Birds of Prey
Studying my reflection in the mirror, I think about how I’m going to die.
Then I cringe at the sight of my hair, once so sleek and shiny, now dull, and wild.
But the longer I gaze at myself, the sooner I begin to see something else emerge.
A glimpse into the past, bathed in a golden hue. It’s Larry’s football helmet gleaming in the sun. Yes, there he is, tearing it up on the football field, stretching his lithe body inches off the ground, levitating to catch the ball. Touchdown. The crowd cheers, he’s a hero, accepting pats on the back from his teammates and coaches. Such fanfare, the noise is deafening. Until the scene changes, and it’s just us in his room, eating the grilled-cheese sandwiches I made.
“I’m proud of you little bro,” I say, thinking about the possibility of him playing for the Hawks someday. He’s only ten but already has the potential to be a greatest of all time, a GOAT, because I am making sure he lives and breathes football every single day. I’m only thirteen but if someone were to shadow us, they would think I’m his mom and he’s my precious child. And this mom wants him to rub my dad’s face in it when he goes pro and signs a million-dollar contract with the Seattle Seahawks, becoming the best wide receiver in Hawks’ history. I can’t wait.
“I wish dad was proud of me like you are, Margot,” Larry says, “But he doesn’t even treat us like we’re his kids anymore. It’s like we’re bugs he wants to squish to death with his bare hand.”
My brother sighs and tears glitter in his woeful brown eyes when he adds, “I miss mom, I wish she didn’t die. It’s not fair for you to be doing all the motherin’. But I’m glad you’re here. If I make it to the NFL, I’ll give you so much moolah, you can buy your own house.”
A car horn transports me back to the present. It’s time to go.
Once I’m at the glass partition, in a room with putty-colored walls and a cup of coffee in front of me, I take a minute to breathe. But soon, my brother’s brought in, his feet in shackles, the green prison garb turning his skin sallow.
Time slows down like a video in slow motion.
Larry’s long hair moves with each step he takes. When he sits down, his eyes bore into mine. I smell the coffee wafting, creating a bitter taste in my mouth, and the Chapstick I smeared on in the taxi, coating my throat, preventing words from shimmying their way out.
And then, Larry’s vacant eyes spring to life, shining more amber than chocolate. His features crumple, and he cries. A tremor converges upon the hand that he grasps the phone receiver with, and I become his doppelgänger, bawling openly like an infant wailing for attention.
“I forgive you, Margot,” he sobs. Even though you left me to party with that crowd of losers and couldn’t care less what he did to me. You’ve no idea of the torture. He once drugged me, dragged me naked across a bed of nails, then burned my thighs with cigarettes. On another of his sadistic days, he stuck my hand down the garbage disposal.”
I watch with stinging, salty eyes as his whole body seems to shudder, and lowering his voice to a whisper, he says “The mangled skin, tendons, tissue, bones, all bloody and unrecognizable, was enough to make me wanna slit my own throat. My football career was over before it began. And the pain, oh the pain. I remember howling with it, like a coyote in the stark, lonely desert, defending its kill, and I prayed that it would end soon.”
He wipes his eyes, bites his lip, and adds “There was one who didn’t look like you though.”
Suddenly, my head feels like it’s on fire, a thousand red ants biting their way through it.
“What did you say?”
Larry leans in, brings his face closer to the glass casement, and his lips curl into an ugly smirk as he hisses into the phone, “Not all of them look like you, you know?” He pauses, peers down to study his fingerless, mutilated, bone-shattered, right hand, and says, “There is one who doesn’t quite… match.” His grin spread wider now, he breathes, “And here’s a little nugget of info for you to chew on sis: they haven’t found her yet.”
My body feels heavy, I’m stuck in a vat of honey and moving through it is impossible.
“Lare,” I say like I’m talking to him when he was still a child. Still adorable and lovable. It stabs my soul (no fucking pun intended) that he’ll never again be either of those.
“Are you saying there’s another victim whose body hasn’t been found?”
My mind flashes to the stories in all the papers. Like a hair shirt, they are my penance, and for that reason, I’ve memorized every single word.
'The body of twenty-eight-year-old Ingrid Walsh was found in several re-cycling bins yesterday afternoon in Seattle. Ingrid had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest, had her throat slit, and was dismembered to fit into the containers.
The suspect, identified by police as 25-year-old Lawrence Duckworth, has confessed to this crime as well as to those of three other women who were murdered the same way, discovered in dumpsters throughout Seattle within the last three months.
Duckworth was dubbed, “The Seahawks Serial Slasher” as each victim’s throat was cut, and they were all found wearing a Seahawks T-shirt. The victims were also similar in appearance, all had dark hair, brown eyes, and looked like his sister.
According to Duckworth’s social media and witnesses who saw him, he was on a Tinder date with Ingrid at Xtadium Lounge, just hours before he murdered her in the back of his van. Duckworth told police the van was soundproofed to the point where nobody could hear her screams.
Sources claim that after the murder, Duckworth sat at home, wearing bloody overalls, holding the murder weapon, and waiting for police to arrest him.'
“Larry? I say with as much pity and compassion as I can thrust into my voice, “You know there’s a part of me that will always be grateful to you for turning yourself in. Before anyone else got hurt. I’m proud of you for surrendering.”
He explodes with a roar, throwing his chair at the glass in front of my face with such force the plastic seat bounces back and goes flying into the wall behind him.
I scream and my screams mingle with his screams while his fists pound the partition and his face twists gruesomely.
The guards are quick though. They drag him away before I can even begin to make sense of what happened.
Days later, I’m toying between the idea of jumping in front of the train or swallowing bottles of Ambien.
But I can’t do either until I find out if there’s another victim.
The next time I go see Larry, I make an effort with my appearance. I style my dark hair until it shines like spun silk, put on mascara, my best jeans and cream satin shirt.
But this time I’m careful not to say anything that will remind him of our childhood.
“You look nice today, Margot, I’d forgotten how beautiful you are. Although you’re my sister, I can still acknowledge you’re a stunner.”
“Thanks Larry, that actually means… a lot–”
“–you know why I’m here, though, don’t you”, I ask quietly.
He scoffs, “Of course I fucking know why you’re here. Do you think I’m stupid? You wanna know where the girl is.”
“Obviously… duh,” I say with a twitch of a smile.
He smiles too.
Maybe I won’t jump in front of that train after all.