The street was packed; police cars, an ambulance, cops, paramedics, parents, trick-or-treaters, teenagers, neighbors, news reporters, a whole great jam of people milling between two houses across the street from each other. A teenage girl had been attacked in one of the houses, but she fought off the attacker. Across the street, the bodies of three of her friends had been found in an upstairs bedroom.
Nothing like this had happened before. The last murder had been fifteen years ago when a kid killed his older sister, which was pretty shocking, but not nearly as shocking as this.
Wally kept to the edge of the crowd, listening to the gossip as it rippled out from the crime scene like a stone tossed into the lake.
The sheriff’s daughter had her throat slit.
The girl had been strangled.
The boy had been stabbed in the chest.
The girl in the house stabbed the guy and it didn’t kill him.
The guy wore a mask.
The guy was an escaped mental patient.
His doctor shot him and it didn’t kill him.
The guy disappeared.
A certain morbid fascination and fear permeated the crowd. They all wanted to get close to it, to say they’d experienced the drama first hand, witnessed everything but the actual killings, but did it all without getting their hands bloody, without having to fight for their lives like that girl had to do, like those dead kids probably did.
Wally weaved through the people, not trying to get any closer, but trying to get a better view as they brought the bodies out of the house. He found a spot, in the shadow of a big tree on someone’s front lawn next door to the house they’d already pulled the survivor from, and he watched as the gurneys covered with white sheets were rolled out of the house, one by one, about ten minutes apart.
Escaped, escaped, escaped…
That’s what the crowd hung onto, kept repeating. The guy, this nutcase, had been stabbed and shot, but still managed to escape. He should have been dead, or at least gravely wounded, on the front lawn next to the one Wally stood on, but he wasn’t. The police didn’t seem to know where he was or where he’d be going, if he was able to get very far at all. In the wake of the descriptions of the carnage, which kept getting worse and worse the more rounds they made, the group clustered closer together, keeping an eye on each other and on the shadows. It’d be harder for the wolf to pick off another member of their flock if they were all close together.
But not everyone in town was on that street. Wally could think of two people off the top of his head, none the wiser probably, just one block behind the house the nutjob escaped from after being stabbed and shot. A block behind where Wally was standing right now. If a guy was hurt and looking to get away, he probably could only make it a couple of blocks. Maybe. Stumbling through yards, that house was right there, the front door never locked and two kids about the ages of the kids attacked tonight inside, either necking on the couch or upstairs doing a hell of a lot more in a bedroom. They wouldn’t know what was going on if that guy stumbled in.
Wally kept an eye on the scene as he moved away from the crowd. He backed away slowly, watching for any sudden alarm from anyone in the group before turning and quickly walking down a few houses before cutting between two of them and jogging through the yards. He could have just cut through the yard right where he was standing, but he didn’t want the cops to think he was up to no good and detain him. At the next street, he cut back up the sidewalk so he was right behind the house the crazy guy escaped from. He turned and walked across the street right up onto the front porch of the house, following a path the killer might have taken.
The front door was unlocked, just like Wally knew it would be and he opened it without knocking. The crazy guy could have done the same thing, walked right in and shut the door behind him and who would know? This street was dead. Everyone was in the street a block over, milling around, spreading gossip, watching the flashing lights and the bodies being pulled out of a house, jabbering about the poor girl who lived. The couple in this house wasn’t watching the news. They weren’t even in the living room. The TV was on, the breaking news coverage blaring, but there was no one around to hear it.
This crazed killer could have walked right in, just like Wally did, and walk right to the kitchen, like Wally was doing now, grabbed a butcher knife and walked upstairs, just like Wally. Sure the guy was hurt, maybe dying, and there was no reason for him to come into this house or to kill anyone in this house, but the guy was nuts, right? He didn’t need a reason. He didn’t seem to have a reason for killing three other people tonight and attacking someone else. Stabbing him and shooting him didn’t slow him down. Really, there was no telling what he was capable of since he didn’t seem human.
Wally crept up the stairs, listening. No doubt Becky and Keith were in the master bedroom. That’s where they always ended up when Keith’s parents went out for the night. Wally edged into the hallway. A floorboard popped under his weight, echoing down the hall. He stopped and held his breath.
He didn’t hear anything, which was strange. He thought he’d be hearing something from the bedroom. But if that killer had come into the house before he did, went to the kitchen before he did, went up the stairs before he did…
Wally tiptoed down the hallway, this time being careful of where he stepped. The master bedroom was at the end of the hall. The door was open just a little. Wally pushed it open just enough so he could look inside.
Becky and Keith were in bed, naked and asleep and very much alive.
Wally exhaled slowly and tightened his grip on the butcher knife as he crept into the room.
Three dead teenagers already. One more attacked, but escaped. The killer escaped. What would be two more dead kids? Even if they found the escaped loony dead in an alley somewhere, even if they found him dead in the bushes in the backyard of the house, he’d still get the blame. The killings would be too brutal to deny as being done by anyone else but him.
Who would know?