Dear Detective

2016 VOORHEESVILLE SHORT STORY CONTEST GRAND PRIZE WINNER, BY AMANDA BACHE

first-prize-BADGEAmanda’s story was the Grand prize winner in the 2016 Voorheesville Short Story Contest.

I clearly remember the day when my mentor, my best friend, told me it was time. I solemnly handed her the notebook and pen before sitting back and closing my eyes. The only sound in the room was gasping breaths from my mentor. She was a great woman who went by the code name “Blackbird”.  I opened my eyes and watched as shaking fingers gripped the pen, inscribing a story most certainly worth telling. She told the story to the lead detective who was on her case in the form of her confession letter.

 

Dear Detective,

I’m sorry to say that our fun little game of cat and mouse is coming to an end. Since you put forth such a valiant effort, I’ll offer you a treat: my resignation letter. Despite my particular set of skills, I have yet to learn how to put a stopper on death and I have little hope for a deux ex machina–but that would ruin my tragedy, wouldn’t it? However, I can’t say that I would be opposed to Helios sending me a dragon-drawn chariot right now. But I am not Medea, and my grandfather was most certainly not a Greek god.

 

As much as I love Greek tragedy, such is not the point of my letter. As you well know, Detective, I committed a series of eight murders on eight separate occasions. I’m sure you must want as much detail as I can provide in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I am, in fact, the killer.  As my time is running short I will omit my joyous back story. I do want to finish my confession before my lungs collapse in on themselves.  Ah, I digress, we are here for a story, not to pity the poor dying murderess.

 

The fragile huntress drew in a shaking, rasping breath in preparation for the long explanation to come. The slight tremors in her hands were back, something which arose the day before the eighth murder.  They had become far more pronounced, it almost seemed like the pen would tumble from her fingers as an effect of such shaking. The huntress’ eyes closed for a moment as she drew another deep breath and waited for the tremors to cease. The scratching of pen on paper began again.

 

The first victim was a woman by the name of Margaret Haiken. On the surface she seemed all well and good, but she was a truly terrible human being (and I’m not entirely sure I would classify her as human at all).  Did you uncover her secrets, Detective? Did you find the hidden monster? In case you haven’t, Ms. Haiken was behind the disappearance of numerous children, all of whom were street kids who no one would miss: orphans, runaways, junkies, etc.  Ah, but the plot thickens. Not only did she kidnap these children, she sold them to the highest bidder.  In case you are unable to connect the dots, my dearest Detective, Ms. Haiken ran the largest human trafficking circuit in the nation, perhaps even in the world.  But you would never expect it, would you? A seemingly normal middle-aged woman with an above average hatred for children.  She was quite the intelligent woman, self employed as a real estate broker and able to dictate her hours. As you can imagine, she was able to open her schedule for meetings concerning both businesses.  The highlight of Ms. Haiken’s genius was how she set up a charity for underprivileged children along with various shell companies to shuffle her illegal funds.

 

The huntress’ cough returned with a vengeance so strong that her body nearly collapsed in on itself. She set the notebook face down on the table, placing the pen on top with a sigh. She gave me a small smile, opening her mouth as if to say something, but instead closed her eyes as her breath evened out.  After I was sure she had fallen asleep, I tucked the notebook into my messenger bag; after all, it wouldn’t have done to have some nurse discover the secret my mentor and I had been keeping for so long before my mentor’s chapter ended.  Her end was near signaled by how her body grew fraile and her limbs grew weak to the point where it was a chore for her to lift even a cup of water to her lips.  I kept the hope that perhaps the next day she would be better than the days previous.

My hopes were proven false the following day, as my poor huntress had grown even more weak overnight.  I helped her into a sitting position before handing her the notebook and pen. She didn’t have much time to spare if she wanted her story completed before she passed.

 

Now is the fun part, Detective Dearest.  It is my honor to disclose the details of my process and prove to you that I am the one you call “Blackbird”.  I know that there are many more victims that I can list off, leaving all of their proverbial dirty laundry out to air, but I grow impatient to get to the fun part.  So, Detective, without further ado, let’s talk about murder.

The way in which I chose my victims was unimportant, the only detail you truly need to know was that they were all very bad people.  Every victim which I chose, had a frightening collection of figurative skeletons in their closet including (but not limited to) human trafficking to mafia enterprises and even black market racketeering .  This isn’t to say that they deserved to be exterminated by yours truly, but I figured they were as good targets as any and wouldn’t be too horribly missed.  To be clear, I’m not a vigilante, in fact I couldn’t care less about your so called justice, my only motivation is the thrill of the hunt and the power I gain from it.  I am a huntress.

You should be impressed by my marksmanship.  I feel the need to bring up victim number six, Marco Bogotá.  He wasn’t the head of the Columbian drug cartel, but he was their shadow tactician.  Did you notice how the Columbians lost traction after I put a .50 cal in his head? That shot was taken from 1400 meters away using a Barrett M82. I prefer to use a Remington 700, but those are only effective up to 900 meters. Excuse my distraction about my exceptional skill, I believe I was telling you about Señor Bogotá, yes? Yes, Señor Bogotá.  It is highly probable that he was the most intelligent member of the Columbian operation, that he was the one to plan out the best course of action to increase profit. From what I’ve seen and heard, however, he didn’t seem to care much for human life even if it were the lives of the innocent or his own brother.  Señor Bogotá came on my radar due to the mass murder of a small village in Columbia.  According to the witness accounts, Señor Bogotá suggested that an uncooperative village be bathed in blood as a message to other villages thinking about resisting cartel control.  I talked to one of the cartel members who ran off after the slaughter happened.  He gave me some interesting details about how Señor Bogotá ordered bodies to be strung up like decorations for El Día de los Muertos, which occurred four days past the massacre.  Señor Bogotá may have been even more of a heartless sociopath than I am, certainly he is more of a sadist.  But enough about Señor Bogotá, my process to the delicate art of dealing death is far more important. Don’t you agree my darling Detective?

Contrary to popular belief, committing a murder isn’t simply taking a gun and shooting it.  I’m sure you know that there is a long and complicated process to attend before the actual murder.  My first step was to gather information about my victims, but seeing how as I had obligations during the day, I couldn’t simply follow them around.  For this I must thank you, because the city’s system of traffic cameras is quite useful for following someone around without having to actually chase them around the city.  I gathered schedules from their personal and work computers, picking the optimal time to set up my perch and find my prey in my crosshairs.

After all the details were ironed out-

 

My poor huntress was struck again by horrific coughs, far worse than any of the previous fits had been.  The machines to which she was wired, blared angrily as her heart rate spiked and oxygen intake declined steeply.  Her body hunched over, one arm shooting out to support her and the other clutching at her chest. The pen and notebook were dropped carelessly beside her on the too-white, too-clean sheets.  Lilac knits gasped for breath as the fit seemed to come to an end.  But such was not the case, as the wretched coughs returned mere moments later.  A nurse came rushing in, grabbing the oxygen mask from the wall beside her bed and placing it over her face.  A second nurse rushed through the door and began to check on her as well, taking her vitals and asking questions, which to me seemed utterly meaningless.  I grabbed the notebook and pen while the nurses were preoccupied, softly closing the notebook before sliding it discreetly into my messenger bag.  My huntress’ breath returned to her and her heart returned to its normal rhythm.  Seemingly satisfied with such results, the two nurses exited the room with empty farewells and polite smiles.  I returned the notebook and pen to my huntress, allowing her to return to her writing once again.

 

-I sent a small envelope to my prey.  The only content of the envelope was a single feather, one of a blackbird.  A red winged blackbird, to be exact.  Do you know why I would send such a specific feather?  Do you understand the meaning?  I hope you do, my dear Dear Detective, but I’ll explain anyway just to be safe.  Symbolism.  The red winged blackbird is a symbol of change. According to Native American lore, they are an omen, foreshadowing a great change in one’s life.  Death is a great change, don’t you think? It is, at least, a great change in its magnitude.  I would then wait a few days’ time (just enough for my warning to be forgotten) before eloquently taking my shot.  The locations from which I took my shots were carefully selected and alternative locations for each victim were chosen in case of unforeseen changes in their schedules.  It’s true that it pays to be prepared, my success with my particular skill set.

As for the actual crimes, there are many details that weren’t released to the public such as the rounds were hand cast to my specifications.  To be exact, I cast each lead bullet and encased it in copper to ensure that the projectile kept its shape as it wouldn’t do for the soft lead to deform during flight and mudde my shot.  Each casing was polished to a high gloss, cleansing the casing of any fingerprints or DNA.  But at least I left evidence in the marks left by the extractor and firing pin.  The final bit I’ll give you is my little challenge: a bouquet of two blackbird feathers in a shell casing vase.  I’d like to think of this as your call to action, after all, aren’t you supposed to be the hero of this story?

 

The notebook and pen were once again set aside by my dear huntress. She looked up at me, remaining in her seated position. She drew a deep breath, deep relative to the short gasps that her normal breathing pattern had been reduced to. She let out the breath slowly as she reached into a bag and pulled out a neatly wrapped gift. She placed the gift in my hands with stern instruction: do not open this package until she passed on to whatever awaited her after life. I faithfully followed her wish, as I always had. I helped her ease down so she could lay down and sleep in peace. Once her breath evened out in sleep, I packed the notebook and pen away and left the hospital room with a last glance. I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, but I deeply loved her as the sister I never had. She taught me how to be everything I am, for that I am forever in her debt. She taught me to be more than my dingy apartment and subprime education. More than my failure parents, more than the limp I gained in a childhood car wreck. She taught me how to be a bird of prey just as she is. So I visited her every day until her passing, which was only one day after she gave me the most extraordinary gift, the most important I have ever received despite how I hadn’t the slightest idea of its importance when she gave it to me.

I visited my dear huntress the next day with the sinking fear that it would be the last visit. When I arrived, she was already awake and sitting propped against the headboard.  I noticed the extremely labored breath and dark rings under her eyes. The oxygen mask had become a constant feature obstructing her delicate features.  I took my usual seat beside her and immediately gave her the notebook and pen. She continued writing her note, though her writing lost its grace in a sea of tremors. The words were hardly legible. That sinking feeling I had that morning so long ago… Well, I wasn’t wrong.

 

Well, Detective, I’m sad to say this but it’s true: all good things must come to an end. And this is mine, but don’t worry I’ll be here with you in spirit.  And we will meet again in whatever torture the afterlife brings us. You are meant to be the hero of our little adventure.  I won’t even call myself a shadow character, because no matter how you look at it, I’m not a hero.  I can’t honestly say I even believe in heroes.

This was meant to be a confession letter, so here’s my confession. My name is Adina Jericho and I am Blackbird.

 

Coughs wrecked my huntress’ frame. But she had finished her letter, she was finished. She allowed herself to fall to the side as her body convulsed with coughs, desperately trying to draw air back into her lungs. The nurses rushed in, pulling me away from my huntress, the only family I had left. The heart monitor flatlined and the woman, who for all intents and purposes was my dear elder sister, was dead.

I opened the gift when I returned from my dear huntress’ funeral. Even in death, she brought me great happiness. She simply left me the key to her storage container. The container that held the most precious of things: the tools of Blackbird. It was my time to continue the tradition. I had the security system to research my prey, the Remington, the Barrett, the tools to cast my own rounds and press them into their casings. My dear huntress, my dear sister, entrusted to me her legacy. And it was time for Detective Dearest to join in another game of cat and mouse. So I found myself a red winged blackbird and placed it in a cage. Just before the sun rose on spring’s first day, I delivered the bird to the darling detective’s door with a simple note:

 

Dear Detective,

I’m back.

 

About Amanda Bache 207 Articles

Amanda Bache is a senior at Clayton A. Bouton High School.