Short Story: 4,000 words
“You haven’t had your coffee today, have you?”
Jess didn’t even acknowledge that statement. Why should she? Jack already knew the answer. Rather than turn to acknowledge him, Jess merely muttered something under her breath along the lines of ‘none of your business’. Considering the fact that this occurrence was quite frequent, Jack just let out a light sigh and shook his head.
“Well, you need it. You look like a cat that had gone through the washing machine, survived, fell asleep, and woke up several hours later,” the man commented. Jess’s chocolate-colored hair, as usual, was a tad bit frizzy, and there were dark circles under her eyes as if she never got quite the amount of sleep she needed. To be honest, Jack was used to seeing her like this, yet never failed to comment on it every single time he saw her. Much to Jess’s annoyance, of course. The irritated woman continued walking toward her office, giving a light nod to various co-workers as she passed by. The stack of papers in her hand seemed to be ever-growing even though no one was giving her any more or less. A trick of the eye, perhaps? Maybe it was just that Jess was far too tired and as a result seeing things.
Jack was determined to persist, so ended up following the woman. It wasn’t like he was on the streets at this current moment in time, anyway. When off of police duty, Jack was inclined to work in the station offices here. “Come on Jess, what’s on your mind? You need to be attentive for this job, otherwise you’ll lose it. I’m sure you understand my concern,” Jack muttered, running his fingers through his smooth black hair, ignoring a few strands of which decided to fall into one eye and hinder his vision somewhat.
Adjusting her blue uniform, Jess decided to form a half-assed response, but hey, at least it was something. “Stop worrying about me. I get it. I can work just fine as I am. Stuff happened at home, things better left unsaid. I can work just fine. Really,” she growled toward the persistent man. Yes, she had repeated that line twice, for either emphasis or to convince herself. Either way, Jack got the point—Jess did not want to be bothered. When she was like this, it was best to simply tell her the important case at hand rather than pester her. Despite his apprehension, Jack was fully aware of Jess’s expertise in this job. Perhaps that’s why his persistence died down right then and there.
“When you’re done with your paperwork, there’s a new case. One that I figured you would be able to handle well, Jessabelle. I have her papers here. She refused to have a lawyer in the room. Let me know when you want to see the papers,” Jack muttered, getting right to the point. At the slight nod of the woman in blue, Jack wandered away in wait for when she decided to give it a look.
Meanwhile, Jess’s mind was whirring with everything that had happened. Jack didn’t know shit about her home life, to be honest. That wasn’t to say she didn’t respect or admire him, however. He did a great job, and wielded his badge well. The public these days tended to have a negative view of the police force, due to the media. Understandable in some cases, whereas in others the details were greatly exaggerated. Anyways, to Jess, Jack was a man who did his job well, with just the right amount of kindness and concern as he should have. Yet, he was strict as hell when he needed to be. Some said he should be named ‘Frank’, due to how forward he was. Luckily he understood enough to leave her alone at this point in time. Rarely did she reveal the hectic nature of what went on in her home life. Perhaps if she opened up to Jack more, their acquaintanceship could turn into a friendship, and maybe something even more thereafter. At that thought, Jess cursed in her mind due to her foolishness. Now was not the time to be considering anything of the sort.
Taking a seat in the worn leather computer chair, Jess placed the disorganized stack of paperwork on the side of her desk. The dull glow of the computer barely lit up her face, though a flash of whatever program happened to be present on it would occasionally give the room a little bit more light. At least it was more than the rays of ‘sunlight’, if you could call them that, from the dusty window, and anyway the grumble of thunder outside was a clear indication that the day was far from clear and sunny. One would think that Jess, as a professional here at the police station, would get herself a decent lamp. Or that the funding for the practice would provide one. Unfortunately, that was not the case here, as money was sparse and needed to go toward more important things, such as fancier suites and hats for the higher ups.
Taking care of the messy paperwork was tedious, to say the least. Sure, the task itself was easy, but Jess’s mind was wandering yet again. Keeping her attention to one thing at a time sometimes proved difficult, especially during problems like this. After all, if they found out how sick her mother was, that woman would be forced into one of those disgusting hospitals with horrible conditions. Her mother would in fact only get sicker, and Jessabelle was fully aware of how greedy even the healthcare system was. They would bleed Jess’s family of two dry, she was sure of it. Too many cases and horror stories were paired with bad medical care, especially of the hospital her mother was sure to be taken to should they find out. Yes, Jessabelle was a woman of the law here, but there was only so much she could do. Her eyes narrowed as a few sour memories and thoughts struck her mind.
That morning, similar to the past few, Jess was there cleaning some throw-up from her mother’s bed. Previously she’d been supporting her on the walk to the bathroom. Her mother, losing strength fast, would need to go to the hospital very soon. But Jess just couldn’t take that risk, not after what had happened to her with the infection.
You see, she’d gotten shot on the job by a desperate robber, and taken to that hospital. Perhaps she has the worst of odds, or perhaps the issue was brought upon by blatant medical malpractice. Whatever the case, they charged her for everything and her finances were screwed over. Her family had to move to a much less ideal living area. Jess knew how much her mother wanted a better life for the two of them. Her mother had blatantly told Jess not to trust the hospital ever again. Jess constantly feared that they would mess up again, and that they’d be on the streets this time, or that her mother would end up dead.
Jess would have to do something soon, though. She had called a doctor that morning, stating the various symptoms, and getting a ‘diagnosis’ that her mother could have a case of the flu of which was progressively getting worse. Jess would eventually have to suck it up and take her to someone. Hopefully not that hospital. If she told Jack, he could force the matter, which was a major reason why she was being hush-hush about it.
Snapping out of it and finishing things up with the final scribble of her runny pen, Jess stood up, and turned toward the door. It didn’t take all that long for her to build up the willpower to actually exit her small office. Or maybe it did, really, but Jess refused to admit that she didn’t have her head in the game today. Adjusting her badge for about the fifteenth time this hour, she finally opened it with a flat palm. She hastily wandered down the hall, soon arriving at her destination. After knocking four times, Jess stood there in wait for Jack to acknowledge her.
Really, it took only a few seconds for Jack to answer the door, though to Jess it felt like eons. The door gave way to the officer himself, wearing his professional hat and seeming about to head out. With a nod of greeting did Jack acknowledge Jess. He turned away from her, motioning toward her with a flick of his wrist to follow. Jess obliged, her eyes darting around the familiar office of the police officer and taking in any new detail. The pictures of two German Shepherds were lovingly hung above a window similarly dirty to Jess’s, adding some life to this otherwise grey place. Also like Jess did Jack have a ruddy, old-school computer that provided a tiny bit of light. Unlike her, however, Jack obtained for himself a lamp that shone just a tad bit brighter than the screen of his computer. Whereas Jess would argue the piece of furniture pointless, Jack would let her know that at least it was something.
The woman did not in fact notice anything new about Jack’s office, which was somewhat disappointing, because change was nice sometimes, and Jack tended to modify things a tiny bit. Whether it be a new small figurine here, or a decent piece of hanging art there, Jack’s office provided some interest in this rather tense environment. Oh well. Taking a seat on a comfortably fluffy chair, Jess found her tense demeanor relaxing just slightly. She might have been rather salty toward the man, but she knew that he knew that was just the norm when something negative in her life happened. Her attention entirely on Jack, of whom was currently looking over a detailed piece of writing, Jess waited for him to speak.
“She dons the name Madison ‘Mayhem’ Miles. Yes, you heard me right. Quite unusual how the name rolls off of my tongue so smoothly, as if I was provided a song to sing. That aside, she likes silence. Might be the only thing she does like, really. They usually gain pleasure from hearing screams of their victims. Miss “Mayhem”, however, is quite different. She allegedly enjoyed sewing their mouths shut before stabbing their eyes out and carving their jugular from their throat,” Jack explained, his tone rather flat. No emotion, just straight forward and to the point. At his words, Jess furrowed her brow.
“…She? I do not believe I have ever quite been given a female for a case like that, Jackal. Wait… this is the same Mayhem that committed those murders? The ones that have been talked about for a while now?” Jessabelle questioned. Jack merely gave a dismissive shrug, tilting his head upwards to meet his dark blue gaze with her brown eyes.
“Yes. She is suspected of raping and murdering fifteen men, twenty women, and five children. You heard me correctly. All cases showed signs of intense sexual molestation along with the stabbings I described before. We have her in the interrogation room. Cuffed, watched, obviously,” Jackal mumbled through his teeth.
Jessabelle put a hand on her forehead, brushing away some stray strands of her long hair from her eyes. “This is the media’s ‘Mayhem’ huh? Wonderful. I bet they are loving the show,” she snarled, her voice laced with sarcasm. At the stern glare of Jack, however, Jess just sighed and hung her head. “I will get the information we need to confirm she’s the one that did this, and try to figure out why. What, is the defense trying to plead insanity or innocence?” she questioned. At the stiff nod of Jack, she rolled her eyes. “Figures. Time to clean up the bullshit, then.”
Holding her hand out, Jessabelle waited for the police officer to give her the usual list. Jack stood up, though some hesitation hung in the air.
“Are you sure you can handle this, Jessabelle? If you cannot, I can give the case to David. He has quite a bit of free time now that he cracked down on those drug cases,” Jack questioned, eyeing Jess skeptically. Still, he made a move to hold the paper out to her, already knowing the answer before she spat it out to him.
“I would prefer if you did not doubt me, Jackal. Of course I have the case. David has little to no experience with intense cases like these; he still has a way to go before he can handle it. I can take care of it,” the woman snapped. After handing Jess the list, he put his hands up as if surrendering.
“Doubt carries little weight in my concern, Jessabelle. We’re human. Sometimes we just cannot handle issues like this when already under quite a bit of stress,” he replied, his lips now drawn into a thin line at her attitude. This is how she handles things, remember. Best not to get too upset, he thought to himself. But Jack still had that feeling that right now, she couldn’t handle this…oh well. This was Jess. She’d be fine.
Jessabelle, with the list in hand, already had been heading out of the office. Giving a short reply of ‘I can handle whatever is dealt to me’, the woman wandered away from Jack’s office and toward a new destination—the interrogation room. With these sort of cases, there was no time to waste. This very minute lawyers would be twisting the real facts to their favor in order to lessen the punishment of their client, and allow another killer free to do it all again. That part of the system disgusted Jessabelle, more than the wage gap. As it should, of course; after all, and especially to her, money was the root of all evil. Well, usually. Perhaps here and now, that would not be the case. Moving on, Jess entered the closed off room before shutting the heavily bolted door behind her.
Jess found herself growing tense upon meeting the stare of the most beautiful woman she ever had laid eyes upon. Sitting with her hands folded across a small table was a person that appeared to be in her early twenties. She had long, silky blonde hair and piercing blue eyes that, when gazing at Jessabelle, almost seemed to calculate and confirm every aspect of her being. The look was not predatory, as one might think when handling criminals like this. No, more than anything, the woman’s eyes were simply void. Nothing, not a trace of remorse, sadness, anger, not even fear, could be observed within them. Jess’s stomach turned nervously. Maybe Jack was right, maybe right now was a bad time to handle this… nope. Regardless, it was too late to go back now.
In a kind tone did Jess begin to speak at first. “Greetings ma’am. The interrogation process is set to begin as of now. Answering all of my questions to the best of your ability and knowledge will aid you in the final outcome.” Jess, prepared for her interrogation work, withdrew a high-tech device, lightly tapping the button to begin recording the situation.
The criminal’s smile was too perfect. No, not as if she had practice, but as if she had been born to hold such a wonderful expression that many would comment could light up a room. Jess was not fooled. The smile of a demon can be twisted to perfection, if the end result means torment for the victim. Jess twitched an eye.
It came as no surprise to the interrogator that “Mayhem” had a voice sweeter than fresh honey, to be honest. “Of which I am aware, Jessabelle. Nice meeting you,” she seemed to hum.
Taken aback, Jess stuttered, “How do you know my name?” ‘Mayhem’ tilted her head, motioning with a daintily-painted sharpened nail toward Jess’s metal nametag. Oh dear, had she forgotten such a thing was there? Her face flushing in embarrassment, Jess cleared her throat and just gave a nod, preparing the next question. “Right then. Madison, is it? Nice meeting you, I suppose. I am going to need you to tell me a little bit about your past, Madison. Tell me, did your parents or some other adult figure in your life abuse you? Did you have any pets, and if so, did you enjoy providing them discomfort for your own pleasure?” Time to start off slow, of course.
The criminal’s stare never wavered from Jessabelle’s. In one smooth action did she bring her arms up and entwine her fingers, resting her chin upon them and running her tongue daintily over her lips. After a moment did she respond. “My childhood, many would speculate, was enjoyable. Nothing even remotely important happened such as what you mentioned, Jessabelle. There was a dog, yes. It was named Fido. I left it alone, really. Never provided me much interest.”
Noting the way ‘Mayhem’ called the dog ‘it’ rather than ‘he’, Jess scribbled some notes down on a pad before proceeding with the next set of questions. “I see. Can you tell me why you have committed such atrocities?” she asked, her stare breaking from ‘Mayhem’ for just a moment.
The criminal’s lip quirked upwards just slightly at Jess’s reaction. “Are you able to do your job correctly here, Jessabelle? I do believe you are supposed to maintain eye contact. Why look away? Your instincts tell you that taking your eyes off of me for even a second could lead to endangerment of your life. Or perhaps your instincts are reacting to another thing. Your fear. Regardless, I cannot say that I am not disappointed,” ‘Mayhem’ mused.
Jess furrowed her brow, running her fingers through her messy hair and clearing her throat. “You are here to answer the questions, miss. Not speculate as to why I react the way I do,” Jess snarled toward ‘Mayhem’. Her eyes met the criminal’s again, and this time Jessabelle was intent on not allowing her stare to waver.
“Ah, yes. That is much better. Your eyes are beautiful, Jessabelle. I understand why many would be lost in them. A strong woman defines one in your position, Jessabelle. Showing any sign of weakness will cause that exact strength to be snatched away, until you simply are a husk of rotting flesh… Let’s say I truly am the killer, hm? Why, you ask?” the criminal almost seemed to purr. The other side of her lip quirked upwards now, forming an even wider smile. “Allow me to answer you with a question. Why not?”
Jess blinked several times, drumming her fingers on the table and slowly shaking her head. “I do not need to explain morality or law to one who simply seems to neither understands nor cares for it,” she replied, her voice cracking just slightly.
‘Mayhem’ shook her head, raising a brow. “You slipped, dear Jessabelle. I understand everything to a tee. If only you had withheld that word. ‘Understand’. Simple, really. I just do not care.”
“Yes, and my question is why, ma’am,” Jess snapped, growing impatient.
Clicking her tongue, ‘Mayhem’ merely hummed, “My, Jessabelle. You seem rather upset over this…over quite a bit in general. Whereas I continue to sit here, undeterred, unafraid, and most importantly uncaring. If I could, I would find this entire fiasco amusing. Truly, I do understand why some perhaps might. I wonder, have you a family member at home? A father…a son… a mother..” The suspect stared Jess down, appearing to make note and calculation of every single movement she made. Particularly, the light quirk of Jess’s lip at the mention of a mother.
“Irrelevant. You need to stay on topic, ma’am,” Jess responded, her voice a bit harsh.
This process was going left, right, behind, and whatever direction one would define except forward. ‘Mayhem’ was avoiding the real answer entirely, and Jess obviously found herself growing frustrated. Taking a deep breath, she continued despite this. “Ma’am, were you aware of your actions during the time of the atrocities committed? How much do you remember? Do you recall your emotions during the rapings and killings?”
‘Mayhem’ remained silent for a moment. Her previously wide smile seemed to vanish for just a moment, but Jess could tell it was not one of regret. No, the expression was almost one of disappointment, should it had not been too empty to be so. “All the answers lie before you, Jessabelle, to be in this position you must be a smart woman. I recall every tiny detail. I was aware of all, and emotions are irrelevant in this situation,” the criminal replied.
Jess rubbed at her temples, allowing a drawn out sigh to escape her lips. That was when her entire world decided to shatter, of course. The next eleven words from ‘Mayhem’ fell upon her mind like corrosive acid would to flesh. “Emotion did not keep your mother alive, might I add, Jessabelle.”
At first, Jessabelle did not appear to understand. Her mind latched onto one word… ‘did’. In a choked tone did she gasp, “…Explain yourself…”
‘Mayhem’ slowly blinked, allowing the torment of silence to wrack Jess’s world before proceeding moments later. “Perhaps that light tapping in the morning was not the result of a runny faucet, Jessabelle. Perhaps if you had trusted your instincts as everyone should. Perhaps if you had found it within yourself to check before you left. Perhaps if you had not been in such a rush to escape the torturous feeling of dread. Perhaps if you were like me. Perhaps then, she would still be alive.”
At those words, Jessabelle found herself withdrawing a gun, her heart racing faster than it ever had before. Her hand was shaky as she pointed it at ‘Mayhem’, tears now streaming down her reddened cheeks. That empty smile was back, plastered against the criminal’s face like some masterpiece.
Softly did ‘Mayhem’ purr, “Pulling the trigger, you will become just like me. Many could not bring themselves to do it, Jessabelle. Yet, I know you w–“
BANG! BANG! BANG BANG BANG! BANG!
There was so much blood on Jess’s face that she almost felt as if she were drowning. The criminal fell like a ragdoll onto the table, now a heap of lifeless, meaningless flesh. ‘Mayhem’ no longer had a recognizable face, especially since two of the bullets exploded her eyeballs and inner nasal canal.There was only darkness from there; the stress has caused a blackout.
Jess awoke in a hospital, her face still stained with blood. The nurses cleaned it off best they could. But the blood would always be there. Especially when Jess’s eyes fell upon a woman stiffly sitting in a chair across from her hospital bed, staring her down with quite a bit of apprehension.
The woman gave a hesitant nod, coughing and clearing her throat, her skin a sickly pale. “I gave in, called the ambulance to fix this sickness. I was here already when I heard the news… they allowed me in here. You shot someone and blacked out. A suspect. She’s dead, Jessabelle…” Her mother teared up, giving a hacking cough once more and wiping her nose.
Into the room did Jack enter, holding a folder filled with papers. With a grim look thrown toward a very tense Jess, he narrowed his eyes. “Jessabelle…” he growled, shaking his head. “That woman you killed was a suspect. One of two. New evidence has come that another woman we have in custody currently is really the killer.”
Jess blinked once… then twice. Tears streamed down her face as she breathed, “Does that mean..” she started, her fears only to be confirmed by a light nod from Jack.
As it turns out, there had never been any sort of light tapping within Jessabelle’s house that morning in the first place.