The one that Miranda Moorhead, Action News 12, was talking about right now was identified as thirty year old Pamela Green, her street name Jasmyn Lux. Her body had been found in a shallow grave in the woods. A young couple had been taking their dog for a walk when Rover started digging and instead of an animal, the couple saw a hand with a crudely done tattoo. They called the police, who identified the body as the latest victim of the Scanlon Streetwalker Strangler.
Apparently, the victim had been last seen getting in a dark colored, late model van that had a license plate ending in N. And as usual, they gave the anonymous phone number to call if you had any information about the crime. The killer probably thought he was doing a public service, I thought, reaching for the remote. At least he's getting this trash off the streets. Maybe they should give him a medal. I thought meanly.
The 10:30 news over, I pushed the button on the lift chair to put me into a standing position so I could easily get up and walk down the hall to the bedroom. Since my array of health problems that had come up the year before, my son and daughter in law had moved in with me. Lauren worked days at the dry cleaners up the street, and Joey worked nights as a janitor. The other kids lived far away and had their own families and responsibilities. Joey was the youngest, and he and Lauren hadn't started having kids yet. I imagined she'd want her own home, but she didn't seem to mind living here. I'd lived with my mother in law when Joey's dad and I had first gotten married, and I couldn't wait to get out of her house. It had been a relief - at least to me - when she died a year later. Even more so when she left us the house.
Joey's dad had passed away ten years ago. He'd had a heart attack at work, a massive one. It had taken him immediately. It seemed to me that at fifty-seven, he was young for it, but considering it ran in the family, I supposed it made sense. I still missed him, but at least he'd left me with the good pension he got from the city.
I wasn't asleep yet when I heard the front door slam, followed by the sound of Joey's footsteps. I recognized the sound of his work boots. I heard the sound of his voice, followed by a soft murmuring from Lauren. Then four footsteps, the sound of the door slamming again. Nothing for me to worry about, I thought, listening to the whirring of the air conditioner above my head, watching the shadows of the tree branches outside the window.
More women were disappearing, presumed killed. I watched Miranda Moorhead standing under a billboard with all of their faces on it, their names listed below.
Angela Dietz. Starla Kerry. Mindy Morgan. Pamela Green. Rachel LaFontaine. Kendra White. Traci Milligan. The two that were missing and presumed dead were Sunshine O'Malley and Melody Monroe. Nine prostitutes, either dead or missing, presumed dead.
Someone on TV with their face pixellated spoke about Kendra White. It was reported that when she was found, her ring was missing. I had watched enough of those crime shows to know that the killer had probably taken it as a souvenir.
And although I wasn't sure why, I began to feel ill. And then it came to me exactly why. I thought of Lauren's hand, and the garnet ring Joey had given her "just because", she'd said. That wasn't like Joey. He could barely remember his anniversary or Lauren's birthday, and even then he'd mostly buy cheap junk, not ever anything pretty like that ring.
I reached for my cane, braced myself, and walked downstairs, scared of what I expected to find. Lauren was working. Joey was out. No one was home to catch me snooping.
I opened the drawer of his bedside table.
Inside was a quart sized Ziploc bag with a melange of jewelry inside.
I pulled out a delicate gold locket with the faces of two children in it.
A turquoise and silver bracelet.
Lastly, a key ring that said "Melody".
And then I knew the truth.
Choking back the bile that had begun to rise up in my throat, I headed up the stairs and reached for the phone. I needed to act fast, before Joey got home.
Twenty minutes later, they were here. Bloodhounds barked and howled outside my bedroom window, pawing fervently at the flower bed. Shortly after, two bodies wrapped in Hefty bags were removed.
There was surprisingly little fuss when Joey was arrested. He got home, saw the police cars, and surrendered peacefully. He never asked who called them. Maybe he guessed they just figured it out. Or maybe he knew the whole time it was me. I don't know. I'll never know. The tip line was anonymous; nobody could have known that I turned in my own son as the Scanlon Strangler.
It took surprisingly little time for the verdict to come back. Nine consecutive life sentences; essentially four hundred and fifty years in prison. I was there, of course. Even though I turned him in, he was still my son. Even though he had done the most horrible thing I could imagine, he was still my son.
Media swarmed us as we left the courthouse. Miranda Moorehead, still perfectly coiffed, shoved her microphone in my face. "As the mother of the Scanlon Strangler, how does this verdict make you feel?"
Stupid question, I thought.
"No comment," I told her.
And with my cane, I cleared a path through the hordes of foot traffic like Moses parting the Red Sea, never turning back.