Don't Leave Me Hanging

Chapter 1

"This is unprecedented!"

 

Jason Dunn sat in the wide debriefing room, watching the lead-detective, Connor, as he paced around the enclosure, circling the long table which was surrounded by only ten people, all of them confused, listening to the man as he frantically tried to figure out what was going on even though he was the only one in the room who’d been given the situation, even though he was supposed to be explaining it to the other detectives to figure out who would be taking the abnormal case.

 

"Seven suicides with no correlation, no link to any mental illnesses, nothing which had gone wrong in their lives before this, nothing!" The man's deep voice almost transcended its usual pitch as he spoke, ranting about the new case.

 

"Wait,” Jason began, cottoning onto what Connor had said and not fully understanding it. “No mental illnesses?" He asked, wanting clarification, to which Connor confirmed, just as perplexed as everybody else in the room. "They just... killed themselves?"

 

Connor nodded simply with nothing to add to his previous rant-like explanation, unable to elaborate on something which was so self-explanatory but also so stumping simultaneously.

 

"Maybe it's just a coincidence?" Jason posed, shrugging lightly, but the lead-detective spun on his toes and gave Jason a death-stare which could have suggested that Jason had ferociously insulted the man’s family.

 

"It could have been a coincidence when it was two people- maybe three at a push. Now, though? Definitely not," Connor insisted as if trying to convince everybody that his barely-existent theory was correct. After all, there didn’t seem to be anything else to go off of. It seemed as if Connor had been told that there had been a string of unprovoked suicides with no extra information to give him a more stable idea as to whether or not they really were unprovoked or even suicides in the first place.

 

Silence overtook them all as they pondered the possibilities. Jason's mind couldn't grasp the idea of the deaths not being linked as, like Connor had said, there were simply too many consecutive deaths which were following some type of pattern of appearing to be suicides from mentally-well people for the situation to be pure coincidence.

 

"Are we sure that they're even suicides?" A woman asked, her tone almost sounding too mocking to be taken seriously by Connor, though her question held some ground. "That this isn't some type of drastic movement to make a statement to the city or to us, or something?” She added. “Some type of cult like Jonestown?"

 

"No, we're not," Connor admitted, his voice dropping in volume suddenly as if a bag had been thrown over his head and was muffling his voice, stopping him from getting oxygen and making his attempts to speak grow weaker and weaker before he’d inevitably pass out from the lack of air. "But how would these be murders?” He asked rhetorically. “The most recent fella is still swinging on his noose! How could he have been strung up there like a decoration without a struggle?"

 

Everyone was quiet for a moment as the lead-detective paused, his hand on his bare chin, almost stroking it as if a beard should have been there but was mysteriously missing.

 

"And there isn't anything about his body which suggests that he'd died or been injured previously- nothing which could have resulted in his death or even in weakening him enough for someone, multiple people, whatever, to string him up like a Halloween decoration!" Connor continued, his voice growing in volume over the course of his descriptive rant, showing his anger and making Jason wonder why he seemed to be taking the situation so personally. Well, Jason reasoned, it was confusing. Like Connor, he wanted to know the answer regarding what had happened, what had led to the death in the first place if it had been an unprovoked suicide and, therefore, what had happened to the previous people to make them have possibly taken such drastic measures, too. It was like trying to remember the name of an actor from a film, the name on the tip of his tongue but unable to slip out of his mouth when he so desperately needed to know what he was thinking of, needing to put some type of name to the noun.

 

Still, everyone was silent once Connor had finished his barrage of questioning and his attempted theorisation which had led nowhere, something which was incredibly different to usual. Connor was an excellent detective. He’d usually be given a case and would almost give the other detectives a university-like lecture on the subject, coming up with everything on the spot, most of the time coming up with tiny ideas which would end up being scarily accurate to actual details of the case. He’d come up with so many, interesting ideas in the past, ideas which clearly held some ground right after having been posed, everybody in the room able to see it. Now, however? They couldn’t do anything but think about the man's troubling words which didn’t have much conviction behind them, only a messily-strewn-together string of questions.

 

"How are we supposed to figure out if this is a murder, then?" Jason questioned. Connor looked deflated as he processed the words, but Jason knew that the thoughts had been on his mind prior to the question having been posed by him, the only one in the room with black hair, the only one who went to the gym on a regular basis, the only one with green eyes which never seemed to miss a detail though, now, Jason was unsure whether or not he was seeing correctly. Well, he wasn’t seeing anything, was he? Maybe visiting the scene, having a look at the man who’d recently killed himself would aid him in figuring out what was going on.

 

"Well... I'm not sure," Connor admitted, clearly struggling to figure out even the smallest of details which should have naturally fluttered into his mind like butterflies being attracted to flowers. "Maybe the crime scene investigators will be able to collect some fingerprints from the corpse?"

 

Everybody in the room considered that, hoping that their inquiries would be answered by the people who were the most likely to at least lead them in the right direction.

 

"Could I visit the crime scene?" Jason asked, to which Connor nodded, taking a moment to consider something before stating that he'd go, too, wanting some answers.

 

As it turned out, Jason, Connor and Courtney- the woman who'd previously questioned the idea of the deaths really being suicides- headed to the crime scene, wanting to investigate a little more, aiming to try to come to some form of conclusion as to whether or not the deaths were really unprovoked, possibly unrelated suicides, or whether there was a dangerous, well-thought-out murderer on the loose whom they'd have to hunt.

 

Once they'd walked into the apartment, they saw that the man had been taken down from the ceiling which, Jason realised, made much more sense than simply allowing him to hang there while investigating the area in search of evidence like Connor had stated before. Maybe he’d been simply trying to make a point, though?

 

"So, you're saying that he wasn't suffering from any type of mental illness?" Courtney questioned, recalling what Connor had said in the debriefing, what he’d ranted about and had been so confused regarding. She was stood as close as she could be to the corpse, gazing at the eyes of the man which were wide-open as if he'd been scared when dying. Though, looking closer, Jason spotted scratches on the man's neck. He'd probably kicked the chair away- which was only a few feet away from the man's body and on its back- and had panicked. Maybe he'd had second thoughts but hadn't been able to stop his death, the bloody scratches on his neck and the blood covering his fingernails a note for the investigators, telling them that he'd tried to stop his death and that he hadn't been successful. Or, maybe, he'd been strung up by someone else, the scratches having been his attempt to get out of the rope, to save his life, to rebel against the killer's wishes, though he’d failed...

 

Connor turned to the nearest crime scene inspector, raising an eyebrow to ask about what they'd figured out, but no-one in the vicinity could provide an answer. They simply didn't know what had happened to the man aside from the fact that he’d died from asphyxiation.

 

"There aren't any fingerprints on his skin, there isn't any DNA in here that doesn't belong to him," one of them stated, giving a light shrug while explaining that. "Nothing's broken, nothing's out of place- well, clearly out of place, that is- so we don't know what happened."

 

"Was it actually a suicide, then?" Jason asked, glancing at Connor as if expecting the tall, balding man to know the answer, what they were looking for secretly tucked within one of the few strands of black hair which was clinging to his head, stopping him from going completely bald.

 

"Maybe..." Connor replied, moving his green eyes to gaze at Courtney after a few moments of his vision being focused on the dead man. "What d'you think?"

 

"I don't know," Courtney replied slowly, letting out a light sigh as if giving up in that moment, deciding that they'd never know the answer and that it would be much easier to simply give up and go home- well, back to the police station.

 

Jason took a light step away from the man before he turned to look at the room which they were stood in. The apartment was open-plan, the lounge and kitchen merged together with no dining room in sight, Jason guessing that the man would eat while sat on his couch and watching the TV. It looked as if there was only a single bathroom and a single bedroom conjoined to the large room which they were in, making Jason wonder whether the inspectors had looked in either of the other enclosures for any evidence, though he quickly realised that they must have done some amount of searching, at the very least. The inspectors were stumped by the man’s death, the thought that the “suicide” wasn’t a suicide, all of the logic on the planet pointing towards that possibility, though they hadn’t found anything to prove it. They would have been stumped after searching the man's body and the room which he was in, so they would have ventured into the other two rooms in search of answers, hoping that they wouldn’t have to turn in an empty report to the police station and a baffled room of detectives who’d been hoping that the report would give them the answers which they’d been viciously craving since having heard about the suggestion of the deaths being linked, a killer on the loose. The fact that they'd almost confidently stated that they didn't know what was going on told Jason that there wasn't anything in either the bathroom nor in the bedroom, leaving them all with nothing to go on.

 

"What're we supposed to do, then?" Jason questioned, turning to look at Connor, trying to ignore the slightly amusing fact that the light which was entering the room via the window was reflecting off of his basically bald head.

 

"I'm not sure," Connor replied, staring out of the window which didn't show any signs of having been forced open from the outside. It looked perfectly intact, nothing wrong with the glass which sat in the frame, and Jason could tell just from a glance at the window that it wasn’t an easy one to force open- there was a latch which would cling into the window frame, probably one which was incredibly strong like all other latches on all other windows- at least the well-made ones, anyway,- and even if the window wasn’t well-made and tough to force open from the outside, the latch crumbling after a tiny amount of opposing force, how would anyone be able to climb through the window? The only part of it which was able to be opened was half of the size of the entirety of the window, and the apartment was on the third floor. How would anyone not only be able to get up to the third floor by scaling the wall outside, but be able to open the window from the outside without breaking it and manage to climb through such a small gap?

 

"There's a lot to question,” Connor continued. “If this is a murder, how did the killer get in? How did they get him onto the rope?” He asked, referring to the man who’d died, either by suicide or murder, either of the possibilities valid, though it seemed as if the idea of suicide was much more realistic now. “If he was already dead, somehow, there would have had to have been at least two or three people needed to suspend him with that noose, so..." His voice trailed off as he realised that his questions weren't going to be answered by anyone stood around him, all of them just as perplexed as he was.

 

Jason turned around and began to pace around the room lightly and slowly, wanting to take-in the details which hadn't led to any evidence being found which could thoroughly convince him that it had been a murder.

 

As he walked around, his eyes flicking from the beige, comfy-looking couch to the black and almost glistening worktop in the kitchen, Jason wondered just how the killer- if there was one- had managed to traverse the room without leaving any evidence, any fingerprints, DNA, how they'd entered in the first place. It was so bizarre, so strange.

 

The answer had to be somewhere.

Don't Leave Me Hanging













 

Chapter 2

"So, yeah, I'm not sure what to do, really," Jason admitted, staring out of the window while talking to his wife, Maria. He'd not-long entered the house and had immediately needed to get his confusion and worries about the new case off of his chest, wanting the opinion of somebody who heard so much about his work that she was probably nearing qualification to be a detective, too.

 

After having entered the house, having greeted both Maria and his twelve-year-old daughter, Evie, he'd dropped into a chair by the dining table and had ranted to Maria about the day which he’d suffered through. Jason knew that she probably wasn't listening as she was reading an email to do with something which she'd ordered online- it had been due to arrive a few days before, but it had never turned up, something which had angered Maria deeply as anything similar always had done. Jason also knew that Evie, sat in the living room which was only separated from the joint kitchen and dining room by a thin wall, had probably been eagerly listening to his explanation. She'd always had an interest in his job, but Jason hadn't been a fan of letting her hear about what he had to investigate constantly. After all, as a result of living in a city, there always seemed to be some type of grimy detail which was linked to what he’d have to study and evaluate every day, whether that would be murder, rape, suicide, abuse, anything which wasn’t the best thing for a twelve-year-old to be consistently hearing about. Once, only two or three months before, Jason had dealt with a prostitute ring and had struggled a decent amount to strategically and stealthily explain the details to his wife- something which he knew that he wasn't supposed to do, but something which he couldn't resist doing as she was usually brilliant when it came to offering the views of a slightly interested outsider looking in.

 

As if wondering whether or not she was listening to what he was saying had summoned her, Evie waltzed in from the living room, an empty glass in her hands which was clearly her excuse for entering the kitchen and attempting to catch a few more details of the explanation, no doubt.

"What's going on, then?" She asked, moving to the sink to refill the glass. Maria glanced up from her computer, stifling a laugh at Evie's obvious scheme to hear about something which she almost definitely fantasized about taking part in.

 

"Nothing that's appropriate for you to hear," Jason grumbled, also amused but slightly annoyed by Evie’s persistent attempts to overhear what she most likely hoped to be action-filled adventures which her dear father was living through when he wasn’t at home and caring for her. After all, he'd only just finished explaining the situation to Maria and was awaiting her input which, as it always seemed to, would probably help him.

 

Evie shrugged lightly, turned to lean against the kitchen counter and gazed at Jason as if expecting him to explain everything which was going on. Or, Jason wondered, maybe she'd already heard the details which he'd relayed to Maria and was hoping to hear her mother's suggestions.

 

After a few moments of the three of them sitting in silence, Maria slammed her laptop closed and sat back in her chair, looking slightly triumphant. "That'll show them not to reply sarcastically," she grinned, prompting Jason to latch onto the alibi which Maria had clearly set-up on purpose in order to get their daughter out of the room.

 

"Why?" Jason inquired, leaning back in his chair, folding his arms and tilting his head slightly as he posed the question, using the very limited capability of his acting skills to convey a faked interest in what Maria had done.

 

"Well," Maria began, leaning forwards slightly as if gearing up to get into a long explanation, and that was seemingly enough to tell Evie that there wasn’t much of a point in sticking around, prompting her to leave the room, not wanting to be dragged into a rant, not wanting to be bored by a discussion about buying something online.

 

They waited for a few moments until they heard their daughter making her way up the stairs and to her bedroom. Another few seconds passed before they heard the door close and they knew that they were in the clear.

 

"Any suggestions, then?" Jason pressed, feeling desperate. After leaving the crime scene a few hours before- well, the apartment where the "suicide" had occurred- he'd spent a while mauling over as many details as possible with Connor and Courtney, the three of them wanting to come up with the basis of an idea which they could then expand upon and, hopefully, come to some sort of conclusion, but no ideas had come. The three of them had simply been stuck, sat there, thinking for however long.

 

Maria was silent for a moment, not fuelling Jason's hope very much. "No, to be honest," she admitted, to which Jason sighed.

 

"I don't know what to do," he mumbled, resting his arms on the dining table and gazing at the treated, varnished wood.

 

Maria was silent for a moment, watching her husband until she had a suggestion. "Maybe something will prove if they're connected or not," she suggested, making Jason look up and shrug. He gazed at his half-Italian, half-English wife, traced the waves of her dyed-blonde hair with his eyes, then moved to follow the shape of her oval-like face. He stared at her as if waiting for the answer to break through her skin and to wave at him, as if her hazelnut-coloured, soft and loving eyes would reflect something useful into his vision. But no. Nothing like that would happen. Jason knew that he wouldn't have an easy time discovering the answer to the case which had been assigned to him, to Courtney and to Connor following their adventure to see the dead man.

 

“As in?” Jason pushed, wanting to understand what she meant, wanting to know if she was suggesting that there was a possibility of having the answer displayed to him, either handed to him or simply flashed in his direction to give him the slightest chance of understanding what to do next.

 

“As in: maybe time will give you the answer,” Maria stated, pausing for a moment to watch Jason’s reaction, continuing once she could tell that he wanted an elaboration. “Maybe another death will happen and there’ll be a clue which can point you to the possible killer,” she continued, stopping once she knew that Jason understood.

 

“They’re sure to leave some evidence at some point,” he agreed, nodding lightly to himself, his hands clasped together and residing in front of his mouth as if trying to hide the fact that he was the one uttering the linguistic sounds to his wife. “They won’t get away with however many murders without leaving some DNA, at least.”

 

Maria nodded lightly, confirming that she had meant what Jason had explained, that she agreed with that thought. She then opened the laptop again, probably to continue with the email which, Jason guessed, she hadn’t really finished, had only pretended to have sent as a ploy to get Evie out of the room, something which he still felt incredibly grateful for.

 

They were silent for a few moments, Jason absentmindedly staring at the table, trying to think a little more but also trying to clear his mind of work. He didn’t like the thought of depressing Maria with talk about people dying, about killers, rapists, abusers. He’d never been fully comfortable with discussing those things, had only done so when needing to rant about the stress which he’d constantly experience from the pressure of wanting to make the city safer or when needing another opinion.

 

Maria glanced up from the screen, something which Jason didn’t even notice, and let out a light sigh before sliding from her chair, making her way around the table and towards him. She then placed her hands on his shoulders and rubbed them lightly, teasing Jason with the concept of one of her infamously incredible massages, though disappointing him when she then slid her hands down his chest and wrapped her arms around his torso. She ended up essentially draped on his back, her mouth only a few centimetres away from his ear, whispering about how everything would sort itself out, how it would be better to forget about it all until returning to work.

 

Jason turned his head slightly to the right, trying to catch a glance of Maria’s beauty which he’d always found himself in awe of. How had he managed to find someone so amazing who was willing to waste their affection on him? Though he wasn’t complaining. Not in the slightest.

 

“Do you know how lost I’d be without you?” He muttered, conscious of the fact that her ear was so close to his mouth, not wanting to damage her hearing by talking too loudly.

 

Maria let out a light, satisfied breath through her nose before turning her head to give Jason a long, reassuring kiss, only pulling away from him after a few moments in order to check the time. “It’s your turn to cook tonight,” she reminded him, to which Jason hid his surge of apathy at the thought of conjuring a meal with the toothy grin which the kiss had plastered onto his face.

 

The two of them had agreed since moving-in together fourteen years before that they would share every single responsibility in the house. Barring when Jason had returned to university to study to become a detective after having fancied a career change from being an engineer, having decided that it would be easier to move into a dormitory on campus to save the costs of commuting, they’d stuck to that plan of dividing every task evenly between the two of them. It hadn’t been very long before then that Maria had given birth to Evie, the career change coming as Jason realised that he needed a larger income to support the three of them comfortably, something which was proven with their upgrade from living in that shabby apartment to their fair-sized, lovely home. Well, it had only really been made into a lovely home by Maria’s in-depth planning of the interior.

 

Jason slid from his chair and made his way to the fridge to pull some vegetables out, having decided on the spot that he would make a stir fry. Behind him, Maria returned to her laptop, probably to continue plotting the best way to make the email which she was working on fully effective. Above him, Jason could hear Evie moving around in her room, quick, rhythmic movements, making him wonder if she was dancing to a song which he couldn’t hear, probably being played through headphones.

 

Stood there, chopping carrots into long, thin strips, Jason smiled to himself. He wouldn’t swap his life for anything else. He knew that he was fully content. It felt amazing to stand there, cooking, listening to the rhythmic clacking of Maria’s fingers slamming into the keyboard of her laptop, the thumps and light bangs coming from above his head, Evie no doubt having tremendous amounts of fun… Jason knew that he couldn’t even begin to describe just how pleasant life felt. Well, aside from the struggles of work, the knowledge that he was going into work every day to deal with horrible situations ranging from minor abuse to serial killers on the loose, but he loved his job, loved that he was contributing to making the world a better place by finding the evidence needed to stick the most dangerous people in prison, away from the rest of civilisation.

 

Despite the grotty nature of his occupation, Jason loved what he was doing, loved his homelife, loved his family. Jason could recall that he’d never had an argument with Maria. Well, a serious one. They’d had their spats over small things, the conflict only coming due to conflicting opinions such as Maria’s atheism when it came to religion and Jason’s agnosticism, but nothing had ever been so serious between them that they’d been in danger of ruining their relationship. Everything had always been steady. What more could he ask for? Well, aside from the answers to the case, but Jason wanted to push those thoughts and worries aside. He was at home. He was with his family. It wouldn’t be smart to let work get in the way of his homelife, to let it intervene in even the smallest of ways. He didn’t want the two of them to be connected at all, would rather leave everything detached, have two separate lives: home and work. Why would he want it to be anything else?

 

He’d always made an effort to keep Evie from hearing his tales from his job, had never wanted to make her scared by detailing all of the gruesome things which would happen much more than expected. Of course, he’d openly tell Maria about those things, but that was only when he’d need help with something, an extra opinion. Aside from seeing his wife’s view on the case which he was working on, trapped with no idea as to what to do, where anything could lead, how he could figure out why these people were dying, he didn’t want her to be intertwined with his work. She had her own job in an office, she had Evie to look after when he was still working, though, despite the fact that she was also his emotional support when he needed it, she never seemed to be overwhelmed. Why overwhelm her by introducing her to the worrying occurrences which seemed too prevalent with his job? Why provide her with extra stress? That just seemed incredibly silly to Jason.

Don't Leave Me Hanging