The Red Journal (She’s Really Gone!)
Friday, 7:30 P.M.
(After hitting a wall with their initial investigation, Ethan and Sarah are forced to leave the precinct in a mad panic after another murder is reported. We find them en route to the scene of the crime which coincidentally is also her best friends last known whereabouts)
Ethan was weaving back and forth and veering in and out. His 2009 Grand Marquis flew pass cars like they were parked. Traffic was surprisingly heavy for that time of day as if it were some sort of sign purposely trying to delay the inevitable. It was obvious what was on each of their minds, but still Ethan was not used to Sarah being so quiet. His thoughts quickly flipped to how she was processing this potentially horrific coincidence? Her ex-boyfriend had been found dead just days ago, her best friend was not answering her cellphone, and now…now they’re two minutes out from a crime scene at the very venue her best-friend was attending.
‘Sarah, are you sure you’re OK responding to this call? This doesn’t look good.‘
‘Did you get a response yet?’ Ethan asked with worry in his voice.
Sarah was staring out the passenger side window. The only movement seen on her face was a scatter eye-twitch from the flickering of blue and red lights from Ethan’s car reflecting back from the vehicles they blew past. Ethan’s words were faint, they slowly registered, snapping her from her trance. She looked down at the phone which still laid in her lap unlocked and open to her last text message.
‘And, worry about the traffic, Ethan. I’m fine. Are we almost there?’
With that, Ethan shot a quick peek in each of his rear-view mirrors and signaled the next right.
‘Sorry, Sarah. Yes, we’re getting close.’
The car finally pulled up. Two officers were posted on either side of the gate ready to greet them. Both of them leaned into the vehicle where they were quickly met by a pair of shiny detective badges held out by Det. Frost and Det. Wilson, respectively.
‘Good day, detectives, go right ahead.’ Motioned the officer on the left while the one on the right radioed for the gate to be opened.
With their credentials verified, Ethan took his foot off the brake and slowly drove up a small incline to the Burnsville Country Club’s main building. Wedding guests and employees were scattered all over the property, all standing around with either a look of shock or confusion on their faces. As Sarah scoured over the crowd, she suddenly spots Steve. He was sat on a bench at the top of the stairs, head down with his coat draped over his shoulders.
‘Quick, Ethan, pull in. I can see Steve, he’s up there.’
The words had barely passed through her lips when she quickly realized the worse was true.
‘Oh my God, Steve… Jess?’ Her face turned as pale as the bench he was sitting on.
‘Sarah?’ Steve called out, visibly shaken.
He spent the next few seconds trying to hone in on where her voice was coming from. Steve’s eyes were fixed forward almost as if he was looking straight through her.
‘Steve…come here. What happened? Where’s Jess?’ Sarah with arms wide open pulls him into an embrace.
‘Sarah, oh Sarah. I don’t understand, she was gone five minutes.’
Struggling to string together any more than those few words, his blood shot eyes began collecting tears once more. Gently, he laid his head on Sarah’s chest she had openly given to him.
‘It’s OK, it’s OK. Shh…breathe, just breathe.’ Sarah whispers, waiting patiently for an opportunity to ask him another question.
Before she got the chance, a police officer appeared from the mob of guests. He mumbled something into his radio and proceeded to speak directly to Ethan.
‘Det. Frost, how are you?’ He greeted.
‘Good, I’m good. Thank you for asking.’ Ethan replied with a hand extended to replicate the officer’s gesture as they approached.
‘Glad to hear, sir.’ Said the officer as his attention then turned toward Sarah, once more with an extended hand.
‘And, you, Det. Wilson?’
Sarah managed to reach out a few fingers and give a half-assed handshake on account of Steve’s need for consoling.
‘I’m good, thanks.’ she answered. The officer’s attention reverted back to Ethan.
‘Sir, it’s probably best if Mr. Stacey here, follows my colleague, Officer Greene, to her cruiser. We should make our way down.’
At the same moment, a female officer arrives with a cup of coffee in hand and offers it to Steve. He doesn’t flinch, still staring forward. So, Sarah grabs the coffee herself and shifts Steve’s weight, transferring him into the arms of the female officer.
‘OK, Steve, come on, up. This officer will take care of you now.’
‘Listen, I have to go, but I’ll come to find you later, OK?’
Steve barely acknowledges. Sarah re-adjusts the blanket on his shoulders, sets the coffee down, and sent him on his way. For a split second, she remembered back when Jess and Steve had first started dating. She was so overprotective of Jess when it came to their early relationship. Sarah even tried to convince her to break up with him the very first time they had a fight. Seeing him so devastated being led away like that, made her feel mad at herself for ever having felt that way about him. It truly killed Sarah to have to turn it off like that and do her job. Being by Steve’s side was where she felt she should be. Sure, she was managing to keep it together, but Ethan could see she was on the verge of tears herself. As hard as it was, it was about to get worse.
‘After you.’ Ethan spoke, breaking the tension and setting the group in motion.
Following the officer for about half a minute, they found themselves walking in the direction of a storage shed which was at the edge of a pond. Police and EMT presence grew larger with each step. Suddenly, like a live-action Where’s Waldo? poster, Spencer, with his fiery red hair and skin like someone hit him with a bag of flour, waved frantically.
‘Det. Frost, Det. Wilson, over here!’ ‘Det. Wilson, ah, ah…wait!’
‘Out of the way, Spencer. I know it’s Jess?’
‘I’m sorry, Sarah.’ Spencer stops blocking her eye line and moves aside.
Now running, she pushed her way through the last of the investigators only to have a white sheet stop her in her tracks. A flash from a forensic officer’s camera goes off just as Ethan caught up, placing his hand on Sarah’s shoulder.
‘Sarah, hang on, are you sure you want to look?’
She bats his hand away, grabs a corner of the sheet and raises it slightly, enough. Her head drops.
‘She’s really gone.’
Sarah stood up, walked a few paces while placing her hands over her face, covering most of it. A barely audible cry quickly followed. Ethan, full of emotion himself, turned back at Spencer.
‘What happened here?’
‘Well, sir, right now we have no idea. There’s no sign of struggle, no visible marks on her body, and no sign of sexual assault.’
‘Was her phone recovered? The text? It struck Ethan to ask.
‘I don’t believe so. There wasn’t all that much to bag up, definitely no phone.’
‘Do we know who found her?’ Ethan followed up.
‘A couple of other guests from the wedding, sir. They walked down here for a cigarette, it’s the only designated place for smokers on the whole property. People had to be coming and going here all day. Anyway, they lite up, spotted two feet sticking out of the bushes, realized they belonged to a dead body and immediately called 911.’
Sarah, who was wiping the last of the tears from her face, interjects.
‘Cigarettes? Hmm, Jess hated the smell of smoke. She lost it at smokers all the time. It makes me curious why she would have been all the way down this here?’
Spencer was quick to fill her in.
‘Well, her boyfriend told us she stepped outside for some air at around 5:00 P.M. Said she spoke about feeling a little ill. So, he told her to take a walk down by the pond and grab some fresh air. He would meet her shortly after he finished his speech, they’d grab a cab and call it an early night. He said it slipped his mind and by the time he was able to miss her, her body had already been discovered. He found out the same time everyone else did.’
‘Poor guy.’ Ethan recalling the state Steve was in when they meet him at the top of the stairs.
‘Anybody see anything? Anything at all? Maybe another smoker caught a glimpse of someone or a maybe a couple of guests could have snuck away in the bushes for a quicky? People do that at weddings, right?’
‘No sir, they don’t and there were zero witnesses. Given how secluded it is over here with the canopy of trees providing the perfect cover, the killer most likely sat in wait. Whatever method he or she used, the victim most likely never saw it coming.’
‘Jess! Her name is Jess.’ Sarah spoke sharply.
‘Right, sorry, Sarah.’ Spencer realizing his mistake.
‘Ah, anyway, sir, I’ll know more when we get the vic… I mean,”Jess”, back to the morgue. Geez, sorry again, Sarah. I’m such an idiot.’
‘It’s fine, Spencer. I’m just upset. Listen… I’m sorry too, and thanks’
Ethan used the awkward silence to jump in.
‘Alright, Spencer, finish up here and we’ll see you back at the precinct. Call me with anything, and I mean anything.’
‘Will do, sir.’
Sarah walks to the edge of the pond, squats down and picks up a couple of rocks tossing them gently between her hands, as water slipped through her fingers. Ethan stands a step or two next to her, lights a smoke and this time in his detective’s voice says.
‘So, what do you want to do now?’
‘I want to find who did this, Ethan. I want to find them and I want to kill them.’