Inspired by a true story
Haylie's Kingdom (Fall & Winter 2017)
Quincy McCullough, usually a man not very startled by exceptional noise, trembled underneath his blankets from a conspicuous sound he soon realized came from the house next door. Normally, the only screams he would hear at this late hour would be from the annoying aperture on the air duct, but this scream petrified him. It was human, a human child.
Mr. McCullough planned to spend his retirement in the peculiarly serene town that he currently resided. Kerryville, Pennsylvania was a community of peaceful families. Often, he would drive through the neighborhoods every afternoon and notice the playgrounds vibrant and joyous, but as pleasant as the town got, January 24th became a malefic day.
A child killer had arrived.
Responding to a 9-1-1 call brimming with panic and alarm, police discovered a horrendous scene hardly untouched by a distinct hue of red. On the snug carpet of the living room lay the good twin boys of the Thompson family in their silly pajamas, one of them already ceasing to have a pulse. The other boy took his haphazard final breaths in a roaring ambulance with a toy giraffe still in his grasp. They were no older than six years. Their mother, Caroline, who was with them in the living room when the violence took place, was also rushed away, her life exiting her briskly through a jagged slit on her throat. If it weren't for her speedy 9-1-1 call, she may not have even made it to the stretcher.
The story provoked Olivia Norwood, the newest detective in Kerryville, to bite her lip. Her first assigned case was not for the faint of heart. Being a town of mostly upper-class suburbia, she had expected to inquire assault or maybe robbery initially, not brutal homicide. A case as tragic as this had shot the notion that perhaps this was meant for a better detective, one who could withstand bloody conditions this extreme. That notion, of course, was quickly dismissed from her mind. Regardless of the circumstance, she felt prepared. Her training and education were vigorous and lengthy, and she planned to compensate for her lack of experience by having sheer, inordinate attention to detail, utilizing any nausea within herself. Olivia was convinced no other could fill the shoes. She was the better detective. She was the one for the job. Detective Norwood always excelled in diligence. She took her work resolutely, striving tirelessly to get some degree of feedback. She acknowledged her inexperience might give way to flaws in her performance, but she was ready to learn. Crimes can be as tricky as they are consequential. The exuberance of piecing together puzzles, exploring uncommon avenues, and presenting findings into their respective, intricate way kept Olivia jubilant. From high school AP classes to the arduous professional fields, she obtained it all with the same self-made fervor. Although the thought of two young boys profusely suffering gutted a piece of her heart and surely gave her a hint of hesitation to accept the case, she didn't want to let her feelings of the crime cloud her thinking. After all, if there's anyone other than police officers who truly knew how cruel and dark the world was, it was a criminal detective. Their stomachs were to be made of iron. Olivia strived to be steel.
While parked outside a fast-food restaurant, she looked through the case repeatedly, carefully garnering each piece of text to make sure she memorized all the information. She wanted to imagine the scene in the most accurate way in hopes to discover anything of value, for the attacker was loose. As a result, every little thing mattered, and speed was of the essence. Any miscalculation could put the whole city at risk.
In her mind, the detective began to consolidate the data, considering some conclusions police had already made. On January 24th, two boys and their mother were each stabbed in the throat around midnight in their living room. It was believed the mother, Carolina Thompson, had been stabbed after she made the 9-1-1 call since her voice and breathing were amazingly clear, suggesting the killer was still in the house by that point to strike her later. Olivia then looked at the photos by the evidence-collection teams. There was an opening in the screen of one of the first-floor windows, a single sock on the porch of the house, two major pools of blood on the carpet of the living room where the two boys were brutally struck, and a crisscross of blood trials from the living room to the kitchen. There was also blood covering the large kitchen sink and the surrounding counters and floor tiles. In the 9-1-1 call, Carolina also said the suspect had stolen her gold watch that was placed on the living room table near where the boys slept. Her watch, though not found, lead police to suspect it was a robbery that had turned violent. When first responders came to the house, only the boys and their mother were present. No murder weapon was found; however, a knife block in the kitchen was noticeably missing its largest knife.
Olivia later flipped back to the first pages and found something indisputably off. On a page describing the crime scene, particularly the neighborhood and the house, there was a vast blank. She looked through the nooks and crannies of her car for any slip of paper or sticky note correcting the mistake that may have fallen out of the binder during her drive, but after ten minutes of searching, she determined it must have been a massive copying error. She wanted to punch her steering wheel out of frustration, for she considered mistakes like these inexcusable at the professional level. She proceeded to give the illustrious chief of police a call. Perhaps the fact that crime was so low in Kerryville, the department secretaries were lethargic.
"Hello, is this Chief Myers? It's Norwood."
"Yes, this is chief. Is something wrong?" replied the stern woman.
"Ma'am, I believe there's been a mistake. My copy of File 0471 is missing any locations involving the crime. No street name or really anything."
"It should be missing," she quickly responded. "Officer Kelly should have informed you of this."
"Well, she failed to ma'am. I was totally unaware."
"Hmm, I'll deal with that later. For your information, Norwood, this atrocity that has happened has attracted unprecedented media coverage. For the security of the scene, the location will not be disclosed on the case file. Only our best and most experienced will go to ensure that this crime currently under intense scrutiny is handled as professionally as possible. You, on the other hand, will be assigned to interview a key eyewitness named Haylie Noire. She works for the Eye and Cross church at 19909 Left 14th Street. You can't miss it."
"Yes, ma'am! I'll go right away. Thank you for the clarification."
"And one more thing, Norwood," Meyers added.
"Remember, this is your first case. Your résumé might've been impressive, but it means nothing until you prove yourself dependable. I may not have to say this, but can I trust you to do your duty?"
"Chief, it has been my aspiration to make the world a better place. If I have an opportunity to bring justice no matter how small, I can assure you I will use the best of my ability to do whatever it takes. No criminal in this town will sleep soundly."
"Good. That's what I like to hear. Now, on your way," the chief ordered.
"Thanks, Chief. See you in a few hours."
"I'm sure you will."
"Nothing... Just go."
After putting her phone away, she headed to the address. She pulled up to a small intersection where a humble, wooden church was on the corner almost concealed by hickory trees. The building appeared battered and dilapidated. The white paint on the walls was prominently discolored with vines going in and out between the rotting boards. It contrasted the condition of a wooden sign nearby that held the church's logo—a cross with a hollow circle above it containing one simple eye.
Olivia walked over the field, approaching the two front doors. It was at this time that Olivia remembered this place. Her mother used to take her to Eye and Cross when she was a tiny preschooler. She remembered the service times being really cold since the building's heater never worked. During October, her mother would let her pick out pumpkins that the church grew for free. But the one thing she recalled the most was that their senior pastor was a woman, an extreme rarity for any house of worship. It was a unique church that somehow grew into obscurity as time went on. She found it hard to believe anyone still worked there. Nonetheless, she knocked on the doors calmly. Immediately, footsteps could be heard. Someone was actually coming! A plethora of clicking and scraping transpired as the person inside unlocked the metal doors that were installed behind the old wooden ones. Without warning, one of the metal doors swung open with great force, collapsing the old hinges in front. A shocked Olivia managed to catch the wooden door before it slammed onto the ground.
"Damnit! This stupid thing!" exclaimed the woman who answered the detective's knocks. Olivia handed her the old door. "Sorry, you had to see that. We haven't been getting any offerings, so shit keeps fallin' apart. Damn termites!" she snapped. She had a French accent with a slight Southern drawl.
Olivia could see as the woman stepped outside that she had long curly brunette hair and pale white skin. Perplexingly, the church official wore a questionable attire that made Olivia almost chuckle out of pure surprise. She tried to not be distracted by the scanty red swimsuit the woman flaunted, but it proved to be very difficult. Her composure could hardly be revived. Even the one white sock she had on attracted curiosity.
"Hi. Detective, right?" said the woman.
"Um, yeah. Olivia Norwood, ma'am. And you are-?"
"I'm Haylie Noire. They said you'd be coming."
"Right. Then you know why I'm here."
"Aye, I do," Haylie replied with a grin. She crossed her arms and leaned her bare thigh against the metal door frame. "You're awfully young for a detective."
"This is my first case actually."
"If I may ask because I'm a little curious, is this place still a church? I mean, I look at you and the building, and I think something else has become of this place."
"What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing's wrong, objectively speaking. It's just not something I'd expect out of a church, or, to be more precise, not something that's appropriate."
"Excuse me?!" Haylie tilted her head and raised her left brow.
"I'm not trying to attack you, ma'am. I'm a God-fearing child of the Lord as much as you are. Pastor Lee at the Victory Center-great guy! He's very tolerant, but even he wouldn't allow the women in his clergy to roam the church in something like that, something so skimpy as what you are wearing, especially on a good Sunday such as today. I would assume your pastor wouldn't be pleased should he see you like this."
Haylie expressed an unpleasant frown.
"No, she wouldn't. You're talking to her."
"You're the pastor?"
"I've been for many years now. Eye and Cross is the house of the Lord as well as my home. We at Eye and Cross believe in opening one's spiritual eye to the gospel of God and Christ. I'm merely the one here who interprets the holy texts in the Bible so people can learn how to correctly open that spiritual eye."
"I see... That's quite different than what's usually taught."
"You must be too used to the male dominance that's prevalent in our society. We believe that genders should be equal. What I'm wearing is totally appropriate here. Men have always dictated us since the dawn of time. The reason our swimwear has become smaller is because over time men preferred so. They couldn't get enough of our bodies. Back then, we weren't educated enough to understand that God had laid out ways for us to do things ourselves. I'm wearing this because it's empowering to me. I used to be a model in Belgium, owned by a magazine company whose board of directors were entirely male. They'd secretly beat me if I didn't pose the right way or smile correctly for the camera. It was unbearable! But I knew the best thing for any Christian to do was to be patient. I waited for the right time and worked my ass off until I managed to escape across the Atlantic to Mississippi. I then came to this building and found sanctuary only to join the church later and move up the ranks to where I am now."
"I'm so sorry all that stuff happened to you. No person should experience that. Period. Although I cannot agree with you one hundred percent, I can surely respect you."
"Thank you, Olivia."
"Please, call me Ms. Norwood. I'd rather not get attached to this place. I have a job to do."
"Of course. Those murders were absolutely horrendous! I can barely believe it happened. But I saw the guy who did it exit the house!"
"I was outside when all the shit occurred! I saw him leave the house in a hurry, crawling out a window. I probably can't give you everything, but generally, I can tell you what he looked like and what he wore."
"Anything is better than nothing. Please, share it to me, but let's go inside. It's not safe to talk about this out here."
"You're right. I have a really secure room in the back. Follow me."
The two women entered the building. Olivia was baffled at the design. A long dark hallway was ahead of them. The floor, walls, and ceiling were all made out of dense concrete. The lights which appeared makeshift dangled above her head by a single cable that connected to a bigger cable that ran down the hallway's seemingly-endless ceiling. Even with the long line of lights, in the distance was darkness, and the only noise was the sound of air rushing through the vents. What kind of church was this?
Olivia would soon get her answer as Haylie, in an instant, wrapped her arm around Olivia's neck. She gagged and tried to elbow Haylie who was crushing her windpipe. Suddenly, two more women came out of nowhere to help the attack, both of them also wearing swimsuits. Haylie brought her to the ground while one woman punched her in the stomach and the other tried to take off her clothes. Olivia was too overwhelmed to react anymore. The strikes to her abdomen caused her to cough up blood. They eventually took off her pantsuit and left her in lingerie. She couldn't attempt to fight back. Realizing how weak she had become, Haylie signaled them to stop.
The three women who attacked her then lifted her off the ground and carried her down the hallway. Olivia looked to the side and noticed that they were passing by cells. There were chambers on both sides of the hallway, each kept secure by an iron fence gate. And each one had a person inside. All were naked men... Every single one looked beaten, some with broken limbs and others laid on the floor in a pool of blood-probably dead.
Every cell was the same size except for one that had a thick steel door at the very end of the hallway. A couple more women held it open as they carried Olivia inside. They set her down on a chair and strapped her to it with rope. Haylie grabbed a nearby chair and put it directly in front of her. She sat down and looked Olivia in the eyes. A large group of women stood behind.
"I know. All of this is just crazy... Who am I? Who are you? What does any of this mean? Well... let's get the shit straight. You're Olivia Norwood, my prisoner. I'm Haylie Noire, and welcome to my kingdom! You should be happy! Here, we treat you with the most love you'll ever get. I told you our institution Eye and Cross treats genders equally. And since men have ravaged us and made us into something we aren't, it only figures we bite them back in the ass to make it even. It is equality! And we will continue to equalize! To make men feel the same exact pain we have endured for millennia! You are part of that plan, Olivia. We have been following you for a long time. We know what what the men have done to you."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Perhaps you don't remember. It's the reason why you are a detective. The reason why you fight. The reason you wake up in the morning not wanting to end it all. You may have tried to bury it, but the past is in you whether you like or not. Maybe this will refresh your memory." With her hand and fingers, she made the shape of a gun and aimed it right at Olivia's lower stomach, directly at a scar below her belly button.
Olivia broke into tears. The memory came back. A hideous nightmare she would never recover. When it happened, some of her greatest dreams were crushed, the dreams of growing her own kin.
Long ago on Halloween night, when she was sixteen-years-old, a madman had hijacked a car and drove through her neighborhood with his window down and a gun in one of his hands. He drove right by Olivia who was trick-or-treating in a police costume. He couldn't tell the difference... She was shot twice in the lower abdomen. They rushed her to the hospital where she miraculously survived, but her uterus was unrecognizable. They had to sterilize her. Her heart was never the same. She could never have a family of her blood. She had tried to forget the tragedy, but Haylie reminded her of the loss. She lowered her head down and cried.
"Yes. I knew you'd know," Haylie snickered. "Let me tell you. I admire it. You must have real anger inside you for that man. You must harness it. Don't worry. We can make it better." She grabbed her neck and began kissing her on the lips. Olivia tried to move away, but it was worthless. Why was this happening to her? Haylie then jumped from her seat to Olivia's lap, seductively rubbing her body against hers. The other women watched and smiled. Olivia then spat in Haylie's face. The action astonished her.
"You bitch! You know how little investment I have in you?!" After wiping away the spit on her forehead, she slapped her with the back of her hand. "You're lucky I don't wanna kill you. I adore your blonde hair. And God be damned if He shall separate us. You're mine!"
"I am God's!" yelled Olivia. "Repent! And He may save you! You are no pastor, and you are wicked! The Lord meant women to be men's best supporter, to be his best partner. And that is all! If men did you wrong, you should have prayed."
"You are wrong! Praying did nothing! I prayed endlessly for Him to expunge me from the men who abused me, and you know what happened next? I was raped! Instead, God showed me a new direction."
"It wasn't the Lord. It was the Devil convincing you he is the one; he's not! He never will be! Repent now so his grip shall loosen!"
"I'm already saved! If you think you're saved, say that to your kids that will never be born!" Haylie kicked Olivia's chair. She fell back, her head hitting the solid floor.
"Why am I here?!" she questioned angrily.
"If only you used your anger for the right things," Haylie replied, ignoring her. "You're a pathetic waste! Rot in here as you wish! Call me when you wake up."
They walked out of the room, locking the door behind them. Olivia was left alone on the floor strapped to a small chair. She looked around the room. It was dark and empty. What was this place? It seemed to be an old underground prison that had turned into the headquarters of a cult. Women delusional. Men tortured. How did she get here? She suspected Chief Meyers had planned it. The location of the church was not disclosed on the case file. Chief must have known this and told Olivia the address of where to go. But the real question was why?
As minutes went by, the pieces began to fall into place. For some reason, they didn't want her to investigate the murders. Perhaps the killer and the police department were colluding together! And upon Olivia being hired, they soon came to realize the detective was someone who could expose their wrongdoing! It all made sense. But there were still questions unanswered. For that she needed Haylie, so she developed a plan, a plan full of pretense!
"Help! Help! Help me please!" Olivia shouted, collecting attention down the hallway. Chatter across the building ensued until Haylie reentered. She appeared skeptical.
"Well, looks like someone's come crawling back."
"I was wrong, okay. I'm yours," Olivia sobbed.
"Damn right, Ms. Norwood. Leave us," she ordered. The other women closed the door. Haylie then locked it with the key.
"I'll do what you want."
"How do I know you're not being the cutest little actress?" she said with a smirk.
"Pick me up, and I'll show you." Haylie picked up the chair she was strapped to and placed it back on its legs. That's when Olivia leaned in and kissed her. Haylie, who was shocked at first, eased up and lowered her guard. They kissed strenuously for five straight minutes, but it was exactly what Olivia wanted: to gain her trust.
"Didn't know you were so horny, defective."
"Yeah... You know, if you untie me, I can show you more love."
"Actually I have a better idea."
"This place you're staying in used to be my office."
Haylie walked over to the wall where a random knob was present that had numbers marked on it. She twisted it to a certain point which opened a secret compartment. Olivia paid close attention. A pile of confidential things was visible. Haylie pulled out a plastic toy from the pile and went to Olivia to untie her. Instantly after breaking her knots, she punched Haylie in the stomach, making her fall to the ground in pain. Olivia jumped with her chair and landed on Haylie's back, breaking the chair to pieces which freed her. She quickly held Haylie's mouth shut as she screamed. Meanwhile, she searched around her body for the key. After a while, she noticed it inches away from Haylie's face but failed to grab it first. Haylie promptly put the key in her mouth. Olivia saw this and tried to put her in a chokehold.
"I swear to goodness, if you swallow!" But it was too late. Olivia could feel her gulp as she held her neck. "Ughhh!" She took a piece of the chair and smacked her across the head, knocking her out cold.
She turned her attention to the secret compartment that was now closed, but she knew what to do after watching Haylie carefully. The code was the street name in the building's address which was Left 41st Street. She turned the knob left to the number 41. It opened, and Olivia looked inside. To her surprise, most of the pile was junk, but there were some things that were priceless. There were a lot of pictures. Each was a shot of some sort of crime scene. She soon realized the pictures were identical to the pictures in the case file 0471 except something was off. They were pictures of the same exact areas of the house except the blood spatter patterns looked significantly different. In fact, the photos from the secret compartment appeared more natural and detailed, leading Olivia to suggest the ones in the case file were digitally altered. But why would they want to hide the blood evidence? She looked specifically at the bloodstains. Most of the patterns were the same as the case file ones; however, significant details were changed. The picture that caught her eye the most was one that had a triangle-shaped bloodstain that wasn't seen before. Olivia quickly determined it was from the murder weapon, most likely the knife missing from the kitchen. But what was intriguing was that around the knife stain were drops of blood that clearly revealed that someone was standing still while bleeding for a large amount of time. The drops had no tails. They were perfectly circular. Another picture was also telling. It was a snapshot of someone's neck that had been sliced open. The person seemed to be female. It had to be Carolina! Looking at her neck, there were clear little red marks around the main slit that Olivia suspected were hesitation marks. Hesitation marks were common in suicides where a person would slowly scratch their skin to grow a tolerance to the forthcoming pain. This meant that Carolina wasn't stabbed by an intruder. She was trying to make herself look stabbed! Olivia then thought of the picture in her case file that showed a sock that was left outside on the front porch. Why would an intruder leave a sock outside, especially if no shoes were found that didn't belong to the family? Judging from the ruler in the picture, Olivia thought the sock was probably a size 10.
Suddenly, everything had fitted together like a perfect Tetris game. The truth became crystal clear. And to confirm this, Olivia looked at Haylie's body. She was right outside the house when the murders took place. And Olivia was right. Haylie currently only wore one white sock. Her other sock was the one found in front of the house when police arrived. To make sure this certainly wasn't a coincidence, Olivia searched through the pile again. Just as she thought, she discovered the gold watch that was missing from the Thompson household... It was true.
Upon coming to her conclusion, Olivia's next course of action was escape, but Haylie had swallowed the only key. That meant there was only one thing to do. And Olivia did not like it.
She took pieces of the broken chair and scraped them against the wall to sharpen them. She then went to Haylie's body and tore into her abdomen. She made a hole and stretched her arms inside to grab the keys. By the time she found them, her hands were covered in blood. It almost prompted her to puke, but she knew it was necessary to dig in her body for her survival.
Olivia unlocked the door and slowly walked through the hallway, passing by the numerous cells. She felt bad for all the men who were in their cells being tortured. She wanted to free them as quickly as possible, but she didn't want to create a stir that would give her trouble. Some cells even had women inside who were still playing with the men. They whipped them, castrated them, choked them with a leash, and made them give sexual pleasure from a submissive position. Perhaps she could go somewhere far to expose Eye and Cross once and for all. The atrocities here should never be forgotten.
While thinking, she managed to walk out of the building and to her car without any women noticing. She quickly drove to the police department where she stopped and thought hard for a good few minutes. Chief Meyers had colluded with Eye and cross along with other officers, probably including the ones who went to the crime scene of the recent murders. Who knows which officers were corrupted and which weren't. It could even be all of them! She couldn't take the chance.
"God help us all," Olivia whispered.
She thought she might have to leave Kerryville. Something very wrong was happening underneath the town. She had to escape to somewhere far. But before she could go she decided to pay a small visit to her personal church, the Victory Center, to pray... and pray hard...
One year later, at a cemetery in Philadelphia, Carolina Thompson came to visit the graves of her two sons for what would've been their seventh birthday. She decorated their graves with glitter and confetti. As she danced around and cheerfully laughed, she played upbeat music on her boombox. Additionally, she brought a cake and invited her female friends to eat some and participate in spraying silly string on the gravestones. When asked by the cemetery manager about the unorthodox manner, Carolina gladly responded.
"My boys, Eric and Stephen, they wouldn't want us to be sad. They'd want us to be joyful!"
The next day, Carolina's husband was killed. Suspect was supposedly unknown. Another year later, Quincy McCullough, was murdered. It seems in the end, he had every right to tremble underneath his blankets.