I never liked the closet.
Everyone else said it was silly. It's just a closet, nothing to be afraid of. Everyone else had gotten over their fear of monsters and the boogeyman when they were eight.
But it wasn't the boogeyman that I was afraid of. No, flesh eating monsters were nothing compared to what was really in there.
Not that anyone would actually believe me.
"Mom, can I sleep on the couch tonight?"
My mother paused at the dishes she was drying. "What's wrong with your room?"
I tried again. "Please?"
She sighed and continued drying. "Cora, how old are you?"
I didn't answer, just stared at her with what I hoped was a pleading look.
"You're thirteen now, Cora," She continued, "A teenager. Teenagers aren't afraid of things in their closets."
"But Mom, if you actually looked-"
"Cora," My mother said sharply. "You're going to sleep in your own room tonight, end of story. Now go do your homework."
I hesitated. I wanted to tell her, to make her go look, but her tone of voice told me it wouldn't do any good. So I took my backpack and went down the hallway, in the direction of my bedroom. But instead of actually going in to my bedroom, I went into the doorway next to it.
My older sister Mandy had left for college a few months ago. So long as I didn't move any of the things she'd left, I could do my homework on the floor. I took my geography homework and a pencil from my bag and sat down.
"The thing from the closet came back."
I turned. Dad's voice had floated in from the other room through the open door. He must have heard me talking with Mom from the living room. . .
I heard Mom sigh. "I thought it was gone for good last time too."
"Did it just show up again today or. . .?"
"Yesterday. Last night actually. I don't think we should let her watch the news anymore, Michael. I think this has something to do with all those disappearances, because that King girl was abducted last night too."
"Annie," Dad said gently. I heard his voice drop in volume, but I could still make out what he said next.
"I really think we should get her some help."
I shut the door.
About twenty minutes later Mom called me for dinner. I came in and sat down, grace was said, and I ate listlessly as Mom and Dad talked about something I didn't care or know enough about to listen to their discussion. Instead, as I pecked at my chicken, I thought about what they had discussed earlier when they thought I hadn't been listening.
They didn't believe me. Of course, I'd known this before, but. . . .
I stabbed a piece of broccoli and chewed it violently. But what? They weren't ever going to listen to me; It seemed more like they shut their ears as soon as I even mentioned the subject. Why on earth should what I overheard be a surprise?
I looked up to find both Mom and Dad looking at me.
I swallowed my murdered broccoli. ". . .What?"
"You okay there, sweetie?" Dad asked, "You seem to have something against the vegetables."
"I'm fine. . .Just hungry I guess."
He smiled and lifted his fork back to his mouth, but Mom nudged him and mouthed something. He put his fork back down.
"Actually, Cora, there's something we wanted to talk to you about."
I paused. Dad sighed and continued: "Sweetie, we've been worried about you lately."
I picked up my fork again and started to eat, more as an excuse not to look at him than to pacify any hunger. I'd lost my appetite.
"I mean, you're thirteen," Dad went on, "You shouldn't be scared of monsters anymore. And your mother and I are starting to think you should start talking to someone else about this."
I stopped pretending to eat and looked up. "A psychologist."
"Well. . .yes."
I stared at them. "I'm not crazy."
"We're not saying you are, honey!" Mom said, "We just think-"
"-You just think that I'm seeing things that aren't there!" I interrupted. "When you won't even go look!"
"We did!" Mom cried, "But there wasn't anything there, Cora! Nothing!"
"Because it was gone then!" Tears were streaming down my face now, and there were sirens somewhere outside, getting louder, as if they were fueling the fight as it intensified. "But now it's back and you won't believe me!!"
"Cora," Dad said gently. "Just calm down. . ." But he stopped and looked up, towards the window. The sirens that were getting loud before were now almost deafening, and they weren't going away.
I followed his gaze toward the window, where red and blue lights were dancing against the curtains with the frenzied music of the sirens. Something was happening next door.
"What's going on?, as if any of us could actually answer. We were all wondering the same thing.
I was the first to rush to the window, followed closely by my parents. I pulled back the curtain just in time to see two armed police officers disappear into the house next to ours. But judging by the number of cars outside, there had been a lot more than two going in.
We watched, waiting for something more to happen. but nothing did for what seemed like the longest time, even though it was probably more like three minutes.
"Maybe we should-" Mom's would-be suggestion was cut short by the sound of three gunshots being fired from somewhere inside our neighbor's house. I felt Mom jump and grab me by the shoulders.
We probably should have gone to the basement then, in case of stray bullets as the result of any more gunshots,
but we stayed, glued to the spot by the morbid curiosity of what was going on next door.
Three paramedics who had driven up with the police jumped out of the ambulance and rushed inside carrying a stretcher. A few minutes later they came out, carrying our neighbor, Jack Meyer, strapped down on the stretcher. The shots that had been fired must have been from the police, because his leg was covered in blood. And he was screaming something. Jack Meyer had never spoken a word to me and had barely said anything to my parents, but now he was yelling, screaming something at the top of his lungs. I couldn't quite make out what he was saying. Something about being in a band. . .?
"Cora, go to your room," Dad said suddenly. His face was pale.
"What? But, Dad, the clo-"
I hesitated, surprised that he'd actually yelled.
"Cora,"he repeated, "go."
I stared at him for a split-second longer and then hurried down the hallway and into Mandy's room. Shutting the door behind me, I immediately ran to the window and looked outside. I couldn't see Mr. Meyer's house from this angle. Mandy's window was on the wall in the front of the house, and the kitchen window was on the side. I could see all the police cars on the street though, and the ambulance driving away, sirens blaring. A single police car followed, but no one else seemed to have left the house.
I craned my neck, trying to see farther towards the house, then ducked out of sight as I saw someone heading in my direction. I looked up as I saw the figure's shadow passing over the window and realized it was a policeman crossing our lawn to the door. I watched from the corner of the window as he stopped and rang the bell. Dad answered it.
They were talking now, I could hear it through the window, but couldn't tell what they were saying other than an indistinct mumbling. I opened the window a fraction of an inch.
". . .Meyer just confessed to the murders of those three girls who went missing a month ago," The officer was saying, "as well as the murders of Rebecca Smithies and Debbie King. I just need to ask you a few questions, see if there's anything you know about him that might help us."
My eyes widened, and I just now realized what it was that Mr. Meyer had been yelling. What had sounded like "I killed the band I'm part of it" had really been "I killed them and I'm proud of it."
"There's one more thing," The officer said slowly. "I'm not so sure if you want to tell your family about this, but we found the bodies of four of the victims in the basement. Debbie King's body was missing."
I shut the window, my throat suddenly dry. I didn't want to hear anymore.
"Mom?" I called hoarsely. I tried again, "Mom, can I come out now?"
No answer. I pushed open the door and stepped out into the hallway. "Mom?"
Mom was still at the window, frozen in the same spot she'd been standing at before. Her hand was raised to her mouth and she looked paler than Dad had been.
"Annie?" Dad called from the doorway. "Can you come to the door, honey?"
When Mom didn't answer Dad walked out into the living room and into the kitchen, followed by the policemen.
"Annie?" Dad asked softly.
She turned toward him finally. "Did you. . .Did you hear what he was screaming?"
Dad hugged her, and after a moment the police officer spoke again.
"Ma'am, I just need to ask you and your husband a few questions."
Feeling a little invisible, I coughed loudly.
They all turned and looked at me, and suddenly feeling self-conscious, I dropped my eyes to the floor. "I was just wondering if I could come out of my room yet," I muttered.
"Did you want to talk to our daughter, officer?" Dad asked.
He nodded. "We're trying to collect as much information as possible."
"Alright," Dad said, "You can take a seat if you want." He motioned towards the kitchen table, which for some odd reason was still set from the dinner we had a year ago. "Uh. . .Maybe the living room."
Dad led the way and the three of us sat on the couch, Mom on my left, Dad on my right. The policeman took the chair that Dad usually sat in when he watched television.
"I'm Officer Jones," he said. "I just have a couple of questions for you, about your neighbor."
Dad nodded. Mom still seemed numb, and just stared at Officer Jones and blinked.
"How well did you know Mr. Meyer?"
Dad shook his head. "I only talked to him once or twice the entire time we've lived here. Just tried to make small talk, but he'd always act like he had something else to do and leave before anything was really said."
Mom shook her head. ". . .I never talked to him."
Officer Jones looked at me, but I just shook my head.
"Did he have any company that you can remember, anyone else he knew?"
Dad shook his head this time. "No. I can't remember a single time I ever saw anyone else's car there other than his truck."
"I heard him leave sometimes," I said quietly, "But it was in the middle of the night."
"Officer," Dad said, sighing, "I've lived next to Jack Meyer for ten years and I never learned anything about him."
Mom nodded once, staring down at the ground. "Except for today. . ."
The policeman nodded and stood up. "Thank you for your time."
"I'll show you out," Dad said, getting up.
I watched them walk towards the door. Then, before I could change my mind, I stood up.
He stopped and turned. "Yes?"
I swallowed. "Um. . .I was wondering. . .I was wondering if you could look in my closet."
My mother stared at me incredulously. "Cora, we've been over this!"
But the officer walked back over to me and smiled. "Aren't you a little old to be scared of monsters?"
I didn't smile back. How could he think that monsters didn't exist after the one he'd just been asking us about next door?
Still smiling, he looked back at my parents. "It can't hurt to look."
A wave of relief swept over me and I raced to my room. Officer Jones followed, and my parents behind him. I stopped at the door.
"In here?" he asked. He was still smiling.
I nodded, and held my breath as he opened the door.
The moment the door was open the smell hit all who were standing in the way. Mom's hands flew to her mouth and she gagged, Dad's reaction was the same but accompanied by a string of cursing. Officer Jones's eyes flew open with recognition. He was no longer smiling.
He approached the closet slowly, covering his mouth and nose with one hand. He pulled out his baton and used it to pull open the door to the closet.
I squeezed my eyes shut, Dad swore loudly, Mom screamed.
And the body of Debbie King fell out of the closet.
All I ask is that when you review, (because I just know you're going to) tell me whether or not you guessed the ending. Kudos to anyone who did, but it just makes me feel all uber happy inside when I manage to surprise people.