This story is by Jaimi Morrigan and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The damp cold of winter is finally reaching my bones, reminding me there are some choices that are straightforward, but then there are the choices that require one to rethink their position in life. It can be that final choice which will change who they are forever. Steak or chicken? Steak please! I’ve been dying for a juicy
t-bone for so long. An easy choice right? Agreeing to let your mother-in-law stay on an extended visit? Not so much. If I don’t agree, the wife will hold it over my head for months and bring the decision up at inappropriate times. If I do agree, I will spend the next several months or longer listening to my mother-in-law’s constant nagging. Either way, I will die of a heart attack. So I say…ding, ding, ding, final answer…let the old hag stay, that way they can plan my funeral together. Looking back, letting my mother-in-law stay was one of the easiest choices I have ever made, after how I have suffered.
It all started at the Matthews Co. Christmas party. This year there was supposed to be no drinking because of all the sexual harassment allegations in the media over the past couple of years. But like all upstanding adults do, they found away to get alcohol into the party. When the festivities were dying down I found myself wandering into what I thought was an unoccupied office, but there sitting in a chair blocked by the door was one of my least favorite co-workers, Coyote. As I was about to rudely walk out, Coyote motioned me over, while still holding a mostly empty tumbler.
We exchanged pleasantries and as I sat down in an empty office chair opposite him, I found myself asking..”so what’s your story?”
Holding the remnants of rum and coconut cocktail up like a salute he said…
“What would you say if I told you I was a serial murder?”
I laughed and shrugged and said, “That’s heavy business murder, for a yuletide conversation.”
Despite my comment, Coyote started to weave an unbelievable tale, so shocking, I found myself hanging on his every word, like I was under a spell. I could no longer hear the laughter and noise from the party, just the his baritone voice.
He stared at me blankly as he described the murders of seven women and one man, relaying how he had killed them and where he had buried them.
He ended the conversation saying…
“Funny… I never knew you were so easy to talk to.” “I guess you look like the type of guy that can keep a secret.” Besides who’d believe you?” You look more like a murderer than I do, cause your so antisocial… everybody says so.”
On that, he got up and walk outed, leaving me with a graphic nightmare playing out behind my eyes.
See, not only did he murder eight people over a period of 10 years, the first, the man, was his own brother. The police never thought it was murder because he had died while driving to Atlanta Georgia from Greenville South Carolina. Plus they believed it to be a natural death, having found his car on I-85 S on the side of the highway. The police determined it had been an accident, thinking it was a heart attack, when it was actually poison, I think he said Foxglove was crushed and deposited into a water bottle. He told me he killed his brother because he’d found out about the seven women buried in Big Meadows in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What would he do to me if I ratted him out?
At first I thought it was just the ramblings of someone who had consumed to much alcohol, but there were just to many details to be concocted by a drunk. I went home that night feeling like I had become an unwitting accomplice to eight murders. As I laid in bed, it was difficult to sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I could see the faces of the murdered women, with outstretched arms pleading for help. Who were these women? And why did he kill them? While he had told me their names and the dates of their murders along with graphic details of the murders, he had not told me why he killed them. Only going so far as to tell me how he’d met them and convinced them to come back to his apartment, only killing them if they refused. The ones that went home with him were spared. Maybe it was the challenge of the hunt?
The first, he told me, was a store clerk at the local grocery store he’d been flirting with for several months and he’d finally convinced her to go out on a date. They had decided on a coffee shop after she got off work. He described her long sexy legs and how she seemed to walk with such grace, almost like an angel. Around the office it was known how much Coyote loved the ladies. He was not shy about sharing the details of his conquests with the other men in the office. Most of us thought is was just boasting, like some men do. Others had seen him in public arm in arm with women gazing at him like a rock star. He was also considered very attractive by the ladies in the office. I had no judgement either way. I was an old married man that had stopped fantasizing about women, or at least that is what I tell my wife. I look, but while I am not a happily married man, women had become less of a goal and more like expensive beautiful art. You can want it all you want, but in the end you can’t afford it.
After several long nights of the murders playing over and over in my head, I decided to do some research on some of the names I could remember. Janice Lockhart, the grocery store clerk had gone missing about 7 years ago, according to a news paper article I found on the web. They even had a picture of her, young and fresh faced, smiling, standing in a lilac prom dress, wearing a crown of white carnations. The article had details about where she worked, and that they had never found her body. It also said, at first they thought she’d run away, even after her parents were adamant she would never just leave. In the past, she had some trouble with drugs, but had been clean for several years.
Again and again, article after article would say, ‘girl disappears, no body found.’ I would go to work and Coyote would be in his office doing his job like nothing had happened, sometimes laughing on the phone with his feet propped up on his desk. Nothing like someone who had committed murder. Me…I’d sit in my office, barely able to function. Each day I’d wake up thinking I needed to make a decision about what to do. Could I go to the police and tell them the truth? It seemed like the most logical answer. If I were implicated I would have to just have faith that justice would prevail.
Finally, one afternoon I decided to go to the police not knowing my life would change forever. I left work, got into my car to drive home and The Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was on the radio and something in the lyrics made me decide to go,… ‘the practiced art of deception…’ I pulled up to the police station, and as I walked up the concrete steps to the station doors, I could see the reflection of Janice Lockhart in the glass, as if she was standing behind me. When I turned to look at her, Coyote was standing there on the sidewalk across the street, or at least I think it was him, as a city bus passed between us. I walked back down the steps, looking to see if I could catch another glimpse of him. Was it my imagination?
In that moment, after believing I’d seen Coyote, I walked back to my car and began to drive… In the end, I realized going to the police was not the answer. It would not stop the nightmares, nor would it bring back the life I had known before or the lives of the victims. When I stopped driving I found myself at Big Meadows. And that is where I am now, they call me number 9. Some secrets will always remain buried.