“Can you keep a secret?”
For someone like me, that question is an easy answer. Of course. Little did I know, this time, the secret would push the limits of my sanity. Ellie’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember. I trust her more than myself, so when she told me this crazy theory of hers, no matter how much I didn’t want to, I believed her.
I’d just woken up from an unusually long streak of well-rested nights when I got her phone call. She knew what I was working on. Hell, the whole town knew. It’s hard to keep a series of gruesome attacks secret from a close-knit community. So far, no one had survived an encounter with whoever was responsible. As the head detective on the case, I was hard-pressed for answers. I was good at finding minute clues, drawing connections, and straight-up logical explanations. Ellie was good with people, good at finding things people wouldn’t tell a cop. She understood, without a doubt, people tend to defy the logical.
I answered her call, hoping she’d found something helpful. I had to believe it because it came from Ellie, but I couldn’t. I shakily continued my morning routine. I brushed my hair with trembling fingers, pulled up my pants on legs of jelly, and ate a light breakfast, hoping to break up the hard knot that had formed in my stomach. Eventually, I convinced myself to lock my door and get to work. Pulling into the parking lot, I stared at the precinct before me. I had the answers. Ellie provided a solid but opaque cause, pointed out all the obvious clues, even said she’d e-mail me a photo. I had all I needed to close the case today. But how could I?
I slipped into my office as invisibly as possible. A great deal to contemplate stood before me. I sat down, booted up the computer, and sure enough, I had an e-mail from Ellie. It was waiting to be opened, staring at me accusatorily, imploring me to answer everyone’s fearful questions. To see proof would put me in danger. To make my accusation would jeopardize my career. To announce my theory would see me locked away for insanity.
A knock on my door startled me. I croaked out the strongest, “come in,” that I could manage. The door opened, and my heart dropped. My boss, a hulking figure of muscle, exuding power, entered. I knew, despite his demeanor, he was as kind and caring of a leader anyone could hope for. He had mentored me and saw me grow into my current position with pride. But gazing upon him now, I felt ashamed. I felt I had betrayed him. I didn’t know how to confront him.
I remained seated for fear my wobbling legs would betray me. I was certain he could hear the thunderous thudding of my heart. His eyes bored into mine, showing a coldness I’d never before noticed. He spoke.
“Another attack happened this morning, about 3:30. I’m not gonna beat around the bush Aly. We need something. I need you to give me something, or we’re going to have to institute a curfew. And folks around here won’t take too kindly to that,” he sounded beyond tired but determined.
Was his voice more gravelly? I knew this case had taken its toll on the department, especially him. But even under the roughest circumstances, I could usually glean a hint of his ‘I’m-rooting-for-you’ tone. Am I analyzing this too closely? Knowing what I now know, have I become afraid of him?
“I know, sir,” my voice came out unsteady. I didn’t want to appear weak in front of him. I needed to be confident if I was going to keep his trust. “This morning, I got a new lead.”
He perked up, “This from Ellie?”
Of course he knew about Ellie. She’d come through for us on many occasions, “Yes sir. I got a phone call first thing this morning. I was just about to review an e-mail she sent.”
Ellie was the type of person to light up the darkest room. Everyone knew her best friend was a cop, but Ellie had the bubbly, sweet-girl demeanor that just made people not want to disappoint her. In that way, Ellie proved vital in solving a lot of Aly’s cases. When she asked around after the first murder, she wasn’t terribly surprised to find everyone tight-lipped. It wasn’t unusual for one incident to occur with no witnesses, or for no one ready to immediately talk. The ghastly nature was enough to have people worrying about protecting themselves and their families. Eventually, someone always remembered some small, seemingly unrelated detail. That was all Ellie needed. But after the fifth attack, Ellie grew frustrated.
Knowing this was important, Ellie decided to become more hands-on. She tracked the assaults and was pretty sure she knew when the next would happen. She then mapped out the locations and picked a few likely sites for future attacks. While Ellie knew she could often be described as “reckless”, she wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t going to go and stake out anything. At least not personally. But she did need to be discreet. She slipped out at dawn, armed with only her phone and a knife, and headed out through shadows and fog. So, she took some trap cameras - the type hunters use that only take photos when it senses motion - and set them around her three most likely scenes. One remote-operated live camera was placed at her number one suspect region.
That night, Ellie tried her hardest to stay awake. Usually a night owl by nature, several cups of coffee and an energy drink later, Ellie was drifting off. The monitor before her remained uneventful. Nothing had shone on the live camera. She’d set it in the parking lot of an abandoned building. Most of the lights were broken, but some still worked in hopes of keeping people out of the dilapidated factory. It gave her enough light to see by, but the location was just remote enough that it was likely for an attack. A light post on the screen flickered at 3:00 a.m. just as Ellie slid into a deep sleep.
Cold sweat dripping down my face, I stared at the only e-mail in my inbox that mattered. Everything around me blurred but that one line on the screen. I believed Ellie. I truly did, so I knew without a doubt what that picture would show. Opening it would still be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Confronting the truth would crush the foundation I’d built my life on.
Slowly, I moved the mouse so that the cursor hovered over the e-mail. I opened it and found the attachment. Without noticing I held my breath, I clicked the photo. A window popped up on my screen. And there it was, the truth. Staring right into the camera was my rock, my guide through life. Pale as sin, bloody fangs bared, holding in gore-soaked hands victim number six was Ellie.