Hearing gunshots & seeing a man running away, I called 911...
Shots rang out, jerking me awake. I squinted at the clock, two thirty. I looked around trying to gather my thoughts. I must have dozed off watching the late night movie. I got up from the couch, shut off the TV and tiptoed over to the door to peek out at the corridor, wondering what woke me. A man in a blood spattered shirt came running towards me. My eyes widened at the sight of all that blood, my heart began beating wildly making me feel faint as I shakily shut the door. What happened?
Moving like a robot, I made my way to the phone to dial 911. In a shaky voice, I described, as best as I could, what happened. They asked for my address and apartment number, then warned me to stay put. Five minutes later I could hear the police in the hallway. A knock on the door made me take a deep, shaky breath as I braced myself for the many questions. Opening the door, I could see my neighbors were all huddled together in the hallway. Feeling like a sleepwalker, I glanced back at the two officers who were looking back at me expectantly.
“May we come inside?” One officer asked me.
“Y-yes, please come in,” I stood aside as they entered, then closed the door.
I answered all their questions they asked, apologizing for my stammering answers, telling them the sight of that much blood on the man’s shirt really shook me up. I described the man as best as I could remember, having only a glimpse to go on. “What really woke me up was these loud gun shots, but the man wasn’t holding any gun when he was running towards me. At least I didn’t see any, all that blood on the man’s shirt was what caught my attention.”
As I showed the officers out the door, Larry, my next door neighbor came over to me before I had a chance to close my door.
“Why were they asking you questions?” He asked.
“I’m the one who called 911 after seeing t-this man running down the hall. Larry, his shirt was mostly covered in b-blood. I thought I was going to faint right there in the doorway, my heart was beating so fast in my chest. D-didn’t you hear gunshot?”
“No, but my son heard something and woke me up,” Larry said. “That’s when I heard all this commotion in the hallway and came out to investigate.”
Larry and I joined the others in the hallway. They were all stunned at what happened. A murder in their apartment building wasn’t a common occurrence.
“I heard it was that stripper who got wacked,” Pete, the mechanic, told us. “She sure was a looker!” The coral tatoo on his neck looked deadly and gave me the creeps. The one on his biseps was that of a hulu dancer that seemed to be in motion every time he flexed his arm which he liked doing a lot.
“I stared at him, shocked. Thinking it couldn’t be, I asked him, “A-are you sure?”
“Yeah, it was the little gal in Apartment 12 alright. She didn’t talk much, but always said hello to me in passing,” Sheila, a hairdresser, turned towards us, her reddish blond hair up in huge curlers.
“She was trash anyway, so good riddance,” said Amanda, her heavy perfume permeated the air as she looked down her nose at us, checking our faces to see if we had any comment. I didn’t want to draw a breath, thinking I would gag. That was when a policeman wandered over to tell us to go to back to our rooms. “If we have any more questions, we’ll let you know.”
Larry escourted me back to my apartment. “Don’t pay Amanda any mind, she likes to flap her jaws just waiting for an argument.”
“I knew the murdered girl, Larry, and she wasn’t thrash!” Not wanting to cry in front of him, I bid him a quick good-bye and closed the door. I needed something to calm my nerves, so I went into the kitchen to make myself some raspberry tea. The fruity aroma always calmed me down and as I sipped my tea, memories filled my mind. I’ll never be able to get back to sleep now wondering what happened to that sweet young girl who had her whole life ahead of her…
A knock at the door made me jump. I opened the door and an officer stood there holding a calling card out in front of him. I recognized it immediately, “I found this in the hallway.”
My eyes opened wider as I gazed at the blood splatters on my calling card. "Oh my God!" My heart pounded wildly in my chest as I thought about when I gave her my card. Taking another shaky breath, I explained to the officer. “Catherine Banks came to my law office telling me about this stalker that she noticed following her. She asked for my advice on what to do and confided that being a stripper got you all kind of sick offers, but she always ignored them. All the other guys accepted my indifference except for this one guy. He wasn’t too happy with Catherine's attitude and just wouldn’t leave her alone. I and the other confidents at my law office told her to go to the police and tell them everything. She told us she already did and that they gave her the run around. She was scared, so I gave her my card and told her to call me if he bothered her at the apartment.”
“So how long ago was it since she came to your law offices?"
“A year ago is when she sought out our advice and we’ve stayed good friends since then,” I answered the officer. “She just turned nineteen last week and I threw her a birthday party. It was such a happy time too. She explained to everyone there that she wanted to finish college with the money she was earning as a stripper. She also confided in me that she became interested in law through me. I guess she thought being a lawyer was glamorous, so she signed up for some courses. This is one of the many reasons we stayed friends and I wanted to help her. Later on, we found out we liked the same things in art, music, and foods.
“Did she mention any relatives to you?” He asked. “We need to contact them.”
“No, I don’t think so, she said she was all alone,” I said, tears brimming in my eyes as I thought about never seeing her again.
He asked gently, “Will you make an identification at the morgue if we can’t find any next of kin?” I nodded my head yes and he continued, "We’ll be in touch.”
After he left, I walked down the hallway towards her apartment, remembering her bright smile, her excitement of turning nineteen. When I asked her tonight if she’ll be alright, she told me, "I'll be staying over at a friends tonight after work so don't worry so much about me." Shocked by the reality of the situation, I watched an officer showing another her favorite lace teddy. It looked all bloody and crumpled now. A picture was taken and then was placed inside an evidence bag.
I heard another officer talking into a recorder, “She was strangled by her teddy. The first officer on the scene, Allen Olson, found it still tied tightly around her neck.” As the officers kept on talking and stuffing items into their evidence bags, I stopped listening as so many memories whirled around in my head. When I couldn't bear it any longer and in a daze, stumbled back into my apartment. The last thing I heard as I closed my door was a garbled radio message talking about someone being apprehended. I opened the door a crack to listen.
“Code 3, go immediately to 1922 Blake, a neighbor reports a man hiding in the alley, noticed that he had blood all over him.”
The rest of the message became garbled and I couldn’t make any more sense out of it. I hope they caught the miserable creep and fry the bastard! Overcome with grief, I closed the door. In the bedroom, I fell face-down on my bed and cried for the loss of a wonderful friend.
The next morning, I woke up and remembered. Tears streamed down my face as I memories of all the plans we made came into focus. I stumbled into the bathroom and threw up. I looked at myself in the mirror and could hardly recognize myself. The always well-dressed lawyer persona I managed to achieve wasn’t what I saw before me. My auburn hair was sticking up in every direction, my face looked all blotchy and my red eyes, use to be hazel, made me look as if I've been on a binge. No resemblance of what was me could be seen and I stepped into my shower to stand under the cold water so I could feel alive again.
I dried myself off and walked into the kitchen to make myself some coffee. I called the office to tell them I wouldn’t be in today and explained what happened. “Barbara knows my cases, I’ll give her a call and get back to you on this.”
Barbara said she’ll do me the favor, and I felt relieved. I called my office back to let them know. Breathing a sigh of relief that this was out of the way, I sat down to think and mourn.
Later on that afternoon, a knock sounded on my door and the same officer that asked me the questions about Catherine stood before me. “We couldn’t find any living relative of Catherine Banks. You said you’ll make the identification, so if you're not busy, could you come with me and I’ll escort you to the morgue.
“Sure, just a minute and I’ll get my coat. I checked my appearance in the mirror, put my hair up in a topknot, wrapped a shawl around my neck, because I felt cold all of a sudden. With no make-up, I looked washed out, but I didn’t care.
At the morgue, the mortician, Mr. Milano, guided me over to a camera where I could view the body that lay on a table in the next room. As he discussed how things worked, my eyes kept returning to the covered body. Is this how it is? All so cold and clinical. He left me when I told him I understood. On the other side of the glass, he glanced at me and when I nodded my head that I was ready, he uncovered Catherine’s body. Gasping at what I saw, I almost fell down, but the officer held me up. With my eyes glued to Catherine's beautiful blond hair all tangled and bloody, I followed the pattern of the bruising evident on her neck, arms and face, showing signs of being severely beaten. I knew she was also shot, but I didn't see any evidence of that. What I could see was she died fighting. I hope she hurt him good! I turned away as tears once more overwhelmed me and I choked out, “It’s Catherine Banks.”