New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Deep Red, Chapter 2

In the concluding chapter of this whodunit, the prime suspect is brought to trial, but there may still be more to this mystery.
Illustrated by Rachel Lee.

Robert and Samantha Flier had been married for three days, no money for a real honeymoon. They had just been driving around the country, looking for a tiny escape before making their return as newlyweds.

Samantha’s friends told us they had noticed a large change in her, and thought she was hiding something. We realized once we found their car, tucked away by Todd in a parking lot, that they hadn’t just been driving to escape for a cheap honeymoon. They were looking at school districts.

That day I felt sick to my stomach and betrayed. I had no idea what to believe, I just believed what was easiest. During the trial, a tale was spun that Todd had felt abandoned by his parents his entire life, built from the interrogation that he gave me. The lawyer argued that Todd could see his parents in the two newlyweds, and took his anger out on them. At the end of my testimony, relating my entire conversations with Todd, the lawyer told the jury that perhaps he had overheard them in a restaurant. Or maybe he shared an elevator ride with them.

The lawyer then turned to me and asked me if I believed he could’ve done it, a question I think about a lot. I looked at Todd with tears streaming down his face, I looked at his hands shaking in the cuffs under the table, I looked at his feet writhing in pain, and I thought about how nice our conversation was until we found the bodies.  

I told the lawyer that I thought it could be possible.

The lawyer kept insisting that as the evidence and testimonies stacked higher and higher against him, I would get to watch Todd break, and reveal himself as the sociopath we were trying to lure out and convict.  

He told me almost all of them give up once they sense their acting can’t save their case, that I would learn this as I worked in the field more.

Surprisingly, Todd kept it up all along. Despite his constant claims that his car really had been stolen, and that he had no idea those bodies were there, the jury exposed him with the help of the lawyer, and my testimony. He was sentenced for murder without parole. The lawyer asked the jury to convict Todd for life as a reminder of the value life has, and its price.

Three months after the case had blown over, I considered going back to Lenny’s Drive Thru. The winter came, and weeks of on-and-off snow had left my Corolla looking like a yeti. I had been subconsciously avoiding getting it washed; my only other option was to drive out to Rockport, admitting to myself that I couldn’t do it. But I was a cop, I thought I had a duty to not let this town turn into a map of crimes — you had to be an optimist, forever. Cops that lost that became the enemy of the people.

So I went to Lenny’s. I got out and put my left foot on the ground to stand and wash, drenching it immediately. I looked down, and saw a puddle. A dark red puddle, seeping into my shoe, my sock, my skin.

Illustrated by Rachel Lee.

I sat with my foot underwater for a while. I got out of the car and looked around, trying to spot anything in the deep red puddle. I still felt dumbstruck. I didn’t realize I was shaking until I was driving away, and I didn’t realize I was driving away until I looked down at my hands and saw them on the wheel.

I told myself I couldn’t run point on this. If it was true, and I had been wrong, and the real killer was still out there, then I had convicted Todd Reynolds, an innocent boy who’d just been trying to survive. It was me, I had been the quarterback and his caging the touchdown, because without my statements there was no case. If that was true, I couldn’t be the one to deal with this. Someone else needed to take over and see this through. I told myself I’d go home and wake up to the call in the morning. Once I was there with the team, I would be a regular cop again, it wouldn’t just be me. It wouldn’t be the fault of the one cop, but of the system. I couldn’t hold the weight of this without my badge on.

I went home, burned my shoes, cleaned my tires. I made sure I left nothing at the wash.  I looked as hard as I could for hair or skin without tampering the scene too much, but all I saw was the deep red. I drove home reminding myself that it was possible that this was all a kid with red food coloring playing copycat, playing a joke. I only fell asleep once I focused on that possibility.

That was at about 10pm. That night, it rained from midnight to four. The streets flooded.  The car wash flooded. The pressure of the rainwater must’ve unclogged the drain, because I never got a call.

You’ve been in jail six years today. I’m sorry. I must burn this now, but I’m sorry.

Maybe one day I’ll actually send Todd one of these letters I’ve been writing to him.z

Email Matthew Davis at [email protected].

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