Trink and I stood over the boy’s motionless body. My hands were stained crimson, Trink’s still pristine. He always had a knack for cleanliness.
“Dude, I- wh- what have we done?” The words had barely escaped my mouth when Trink grabbed me and wrapped me into an engulfing hug.
“It’s ok, it’s ok,” Trink reassured me. “We just- you- we got a little carried away. This wasn’t supposed to happen…” His words trailed off.
I started to speak before Trink squeezed me harder, sending me back into silence. “But it’s ok. I can- I can deal with this, Ray. Go home- ok, maybe not home. You told your parents you’d be at my house tonight, right?”
I nodded, my eyes still locked on the body on the floor. Blood soaked the kid’s clothes, yet his face was still clean, locked into a mortified expression. Forever.
“Start walking back. I don’t know how long I’ll take but I’ll fix this. Just start walking and don’t talk to anyone.” Trink let me go and I saw the bloody handprints I had left on his shirt. He stood still over the boy and I could almost hear the metallic grind of the gears in his head. I left before I had to see anything else.
The walk to Trink’s house was cold and dark. I was thankful for the slightly oversized jacket I had snagged on the way out. The sleeves were long enough for my to pull over my hands, and the dark color of the fabric hid any stains. New or old.
I tried to clear my head by going through all the events that led up to this moment.
Trink and I had met during our biology class this past semester. I was watching a true crime video while evading schoolwork when I caught a glimpse of this guy behind me. He was staring straight at my screen. I turned slightly to look at him, then turned on subtitles for my video. I saw his reflection grin.
He spoke to my after class that day. Our last blocks were on the same hallway, so we departed class together. Every sentence we exchanged revealed a new shared interest, most prevalent being a love for murder mysteries. Trink, as he liked to be called, gave me his phone number before leaving and told me to text him. I did so the following night.
Hey, this is Ray from bio
I thought so. I was waiting for your text
Well, here it is
Splendid. Have you checked the news yet today?
Someone murdered a kid. Hes like the 3rd one in the past 6 months.
That’s awful :(
Awful yes, but also a pattern
A pattern ?
You heard me.
You think its a serial killer ?
And I want to get involved.
That was months ago. Since, Trink and I have spent hours together, pouring over every detail we could find, scouring local newspapers and sneaking around crime scenes. Others saw no connection between the murders; we simply took this as a sign that we weren’t dealing with a rookie. At the time of the… day, there had been 8 kills over 10 months. The killer was getting antsy and leaving more room for error.
Slowly, but surely, Trink and I were able to put together the killer’s signature: He targeted children, usually between 10 and 13. They all had some form of respiratory illness. But, most importantly, he had a two steps when killing: suffocation and then mutilation, primarily in the torso.
“It can’t be a coincidence they all had screwy lungs,” I said, leaning over Trink’s shoulder as he typed furiously on our ongoing document about the killer.
“Nothing’s a coincidence here, idiot.”
I punched him lightly on the arm. “Yeah, and I’m sure the police know that too. Don’t get me wrong, I love overanalyzing pictures of stabbed kids with you, but you don’t really think we can solve this... “ I paused. “ Right?”
Trink stopped typing and sighed. “Ray. I would have agreed with you, like, a month ago. But I- we’re too deep in this now. I can’t have you bail.”
“I wasn’t going to!” I pushed myself off the back of his chair and sat on his bed. “I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here. This isn’t just some cold case from the Roaring 20’s. These are kids in our community being MURDERED. We aren’t private detectives, we’re fucking juniors. We can’t overstep-”
“I know, Ray, I fucking know.” Trink put his head in his hands. “I’m not Sherlock Holmes. I know, I know, I know, I know.”
We sat in silence for a while before Trink spoke again.
“God, this kinda puts a damper on my plans.”
“Plans?” He hadn’t told me about any plans.
“Yes, plans. Listen.” Trink stood up and turned in his chair, now facing the back with his arms crossed over the head rest. “Look, I noticed you were kinda losing interest in this. And that’s fine. The semester is almost done, exams are coming up, all that shit. But we’ve been working on this for so long, I wanted to try one more thing. And I have it all planned out.”
Trink explained to me the idea of an escape room that would replicate the circumstances our murderer likely experienced during one of his previous kills. Trink would set everything up, we would meet at his house, and then we would go out together at night and try to complete it.
“We could be practically inside the mind of the killer. We could, we could have the exact same thought process! We could see why he made certain decisions. We could differentiate between stupid mistakes and intentional clues planted around. And I would make sure everything was perfect.”
I could see the desperation in his eyes. This was Trink’s last hope.
“And it would all be fake, right?”
“Of course, of course. Purely for research purposes.” Trink was leaning closer to me.
It took a few more days and a lot of pleading texts, but I finally agreed to the escape room. Trink set the date and I started making a plan with what little information I had. Time slowly marched forward to the day, right in the middle of our Thanksgiving break.
I left my house at seven. When I arrived at Trink’s, we didn’t talk about the escape room. In fact, I’d almost forgotten about it before Trink broke the silence that had arisen when we had both pulled out our phones half an hour ago. It was 11 pm.
“Hey. It’s time.”
My stomach dropped. “Oh yeah. I almost-”
Trink didn’t let me finish before pulling me up by the arm. “Grab a jacket before we leave. It’s gonna be cold.”
Something was off about his voice. It was more withheld than usual.
I picked a large-ish black zip-up jacket from his closet and met him at the door to his room. I started heading out towards his staircase before Trink’s arm came across my chest.
“We aren’t going that way. Follow me.”
I never thought my first time sneaking out of a boy’s house would consist of me squeezing through a bathroom window to go re-enact a murder. But then again, I never could have predicted the following events either.
We walked in silence for many reasons. We didn’t want to be caught. It was cold, and the puffs of suspended breath in front of us would have only made it worse. It’s not like there was much to say anyway. I had no idea where we were going or what was waiting for me, but I didn’t have any reason to distrust him, right? I hadn’t known Trink very long in the grand view of everything, but we’d bonded so closely over these few months. He wouldn’t do anything. Plus, nobody except us knew about our investigation, and he liked it that way. Why risk ad-
“You’re falling behind,” Trink said, finally breaking the tension between us.
My eyes had mainly been glued to the ground the whole journey. I looked up and saw Trink stopped roughly 10 feet ahead of me. “My bad.” I jogged to catch up.
“It’s alright. We’re almost there. Just through those trees.” Trink pointed forward at a thicket of trees denser than the ones earlier on the path. I nodded and tried to keep pace the rest of the way.
I sat in the middle of a small clearing and took in my surroundings. Trink had disappeared into the trees a few minutes prior, claiming he still needed to grab a few things. I hadn’t noticed anything man-made or out of place sitting around.
What did he set up, then?
My questions were answered with a dense THUD! and a large black duffel bag.
“Don’t ask questions. It’s time to start.” Trink unzipped the bag to reveal a…
“A KID?” I screeched, scrambling back in horror from the unconscious boy.
“Don’t worry, he’s fi-” Trink cut himself off after finally gazing into the bag. “He was
supposed to be awake…”
“Supposed to be- kid- what the fuck?” The words tumbled out of my mouth, thoughts barely able to collect themselves before something else urged to leave. I sat there in disbelief.
Trink squatted and put his head to the boy’s chest. “He’s still breathing.”
I stared at Trink, my mouth gaping. “Did you expect him to be DEAD?”
“I don’t know, I forgot the fucker had asthma!”
“How the hell do you know that?!”
“Because he’s my little brother’s friend!”
“YOU KIDNAPPED YOUR LITTLE BROTHERS FRIEND TO KI-”
Trink crawled towards me and slapped his hand over my mouth. “Stop screaming. Stop it. You’re gonna get us caught.”
“Cmammhmm? Comm dminf wfmt?” My words came out muffled through his sleeve.
“What?” Trink brought his arm down.
“What the fuck do you mean caught? What are you going to do to him?”
“I don’t know, this wasn’t supposed to happen, nothing has gone to plan so f-”
Our bickering was cut short by a child’s coughing.
“Fuck,” Trink muttered. “He’s coming to.” Trink looked over to me with fear in his eyes. “I mean, we can’t… he’s gonna snitch. This is illegal- ok no shit it’s illegal, I…”
And then something in Trink’s face changed.
And he got up.
And he walked over to the kid
And he wrapped his hands around the kid’s throat.
“What are you doing! Trink, get off- stop it! Stop! Please!” I pleaded, scrambling up and trying to pull Trink away. It was useless, Trink was bigger and much stronger than me. I continued to fight, but the reality was setting in. The boy, barely half awake, didn’t have it in him to thrash. It took less than a minute before he was gone.
Trink let go and the boy fell limp. Trink was shaking. He fell back onto the ground, leaving me standing over the body.
“I- Trink.” My words came out deflated.
“This doesn’t even match his signature. We’re fucked. We can’t even blame the killer.”
“I don’t want to go to jail..” Trink muttered.
I tried shoving my hands in my pockets, not sure what else to do with my arms, when I hit something cold and dense. I pulled the item out.
A pocket knife.
Trink and I shared a glance, first at the knife, then each other. I flipped out the blade, and Trink shook his head.
“No, Ray, please-”
I turned back around and closed my eyes before finishing our murder’s signature.
I now reached into my pocket, expecting to feel that same cold heaviness before remembering I had left it at the scene. I stood alone in the dark, unsure whether to wait for Trink or continue. I decided to call him.
“What.” He sounded breathless.
“Do you want me to head back?”
“Are you not already home.”
“No. I got lost,” I lied.
“Are you still on the path?” I could hear the urgency rising in his voice.
“Trink, we’ve got to tell the police-”
“Shut up. No we don’t. They have no way of knowing it was us.”
“I can’t live with this, Trink!”
“Nobody knows this killer better than us! It’s the perfect crime!” He was practically screaming at this point.
“I’m telling the police. We’re both responsible and we’re both kids, maybe they won’t be that hard on us.”
Trink sighed. “You really don’t get it, do you?” The voice coming through my phone started to echo, and his words hit me twice.
“I think you’re starting to cut out, it’s echoing-” I went silent when I heard the footprints behind me. I whipped around, once again reaching for the absent knife, to see Trink walking towards me.
I hung up the phone and spoke. “Trink, jesus, you scared me. How did you find me? Was I still on the right path?”
No response. Trink just glared me down as a pit started to form in the bottom of my stomach.
Before I could say anything else, Trink stopped in front of me and continued to stare. He stood there for a few seconds before something clicked in his brain and his face settled into the same expression he’d had back in the thicket. Right before-
His hands shot up around my neck and tightened. I tried to flail and scream but it wasn’t long before the night sky started getting darker and darker.
As I felt my body slowly shutting off, I noticed something. Trink didn’t look nearly as horrified as he had while strangling the boy. He wasn’t enjoying it, but was not remorseful either.
When Trink finally let go, my body fell slack against the cold damp ground. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the pocket knife, now significantly duller than when it had first been used.
He flicked out the blade with one swift motion, and got to work covering his tracks.