying and anxiety was for nothing. Now it’s time to get ready for bed. I triple checked my alarm clock, set all of my stuff out, and let my mind whisk me off to dreamland.
6:15 AM, Wednesday, December 11th
Call me crazy or just extra paranoid, but I decided to get up earlier than normal. My brilliant plan to give myself more time in the morning was already turning out to be tiresome and downright ridiculous. Unfortunately, there was no time to go back to sleep, and I couldn’t call in sick today, since I had a big meeting in the afternoon. I will most likely spend all day preparing for it, like the busy little bee that I am. I decide to take some extra time this morning and watch the news while eating my oatmeal. Apparently the break-ins around the neighborhood were stopping. That’s definitely good news. The whole thing was really starting to freak out Sarah downstairs.
As I headed out, I decided to stop by Kevin and Sarah’s place to tell Sarah what the news had said. Normally Kevin leaves for work about the same time I do. We work for the same company, so it makes it easy to run into him a lot. That’s actually how I heard about this apartment. He’s been with the company for quite a bit longer than I have though.
I knock on their door, but I don’t hear anything from inside. Rather than ring the doorbell or knock again, I decide to just head out. I would feel pretty bad if Kevin had left, and I was waking up Sarah. I’m sure she’d check out the news herself. It had been a couple weeks since I last spent time with them, but I know that Sarah had started working from home since then. Perhaps that’s why she was so worried about the break-in problem. Since most of them happened during the day, when no one was home, she might have felt worried that she was at risk.
That was probably both one of the longest and most amazing days of my entire life. Having gotten up so early, I found myself having a passionate romance with our new Keurig machine at the office. I must have downed ten cups of coffee today. This might also be why I had to urinate during my large meeting. My boss didn’t care for it too much when I asked to hold the meeting in order for me to use the restroom. He probably would have chewed me out if I hadn’t killed it when I got back. It was a big meeting with another potential client for our company, and I was at my best.
The best part is that the day didn’t stop there. Upon exiting the meeting and returning to my desk, I bumped into Chloe. I planned on asking her out, ten years from now when I finally worked up the nerve, but I was on such a roll today. I asked her if she wanted to get dinner sometime. With a cute smile, she agreed to join me. We set plans for dinner, tomorrow after work. Basically, it was an incredible day.
On my way up the driveway, I decide to stop by Kevin and Sarah’s place to see if Sarah saw the news and apologize for potentially waking anyone up. I didn’t see Kevin at work today, so I assumed he was sick or on vacation. Kevin was kind of a big shot there. He had a lot of freedom to come and go as he pleased. Three quick knocks on the door later, I stood outside waiting to see my friends. Much to my surprise, no one answers, and it seems to be very quiet inside. I stick my ear to the door, and I don’t notice any sounds. Risking my “anti-creeper” status, I leaned over and try to peak through the window. I didn’t see any lights on or sense any kind of movement. I guess they just went away. I couldn’t see their SUV, since their garage didn’t have any windows.
After a quick twenty-five minute cardio workout and a very relaxing shower, it was time to enjoy some food. I was able to quickly swing by the store and pick up a few things. With so much Chinese in the past few days, my digestive system was screaming for something healthier. I responded with an oven baked pizza. I wasn’t in the habit of denying myself some delicious and greasy calories, especially after a workout.
After such a long day, I was ready for bed. I had a lot to do the next morning to get ready for my date after work. I head to the bathroom to start by nightly hygiene ritual. I may eat unhealthy food and not put too much care into some aspects of my personal health, but I take certain parts of hygiene very seriously. I’m so serious that it’s frustrating when I can’t find my toothbrush. I always keep it in the same place and rarely leave the bathroom without it.
After a few minutes of looking for it, I decide that sleep is more important. I was too frustrated to keep looking anyways. I was even having issues with staying awake. It’s very rare for me to be tired this early, but when I am, it’s nice to just go to bed. Plus, the sooner I fall asleep, the closer I’ll be to my date with Chloe.
6:30 AM, Thursday, December 12th
It was very easy to hop out of bed this morning. I was very excited for my date. Since I was leaving right from work to pick her up at her place, I had to pack a change of clothes to take with me. I haven’t been on a date in a long time, so it took me a few minutes to put together the perfect outfit. I also grabbed all of the other essentials like deodorant, cologne, comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste. I pack it all into a bag and set it by the door. The morning continued on with blazing speed, as I headed out to work. I can’t believe how awesome this day is about to become.
It was another standard work day at the office. However, all day long, Chloe and I couldn’t help but smile when we saw each other. I never imagined what it would be like to go on a date with someone I worked with. This thought brought a lot of anxiety, since a bad date would mean some definite awkwardness amongst the following work days.
Before I really took notice, it was time for me to go get changed in the company locker room. It was always nice to work for a company that had a place for employees to change or even get a shower if need be. They are really into the corporate culture here, so sometimes you need those extra amenities. Going through my bag, I get out everything I need to make myself the most handsome date Chloe has ever seen. When putting my work clothes back into my bag, I take notice of something odd in one of the bag pockets. It was a key. I’m not sure what it’s to, but the way I misplace things suggests it could be from anything. I use the bag a lot, and the key looked familiar to me. It must have fallen off of my key ring.
I finish getting dressed, and I take a moment to brush my teeth. You need to have fresh breath on a date. I spray on some cologne, but not too much since it can be quite strong, and I head out to meet Chloe.
Within moments it was quite obvious that I was far more formal than I needed to be. I was in a tie, dress shirt, and dress pants. Chloe was in jeans and a San Diego Chargers uniform top. Instantly, I could see that she could read my thoughts. She came up and told me that it was cool that I got dressed up. She even used the word “cute”, which I didn’t really want to hear in the way she said it. However, I decided to just go with the flow and have a fun evening. I was determined to just be myself, especially after my formal faux pa.
It became abundantly clear that my inability to ask her where she wanted to eat had bitten me in the butt. If I would have known she wanted to catch the Chargers game at a local sports bar, I would have definitely planned differently. I took off the tie and tried to make myself a bit more business casual. The date wasn’t off to a good start, and it didn’t help when I told her that I didn’t know they even had games on Thursdays. She told me about the rule change in 2006, and it made sense to me.
12:37 AM, Friday, December 13th
As I sat in the car after dropping Chloe off, I couldn’t believe the evening I had. I thought for sure that it had started off poor and would stay that way. I was very wrong. Not necessarily being a native of California, I’ve never been into any of their sports teams. Let’s just say that I’m a Chargers fan for life now. Apparently, their game tonight was a big deal. They ended up beating the Denver Broncos 27 to 20. It was lost on me as to why the win was so important, but a bar full of loud fans had no problem enlightening me. Their win helped to put them in contention for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. The best part of the whole thing was how Chloe was so engaging. She got more excited as the game progressed, and she hugged me every time the Chargers would score.
She was so much fun to be around. I didn’t want the night to end. I prayed for overtime or anything that would make the game longer. At the end of the night, she told me that I should join her for their next game against the Oakland Raiders in a few weeks. It took me all but one tenth of a second to agree to join her. As we reached the end of our time together, I noticed that she kept looking at me. I’ve never been all that great with women, but I was feeling so bold. I leaned in, and thankfully, she met me for a kiss. Time stopped, and I was quite literally electrified with confidence and joy. We parted ways, and now I’m sitting in my car in immense elation. Suddenly, I realize that it might look weird that the guy you went on a date with is just sitting in his car, outside your apartment, for five minutes. It was time to head home and get some sleep.
Still floating from the wonderful evening, I made my way up the driveway when I noticed something a little out of place. It was a black clump of something on Kevin and Sarah’s doorstep. I figured it was pretty late, and no one would notice if I took a quick look. I walked over to what appeared to be a black hoodie or something. When I got about five feet away, both my eyes and nose battled for who would shock me first. The smell was awful, but the sight was hideous. I looked down at a dead cat. Although, it took me a moment to figure out what it was because its head was missing. For a moment, I didn’t know what to do or how to even breathe.
When I finally snapped out of my temporarily frozen state, I felt disgusted. It was only then that I noticed the gruesome details. I saw the flies and maggots. Surely this cat had been dead for a while because it looked mangled and dirty, but that was just my guess. At this point, I wasn’t really sure what to do because I was equally scared senseless and oddly curious. I looked around thinking I might notice something or someone, but it was dead quiet tonight. Should I wake up Kevin and Sarah? No, I don’t think that’s a wise choice, but I can’t leave this cat here. What if Sarah opened her door to it in the morning? She’d be in shock. Sarah loved animals. If it weren’t for the landlord’s rules, she’d probably own a dozen of them.
I did the only thing I could think of in the moment. I went up to my apartment, got a trash bag and some rubber gloves, placed the cat in the bag, and put it in the trash can at the end of the street. I would tell Kevin about it in the morning. I didn’t think now was the time or place for such a conversation.
It was a little difficult to get to sleep thinking about that cat. I kept trying to figure out what or who could have done something like that. What made me worry even more was trying to decipher why it was placed on their doorstep. Had they done something that angered a local group of kids, or was it a sick joke that they just happened to be the lucky chosen butt of? Hopefully, more could be figured out in the morning. I closed my eyes and tried to get some sleep.
I awoke to what sounded like a raucous downstairs. Normally, we could never hear each other in our respective apartments, but sometimes, in the dead of the night, you could hear moderate volume noises. I figured one of them had gotten up or something. What bothered me were the time and the extent of the sounds. They didn’t sound like someone was just walking or going to the bathroom. Honestly, it sounded like someone was fighting.
For a moment, I questioned the prospect of going down to see if everyone was ok, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do something like that. They weren’t perfect neighbors, but surely they were entitled to an argument or loud movement every now and again. I don’t think that anything is really wr…”BANG!!!” Wait was that a …”BANG!!!” Gunshot. It was a gunshot. I immediately called 911.
I stayed on the phone with them until the police and ambulances arrived. I immediately went outside to see what was going on. I wish I hadn’t. That’s when I saw her. Sarah was…dead. The only problem was that she was all messed up. I couldn’t see much before they zipped up the body bag, but it looked like she had been tortured, not shot. I’m not a doctor, so I definitely couldn’t tell. For all I know, she could have been, but my gut felt uneasy about it. If she didn’t get shot, who did?
I went down to talk to the police officers who immediately cornered me for questioning. Apparently, there had been quite a scene in the downstairs apartment. Everything had been destroyed, there was blood everywhere, and no one else was present. They wanted to know everything. How long did I live above Sarah? Where was I from? Do I know where Mr. Marshall was? What is my relationship like with the Marshalls?
After what felt like an hour, I was set free from my interrogators. Why did they keep asking me about Kevin? Is he missing? Did he do this? Since there was no one else in the apartment, who was shot or doing the shooting? Who killed and tortured Sarah? The scariest unknown of all is how long she was there. I knocked on their door on Wednesday. Was all of that happening on the other side of the door? Has Sarah’s killer been ten feet below me all this time?
Sleep was useless. I tried, but nothing worked. On top of all that, I look and feel like garbage. I’m depressed, sad, scared, and angry. The cherry on top was that I had to go into work. I didn’t plan on staying. I was simply going to tell my boss what happened, grab my computer, and go home.
Unfortunately, my plan to enter and emerge virtually undetected had failed within the first few minutes. The story was obviously in the morning news, and somehow, my picture was shown. Also, Kevin’s wife was mentioned a lot, and she had been at several company functions. Before I was ten feet in the office, several coworkers stormed me. Most of them showed general sympathy, but I know there were a few who only cared about the drama of it all. My boss greeted me at my desk and told me to go home and take whatever time I needed. I really appreciated that.
I was about to leave the office when I ran into Chloe. I didn’t know how to handle the situation because of the prior evening. Before I could muster up what to say, she simply leaned forward and hugged me. It was very nice to feel a comforting embrace. She backed up and asked how I felt. I didn’t really even need to answer for her to know. She asked me if she could come over after work and keep me company. I’ll admit that even though I was depressed and still in a bit of shock, I was happy at the notion of having her there with me. I agreed and headed out to my car.
I hear a knock at my door. It must be Chloe. Despite my excitement, it was Jack, the pizza delivery guy. I hadn’t seen him in a while. It’s kind of sad that I know the names of these people. He told me that some girl called him and told him to bring a large cheese pizza to my place. Just as I was taking the pizza from him, I hear a familiar voice in the background. “Oh great! The pizza is here!” Chloe came jogging up the driveway. After tipping Jack, Chloe came inside. She held up a six pack of beer and told me how the best medicine is pizza, beer, and good company. This girl pretty much left me speechless.
We spent the next few hours talking, watching TV, and enjoying my “medicine”. After a while, she finally had the courage to ask me about the Marshalls. She hadn’t been at the company that long, so she didn’t really know Kevin all that well. I told her about how I met Kevin, and how he had a big company BBQ in our shared back yard. While we were there, I noticed the sign for the apartment above him. Ever since then, I’ve been great friends with the Marshalls. Despite her curiosity, I asked if we could change the subject. I would feel a lot better if the authorities knew where Kevin was. He’s been missing for quite a while now. For all I know, he could have done that to Sarah. It doesn’t make any sense, based upon what I know about them. However, people are unpredictable.
Right around when we were starting to really connect, we both heard something. At this point we are both sitting very quiet, trying to see if we can hear it again. There was a slight sound of movement, but we couldn’t tell if it was something outside or from underneath us. Had it just been one of us, we might have dismissed it, but since we both heard it, we couldn’t help but point it out. Instinctively, I laid down on the ground to see if I could hear it better. Just like I thought, the sound was coming from downstairs. I found it hard to believe at first, since the police locked the apartment. No one should be able to get in there. I strained my hearing to try and figure out what the noise was.
Then it hit me. I think I was hearing crying. No, not really crying. Sobbing. It sounded deep and guttural. I could hear the pain and despair in the moans. Then, I heard something which sounded like “Sarah…I’m…Sorry.” I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like Kevin was down there. I looked back at Chloe and noticed she was frozen solid. However, what I thought was fear turned out to be curiosity. She looked down at me and said three chilling words. “Let’s go see.”
We made our way down to the door. To be honest, I’m not sure why we’re doing this. I think it’s only because Chloe is with me. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to know what it is making that noise, but I wouldn’t want to check alone. I almost considered calling the police, but I didn’t want to get everyone out here for nothing.
We approached the window and couldn’t see anything inside because the curtains were closed. I imagine it was to keep people from walking by and examining an open crime scene. We pulled aside the police tape and Chloe brazenly tried the doorknob. I immediately put my hand on top of hers and asked her if that was really the best idea. She looked at me and agreed. We put our ears to the door and listened closely. About a minute went by, and we heard nothing.
Just as we were turning to walk away from the door, a very familiar voice shouted “WAIT!!!” I think it was Kevin. Immediately we heard aggressive pounding on the door followed with blood curdling screams from the other side. “PLEASE! LET ME OUT!” “HE’S IN HERE WITH ME!” “I BEG YOU. LET ME OUT.” Stuck in a moment of confusion, I didn’t know what to do. I quickly began to push on the door, to no avail. I couldn’t get it to open.
The screams got louder. You could hear the strain on the voice as his vocal chords begged for mercy. The pounding was so hard that it forced the door to budge beyond its threshold. Suddenly, I remembered the key I found in my gym bag. As fast as I could, I ran upstairs and got the key. I had noticed that the key looked familiar. All this time it had been the same type of key my apartment had. I got back down to Chloe who was trying to see if there was an opening in the windows. The pounding had stopped, but I could still hear the screams.
I got the key into the door. The key worked in the lock, and I was able to push the door open. Despite the darkness and smell, I ran into the apartment in search of my friend. I stopped about halfway in because I noticed the screaming had stopped. Chloe came running into the apartment to meet me. Kevin was nowhere to be found. We looked left to right. I found myself caught up in the horrible scene unfolding in front of my eyes. I saw blood on the walls, floor, and ceiling. My mind re-imagined what Sarah looked like.
I turned around to face Chloe, and that’s when I saw him. Kevin was curled up in a ball behind the door. He looked like something out of a concentration camp. He barely had on any clothes. His body looked malnourished and frail. I could see the blood running from his hands where he was pounding on the door. I can’t believe the man I had known to be strong, handsome, and kind, was now on the floor in front of me like this. His presence begged for mercy and welcomed fear.
Suddenly, my brain snapped back into reality. Chloe and I began to approach Kevin. Before I knew what was happening, Kevin had gotten up and tackled Chloe. I yelled for her to look out, but it was too late. My friend was on top of her, his teeth sunken into her neckline. The crimson blood came flowing from her as Kevin relinquished his bite. What had happened to him? He sat up and looked at me in silence as Chloe twitched violently under what was left of his weight.
For a moment, I think I saw him smile.
That is when he came at me. Within seconds, we were struggling on the floor. Unlike with Chloe, he didn’t have surprise on his side. I was able to overpower him. I tried subduing him, but he wouldn’t stop fighting. He fought back as if every fiber of his being was telling him he had to. He needed to. I had no choice. In order to stop him, I had to do something. I put my weight on his neck, and about a minute later, he no longer was breathing.
By now, Chloe was gone, and her presence filled the room with blood. In a daze, I walked up my steps. I had no concern that my feet were getting blood everywhere. I walked into my apartment and picked up my phone. I called 911 and told them what had happened. Just as I placed the phone back on the receiver, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a foreign object came into my vision. It was the head of a black cat. I felt all the blood rush from my head. I passed out.
10:15 AM, Monday, January 11th, 2016
“Is that all you remember?”
“Yes it is doctor. Although, it is fading. Each time it comes up, I remember less and less. At this point, I can hardly remember an entire day’s events.”
“That’s the medication doing its job.”
“I understand that doctor, but I don’t want to lose it all until I figure it out.”
“Figure what out?”
“I need to know how that cat’s head got into my apartment. It was sitting on top of the pizza box. That means someone put it there while I was downstairs. What about the key? How did that get in my gym bag? I never had a key for their place.”
“I’m sure there’s a reasonable expl..”
“That’s not all Doctor. What about Kevin? There’s no way he did that to himself. Why would he starve himself? Why would he kill Sarah?”
“Sometimes life doesn’t offer explanations. He might have been your friend, but when something snaps, it snaps. We don’t know what people are truly capable of. Your friend Kevin was no exception.”
“That wasn’t Kevin, Doc.”