This story is by Michael Munson and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As I lay in this hospital bed, soaked in my sweat, unable to move anything but small gestures of my head, my mind wanders. I’ve been a quadriplegic for the last six months. I’ve had nothing but time, to think and often obsess over my life and my career, as a New York City homicide detective, a divorced mother of one, and serial killer.
My name is Mary and I like to kill people. We all know some people deserve to die. We’ve all fantasized. We’ve said it when we’re angry, said it under our breath, and we wish death on bad people. We’ve all joked about killing someone. The thing is, I never joke. I take murder very seriously; it’s what I do.
The first time I took a life, I was 14 years old. Sounds young right? The crazy thing, it was so easy. His name was Jamie Myers and he was a senior at our local high school. And he was a bully. He also raped a girl on my block and got away with it. Rich parents. A lawyer for a mom and a heart surgeon for a father. Entitled. Soon to be dead.
I saw Jamie smoking a cigarette at the edge of the local rock quarry. It was a hot summer day, 1979, and I had just finished swimming in the rainwater that pools on the far end. I picked up a rock the exact size of a softball. I oughta know because I pitched for the softball team at school.
As I rounded a large tree and stepped on a branch, Jamie stood with a startle. He relaxed his shoulders and chuckled when he saw it was me. I then threw the rock, hitting him between the nose and forehead. The sound thrilled me. He seemed to be suspended momentarily like a marionette and took a step backward. That step would be his last.
He hit the rocky ground below with a sound that still reverberates inside me today. A sound I have attempted to recreate and perfect over the years. The sound of death is unique to each person. No two sound alike. I like to think of myself as the conductor of the orchestra. Death is my instrument. Together we create the harmonious melody of murder.
Jamie’s death was ruled a “terrible” accident. Over a ten-year period, four more deaths would occur there. Of course, none of them were really accidents. That was just the beginning. What happens in the middle is so much more delicious and ultimately, it leads me to where I am right now.
I’m not going to bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say working as a homicide detective gives you plenty of prime candidates. Scumbag pimps, wife beaters, child killers, rapists, dirty cops, and even dirtier lawyers. The dregs of society and fodder for my lust for killing.
I guess you can say I overstepped the line a few times. Ok, more than a few times. But some people just annoy me. There was the garbage man who broke my rosebush throwing the garbage can into my garden. He strangely fell into and was crushed to death in the truck compactor a week later. His death sounded like thousands of snapping tree branches with an expulsion of air. There was the obnoxious coffee barista with the tattooed neck who broke that inky neck skateboarding. I told him not to call me ma’am. His death sounded like a pretzel rod breaking in half only louder. The home-economics teacher who gave my son a D on his school project was a favorite of mine. He died from electrocution. Never mix spilled coffee with a live wire. And don’t ever fuck with my kid. Sadly the radio was on full blast in his workshop, so I missed his final tune. But searing a porterhouse brings back delicious memories.
Sometimes being a female cop and a single mom is really hard. Perhaps it’s the hormones? Maybe it’s genetics? Either way, killing isn’t just a man’s work. I truly believe the majority of unsolved murders were always women. We all need a way to exorcise our frustrations and our demons. Some lift weights, some drink. I kill.
Laying in this hospital bed, with the stench of disinfectant spray, the chatter from the nurses’ station, and this annoying heart monitor, I can now only dream of murder.
If you’re wondering just how I got into the wonderful world of murdering people? I’ll tell you. I didn’t exactly have a normal upbringing. As a matter of fact, I got my taste for killing from my parents. My father killed my mother when I was four. Who, as it turns out, was also killing people herself. She was a nurse and apparently had been killing patients for years without anyone’s knowledge. She used undetectable drugs, introduced air into their intravenous lines, and the tried and true pillow over the face. One night after drinking too much she confided to my father what she had been doing. It’s believed she killed over 40 people over a 20 year period. In a rage, my father then killed my mother. He killed himself a month later.
I was essentially raised by my aunt, uncle, and my two cousins. They lived a few towns from where I was born on Long Island. The family penchant for violence didn’t end there. As a matter of fact, it blossomed. Thanks to my cousin Karl, who was cruel, a true sadist and liked to touch young girls. I used and stored the abuses over the years. I stored the hate, the pain, in every fiber of my being and it made me stronger. It created my armor. I would use that rage against my victims, and later on Karl. But that’s another story.
The rest of middle school and high school were a blur and essentially free of much bloodshed other than a few “accidents” including the obnoxious homecoming queen and her boyfriend from another town. They apparently died of rat poisoned-weed and then crashed their fancy sports car.
My marriage to my husband Jeff who I met in NYU ended when he decided to choose booze over my son and me. We all have our vices. I certainly have mine. My ex is currently missing. Presumed dead. My son is a lot like me and chose his mom to be his guardian. He’s a good kid but has a lousy temper and is a bit morose. I wonder where he gets that from? I studied criminal psychology and then graduated from the police academy. Top honors of course. Never teach a psychopath how to use a gun.
So what led me here to become a human paperweight? Dumb luck actually. During a routine call with my partner Marcus, we stumbled upon what was supposed to be an abandoned warehouse but was filled with trigger-happy drug addicts and prostitutes. Somebody got spooked and let off a round that ended my career and my ability to walk. That was six months ago. 15 years on the job with not so much as a scratch, although I’ve been covered in other people’s blood plenty of times. And then this. Being stuck in this bed is maddening. I’m not the praying kind, but believe me, I wished I wouldn’t wake up many times. Be careful what you wish for.
The nurses come each afternoon to do my bathing. There’s nothing more humiliating than having a total stranger washing your privates. I swear if I was able to move, both these girls would go out the window. But this is my life for now. Perhaps I should consider this my penance?
I woke this morning and sensed someone was in the room. In my groggy state, I barely recognized my 15-year-old son Max standing at the foot of the bed. There was an odd yet familiar look on his face. He was holding something in his hand. When I focused, I realized it was a book. Not Harry Potter, not a school book, but my diary. My death diary. Over 30 years of my “work.” My killings. Names. Places. All the details. I suddenly felt a sense of release throughout my body. A sense of relief. He must have figured out the password to my gun safe. I always knew he was a lot like his momma.
Max walked to the side of my bed. Leaned over. Kissed my forehead and then pulled the plug to my respirator and life monitors. He said nothing. Just watched with awe and fascination I knew too well. He was becoming the third generation of killers in the McLaughlin family. He watched as I began to suffocate, convulse and slip away. I listened to the gurgles of my own air and saliva, the staccato of my heartbeat in my ears. I was hearing the sounds of death. My death. My final melody. My end. His beginning.