I arrived home after dark. The front door was opened slightly, and inside I could hear white noise blaring from the television at full volume. A soft light spilled from the static filled screen illuminating the living room with just enough brightness to allow me to see inside through the sheer curtains covering the windows.
For several moments I stood frozen outside the window of my apartment watching for any sign of movement. My eyes darted back and forth between the window and the semi-opened door. I wanted to reach for my cell to call the police, but I found myself too afraid to move.
Goosebumps formed along my skin, and the hair on my arms stood on end. Though I saw nothing inside, I felt as if I was being watched from the shadows deep within the apartment. A sense of guilt settled in my gut. I felt as if I was the intruder prowling my own home.
“Hey, man, you alright?” I nearly jumped out of my skin as the heavy accented voice of my neighbor, Tony, called out from behind me. I spun, clutching my chest, to face him.
“Holy fucking hell Tony! You scared the shit out of me!”
Tony had just returned from walking his Rottweiler, Francis.
“Sorry man. You’ve been standing there for a long time.”
“Hey, have you seen anyone around snooping around my place?”
“You mean like the police or something?”
“Anyone. Police. Maintenance. Random dude?”
“Nah. I thought you were home drunk or something. Your TV has been on for hours. I tried knocking on the wall, but you didn’t say nothing. I decided to take Francis for his walk, and if your TV was still all loud and shit, I was gonna come over and tell you to turn it down.”
“I’ve been out most of the day. I just got back. Do you know about when the TV went on?”
“Probably about five. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I left about an hour ago. Like…”
Francis let out a low growl and bared his teeth in my direction.
“There’s someone in your house, homie!”
I spun around to see the silhouette of a person staring out through the window. Suddenly the television cut out and the front door slammed violently. A loud click sounded as the deadbolt locked from inside.
The apartment stood dark and still, and I could no longer see inside. Francis growled and barked fiercely behind me, and I could hear Tony struggling to keep the dog at his side.
“No! Dammit! Francis get back here!”
The dog had slipped free of his collar and rushed up the walkway snarling and snapping as he leapt against my front door. He scratch wildly at the locked door desperate to get inside. Tony rushed after Francis, and I ran to help him as he struggled to put the collar and leash back on his dog.
“Yo, man, you need to call the cops!” Tony said.
“Shit, or we could let Francis in to maul the bastard.”
Just then two loud gunshots sounded from within the home. Tony and I fell back. Francis ran to the edge of the sidewalk whimpering a moment before growling once again towards my apartment.
Tony and I scrambled to our feet and ran to Francis’s side. Tony made the sign of the cross over himself, as did I before we crouched low and stared at the darkened window. I fished the phone out of my pocket and dialed 9-1-1.
The police arrived in full garrison. Armed with assault rifles and suited up for a stand off. Tony and I gave statements and assured the police no one had exited the apartment. Neighbors were instructed to stay inside, and Tony and I were made to stand behind a marked squad car.
Two teams were deployed. One team circled around back. The other stacked up just outside my front door. I was ignored when I offered to let them use my key to gain entry into the home.
After the team that had circled around back radioed in that they were in position, and the back of the building was secure, the officer in charge signaled to the team stacked in front of my home to enter. With a powerful kick, my door flew open and the tactical squad slipped inside.
From outside we saw flashlights cut through the darkness. Shouting could be heard as the team of five trampled through my apartment. Neighbors peered out their doors and windows to watch the excitement.
For a moment I wondered how much damage was being done to my home, and if the landlord was going to pay to repair the door or if that cost would come out of my pocket. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted when a voice came over the radio belonging to the officer in charge.
“All clear. We have a body with G-S-W’s in the neck and head.” the voice said.
“Understood.” the officer in charge replied.
I had watched enough crime drama to understand that G-S-W’s translated to gunshot wounds. I could feel the blood drain from my face. The officer must have seen it, for he made me sit on the ground and rest my back against the squad car.
Squad cars pulled into the apartment complex as more officers and investigators arrived on scene. The county coroner entered my place with an empty stretcher. After about twenty minutes they exited with their stretcher bearing a black body bag.
Tony had been given permission to return to his apartment, but instead he joined the rest of our neighbors who watched the unfolding drama just behind the KMPH Fox News reporter who had shown up to report the incident live for the eleven o’clock news.
Local detectives interviewed me with a barrage of questions about my day, if I had any enemies, if I might have known why my place was targeted, and a host of other spitball questions in hopes to find some sort of lead which would help them make sense of the sordid incident.
The officer in charge informed me that a thorough sweep of my home was being conducted, and a clean up crew would be dispatched afterward to repair damages and clean up the mess left behind by the suspect. He assumed the process would last through the early hours of the morning and recommended I find somewhere to stay for the night.
“Also, one of our detectives will meet with you to discuss anything we’ve found. It’s a formality mostly. They’ll bring photos of the suspect and of the crime scene to see if you can provide any information that might be of help.” the officer said.
“Yeah.” It was all I could muster. My mind was enveloped in a numbing fog to prevent the shock of the evening from sinking in all at once. I kept seeing the silhouette staring out from the window. The gunshots sounded over and over in my head.
“Oh, and, I can’t prevent you from talking to the press, but I strongly recommend against it. Vultures are just looking for a juicy story, and they’ll spin whatever you say to boost their ratings.”
“I couldn’t tell them anything even if I wanted to. Fuck. I feel numb.”
“Well, you’ve had a helluva night.”
The reporter and her hovering camera man rushed over as I walked away from the officer.
“Excuse me. Do you have anything you’d like to say about tonight’s events?” The reporter pressed her microphone in my face.
“It’s been a helluva night.” I said paraphrasing the last thing the officer in charge had said before I left.
“Did you know the suspect?”
“No? I don’t think so? I didn’t see him.”
“Well would you like to describe what happened?”
I looked over the gaggle of neighbors who had come out to witness my horror. Many met my eyes with curiosity and sympathy. I nodded toward Tony.
“Tony was with me. He can tell you better than I can. I’m feeling kinda numb at the moment.”
I could hear the reporter turn her attention to Tony as I walked away. I allowed myself a slight smile knowing exactly the kind of reenactment he would perform for the reporter. I had been to several of Tony’s family cookouts, and I knew that man could tell a story.
My phone rang as I got into my car.
“So, did I just see you on the news?”
“Hey Matt. And yes.”
“So you going to get rid of the doll?”
“When I’m allowed back in my place, I’m setting that bitch on fire.”
“You think it had anything to do with tonight?”
“Don’t know. Better safe than sorry, I s’pose. I thought you had an early day tomorrow?”
“I do. Just can’t sleep. You know your friend has a real way with words?”
“Yeah. I knew he’d love the attention, and I wanted that lady off my back.”
“When are they going to let you back into your place?”
“Not tonight. I’m actually in my car right now. Going to find a place to stay.”
“I’m at the Stardust Motel. Room has two beds. Paid through noon tomorrow. Want to come over? Room 208.”
“Sure. Just no funny business. It’s been a long night.”
“Dammit.” Matt let out a long sigh. “I’m going to give you a pass on that, but only because you just had someone blow their face off in your house.”
“I appreciate that. See you in a few?”
I hung up and threw the car into drive. I just wanted to get away from my place as soon as possible.