John’s palms were sweaty against the cold desk. Or was it sweat? He couldn’t tell. He was soaked through from the storm. It dripped down his temples; falling into his eyes.
The officer finally turned to him, “What can I do for you?” he asked.
John felt his heart race unnaturally, his skin prickling in anxious expectation.
“I uh…” his voice shook. “I need to speak to somebody.”
“Well, I can help you. Can you let me know what it’s about?” the officer asked.
“I –” John’s voice caught in his throat. He looked around anxiously, panting; fingers tapping the desk nervously. Just get it out, he thought.
“I – I saw a – a murder,” he said, almost asking rather than telling. His heart galloped like a race horse. There was a rushing in his ears.
He saw the officer stand, motioning with his arms and hands to him, but he couldn’t hear what he was saying. Another officer opened up the gate in the desk for him to come through, and they guided him to a private room.
John sat in the cold metal chair, trying to shake the ants off his skin; trying to breath. It seemed like hours since they put him in here. The rain was setting a chill in his bones.
The door opened, letting in two men. Both wore suits. One in black, about five-eight, medium-length salt and pepper hair, and cleanly shaven. The other wore a dark grey, about six-foot, with short dark-brown hair, greying at the temples. John didn’t take this in. He vaguely saw them sit at the two seats across the table from him. His eyes couldn’t focus.
“John, uh, Winslow? Is it?” the older man asked.
“Yeah – yeah,” John nodded.
“So, Peter there, uh, out the front, says you um… mighta saw something, you think we oughta know about?”
John nodded nervously.
“Do you think you could fill us in on – whatcha think you saw?”
John leant forward in his chair, elbows on the desk, hands rubbing, then one moving to his face.
“I saw – a murder,” he said, looking the two men in the eyes. His fingers hovered around his mouth absently. “He just… he just hit him… like it was nothing. Like he was just – at bat – in a damn baseball game.”
* * *
The bus hissed away from John. He looked both ways before jogging across the two-lane street. A chill breeze came up behind him, disturbing the trees above, who then generously shed their new coat of rain onto him. Seriously? He thought, looking up. He shook his head.
He reached in his pockets, moving aside candy wrappers and his lunch receipt. Realizing once he hit the lint and sand that always seemed to collect there, that he had forgotten his headphones on his desk. Again. Seriously? He punched his pockets.
He turned right at the next block, and on cue, the street lights flickered above him. I swear to god, one day these suckers are gonna go out for good – the street lights must have heard, because immediately the next few blocks and those surrounding went dark. John stopped, looking as unimpressed with the street as he was with his last date.
He decided to take the shortcut by the bridge. It looked blacked out as well, but it was still quicker. He walked one more block, and turned right, into the park.
The sky growled above him, threatening another downpour. He zipped his jacket the last couple inches and pulled it closer.
Yards away from the bridge, he noticed voices. Gaze travelling, he landed on two dark figures. Tense, curt words seemed to pass between them. The slightly shorter figure was gesturing his arms up; then pointed in one direction; then at himself.
John did his best to ignore the two, not wanting to be seen or dragged into the argument. He stepped quietly, but kept his pace steady. He was glad the lights had gone out now.
The two men seemed to be getting more agitated, though in the same moment, the shorter seemed to give up, waving the other off with one massive hand – which John realized was a catcher’s mitt – and walked away, clearly done with the conversation.
John was nearly passed them. From this angle, he wouldn’t have to cross them, but he certainly could keep an eye on them. He wasn’t sure yet where the second guy may be heading, he was still reaching over to pick up his piece of the game.
Afterward, John couldn’t quite figure out how it happened. He knew what he saw, but it just didn’t seem real. This shit only happened in movies. Right?
The taller, second figure had picked up the bat. He stood for a couple seconds, weighing it at his side. John figured he was going to head in the opposite direction of the first guy, so he quietly hurried along to make sure they didn’t cross paths.
But the guy didn’t walk the opposite direction. He turned around, light on his feet, like those guys in baseball when their jogging up to bat. Jogging a couple steps backwards first, before turning to face the direction they’re heading.
The guy was just a couple feet from the catcher when it happened. Gracefully, he pulled back, and with a swing that would land a home run, he hit the first guy square in the back of the head.
It seemed like the guy was falling in slow motion. Face planting in the wet grass.
John stopped cold in his tracks. Words no longer existed in his vocabulary. His heart landed in his throat, and his gut dropped like a cannon ball.
The batter nudged the mass with his foot, unemotionally. Poked it with the bat. He started to look around – John dropped. His body seemed to know what to do, even though he was mentally running away. He was lucky, where he had stopped were near four-foot tall bushes. He kept hidden.
John watched, as the batter dragged the body by the back of his shirt, its head sagging lifelessly, while still holding the bat in the other hand. At first it looked like he was taking it to the bridge, which was just a few yards from where they were. But then he passed right beside it, slowing down as he descended the slight decline, into the river.
No, no, no, no, no, John’s mind echoed. But his feet were already running. As soon as the bodies had entered the water, his feet took off. The sky split. With a crack, and a boom, the torrents descended, creating floods faster than John had ever seen.
Before he knew it, his lungs were burning as he leant against his apartment door. He didn’t remember the rest of the run. His converse squeaked as he unsteadily made it across his foyer, to the kitchen counter.
Okay, okay, okay, think, think, think… Cops! Cops, cops, okay, what – where… He took out his cell, hands shaking. “Shit,” he said aloud, as the touch screen failed to accept his dripping wet hands. He grabbed paper towel, drying his hands and the phone off. Okay. Google. Police. station. near. me. Ten-minute walk. Okay. Yes, okay.
John grabbed his keys and forged out into the monsoon. He ran when he could, though the searing pain in his lungs barely allowed.
At last. John didn’t even register the sign on the building, but the unmistakable police cars parked out front told him he had arrived. He burst through the glass doors, lungs burning, rain dripping onto every floor tile he met. He looked around; eyes wide. Citizens eyed him suspiciously and unapprovingly from where they sat waiting. He tried his best to calmly walk up to the desk, up to the officer sitting behind it.
* * *
“Alright, so we just have a few questions,” the older officer said. John nodded.
“Can you describe these two?”
“Well, it was dark. You know, all the lights were out. I think the – the bigger guy – you know, who – who did it – was probably like, six-three? Just a bit taller than me. But bigger – you know, like he works out. The other guy, maybe my height, six-foot. I wanna say the – tall guy, had maybe sandy hair. The shorter guy, dark hair. Uhm… looked like they wore jeans. The short guy – a hoodie. Tall guy… a T-shirt?”
“And this was at…?”
“F-Fielder’s Park – right near the bridge, over the river.”
“Alright,” he closed the notebook laid on the desk. “You just hang tight, okay? We’re gonna check this out.”
* * *
John couldn’t believe it. They were closing the case. Only a couple weeks had passed. He was an eye witness, and there was absolutely nothing that he could say or do that could change it. There’s just no evidence, the detective had said.
The rains that descended that night had washed away any possible evidence; any blood that may have been spilt. They had dragged the river, and didn’t find a body; couldn’t find a bloodied bat. And with how dark it had been, there was no chance of getting a clear description.
John’s cell rang. Eric. His buddy.
“Hey.” He answered.
“Man, I just saw the news, I can’t believe it.”
“I know. Man, I don’t know what to do – all I keep thinkin’ is that guy is still out there.”
“Well, you saw him – you saw - it, isn’t that enough to bring somebody in?”
“The cops said no. Dude, they dragged the river and searched the whole area. The guy must’ve taken the bat with him and burnt it or some shit. God knows what he did with the body. Man…he coulda diced it up in the river – did away with the parts somewhere. He coulda buried them – jeez, you could bury them in a graveyard – no one would find them…”
“Shit man… wouldn’t wanna be you.”
“Right?” John said, scared.
“Man – be careful.”
“No, man, I mean it. You could end up like one of those movies – murderer finds out someone saw him; next thing you know – you’re it.”
“Cripes, man, don’t say shit like that.”
“I gotta go. I’ll call ya later.”
“Alright, careful man.”
John reached the intersection. Checking the bus app, it said it was 2 minutes out. It was one of those weird instances where the walk signal doesn’t change with the flow of traffic. As long as it wasn’t one of those long-ass lights, he’d make it across in time.
Pat-pat. A tap on his shoulder. He turned around, and for a second didn’t recognize the face inches from his. It was about three inches taller than him, with sandy hair. He realized now the form wasn’t as jacked as he initially thought. It was more – naturally built. Then his stomach dropped. His jaw dropped slightly, and the rushing in his ears returned. Instinct told him to Run. Images of a bat connecting with a skull rushed in front of his eyes. It was Him.
John tripped before he realized he was backing up, trying to put as much distance between him and the murderer. Trying to get away. With the shock, he hadn’t realized the lights had changed.
Next thing you know – you’re it, Eric’s voice echoed.
He didn’t see the bus. He barely even felt it, before everything went black.