|The Bathroom Murder
© Copyright 2000 by Jessica Bentch
I had to go. Of course the call of nature would come in the best part of the movie, but I just couldn’t ignore my need any longer.
"Excuse me. Sorry." I whispered regrets as I whacked knees and squashed toes in my haste to exit the row as quickly as possible. Swiftly, I made my way out of the theatre. Once away from the adventure and screams of Stephen Spielberg’s latest thriller, I took a breath and attempted to relocate myself within the cinema.
"Let’s see . . . I think the bathroom is this way," I told myself. With confidence I strolled down the wide hallway towards what I hoped would be the little girl’s room. With luck I found the heavy doors bearing the word "women" proudly on the front.
Once inside the bathroom I tried to not confuse myself with the rows upon rows of empty bathroom stalls. I walked to the end of the row of toilets and entered the last stall on the right- the handicapped stall. I know I should leave those open for those who are handicapped, but . . . bigger really is better.
As I rested upon my porcelain throne, I noticed the rather thick space between the wall and the stall divider that separated the two bathrooms at the end of the row of stalls. With amusement I realized I could see the other stall’s toilet in the reflection from the shiny, white walls. I chuckled to myself; glad no one was sitting on the toilet watching my reflection. Then my gaze wondered to the floor of the reflected stall. I gasped. The neighboring stall wasn’t empty after all. There was a woman on the floor in front of the toilet.
"Crap!" I said. I quickly finished my toilet business and exited my stall.
I didn’t go far.
"Ma’am?" I knocked on the thin door. "Miss? Are you ok?"
"Hey! Is everything all right in there?" I tried the knob on the door. It yielded to my gentle pressure. I pushed the door open.
"Oh, God . . ." I whispered. I stared at the remains of what was once a very beautiful woman. Whoever had taken her life had taken her blouse as well. A lock of her blond hair bathed itself in the pool of bright, red blood around her head. Her eyes stared at me, unblinking and unaware of her bare skin.
I turned away and covered my mouth.
"Did you see anybody exit the bathroom?" He stared intently at me.
"Nope." I answered the same question with the same answer. "Sir, I have already told you. I was watching a movie, I needed to go pee, so I left the movie and came to the restroom. I was going to the bathroom when I noticed someone laying on the floor in the next stall . . ." I repeated the story once again. "I’m sorry I can’t be more help, Officer."
Actually, I really was. While I don’t particularly care for the police, I did my best to be a good citizen. Seeing a fellow woman lying in her own blood gave me a new perspective on life. I wasn’t sure if I would ever pee again.
"Well, Liz, I guess you had an interesting time at the movies, huh?" Jay Pierson, my boss at the Hickoryville Times winked at me. "An inside scoop, huh?"
"Yeah, right J.P." I walked past him and went to my desk. I was aware of the reporters and editors who tried to inconspicuously get a peek at me.
Jay never could take a hint. He tailed my backside and confidently awaited a full response to his inquiry.
"So, did you get any extra info?" He licked his lips. It reminded me of a tiger preparing to butcher its’ prey. I guess that made me the prey.
I looked warily at him. "Yeah, J.P. I got extra info. A little too much extra . . ." I tried to dismiss him and switched on my computer. I sifted through the piles of junk on my desk, doing my best to look busy. He didn’t go away.
"Liz . . ." he whined at me like a five year old. "I want you to do a story on this thing."
"You have got to be kidding! I am a victim. I am traumatized from this whole thing." I tried to look sympathetic.
Jay laughed loudly and then lowered his voice, his eyes boring into me.
"You? A victim. I don’t think so. Not Liz, the Great Reporter!"
I sighed and looked away.
"Come one, Liz. This is a great opportunity. You witnessed a crime! You!
My ace reporter for Hickoryville Times!" He grinned at me.
"Your ‘ace reporter’? Ok, now I know you’re kidding," I said.
When he pulled up a stool, sat beside me and leaned forward, I knew this was it. He eagerly waited for the reality to set in. I watched him. He truly was excited about this.
"J.P., I didn’t witness a crime. I stumbled upon a crime scene. There’s a difference you know," I told him. But, it was hopeless. I knew already that I was in for the long haul. This was it. He had captured me. I would write the story. I awaited his command.
"Liz, I want you to do more than just write what you saw." His eyes gleamed with ideas. "I want you to investigate this. This is the second body found in a public restrooom. A friend at the station told me they think they have a serial murderer here. Just think," he paused, dramatically, "you could call yourself the ‘Bathroom Detective’." He laughed a full, confident laugh at his own brilliance. I tried to look impressed.
"Yeah, great idea, J.P." I smiled tightly.
"Ok! You get started then, Kid!" He patted me on the shoulder and gave me a thumbs up. My smile got even tighter. As he walked away I felt my left eye begin to twitch.
"Well, I guess I’m the investigating reporter for the bathroom murders now," I told myself. "Wonderful."
First step; return to the scene of the crime. The thought of returning to the porcelain-lined room did not bring happy thoughts. Good thing I wasn’t trying to fly . . .
Being back in the killer’s bathroom was like reentering my own dreams. The cinema had just reopened after the excitement of murder, and the evidence of a crime scene had vanished along with the yellow tape. The fresh scent of pinesol filled the air.
I stared at the last bathroom on the left, debating whether this was really worth it. I guess deep inside I wanted to know why someone had killed in a bathroom stall. I took a deep breath, exhaled and walked to the end of the restroom. I pushed inside the door and locked it behind me. There was no sign of the pool of blood. The victim and her long, blond hair were gone and the white walls gleamed in their bathroom glory.
I needed to go, and I didn’t feel right using a toilet that could have been used by a killer. Feeling down right ridiculous, I left the stall and entered the neighboring one. It was only after I was seated that I realized this stall, too, had bad memories. With a sigh, I hurriedly relieved myself.
As I pulled up my jeans, I froze. Someone was in the restroom with me. On some ridiculous impulse I climbed atop the toilet. I listened to the stranger’s footsteps walk briskly, clip-clop, to a stall at the front of the bathroom. I heard a rustle of clothes, a pause, and then the sound of liquid hitting liquid.
"Great, now I’m paranoid," I chastised myself, feeling adequately stupid for standing atop an innocent toilet. Before I could climb down from my precarious perch, another person entered the infamous room. But these footsteps weren’t clipped. Heavy boots clomped on the tiled floor. The pace was unsure and slow. I listened carefully as I silently slipped my foot back to the rim of the toilet seat. Slowly, the boots made their way past the rows of empty stalls. I held my breath as I heard the door open to the stall across from mine. I looked at the shiny, white porcelain wall and watched for the bathroom visitor to enter the reflection. But a woman did not enter my reflected movie screen. Instead, I watched a tall, husky man cross the wide, handicap stall. He crouched over the toilet, his back hunched over like a porpoise’s humped backside.
I eased myself gingerly across the toilet, and attempted to get a better view of the man’s reflection on my tiled screen. As I leaned against the cold wall, the toilet seat tipped. I teetered, tottered and then crashed down onto the hard floor.
"Crap!" I whispered fiercely. I quickly struggled to my feet. I zipped my still gaping jeans and raced to unlock my stall door. The violated, neighboring stall remained deathly quiet and I hoped my visitor would believe he was still unseen.
No such luck. As I exited my stall, a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me roughly into my least favorite stall in the whole, wide world. A gloved hand covered my mouth while the other hand kept my wrists tightly held above my head. I opened my eyes to see the object of my terror inches from my face.
Like rocks forced through a cheese grater, he spoke through his gritted teeth. "No sounds! If you scream, I’ll kill you."
I nodded my head in an attempt to assure him that I would obey his every command. He didn’t seem to trust me. Funny, neither did I return the favor. We stared at each other for a few seconds. My mind raced with thoughts of escape while I am sure his mind went running with various methods of murdering women in bathrooms.
With a loud sigh that was filled with disgust, he turned me towards the bathroom wall and pulled my back against him. From the depths of his pocket he produced a bandana which he used to gag my mouth. I didn’t test to see if this would really quiet me. I was afraid to risk his anger so I obediently remained calm and quiet while he tied me with white, flaxen rope. I wondered what else was hidden in his bottomless pocket.
I expected him to whip out a knife anytime and start carving his next victim, me. Instead, he quietly continued to crouch over the toilet. After a few minutes he seemed satisfied with his toilet work and turned to look at me. Some sort of menial debate was working inside his male head. I closed me eyes. What to do . . . At that moment I thoroughly hated my boss.
With a jerk, my captor raised me from the floor. This is it, I thought.
Instead of slitting my throat, he opened the stall, and shoved me next door. Great, I’ll never get out of here. We hobbled over to the reigning throne and he sat me down. He seemed to be waiting. All was quiet.
Then a tiny creek echoed along the porcelain walls. A heeled foot clipped to the floor. Clip-clop. She walked briskly to the end of the row of stalls. With a slight pause, she pushed open the door, and I watched the reflection of her entrance into the overused bathroom. She, too, stooped over the toilet.
What is this? I glanced at my captor and realized he was watching the reflected scene as well. Great, another victim. Let’s just have a party.
I watched the woman wiggling around the toilet. With a screech whatever she had been adjusting yielded to her efforts. She sighed and seated herself on the toilet, a tiny box on her lap. As she began to open it, my assailant moved beside me. He cautioned me to remain silent, and he reached for a gun conveniently tucked inside his jacket.
The attacker slid out of my stall, his gun grasped tightly in his right hand. This is it, I though. Now we’re both going to die.
My tiled movie projected a surprise ending. My "captor" became my deliverer before my eyes. The woman raised her hands and stared in shock at the gunned policemen.
"Hey! What are you doing in here?" She stuttered.
"Put your hands up!" He yelled.
"Okay, okay . . ." She complied and was quickly handcuffed. Her tiny box fell from her lap and bounced across the floor. Coins and jewelry spilled across the tiles.
"Miss, could you assist me please? Miss?" He called from his side of the gun.
It took me a minute to realize he was talking to me. "Uhhhh . . . Yeah, sorry." I scrambled to the other bathroom, my hands still tied behind me.
I did my best to follow his orders. It seems I was but a blockade in a very intricate set up to catch the bathroom murderer. I alerted the other officers, and they rushed to assist in the arrest.
I got my story. And
then some. Needless to say, I am still pretty weary of using public restrooms.
Especially the ones at the end of the row.
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