By Kim Gagnon
She was nervous. She hadn’t remembered how big the guy was. But she had played her cards, and here they were. Ready for the final show down. He was pissed. So angry he could hardly speak. She didn’t see the first punch coming. It sent her flying. The dumpster stopped her fall. She took her stance and actually got two punches in. One to the stomach, and one to the chin. He backed off, but only a step, and came back in swinging. The next punch he threw dropped her to the ground and it was game over. He kicked and stomped till she couldn’t hold the fetal position anymore. She didn’t feel anything but pain, so overwhelming all she could do was whimper.
“That’ll teach you to mind your own business,” the big man hissed. “I recognize you. You were at Jake’s party. Asking questions about my wife. LEAVE US ALONE!!!!” Each word punctuated with a poke.
Her world began to darken, but she could still see the big work boot coming at her head, and just before it connected, she thought, “I should have brought the gun.”
* * *
“This is the fourth beatings in as many weeks, Boss. Though it’s the first fatality” said Detective Mark Sellers.
“Yep,” replied Detective First Class Sherman Buyers. “But I don’t think they’re related. The first three were men, and this last a woman. Plus she was beaten much more severely, and she died. The others were more like warnings.”
“Have they started the autopsy yet?” Sellers asked.
“Not till tomorrow morning.” Buyers replied, “I’ll be attending, how about you? Can you make it? Your turn to drop the kids off at school this week, right?”
“What time will it start?”
“Seven a.m. – Unless we can make an ID, or there is any ID on her clothing, I want to be able to get a picture on the twelve o’clock news.” Buyers sighed. “She was so covered in blood and brain tissue, I couldn’t even make out her hair color. We’ll probably have to use a composite drawing.”
Sellers grimaced. “I’ll get here as soon as I can. What do you want to get done today? We’ve questioned all the bar patrons last night, and got some names of people who had left. Want me to start getting addresses together and get some of the patrol officers to start canvassing?”
“Sounds like a plan for now,” Buyers said, running his hands through his short, gray hair.
* * *
Sellers showed up at the precinct just after nine a.m., and was surprised to see Buyers was already there.
“How’d the autopsy go?” asked Sellers, “Did we learn anything?”
Buyers sighed. “She was mid to late forties, and in extremely good shape. Healed fractures to both hands, especially the knuckles. No identifying marks, no tattoos or birthmarks. No signs of rape. Though she did have lots of skin under her nails, and DNA testing has started. Shirley is doing a drawing, and the chief wants to do a televised press conference at 12:30 p.m., appealing to the public for help. It was weird though…” Buyers trailed off.
Sellers lifted his head from the report. “What was weird?”
“I just get this feeling that something is off. It’s like she knew the only way to help us, was to scratch and bite. Did you read the part about some hair and skin caught in her front teeth? Coroner thinks she bit either a knuckle or arm.”
“Hey guys” Shirley called as she entered the room, “After Davis cleaned her up, I was able to read her features. Here’s your Jane Doe. Pretty, huh!”
“Wow” Sellers said, as Buyers let out a low whistle.
“She looks younger than forty.” said Sellers. “Is the coroner sure about the age estimate?”
“After you left this morning,” Shirley nodded towards Buyers, “Davis reran some of the hair from the vic. The hair was dyed. The original color looks to be grey. That’s why I have done a drawing with black hair and one with grey.” Shirley pulled a second drawing from her file.
“Good job, Shirley” said Buyers, “let’s hope this gets us somewhere.”
* * *
“Detective Sellers?” the desk sergeant asked, “There’s a young man out here who thinks he can help identify the Jane Doe from yesterday.”
“Thanks Mac. Show him in.” said Sellers.
The young man was about twenty, tall and thin, with a head full of hair. The hair threw Sellers. It was so thick and wavy, it reminded him of the cartoon character Shaggy, from Scooby Doo fame.
“How can I help?” Sellers asked.
“My name is Ben Wright, and I think the murdered woman is my aunt. I went by her place yesterday after seeing the news, and she wasn’t home. I found this envelope addressed to me and read this letter.” He waved a piece of paper at Sellers. “But I need to make sure the dead woman is truly my aunt before I can say more.”
“What do you mean? If you have information on who did this we need it now!” Sellers spoke quickly, curling his fingers in a ‘gimme’ gesture.
“Please! Let me see the body. Let me know for sure it’s her. Then you can have everything I have.”
Sellers didn’t like it, but either way they needed an ID. He called Buyers on his cell phone, and they agreed to meet at the morgue. Sellers would bring Ben Wright with him.
* * *
The three men gathered at the window through which Ben would try to ID his aunt. He said he’d know, no matter how badly she looked. As the curtain drew back, Ben braced his back, closed his eyes, and then slowly opened them. He stared at the body.
“Was she wearing a gold ring on her right hand? With the city’s emblem on it? A diamond on one side, and a ruby on the other?” Ben asked.
“Yes,” Buyers answered.
“That’s her then. She must have dyed her hair. It’s normally grey.” Ben said, wiping his eyes and sighing. Slowly he handed over the large manila envelope he had been carrying, plus a set of keys. “Let me know when you go to her house. I would like to be there. Just in case you have questions. She was good to me, and I want to make sure…” Ben paused, “I just want to be there.”
“Sure. No problem.” Sellers said, as he, Ben and Buyers headed back to the precinct.
As Buyers was driving back, he received news that a hit had happened with the DNA from the skin found under Annabelle’s nails. The report would be on his desk.
One Rupert Blake. Suspected wife beater from an incident fifteen years ago. Blake showed up at the hospital with his wife in labor. The couple claimed she had fallen down the basement stairs and the baby had started coming. The ER doctor on duty called the police, suspecting that the wife had been beaten. The doctor felt the injuries were more from blows than connecting with stairs, especially if the stairs were carpeted. When police arrived, questions were asked, but all allegations were denied. Even the wife, though heavily into labor, insisted she had fallen. She said she was clumsy like that, being eight and half months pregnant. It was due to the coming baby, that police interviewed the neighbors on both sides of the Blake residence. Both said the wife was very rarely seen. No loud arguments were heard. The Blake’s were generally quiet people who kept to themselves. Neither neighbor ever having seen the wife hurt or in pain. Not that they could tell. And that was it. Nothing since then. It was a wonder that DNA had been taken at the time, or that Blake agreed to give it. Buyers slowly closed the file. There had not been anymore incidents since that time fifteen years ago.
* * *
Buyers then went through the envelope that Ben Wright had given him. The woman who had died was Annabelle Wright. Age fifty-two. The coroner was way off on that one. She was extremely fit. She had no previous run-ins with police, not even outstanding traffic tickets. Never married. No kids. But, according to this letter, she had a mission. A dangerous one. A noble one.
She had trained hard. Power lifting, fitness boot camps, boxing. Even took street fighting lessons. Not some self-defense classes, but real fighting. Then she went after wife beaters.
She described in detail how she found her targets. Mostly from listening to the police frequency. Getting names, finding addresses, following them, learning their habits. Knowing the futility of the 911 call that inevitably led to nothing. The wives saying he didn’t mean it. It won’t happen again. Why didn’t these women leave, why put up with the violence? Annabelle just couldn’t understand it. Did the woman know the futility of trying to leave? How the statistics were stacked against her survival if she did leave? How the husbands would find them, lure them back, with promises of rehabilitation and flowers. Only to have the abuse start up again when the husband felt the beer wasn’t could enough or the steak overdone. The abuse never stopping until either the man or the wife died.
So Annabelle, at the age of fifty, decided to train herself to go out and teach some of these men a lesson by giving them what they gave out. Turns out these bullies were not as tough as they wanted others to see them. Once the pain started, Annabelle wrote, the crying would start, and the begging to please just stop. Each man ending up in intensive care for weeks. Her Doc Martens doing the damage that her fists couldn’t. Trying to inflict the wounds the men had inflicted on their women. But it wasn’t enough. All three men never said who did the beating, leaving Annabelle proud and frustrated. Proud that she had embarrassed them into silence, frustrated because each man was eventually released into his wife’s care. The wife bringing him home, making him comfortable on the couch, and fetching his first beer. The first beer that would lead to more, and the wife getting a smack upside the head with his newly minted cast.
At this point, with nothing really changing the fate of the women, Annabelle thought about quitting. She had risked her life for nothing. She had gotten away with three assaults, but what of it? What next? Buy a gun? Is killing the man the only way to get through? Could she even do that?
Annabelle wrote how she bought a gun, took a couple of lessons, but knew she could never pull the trigger. So the gun was put back in its box and stored in a safe.
Then she heard about Rupert Blake. And it was with Blake that Annabelle made her tragic mistake. She got too close to the target. She was at a party when she saw Shona Blake. Actually went as far as introducing herself. Tried to engage the wife in conversation. Shona Blake never spoke, just smiled but though her lips smiled, her eyes were dead. Rupert Blake never left her side, or released her arm, like she was his possession. Annabelle sought her friend out, the host of the party, and asked about the Blake couple.
“It’s a very strange thing,” the friend replied, “she never goes out without him, and as far as I know, no one from the block has ever been inside the house. Even the two boys are quiet. You never hear or see them playing around the house. Like I said, it’s strange.”
Annabelle then did her usual snooping, and soon learned more. She found more incidents of hospital visits, and calls to social services. But nothing ever came of these. The Blakes or Mr. Blake always cleared away the accusations. How Annabelle got her information, she didn’t say and Buyers didn’t really want to know. He would have one of his guys do another search on Blake, but it was more likely that the police had never been involved.
Buyers continued reading.
Annabelle decided to go after Blake. Blake was a big man. Perhaps she should bring her gun this time. She even went as far as pulling it out of its case, cleaning it and putting in bullets. Then put it back loaded. This would have to go down like the first three. If she couldn’t beat him physically, somehow, she would get the evidence needed to help the police put him away.
All this Annabelle wrote in her letter.
She had included all her reports. There was also a copy of her will, with a brief note stating that Ben Wright had no prior knowledge or her plans or what was in her will.
As Buyer read through everything, he realized why he felt this case had been different. It had been a set up. The first three beatings going well for Annabelle, a warning to men who abuse women. A warning that went unheard, but perhaps not unsung. Even with this confession, and the fact that Annabelle went out with intent to do harm, Blake would be brought up on charges. He would claim self-defense, but no jury would ever think that Annabelle had truly been a physical threat to Rupert. A threat to his way of life maybe, but it was a way of life that no jury would approve. Rupert Blake would be exposed.
“Sellers. Read through this and tell me what you think.” Buyers handed the file to Sellers.
Sellers took the file, and started to read. Two hours later he stood up and walked to the evidence board. He stopped in front of Annabelle’s picture. The grey haired one done by Shirley. He shook his head.
“She just wanted to make things better. Show these women they can win.” Sellers said.
“Yeah. She tried.” Buyers replied. “But I think she knew this wasn’t going to go her way.”
Sellers walked slowly towards Blake’s picture. He traced the line connecting the two pictures with his finger, and then pointed at Blake’s picture, his hand and index finger like a gun.“You’re right, I guess,” replied Sellers, “but she should have brought her gun.”
Kim Gagnon is a new writer with a keen interest in creative writing.
Copyright © 2015 Kim Gagnon. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!