It Had Pockets

Photo by Stephany Lorena on Unsplash

“What kind of person kills a person while wearing the victims’ sweater? No less in the middle of summer!”

Warning: this story contains graphic language.

“Following the case of Summerside’s serial killer, local police report that further investigations have been made on Daniel Musoli, suspected murderer. However, as of now, he remains free and so does the killer whomever that may be,” said the anchorman — a blandly handsome middle-aged man with pale skin and even paler hair. “This has been John Sims with SSN five o’clock news, join us tomorrow for an update on Summerside’s serial killer. Thank you, and have a safe night, folks.”

Katherine flicked the television off, a dingy old thing from the stone age, large and boxy with rabbit-ear antennas. The mention of Summerside’s murderer, one who could still possibly be prowling the dark streets, set her on edge. Static crackled against the dark green screen, the glow slowly dimming until her own bedraggled reflection was all it showed.

“One ought to give that Musoli man a taste of his own medicine,” called her mother from the other room who had been listening in on reports of America’s current obsession. “I mean, what loon kills a person while wearing the victims’ sweater? No less in the middle of summer!”

It was an odd memoir to cultivate, Katherine knew that. But what the murderer got out of it, she had yet to figure out. Perhaps to feel connected with the victim, or some sort of twisted fetish, she was not entirely sure. And she was not entirely sure she wanted to figure it out.

Katherine glanced down at her flimsy tank top, a dark cranberry and slightly scratchy against her stomach. “We don’t know if it’s him,” she replied. “But everyone will get what they deserve, I suppose.”

Her mother emerged from the master bedroom, white curls tucked behind dainty ears, the lobes dressed in diamonds. The pearls at her throat gleamed beneath the scant yellow light from the ceiling fan. A silk black gown clung to her hips with a glittering brooch pinned at her waist. Katherine knew somewhere in the back of the dress, a tag was still attached, no doubt going to be returned by tomorrow once she had her fill with it.

“How do I look, Kat?” She twirled, the skirt flaring at the edges like a salsa dancer.

Kat smiled. “Like you’re twenty-one again, mom. He’s going to love you.”

“That’s the plan.” She winked then checked her cracked phone. “And oh, would you look at the time, already eight. I must get going.”

Mom shrugged on a gray shawl, kissed Kat on her cheeks and squeezed her shoulders lightly. “If you’re going out, darling, don’t stay too late. Especially with all this murder nonsense going on.”

Summerside, Florida had never witnessed something so gruesome as a serial killer. It was a boring town, a population of less than 100,000. They just recently built a Krispy Kreme in the midtown plaza, a grand spectacle that nearly everyone in town went to the opening day where they passed out free doughnuts. Most people’s worries were raccoons getting into their trash and troublesome neighborhood kids. No one used to lock their doors or close their windows, but when the bodies started appearing, stripped of their shirt (consistently sweaters) nobody knew how to react.

Kat gave one last wave. “You too, mom. Stay safe.”

Then her mom was out the door and Kat found her way back into the kitchen, looking for something to eat. She had spent all her energy the night before on both work and her side projects, she wasn’t sure when the last time she had eaten was.

A whole lot of nothing filled the chilled fridge. And not even closing it a few times, walking away and back to it to check if something magically popped up seemed to fill it any more than it already wasn’t.

There was a corner store just down the street, but it was already dark out and walking alone seemed like a bad idea. Her stomach growled as if responding to the idea of not getting food. And what her stomach wanted, her stomach got.

Reluctantly, she slid on some worn out flip-flops and pocketed her key, as well as a switchblade just in case, after locking the door behind her.

The apartment she lived in with her mom dated back from the nineteenth century when it used to be a hotel of some sort. When they first moved in, the landlord explained the wood held original pieces and flooring from when it was first built. Ever since another resident fell through an unstable step and nearly died, Kat believed the landlord. An elevator was built in not too long after while the stairwells were all put under repairs.

The elevator, however, was no better. It would give the movie Devil a run for its money. A rank scent of rust and metal greeted Kat when she stepped in. It burst into a loud series of rattles and groans as the cables geared into action when she pressed the button for the first floor. The mirror behind her had long since been water stained as well as a few large cracks splitting the middle and sides. Spots of god knows what splattered along the linoleum flooring, and the flickering lights buzzed like wasps.

The elevator stopped on the second floor and for a moment, the doors did not open. The damned thing had shut down on multiple occasions, Kat prayed it had not once more. Sitting out the rest of the night while only one of the two fire stations dispatched help did not seem all too pleasing. Especially since her time would be spent in the coffin that was an elevator. Even though there was a security camera in the very top right corner, it hadn’t worked for ages. In fact, none of the security cameras within the complex worked, no one would be watching.

Eventually, it did open. Though when it did, no one was there waiting to step inside. Kat frowned and poked her head out, looking left and right, but the corridors showed her nothing but gray walls with peeling paint and rows of shoddy doors.

She stepped back, a sudden chill pebbling her bare arms. It might have just been her overactive imagination playing tricks on her. Regardless, she was slightly spooked, and she couldn’t have pressed the button to the first floor again any faster.

But just as the doors were about to fully close, a hand shot between, stopping them from sealing. Katherine took a step back, stifling a gasp. There hadn’t been anyone in the hall, she was sure of it…

Soon the face to which the hand belonged to revealed itself. He was short, not much taller than Kat’s own five feet, five inches. A shadow of beard grew down his jaw and neck, and a balding head caught even the faint light of the elevator. Thick, unkempt brows loomed over black beady eyes. He did not smile when their gazes met, and when he walked forward, as if to walk right into Kat, she shifted and moved out of his way. And like she suspected, he took her place where she had just stood.

He held an umbrella over his shoulder that was clothed in a knit sweater. It had pockets. An odd thing for a knit sweater. Kat slipped her thumbs into the pockets of her shorts and closed in on herself as the elevator started up again.

The brief, though loud ride down, was tense. Something about the man set Kat on edge once again and he had not once moved a muscle. It was almost as if he wasn’t breathing.

She bolted through the doors and out the building as soon as she was free to do so and did not look back. The switchblade in her pocket was a comforting item to clutch onto during her walk toward the corner store, and though it took about ten minutes to reach, it wasn’t nearly enough time to brush off that uncertainty the man from the elevator had left her with. Something had been off about him. What exactly that was, she could not put her finger on it.

Kat wiped away sweat accumulating on her forehead, stains already leaking down the sides of her tank top. The blessed air condition of the 7-Eleven chilled the heat that had become a cumbersome weight on her back and she let herself take a relaxed breath under the fluorescent lights.

Though the 7-Eleven was almost like stepping into some alternate universe. The only way she could describe everything was stale. The air itself felt stale. Bland and grey, the only color was the disruptive neon lights of a Bud Light sign that buzzed and flickered. The cashier said nothing as she walked through the short aisles, picking up cheap snacks and canned soups. And a small radio from behind the counter blared a podcast about the Summerside serial killer and who could be potential suspects.

Kat picked up a bottled water and listened.

“Supposedly there’s some asshole attempting to go undercover and hunt the killer out,” one high-pitched male voice said.

“Well, if he dies, there’s no one else to blame other than his own idiocy,” replied a deeper toned woman. “Don’t be stupid, folks. Don’t wear sweaters in the middle of the damned summer, either. I mean, what were the victims thinking, anyway?”

The man laughed. “Don’t be insensitive, Sarah-Jean. Besides, the killer didn’t always attack those wearing it. Sometimes he’d break into their homes and pull on one of their sweaters from their closet then kill their next target.”

“Well, all I know is I’m burning every sweater I own.”

Kat dropped her items on the counter, startling the cashier who was lost in some daze.

“Is that all?” he asked, beginning to scan and bag.

She nodded, not paying all that much attention as she handed him a twenty for her ten-dollar purchase and he slipped the change and receipt in the bag.

Her walk home felt shorter than the walk to the store. Although it was partially to blame on the fact she was moving a lot quicker, she could feel someone watching her, following her. And though her brief glances over her shoulder revealed no one, she wasn’t taking any chances and hurried back into her apartment building.

When the elevator pinged and the doors open, Kat had to stifle another gasp. It was the same man from before. The man that had made her uneasy and practically sick to her stomach.

It was like he hadn’t moved the spot he stood when she was coming down. Kat glanced to the blocked off stairwell, then back to the open elevator. Should she risk falling to her death or the strange man in the elevator?

The man looked at her, waiting. He smiled and placed his hand on the side of the door to keep it from closing, then beckoned her inside.

She clenched her fist around her shopping bag tighter, palms sweaty, and stepped inside. Pushing the button to the third floor, Kat made her way into the left corner, the handlebar digging into her lower back. She kept one eye on the man, wary of the short distance between them.

The elevator felt like it was taking a thousand years, the rumbling of the floors and walls mimicking the racing of her heart. Kat noticed he didn’t press a floor number, specifically the second the floor from which he’d come from.

When the elevator finally reached the last floor, Kat made another rush for her apartment. And with shaking hands, she searched for her keys. She finally realized what had made her so tense, so on edge.

He was wearing a sweater in the middle of summer.

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder. “I know who you are.”

Kat whirled and swung the bag of canned soups against the strange man’s skull. She took advantage of his shocked state and kneed him in the groin, bringing him crumpled to the floor. Twisting his sweater in her fist, she used her free hand to get out her key and open the door. There, she fit the man’s head between the door wedge.

“You’re Summerside’s serial killer,” he croaked.

“And you’re the asshole undercover who thought he could best me.” Kat smiled. “Surprise.” Then she sent the door slamming against his head.

Kat let loose a breath, a sudden chill sweeping her skin. It had pockets. His sweater had pockets and she wanted it. Blood began to gush from the wound in his skull, and she had to deal with the problem now before it got out of hand.

She tugged the sweater off his torso and found comfort in its softness as she slipped it over her head. Allowing herself a few moments to assess the situation and her new-found treasure, she then hauled the man up from the shoulders and dragged him toward the stairwell.

And in those pockets of her sweater, she stuffed the crumpled up yellow caution tape.

His dead weight was heavy enough to fall through another unsafe step. A delightfully chilling sound of broken bones and splattering blood echoed through the corridors.

She needed to hurry and clean up the trail of blood before any other tenants decide to see what all the ruckus about.

A couple hours passed when Kat had finally finished cleaning everything up and now relaxed on her sofa, sipping on soup while watching some lifetime movie about a girl stolen as a baby when her mother walked through the door. Her mom was all smiles and blushes.

“How was your date, mom?”

“Oh, just fine, dear.” She folded up her shawl and did a double-take at Kat. “Why are you wearing a sweater, dear? It’s dreadfully hot.”

Kat smiled and slid a hand into her pocket. “Just a little chilly, mother. Just a little chilly.”

Yasmene is a full-time university student learning to write a little bit better everyday.

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