Fifty-Fifty – Steve Cavanagh

  1. I hate lawyers. Most of them. In fact, nearly all of them with only a few notable exceptions. My mentor, Judge Harry Ford, and a few old-timers who hung around the Manhattan Criminal Court buildings like ghosts at their own funerals. When I was operating long cons in my late teens, I knew a lot more lawyers than I do now. Most lawyers were easy to con because they were dishonest. Never thought I would be one of them. The business card in my hip pocket read ‘Eddie Flynn, Attorney’. If my father, a gifted conman in his own right, had lived to see this day, he would’ve been ashamed. I could’ve been a boxer, or a con artist, or a pick-pocket, or even a bookie. He would look at his son, the lawyer, and shake his head and wonder where he’d gone wrong as a parent. The main problem is that lawyers tend to think of themselves more than their clients. They start off full of good intentions: they saw To Kill A Mockingbird , maybe even read Harper Lee’s book too, and they want to grow up to be Atticus Finch. They want to represent the little guy. David and Goliath stuff.

    Then they realize they won’t make a decent living in that line of work, that their clients are all guilty, and even if they do write a speech worthy of Atticus, the judge isn’t gonna listen to a goddamn word they say. Those that are wise enough to know it was a pipe dream to begin with figure out they need to join a big firm, work their asses off and try to make partner before their first heart attack. In other words, they figure out that the law is a business. And business is booming for some. Standing outside 16 Ericcson Place, I was reminded of how much money big-time criminal lawyers made. This was the address for NYPD’s First Precinct. The parking bays outside, usually reserved for patrol vehicles, had been taken by a fleet of expensive German engineering. I counted five Mercedes, nine BMWs and a Lexus. There was something going down inside. The entrance to the precinct was by way of blue and white painted mahogany doors with iron studs punctuating each ornate panel.

    This led to the TSO’s desk, and beyond, the duty sergeant’s booking desk. That’s where I saw the argument in full flow. A plain-clothes detective in a yellow shirt was sticking his finger in Sergeant Bukowski’s face while maybe a dozen lawyers on the other side of the desk argued among themselves in the waiting area. The waiting area wasn’t more than twenty feet long by ten feet wide, with yellow tile on the wall. The tile could’ve been white at one stage, but cops smoked a lot in the seventies and eighties. Bukowski called me twenty minutes ago. Said I needed to get down here fast. There was a case. A big one. That meant I owed Bukowski Knicks tickets.

    We had an arrangement. If something juicy came across his desk, he called me. Only problem was Bukowski wasn’t the only cop in the precinct on the take, and judging by the crowd of lawyers, word must’ve gotten around. ‘Bukowski,’ I said. He was a butter-ball of muscle, body hair and fat in NYPD navy blues. Ceiling lights caught the sweat on top of his bald head as he turned, winked at me and then blithely told the detective to take his finger out of his face or he would insert it somewhere in the detective’s mother. I didn’t listen to the details. ‘I’ve had enough, Bukowski. They get one minute each with the suspect. That’s it.

    After that she picks her lawyer and we go straight to interview. You got it?’ said the detective in the yellow shirt. ‘That’s fine with me. Seems fair. I can handle that. Go get some coffee for half an hour. Or call your mother, tell her I’ll be by when my shift’s over.’ The detective stepped back, nodding continually at Bukowski before swiveling on his heel and making his way through the steel door at the back of the waiting room. Bukowski addressed the crowd of lawyers in front of him like he was a bingo caller explaining the rules. ‘Now, here’s what’s going to happen.

    Each one of you pricks takes a number, when I call it out you got a minute with the suspect. She don’t sign your retainer, you’re out of here. Got it? That’s the best I can do.’ Some of the lawyers threw their hands in the air, then began pounding their cell phones with their fingers while others just continued to complain while they jostled toward the ticket machine to get a number. The tickets were for members of the public who waited in line to make a complaint – not for lawyers waiting to see a client. ‘What the hell, Bukowski?’ I said. ‘What’s the point in me buying Knicks tickets for you if you’re going to call every damn lawyer in Manhattan?’ ‘Sorry, Eddie. Look, this is a hell of a case. You’ll want it. This ain’t nothin’ to what this place is gonna look like in the morning when there’s an army of paparazzi outside waiting to get a picture while we take these girls for arraignment.

    ’ ‘What girls? What’s the case?’ ‘The ESU brought in two girls at midnight. Sisters. Both in their twenties. Their pops was lying upstairs in the bedroom, torn to pieces. The sisters called the cops on each other. They’re both saying the other one killed him. This case – it’s gonna go big.’ I looked around the waiting room. The cream of Manhattan’s criminal defense attorneys were gathered, all the big players in their thousand-dollar suits with their assistants tagging along behind them. I looked down.

    I wore a pair of black and white Air Jordan Low’s, blue jeans and an AC/DC tee under a black blazer. Most of my clients weren’t concerned with my sartorial appearance after midnight. I clocked some of the suits nudging each other and nodding in my direction. Clearly, I didn’t look like any kind of competition for these guys. But what I didn’t understand was why this case was such a big deal. ‘The sisters claim the other one did it. So what? They got money or something? What’s brought all the lions to the riverbank tonight?’ ‘Shit, you haven’t seen the news, have you?’ said Bukowski. ‘No, I’ve been asleep.’ ‘The girls are Sofia and Alexandra Avellino. Frank’s daughters.

    ’ ‘Frank’s dead?’ Bukowski nodded, said, ‘I talked to one of the ESU responders. Frank was gutted like a fish. Torn up with a blade. The responder told me this was a bad one. And you know the ESU – they see a lot.’ The Emergency Service Unit of the NYPD operated like a smart SWAT team. There wasn’t much they hadn’t seen – from terrorist atrocities to bank robberies, hostage situations to live shooters. If someone in the ESU said it was bad, that meant it was straight out of a nightmare. But it wasn’t the extraordinary level of violence involved in the crime that had brought out Manhattan’s finest criminal sharks – it was the victim and the alleged perps. Until November last year, Frank Avellino had been mayor of New York City.

    ‘What are the chances of me getting in on this case when I’m at the back of the line?’ ‘You’re at the front of the line now. Carol couldn’t get the client signed up. The guy in there now hasn’t got a prayer. I’ll take you through in a second,’ said Bukowski. ‘Hang on, I was third in line?’ ‘Carol Cipriani bumped me a grand to be first, but she couldn’t get the client signed up. Sorry, Eddie. I gotta eat.’ ‘Hey, what are we? Chopped liver? What gives here?’ said one of the suits. ‘Don’t worry, take it easy. He’s not bumping the line.

    You’ll get your chance,’ said Bukowski. ‘It’s okay, Eddie. Most of these pricks are here to see Alexandra. You’re seeing Sofia.’ ‘Hang on, we’re not here to see both sisters?’ asked one of the suits, and they all raised their voices to complain. Bukowski was my guy, along with half a dozen other duty sergeants who would tip me off if they caught a big arrest, and I always looked after them in return. This time, the NYPD smelled a big case and every cop who had a lawyer feeding their pockets got on their phones. I’d seen it before. The detectives in charge of the case would complain to the sergeants, but as long as they didn’t cut into the arrest time too much there was nothing they could do. The detectives wouldn’t complain to their superiors because then they would be ratting out a fellow officer.

    In the NYPD, rats die in holes. Some of the lawyers here would get their shot and those who didn’t wouldn’t complain. If they did complain then they wouldn’t get any more calls. The clients wouldn’t complain because they got the pick of the best lawyers. High-profile homicide was Christmas time for uniformed PD. Like most things in this town, a little corruption and a little money on the side helped to grease everyone’s wheels. Welcome to New York City. ‘Let me grab my keys and I’ll introduce you to Sofia.’ ‘Why am I seeing Sofia?’ I asked. Bukowski leaned in close, said, ‘I know you.

    You won’t take the case if the client is trying to get off on a crime they committed. Alexandra, I got my doubts about her. This chick – Sofia – well, you’ll see. I get twenty to thirty people come through my cells every day. I can spot the real perps same as you. She ain’t a perp. But I gotta warn you, don’t make any sudden movements with this chick. Don’t hand her nothin’, don’t leave any pens or paper with her.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well, the custody doc thinks she’s crazy … But she won’t attack you. You’re gonna be her lawyer.

    ’ TWO KATE Kate Brooks slept soundly, wrapped in layers of woolen blankets, wearing her Taylor Swift PJs over her gym gear, and two pairs of thick, white tube socks. No matter how much she tinkered with the old radiators in her apartment, she couldn’t get them to heat up. The studio apartment had been advertised to let as ‘A bijoux living space with central heating throughout’. Two radiators at either end of the room technically counted as heating throughout. As a consequence, Kate got dressed before bed every night. When the winter really kicked in, she didn’t know what she was going to do. An alert signal began to chirp on her phone – an electronic bell that got louder every second. Kate’s arm swung out of bed to the nightstand and she swiped at the screen twice to silence it. She quickly tucked her arm back under the duvet, and turned over without really waking up. The phone began chirping again.

    This time she forced open her eyes. The noise coming from her phone didn’t sound like her wakeup alarm. She realized it was a call from her boss – Theodore Levy. Not only that, but she’d hung up his first call. ‘Hello, Mr. Levy,’ she said, with a croaky voice. ‘Get dressed. I need you to swing by the office and pick up a document, then meet me at the First Precinct in Tribeca,’ said Levy. ‘Oh, sure thing. What do you need me to bring?’ ‘Scott is in the office right now running down some leads, but I need him here.

    I need you to get a retainer agreement for Alexandra Avellino. Bring it down here. I’ll need it in the next forty-five minutes. Do not be late.’ With that, he hung up. Kate flung the covers back and got out of bed. This was the life of a newly qualified lawyer. She was close to six months in the job, the ink still drying on her law license. Scott, another baby attorney in the practice, was in the office already, and why the hell he couldn’t pick up whatever Levy needed didn’t affect Kate. Levy barked orders and people jumped.

    Didn’t matter that there might be an easier or quicker way to do something; so long as everyone was in a frenzy, Levy was happy. She checked her watch. She would need a cab. Twenty minutes to the office from her apartment. She tried to guess how long it would take to get from her law firm to the First Precinct, and decided it would probably take another twenty minutes. No time for a shower. She hauled off her pajamas and gym-wear, put on a blouse and business suit. Her skirt had gotten creased, but it didn’t matter. A ladder appeared at her right calf as she put her tights on. Her last pair.

    She swore and went hunting for her shoes. Her head thumped off the archway dividing the bed from the small area where she had managed to fit a couch and a bookcase – the area that masqueraded as her living room. There was a small cut to her forehead, which stung, causing her to take a sharp intake of breath. ‘Shitbird,’ she said. A pair of Adidas cross trainers lay by the front door of her apartment. She put them on, grabbed her overcoat and purse and left. Twenty minutes later she stepped out of a cab on Wall Street, asked the driver to wait and ran toward the entrance to her building. Using her pass to open the front door, she rushed into the glassfronted reception area where a security guard sat behind the desk. The elevator pinged. The doors began to open and Kate took a step forward, ready to leap inside.

    Scott came bounding from the elevator, a file underneath his arm. He bumped into Kate, shoulder to shoulder, turning her around. ‘Sorry, Kate, I have to dash. Levy’s secretary is still printing the retainer. I didn’t have time to grab it and Levy wants me at the precinct right now.’ ‘Wait, I’ll be two minutes. I’ve got a cab outside,’ she said. Scott, nodded, turned and ran for the front door. Kate pushed the button for the twenty-fifth floor, twenty-five times, counting out each one as the elevator rose. Levy’s secretary, Maureen, was grabbing pages from the printer.

    She put them in a folder and handed them to Kate. ‘Is that the retainer?’ Maureen nodded. The pages were still warm from the printer. Why couldn’t Scott have waited and taken this with him? She had long since given up trying to answer such questions. In the world of the big law firm, no one worried about deploying twenty lawyers and fifty paralegals if it gave you a moment’s advantage over your opponent. She had been dispatched to get the retainer because she could be dispatched to get the retainer. Kate went back into the elevator, selected the ground floor and then hammered the close-door button with her middle finger. She mouthed ‘come on, come on, come on,’ under her breath as the doors slid closed. When the elevator doors opened on the ground floor, Kate rushed out. The security guard stood as she approached and used his pass to unlock the door.

    He grabbed the handle and pulled it open for her. Kate said, ‘Thank you,’ breathlessly as she ran into the cold air. And stopped dead. Her cab was gone. Scott. What a shitbird. Frantically, she looked up and down the street. No cabs. She opened the Uber app on her phone. Her father hated her using Uber, and had warned her against it many times.

    The app said there was a driver two blocks away. The car arrived within seconds and Kate got in the back. It was a metallic blue Ford. The car was old and smelled like dog. It was too dark to get a good look at the driver, but she could tell he was fair-haired, skinny and had tattoos covering both arms. Scott was a TOTAL shitbird. Scott had gotten a job as an associate four months after Kate. The firm of Levy, Bernard, and Groff was a complete-service law practice. That meant they could hide your millions so you wouldn’t pay squat to the IRS, screw your spouse out of their divorce settlement, sue whoever pissed you off for whatever reason they liked, and if the shit truly hit the fan they had Theodore Levy – a master litigator and criminal attorney. Kate had been floated around a few of the departments and finally settled in Criminal.

    She had a knack for the work. And it showed. Levy had a dozen lawyers in his team, but he liked to work more closely with the new associates on his own cases so the more experienced lawyers could concentrate on billing their hours. Kate noticed that Levy especially liked to be close to the young female associates. Scott had arrived in Criminal a month ago and hit it off with the boss big time. He was Levy’s blue-eyed boy. Kate could tell. She had only been to one lunch with Levy and she had been in the department for two months before Scott arrived. In the four months since his arrival, Scott had already had four lunches with Levy. While Levy was small and toad-like in his appearance, Scott was tall and rail-thin with cheekbones you could use to tenderize steak.

    The associate’s angular appearance was crowned with two dark blue eyes, which somehow appeared to be back-lit, as if a small bulb burned brightly behind each orb. He had taken Kate’s cab, and she promised herself to have it out with him as soon as they had a moment alone. The driver stayed quiet, and it wasn’t long before she got out of the car and headed into the precinct. Inside was a circus. A crowd of lawyers from the top firms in Manhattan, all waiting. She spied Levy and Scott, sitting on an aluminum bench at the back of the room, and deep in conversation. In order to get there, she had to squeeze past a dozen other lawyers in the cramped waiting space. Some she recognized from TV. Some she knew from their commercials or pictures in the ABA journal. These were the lawyers who were always photographed at the New York Bar events.

    They were all over forty years old. All white. All rich. All male. All ignoring her. ‘Excuse me,’ said Kate as she tried to make her way through the crowd. Some of them were engaged in group conversation. Golf. Rich white lawyers all loved golf. Others were arguing and some were on their phones.

    None made eye contact with her. She kept her head low, moved forward politely muttering ‘excuse me,’ in soft tones. In the center of the crowd, shoulders brushing shoulders, there were hands on the small of her back gently easing through, and as she moved those hands fell away and she felt another hand brush against her backside then she felt fingers squeeze first the top of her thigh, then her butt cheek. Kate coughed, pushed a white-haired lawyer ahead of her a lot harder than he was expecting as she powered through to the other side. A ripple of laughter came from behind her. Two or three men sharing a private joke. Probably laughing at pinching her butt. Neither Levy nor Scott looked up. Kate turned, her face flushing red, and she looked at the crowd. The white-haired lawyer had moved back into place, closing the space from which she had come through the crowd.

    No way to tell who had touched her. The skin on her face and neck burned red with embarrassment. If she complained, she would make a scene. From behind, she heard Levy’s whiny voice. ‘Katie, where the hell have you been? Scott got here ten minutes ago.’ Kate closed her eyes. Opened them. She was resetting. This had been a bad night. She didn’t want to explode in front of Levy.

    He would only tell her to toughen up, and complain that she had embarrassed him. She let it go. She would need all her composure to deal with Levy. Only two men called her Katie. One was her father, the other was Levy. As much as she loved her father calling her that name, she hated in equal measure the way Levy used it. She took a step back and pivoted to face her boss. He took the document folder from her, and said gruffly, ‘This is a huge case for us. For the firm. We must secure this client.

    I need you on top form, okay?’ Kate nodded, said, ‘I’m good. What’s the case?’ Levy’s mouth fell half open, and he stayed that way for a few seconds. It looked like he was waiting for a passing bug, at which point he would shoot out a reptilian tongue and grab the thing in mid-air before retracting it into his pink mouth. ‘The former mayor, Frank Avellino, is dead. He’s been murdered in his bedroom, stabbed … what was it, Scott?’ ‘Fifty-three times,’ said Scott. ‘Stabbed fifty-three times, my dear. And we are going to represent his eldest daughter. Both of his daughters were arrested at the scene, and each of them is blaming the other for the murder. One of them is lying, and our job is to prove that it’s not our client. Understand?’ There was a patronizing sting to Levy’s words, and Kate ignored it.

    The my dear phrase was not meant to be gentlemanly. She’d gotten used to most of the shit she had to put up with, but my dear, or little lady, still made her grind her jaw. She fought down the anger as this was the moment she had been waiting for since she joined the firm. Creepy guys in bars, and general everyday sexism on the street she could handle without a problem. When it came to the men who held her career in their hands, it was different. She knew it shouldn’t be, that this wasn’t right, but she thought it best to keep her lips sealed and her head down. For now. They had all the power. If she complained about this shit, her best guess was she’d be out of the job in a heartbeat – her career over before it even really began. For months she had been writing briefs, glad-handing clients and passing out canapés at the firm’s parties.

    Now she was on a case. A real-life, high-profile murder case. A flutter of excitement began in her stomach, and she smoothed down the front of her jacket, licked her dry lips and cleared her throat. She wanted to be ready for this. She felt ready. ‘I got it,’ said Kate. Levy looked her up and down, and said, ‘What are you wearing? Are those running shoes?’ Kate’s mouth opened to respond, but she didn’t get the chance. ‘Levy! You’re up!’ said a voice. It was a cop, shouting from an open steel door. ‘We’re on,’ said Levy.

    He stood and pulled up his pants. They were often falling down below his small gut. It didn’t matter if he wore a belt or suspenders – Levy seemed to be constantly pulling his pants up. Kate saw a small bunch of lawyers leave via the steel door. They had obviously been inside talking to the potential client. Their heads were down, and they looked tired. Levy would get the case. Whoever the client was. It didn’t matter. This was Levy’s forte.

    He was good with clients. Got them on side fast. He was a PR machine with a law license. They were going to land this case, and Kate was going to be front and center in the defense from the very beginning. She had to stifle a smile that threatened to break out on her lips – it was excitement and nerves. ‘Okay, let’s go,’ said Levy. Scott nodded to Kate. Kate returned the gesture. Together, the three of them took a step toward the door. Then a file came right at Kate’s face.

    She held out her hands as the file was lowered and thumped into her chest, stopping her dead. Kate took it in both hands. ‘There are some things in this file of Scott’s that the client and the NYPD shouldn’t see,’ said Levy. ‘Put it in the file storage safe in the trunk of my car. It’s parked outside. The gold BMW.’ A set of keys dangled in front of her face. Kate took them, swallowed and felt a raw sensation in her throat. Like she was swallowing sharp stones. ‘We won’t be too long.

    You can use the time to think about why were you were so late getting here. When we’re done I can give you a ride home,’ said Levy. And with that, Scott and Levy strode toward the open steel door. Kate froze. ‘Never mind, honey. You got the most important job. You get to watch Levy’s car,’ said a voice from behind her. One of the rival lawyers. That was enough to send the entire group into thick, uproarious laughter that rolled around the room. Kate’s face flushed red.

    She pushed around the outside of the group, not daring to go through the middle again, and made her way to the exit. The burning sensation spread across her neck, and she recalled Levy’s final words. When he was done he would offer her a ride home. That meant he might make another awkward pass at her. Kate thumped through the front door and onto the street. THREE SHE When they brought her into the First Precinct, the booking sergeant looked her up and down, explained her rights, then told her what was going to happen. ‘You’ll have your personal property taken as evidence. Including your clothes and underwear. Two female officers will accompany you to a private room where this will take place. An outfit will be provided.

    The detectives investigating this case want to take a DNA swab, a dental impression, and clip your fingernails too. Just comply. Don’t fight us. It’ll only turn out bad for you. The female officers will also take your picture and your fingerprints. You’ll then be moved to an interview room and the detectives will come by and ask some questions. Is there anything you don’t understand?’ She shook her head. ‘Do you have an attorney?’ She shook her head. Said nothing. ‘Well, you will have by the time you leave,’ he said.

    The cop had been right. It happened exactly as he’d said it would. She had stripped, silently, in front of two female officers, and given them her bloodstained clothes, which they put into large, clear plastic bags. They gave her some underwear, and an orange jumpsuit. When she was dressed they clipped the tips of her fingernails into a bag, and ran a cotton bud around the inside of her mouth. It left a bad taste. Then she was taken to an interview room, and left alone. There was a mirror on one side of the room, and she guessed they were watching her from behind it. She put her elbows on her knees and leaned forward, hanging her head. Her eyes were focused on the white rubber shoes they had given to her.

    She was quiet for a time. Motionless and silent. She had not spoken since the police had arrested her in Franklin Street. She’d heard one of the cops mention shock, and she let that play out. She was not in shock. She was thinking. And listening. The steel table in front of her was pitted with dents, and scratches. She wanted to reach out and run her fingers along those lines, to smell the table, touch it and feel it. It was a compulsion that had started young.

    Another little annoyance for mother, who slapped her when she caught her touching and smelling her surroundings. She could pass an hour with a leaf, a stone, a peach. The smells and sensations were almost overwhelming and then Mother – smack – don’t touch that. Stop touching everything, you dirty little girl. Enjoying the sensation of touch became something else she had to keep secret. Music helped shield the compulsion. When she fell in love with a particular song, she saw colors and shapes and the music became something all the more real and physical to her, which helped keep her hands still. The song was still playing in her head. The one that she had heard when she entered her father’s home at 152 Franklin Street that evening. It had been her mother’s favorite – ‘She’, the Charles Aznavour version.

    Whereas she had always preferred the Elvis Costello cover. The song floated around in her mind, playing loud and red, blanking out all other thoughts. Sitting in the small, foul- smelling interview room, she mouthed some of the lyrics as the song played only for her. She may be the face I can’t forget … Her thoughts flashed images as the music played. Her father’s tie. The knot still tight around his neck. The glint of white bone in her father’s chest. And all those pretty sparkles of light on the blade as she tore it free from his chest, raised it and plunged it into his stomach, his neck, his face, his eyes, again and again and again … She … It had been planned. Of course, she had fantasized about it for many years. How good it would feel not just killing him, but ripping him to pieces. Destroying his body. Decimating it. And the thought occurred to her that all those other kills had merely been a rehearsal for the main event. Practice. At first, watching the light die in a victim’s eyes was exhilarating. Like watching a kind of transformation. Life to death. All of it at her hand. There was no remorse. No feeling of guilt. Her mother had beaten that out of her, and her sister, at a young age. Mother had been a brilliant chess player and wanted her daughters to be better. In her younger years, Mother had watched the Folgar sisters take the game by storm, and wanted the same for her own daughters and began their chess education early. From the age of four, she had been made to sit in a room with the board in front of her, moving pieces while Mother looked on and taught her the classic techniques. How to watch the line formations, middle game strategies that quickly moved to mates. They would practice for hours. Every day. Separate from her sister. Mother never allowed them to play against one another, not even to practice. Practice was with Mother. And Mother never let her eat before afternoon practice. No lunch; the bowl of cereal or fruit for breakfast a far-off memory. She spent many hours in a little room, with Mother – confused, frightened, and hungry. If Mother saw a mistake in strategy, or she took too long holding a piece, feeling the grooves in the polished wood, or trying to catch its scent, Mother would snatch the chubby, offending hand that had played the move, hold it aloft, and bite one of the fingers. She could still see it now. Her mother grabbing her by the wrist. It felt like her arm had been trapped in some terrible piece of machinery that would then slowly draw her hand into a buzz saw. Only this wasn’t a blade, but instead she saw her mother draw back her bright red lips to reveal two rows of perfect white teeth. Her fingers would tremble, and then – snap. The bite hurt. It was punishment, not intended to draw blood. But to shock. To make sure that mistake never happened again. She wondered if all mothers were like this. Cold, unfeeling women with sharp teeth. She always felt hungry playing chess. Mother said hunger helped the brain stay creative, alive. Every time she saw those teeth coming for her little finger, she felt sick, and hungry, and anticipated the pain, which was always worse than the bite itself. She had learned from her mistakes. She recalled the look on her dear sister’s face that day when Mother fell down the stairs. Her sister cried and cried until, finally, Father came home. Sister never got over it. It made her think that even with Mother biting and hitting both of them, and forcing them to play and read about chess for hours every day, there was still some part of Mother that her sister would miss. Some connection that had been forever broken. Even now, years later, she could still hear her sister’s cries when she saw Mother’s body. Sister stood at the bottom of the stairs, that stupid toy rabbit in her hand, her knees locked together and a dark stain growing on her burgundy tights, spreading from her crotch, down both legs. Sister’s sobbing became so bad that it robbed her of her breath, that panicked, gasping, staccato crying. Now, the bites and the beatings and the tears were all a memory. A part of her, something that had helped to shape her into the perfect creature she was today. Tonight had been perfect. It looked messy, frenzied, and the body of dear Daddy had been left where it fell. A maniac kill. That’s what it looked like. That’s what she had wanted it to look like. In truth, she had enjoyed it. Her kills were always controlled, and there was satisfaction in the execution, though nothing had compared to that first time. Not until tonight. She had really let go. Those impulses, which she held in check with willpower and meds – all of it had been unleashed on Daddy dearest. It felt like loosening a pressurized valve in her head – the relief was wonderful. She had never before been connected to any of her crimes by law enforcement. Now she sat in a police precinct, facing a charge for a murder she had committed. She was exactly where she wanted to be. Where she had planned to be.

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