It was either something old or nothing at all. Yes, it's been that kind of week. Seems like I'm busier around the holidays than any other time.
This is from a story that I started but never finished. Somehow I didn't feel I could do the story justice. It's based on a true story, and is one of the odder, unsolved murder mysteries in the area where I live. I wanted to fictionalize it, and give the story an ending, but I never could move more than a scene past the murder itself. Some day, maybe.
Please do not repost or quote anywhere. Thanks.
Sarah Moreland’s life changed on February 14, the day Missy Taylor’s life ended.
Lives cross, parallel for a space, then separate---but sometimes lives intertwine and never come apart. Later, she would realize this truth.
January had been a grueling month. February didn’t look much better. The winter months dumped a record snowfall on the metro area, and the life of the city moved, but grudgingly, like an old woman with arthritis.
Sarah paused by Chinana’s to look in the window. Her favorite coffee shop sported only a few customers this morning, and she decided to stop for a cup of coffee. Hers always tasted like soap. She never could seem to rinse out the taste.
Chinana’s occupied the west side of Rafael’s, one of the city’s most posh hotels. The coffee shop opened onto Fifth Street-- one of those upscale places that served a corporate clientele. Sarah termed the décor urban bland—a mishmash of signage and artfully placed three-dimensional objects.
The seat by the window, the one Sarah always liked to sit in, was occupied, so she sat at the table next to the elevator, as far from the drafts that came in each time the front doors were opened as she could get.
The waiter brought coffee, straight, no sugar, and Sarah let it cool in front of her while she made notes about possible story leads she could pitch to Barnes, editor of the Metro News.
She sighed and took a sip of her coffee. February wasn’t a good month for news. A plethora of car accidents because of the bad weather, and people starting house fires trying to save money by using alternate heating methods.
The elevator dinged. Sarah looked around at the sound. The sight of the hotel concierge, white and shaken, piqued her interest. She watched as he stepped from the elevator, and put a shaking hand to his lips. With the other hand, he kept the elevator doors from sliding shut.
A draft touched her legs. She turned to the front doors and saw a man walk in. He immediately looked at the concierge and some unspoken message passed between them. Almost without thought, she snatched her purse, and stood up, walking quickly to the elevators. The concierge didn’t even see her as she slipped into the elevator ahead of the man. She slid to the back of the elevator car, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
“What took you so long?” the concierge said to the man, his voice agitated. “She’s in Room 447.”
Maybe nothing more than a domestic disturbance, Sarah thought. Perhaps the concierge just didn't like confrontation. But her reporter's instincts prodded her now.
The men crowded onto the elevator with her. Neither noticed that Sarah hadn’t made a floor choice. The elevator dinged and stopped at the fourth floor. The concierge and the man exited the elevator. As the doors started to slide shut, Sarah scooted out, following them, her feet silent in the thick carpeting.
“That’s how we found her,” the concierge said.
The door to 447 stood wide open. Sarah saw the man stop in the door. He swallowed.
“What are we going to do, Mr. Townsend?” the concierge said, nearly frantic.
She came up behind them and got an unobstructed view of the room. She saw the woman lying in the middle of the floor. The carpet was red, but it wasn’t, it was blue---except around the body. Stab wounds covered nearly every exposed inch of the woman---except for her face. Her head lay at an unnatural position, neck obviously broken, but the face pristine and lovely, delicately made up. Black hair fanned out from that face, and fixed blue eyes stared at Sarah. Blood everywhere.
Horrified, Sarah leaned over and vomited.
The man named Townsend turned around and spotted her.
Sarah turned and fled. She heard the men shouting at her.
Down a short hallway, she found a set of stairs leading down. After a couple of false turns, she found herself back on the lower level in the main lobby of the hotel. Sarah drew a deep breath, composed herself, and walked over to the front desk.
The clerk at the front desk looked up with a pleasant smile on her face. “May I help you?”
Sarah said in a low voice, “Call the police. A woman’s been murdered.”
The desk clerk looked at her with fright in her eyes. “W—what did you say?”
“Mr. Townsend asked me to have you call the police. There’s been a murder. A woman in 447.”
The desk clerk picked up the phone and dialed. When Sarah heard her shaking voice ask the dispatcher for the police, she turned and walked out the front doors.
Only later did she realize that the murdered woman’s room had contained dozens of red roses.