I run my hand across my forehead in an attempt to dull the throbbing against my skull. I’ve been at this party too long. I look at my phone and the time reads, “2:04 am.” “I have to get out of here,” I try to tell my friend Kaya over the blasting music. “What?” she yells in my ear, sending a shooting pain burrowing deep into my head. I take out my car keys and point to the door. Kaya’s face contorts disapprovingly and she grabs my arm to lead me to a quieter area of the house. “You want to go home already?” she complains. “I have a headache and I just want to go to bed,” I reply. “You want to go to bed? But it’s so early!” I show her my phone and Kaya gasps. “Exactly, I’m gonna go to the car. Say your goodbyes and meet me outside,” I say a bit more sternly than I had planned.
When I’m outside, away from the heat of an overcrowded house party and the booming music, my headache finally begins to diminish. The fresh, cool early morning air feels relaxing as I take in long, deep breaths of it. By the time I am in my car, the pain in my head is gone and I take a sigh of relief as I drive up to the house and see Kaya waiting on the curb. “Thank God, you are so responsible! I would have stayed at that party forever and missed work completely tomorrow!” Kaya exclaims. “I try, but hey, sorry I snapped at you back there. I’m just so tired.” “Don’t even worry about it,” she waves her hand at me, “Like I said, if it wasn’t for you, I’d be a mess.” Kaya lets out a small laugh and for the remainder of the car ride, the only noise that fills the air is the low radio playing between us. After a half mile drive, Kaya and I say our farewells and I make my way home.
Walking to the front of my house, I take out my keys and clumsily unlock the door in the dark. I take special care to open it very slowly, so I won’t wake up my parents. Ever since I turned eighteen three years ago, they took away my curfew because they felt I was responsible enough to make my own choices. However, as my dad always says, they “can bring it back anytime, if I betray their trust.” Immediately as the door opens, I am hit with a strong metallic smell. Turning on the light, I look into my illuminated living room, my knees go weak, and I fall to the floor.
Our beige carpet is stained a deep red in two awful puddles. The source of those puddles? My parents, both slain on the floor, laying still. As if they were both done simultaneously, my mom and dad have matching slices across their throats. I close my eyes. This can’t be true. I passed out at the party and this is all just a horrific dream. Taking a deep breath, I open my eyes and the two bodies lay in front of me, in the same positions I left them in. I want to scream, but I can’t. It’s too much to take in and let out noise at the same time. I desperately crawl to my mom and grab her hand. “Don’t worry Mom, I’m gonna you and Dad help and you’ll be okay.” Suddenly my brain starts to work. I have to call 911. Trembling, I take out my cellphone and dial the three numbers. “911, what’s your emergency?” the operator on the phone asks in a plain female voice. Again, I am struck speechless. I can’t say it out loud, it’s too horrible. “Hello? Are you there?” the voice continues. “Yes, I, I, I just came home and my parents, they’re really hurt. I need an ambulance.” “Ma’am, what happened to your parents?” “My mom and dad are both slit in the throat. There’s blood everywhere. Oh my God, you have to get someone here fast! You can’t let them die! Please get an ambulance now!” “Ma’am, you said they were slit in the throat, do they have pulses?” I kept hold of my mom’s hand as I feel her wrist. “I can’t feel anything on my mom. It must be really weak, but wait, let me try my dad.” Doing a similar process with my father, I get the same results. “My dad’s the same way. Don’t you see, the longer you wait to call someone, the worse they’re going to get!” “I understand. What is your name and your address. I will send a police officer over right away.” “Brooke Stevens, 316 Oak Drive in Little Falls.” After a brief pause, the operator speaks, “Okay, Brooke, someone is coming now. Now, as calmly as you can answer, I need you to let me know, are you safe? Did you check the house to make sure no one was in there with you?” “No, I didn’t even think. . .” my voice changes to a whisper, “You’re right, the person that did this to my parents could be here, waiting to do it to me!” “Brooke, take a deep breath, don’t think that way. Don’t move from where you are, until the officer gets there.” “But I could be a sitting duck, just waiting to be shot, or cut.” “You have to trust me. Everything will be better if you wait for the police officer. Please stay on the phone with me, okay?” “Okay.” Kneeling between my parents, I hold a hand from each in mine. “When the police get here, you’ll both be alright.”
After what seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life, a knock on the door startles me. “Police, open the door,” a male voice commands. Still on the phone with the 911 operator, and not wanting to let go of my parents, I yell, “It’s open.” Two policemen stand in front of me. “Oh, thank God!” I exclaim. “Come here and help them, I don’t think they have much time left!” The taller officer gives his partner a look, yet stays where he is. “Don’t just stand there! Help them, please!” The shorter one kneels by me and checks for pulse too. He knows what he’s doing; he’ll feel it! With a shake of the shorter officer’s head, I lose control. “Why haven’t you called for an ambulance yet? Can’t you see my mom and dad need help! What are you waiting for?” “Let me talk to the operator while you and my partner go outside.” The taller one says matter-of-factly. “No, you aren’t doing anything! If I go outside, you’ll probably forget my parents altogether!” “I have to talk to the operator so I can call who we need. And to let me help your parents the best way I can would be if you go outside so I can get everything done properly,” the taller cop reasons. Simply nodding, I hand over my cellphone and walk outside to the wicker couch on my porch. Sitting down, I stare into the morning darkness, trying to figure out what is going on. Who hurt my parents? Are they going to be okay? “Is there anyone you want to call to come over here with you?” The shorter cop asks, pulling me out of my daze. “My brothers. I forgot about them. They’re on a road trip to California. I can’t be the one to tell them this. I don’t even understand what’s going on. I come home from a party and my parents are lying in pools of blood. How do I explain that? Please, if I give you the number, can you tell them?” I plead.
He agrees and I give him my middle brother Eric’s number. Just as he begins to speak, an ambulance pulls up and I let out a sigh of relief. Finally, Mom and Dad will be alright. After I watch the EMTs rush in, the officer hands his phone to me. “Eric?” “Brooke, I can’t believe this happened. I can’t believe we aren’t there to be with you.” Already my brother was hiding his own emotions to try and protect me. “I know. It’s so horrible. Seeing them on the floor like that, I’ll never get that picture out of my mind.” “Brooke, did they. . .do you think they’re going to—?” Before Eric can finish the sentence, I interrupt him. “Don’t talk like that. The EMTs are here and soon they’ll get to the hospital. Where are you guys?” “We’re in Indianapolis and can’t be home until at least tomorrow night. I think you should call Nick, okay?” I’m taken back by the statement. Since we started dating three years ago, my brothers never particularly liked my boyfriend Nick, normal older brother tendencies; however, it’s only gotten worse in the past few months since we’ve been having problems with our relationship and they’ve been my shoulder to cry on on many occasions. Before I can dwell further, Eric continues, “Craig and I don’t want you being alone right now and we know Kaya doesn’t have a car to get to you. Please Brooke.” “Okay, I’ll call him.” “Alright, now let me talk to the cop again, but text me when Nick gets there.” “I will.” “I love you Brooke.” “I love you too, and tell Craig the same.” “Will do.”
Once he’s off the phone with Eric, I ask the officer to use it again to call Nick. After a tense few rings, a groggy voiced Nick answers. “Hello?” “Nick, it’s Brooke.” “What? Did you get too drunk at your party and now you want me to come pick you up?” He asks belligerently. “No, Nick please. I know we’ve been fighting, but I really need you right now. My parents both had their throats slit right in my living room.” I hear a gasp on the other end. “Right now the paramedics are working on them, but I don’t know. Craig and Eric left on their road trip this morning, and I just can’t be alone right now. Can you come over?” Nick starts to answer when a black van pulls up to the front of my house with the words “CORONER” printed on the side in bold yellow letters.
I drop the phone and jump up. “Coroner? Wait, that means. . .What are they doing here?” I shout at the officer that is giving me a sympathetic look. “No, they didn’t. My parents they’re… they’re dead?” Every ounce of control that I foolishly thought I had is gone. “No, no, it can’t be true.” I look at the cop with tears welling in my eyes. I want to shake him until he tells me it is a mistake, a wrong turn, not meant for my address. Then, three men get out and remove two stretchers from the back of the vehicle, both containing black bags. “I’m sorry Brooke,” the officer says gently. “No! This is a sick joke! My mom and dad aren’t dead! They can’t be.” I run towards the house, but the cop stops me. “You can’t go in there; it’s officially a crime scene.” I am broken. I am alone, out the dark while the bodies, no, corpses of my dead parents are being put into black bags to be wheeled away and examined. I want to cry, but I feel too numb. It doesn’t feel real. I can’t connect to this reality. It can’t be mine. I gaze off into the darkness yet again, still pleading to be somehow woken up at any moment.
Soon, I hear a voice, not an unfamiliar official voice, but a caring voice I know. “Brooke?” Nick asks softly. He sits next to me and wraps his arms around me. “I’m sorry baby. I know this is such a tough thing to deal with,” he soothes. I put my arms around him and sob. “They were just there when I left at ten and now, now they’re gone.” Nick tilts my head back and I’m looking at him. “Brooke, you’re going to be okay. I promise.” He kisses my forehead and I again bury my face in his chest. “Miss Stevens?” Yet another voice fills my ears and I turn my face to it. “I’m Detective Fields and this is my partner Detective Vee. We understand this is a difficult time, but you have to come to the station with us.” “You think I killed my parents?!” I ask in utter disbelief. “Brooke, no one is jumping to conclusions, we just need you to make a statement for our records,” says Detective Vee. “Can he come with me, he’s my boyfriend.” “For right now, you have to ride with us, but he can follow us there.” I look back at Nick and he gives me an approving nod. “I’ll be right behind you. You won’t even know I was gone.” He gives me one last hug before I follow the detectives to their car.
The ride to the police station is torturous because I’m left with my own thoughts in the eerily quiet car. Just a few hours ago I was at a party and I was worried about waking my parents up when I got home, and now they’re gone. That word doesn’t even seem real to me, gone. My parents can’t be gone. My mom is the one who makes her special meatball soup when I’m sick, tells me to wear a jacket when it’s cold, and always has the best dating advice. My dad is the one that hangs up the Christmas lights, mows the lawn, and always knows exactly what to do when I’m having car trouble. I can’t not have a force like that in my life; it’s too terrible to imagine, much less live through. A lump forms in my throat and I feel like I’m going to start crying again. I turn around to look out the back window and Nick is in the car right behind us, just like he promised. The sight of his face calms me down just in time. “Brooke, we’re about to be there. We’re gonna go in, ask you a few questions, and then you can leave,” explains Detective Vee.
Entering the station, Nick is told to wait on a bench as I am escorted to a room with a small table, three chairs, a lone light bulb hanging overhead, and a two-way mirror. The detectives sit on one side of the table while I sit on the other. As they are setting up the room and getting their paperwork in order, I study their features. Under the light, I can see them both clearly for the first time. Detective Fields is a husky man at about 6’2 that seems to be in his mid-forties and needs a shave to remove the five o’clock shadow that I would now classify as ten o’clock shadow. Detective Vee is another sort all her own. She is a younger thin woman of average height with strong bone structure and blonde curly hair tied in a ponytail. It may seem foolish to focus on such things, but I’d do anything at this point to distract myself until I have to relive all the details of my parents’ murders. Even in my head, that last word spends a chill down my spine. Just then, the click of a tape recorder turning on rips me from my thoughts.
“Today is May 18, 2014 and the time is 4:05 am. I am Detective Fields here with Detective Vee and we are both interrogating Brooke Stevens about the murder of her parents, David and Linda Stevens.” He looks into my eyes and asks plainly, “Can you lead me through the events of what happened tonight and what you witnessed?” Starting from leaving for the party to the time the pair introduced themselves to me, I relive every mundane or gory detail: the last time moment I saw my parents alive, the party, the car ride with Kaya, the metallic scent, the red pools, the perfect slices, everything. A few times we have to stop because my crying fits change my voice to hopeless noises that cannot be understood by anyone, including me.
“Thank you Brooke, now can you think of anyone who would want your parents dead?” Detective Vee asks me after I calm down from the last sobbing episode. “No, they were both great people. My mom’s an accountant and my dad’s a carpenter; they are—were average people. My mom would help the neighbors with their taxes for free and my dad would give discounts to the majority of people he worked for. They didn’t do anything to make enemies!” I explain assertively. “Okay, so if they didn’t have a reason to have enemies, is there anyone close to them that you think could have done it?” Detective Fields presses, “Maybe your mom made a mistake on a neighbor’s taxes and it caused them to be bitter or maybe your dad didn’t give a customer exactly what they wanted?” “That doesn’t even make sense, even if those things did happen, I can hardly see either of them causing someone to do such a ghastly thing.” Then again, none of this entire situation makes sense to me. “How about people closer? Did your parents have any problems with family?” Detective Vee asks. “Not that I know of. Most of my family on both sides lives in California. My parents moved to the East Coast before I was born, so I don’t get to see my family very often.” “Speaking of California, weren’t your two brothers, Craig and Eric, going there recently?” Detective Fields jumps on the mention of the state. “Yes, they were on a road trip to see our cousins. Like I said, we don’t get to see my extended family very often and my brothers have been looking forward to this trip for months.” “Alright, and when did they leave for the trip?” “This morning, but why does that matter?” “Don’t you think it’s a bit convenient that both your brothers just happen to ‘leave the state’ the exact night your parents are murdered?” “Are you kidding me? You think Eric and Craig killed our parents?!” I don’t even know how to process the accusation. “Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?” The hysteria in my voice must be matched with a crazy look in my eye because immediately Detective Vee begins to speak to me in a pacifying tone. “Brooke, we are just trying to get all the facts, so we can figure out who did this.” She puts her hand on my shoulder. “The more we know, the closer we come to solving this case and prosecuting whoever did this to your parents.” Detective Fields starts to ask another question when his partner stops him. “I think we have enough for now.” Detective Vee raises her hand to stop his action. With a frustrated groan, he storms out of the room. “Brooke, you can go now, but we will be in contact with you later today.” Detective Vee instructs and adds, “I know it’s probably the last thing on your mind, but try to get some sleep.” With that, I exit the room and find Nick asleep on the bench where I left him over an hour ago.
“Nick?” I give him a light nudge, he is startled awake, and stares at me with a wild gaze. “Nick, I’m done. We can leave.” Fixing his eyes on me, Nick’s face relaxes; he stands up, and puts his arm around me and we walk to his car. The digital clock on the radio flashes 5:37 am when Nick turns the key in the ignition. “I called my mom and she set up the guest room for you,” he tells me as we settle in our seats. “I didn’t even think of where I would go, I forgot I can’t go home.” “Don’t worry about it.” Nick is still a little dazed from just being woken up and I have too much on my mind to even want to talk, so the ride to his house is a silent one. Walking through the door, Nick’s mom suddenly has her arms around me. “Oh honey, I don’t even know what to say about such a tragedy! You don’t deserve this at all! You, your brothers, and your parents, are all such good people! I can’t believe this.” She pulls away and there are tears in her eyes. Suddenly I feel like I have to comfort her instead of the other way around. “Mom, Brooke is understandably upset, I think she just wants to go to sleep. She’s been up all night,” Nick suggests. “To be honest, I don’t even think I can sleep. My body is physically tired, but my mind is too wound up to sleep,” I admit. “I have just what you need! Go to the guest room and I will be there in a minute,” Nick’s mom, who has now controlled herself, pipes up.
Entering the guest room, I can smell the scent of newly washed sheets and notice a night gown folded neatly on the bed. On the dresser is a pile of fresh white towels and a box of tissues is on the nightstand. Just like any mother, Nick’s mom has thought of everything. I sit on the bed and get choked up as I think of how my mom would have had the same standards for making a guest feel right at home. However, before I can even let out a tear, my hostess is at the door holding a glass of water and cupping something in her other hand. “Brooke, I want you to take these to get some sleep,” she directs as she gives me the water and two pills. Normally, I would have protested, but I definitely wasn’t looking forward to laying in bed crying, waiting for the police to contact me for more grueling questions. After I finish the glass, Nick’s mom sits on the bed next to me and takes my hand. “Honey, I don’t understand why this has happened to you, but just know that God has a plan for everything. It may not make any sense right now or even for a while, but God knows what He’s doing and He won’t keep you in the dark for long.” She leaves me in the room and I’m alone for the first time since I left Kaya’s house. Changing into the nightgown, I try everything in my power to not let my mind wander to my parents. I can’t think of them; it’s too painful right now. Distraction, yes that’s what I need. I start searching through the room for something, maybe a book, anything that can take my mind off the present. I open a drawer and I’m greeted by a pile of blue and white pills. Well, it looks like Nick’s mom has another stash. Maybe that is why she is always so happy? Well, except for tonight. I let out a small sigh, and shut the drawer. Despite my efforts, distraction proves to be a difficult task, so I walk back to the bed and lay in torturous silence until the pills I took before take effect.
Unfortunately, I am barely asleep with the door opens, and a figure is advancing towards the bed. I open my mouth to scream, but nothing comes out. Before I can dodge the attack, the figure is on top of me. It’s dark and I can’t see a face, but I know my assailant is a man. I thrash about trying to get away, but his force is too strong. Pinning me to the bed, he leans his head closer to mine and whispers, “I got your parents and now I will get you.” I watch helplessly as he takes out a knife and runs it teasingly around my cheek. “Ah, just like the first two, my knife will go so smooth across your skin, like butter.” He positions the blade on my neck and again I try to scream. This time it works; I open my mouth and a piercing yell comes out. Now that I have this power back, I use it for all its worth. I begin screaming over and over to get help. I am using so much energy in my vocal cords that I close my eyes to channel everything I have into yelling.
I feel a set of hands on my shoulders; I release my squint and open my eyes. I am in the same room, the same darkness, but no man is on top of me. Nick is sitting on the bed calling my name. “Brooke? Brooke, calm down. It’s okay. It was just a dream. You’re okay.” I position my mouth to let another scream when I stop myself. He’s right; it was just a nightmare. “Oh my God, Nick. I was so scared. The guy who killed my parents came here to kill me. He had a knife and was about to slit my throat. It felt so real.” I begin to sob. I’ve held it off too long and now the dam has broken. I can’t do it anymore. Nick holds me in his arms and tries to stop my shaking by holding me tighter. “You have nothing to worry about Brooke, I will never let anyone hurt you, not while I’m around.” Eventually, my shaking stops, my breathing slows, and I start to feel the pills take effect again. Nick senses it too, I can feel him moving around, preparing to get up. “No, Nick, please stay with me,” I grab his arm. “I can’t be alone, not even with you a room away. I need you here, with me.” He moves back onto the bed and pulls me in. “I’ll be right here. Go back to sleep and I’ll be here when you wake up.” He smooths my hair back into place and before I can say anything more, I am asleep.
With no more interruptions, I manage to get a few hours of sleep in. As I wake up, I hear Nick tease, “Ah, my Sleeping Beauty has finally arisen from her slumber.” Looking up, I can’t help but let out a smile, as I notice he is in the exact spot I left him in. “What time is it? Noon?” I ask as reality returns to me. “It’s actually five o’clock,” Nick eases. “I slept almost twelve hours?” I ask in disbelief. “Yeah, I knew my mom should have never given you that stuff, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.” “I have so much to get done.” The hysteria in my voice grows. “I need to call Craig and Eric to tell them they have to meet me here and not our house. And the cops, ah I bet they called and are so mad I didn’t pick up.” I am about to go on when Nick stops me. “Everything is taken care of Brooke. Your brothers should be here in the next hour and the police only called to let you know that an officer will be coming by to make sure Craig and Eric report the station after they get here.” “But how did you…?” “A lot can get accomplished with a cellphone and twelve hours of staying in the same place.” “Thank you.” Two simple words, but I can’t express how grateful I am to have him with me, especially now. If I can’t show my gratitude, I have to at least show regret. “Nick, I’m sorry we’ve been fighting recently. With school and work and just everything, it’s all gotten to me. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” “Brooke, after all you’ve been through in the past twenty-four hours, you think I’m even thinking about that? This is why I love you, always thinking about others before yourself.” He kisses my forehead and stumbles as he gets out of bed. “Get dressed, Craig and Eric will refuse to wait any longer to see you once they get here.”
At six a police car arrives and about twenty minutes later, Craig’s car pulls up. I don’t know who’s faster as both my brothers and I rush to embrace, but when we all connect, tears are flowing and words are being exchanged all at the same time that it barely makes sense. I don’t care though; these two are the last in my family and now that they are here in front of me, I can’t think of anything else of relevance. As we all calm down, Craig begins, “Brooke, of all the weekends we are gone, this happens.” “Thank God you weren’t there,” Eric adds, “Losing Mom and Dad is hard enough, but our baby sister too—” “I’m sorry to cut this reunion short, but you two have to come with me,” the officer interrupts. It’s difficult to hide my distaste, but I know they have to go. “Get back as soon as you can, okay?” I plead. They nod in agreement, each gives me one last hug, and I watch as the car disappears around the corner. As if waiting for them to come back in the state wasn’t bad enough, waiting for them to get through interrogation is even worse. All I can think about was how Detective Fields accused my own brothers of killing our parents. I can only imagine how he is treating them now. Three long hours and I am on the verge of a breakdown when my brothers walk through the door. “They had absolutely nothing on us, but they kept us there to try to extract the information they swore we had,” Eric explains. Entering the living room, Craig sits on the couch and isn’t adding to Eric’s complaints in the slightest, extremely uncharacteristic for my oldest brother. “They showed him pictures of the murder scene and he broke down,” Eric replies to my puzzling gaze. “They showed me too, but I barely got a glance. There’s no way I’m remembering my parents that way.” After all the frustration is released, I manage to get Eric and even Craig to eat the dinner Nick’s mom has prepared. That night Nick is not needed in my room as my brothers and I all stay in the one guest room. It’s a tight sleeping situation, but I wouldn’t feel safer anywhere else than in between Craig and Eric. The next morning, we get another visit from Detectives Fields and Vee. They come to tell us that their investigation is ongoing and they will update us as time goes on, yet unfortunately they had nothing new to report. Two days later, we are allowed to return back to our house. I appreciated Nick and his family for all they had done, but after a while, one changes from feeling like a guest to feeling a nuisance. The reentry was horrible. As soon as I locked eyes on the beige carpet, that is now free from any stain thanks to crime scene clean up team, the whole night came right back to me. Fortunately, with my brothers by my side, I was able to work through it.
A week goes by and still nothing. My brothers and I attempt to return to some state of normalcy, but it’s difficult going on day after day and knowing that Mom and Dad are never coming home. The wounds are reopened every morning after the stupor of sleep wears off and we are reminded again of the dark reality.
Today I vow to be different. I am awake at a reasonable hour and I have a full day planned with Kaya. Arriving at her house, I am relieved to see her smiling. The first few times I saw her after “the incident” were tough because she didn’t know what to say and she didn’t hide that fact. However, now as she gets in my car and we drive to the nearest hiking trails, I can’t help but be thankful to have my best friend back in working order. Hiking from path to path, we stop every so often to look at the wild flowers and waterfalls. The fresh air filling my lungs and the dirt crushing beneath my feet feel invigorating and for the first time in almost two weeks, I feel some small sense of peace. It is approaching four o’clock when the hunger and exhaustion of the day start to come down on Kaya and me. Once we reach my car, my cellphone starts to flash wildly. This is a usual occurrence once we exit the park, since reception is spotty on the trails. This time, the action worries me because five calls are from police department. I quickly redial the call and am told to come to the station immediately.
Due to my distance away and dropping off Kaya, it takes an hour and a half for me to reach the station. Since she is waiting outside when I get there, Detective Vee is the first person to meet me. “Brooke, we have to go now,” she commands. “We know who killed your parents and now he has your brother Craig.” “What? Who? Where? Is Craig okay?” The questions are pouring out of me and Vee answers them all with great patience as we make our way to the location unknown to me. “For a while, we were losing hope. There was no murder weapon or DNA and we were worried we weren’t going to find who did this. But then, one of your neighbors called in and said they saw Nick’s car in front of your house the night your parents were killed. She didn’t think much of it then because she’s seen the car many times before. However, once she heard the details of the crime on the news, she couldn’t stop herself from feeling suspicious and gave us a call. We’ve been tracking Nick’s every move since and we’ve had no physical evidence to even question him about, until now.” She pauses in what I think is a window for me to ask questions, but I’m silent so she continues. “Today, he called your house posing as the funeral director and asked Eric and Craig meet him downtown to discuss your parents’ arrangements. Eric was busy on his cellphone with the insurance company and sent Craig to go alone. From there, our officers saw Craig enter the rundown building that they followed Nick to and knew something was wrong. They immediately followed your brother in, but by the time they found the correct room, Nick already had taken Craig hostage.” “Is he alive?” I swallow hard. “Yes, and the officers are doing everything in their power to keep it that way. Detective Fields is talking with Nick now and he’s demanding to see you or he threatened to hurt Craig.” I hear the words come out of her mouth, but they don’t compute. I feel like she has just spoken to me in another language that I can’t comprehend. Nick, my boyfriend, the one who’s been soothing all my cries and wiping away my tears, is behind my parents’ murders and has now taken my brother hostage? How am I supposed to take this? It feels even more unbelievable than the murder itself. Part of me wants to protest, but I have no strength. In two weeks time, this is far too much for anyone to digest. I internally plead with every fiber of my being that this is a nightmare and soon I will be woken up by Craig, Eric, or even my own screams.
My wish is never granted. Soon, we arrive at a building that is surrounded by police and I am greeted by a hysterical Eric. “How was I supposed to know that the police didn’t get funeral directors to call you? It seemed to make sense to me, but look where it’s got us, look where it’s got him!” Had it had been any other time, I would have thrown my arms around Eric to comfort him and dispel his self-blame. However, right now it was too much for me to handle. I callously walked past Eric with nothing more than a squeeze of his hand and a look in the eye. In the elevator, Detective Vee coaches me on the proper way to talk to Nick as she helps me slip on a bulletproof vest. “You have to stay calm. The calmer you are, the calmer he will be and the less likely he is to do anything to Craig.” It’s still hard for me to speak when I am ushered to the door that houses Nick and my brother.
“Nick, Brooke is here.” Detective Fields informs. “I don’t believe you! Have her say something,” Nick shouts. The detectives look at me and give a nod as a cue to begin. “Nick, it’s Brooke. Please don’t hurt my brother.” “I was never going to hurt him, I just wanted to see you and I still do.” Nick’s voice settles down. “I am going to come and unlock the door and I want Brooke to come in. If anyone else comes in, I will shoot Craig and anyone I can after.” “No! You can’t let her in there! He’ll kill them both!” Eric bursts out, “I can’t lose my whole family!” There is a sudden burst of activity as Eric is apprehended and taken away. Then, from behind the door, a gunshot. “Listen, I am in charge here and if I don’t get my way. It’s all over.” Nick commands. “That was just a warning shot, but the next one will be right through his skull.” Taking a deep breath, I respond. “It will just be me, Nick; I promise.” After approval nods from the detectives, I make my way towards the door and turn the knob. As soon as both my feet are just in the room, Nick slams the door behind me, locking it again.
Craig is in the middle of a studio apartment, tied to a chair, and gagged with a white cloth. Nick circles around and touches my face. “Oh Brooke, my sweet, sweet love, don’t look so frightened. You are just here with me. I won’t let anyone hurt you, remember?” Stay calm, whatever you do, stay calm. “You may not have hurt me physically, but you have hurt me in other ways.” Nick lets out an aggravated sigh, throws his hands up in the air, and starts pacing. “I knew you were going to act like this. They’ve brainwashed you into thinking I’m a monster, when all I ever did was love you.” “Who brainwashed me?” “Your parents and now your brothers. They’ve pinned everything on me and they have you hating me.” “Why would you say that?” “The fighting, Brooke. We couldn’t go a day without an argument and I knew where it was heading and I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t lose you.” “Nick, what did you do?” “I did what was best for us. Haven’t you seen? Since they’ve been gone, we have been closer than we’ve been in months! All thanks to me.” “You killed my parents to save our relationship?” I let too much emotion slip out with my question and it immediately reflects on Nick. “Don’t you see? I had to. They were going to split us up and I couldn’t bear it. I needed to be with you forever and I couldn’t let anyone get in our way.” I feel tears build in my eyes, but I try to hold them back. “If you already dealt with my parents, why my brothers too?” “Same reasons, I couldn’t let them get in the way. I would have gotten them all at once, but four against one doesn’t really put the odds in my favor. So, I had to plan strategically and up until now, everything’s been working perfectly.” He circles around in front of me and grabs my hands. “Don’t you see Brooke? It might not have gone as planned, but you and I, we can run away. We can be together without any distractions, just me and you.” He pulls me in for a kiss, but I force myself away. “Did you ever think it was you who caused our fights? Out of nowhere, you stopped wanting to go out, and if I did convince you to leave, you would act so weird around other people. Even when it was just me and you, all you wanted to do was stay in and watch a movie or sleep. I tried to ask you what was wrong, but you never let me in. I couldn’t take it anymore.” The anger was boiling up inside Nick and I could almost see the steam waiting to escape his head. “Don’t say that Brooke, you loved me. You wanted to be with me.” “Yes, at a time, I loved you and wanted you. But now, now I . . .I” I’m stopped by Nick’s actions. He’s breathing heavy and his hands wring the gun. “I thought we would be so perfect Brooke, but you’re just like all of them and I can’t have that in my life.” He walks towards me with the gun pointed directly at me. “Nick, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things. I was wrong. Please don’t kill me.” “It’s a little too late for that.” Just before the gun goes off, the door to the apartment is busted down and police swarm in. Due to the commotion, a bullet only grazes my arm as a shooting war begins to erupt out. It’s all too much for me and despite any major injuries, I black out.
The next thing I know, I wake up in a hospital bed with Craig and Eric in chairs on either side of me. “Oh thank God,” Craig lets out a sigh of relief. “Brooke! You’re awake. We were so worried!” Eric cries. “Was I shot? What happened?” I ask. “No, he wasn’t able to get you. But, the cops and the hospital psychiatrist think the mental trauma was too much for you to handle and you passed out. They sedated you for the night, but they are keeping you here for a few days to make sure you are mentally and emotionally stable.” I nod in understanding, but then I turn my head away. I find myself in the middle of an internal battle in my head. Going back and forth in my head, one side finally wins and I blurt out what I’ve been trying to avoid. “Is Nick alive?” “No, the police took him down trying to protect you and he didn’t survive.” Eric is livid. “Now the bastard doesn’t even get to face his punishment, such a coward.”
A few days later, the truth is revealed. Nick had Schizophrenia. No one knew except his mom, who would do anything to keep her life looking as neat as the guest room I stayed in. She swore she knew nothing of his murderous plans and thought he was taking his medication, but the autopsy found no amount of it in his system. Upon investigation, they found he was hiding the meds in the guest room. The blue and white pills weren’t his mom’s, but his. Anger rises within my veins. Why would he do this? Why couldn’t he just take the pills and be stable? My parents could still be alive, but no, Nick had to be selfish and not do a simple task. Now my parents are dead and so is he, all because he was too good to take pills.
Some time later…
It’s been eight months since that early morning in May and every day proves to be a struggle. I took off the Fall semester because the thought of reading chapters and writing papers just seemed futile while my entire mind was consumed with coping with everything that occurred. I also have periods of blaming myself for the whole ordeal since Nick was my boyfriend and therefore it was my fault. As a result, I’ve entered a vacuuming depression, sprinkled with bouts of anxiety. Yet, with help from Craig, Eric, and the therapist they had to drag me to, I am slowly getting “better,” by their standards. I’m even registered for classes that start in the next few weeks. Of course, this comes with the full understanding that I can stop at any time, if it becomes too much to bear.
The medication I am now taking is meant to make me not feel so hopeless or nervous and I have to admit it does work. However, it works too well. Instead of not feeling the negative emotions, I feel nothing. The meds that are supposed to help me, just make me feel drained, an empty shell of who I used to be. My next thought is quite eerie. Now who am I supposed to be mad at, Nick or the disease? Despite his actions, I truly think that Nick didn’t exactly know the consequences of what he chose to do. Before the incident, I’d been with him three years and I thought his altered behavior was just laziness. However, as I’ve researched the illness, I found that Nick’s strange actions were all linked to common Schizophrenic symptoms. And now that I am having this reaction to the medication, I don’t know what to think. I don’t mean to excuse Nick; I am still angry, hurt, and surprised by his vile deed. Yet, it does give me something to think about that keeps awake long hours of the night. Who’s to say I won’t hit a wall, decide to stop taking my medication, and be the next one to go on a murderous rampage due to the demons that occupy my mind?