Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Final Scene

Candice here, Katie and I collaborated on this post. It switches between Ralph's POV and Azalea's POV. Please review! :)

Who the hell does the record keeping in this place? Ben and I have been through stacks and stacks of papers. Still no gun records.
I pick up another folder and start shuffling through the papers. Now that we have a solid lead I’m feeling pretty anxious to get to the homicidal creep. Not just because I’m more than ready to clear out of here and get to a Starbucks. At the end of the day it’s all about arresting violent murders so that they aren’t strolling about violently murdering people. The killer may not be a psychopath but he is still dangerous and still armed.
But where the hell are the records?


I’m a bit OCD about washing my dishes. I have to scrub them until they’re shiny enough to use as mirrors before loading them into the dishwasher. Maybe that’s my competitive streak at work—me versus the dishwasher. Woman versus machine.
Whatever the reason, it takes awhile; especially after we have big, messy dinners like tonight’s stir fry chicken. “Awhile” doesn’t even begin to describe that cleanup.
As I’m rinsing the sticky saucepan, I hear footsteps echoing from the dining room. Glancing at the clock—8:23—I wonder if Jezebel decided to come back early with the kids. For some unearthly reason, Warwick asked her to take them out (yes, out, into the open, with an insane serial killer wandering through the streets) for dessert. Apparently my stir fry wasn’t enough to fill them up, and the ice cream we have here is freezer burned.
I rotate my head just far enough to catch a glimpse of my husband sauntering into the kitchen. Surprise, surprise: he’s actually decided to take his eyes off the football game for a few minutes. Though maybe he’s just coming in to grab a bag of chips.
“Azalea?” he asks gruffly, and I roll my eyes as I stare at the suds surging through my fingers.
“There’re Doritos in the cupboard,” I sigh.
“Actually, I was thinking that we should talk,” he says, and something in his voice sends a shiver down my spine. “About that divorce you keep thinking about.”
Oh, boy. Here it goes.
He’s right about it being constantly on my mind, pestering me to take action. Now that the time has actually come to take that first step, though, my heart is leaping away from me, threatening to leave me breathless over my almost-clean dishes.
But I can’t let hyperventilation get the better of me, and I certainly can’t go wedging myself between the sofa cushions and never resurface, although I desperately wish I could.
I shut off the water and slowly turn to face him. Instead, I find myself facing the barrel of a gun.


“Detective Sir-etty! I found them!”
I’m so pleased I don’t even correct Ben’s horrific mispronunciation of my last name.
“Excellent! Who owns a .45 automatic?”
Ben scans through the papers. My foot develops a nervous twitch while I wait for him to find the information. I hate waiting. I’m always the jumpy one during a stakeout. Come on, Ben, murderer running loose, possibly closing in on his next victim. Remember?
“Oh, God.” Ben drops the papers.
“What?” I ask him. Maybe more than one person owns a .45 automatic. I had suspected that might happen. It’ll mean interrogations, lock-up, and more work than if there was only one person. Not that big a deal though. We’ll still have our killer.
“The killer… it’s the mayor!” Ben is aghast.
“The mayor owns a .45 automatic?”
Ben nodded, muttering, “the mayor, the mayor…”
“He is the only person in this town who owns a .45 automatic?”
Ben nods again, still muttering to himself. He is going to need to get a grip.
“Pull yourself together, Ben, we have an arrest to make,” I say as I stand up and grab my gun.


I cannot recall ever being more surprised than I am at this very moment.
Even when I found Eloise dead in the salon, I was wary of the deserted darkness that met me when I opened the door. I was horrified, of course, but at least I had understood what had happened. Now? Now I wouldn’t be able to tell you who or where I am, let alone why my hands are wet and wrinkly and a man is pointing a gun at me.
A man. My husband. Dear God, why couldn’t he just go get a Mercedes like normal men do when they have midlife crises? Instead he has to sleep with a twenty-something-year-old country bumpkin and get rid of his wife the old-fashioned way. And if he’s prepared to murder me, his spouse of over fifteen years, then who else would he--did he--oust? Eloise, Pastor John, Eli...
I cringe and begin sliding toward the floor, my legs too wobbly to hold me up any longer. I hear a metallic click and assume from all the crime novels I’ve read that it belongs to something novelists call the safety. I never thought I’d put that information to use in a life-and-death situation, but then, life’s full of surprises. Until it’s over.
“You’re the serial killer,” I mumble in a daze, more to myself than anyone else. “Murderer. Psychopath. Fr--”
“Really, Azalea,” Warwick grumps impatiently, almost as if we’re arguing about something as tame as state treasury elections. “‘Psychopath’ is hardly the word I would use.”
I stare at him in disbelief. “And just what word would you use?”
“Entrepreneur,” he states matter-of-factly.
Correction: he’s an egotistical psychopath.


Ben and I blast through the streets and screech around corners. I haven’t turned on the siren. Tiny town like this, everyone would hear it. Can’t have Mayor Murder hear us coming. His killing patterns aren’t that of a psychopath, but anyone who goes about murdering people can hardly be called stable or mentally sound. No telling what he might do.
Ben is looking stiff but he has stopped hyperventilating. This is good. Poor guy, he’s probably never seen this much action before.
I jerk the steering wheel roughly to turn left. I use any and all excuses to drive like a maniac. Good adrenaline. That’s one thing I really love about my line of work. I wonder what that says about my inner psyche? Probably nothing good. Lucky the streets are deserted.


“You see, Azalea, this has all been about you. From the very beginning.”
“I don’t understand.” I try to ignore that my hands are trembling with the force of a thousand jackhammers. And don’t even get the writer in me started on the buzzing in my head--a hive of frenzied bumblebees, an electric razor searing over my scalp, an airplane spinning through turbulence in the Bermuda Triangle...
“I know you know about Jezebel and me,” Warwick says casually. “You want to divorce me. I can’t let that happen.”
“What are you going to do?” I ask shakily. My mind is bursting with hordes of other questions (one of them being, “Why are you speaking like a robot? Did someone replace your brain--not to mention your heart--with a machine?”), but soon his creepily monotone voice is providing me with an unwanted answer.
“Not what I am going to do; what I have been doing. As I already told you, it has all been about you. All the deaths that came before. They were all for you, Azalea. For the purpose of killing you, that is.”
“I...I still don’t understand,” I manage, though I’m afraid I’m lying to buy time on this precious, if fundamentally flawed and inherently evil, earth.
“I couldn’t let you divorce me, Azalea,” he explains with a sigh. “It would ruin me. In the court case, you would get the house, the kids, the cars, the money. I might even have to pay you money. And of course I would never be reelected. If you divorced me for an affair, it would be political suicide. I would lose everything. Maybe even Jezebel.” He grins at me, his calm facade gone, and I’m stuck with a sudden terrible truth. After Warwick kills me, and it is clear he fully intends to, he will have my kids. Oh, God. This lunatic will have my kids.
“They’ll find you,” I whisper, my eyes watering. “They’ll put you in prison for life.”
“The cops think this is the work of some crazy outsider,” he chuckles maniacally, “and their opinion isn’t going to change as long as I’m in charge of Wildewood. I realized that to kill you, you couldn’t be the only one to die. It had to look like the work of a madman with no motive but his own insanity.
“You would ruin me, Azalea,” Warwick growls at me, “but I’m going to fix that. If you’re dead, I keep the money, my reputation, Jezebel, everything. Hell, my popularity will probably go up out of sympathy.”
He’s panting heavily and takes a breath to calm himself. “This is the end, Azalea.”


Ben and I are at the house. The one with the murderer. We walk towards the door with purpose, guns drawn. The front door isn’t closed all the way. Did we miss him? Has he skipped town? That would be a major letdown and a hell of a lot more trouble.
We are at the door now, pressed to the wall on either side. There are voices. Good. Hopefully this means he is still here.
Ben’s eyes widen and he nearly drops his gun as we hear what the scum inside is saying to his wife. I shoot him a sharp look and communicate to him with hand gestures to keep quiet and follow me.
This is going to be tricky.


A gunshot knocks my eardrums out of my head. Strangely enough, it doesn’t come from Warwick’s gun.
My eyes shoot toward the door, where two men stand with moonlight warming their backs. One I recognize, probably from the police force judging by his uniform, but the other is completely foreign to me. Despite his scruffy appearance and the dark circles under his eyes, he looks like nothing less than a guardian angel from my hunched position on the floor.
My ears are ringing either from the gunshot or from my own personal Niagara Falls of adrenaline, or possibly a combination of both, so I don’t hear whatever words come out of my angel’s mouth. I just know that the sooner I get away from all of the firearms in the room, the better.


Just barely got down the entryway quick enough to shoot the gun from his hand before he pulled the trigger. One second late and it would have been to late for the woman the gun was pointed at. That is how close it was. Damn.
I don’t look at the woman yet, I don’t take my eyes off the man turning to face me, not until he is wearing my handcuffs and sitting in the back of my car. He was about to do in his own wife. Guess that explains his motive. The other deaths were going to cover up her murder.
“Hands up and up against the wall,” I say coldly.
The scum jumps at me. I don’t even bother to try to comprehend the angry gibberish he starts yapping at me. Instead I punch him in the gut before he can reach me, then slam him against the fridge and click on handcuffs.
“Get him to the back of the car, Ben, get him to the station, lock him up, and if he shuts up for a few minutes, read him his rights” I look at the wide-eyed woman on the floor, “and radio in for an ambulance, she needs to be treated for shock.”
I wait until the perp has been hustled out of the house screaming profanities and I hear Ben pull out of the driveway before turning to the woman.
I walk over and squat next to her, “How are you feeling, ma’am?”


“How are you feeling, ma’am?” the angel asks soothingly.
Well, as soothing as a gruff and scruffy detective can possibly be. This is not how it happens in the movies.
It takes me a moment to find my voice, but when I do, it’s unusually high-pitched and breathy. I must sound like a blond beauty pageant contestant. “I-I’m o-o-okay. I-I’m fine.”
The man smiles. A gruff and scruffy smile, but a smile all the same. “Good. You’re safe now. You’re going to be alright.”
“Thank you,” I whisper, then reiterate in a stronger, more assured tone, “thank you. Thank you.” Somehow, just saying the words pulls me back into reality.
“All part of the job ma’am. By the way,” he holds out his hand towards me to shake, “I’m Detective Ralph Sûreté.”
“Azalea,” I return, choosing not to mention my last name, which will definitely be changed back to my maiden name ASAP.
I extend my own hand and cringe at the tremors that run through it, but he doesn’t seem to mind as he gently but firmly grips my hand. I guess he’s used to having people fall apart on him like this.
That’s about when it hits me. It’s over. The murderer is caught and, miracle of miracles, I’m not dead. It really is going to be alright.
I hear a car pulling into the driveway--the kids must be home. How the heck am I going to explain all of this to them? And what am I going to do with Jezebel? Oh, who cares! They’re here and safe and so am I and it’s all going to be alright. I’m suddenly struck with a desire to hug them nearly tight enough to squeeze the living daylights out of them, only that’s a hyperbole, because for these next few weeks, I’ll be treating them as if they’re as fragile as thin sheets of glass.
I start to push myself up from the tile but find that I’m far too weak to stand on my own. Ralph thoughtfully helps me to my feet, and I give him a grateful smile as he walks me to the door.
Thank God it’s over.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Azalea, Part Nine

This is a really quick one (I've got way too much homework to write anything solid), so please excuse the typos and grammatical errors that are undoubtedly abundant! I haven't proofread it at all...

It was while lying in bed this morning—denying that it was nine a.m. and insisting it was only, say, four—that I realized that I’m out of confidantes in this town. Ophelia’s mom: gone. Eloise: dead. Even the brainwashed, socialite wives of my husband’s coworkers won’t feel obligated to invite me to Girls Night Out after I divorce him. And I will divorce him. Soon. Not yet. I need to let the murderous dust settle in this town before I put my kids through that sort of family extravaganza.

“Hey, Mom.”

I jump guiltily, as if just thinking about the D-word were a federal crime. Caleb, of course, has no idea what kinds of thoughts he’s just interrupted, though I’m sure that deep down, he knows what’s coming.

“Good morning,” I greet, my singsong tone a little too flat to pass for cheerful. “Ready for breakfast?”

“Sure,” he says with a shrug. Somehow I don’t think he stopped by for a blueberry muffin. All the same, he grabs for the Cheerios as I hand him the milk carton and a spoon.

Once his bowl is full of honey-flavored grains, he stirs it absently and repeats, “Hey, Mom?”


There’s another pause as he takes a tentative bite. “Do you think this’ll end soon?”

At first I think he’s talking about my marriage, in which case I would have replied, Very soon indeed. I soon realize, however, that his mind is on more important things. Serial killers, for instance.

“There’s a detective working on the case now,” he continues. “People are talking about him on Facebook.”

I lift an eyebrow. How is it that my son knows more about the situation than I do?

“When did he get here?”

“Dunno.” He shoves another spoonful into his mouth and politely swallows before opening his mouth again to speak. I’ve raised nothing if not a gentleman. “Today or yesterday, maybe. He’s some sort of bigwig from out of town.”

“And he has a good reputation?” I infer.

“I guess,” he mumbles, then asks more clearly, “Do you think he’s got a chance at solving this thing before…before someone else dies?”

God only knows, I think, but that’s not the answer Caleb is hoping to hear. He’s looking for reassurance, and while I can’t lie to him, I can’t let him down, either.

“I certainly hope so,” I resolve quietly. “We all do. You, me, your sisters, your father, and the whole rest of the town. This detective has a lot of support to hold him up.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ralph Sûreté Part 1

Sorry I'm so late! I only just got back from Utah. Anyway the detective from the city has finally arrived. Addie, I couldn't remember what Ophelia's father's name is, so I'm leaving the officer's name blank for now, if you tell me his name, I'll put it in. Also I couldn't remember if you named the Deputy. Ralph has been in town for two days so any reactionary pieces you post will have to have happened during those two days. Hope you like it!

Ralph Sûreté Part 1

The refrain in Elvis Costello’s This is Hell comes to mind as I drive down the deserted road that passed for Main Street in this damn town. I’ve been banished here for two days.

This is Hell, this is Hell

I’m sorry to tell you

It never gets better or worse

But you get used to it, after a spell

For heaven is hell in reverse

Except for the getting used to it bit, it’s a pretty damn good portrayal. Figures I would get stuck with this stupid case. I swear Captain Jones has it in for me. If I don’t catch the psycho murderer running loose I may die from over exposure to this damn town. There is no Starbucks here. There is a store that sells only porcelain figurines and no Starbucks. I’m gonna die here. I miss the city. I want coffee. I think I’m going into withdrawal. I had a dream about coffee last night. It was wonderful, but then I woke up. God, I sound like a whining five-year-old. Like I said: Withdrawal.

I pull up in front of the tiny police station and park my sedan next to a rusty police cruiser. I enter the building, and Deputy Ben Johnson looks up.

“Hey, Detective Sir-etty.”

“It’s pronounced Syr-taeh.” How many times have I told you this? “Where’s Officer ________?”

“______ is with his daughter, Ophelia.”

“Right. Ben, if you could hand me the file on the homicides, I would like to review it again.” And the sooner I solve this case, the sooner I can get the hell out of here.

Ben nods and hands me the case file. “The murderer sure is a deranged madman.”

I try to ignore that the man is ogling at my suit, I’m sure he’s never seen one before, and get to reading.

This is Hell, this is Hell

Damn it, now I have that song stuck in my head.

I’ve been over this file so often over the last two days I could probably recite it word for word. This case bothers me. And for reasons besides its location. See, I’ve had some experience with deranged madmen, and it had been bothering me how these murders happened. In one case I had, the murderer was killing bald, Caucasian men in their forties, turned out he had a boss who fired him that fit that description. Another case I had, the murderer was killing prostitutes and he put red lipstick on each of the corpse’s lips. My point is there is always some connecting factor. The victims in this case all appear to have been killed in overdramatic ways, but none of the ways are really connecting. I page through the file again. Suddenly it occurs to me that something’s missing.



“Where’s the autopsy?”

“Isn’t it in there? Hang on,” he riffles through some paper on the cluttered desk. “Here ya go.”

I look through the autopsy. I love that moment when it suddenly makes sense.

See, all the victims appear to have been murdered in a horrific, over-dramatic manner. The last one, a Pastor John Hart, was apparently beaten unconscious, and then died from either the smoke fumes or the flames when the perpetrator set his house on fire. The keywords here are ‘appear’ and ‘apparently.’ The murderer is trying to give the appearance of insanity, and not doing such a terrific job. The only real connecting factor is that all the victims happen to live nearby. I’m guessing the murderer wants to cover up one murder with other murders. But who is the target victim? Has the murder killed him yet? Or does he still need to?



“The murderer isn’t a psychopath.”

“How do you figure that?” Ben asks, rubbing his eyes, sleepily.

“Have you seen the autopsy report?”

“Naw, ______ and I figured we’d skip it. Anyone can see how they died,” Ben stretched and yawned.

Of course they didn’t read the autopsy. “You should have read the autopsy.”

“So some expert in a lab can tell me that Eli was hung?” Ben says sarcastically.

Hey, I can be sarcastic to, Ben. “No, so some expert in a lab can tell you that Eli didn’t die because he was hung. So some expert can tell you he was shot twice in the chest with a .45 automatic. So some expert can tell you that all the victims were killed with a gun.”

Ben knocks over an empty mayo jar that was serving as a pencil holder. “They were shot?! But… what?”

“The killer was giving you a show, Ben. He wanted to give the appearance of a psychopath.” Ben looks at me mutely.

“Would you mind looking up who, in this town, owns a .45 automatic?”

Ben snaps out of it. Great. Soon as we find and arrest the murderer I can get the hell out of here. My dream of Starbucks is soon to come true.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Azalea, Part Eight

“Would you like some more potatoes, Caleb?”



“No, thanks.”


“I’m full.”

“I’d love some, Azalea—those are yummy.”

I slowly and deliberately rotate my body towards the offending sound, my left eyelid twitching with images of smacking Jezebel upside the head with the hot spatula currently clenched in my hand. Why is this monstrous fiend tainting my dining room table with her hideous immorality? Why is she devouring my family’s supper like it’s a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner?

“I adore your cooking, Azalea,” she tells me cheerfully as I grudgingly scoop seconds onto her plate. “Thank you so much for letting me eat with you! You didn’t have to go through all of this trouble for me.” Okay, reality check: I didn’t go through “all of this trouble” for her. I didn’t even know she was coming until she showed up at the front door thanking me for the invitation—or, rather, Warwick’s invitation. It’s a good thing I was planning for leftovers. Or maybe that’s a bad thing; there wouldn’t have been enough to accommodate her otherwise.

Oblivious to the poisonous glare I’m directing at her blindingly pink lips as they chew what was supposed to be tomorrow’s lunch, she compliments, “This is delicious. How do you cook them?”

“They’re just roasted in olive oil…and garlic…and thyme…” I mumble, scooting my fork across my half-eaten plate.

“And the chicken?”

“It’s a Greek recipe,” I answer after a moment’s hesitation. “It’s marinated in yogurt.”

“Mmm, I thought I tasted Greek yogurt.” Nodding, she continues, “What’s your secret for the green beans?”

Okay, seriously? Is my husband not enough for her? Is she trying to steal my meager culinary skills now, too?

I’m considering telling her that I boil them in donkey intestines before Warwick intercedes, “Parsley and basal, right Azalea?”

“Yup,” I affirm through clenched teeth.

There’s blissful silence for a few moments as everyone either chomps noisily or gulps down a glass of wine (I’m the latter), and I take the chance to glance at the grandfather clock in the corner. Just one more hour until we have to be at the church to mourn last night’s loss. I can survive an hour…unless, of course, the murderer decides to break into the house and kill us all like he did Pastor John.

As I’m told, John was eating his own dinner just before death arrived on his doorstep—literally. And yet somehow Warwick thought it fitting to commemorate the poor man with a nice “family” supper.

On the bright side, due to pure physical impossibility, Ophelia’s name has been cleared from her father’s daunting list of suspects. The public has miraculously realized that unless she inherited magical powers that allow her to commit crimes from behind steel bars, she’s not guilty, and contrary to popular big-city belief, we Midwesterners aren’t big on witch-hunts. That’s more of a European thing.

For a few measly seconds, I’m able to pretend that I’m not sitting next to a lying, cheating bastard on one side and his imbecilic mistress on the other, but that heavenly vision is eventually broken by piggish groans of satisfaction.

“I’m stuffed,” Jezebel announces, planting within my head a daydream of fattening her up like Hansel and Gretel and tossing her in my gingerbread oven.

Good God. I’m starting to sound like the murderer.

Patting his rounded stomach, Warwick glances at me out of the corner of his eye. “You did a good job on the chicken this time. It wasn’t as dry as last week’s.”

“Thanks.” I think my sarcasm is lost on him.

He nods as if to say, “You’re very welcome,” but instead asks, “What’s for dessert?”

My eyes nearly pop out of their sockets in an effort to strangle him with my optic nerves. I just cooked that entire dinner for him and his slut, and he has the audacity to ask for another course? Since when do we even have a family dessert, anyway? And why the heck should it be my responsibility to bake a freakin’ soufflé for his girlfriend?

I’m sure my face is white with rage as I calmly rise from my seat to return to the kitchen for vanilla ice cream and gingersnap cookies, and possibly a bottle of cyanide sauce for the other adults in the room. Why, for Christ’s sake, did the serial killer pick the pastor’s house and not City Hall?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Madelina, Part 6

I never considered myself the most holy person. My family didn’t regularly attend church, nor did we proclaim ourselves of one single religion. So it sort of struck me as odd when I discovered the next murder victim. 
Ophelia was being held in custody. Or so I heard. And unless she magically escaped, I somehow doubted she killed this person. 
A part of me really wanted to go visit her. Even though we didn’t know each other that well, I still felt obligated to do so; even if only to assure her that I belived she was innocent. 
And that’s how I found myself redirecting the now daily walk I took towards where Ophelia was being kept. I was so caught up in thoughts of what I would say to her, when suddenly I saw it. 
A house should’ve been there. I recognized that immediately, and for a moment, that was about all that processed for me. It was the charred remains, the burnt structure of what was once a home. I knew immediately from the close proximity it shared with the nearby church that it was the priest’s home. It had been burned to the ground.
The priest was dead. Even he wasn’t safe from these horrific attacks.
And I was pretty sure that unless Ophelia magically escaped, she did not commit this one.
I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. I couldn’t even bear being in the same vicinity of this.
I didn’t even bother going to see Ophelia now. I ran and ran and didn’t stop until I safely reached home again. 

Madelina, Part 5

When I woke up the following morning, it took me a moment to process why I had this sickening fear pressing on me.
            And then it hit me.
            The bonfire. The sparks. Screaming. Running. The cow—the disgusting, disfigured, burnt corpse of mammoth proportions in the bonfire; our bonfire. A tradition sacred for years in this hellhole of a town, but a tradition nonetheless. And someone had screwed with it.
            All I had wanted was an escape. Albeit a mental one at that, but simply an escape. I had thought the fall festival would give that to me, but apparently not. The town had still been in shock after the unexpected murder, but everyone had still been excited for the festival. I think they had all been looking for an escape too.
            Maybe a walk would be good for me. Yes, a nice long walk through the streets (and far away from the site of the festival) would suit me. Some fresh air would certainly clear my mind.
            I stepped outside into the early fall day and the sun greeted me with its sparkling rays smoothly gliding over the earth. Normally happy scenery only evoked the opposite feeling in me, but after the past couple of days I would take anything happy.
            It was just a little stroll through the neighborhood. Nothing much; I planned on returning home very soon. But although I had only been dealing with this weirdness for two days, somehow I wasn’t surprised when I heard the scream.
            It took me a moment the realize the scream was directed at me and it wasn’t much of a scream of fright…more of an exclamation to get my attention. Of course when I saw the expression on my neighbor’s face, there was definitely fear there.
            “What?” I asked, slightly annoyed. If I had to hear a recounted experience of last night’s bonfire I swear I would strangle someone.
            The woman who had called my attention and now answered was certainly one of my neighbors, although she lived farther down so unlike the closer ones she had never had a reason to call the police on me or my mom before. We were still on good terms, in other words. She was middle-aged, lived alone, and I could never remember her name.
            “Eli, h-he was h-hanged in Farmer Harris’ barn!” she exclaimed, fear making her voice tremble.
            Now this took me a moment to process and also to remember who Eli was. Before the shock had even fully consumed me, I allowed it to take hold of my voice as I cried, “What?!” So very profound, I know, but there really wasn’t much of a response one could give to this news.
            She nodded quickly and stammered out the next words. “He was found this morning with a—with a bouquet of roses at his feet.” She looked about to burst into tears.
            “Roses?” I asked, confused.
            My kind, (yet clearly mentally unstable at this moment) neighbor nodded again. “Didn’t you hear? Last night at the bonfire a note was found. I-It said, ‘Enjoy the fire. Stop to smell the roses. It won’t last long.’”
            I stared blankly for a moment. Why was I always receiving this information second-hand? “Who found him?” I asked.
            “Ophelia,” she said and the woman finally burst into tears.