First chapter: here
Previous chapter: here
In this chapter, we meet a new character, Anthony, a detective as he unveils disturbing truths about Leslie’s neighbors.
The tape was found deep in Herbert’s chest, labelled like in one of those cliché horror movies: Play me.
Anthony couldn’t lie, he found it quite humorous at the time. But eighteen hours had passed and now that he had listened to it countless of times, all it did was chill him to the bone. The tape lasted one full hour and fifteen minutes, including six long minutes of static by the end of it.
“What a sick bitch…”, he whispered to himself.
He stretched his arms and then stirred his coffee. It was eight o’clock on Monday morning and the culprit had been brought into the interrogation room. Finally.
It was Herbert’s wife. He was looking at her from the other side of the one-way mirror.
She looked pathetic. The mere sight of her made him sick. She was a monster for what she had done. No matter the motives, it was still murder. Although his sensitive heart was being tricked by her tears, making him feel for her, he knew she was guilty and the next hour could only confirm it.
Anthony stared at her through the one-way mirror. Fred, his colleague, was speaking with her.
Fred was an ass but it was Monday morning and there was no one else to do the dirty work with Anthony. So, it had to be him.
Her tears seemed very real. Anthony was not sure whether she was guilt-stricken or simply terrified. She looked intensely affected, but it could’ve been an elaborate trick; she could have been using her rage to act out the part of the distressed wife. Her red eyes, her distorted mouth, her sobs; her…
“What a sick bitch…”, he repeated.
As much as he would’ve rather believed that she was an average old lady stricken by a lightning of doom, he couldn’t fall for it. He had listened to the tape, after all. The evidence was more than evident, he thought with a chuckle. All the proof was on it.
But, everything about her was so contradictory. He knew it was her. His guts could definitely smell something terribly wrong when he stepped in the house that afternoon and they never mistaken. But he looked at her, and he could feel all the light inside of him screaming for love and compassion. He grimaced.
“Mrs Humbert, you called us at quarter past two on Sunday afternoon. In this call, you demanded that we send a car to your house as soon as possible for your husband had been, I quote, butch–”
“I know what I said.” Her voice, razor-sharp as she cut him off, tore a hole in the room. She wasn’t crying anymore. Instead, she bore the cold stone face of a strong woman. When she spoke again, a generous amount of bitterness stained her teeth.
“And I know what I saw. I called for help and you bastards cuffed me.”
“Mrs Humbert… No disrespect but when we got there, you were wrist-deep into your husband’s ribcage. Were you expecting a warm blanket and a cup of tea?”
Anthony was rather amused by this exchange.
He couldn’t deny the tension of it all and the general horror reigning in the room, but Fred… Fred had no charisma; at all. And his idiocy was so great that it could’ve been crowned and declared a new form of art. Anthony could’ve spent hours and hours watching him make a fool out of himself trying to be his tougher self while interrogating criminals. But there were no time to be wasted.
He cleared his throat and went to the microphone. “Cut the chase, Fred. Play the tape.” He needed to hear the recording again. He needed to watch her listening to it.
Mrs Humbert looked different now that she had realized she was being observed. “Of course…”, she whispered. She nervously fixed her shirt and licked her lips. Anthony stared at her, hoping his gaze would be heavy enough through the one-way mirror. Heavy enough to disturb her; heavy enough to put so much pressure on her ribcage that it’d cave in and the truth would squirt out of it.
“Alright, Mrs Humbert…” Fred rubbed his hands together and sat on the table, facing Angela. “I’m going to play the tape that we found in your husband’s body. And we’ll see what you have to say about that.”
A click and crispy statics were heard as the tape started rolling. Herbert cleared his throat and so it begun, the perverted storytelling of a sixty-something-year-old.
Anthony dropped his half-full coffee cup in the trash can and resumed a straight position in front of the window. Arms crossed, he stared at Angela, ready to catch her every reactions, any clue, any truth he could.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2016.
I’m finally back, diary. It is a quarter to twelve and I am back at my window to observe the beauty on the other side of the street. My telescope is cleaned and all set. Recording is rolling; obviously. My notebook is ready. I bought this big set of pens so that if one stops working mid-way I can just take another one and not lose one bit of what’s going on out there. And, most importantly, my pants are ready.
He lets out a vicious chuckle.
Today is a special day for both of us. It’s her parents’ wedding anniversary. And just like they have for the past twenty years, except for that one time when she was ten and we had a sleepover at Harry’s… Oh, I remember that night…
He clears his throat.
So, just like they always do, they left for the weekend to celebrate. Leslie is a big girl now, no more babysitters, she is home alone. According to Harry, her parents shouldn’t be back until very late tonight, which leaves me plenty of time… Speaking of, I wonder where the hell that bastard has wandered to! Haven’t spoken to him since last morning. Told me he had something to take care of and then simply vanished.
Probably had another fight with his lady. Anyway, that means more for me!
He pauses for a minute and the sound of pages being flipped is heard.
He clears his throat.
So, I have a plan… My plan is I make the best out of her parents being away. I will finally get to taste this special flower. I’m sure she is going to be the sweetest of them all. Hopefully she won’t play too hard to get or I might have to hurt her. Which I don’t mind.
He laughs, full-throated.
I don’t mind it at all. I know she will enjoy it, no matter what.
Herbert gets up.
He is moving in the room. Drawers are being opened, he’s rummaging through them.
He sits back down and undoes the scratches of his shoes. They hit the floor in two successive thumps.
There she is… Fresh outta bed!
He rubs his hands together.
Alright. Let’s do this. First time using this brand new telescope. It’s the same that Harry got himself last Christmas. We’ll see if it’s as good as he claims.
Let me just… Adjust it…
He clears his throat.
She is by her brother’s crib. She reaches down to caress his cheek with the back of her fingers. She lingers on...
He is scribbling on a page.
The intensity… It kind of weirds me out to be honest! Argh. She’s off to the bathroom now.
There is a clear cut on the tape.
He was so close to the microphone that it recorded his breathing, his tongue clicking and the very movements of his lips. They could hear his every single gulps. It was disgusting but at the same time, strangely captivating.
Anthony was still staring at Angela, shifting in her chair and adjusting her top, and then her skirt, and even then, when she fixed her hair. He looked at her every move. She was more than obviously uncomfortable. Who wouldn’t have been? Herbert was admitting to terrible crimes in this. And the way he spoke of that little girl… Anthony could hear the excitement in his voice and the dark happiness. And, as much as Angela tried to keep a face, he knew it was tearing her apart inside. But how deep?
We’re fifty minutes later. That was a pretty damn long shower if you ask me. She–
She is naked. Her curves just keep getting more defined with age, it’s amazing. Little girl’s growing up!
She is going to make a beautiful woman… Just like her mom.
The sound of a belt hitting the floor. Then the zipper of his pants.
Her skin is spotless. Seems so soft… I want to smell it.
His breathing is heavier now.
Lick it. I’d run my fingers down that back, bite her neck! Then I’d softly trace some circles on that skin, linger around her warm breasts before I’d rough–
“Stop it!” Angela screamed snapping Anthony out of his trance.
“What the bleeding–” Fred shouted, his right hand already resting on his gun. He was known to be trigger-happy, but this early Monday morning seemed to have blessed him with a small drop of chill.
She threw her hands on the button and paused the recording, her handcuffs rattling against the metal table as she did so. Not knowing what to do, he turned around to give a questioning look at his colleague. And Anthony nodded, as if Fred could have somehow seen through the tainted glass.
“Mrs. Humbert. You are not authorized to interrupt the session in such ways.”
“I think I’ve heard enough.”, she said, bitterness shaping her every word.
“You don’t decide that,” Fred explained. “See, this is very unusual for us to do. If it wasn’t for one of our officers, we would have thrown you in the hole already, no questions asked. But you have to listen to this.”
“What kinda kink does he have?” She looked at the mirror. “You like to watch, huh?”
Anthony took two steps back, as if in shame.
He kept telling himself that it was for the sake of evidence that he needed her here but maybe she wasn’t so wrong after all. Perhaps part of him enjoyed it, in that same twisted way that Herbert did. Perhaps he was just trying to prove to himself that he was one of the good guys, knowing pretty well that he was just as guilty as everyone else. If not of committing the darkness, of being committed to watching it from the distance, from a shadowed corner, and biting his lip to the beat of his enthralled heart.
“You can hide from me but you can’t hide from yourself.”
Angela’s eyes cut through the glass and tore him down as she speaks. The disgust on her face was reflected on Anthony’s and he could feel it filling him up inside.
Fred pressed play once more.
…telescope. I mean, I can see so much details. Look at these breasts! So round, so warm! They make me so happy. Just looking at them, I’m–
I’m literally drooling, oh my god.
He’s laughing now.
Ah, man. Just goes to show…
Angela rolled her eyes and shook her head. That wasn’t enough for Anthony. But he rejoiced, knowing that they were barely twenty minutes into the recording.
Look at her, leaning forward to grab her pointless clothes on the bed. We’re gonna have so much fun together, darling.. Don’t worry about that dress. I’ll rip it off in seconds.
She picks up her phone and sits on the bed. Let me zoom in and see if I can read her lips. Luscious pink. So smooth. She’s talking to Lucie. Gotta be anyway. Who else?
He lets out a small amused chuckle.
It baffles me though… She has such a beautiful face. But there is… No expression at all. Her eyes are stone cold. Her lips simply move to form the words she wants to speak. I know things have not been easy lately but I’d expect more from her, especially when speaking to Lucie!
He slaps his forehead.
She just hung up… I forgot to READ the damn lips! Now I don’t know what the hell’s happening anymore!
Wait a minute… Is that a smile? Attagirl! A faint one that is, but still.
He flips pages.
She is getting Mitchell from the crib. They’re headed downstairs.
He clears his throat.
Maybe I should switch to video journaling. I’ve been considering it for a while now. That way I could re-watch it and I wouldn’t have to describe everything. It gets hard sometimes; I just stare and enjoy the view, you know.. Ha ha
Angela briefly glanced at Anthony, or at least where she supposed he was behind the one-way mirror. He grimaced.
Alright, so… She’s in the kitchen now.
A short pause.
I don’t see the baby anymore. Where… When did she drop him?
He clears his throat.
Bunch of stuff. Flour; sugar; whatever that is; chocolate… Hmm. She’s making a cake. God, am I genius for figuring that out.
She’s taking so much stuff from the drawers, the cupboards. All sorts of bowls, pans and whatnots. But we don’t care about that. Let’s look around.
I bet she’s a nice cook. Her mom surely is.
Anthony was impressed at how much Herbert seemed to know about Leslie and her family’s life.
He must’ve had been watching for years now. Probably ever since they moved there. He knew the house like he had been in there a couple of times at least; they had found sketches in his stuff. His colleagues said it wasn’t necessary but Anthony wanted to keep digging through his journals and drawers.
He knew the names, the routines, the… It was unsettling. But at the same time, Anthony couldn’t suppress a small admiration for his dedication and organization.
Angela was staring at the cassette player now.
Shit I guess she’s baking for her friends. That’s gotta be what the phone call was about. Fuck!
He sniffles and clears his throat aggressively.
Oh, she’s going out now? Wh-what are you doing, little girl? The–
Something hard hits the floor; Herbert.
There is panting, gasping that can be heard and also his clumsy old feet tripping about his messy floor.
It’s an intense messy two minutes.
He is whispering now and breathing heavily as he does so.
What the fuck…
His mouth is even closer to the microphone now and it records every click of his tongue in his dirty mouth.
She waved at me, diary. I was following her with the telescope as she walked and then she stopped. She stopped and she looked towards me, as if straight at me, through the lens of my telescope and she waved. It couldn’t have been at anybody else. I didn’t dream it up. She looked at me. God. I think I almost had a heart attack!
I feel like she’s staring at me through the curtains. I need a drink.
He rubs his hands together.
Alright, so, she’s back in the kitchen now.
The sound of ice clicking in a glass. Whiskey.
She’s cutting some meat. Pork or lamb? I can’t tell. Can’t see shit anymore, there’s too many stuff in the way. I have to keep watching. She has such gorgeous skin…
I didn’t know Sophie and Nicolas kept a meat freezer in their basement too. Angela always told me that was a creepy place to keep our food. Suck on that, bitch.
Angela flinched. Words cut.
Anthony felt the excitement in his chest as they are getting closer to the part he anticipated the most. He felt it coming and couldn’t wait. He realized how fucked up that made him but kept telling himself that all he was truly waiting for was for Angela’s reactions and proof that she was indeed guilty.
She’s taking the trash out. That bag looks huge in her small hands. Oh! A car! A car… Just parked in the alley. Her idiot friends… I…
Let’s see… All three of them. Lucie, Matthew and… Whatshisname…
He bangs his hand on the table as he exclaims, Terrence!
It’s quarter past one already. They’re all going inside, now. For fuck’s sake!
Time to zoom in again.
His chair rattles against the floor as he adjust it closer to his desk probably.
They’re in the living room, chatting. About what? Let’s see… Oh, nevermind. Leslie is moving already. Not much conversation for one! She’s taking the baby. Upstairs probably. Let me just try and see what her little friends are saying.
He clears his throat.
Body language shows they’re whispering.
And so he whispers too as he reads their lips.
“Did you see that”, asks Matthew.
His voice changes.
“Yeah.” That one dude just nods.
It changes again.
“She’s been pretty off lately.” That’s Lucie. “She’s been pretty off lately, even on the phone.. Like..”
His voice shifts swiftly from narrator to mimicking the teenagers’ voices.
She looks nervously behind her. “Like… Like she’s about to relapse. Again. You know?”
He goes back to Matthew’s voice.
“She looks pretty crazy to me.” Wait a second.. I can see a little…
Oh crap. That’s her! That’s Leslie standing in the back of the room.. She’s just there. Silent. Listening to her friends discuss her…
Fucking creepy. This is fucking–
A bang on the table once again followed by some loud pacing in the room.
Herbert can be heard muttering cuss words in the distance as he’s opening another bottle and pouring himself a drink.
Okay. I’m back.
Oh, nice. They’re all eating pie now. Where’s Leslie? Oh! There she is. In the kitchen. She’s looking at the window. Is she fucking looking at me again? She’s pulling down the blinds on one side. Another one! And.. How am I supposed to see anything now? Please, don’t close the last one, you freaky slut!
Good. There’s one opening left for me. And, I can still see the boys in the living room.
Lucie is bringing their plates to the kitchen. Leslie takes them and turns around to wash them in the sink. She cleans them and Lucie dries them. Boy, this is awkward… Both of them smile. “We make a good team, huh?” Leslie doesn’t answer.
She just keeps smiling. Her friend goes back to the boys.
She grabs the towel and dries a long kitchen knife. You should go back to your friends, Leslie. I don’t think right now is a good time to clean everything up. Ha–
He almost chokes on his drink.
Either I’m losing it or.. I’m–
He moves in closer to the microphone and it records his heavy breathing.
She just winked at me and then pulled down the blinds of the last kitchen window.
He is tense.
I need to see her.
His whispers intensify.
I must see her. I fucking need to see her!
He bangs on the table.
He grunts and stomps around.
Where is that picture? Where is the fucking picture?
Drawers open and close brutally, pages are flipped. The sound of blocks of paper hitting the floor.
Herbert’s breathing is back up close.
He clicks his tongue.
I got it.
I got it! I got the fucking picture. Precious one. Took a lot out of me to get that shot. Entry #37 of my adventurous audio journals. I should listen to it again some time.
He unzips his pants.
Angela is crying her eyes out as they all sit through the next two minutes of Herbert pleasuring himself to the naked picture of Leslie. The picture that was coincidentally found buried a little deeper than the tape in his caved in chest by the coroner.
His shaky breathing, his grunts, spitting, moans, lip licking… They could have skipped through it. Fred could have simply pressed the forward button for a couple of seconds and they could have been spared the trauma. But Anthony’s orders were clear. And as much as he kind of regretted it at this moment, he knew it had to be done. He had to catch her every reactions.
I’m almost there.
Herbert is panting.
So close, so close…
Another voice can be heard in the distance.
Oh, fuck. I’m almost there. Quick, please…
Banging on his door.
“Herbert! Are you in here?”
It’s his wife.
She comes in.
“What are you doing? What the fuck?”
A smirk found its way on Anthony’s face as he saw Angela’s head lower in shame. “We’ve got you, sicko!”, he whispered to himself.
She wiped her tears while Anthony ripped open a chocolate bar with his teeth and bit right into it with confidence.
Stupid bitch. Sorry about that. My wife…
It’s okay now, I’ve locked the door. Who the fuck does she think she is? I was so close… Should’ve slapped the shit out of her but I don’t have time for this.
He clears his throat.
Let me see if Leslie has opened the blinds again or not. My sweet little flower… She sure wouldn’t interrupt me like that. I’d cover her soft mouth with my hand. Press her down. I’d hurt her.
She’d love it.
I know she will. Oh!
He clears his throat.
It’s up! The blinds are up! I’m so happy right n– Wait a minute…
His voice loses the excitement instantly and grows quieter.
Is that… blood? I’ll zoom in just to be su–
The telescope crashes to the ground.
Oh good grief. There’s blood everywhere. It’s everywhere…. It’s-It’s-I-I…
He stutters and sniffles. He is in shock.
Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit.
He keeps mumbling.
He is dialing numbers on a phone.
Come on, come on! This shouldn’t take so long– Ah! Hi! Oh, hi, hi, hi! My name is Herbert Humbert. I live at 441 Esmond street. I call you to…
The door creaks open behind him.
Please. Send a car, send a car quick–
The phone drops to the floor.
He sounds terrified.
How did you get in? Are you… Are you okay?
The door slams shut.
Angela’s eyes were wide opened. She, just like Fred, was startled by the door slamming shut. She kept shaking her head from left to right. “This isn’t me!”, she whispered, over and over.
Anthony frowned. He grimaced at the genuine surprised look on her face when she heard her own voice on the tape for the second time.
“What the hell?..”, he said and moved in closer to the mirror. “This isn’t right…”
“Honey, you’ve been bad. You’ve been very bad. And I must punish you. This girl… This girl is not yours.”
Herbert was crying.
I’m sorry, love. I… You don’t look so good. Maybe we should go lie down in front of the TV and…
Angela let out a loud groan.
“The girl is not yours.”
Herbert’s body drops to the floor.
Herbert is moaning and lets out a few muffled groans every couple of seconds.
The zip of Herbert’s pants. There’s the sound of fabric thrusting, panting and banging on the floor.
Herbert is choking.
Crackling sounds, like bubble wraps being popped.
Some squishy sounds. Wet sounds. Bloody sounds.
There were no sound at all for six full minutes and still, they did not skip through it.
Anthony was perplexed. Angela looked confused and horrified. But she did not speak, she did not protest. She simply sat through it, as if mourning the death of that monster that she probably sincerely loved after all, even after all of that.
She stared at the tape recorder. Fred stared at her. While Anthony caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the one-way mirror. He grimaced.
Footsteps approaching the microphone.
Anthony was furious. And confused. But mostly frustrated. He thought that in Angela’s reactions he would find clues, keys, proofs, but all it did was bring him doubts.
When she was dragged to a detention cell after the recording session, she spoke to him, unaware that he was indeed the “sick bastard” that was watching her through the black mirror. He felt all her grief and could see the mix of horror and incomprehension in her eyes as she cried to him. “Sir, you’ve got to help me, please. I’m innocent. Don’t let them take me away. It’s her–” But he didn’t say anything. He just watched as they dragged her to the other side of the building.
Herbert admitted to domestic violence on that tape and to many disturbing crimes also. Other crimes that Angela might’ve been aware of this whole time but kept to herself in a foolish attempt at preserving whatever their marriage even was.
When she surprised him on that early Sunday afternoon, it was the last straw. She left the room to calm down. But she couldn’t. The rage ate her up and she let the devil inside avenge her.
After the deed was done, she panicked and cleaned herself up. Then she called the police and placed herself as a distressed victim.
And voila, roll credits.
He wanted to believe that she was guilty. That would’ve made things easier and the case would be close in the blink of an eye. But something inside of him refused to believe such a thing.
He was torn. There was literal proof that she killed him, it was all on the tape. He heard her, crystal clear. But her eyes told a completely different story which couldn’t be backed up as easily.
The young girl? The one that Herbert had been watching for years and probably abused in her younger years? She probably had a motive, supposing she had actually saw the old man through his window and not repressed the memories of her childhood.
But Anthony had been to her house that same afternoon and found nothing suspicious. Sh was as sweet as pie. And besides, Herbert was highly intoxicated as he recorded that one last tape. Some phony medicines and whatnots, and on top of that, the alcohol that he chugged down while recording. He probably hallucinated a couple of things.
All that “innocent Angela Humbert” scenario could lead to was no leads or, Anthony gulped, the supernatural.
He wasn’t that much of a believer, but he had seen and felt things that he knew to be beyond his reach. He wouldn’t cry out the holy name to save his life, but part of him knew there was more to life and more to death also. Although Anthony didn’t believe in ghosts, he thought that evil, when fed enough, could pierce through the veil of this reality and materialize in terrifying ways. He was a cop after all. He had seen evil. All different levels.
But he refused the idea that it could have followed him here, in this small meaningless town in the south of the country. She had to be guilty.
When he went back home that night, Anthony was still conflicted. He wanted to hate her because it was easier to believe she had done something inhuman and perceive this older woman as a criminal than acknowledge her genuine misery and allow the possibility of an uglier evil. But he saw genuine fear and sorrow in her eyes.
Not without tossing and turning, he fell asleep and slept through the night like he had been knocked out by his own thoughts. And he dreamt, like he hadn’t in weeks, months…
He dreamt of his wife and his daughter, playing in the back garden. And their dog was here too. Like the good old days. It was a bright dream with vivid colors and the two women of his life were surrounded by these warm halos of light and they smiled, they laughed. They jumped around, they sang, they danced and they looked back at him with love and a warmth so intense in their eyes that, for a moment, Anthony was tricked into believing that they were still alive, and by his side.
He dreamt through the night, unaware of the evil that were to come at dawn.
Finally! That took forever but it’s here! We’re only three chapters away from the end!
To be continued…