By Alice Baburek.
The dark, brown liquid beckoned his dry, parched throat. He reached for the half-filled whiskey bottle. His eyes burned. His head pounded. Just one more. As if the bottle could hear his never ending request.
Edward Bailey belched. He tried desperately to adjust his blurry eyes to the unearthly figure sitting across from him in the worn out cushioned chair. “What do you want from me?” His words slurred. “I told you before…I did the best I could!” He squeezed his eyes shut. “Go away already!”
The retired detective flopped back against the stained sofa. He dared not open his tired eyes. He knew she’d still be there. Lately, he couldn’t get rid of her no matter how much he drank. She just sat there—with a tiny smile on her pretty, young face.
The cell phone chimed. “Damn!” he mumbled to himself. Slowly, he opened his green, fading eyes. The apartment had grown dark from the storm brewing outside. His shaky hand reached for the ringing cell phone sitting on the end table.
“Bailey,” is all he could muster without throwing up. Nausea circled inside an empty stomach. It was then he noticed she had finally left him alone.
“Hey Eddie…how’s retirement treating you, buddy?” asked a familiar male voice. Edward’s mind twirled with names and faces. He knew that voice.
“Geez, man. You hitting the bottle again? It’s Charlie—Charlie Weaver. How could you forget your partner for heaven’s sake? We were joined at the hip for the last fifteen years.”
Edward’s inability to eat or sleep for days had finally caught up to him. His body was beginning to fight back. Seconds later, he vomited on the trashed, wooden floor.
“Eddie? Eddie…are you alright? Give me a call when you’re sober.” Silence filled the line between the two men. Edward dropped the phone. Darkened images meshed together inside his mind leading him into a deepened realm of unconsciousness.
The next morning Edward could barely move. His whole body ached. The putrid taste inside his mouth made him gag. Forcing himself to get up, he staggered to the bathroom. Without looking in the mirror, he opened the cabinet and brushed his slimy teeth. Then he undressed and took a hot, scalding shower. Water droplets felt like needles sticking his skin as they fell off his battered body. Edward scrubbed his matted hair.
It seemed like just yesterday when he had been a rookie with the Whisper Rock Police Department. Working his way up to lieutenant, handling more complex cases over the pursuing years. And so when he duly deserved to kick back and relax, he grabbed it by the reins.
As with any devoted detective, leaving the force with every case closed is a must. And so it was with Edward Bailey. In all his twenty-five years on the force, each and every case had been solved except for one. Sarah Lewis. A pretty, ten-year old with long blond hair shaped into pigtails with pink bows. Her bright blue eyes shined with the dreams of a promising future. But as fate would have it, Sarah would always remain a ten-year old little girl.
Sarah Lewis was first reported missing on May 10, 2009. Within hours of receiving the frantic call from her mother, dozens of volunteers and law enforcement agencies from around the county jumped into action. Searches of fields, streams, empty buildings—everywhere a little girl could possibly hide had been searched leaving nothing unturned. But it wasn’t until two hunters, hiking their way back inside the vast wilderness, miles from the remote town of Whisper Rock, stumbled upon a battered, unrecognizable corpse. Sarah Lewis had finally been found.
Edward Bailey, and a task force filled with highly experienced law officials, did what they did best—pushed to find justice for Sarah Lewis—and some form of closure for her grieving family.
Days, months, years flew by with no new leads. Until one day, Sarah Lewis’s Murder Book, and all that had been gathered as evidence, was placed in a large, cardboard box on a dusty shelf silently waiting for answers.
As Edward combed his hair, he remembered the call from Charlie Weaver. He stopped and turned around. She was there again. Sitting on top the closed toilet cover. Grinning from ear to ear like happy kids usually do.
Edward let out a huge sigh, then continued to finish dressing. She was everywhere. At first he had been creeped out by her ghostly presence. In fact, he became self-conscious walking about his apartment in his underwear. But Sarah didn’t seem to mind. She came and went as she pleased. She had been his only frequent visitor since retirement. And so as he bent down to tie his sneakers, he looked up at the long, lost girl.
“I know it’s the booze,” he mumbled. “I wish you could just tell me what it is I need to know to solve your case. Then you can move on and end your stay here on earth.” The transparent apparition floated to the cluttered kitchen table. Papers scattered everywhere.
“Hey! I don’t need a bigger mess than there is already!” he shouted to no one. And then he saw it. On the floor in a heap, last week’s front page stared back at him. Slowly, he reached down and lifted the crumpled newspaper.
The front page headlines glared: Serial Killer – Jason Allen Captured. Edward scanned the article for information. He had vaguely remembered hearing about the murder spree. And now after countless victims, this evil man had finally been caught. It went on to say Jason Allen had murdered what seemed endless victims over the past ten years. Mostly young girls between the ages of ten and fifteen. The crimes solved only because his latest victim, Angie Welch, had somehow miraculously escaped with her life to lead authorities straight back to his cabin hidden deep within the unending backwoods of Whisper Rock.
Could it be possible that Sarah Lewis had been abducted and murdered by Jason Allen? That she had been one of the many, many victims by this evil predator? Edward’s mouth grew dry. He licked his cracked lips. Instantly, he grabbed his cell phone and called his former partner, Charlie Weaver.
“Charlie, Eddie. Hey, I know this may sound crazy, but I just read about Jason Allen. Maybe he was the one who took Sarah Lewis and dumped her body out in the woods.”
For a brief moment there was silence. “It’s why I called, Eddie. We submitted the DNA samples from Sarah Lewis’s crime scene to see if it’s a match with Allen’s,” said Charlie.
“Well, don’t keep me hanging…was it a match?” Edward chewed on his thumb nail.
“Yes—a definite match. It seems this piece of crap has been murdering girls for quite a while now. In fact, many of the unsolved murder cases throughout the state are sending in DNA samples to see if they can be linked to Jason Allen. He’ll never see the light of day,” explained Charlie.
“I can’t…I can’t believe we finally got him, Charlie. You wouldn’t believe how it haunted me. I wake up every morning and she’d be sitting at the table. Smiling. Just smiling. At night, I’m brushing my teeth…she’s sitting on the commode. Smiling. Everywhere I turn there’s Sarah Lewis.” Edward’s eyes filled with tears. “I…I let her down, Charlie. I couldn’t find the person responsible for her death.”
“Eddie…listen to me. You and so many others did the best we could at the time. But it’s solved. The case is closed. We got Sarah Lewis’s murderer.”
It wasn’t until Edward closed his cell phone that he wept. Wept for the little girl who had her whole life ahead of her that had been snuffed out in an instant. Wept for the family which grieved so many years for the loss of their loved one. And wept for himself that maybe now he could finally find peace that couldn’t be found in the bottom of a bottle.
There was no trial for Jason Allen. The despicable coward hung himself inside the jail cell awaiting his dinner tray. He would serve no time behind bars for the unspeakable atrocities he had committed. So what about justice for Sarah Lewis and the others? Edward Bailey didn’t know. He could only hope this horrible, evil man got what he deserved somewhere else.
But there was one thing Edward did know for certain. Sarah Lewis had found serenity and tranquility. For after the day Jason Allen committed suicide, Edward never saw the smiling face of Sarah Lewis again.
ALICE BABUREK is an animal lover and avid reader. Other published works can be found through Amazon.com and www.AmericaStarBooks.pub.