The detective across the table from me looks bored and impatient with waiting for me to spit it out. Once he knows why I’m here, I’m confident his interest will perk. I know they're desperate for the information I have, but for now, he doesn't know, so he clicks his pen and glances at his cooling coffee.
My leg shakes in a quick vibration, my fingers twirl the ends of my pink sleeves, and I look away. I need to figure out where to begin. Much to the detective's irritation, I silently go back in my head.
Does it start with the day I met Jack Boris?
I sat with Kristy outside our high school waiting for my dad to pick us up. As usual he was running late. My first clue. While Kristy rambled on about math, Jack caught my eye. He didn't go to my school. I never did figure out why he was there. Later I’d learn he was twenty-six. He leaned against his black sports car. His hair was almost shoulder length, greasy, and dirty blonde. Even from afar i could tell he was short, much shorter than me, but i kind of liked that.
"Eww! Why are you making eyes at that creep?" Kristy shrieked so loud, I covered my face with my hands, worried he heard.
"He's not a creep. He's cute."
"He's probably like someone's dad. At least I hope so or he really is a creep."
I rolled my eyes. "Better than being with some good Christian boy who calls every night to cry for hours about how he's going to hell because he can't stop masturbating to pretty girls online."
"Hey! Steve is a great boyfriend. It’s hard, you know, with how oversexualized our society is. Temptation is everywhere and…you don't know what it's like. You've never dated anyone."
"Well, I'm not religious either so I could do whatever I wanted to that─"
"Meghan! I'm pretty sure that's against the law. He’s so old!”
I smiled wickedly. Riling her up always entertained me. “I bet he is much more mature than guys our age.”
She looked disgusted. Never caught on that I was messing with her. Of course, I didn’t believe that. A mature man would not look at girls like us like that, but I didn’t want a boyfriend. I wanted a getaway car. A loser capable of driving that I could convince would be so much better off in life if he moved somewhere successful and took me with him. Things weren’t great at home. When we lost my mom, my dad became a vigilante. I knew what would come next. Vigilantes fight all sorts of bad guys, but they need that one true villain. Each day I grew more terrified that would be me.
Jack's eyes connected to mine and interlocked our souls. He smiled and my whole body melted like an ice cream cone on a hundred-degree day. He did have one hell of a smile; I’ll give him that. I walked up to him with a plan in mind, but I made some miscalculations that day. Maybe from being young and naïve, or maybe something else. Nothing had prepared me for the whirlwind of emotions that would follow. From the ecstasy of first kisses that brought me to the edge of the atmosphere unable to breath, to the sharp sting of his fist when I didn’t do exactly what he wanted. Jack was a tornado that tore through me and took down everything in its path. It didn’t take long to realize the freedom I saw in him, was a small piece of cheese in a mousetrap. He wasn’t a getaway car, but rather a small, cold cage. Eventually my once flat stomach grew into a large lump filled with the weight of my mistake.
One might wonder how this happened with a vigilante father, but his obsession with fighting crime blinded him to everything that happened in his own home. He spent more time in his secret lair.
Shaking off my thoughts, I look at the detective. His dull brown eyes and weak posture scream of someone too burnt out to care.
“You said you had important information?” He asks. He taps his pen against his notebook in a steady rhythm.
“All I want is to be safe. Can you promise that? Can I go in witness protection or something?” I sniffle.
He looks me up and down. “You know fathers have rights. It’ll be hard getting away from him.”
Fucking fathers. No one can get away from them. I rest my hand on my stomach reassuring the demon growing inside. “I don’t think you get how hard this is.”
Trying to hide his sigh, he pulls over a box of tissues and leaves them in front of me.
“I just need to get out of here.”
Light flickers in his dark eyes. Understanding. Good.
“Can you at least give me a hint to what this is all about?”
I nod. “I know who killed those women.”
His eyes widen.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and I have proof.”
“You have my attention.” He drops the pen and forms a steeple with his fingers.
I’m not past the point of no return quite yet. I could still lie. I have proof on two people. Proof of the truth and enough proof to frame. Lying would make my life much easier. I can’t imagine what will happen to me if I tell the truth.
Upon hearing the word vigilante, most people think of someone trying to do good. The problem is we all have our own definition of what’s good.
I take a deep breath, and squeeze my eyes tightly shut. This detective has no idea how many times I walked up to their door and walked away. I’ve been at the police station every day for almost five weeks trying to open the door. My breathing becomes short and rapid. I gasp, panicking.
The detective slides me a glass of water. Concern brings life into his eyes.
Do I tell the truth?
I hear and feel the buzzing of my cell phone. No doubt it’s Jack. I’ve been gone for too long. The doctor’s appointment is soon, and I’ll probably miss it unless I can get this out. He cares so much about this potential child. Like this kid will change his life. Change him. Make him a better person. He even made a special room painted purple and decorated with those glowing stars. There’s a mobile hanging over the crib that has little dangling sloths. All his money goes to this. There’s a full stock of diapers and drawers full of clothes. Like it’s all he’s ever wanted. Being a dad must be exciting until it isn’t. Until you grow tired of your child, ignore them, and they turn against you.
“I really need to get out of here,” I groan.
The detective gently places his hand over mine. “We can help you, but you need to help us first.”
The phone keeps buzzing.
“It’s…It’s…” Something clogs my throat. The words push against it to no avail.
The phone keeps buzzing.
The detective squeezes my hand pressing me forward.
“I love him so much. I really do.”
The detective nods sympathetically. It looks genuine. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination or if he is really getting a little teary eyed as well. He seems like a good man, and I need to believe there are good men in the world.
The phone keeps buzzing. I take a deep breath and let the words spill out.
Several weeks ago, Jack and I were at my house packing some of my things. I had slowly been moving out of my dad’s place and into his. My dad never even noticed. For days Jack had been uncharacteristically sweet, and in that moment I felt connected. Happy. It felt like a good moment to tell him of my suspicions about my dad becoming a vigilante.
“Uh…what?” Jack laughed.
“Yeah. I mean it makes sense. He’s never home. The rare moments he is, he is ranting and obsessing over stories on the news. Then all those criminals end up dead.”
“And all those women.”
“We’ll they’re missing. That’s different. My dad wouldn’t do that.”
“Okay, but…like my dad was never home either. Pretty sure he just got wasted down by the pier. Have you checked there?”
“Yes. For a while I followed him. I think I even know where his secret lair is.”
“Secret lair?” Jack nodded, then smiled, and wrapped his arms around me. “I think you’ve got a good imagination.”
“I’m not lying! I’ll show you.”
“Alright, sure. I’d love to see the secret lair of a real-life vigilante.”
“You’ve never even met my dad.” The thought had entered my mind for the first time. Never would I have thought I’d be moving in with and having a baby with someone my dad didn’t even know the name of. Sure, our relationship had evolved kind of quick, but I saw it as more proof of how little I mattered to him these days. We used to be close.
“If he really is a vigilante, maybe that’s a good thing.”
I nodded. No denying that Jack was a bad guy. Not only because of me, but he had a long history of breaking the law. My dad really should have killed him by now.
We took off into the woods with flashlights. I pulled up my hood to keep the bats out of my hair. We crunched through undergrowth. The shrill chorus of frogs hurt my ears.
About a mile in, an abandoned building loomed before us. “This is it.”
“This? Looks sketchy.”
The wooden door was charred black and fell off when I pushed it in.
“It doesn’t look like anyone’s been here.”
“That’s the point.” I grabbed his hand and pulled him inside. A piece of ceiling clattered to the floor and raised a thick cloud of dust.
“We shouldn’t be here, Babe.” He pulled me back towards him, but then we saw the orange glow of a light.
“He might be here,” I whispered.
“We should go,” he whispered back.
“You have that gun, right?” Jack always has a gun.
His eyes widened at me. “Are you crazy? Your dad?”
He might need to be stopped. Even then I had a sense. Before I saw what we saw, something clawed at my gut. He might need to be stopped and I can’t do it.
We crept towards the stairs. More like I crept and dragged Jack behind me. He kept muttering about this all being ridiculous. Jack doesn’t like to be scared. Kind of ironic.
The light downstairs had an inviting warmth but sent chills down my spine. I pulled Jack in front of me. He looked offended. “You need to protect the baby.”
His lip curled in irritation, but he took the lead. He pulled the gun from his back pocket and aimed it forward like a cop clearing the scene. Would he shoot my dad? Did I plan for that? Best to leave that out with the detective.
Jack reached the bottom of the stairs first. His mouth dropped opened and the gun lowered. Moisture glistened in his eyes as he whispered, “oh… my…god.”
I stepped behind him and peered over his shoulder. We saw six women chained to the walls. Blood and dirt crusted their skin. They looked like an animal or monster had clawed them up. I let out a whimper. Then sobbed. What did they do? They must have done something bad. What was it?
“I…I don’t think vigilante is the right word for this,” Jack said.
I dropped to the floor. Jack bent over me, holding me. None of them looked alive. I made him check. They weren’t.
The phone still buzzes. I took pictures to show the detective, so I look at the phone. I see forty missed calls. The first several are from Jack, but the last ones are from my dad. Does he know what I’ve done? I go into the photo gallery and push them towards the detective. What I don’t tell the detective is about the growling we heard after. I don’t tell the detective how when we fled from the house, I’m pretty sure I saw a beast unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t tell the detective that lately I’ve been looking into if werewolves or monsters really exist. They wouldn’t believe me, so I’ll let them find out for themselves.
The detective’s face pales as he swipes through the photos.
Jack didn’t want me to do this. He’s scared. He wants to raise our family in peace, funny right, and forget all about my dad. What I never told Jack and what I probably won’t tell the police is, that I researched these women. I needed to know my dad was a vigilante and not a monster. It’s mostly rumors, but all these women have some evidence to suggest they had affairs on their husband. I put these facts together and realized there is a good chance my mom was his first execution. That she probably fit that mold. That her close friendship with our neighbor wasn’t as normal as I thought.
Now the detective’s phone is buzzing. I feel sick. Something isn’t right. Telling a secret is supposed to make a person feel lighter, right? I feel so heavy. So weighed down. The detective answers the phone. He shakes his head. He steps out of the room. He leaves my phone, which keeps buzzing. I pull it over. This time it’s Kristy.
I answer. “Hel─”
“Oh my god! Oh my god! I…I…w-where are you?”
“Uh…what’s going on?”
“I…I…went to Jack’s to find you and I think…I think…” I can’t understand her through her sniffling cries.
“Kristy! Please! What’s going on?”
“I…I think Jack’s dead. Like mu-murdered?”
My body turns to a block of ice. He knows.
I drop the phone. The detective walks back in. “Look, you’re safe. We’ll keep you─”
I don’t hear the rest. I needed to do the right thing. That’s all I know. Jack begged me to let it go, but I couldn’t sleep at night. Not with him out there. I did the right thing, didn’t I?
The detective is saying something about having enough evidence. They’ll arrest him, get a warrant to search this house I mentioned. He wants me to tell him exactly where it is.
“What the hell am I gonna do?”
“I don’t have anyone.” The tears stream down my face as I wrap my hands around my stomach. I imagine my dad as a monster tearing through the police station to find me. “Will I ever be safe?”
The detective nods. There’s a fierceness in his eyes. “I will keep you safe.”
There’s enough conviction for me to believe him, or at least believe he’ll try.
“I’ll get you out of here. Somewhere safe. Somewhere far.” I’m not sure if detectives can do that, but I get the sense he’ll do it one way or another.
Somewhere safe. Somewhere far. The magic words I’ve longed to hear. Yet, I'm not sure I can leave now. I need to stop him.