Authors: Victor Methos
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural
THE MURDER OF JANESSA HENNLEY
A Thriller by
Ben Hennley pulled the .40 caliber Smith & Wesson out from under the bed. He raised his other hand to turn on the lamp but decided he’d rather let Candice, his wife, sleep. The sound was probably nothing. The wind, maybe.
e slipped out of bed as quietly as possible. The weapon dangled in his fingers as he left the bedroom and shut the door behind him, holding the doorknob so it wouldn’t make noise. The air conditioner, which ran during the day, was off. It never broke eighty in Kodiak Basin, Alaska, despite being the hottest time of the year.
came from the kitchen, or maybe the basement. He glanced back at his children’s rooms. Ben opened each door and peeked inside before heading down the stairs.
oonlight shone through a few open windows. It lit the dining table in a soft blue and cast shadows against the linoleum. The kitchen was immaculately clean. Candice never even let them put a dish in the sink. It would be funny to leave out some dishes for her to discover in the morning.
he grinned, imagining her overblown reaction, a soft scratching noise rose from the basement. He opened the door next to the pantry. Ben flipped the switch for the light, but it didn’t come on.
He flipped it several more times
. It must be a burnout. Light bulbs were downstairs, though he didn’t remember if he’d bought the energy-efficient ones his wife demanded.
n the bottom step, he spotted the open window.
looked at it for a long time. His boys were too little to reach it, and his oldest never came down to the basement. She said it gave her the creeps. His wife must have left it open for some reason.
Ben pulled it closed
and locked it before a thick smear of grease across the pane, almost like a greenish oil, caught his eye. Some of it clung to his fingers, and he wiped his hands on a rag.
e turned around to find the light bulbs, a shadow in the shape of a man appeared before him. He couldn’t raise the gun in time. A screwdriver plunged into his eye up to the handle.
fired the gun three times. The darkness receded with powerful flashes of gunpowder. He stumbled backward and hit the ground.
tore into his throat. The burning pain sent him into shock, and the world began to float away, as if he were watching it through binoculars. He reached up, his fingers searching for the throat, eyes, or anything of the shape in front of him. Another blow, the screwdriver scraping his cheekbone, and he screamed as blood spattered his face.
He couldn’t tell how many
times the shape stabbed him, but one of the blows severed his voice box because when he opened his mouth, no sounds came out.
wet puncturing sound replayed over and over as his eyes closed, the gun falling from his fingers onto the floor.
old Janessa Hennley, shrieking, leapt out of her second-story bedroom window. She tried to run but collapsed from the pain of her broken ankle.
She was vaguely aware
of missing body parts. Several of her fingers and slices of her legs were gone. Her cheek ripped away so violently she’d lost some of her teeth with it. But she didn’t feel it right now. Numb and in shock, the only thing she could do was get away.
ands grabbed her ankles. She screeched and dug her fingers into the grass. The hands dragged her back into the house through the sliding glass doors on the patio.
slammed shut, and the screaming stopped.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kyle Vidal strode through the basement halls of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia. The linoleum floors and off-white walls echoed his footsteps under the outdated fluorescent lighting.
He was walking
toward the cries of two women.
door’s nameplate read SCREENING. Inside, two men sat at a desk. Behind the desk was Special Agent Mickey Parsons. Kyle didn’t recognize the man with a guest badge pinned to his chest on the other side.
, a Mac played a recording on a media player. Mickey noticed him and turned it off. The man wiped tears from his eyes and said, “I didn’t know things like that actually happened.” He stood, thanked Mickey, and left.
“You’re not going to escort him out?” Kyle asked.
“No. I don’t think he’s going to be stealing anything.”
Kyle sat down across from him. “What was that?”
“He’s an actor. He just got a pilot, and he’s playing a criminal profiler. Wanted to get a feel for it. I let him listen to a recording three seventeen-year-old boys made a few years ago. They rear-ended a mentally disabled woman and her mother, and when they got out to check the damage, they gang-raped them in the middle of the street. When they were done, they shot them in the face. They recorded the whole thing on their cell phones.”
“I remember that case.
The mother died because no one stopped to help them when she was bleeding out.” He paused. “Little much, don’t you think?”
“He said he wanted authentic
, so I gave him authentic.” He closed the Mac. “Those boys were just kids. I don’t understand this younger generation coming up. I thought everyone had an angle, but I don’t think this generation does. It’s destruction for destruction’s sake. But what the hell do I know? I’m just an old man sitting in a basement.”
Kyle checked his own tie for spots. “How you feeling?”
“How you really feeling, Mickey?”
he said, lifting his eyes to Mickey’s.
“You want me to say I fee
l like I’m dying of AIDS, Kyle? ’Cause I don’t.”
“The meds going okay?”
“If you can stand the headaches, fainting, nausea, and constipation, then yeah, they’re going fine.”
adjusted a photograph on Mickey’s desk and then rose. “I just wanted to check up on you. Make sure you don’t need anything.”
“I’m fine. I appreciate it
was about to say something but chose not to. Instead, he nodded and stepped out of the office.
Mickey leaned back in his chair as Kyle left. His head
throbbed, and his feet were so swollen he had to take off his shoes. Files and several bins of paper filled his messy office. He glanced at his desktop as he put the Mac away. He had 112 unread emails.
a drawer and took out several amber bottles. Mickey placed them on his desk before retrieving his water bottle with the red ribbon, signifying it was his. Anything he ate or drank out of at the Bureau had to have a red ribbon placed on it. It was considered “voluntary” policy, but Mickey had never felt it was voluntary.
swallowed his Viread, and then Emtriva, and finished it off with Sustiva. The drugs helped reduce the amount of HIV in the blood and slowed the progression of the disease, though nothing could stop it. He had heard of a single case where a child testing positive was found to test negative some months later, after a rigorous medication cocktail regimen. Mickey searched for all the information available about this child but found nothing other than a few articles here and there. He couldn’t guess why it wasn’t bigger news.
The pills went down hard. His doctor had suggested he switch to Atripla, a single pill cocktail
. He would try it soon.
a few sips of water and put away the bottles then retrieved his leather bag and walked out of the office, locking the door behind him.
It was a
warm summer day. A few of his former academy students, now special agents with the Bureau, sat on some stone steps, eating lunch out of brown paper bags. They waved, and he waved back. By the time he got to his Jeep at the end row of the parking lot, he wondered if he’d made the right decision turning down that handicap tag.
e listened to Vivaldi most of the way home. He remembered he needed some more bottled water and stopped at a grocery store.
The bright lighting hurt his eyes
, so he flipped on the Ralph Lauren sunglasses he kept in his breast pocket. The store was small, made up of five aisles and a walk-in freezer. The sudden chill exhilarated him. He grabbed Heineken and a twelve-pack of Evian.
“Helluva day,” the clerk said.
“My divorce went through today. Helluva day.”
Mickey left without saying anything. As he drove home, he listened to a travel podcast about touring the Pyramids of Giza.
ome was nothing more than a one-bedroom condo in a middle-class suburb of DC. He parked in the driveway and sat for a few minutes until the podcast was over. After gathering his things, he went inside and locked the door behind him. As he did every time he walked in, he searched through the condo and checked the closets and under the bed. It was a silly habit, but one without which he wouldn’t be able to relax.
After a shower, he stood by
the living room window and watched some of his neighbors in the front yard, trying to get the barbeque going. They were a new family, young and struggling to get by. Last time he’d spoken to them, the father had told Mickey he’d lost his job.
Mickey dressed and ran back to the store. He bought steaks, chips, several cupcakes
, and two-liters of soda.
returned home, the parents were inside and the two children were out, sharing a single can of soda. He placed the paper sacks down on their patio table.
“Tell your parents I had plenty and just wanted to share.”
He looked out the window when he got back inside. The father emerged from the house, carrying a single steak to be split between two adults and two children. He saw the sacks, and his children told him something. He spotted Mickey and waved, his face contorting with emotion.
Mickey closed the blinds and sat down in his recliner
. His watch beeped. Time for another round of medication. He took them with a Heineken, and then watched a show about the best restaurants in the Midwest.
e watched several in a marathon of restaurant shows until the sun had set. He drank down another three Heinekens and retrieved a large amber bottle of painkillers from a cupboard in the kitchen. He brought them back to the living room and laid out ten thick white pills on the coffee table.
That’s how many it would take, along with a few more bottles of Heineken. He took
the first pill and finished the Heineken. Then he sat back on the couch and let the pill take effect.
He lifted another pill and stared at it.
He began to cry. He placed his hand over his eyes and inhaled deeply, not bothering to wipe the tears away. He picked up the remaining nine pills and placed them back in the bottle, and then put them in the cupboard. He fell asleep on the couch in front of the television.
Suzan Clay’s cell phone, buzzing on her nightstand, roused her from sleep at one in the morning. She took a moment to orient herself before answering.
“Sheriff, it’s Andy. Um, I need ya to come down somewhere.”
“It’s past midnight, Andy. Just have Nolan take care of it.”
“No, ya gonna want to come down here yourself, Sheriff.”
“Where is here?”
“The Hennleys’ house. Um, it’s real bad, Sheriff. Real bad.”
Her stomach dropped. “How bad?”
“I think you better come down.”
“I’ll be right there.”
She dressed in her uniform, then took her gun belt off a chair and wrapped it around her waist. In the bathroom, she tied her hair back with an elastic and washed her face before heading out the door.
Kodiak Basin had been her home her entire life
, and, as far back as she could remember, the sky had been inky black at night. A black so deep you could get lost in it. She spent many nights as a teenager on the hood of her parent’s car, staring up at the blackness, wondering if she’d ever get to go up there one day.
But hell, she hadn’t even ever left Alaska. Europe or South America sometimes seemed as far away as the stars.
The drive up to the Hennleys’ was quiet. They lived on the base of a mountain, away from everyone else. Ben Hennley said he wanted a ranch, but since he couldn’t afford one, they got the shadow of a mountain. She’d been called out here once before on a bear attack, and she’d warned Ben that it wasn’t a good idea to split away from the town like that. It took too long for help to arrive if they ever needed it.
“I got my guns,” he’d said. “I don’t need the
government gettin’ involved.”
The Sheriff’s guts were in a knot the entire drive over. Andy knew not to disturb her in the middle of the night unless it was an emergency
, and they did not get many emergencies.
She pulled her black Tahoe up to find something she
almost never saw in Kodiak Basin: a murder scene. Police tape circled the house, and three of her deputies as well as two detectives were here. A van with the words CRIME SCENE UNIT painted on the side was there, too.
One of her detectives, Taylor Yazzie
, approached her. He wore a fleece jacket with his hands in his pockets.
“Sheriff, I’m sorry to call you down here. I
thought you’d want to be here. Ben was your friend and all.”
“What the hell happened?”
He glanced away.
“Taylor, what happened?”
“They’re all dead, Sheriff. Every one of ’em.”
froze for a moment, and then brushed past him. She didn’t say hello to any of her men as she ducked under the police tape and walked into the house. The front room looked just like it had the last time she was here. Nothing out of place. She heard several voices on the second floor.
She headed up
. The forensics techs, called up from Anchorage since Kodiak Basin didn’t have their own, were taking video. On the carpet lay the body of a young boy with knife wounds to his neck. In a bedroom down the hall was another body of a young boy. A tech examined it under a handheld black light.
he moved to the master bedroom. One of the techs said something to her, but she didn’t understand him and kept walking. In the bed was Mrs. Hennley. Her throat had been slit.
lood soaked the bed and ran down onto the carpet. Pooling there, it had congealed and turned black. There was so much of it. Didn’t seem like the human body could hold that much.
She glanced behind her. A tech wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jacket.
“We got five bodies. The adult male is in the basement
, and the teenage girl is in the kitchen.”
“I… um… I haven’t seen one this bad.”
said nothing as she walked down the stairs and to the basement. She knew the door was in the kitchen because Ben had taken her down there last time. He was frightened a bear might break through one of the windows, and he asked her recommendations for alarm companies.
The stairs were dark. A flashlight
moved around downstairs. The sheriff placed her hand on the brick wall and used it for balance as she made her way down. They had zipped Ben’s body up in a black bag and were waiting for the coroner to get there.
“I want to see him,” she said.
Nolan, one of her deputies, hesitated. “Suzan—”
He swallowed. Unzipping the bag, he revealed a mountain of blood, bone, and flesh. She couldn’t recognize his face. It appeared almost like someone had tried to tear it off. Stab wounds marred his chest and neck from top to bottom. The floor was black and wet.
“I’m good friends with Tom,” Nolan said. “His brother. I don’t know what I’m gonna say.” He paused. “Sheriff, I did somethin’ I shouldn’t have.”
“I was the first one here. Tom called me and asked if I could check on ’em
, ’cause they weren’t answering their phone and they were supposed to be home. The door was open, so I came in… and I see all this.” He cleared his throat. “Janessa had it the worst. She was naked, and I didn’t want them forensic guys seein’ her that way. So I covered her up.”
“I understand, Nolan. That’s all right.”
“I did something else, too.” He zipped up the bag. “She had words written on her forehead. I washed ’em off.”
widened. She wasn’t sure whether to feel shock or rage. “You destroyed evidence at a crime scene?”
“I wasn’t thinkin’, Sheriff. I was just…
These people are my friends. I was over here with Tom for the Super Bowl. I broke bread with ’em. But I ain’t stupid. I took a photo first.” He took out his phone, pulled up a picture, and handed her the device.
She looked down at the pale, bloody face of Janessa Hennley. Written in blood across her forehead were three words:
“I see you.”