“I’m guilty. It was me. It was all me, and I was too scared to tell anyone.”
“Bryan, what did you do?”
“I killed him. I’m so sorry Pearl. I didn’t mean to, but I pushed him. I thought that we were on the second floor. You have to believe me. I was out of my mind.” Bryan sounds frantic.
I had just walked into Bryan’s dorm room, and I was terrified.
“Okay, Bryan, I hear what you’re saying. Tell me exactly what happened so that maybe I can help you.”
“He woke me up. The masked man woke me up, and I was scared. I thought it was a burglar, but it was one of the fraternity guys waking me up for initiation. He shook me. He shook me really hard, and I was startled. I thought we were on the second floor, but I was wrong. For some reason, we were on the tenth floor. I don’t even know how I got there. Maybe it was part of the initiation. Who cares? I guess that part isn’t important. Anyways, he was shaking me, and I was so scared. My survival instincts kicked in, and the first thing I saw was the open window. I thought I was pushing him out of the second story of the building. I thought he would land on the soft grass below, but no one survives falling from a tenth-floor window. No one!”
“Bryan, calm down. It’s okay. We can figure this out. It was clearly a mistake, and no one is going to blame you. Everyone knows that hazing is supposed to be banned. We will just let this one ride out, and you’ll be fine in the end.”
I didn’t believe my own words for a second. I didn’t believe Bryan’s either. For the time that I had known him, Bryan had always had a violent streak. When he was only eight, he broke his brother’s arm because he wanted to see what it was like for a bone to break. His parents chalked it up to childhood curiosity. When he was sixteen, he had stalked a girl who ended up having to move across the state because she was so terrified that he would find her again. Her parents had to quit their jobs with little to no notice. The police said without any tangible threat, there was nothing they could do. I guess showing up at her work, getting his class schedule changed to mirror hers, and standing outside her bedroom window at night were all “non-tangible”. Stalking laws are another issue for another day. Today, today we have to talk about murder.
“Bryan, get ahold of yourself,” I say as I try to shake him out of whatever spiral he has fallen into. “We just need to look at this logically. Did you go downstairs to check on this guy?”
“I looked out the window and saw his mangled body. Bodies are not supposed to look like that.” He looks like he is about to be sick. That can’t be true though because I know he’s a psychopath. They don’t have feelings. Unfortunately, I learned this after we had already been together for two years. I didn’t see any signs that he was unstable before. He seemed genuinely happy when we spent time together, and he said he loved me. I believed it, every word he ever said to me. Cara, the girl he had stalked, reached out to me about a month ago. She told me that she spent her entire life avoiding Bryan but that we had a mutual friend, and she didn’t want to see anyone else hurt. She’s the one who told me how dangerous he was when he was younger. It’s been eight years since he stalked her, and nothing else had ever been reported. Then again, she hadn’t been able to report it either. What if he was just smart and had been torturing people all this time? I told myself that I would have been able to tell. I’m in grad school, working towards a degree in Psychology. If anyone can spot a psychopath, shouldn’t it be me?
I’ve spent the last month carefully watching Bryan. I take note of every emotion that doesn’t feel genuine. I notice just how much he seems interested in dark topics. Does he watch more crime shows than I remember? Is the research on his computer disturbing? Is anything about our relationship even real? Despite my best efforts, I never once notice a discrepancy in his behavior. He is the same old Bryan I’ve been in love with for two years. I had convinced myself that this girl was the liar. Maybe she was some jealous ex or something. I never brought it up to him because honestly, I didn’t want to hear the answer. I think I always knew in my gut that she was telling the truth, but I didn’t want to believe it.
“Pearl!” Bryan’s panic in his voice brings me back to reality. “What are we going to do? I don’t want to go to jail. I can’t leave you.”
I know at this point he is using every trick in the book to manipulate me. I’ve learned enough about the psyche to know that much. I keep my voice calm because I know if I hesitate, he’s going to take advantage of my uncertainty. Bryan is a true psychopath. Emotions don’t control him. At this point, he only cares about himself. If I get in the way of him protecting himself, I’ll be the next “accidental” murder.
“Okay, Bryan. Let’s just go back to my place. You need to take a shower and take some time to relax. Once you’ve had a chance to relax a little bit, we will call the police and explain to them exactly what happened.”
“No!” He shouts at me. “We cannot call the police. They’ll never believe it was an accident. I’ll be locked up, and then I’ll never see you again.”
I can’t let my emotions get the best of me right now. I’m scared, but I have to pretend to believe him. I have to forget the past two years of our life together.
“You’re right. They probably wouldn’t believe you. How about we go back to my place, take a breather, and then go somewhere for the weekend. By the time we get back, this will probably have blown over.”
He takes a minute to consider what I’m saying to him. I spend every silent second praying that he believes me.
“Okay,” he says quietly.
I let out the breath that I didn’t realize I was holding.
“You promise me that we are just stopping by your house for a minute before we head out, and that you won’t call the cops.”
“Bryan, I love you. I would never call the cops on you. I want you to be safe,” I tell him calmly and with as much love in my voice as I can muster. As soon as the words leave my lips, he visibly relaxes. It seems I’m just as good at telling a lie as he is, and I steadily drive to my house knowing the police are already waiting.