Momma thinks we all pack our things and go to Niagara Falls every year for July 4th just because we love her. Not saying I don’t love her. After all I still call her momma. But there’s no way in hell I’d drive my ass all the way up here from Wilmington North Carolina just to see my family and some water fall I’ve seen annually since my senior trip of high school. The same goes for my two sisters. My dad thinks we drive up here to make her happy, and also because he secretly loves us. I don’t like regurgitating basic family dynamics to people, but I did grow up in what I consider a southern town. I once visited Louisiana and they tried to tell me it’s absurd for somebody from North Carolina to say they are anywhere near the south but whatever floats your boat. The real reason we do this is much darker. I’m a blunt guy. My sisters and I watched a man get murdered and did nothing. Like I said - blunt. To start from the beginning, it was just a nightly stroll to admire the beauty of the falls, the whole reason we were there. My sister Tabatha and I were bullshitting about a football game between our colleges given that she betrayed UNC and went to Clemson. Then my other sister Jess yelped. That yelp in some ways eliminated most of my memories. Because after that the whole trip changed and every other thought before that became irrelevant. Once Tabatha saw what Jess was yelping at she covered her mouth and yanked both of us behind the nearest object, which so happened to be a rock. I was trembling. The outline of a 5’9 man with wavy blonde hair and a scraggly beard yanked a man’s heart out of his still alive body, pushed him into the falls as if closing a drawer, and then crushed the heart in his hands as the moonlight danced on the moving water behind him. No one else was around. I don’t know how we had wandered so far as to have someone comfortable enough to murder. Maybe he just didn’t care. Regardless, the now lifeless body floated down the river until eventually falling off and the perpetrator simply washed his hands off, put them in his pockets, and walked away. Jess says before either one of us looked the man had scanned the area for bystanders with his hand in the other’s body. Somehow he didn’t see us. Momma brings us to all the hotspots. She’s not the nightly hike kind of gal. She wants to be around people, probably because she doesn’t trust being alone. She might be right in that regard. Dad has a cooler he always carries with every assortment of drinks you can think of. What’s so odd about this family is that I somehow ended up the only Christian. Despite all the family values the generations before me withhold, religion is not one of them. I wish I can say the same because every year we revisit this spot and every year it eats away at my soul. The reason we come back is to solve a case we should’ve helped with years ago. The major thing I left out here is that the killer caught us. The next day after we had discussed it amongst ourselves we received a letter. The letter was addressed to only us stating that if we ever told anyone he would find us and kill everyone we ever loved. Probably an empty threat if we utilized the police correctly. But this was the 90’s. To three kids, ages 16-20, there was no reason for us to get involved with a trained killer. Obviously we had realized that was a stupid choice. We had evidence against the guy. But time had passed. And we didn’t want to be criminalized ourselves. Then more time had passed. Then the news stopped talking about it. We were officially too late. There was no way by this time next year that if we told anyone we would be let off scot free. And even if we were, there’s no guarantee he’s not long gone or planning to carry out his promise to us. So we have been trying to solve it ourselves every year we come. At least my two sisters do. I help as well. But just like everyone else, I also have a different origin story to this trip. I come back because I need a reminder as to why I drink, smoke and fuck. I need a constant reminder of how shitty a person I am, how I’m never getting into heaven, and how I never plan on truly accepting who I am. My sisters are pretty close to solving it. We found out where the man lived two years ago only to find out he had vacated the house days before. Following a trail may seem impossible when your only lead is a subtle remembrance of a face, but using police reports and locals you can pretty much come to any conclusion. Our killer had to know that and that’s why he was on the run. From what I can tell, this murder was a symbol to his victim by ripping out his heart, basically saying if you take mine I’ll take yours. He and his victim were lovers. It seems only one gay man was willing to accept themselves as such, and when the killer was abandoned he found solace in revenge. It’s times like these where I wonder about where the victim ended up spiritually. I’m what I call a loose Christian, one who only accepts Jesus’ lifestyle when it’s convenient but loves to use his name when referring to their personalities. Tonight he answered my prayers and me and my sisters sit here staring down the killer in his living room from a couple 100 yards out. Jess holds a sniper. Tabatha needs answers. I need closure. Let’s see how this goes.
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Very unexpected, in a nail-biting way!