26,034 / 50,000
I started to reach my hand out towards the bandage myself, curious, but stopped when I saw him flinch, returning my hand to my side. "Uh huh. An accident. That might work if I didn't look back and see you crack your head against the wall as I drove away."
Smiling sheepishly, Jay looked down at his feet. "Yeah, I figured I needed some sort of alibi when the police arrived, yeah? I mean, I had to have some way to explain how someone ends up d - dead in my bathroom, and I didn't see anything. So, I decided the best thing to do was to say I'd been knocked out. Of ocurse, I needed to do something to make them buy my story, so I gave myself this wicked gash in my head."
He reached up and touched the side of his head, not quite touching the bandage, and still he winced just a little bit. "Took a few good cracks before I got this thing looking presentable."
With a shrug, he continued. "I don't know, really. I guess they bought it. I'm here, aren't I?"
I nodded and turned the stove on, starting to boil water. I gestured to the mug I'd prepared for myself, and Jason just shook his head and held a hand up palm facing me, an entirely wordless exchange between close friends.
I could see some flecks of dried blood caked into the crevices of his skin, making the lines stand out more than usual. I didn't give much credence to palm reading, but my family was into most of that new age stuff, so I had a bit of a knack for it, and the lines that stood out now, thanks to the blood, painted a grim picture for Jay. It wasn't any sort of accurate predictive method, and even less so now, but I couldn't help noticing which lines where marked out. His fate line was broken, seemingly split into several pieces, and his life line was cut short. The real markings in his hands would tell a different story, but I'd found myself more and more receptive to omens like this, today.
"So yeah, not long after you left, the cops pulled in, abmulences in tow. It was a good thing you left when you did. I'm surrpsied they didn't see you."
Interrupting Jay just long enough, I told him about my departure and just barely missing the police as they pulled onto the street, and even doubling back to watch for a few minutes before I left.
"Anyways, the cops showed up, kept a really close eye on me as some of them went to check out the ladies restroom. I was still suspect numero uno," Jay was the whitest guy I knew, and he had no real urban connections until recently when he moved to Boston, but he had a tendency to just randomly drop in Spanish phrases. He said it was from three years of Spanish classes rotting his brain, but I think he did it because he thought it sounded cool and hip. "So, the cops kept me under watch, two of them, while another two went around the corner. They asked me a few questions, typical stuff about what happened, did I see anything, hear anything. You know the drill."
I nodded, and urged him to continue. "A medic nudged past, after he was stopped at first, right? Don't want to risk lettimh anyone get close to the potential killer, but he pointed out the bleeding head wound, so they let her past, very hesitantly I must add."
"A her," I grinned questioningly.
"Oh, quiet, you. Yes, a her. Cute redhead, but not as cute as you." I arched my eyebrows and tilted my head. "But moving on, uh, yeah, so the girl patched my head as the grilling went on. Asked me how I missed someone coming in the door, pulled out my earbud headphones and said I was listening to some music since it was so quiet, and they got up behind me. I think it was the blushing and looking guilty there that sold it. I'm a horrible liar, but you can make that work for you, I've noticed."
The teapot started to whistle, and Jay paused while I poured the water into my mug, and I turned, holding up the kettle, again wordlessly asking if he wanted anything, and again he declined, before continuing his story.
I hopped up on the counter and let the tea sit for awhile, listening intently to Jay's story. "Anyways, yeah, sucky liar got away with a few tonight, and the cops kept an eye on me, while the paramedics all rushed into the restroom, or as best they could once the police had checked the area for other people.
"One of the medics ran back out and carried in one of those collapsable wheeled gurneys, and a few other things, while another was checking out the scene, I assume. I tried to get a look, but the girl checking my head jabbed me every time I tried to move.
He again absently touched the side of his head, almost using it as a focus for his story. "So, things got pretty busy then, lots of talk on walkie talkies, one of the cops ran out to the car and called for backup, my manager showed up. Hectic doesn't even begin to describe things.
"The extra cops scoured the place, cordoned off the crime scene, talked with Ariel," I didn't recognize the name, and Jay saw my look, explaining that was the manager's name. Said I'd seen her a few times, and described her as a smaller, slightly overweight woman with pepper-grey hair past her shoulders. Nodding, as I did remember seeing her more than once there, but had never been introduced.
"I even saw a few other guys come in, looked like they were gathering evidence. Since it was a public place, they didn't expect to get anything too definitive, but they might find something important and out of place.
"Ariel wasn't too pleased with the mess in the back that I made when I saw the body, and went back there to get the tape. Oh! She checked the security footage, but all the cameras had been turned off, or the tapes damaged, they weren't really sure which.
"That doesn't bode well for the videotape you have, Shiv." I winced bitterly at that, but relieved as well, to hear him revert to using the more familiar version he preferred, than my full name he'd used since this evening. It was actually strange to hear him calling me by my whole first name.
"If all the other tapes are blank, we probably have a dud there, too." He pointed at the tape sitting on the counter, just sitting there and waiting to be viewed.
I looked at the tape as well, and asked him to finish up his story before going on to the tape.
"Well, there's not too much more to tell. Suspicion fell on me again, with the video machines being screwy, and my being the only one there, but they did notice that I'd only gotten blood on my hands, and the bottoms of my shoes, so they had their doubts that I came into that room before she was dead. They let me go, very reluctantly, but told me to stay in town. Like I have anywhere to go, right?"
"There's always your mother's place."
Jay rolled his eyes. "Yeah, she's the last person I want to see right now. Don't think I could stand her for very long, and then I'd really be a murderer."
I couldn't help but grin at that. Jay's relationship was - well, to say it was strained would be gilding the lilly just a bit.
"So, they took Heather away, saw her wheeled right out. Which was interesting to see them try and work that gurney around all the weird corners in the shop. I was going to help lock and clean up, but Ariel practically shoved me out the door. She could see how frazzled I was, and wanted me to go home, and take a few days off. Reluctantly, I let myself get pushed out the door, gave the cops my info to get in touch with me, and they let me go. Probably took about an hour, about fifteen, twenty minutes after that rainstorm started? Yeah, sounds about right."
He stood there for a few seconds and eventually shrugged, signifying in his own little way that he was pretty much done with his portion of the tale. I nodded and hopped off the counter, then grabbed my tea, and ditched the teabag. Once more, I offered Jay some, and he declined, but did ask for a glass of water after all that talking he did.
I got him that, and he picked up the video, going over to the tv while I followed with my mug and his glass, the small cubes of ice clinking as I walked.
Handing the glass over the back of the couch to Jay as he sat down, I then walked around and picked up the needed remotes scattered around the room. Jay had set the tape down on top of the tv, and after setting my mug down next to it, I picked the tape up, kneeled over, and put it in the VCR underneath the tv.
With my mug back in my hand, I flopped on the couch next to Jay, managing to not spill a drop, and fiddled with the small pile of remotes arrayed on the coffee table to turn on what was needed, and settled on the VCR remote once everything was on and ready, and gave Jay a look before hitting play.
"Are you sure you want to see this?" It was a simple question, but the answer might be complicated, or at least the reasoning behind it.
Jay sat there in silence for a while, and after a bit took a big drink from his glass, beads of water forming around the outside of the glass. "Yeah," he said in a voice that was surprisingly dry for the water he was taking in, but it was understandable. "I have to. I was so close, and completely missed it. I owe it to her, I guess."
"Yeah, I get that. I need to see if I'm crazy or not, and I need clossure on what happened to my friends. The cops will never know what really went down, but at least we'll know. You're right, we do owe that to her."
And with that, I pushed play, and the tape began.
Chapter Four - Videotape and Visions
The picture started out black, and soon flicked to life, a grainy, angled, overhead shot of the bathroom, avoiding views of the stalls. From my familiartity with the room, I knew the door was a little ways off to the left of the screen, and the camera did have a perfect view of the bank of sinks along the walls, and the mirrors. The stall doors were reflected in the mirrors very easily, and one was partly opened, giving a clear view inside. If the doors were closed though, the camera wouldn't record anyone in their doing their business.
The image was black and white, and not the clearest picture. I briefly wondered if that was required of all security cameras, to produce one of the grainiest, fuzzy pictures known to anyone outside of someone who lived in the middle of nowhere and needed to get their tv off of antenna.
Expectedly, the view of the room was completely empty for the start of the tape, since it started in the early morning. I hit the fast forward button, and it zoomed forward. Every time someone came in, I stopped and played long enough to confirm that it wasn't Heather, or myself, or a mass of shadow.
After a whole lot of fast forwarding, Heather finally came into the room, and ducked into a stall.