This story is by Denis Berckefeldt and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The Mercedes’ convertible top was down. Randi’s blonde hair, underneath a tightly-wrapped jeweled headband, billowed back in the wind as the car took the curves of the mountain road at a high rate of speed. Coming through the still sleepy town of Morrison, she slowed down, and then sped back up on leaving. ABBA’s Dancing Queen came on the CD. With a big smile on her face, Randi reached for the volume knob and turned it up. She sang loudly along with it, tapping time with her hand on the steering wheel.
Coming out of the foothills, the giant outcroppings of red sandstone and the aspen and fir trees gave way to suburban sprawl as the land flattened out. The sun was just peeking above the horizon and silhouetted the buildings of downtown Denver in a pinkish-orange glow. Randi put the visor down to shield her eyes from the early morning sun. It was the end of summer but it was still warm and the sun was bright. As September came on, the sun would rise later and it would be dark at this time of day. Soon there might even be snow on the road.
She swung eastbound onto the Sixth Avenue Freeway. Sunday traffic was light and it took little time to reach Capitol Hill. She drove down the quiet, tree-lined side street near Cheesman Park and turned into the alley and then into the garage behind her house. Most people in the neighborhood lived in apartments. But she could afford a house and had moved into one when she first came to town. It was a Denver Craftsman-style brick bungalow and she fell in love with it when she first saw it. As much as she liked to party with friends, she also enjoyed the solitude and peace and quiet the house gave her. She particularly liked it in winter when she sat alone in front of a fire in the fireplace with the carved wooden mantel and bookcases on either side.
Randi got out of the car, opened the back door of the garage and stepped out into the backyard.
Inside the house, a man stood at the window and peered through a narrow opening in the drapes. He watched Randi walk up the flower-lined path toward the flagstone patio and the back door of the house. He moved away from the window and walked silently across the plush carpet, past the mission style dining table and down the hallway to the bedroom.
The bedroom was furnished with a queen-size bed, a bedside table, a chair and along the wall next to the closet, a chest of drawers with a mirror hanging above it. The curtains on the window were drawn. He stepped into the darkened room and crossed to the closet. Opening the closet door, he went inside, shut the door and peered back into the bedroom through the crack between the door and the frame.
Randi came into the room and turned on the light. She set her purse on the chair and her keys on the bedside table. She sat on the edge of the bed and took off her sandals. She wriggled her toes in the deep pile of the carpet.
She got up, crossed to the dresser, stood in front of it and looked in the mirror She pulled the headband off, removed the blonde wig and placed it on a stand on top of the dresser. She unzipped the dress, pulled it off her shoulders and stepped out of it. She dropped it in a heap on the floor and crossed back to the bed and sat down. She reached back and unfastened her bra. She removed it and took the falsies out of the cups. She set them and the bra on the bed. Standing up, she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her panties, slid them down and kicked them off exposing the penis and testicles hidden underneath.
Randi picked up the panties, tossed them on the bed and crossed to the closet. Opening the door he gasped when he saw the man standing inside. The man grabbed Randi and clamped his hand over Randi’s mouth. “Don’t scream,” he said. Randi nodded staring at the other man’s eyes. One eye was blue, the other was brown.
Randi’s body was on the floor next to the bed. A black silk stocking was wrapped tightly around his neck. His genitals had been cut off and lay on the bloodstained carpet between his legs. Two detectives stood over the body. The younger one, Zack Myers, was reading from a driver’s license. “Says he’s Randal Jameson. Born in 1985. That makes him thirty-one.”
The older detective, Sergeant Frank Marlowe squatted down to get a better look at the body. “Well, he won’t see thirty-two.”
Zack put the driver’s license back in the purse, then went to the dresser and looked at a framed photograph setting on top. It was of two men. They were holding each other and grinning at the camera. One was Randi; the other was an older man. A handwritten inscription read, “To Randi and all our good times together. Love, Phil.”
Frank stood up and joined Zack at the photo. He looked at it, then pointed at the bra and panties on the bed. “I guess we know which one wanted to be the girl.”
“You think he was transgender?”
“Did he think he really was a woman in a man’s body?”
“You mean was he going to get one of those operations?” Frank pointed at the genitals on the floor. “Looks like he already got it.”
“I don’t think he was Trans,” Zack said. “I think he just liked to play the role of a woman. He liked to dress up.”
“Don’t ask me about what queers do, or want”
“It’s not about want. Gender and homosexuality are about genetics. It’s how you’re born.”
A dark look crossed Frank’s face. “I know about genes and how you’re born,” he said angrily. “And I know it can’t make a boy a girl or make you queer. Being queer is being queer.”
“Jesus, Frank. What’s got into you today?”
Frank pointed at Randi. “This is disgusting.”
“You mean what happened to him?”
“I mean, what he was.”
Zack stared at him a long time, then said, “Okay, don’t get upset.”
Frank pulled on a pair of latex gloves and rummaged through the drawer of the bedside table. “Well, here’s something.” He held up a small revolver to show Zack. “Do you suppose it was the man or the woman that liked guns?”
“Is it loaded?”
Frank popped the cylinder open and looked. “Yes.”
“Loaded and he didn’t use it?”
Frank pointed to the closeness of the body to the nightstand. “He could have reached it.”
“Maybe he knew the killer, had invited him in and was surprised,” Zack said.
“I don’t think he knew the killer.”
“Just a feeling,” Frank said.
Zack grinned at him. “Your female intuition?”
“That’s not funny,” Frank snapped. “It’s just what I think.”
“I’m sorry, Frank. I didn’t mean… “
Frank shook his head. “No. I’m sorry. It’s just that…but they do ask for it.”
“Queers, what they do.”
“Nobody asks for it, Frank.”
Frank put the gun down on the table. “I need a Ziploc bag for this.”
“There are some in the car,” Zack said.
“I’ll get them.”
“The forensics guys should have been here by now.”
“They’re probably still drinking coffee.”
“That’s because they don’t start drinking coffee as early as you do. Looked to me like you’d been up for hours when I picked you up.”
“I’ve had trouble sleeping since Ruth was killed.”
“Sorry, Frank. I know, it’s been tough for you.”
“I’m getting a Ziploc for the gun,” Frank said and walked to the bedroom door. He stopped when he saw a button on the floor. He knelt down to pick it up. After looking at it, he slipped it in his pocket. As he stood up, he banged his forehead on the bedroom doorknob. He stumbled backward landing on his haunches. “Shit,” he said.
“Are you okay?” Zack said.
“Yeah, but I lost one of my contacts,” Frank said as he patted the floor.
Zack knelt down next to him. “Here it is,” he said and lifted the missing contact with the tip of his finger.
“Thanks,” Frank said reaching for it.
Zack looked at the lens. “Hey, this is colored,” he said. “Do you wear tinted contacts?”
“Yes. I was born with heterochromia. I have one blue eye and one brown. I wear colored lenses so people won’t know.”