Murder never goes as planned. In the very act of designing a murder, there is a myriad of factors to consider. The cauldron of evil that brews in the minds of men is a turbulent potion of deceit and wickedness, certain to boil over eventually; and when it does, you will get caught.
Henry knew this better than anyone, in a world that even he could consider to be wickedly twisted. It was a difficult thing to learn, but he has fully applied the lesson like a crafted artisan. Some artists paint or sculpt while others write. Henry paints madness on the sculpted surface of humanity and frames each masterpiece with a eulogy. Oh yes, he is an artist now.
“Police ask that you be on the look-out for the suspect. Caucasian, average build with dark hair, normally sporting a goatee and a distinguishing tattoo of a snake wrapped around the neck. Do not approach this man. He is wanted for questioning in the rape and murder of at least seven women, including the rape of twenty-three year-old Haley Olsen six months ago in Henderson City Park. If you see the suspect…”
The sound of the TV fades as Henry turns down the volume and picks up the newspaper. He flips to the obituaries and takes a sip from his coffee mug.
Three months ago, Henry Williams was an average Joe, possibly bordering on a boring one. It was a beautiful day by any standards, the kind of day that sends birds into a frenzied chorus of melodic hysteria. His walk began at 3:04 in the afternoon as it did on every other day, and the sweet stillness of the perfect day set Henry’s pace into a stroll of leisure. As on every other day, his route took him from his house to the city park. Henry could not have predicted the tragic bend his peaceful path would take, and looking back now, he wonders if his insistence on ritual was his undoing. If only he had stopped for coffee, paused to watch a beetle, or ponder a tree, then he would not have seen what he saw, would not have done what he did. But then, it is his unyielding dedication to ritual that has kept his sanity carefully caged for all these years. To regret the path one has chosen, there goes the way of madness. To brood over ‘what if’ and ‘what might have been’ is to assume that destiny could have been altered. Consider that destiny is concrete, regardless of the choices made along the path; the path will lead to the same end.
Destiny made its course in the park, under a crab apple tree. Henry had been watching the families enjoy afternoon picnics while children played and dogs leapt for Frisbees. A river cut through the park sending up its own brand of mirth into the mix with gurgling and rippling sounds. The effect on Henry was a trance-like sense of peace. He embraced this peace, treasured it. For it was rare and short-lived in his tightly caged psyche.
A scream pierced the serenity and sent it flying away like a pigeon frightened by a child. Henry stopped in his tracks and searched for the source. Several yards off the path to his left was a giant crab apple tree behind a row of ornate benches. A line of thick bushes framed the benches and it was from there that the sound of a muffled and urgent exchange arose. Another scream was suddenly cut short. Henry glanced across the park at the merriment. Do they not hear this? Park activity went on as if he were the only one aware of the breach. A man’s harsh whisper came from behind the bushes. “Stop squirming and shut up!” As he approached the edge of the bushes, Henry could see two legs sticking out, undeniably, the graceful legs of a young girl.
“I said stop moving,” the man spat angrily. The woman struggled frantically then disappeared further behind the bushes. Henry was frozen with fear and indecision. If the assailant was armed, what would he fight back with? Should he run and get help or just shout across the park to the nearest group of people?
Something flew into his line of vision. He watched as it traveled through the air and landed upside down. It was a shoe.
Henry’s breath caught in his throat and he forced his feet to move, advancing slowly. A tearing sound then a large piece of pink cloth appeared, torn and bloody, hardly recognizable as the girl’s shirt.
How is it that no one else was hearing this? How is it that Henry was the only one seeing it?
The realization that he wasn’t acting fast enough to reach the girl finally spurred him forward and, as he came into view of the violence, the tightly strung cords of Henry’s mind snapped. He was no longer in the park on a sunny day with children playing only yards away from a brutal attack. He was flung instead into a memory that he had spent countless hours in therapy pretending to confront.
Henry whistled a happy tune, pleased with himself as he walked up the front steps of the school. He had finally said ‘hi’ to Sarah Rogers yesterday. Sweet Sarah.
She took his breath away with her smile. He had seen her up ahead and, just like he always did, averted his eyes away quickly and walked faster. His only strategy in dealing with his feelings around girls was to get by them as quickly as possible before he did something to make a fool of himself. But Sarah stepped right in his path, crossed her beautiful, slender arms and said, “To get through here, you have to say hello to me!”
The rest of the day had been sweet bliss spent talking to her between classes and even waiting with her at the bus stop chatting about music.
Now today, dressed in a pink shirt with her soft curls of brunette silk spilling down over her collar, Henry spotted her standing in their spot. That would be forever “their spot” now. The spot where they had met, where she stepped into his path, where his life had finally begun.
Henry looked up and watched in horror as another guy walked by her and she stepped in front of him, crossed her arms and said, “To get through here, you have to say hello to me!”
Henry Remko Williams has no memory of the rest of that day.
Now, as he stood there staring down at the pink shirt covered in blood, anger welled up inside him like a volcano filling up with fire and brimstone. His muscles grew taut and his hands clenched into fists. It was the sound of a zipper that triggered sudden action in him. He raced out from the corner of the bushes and came face to face with a man straddling a young girl.
Henry dove at the man and tackled him, rolled to the ground and came up over the assailant punching and struggling. He slammed his fists, one after another, into the man’s face until he was unconscious. He looked back over to the girl and she was holding her bloodied pink shirt to her chest, sobbing and looking at him with eyes full of terror. He looked back down at the ground and at his bloodied fists pressed into the ground. There was no man lying pinned beneath him, no assailant with them behind the bushes, only Henry and his terrified victim. And Henry’s fractured mind.
The girl kicked furiously backwards, scooting away from him as he reached towards her…
Henry has just finished crossing the last T in the eulogy for his latest victim when the doorbell rings. He sips from a cup of tepid coffee. This eulogy is his latest work of art and his finest. After setting the notepad and quill pen down on the coffee table, he leans forward and rubs his face with both hands.
To date, he has written ten eulogies for the rapists he has killed in his mind. He writes nothing for the women, for they are not killings, Henry is helping them. He is releasing them from a life of painful memories.
He makes his way to the window behind the couch, and peeks through the curtains. Ten men armed with guns line the front steps and porch.
Henry inhales deeply then exhales until there is no more air in his lungs. He is ready.
A hard knock sounds on the door. “FBI! Open up!”
Henry stops at the hallway mirror and looks one last time at the reflection of the stranger there. The snake tattoo slithers down below his neatly trimmed black goatee into his shirt collar. He walks leisurely to the oak door, grabs the cool, metal doorknob and opens the door with a smile.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen.”