Powder Burn Flash # 372 - Edmond D. Smith
By Edmond D. Smith
It starts and ends with Hanna.
Hanna was…is my daughter. Twenty five years ago this month, Hanna, 7 years old, sunshine blonde, blue-eyed and filled with joy, mischief and hope died. No, not died. She was murdered. Her life, valuable and unique was brought to an end that was brutal, cruel and sick, by a monster. More than a monster, a freak, warped in the soul, empty and twisted and separated from humanity in every way but in body.
When she went missing, Mary, my wife called the police. They did what police do; they investigated, they chased down clues, they called in the media and spread the word to a scared and compassionate community. Mary and I stood before the cameras and begged, chins quivering, tears rolling down cheeks, for any information on where she might be. We pleaded for her to be returned to us safe and untainted. You’ve seen us, or people like us anyway a thousand times on the nightly news and you’ve held your own children close to you as you watched, as if that could keep the sickness and evil away from your door.
She was found, abused and discarded like waste in a dank and fouled wetland.
Within days the police had their suspect. He had worked at the convenience store down the block from our house. He was a drifter. He was a pedophile. A nothing. A freak and a monster. He had a long history of crimes against children. A guilty man. He was quickly tried and convicted and thrown into some cell to stagnate away his remaining years with others like himself, others with empty eyes and empty hearts. It is where monsters belong.
You could feel the community breathe a sigh of relief. They loosened their grips on their children just a bit and moved on until the next news cycle told them of some new horror that amplified their fears for awhile before abating once more. Their lives edged forward, leaving little nicks and scratches on their psyches but they still drove to work with music on the radio crowding out their thoughts, got fat and kept their secrets, even from themselves. But for Mary and me it was done. She left me the following year. I understand that this is not unusual after the death of a child. I lost touch with her some years ago. We parted telling ourselves that we had nothing left to say. I hope that she has managed to find some way of going through the years with something approaching what…? Peace? Resignation? But I know better.
I had been an accountant for years, a job that paid the bills and one that one that a normal person would hold. But I wasn’t normal anymore. There were things moving inside me that needed to be healed with action and movement, a battle that needed to be waged. I quit after some years that I no longer even remember. I joined the Police Academy. I was welcomed. I was the haunted man who had suffered and now looked for release in hunting for and punishing those who metaphorically had harmed me. In some way of course that was right.
I was a beat cop for years and was more than good. I worked hard and I worked long and when it became possible to take the Detective test I took it and passed it with a score that was unusually high. For some time I worked Narcotics and then Assaults. And then after much thought I requested and was granted a spot in Homicide. I was advised by fellow officers that this might be a bad idea, that it would rub me too raw. There was resistance from the brass but my record was too good, my commendations too many for them to stop me when I made my desire known. Their reservations faded in time as my performance proved me more than able.
I was relentless and I was smart. I looked at ordinary situations and events and people and saw into them. I saw things that others didn’t see, a “tell” that no one else could notice, a connection that the common eye couldn’t make. I wasn’t just a good cop, I was a resource the Department called on when the roads all dead ended, when the guilty looked like they would also forever remain the free. I was admired. But still the battle roiled on inside me seemingly without end. Still Hannah called out.
This year marks my twentieth year with the force. I have done my time, earned the Golden Ticket to retirement, maybe a nice sinecure bought by my notoriety and good work. It is time for this to end.
I knock on the Chief’s door.
“Come in, Detective.” He smiles and points to a chair.
“Are you here to tell me you’re finally handing in your papers? I would have thought you’d have gotten to this a few weeks ago, at least.”
I ignore the chair and stand before his desk. I remove my gun from its holster and place it and my badge on his desk. He looks at me quizzically.
“Well putting in your papers doesn’t mean you get to walk off the job today.” he says laughing more with confusion than humor.
“This is my last day.” I hold my hands out in front of me. “I’m turning myself in.”
“You’re not exactly known for your sense of humor, Detective. What’s going on?” All amusement is gone from his face now.
I open my mouth and say it, the only thing I can say, the words I should have said a long time ago.
“Twenty-five years ago I raped and murdered my daughter. I’m not who you think I am.”
Hannah has stopped calling at last and I know she will not call again as the years move on.
Today I will finally be going where monsters belong.
BIO: Edmond (Ed, please) has spent 20 of the last 21 years working as a social worker. The last year he has spent as a victim of the economy (read: unemployed). He has a lot of time on his hands and his thoughts are turning black so he figured he should either start writing crime fiction or start a life a crime. He chose crime fiction. He's smart that way.