I Didn’t Kill Her
Edward M Wolfe
The sound of a chainsaw yanked me from my slumber and when I opened my eyes, I saw a pretty, nude blonde lying next to me with a knife sticking out of her chest and blood running down her sides, pooling in the shallow depth of her abdomen.
Surely I was still dreaming. No one wakes up like this. I closed my eyes and squeezed them shut really hard, then I opened them again. She was still there. So was the blood, and the knife. What the fuck?
I scrambled up and looked around. Where the fuck was I? How did I get here? The house was empty and looked vacant. There was no furniture and nothing hanging from the walls. Just trash scattered around the carpet. Empty beer cans, snack food wrappers and cigarette butts that had been crushed into the carpet. The place smelled like bug spray and urine.
I looked down at myself and saw that I was still dressed, but my hands were stained with blood. That made no sense at all. I would never kill anyone. And if I did, it would be in self-defense. The girl lying on the floor did not look anything remotely like a threat to anyone. She was naked and unarmed. She looked far more like a victim of a crime than a perpetrator of one. Even though I had no memories of how I got here, and I did not recognize this girl from anywhere, I was certain that I didn’t kill her.
I tried to recall where I was last night but I couldn’t remember a thing. I had a better chance of remembering the weird dream I’d been having before I woke, and it was all but evaporated now. I needed to look at the girl, even though the thought of doing so filled me with fear and revulsion, but first, I had to get the blood off my hands. I could imagine someone saying, “We caught him red-handed.” Great. My sense of humor was intact. Maybe I really was crazy. This was no time for joking around.
I went into the kitchen and turned on the faucet. Some rust-colored drops of water sputtered into the sink as the faucet gave a final exhalation. No water. Despite my foggy and rattled brain, I still had enough mental processing left to think of checking the toilet tank. I found the bathroom, and lifted the lid off the tank. I briskly scrubbed my hands in the rusty water, urgently trying to get the blood off of them. I got most of it. It had caked around my cuticles and under my fingernails, but that would have to do for now.
I went back to the living room for the task I dreaded. I needed to really look at this girl and see if I recognized her from sometime before last night, which I had no memory of. When I walked back into the living room, it seemed as if her arm was in a different position than it was when I left. Could she possibly be alive? I bent down and started to reach two fingers toward her carotid artery, but stopped myself, remembering that fingerprints could be left on skin.
I know it looked like I was the one who killed her, but I was still certain that I hadn’t, despite having no memory of the night before. And if I wasn’t the killer, I wasn’t going to provide evidence to the contrary – beyond that which already existed. I placed my hand in front of her nose instead of feeling for a pulse. While I waited to feel even the tiniest breath, I looked at her chest for any sign that she was breathing. I had the strangest feeling as I looked at her. On one hand, she was very beautiful, but on the other, she was a bloody corpse. She presented a horrible mixture of beauty and violence. I don’t know how anyone could do that to another person. I know I couldn’t.
I felt nothing on my hand, and I saw no movement of her chest. I was pretty sure she was dead. Either someone was in here with me and moved her arm, or I had just imagined that it was in a different position. To be sure, I decided I better check the rest of the house. The real killer could still be here. I started walking down the hall when I heard a car screech to a halt out outside.
Shit! That was probably the cops. What the fuck was I still doing here? I should’ve run away as soon as I woke up. What difference did it make if the house was empty or not? I had no reason to be here at all. Well, I guess I could have looked for clues about what had happened last night, but I don’t even know what I’d look for.
I ran into the first bedroom on the right and went to the window. I unlocked it and pushed it up. I kicked out the screen and crawled through. Now, where to? I didn’t even know where the fuck I was. So, first thing – get far away. Anywhere would do.
I ran across the backyard and hoisted myself up and over the brick wall and into the next backyard. There was a sliding glass door in front of a covered patio but the blinds were closed, as were the ones in front of a small kitchen window. I ran around to the side of the house and reached a wooden fence with a metal latch. I stopped and waited, listening. No one was pursuing me. I lifted the latch, opened the gate and walked alongside the driveway all casual as if I was just heading out for a stroll.
I had to think. How could I have ended up at that house? At the sidewalk, I turned right, still completely unaware of what part of town I was even in. I hoped to get a clue when I reached a corner with a street sign. What was the last thing I could recall? I remembered being at work yesterday. I left work, went home. Wait a second. Yesterday? How did I know if I only lost one day? Maybe today wasn’t even Saturday? I instantly patted my right, back pocket, knowing it would be empty. It was. Where the fuck was my cell phone?
Oh shit. What if it was in the house with the girl? The cops will surely think I was the killer – and a stupid one at that. My other pocket was empty too. No wallet. This was just getting better and better. No keys in my right, front pocket, and no cash or coins in the other front pocket. I realized my car could be parked right out in front of the vacant house; another thing advertising that I’m the primary suspect. Could my life be any more fucked?
I passed several street corners without learning where I was, but when I finally hit a boulevard intersection I got partially oriented. As far as I could tell, I was in North Hollywood somewhere. I went south on Lankershim until I came to the Metro. I could take it to within a few blocks of my apartment – if I had any money. I resigned myself to walking the seven miles to where I lived. I was hot, thirsty and hungry. My body was fatigued as if I’d already walked miles, and my mind felt stunned, as if I’d been whacked in the head with a two-by-four.
I told myself to try to think rationally as I walked, blindly stepping into traffic at the next intersection.
“Yo! White boy! You fi’n ta get yo’sef keelt!”
I stepped backwards suddenly as a city bus whooshed by inches from my face. I tripped when I ran into the curb behind me and fell, landing on my ass. The old black man laughed as I added ass pain to my growing list of miseries.
“Yo mama nevah learnt you to look befo’ crossin da street? Dayum!” he said, hooting with laughter. When he regained his composure, he extended an old wrinkled brown hand to help me up.
“Thanks,” I said. “I was lost in thought.”
“Dey be yo’ last thoughts if’n you don’t watch yo’sef!”
“Thank you,” I said, not knowing what else to say. I certainly couldn’t explain my predicament.
I stood there numbly looking at the traffic, willing the pain in my tailbone to subside. Walking was going to be a lot more painful now. Seven fucking miles of pain until I could take some aspirin, lie down, and try to figure out what was going on.
“Excuse me?” I asked, turning to look at the man.
“Here, take dis,” he said, reaching into his inner jacket pocket and handing me a Twix.
At the sight of the candy bar, my stomach kicked into gear and growled ferociously. I didn’t know when I’d last eaten. I gladly took the candy from the stranger and tore into the wrapper with my teeth. It was warm and the chocolate clung to the inside of the wrapper. After eating the twin bars, I licked the chocolate off the paper, then walked over to the wire-basket trashcan next to the streetlight post.
“Now I knows you din’t eat today.”
“Thank you very much, sir. If I had any money, I’d pay you, but I—“
“You jis pay it fo’ward when you can,” he said, dismissing my explanation.
The light turned green and I thanked him for the fourth time in two minutes before complying with the sign that now said WALK. When I reached the other side, my mind went back on autopilot as far as navigating the obstacles on the sidewalk. I weaved in and out around pedestrians, newspaper vending boxes, and the occasional street beggar partially blocking the way with their outstretched legs, sitting on the sidewalk holding their cardboard signs with God Bless written on them.
I put the sugar from the candy bar to work, forcing myself to think back to the last thing I recalled. I had left work and gone home. I checked my email, watched the news on TV for a while, and then when I got hungry, I decided to eat out somewhere. I drove to a nearby bar that makes great burgers. But I didn’t eat. Someone bought me a beer and I think we talked for a while. I remember that I didn’t want a beer, but I was being polite and trying to get out of the conversation with the overly friendly guy who seemed really intent on talking to me and buying me drinks. Not in a gay way – just an obliging, clueless way, like someone who wants a friend and doesn’t realize they’re imposing.
That’s the last thing I remember. How is that possible? I crossed another intersection and strained to recall more of what happened in the bar. The fact that there was nothing at all in my mind to be discovered made me wonder if the guy had spiked my drink. It made perfect sense. He was determined to talk to me despite my short answers and the fact that I kept returning my gaze to the menu rather than engage him in conversation. I could imagine him putting something in my beer, then when I got groggy, he could’ve walked me out as if he was helping a friend who was too drunk to drive. Then he could’ve driven me to the house in North Hollywood. Then what? He went out, found a girl, brought her back, stripped her and killed her, then laid her out on the floor next to me?
What the fuck sense did that make? Whoever the guy was, I had never seen him before. I’d never seen the girl before either. Maybe the guy just needed someone to be a patsy and I was dumb enough to sit there accepting his drinks instead of doing what I wanted to do, which was just eat, and see if any attractive females showed up while I was eating.
A horn honked, which is not unusual, so I ignored it. Then it honked again, right beside me from a car that was moving at the same rate of speed that I was walking. I looked over and saw the driving leaning over so he could see me through the passenger window.
“Need a lift?”
It was the guy from the bar! Considering what he’d apparently done to me, he was the last person I should be accepting a ride from.
“Sure,” I said, walking over to his car and getting in.
I know it seems stupid that I got in a car with the person who was most likely responsible for the hell I found myself in, but he was also the only person in the world who might be able to shed light on what was happening to my life, and why.
He pulled forward as soon as I had gotten in, before I’d even shut the door. The car behind us was honking its horn and the light in front of us was green. I blurted out everything on my mind without thinking of what I was going to say.
“Who are you? What did you do to me? Why did you kill that girl? Are you fucking insane? What the hell is going on?”
“Slow down, Tommy boy! One thing at a time. You sure woke up full of questions, didn’t you?”
“I woke up next to a dead girl! And the last thing I remember was drinking beer with you, so this is all your doing. What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you doing this?”
“Listen, Tommy. If we’re—“
“Stop calling me Tommy!”
“Okay, Tom. Listen up. To have a conversation, you’re gonna have to slow down. First things first. What’s the first thing you’d like to know before you go to prison for murder?”
We stopped at a red light and I couldn’t decide if I should get out and run, reach over and strangle him, or try to engage in a conversation that might result in some answers. I also wanted to ask him where we were going, but that seemed like the least important matter at the time.
“I didn’t kill her!”
“Sure you didn’t. But you can save it for the judge. I already know what you’re guilty of. And I know you’re going to be punished. Justice is being served, as we speak.”
My head was spinning again. Nothing made sense. He agreed that I didn’t kill her, but he was certain that I’d go to prison for her murder.
“Why are you framing me for this? I don’t even know you!”
“You may not know me, Tommy boy–sorry, Tom, but you know of me.”
He got in the left hand turn lane and tapped the turn signal control down. The air conditioner was on, but I could clearly hear every tick as the left arrow blinked on the instrument panel.
“How do I know of you?” I managed to ask a sane question when I felt like I was losing my mind completely. As far as I knew, that Twix bar was the first thing I’d eaten in twenty-four hours and my blood-sugar was as fucked up as my life was now.
“Lisa told you about me.”
“Lisa? Who’s Lisa? Is that the girl at the house?”
“Yes, Lisa is the girl you killed – for all intents and purposes.”
“I don’t know her. I never met her before in my life. You’ve got the wrong fucking guy.”
“Oh no. I have the right guy. I made sure of it. This is the culmination of years of planning, so you can be sure I didn’t go to all of that effort to setup the wrong guy.”
“Why? Why are you setting me up? I swear I don’t know you or Lisa. You have to have the wrong guy.”
The signal presented a green arrow and he pulled through the intersection, staying in the left hand lane and once again getting into the turn lane. We were making a gradual U-turn, erasing the progress I’d made walking.
“I’m motivated by the oldest reason there is. Revenge.”
“But I didn’t do anything to you!”
“But you did, Tom. You ruined my life. You took away everything I cherished. And now, in keeping with the law of ‘an eye for an eye’ I’m ruining your life, and taking everything you love away from you.”
“I’ve told you that I don’t know either of you, so rather than repeating myself, how about you just tell me what you think I did?”
“Does the screen name moanalisa86 ring any bells?”
“No. I’ve never heard of it.”
“Yes, you have, Tom. You heard of it, saw it, and wrote a response to a request for advice that was posted by someone using it.”
“Okay, then. I don’t recall it.”
“I believe you. As I said, it’s been years, so that makes sense. Allow me to refresh your memory.”
When we reached the street that I had walked down to get to Lankershim, he pulled over to the curb in front of a house. He was apparently taking me back to where I woke up a short time ago – but not yet.
“Lisa posted to Yahoo Answers about her relationship in 2009. She complained about her boyfriend, saying she suspected he was insane, and possibly violent. She said she wanted to leave him, but literally scared for her life to do so. She said she was in a bind and didn’t know what to do. She asked for help. Are you starting to remember any of this?”
“No. Not at all.”
“Well, you should. It was your advice that she took.”
“What did I advise?”
“You said, and this is verbatim, ‘You are definitely with a classic psychopath. The sooner you leave the better. He will not change, you cannot appease him, and sooner or later, you won’t even think of asking for help. Your life will be over. Get out now, while you can. Tell everyone you know when you leave him, why you’re leaving him. The more you get the word out, the less he’ll be able to do anything to you. Be safe, and good luck!’ Does that refresh your memory?”
“No. Maybe, vaguely. I used to write a lot of responses on Yahoo Answers. I don’t remember all of them.”
“Yes, you did answer a lot, and your answers were frequently chosen as the best. You had a very high ranking. But I’m surprised you don’t remember advising Lisa, since it was such a serious departure from the standard idiotic questions that most people could’ve answered themselves by just using Google, or were we still using AltaVista then?”
“It may have been a serious issue for her – it was her life – but to me, it would’ve just been words on the screen for a few minutes. That’s not something I would’ve committed to memory. It was too insignificant.”
“That’s rich. The ruining of my life was insignificant to you.”
“You’re the guy she wanted to leave?”
“I’m the guy she did leave. Because of you.”
“How do you know it was because of me? I’m sure plenty of other people told her to do the same thing. It’s common sense. You think you’re living with a psycho, get the fuck out. How can you pin this solely on me?”
“You’re right. Seventeen other people also advised her to leave me. But she chose your response as the Best Answer, and she quoted you when she broke up with me. She said she’d been told that I was a classic psychopath, that I wouldn’t change, I couldn’t be appeased, etc. Later, I logged in to her account and saw the email from Yahoo with a link to her question. I read your advice, and I vowed that I’d get revenge. It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here. Today is the day of retribution.”
“I was right. You are a psychopath. You’ll never get away with this. Especially now that you’ve just confessed to me that you killed her and framed me for it. The police will know that I don’t have any connection to her. But you certainly do. You have motive. I don’t. How do you think you’re going to convince the cops that I had any reason to kill someone that I don’t even know? Someone that I posted to on Yahoo years ago. The police aren’t that stupid, you know.”
He reached into his inner suit jacket pocket and pulled out something that looked like a wallet. He let it fall open, revealing his identification as a Los Angeles County police detective, and his badge.
I woke up in the backseat of his car, my hands and feet bound with zip-ties. The last thing I remembered was him reaching into his pocket to put his wallet away and then his hand came back out with a black thing with silver tips on the end. His hand flew toward my neck before I realized what was happening.
I struggled into a sitting position and looked out the window. We were back at the house with the dead girl. The guy got out of his car and walked over to some cops standing next to a cop car. Crime scene tape was strung around the yard and driveway.
This was really happening.
The driver’s side window was down about two inches. I leaned forward and turned my head to the side, straining to hear what he was telling the other cops.
“What brings you here, Detective Ladd?”
“Oh, I was just in the neighborhood.”
The three of them laughed briefly. I never understood how cops could make jokes at a crime scene. I guess they get used to dead people.
“Did they put you on this?”
“No. Actually, I was driving nearby when I spotted what looked like an attempted burglary. Guy was going from window to window at a house, so I came up behind him and asked what he thought he was doing.”
“You shoulda waited till he broke a window or somethin’. You probably can’t get him on Attempted B&E now.”
“I got better. Listen to this. First thing the guy says to me is he got high on Ketamine last night, killed a blonde girl, and now he’s just really thirsty. Says he’s just looking for some water. He’s not looking to steal anything.”
“Oh. Well if that’s all, you shoulda let him go.” Again, they all laughed as they broached the subject of murder as they stood on the lawn, with a fresh corpse inside the house.
“I’m thinking I’ll take him in as a 5150, just in case he’s violent, bein’ that he’s talkin’ that way. And then I notice he’s got what could be blood around his fingernails. I made the connection with the homicide here just a few blocks away and thought you guys might wanna take him and verify if that’s blood, and see if his prints match the ones on the knife used on the vic.”
“How’d you know she was knifed?”
“Uh… I guess it was radio chatter. I don’t recall. But anyway, I got this guy in the backseat. If it turns out I just delivered a gift-wrapped perp, tell the FOS he owes me a case of Heineken.”
“Will do. Let’s see what you got.”
“One more thing. When I asked the guy to repeat what he’d said about killing someone, that’s when he lost his marbles and started saying he didn’t kill anyone. He said I was the killer. Then he started ranting about how I was framing him, and some shit about Yahoo and the internet, and I just lost track. Definitely a 5150, whether or not he did the girl. When he went totally nutso, I had to Taze him.”
They came over to the car and let me out, but only to transfer me to the back of a squad car. I was burning with the desire to tell them what was really going on and how the detective was the real killer, but he’d already primed them to think I was crazy if I started talking about that, so I just kept it inside. I knew from watching cop shows that it doesn’t accomplish anything to protest your innocence to arresting officers anyway. They don’t care. And why should they? It’s not their job to determine guilt or innocence.
That’s left up to the judge and jury. So anything you say to the cops is a waste of time and breath. As it turns out, everything I said to anybody about this case was wasted effort. My court-appointed attorney couldn’t find any reference to any of the things I told him about. He said he couldn’t find Lisa’s question, or my answer. I’m not sure if he even bothered looking. He also said there was no record of a moanalisa86 anywhere online. And he couldn’t find anything in The Wayback Machine.
My prints were on the knife. Lisa’s blood was on and under my fingernails. My saliva was found on her left breast. And hair matching mine was on the carpet near her body. It was not only an open and shut case, but the prosecutor made me sound like the most vile of killers, suggesting that I had sucked on one of her breasts while stabbing the other. If I had been in the jury, I would’ve voted to hang me too.
I guess you could say I got lucky though. Since Ketamine was found in my system, along with alcohol, my public defender argued that I had blacked out and didn’t know what I had done, so he negotiated with the District Attorney and got me a deal for a reduced charge of 2nd Degree Murder, meaning I hadn’t pre-meditated the killing of the poor girl.
Now I’m doing fifteen to life for a crime I didn’t commit. My only crime was offering advice to a stranger on the internet. I posted a single paragraph to help a total stranger. And now, life as I once knew it is over.
My cellmate is petitioning for the inmates to get internet access like they have in some other states. Every prisoner in here is looking forward to the day they can get online.
Except for me.
All I can think about now is my mother’s advice when I was a kid. She said, don’t talk to strangers.