Arthur stumbled down the dark, wet streets. His cane clicked and splashed as he limped through the mix of pavement and puddles. His breath came in short, panting bursts, clouding lazily as if to contrast the coil of anxiety twisting his stomach.
How did I get here? he wondered frantically, shaking his head like a dog in an effort to dislodge the wild, discordant thoughts and images that tumbled through his mind, flashing like a stop-motion film gone awry. What happened?
He didn’t know how he had gotten here, out in the streets in the rain. The night’s events were a blurred mess of drunkenness, muddled and distant like he had just woken up from a dream he couldn’t quite recall.
The rain trailed down Arthur’s skin, dripping from his messy brown hair to roll down his neck and soak into the fabric of his dirty and stained shirt. He didn’t know where his ratty old coat had gotten to and he was cold, wet, and miserable.
They’ll use this against me, he thought, biting his tongue. His grip on his cane tightened until his knuckles shone white. I didn’t do anything!
The police had been harassing him for weeks now, digging up every dirty little secret they could about Arthur Sherlock Alpine. They knew far too much, things that no man should know about him. They knew about his abuse as a child despite how hard Aunt Sam had worked to keep it quiet after she rescued him from the violent drunks who had the audacity to call themselves his parents. They knew how he had struggled so much with making friends that he needed to be homeschooled because he got in so many fights with the other kids. They knew about his drinking problems and they knew how he had gotten his limp driving under the influence and that two people had been killed because of his negligence. They didn’t know that he considered it three people because the victim had been pregnant when she died. When he killed her. They knew about the five years Arthur had spent in prison for that accident and they had quickly familiarized themselves with his laundry list of mental health issues. Of course they would take advantage of such things.
Arthur had watched enough television to understand that he was a perfect suspect for the recent killings. A former convict with a history of abuse, violence, alcoholism and mental illness, in the area, even seen near the crime scenes. There was just one issue with their case: Arthur was certain of his innocence. The man was a nasty drunk but he refused to believe he would ever intentionally kill another human being.
Reaching his apartment, Arthur reached into his pocket, searching for his key with trembling hands. Pinching the grooved metal, he tried and failed to insert it into the lock, letting loose a high-pitched curse of frustration as it slipped through his numb fingers and clattered to the warped floorboards. Resting one hand on the knob for balance, Arthur leaned down to collect the blood-smeared key only to have the door swing inwards at his touch, almost spilling him headfirst into his apartment.
Pocketing the key, Arthur took a cautious step inside, rain slipping from his clothes and pooling around his shoes. Catching sight of his reflection in the small mirror on the wall that he had never gotten around to moving, he paused to survey his appearance. His hair hung over his vacant blue eyes, his gaunt face slick with rain. His shirt clung to his bony frame, stained orange and red with the same blood that covered his hands like a thick paint. There were scratches over his cheekbone, still lazily oozing crimson which mingled with the wetness and turned a watery rust-colour as it slid down his neck and collarbone. With a sort of morbid curiosity, Arthur reached up with one hand to feel the wounds, flinching as a stinging pain blossomed over his face. Gazing shakily at his blood-stained fingers, his breath came in short, ragged gasps as his chest tightened, his stomach roiling sickeningly.
I didn’t do anything, he repeated to himself, less certainly this time.
“Mr. Alpine?” a voice spoke up and Arthur turned slowly to see two policemen watching him. They were unfamiliar to him, one old and the other young. It was the elder who had spoken and he continued to do so but his voice sounded far away, muffled and garbled.
His mind felt slow and heavy as he began limping towards his postage-stamp kitchen, ignoring the two men, intent on the thought that had just occurred to him dully. Have to wash my hands.
He could vaguely hear the policeman raise his voice, his tone becoming agitated but he kept limping towards his goal. Just as Arthur reached the sink, a hand grabbed his shoulder, pulling at him roughly. His reaction was instant, lacking any thought as his hand darted out, no longer shaking, and wrapped itself around the handle of a large kitchen knife. Before Arthur even realized what he was doing, the blade was forcing itself deeper and deeper into the younger man’s torso. Eyes completely devoid of any thought or emotion, Arthur watched as if from outside his own body as his hand continued to push the weapon into the slot between the man’s ribs, pleasantly warm blood spilling over his chilled fingers, soaking the cuff of his shirt a deep crimson. He could hear the elder policeman yelling at him, hear him calling for backup as he turned automatically, whipping his cane out haphazardly, catching him across the temple with a sickening crack. The man went down with a thud like a broken and discarded toy.
Arthur stood there, panting and shaking, the blood on his hands congealing and cooling with each passing second, more of the red liquid slowly soaking into the soles of his shoes as it spread outwards from the body of the younger cop. The cop he had killed.
Arthur’s breath caught in his chest as he crumpled back against the counter, the anxiety and horror remaining in his stomach even as he vomited into the sink. Shaking, he slid to the ground, a sob ripping from his throat that sounded more akin to the cry of a wounded animal than any noise a human would ever make.
“I’m not a murderer!” he blubbered, unable to comprehend nor process what his mind was telling him. It wasn’t possible, it just couldn’t be. “I’m not a murderer,” he repeated, as if pleading with the God that this nightmare somehow wasn’t real.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Arthur pressed his hands to his head, “I’m not a murderer!” he wailed again, slamming his fists against his temples, “I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!”
But it made sense, didn’t it? If he had really been the one to kill those people, it would explain everything. The bruises he could never remember getting, the blood that he was sure wasn’t his but was still somehow on his clothes, the lapses in memory that had to be a result of more than just drunkenness, all of it. It explained the dreams and the memories and the images in his head that he could never understand and would never dare tell anyone else about for fear that they’d think him mad. It explained why the police were investigating him and why the profile fit and why so many witnesses had pointed him out. It explained the thoughts of violence and the things he couldn’t possibly have known like how the girl with the blue hair put up the most fight in the end and the black-haired girl with the glasses had lost her nice green knitted scarf while trying to run away. Trying to run away from him.
“No, no, no,” he whimpered, the truth cutting into him like a knife of its own. He had killed them. He had killed them in a blind rage the same way he had killed the young policeman just minutes ago. He was a murderer. He was worse than even his parents, who may have beaten him like savages in drunken rages of their own but had never killed anyone.
Hearing sirens, Arthur remembered numbly that one of the men had called for backup. When they found him like this, he knew he would have no excuse. He would spend the rest of his miserable life in prison. Arthur knew that he would never let that happen. He had vowed to himself long ago that he would never go back to that hell.
Making up his mind, Arthur slowly began to move, shuddering as he wrapped shaking fingers around the blood-specked gun of the man he had killed, tucking it into his belt. He didn’t have long. Walking on unsteady legs, he retrieved his laptop and, finding nothing better and not daring to enter the kitchen again, he placed it on his livingroom table. He tapped his finger spasmodically as he waited for it to boot up. As soon as it did, his fingers began flying, leaving scarlet smears across the plastic keys as he pulled up a recording program and started it, taking a step back so he was visible on the small screen.
His voice was shaky and high-pitched with fear, his chest fluttering up and down as tears dripped down his cheeks, “My name is Arthur Sherlock Alpine,” he began, wiping at his eyes with his sleeve. He let out a small moan as he realized he had just streaked his face with blood. Arthur gave a shudder and forced himself to continue, fighting against the bile that rose in his throat. He didn’t have enough time, he could hear them coming up the stairs.
His breathing picked up as he began hyperventilating, gasping for air between words, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do any of this, I didn’t know!” He pulled the gun from his belt, slamming his fist against his head furiously, bending double to try and collect himself. “I didn’t know!” he repeated frantically, glancing at his door fearfully before turning back to the computer, “I’m sorry! Please forgive me, please I didn’t know! I didn’t know it was me!” He broke off again as he struggled to speak through the roaring tide of emotions that threatened to explode like a bomb inside of him.
“I never wanted to hurt anyone! I didn’t want to kill anyone but I did and-” he stopped, unable to continue and what else was he supposed to say anyways? He could never make it up to the families whose children he had taken away. There were some things that words could just never make better and only actions could ever hope to mean anything.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Sam,” he whispered as he heard the door to his apartment smash against the wall, signalling the arrival of the men who would be there to take him away to a place he refused to return to. “I’m so so sorry.”
He stood to meet them.
“Drop your weapon!”
“I said drop it!”
He raised his arm, his grip for once steady and certain. He didn’t get it past the height of his hip before the shot rang out.
The gun clattered against the floorboards as he crumpled. Despite the haze of pain and fear, the most prominent thing Arthur felt as he died was relief.
It was over. The nightmare was finally over.
Some wrongs can only be righted through action when words are no longer enough.