“So, the culprit entered through the kitchen window connecting to the fire escape,” the detective said into his recorder.
Bending down, he examined the broken glass scattered around the worn wooden floor. The crime scene photographer placed a numbered card near the evidence and flashed a picture. The detective waved for the young man to follow behind him as he walked throughout the small apartment, taking note of any disturbances.
A petite woman sat on a floral sofa in the living room nearby, watching them move around her home. It happened in the early hours of the morning when she heard the glass breaking from her bedroom. Sitting up in bed, she went out to investigate to discover someone had broken in. The last thing she did was call the cops, who took their sweet time getting out to her Brooklyn apartment.
“Do you think it was someone she knew?” she heard the photographer say from the bedroom. She liked him. He seemed sweet, innocent almost. The detective simply called him Rookie, so she hadn’t caught his actual name.
“Nah,” the detective drawled. “That’s not what she said when she called. If it was an ex-lover or friend, that would’ve been the first thing out of her mouth.”
She stood from her seat and walked over to the doorframe. Leaning against it, she followed their movements around the bed as she heard the camera's shutter go off from different angles. A tear rolled down her cheek as she wiped it away, sniffing. They paid her no mind as they continued.
Rookie shook his head with a sigh. “She couldn’t be much older than my little sister.”
“You have to learn to compartmentalize it all. It doesn’t surprise me she was a target. A single woman living alone in the rough part of town. Easy kill.”
The latex snapped as he pulled it over his thick wrist. Lifting the edge of the soiled blanket, he clicked on a UV light, searching for hairs. She sobbed softly in the corner of the room, unable to speak.
“Did she have family?” Rookie asked, taking his final photo.
The detective picked up a framed picture on her nightstand of her smiling with her ex-girlfriend, Lizzie. They would find out that Lizzie had broken up with her almost a year ago, and she didn’t have the heart to rid herself of her presence. She hadn’t slept well since she left—and now, it didn’t matter.
The detective sat it back down. “We’ll go through her personal items: laptop, phone, wallet. I’m sure there was someone she talked to, like a coworker or neighbor. Between you and me, it doesn’t look like anyone’s looking for her.
Rookie frowned. “That doesn’t mean she’s not important.”
“I know.” The words escaped the detective’s lips as a raspy breath. The atmosphere was somber as she finally gained the courage to walk over to the bed where her mangled body lay as the pair talked about her as if she wasn’t there.
Her body was cold, bruised, and broken. The detective had done the decent thing and closed her eyes after the initial body shot. He mentioned that the Catholic side of him couldn’t let the little things like that go. She knew it was his pity even though she was appreciative of the gesture.
Rookie and the detective left the room, having gathered all that they required to keep her case open for the next week until they closed it. She wasn’t hopeful that they’d find the person who did this to her. It was obvious from their discussion that the best they could do was notify anyone close to her about her passing. It was the best she could hope for.
She walked over to the bed and knelt by the edge, reaching out towards her stiff body before snatching her hand away. Falling beside her bed, she pulled her knees to her chest and rocked herself as sobs racked her body. While there was no pain, her sadness was palpable in the air of the tiny apartment—a coldness that pierced any soul that dared to wander into her domain.
Through puffy eyes, she peered at the picture on her nightstand. As she tried to pick it up, her hand passed through the object and floated down beside her. She knew she should’ve locked herself in her bathroom. Maybe then she could’ve gotten away or fought long enough until the cops arrived.
Pushing herself up from the floor, she wrapped her sweater around herself and headed back into the kitchen. Gasping, panic filled her being as she flung herself towards the window that was once simply broken glass. In its place were bricks, keeping her from the outside world. Spinning around, she dashed from room to room, realizing that she was trapped in the last place she would ever physically know. The door to the apartment opened as her mother, and Lizzie carried in boxes.
Glancing around her living room, she noticed the layer of thick dust that had settled across the coffee table. Rushing towards Lizzie, she opened her mouth, but the words she so desperately wanted to say wouldn’t come.
Lizzie blinked as strands of her ebony hair fluttered past her face. “Is the air conditioner still on?”
“We shut it off months ago after…well,” her mother answered, tears welling in her eyes. “Let’s get started with packing this up. The new family moving in here needs it out by next week.”
“Mom,” she managed to finally say. Her mother turned in her direction but seemed to look past her. Lizzie walked over to the nightstand and picked up the photo.
She walked over to her, wondering why she was there after their fight so long ago. A single tear rolled down Lizzie’s cheek as she sucked in a shaky breath, rubbing her thumb along her picture. “I miss you. Please, be at peace.”
Lizzie clutched the photo to her chest as she watched her mother place a hand on Lizzie’s shoulder. The two women hugged each other as she felt a warm ray of sunlight hit her back. The bricks over the windows had given way, beckoning to her to come forward to make her final escape.
She glanced over her shoulder one last time as the light drew her in, allowing her to finally be free.