In America, a violent crime happens every thirty seconds. The attacks almost always take place in small towns, in the rural backwoods or in the suburbs somewhere. However, they also take place in big cities like New York. And a lot of times when they do, the circumstances around them are murky at best. They’re discreet, confusing, sometimes even disguised as accidents. The crime tends to happen behind closed doors and between family members, friends or acquaintances. Its cause could be a selfish need. A husband kills his wife to collect the insurance money, a wife kills her husband to be with her lover, children kill their parents to inherit their money. Other times they’re a way to escape psychological and physical abuse. To make the murder less noticeable, weapons are avoided. Instead, narcotics, poison, asphyxiation or drowning are the primary cause of death which makes the investigation complicated and the crime harder to pin on the right suspect.
Upon my arrival, I found Mrs. Ritter lying naked in the bathtub with her eyes closed. Her body was still relatively warm due to the bath’s water and overall room temperature. Her husband, Mr. Ritter, was immediately taken down to the kitchen where David questioned him. He said he had just gotten back from work an hour earlier and found his wife dead. David proceeded in asking him what he thinks might have caused her death and he revealed she’s been suffering from severe fits of epilepsy. To cross-reference that information, we contacted her doctor who said she had scheduled a check-up regarding the possibility of a sudden development of the disorder a month prior to the incident. However, he mentioned that it was Mr. Ritter’s idea and not hers because, as she put it, she wasn’t aware she was having them. Then again, some types of seizures can cause loss of consciousness or awareness, so we couldn’t be sure until after an autopsy was made.
As soon as Mrs. Ritter’s body was taken out of the house followed by Mr. Ritter, one of her neighbors rushed to the police line and started cursing at him while receptively accusing him for being responsible for his wife’s death, something we were already suspicious of but didn’t have enough evidence to support the claim and go through with a conviction. In our minds, David and I never scratched off the possibility Mr. Ritter might be responsible for his wife’s death but neither could we find a legit motive. The only thing we have pointing in that direction is the neighbor’s severely persistent accusation. After the coroner’s examination of the body, the information we received was that no signs of violence, poison or heart attack were found nor any strong indications that proved Mrs. Ritter suffered from epilepsy. David inquired further regarding the possibility of drowning and the response we got was that it was impossible to drown someone without leaving bruises because of their obvious struggle for survival.
Back at my apartment, I gathered the photos on my desk and minutely inspected them. I concluded Mrs. Ritter’s couldn’t have easily drowned even if she had a seizure because she was tall enough for her head to slop at the head-end of the tub which would keep her head above the surface instead of bringing it down. She was five feet and seven inches tall while the tub was only five feet long. I paid close attention to the subtle swelling on the body’s right ankle and thought about where it could possibly be coming from all while keeping in mind that it could very well be an injury caused by a recent incident.
Natalie doesn’t deal with quiet or stillness very well and although she wasn’t disruptive, her constant hovering and moving things around the apartment while mumbling lyrics from the song blasting through her headphones was distracting to me. My eyes wandered in her direction every time she passed by and my mind slowly started to zone in on her as she vacuumed the living room rug. It was then that an idea was triggered in my mind: I was going to use her in an experiment, so as soon as she was done doing her chores, I interrupted her:
“Hey, how tall are you?”
“I’m five feet, six — seven inches tall. Why?”
“Do you have a minute? I’m trying to figure something out.”
The idea of running an experiment in favor of figuring out how a victim died never occurred to me before, mainly because it wasn’t my job, but I knew this one particular crime could only be resolved through a reenactment by putting myself in the killer’s shoes and cracking the mystery.
Natalie put one of her bathing suits on while I ran the water in the bathtub until it was filled with the exact same amount Mrs. Ritter was found in. I then invited Natalie in and asked her to lie in it completely still with her body fully stretched. As predicted, her head was almost fully above the surface. Going by what I saw in the photo, I decided to try something out. As she awkwardly lied in the tub and stared at me, I slowly started to put myself in the state of mind of Mrs. Ritter’s killer, someone driven by hatred, resentment and rage all while taking into account the evidence gathered which showed no signs of violence or struggle. The degree of verisimilitude to what happened to the victim had to be very close, so after making sure Natalie was comfortable with me trying different techniques of drowning, we went for it. The upside was seeing how thrilled and curious she was to see what I’d come up with. The first thing I tried was firmly grabbing her scalp and shoving her head under water. After the initial sudden descent under the surface, she immediately managed to push herself up by gripping each side of the bath and resisting me even when I tried using both hands to keep her head underwater. The second technique consisted of me rolling her hair tightly around my palm and pulling her head backward which seemed to cause her great discomfort but she eventually managed to overpower me again and succeeded in fighting back and saving herself. My third attempt was more focused and calculated and included a sudden violent movement. My main focus was finding a way to justify the small bruise around the body’s right ankle although nothing proved it was inflicted the night of the murder. I surreptitiously thought about my next move while Natalie regained her breath and waited for my next attack. At that point, she seemed to be expecting another aim toward her head or neck area, but little did she know I was about to pull off something dangerous and extremely unyielding. When she was ready for me, I swiftly and alarmingly inserted both hands in the tub, grabbed both of her ankles and obdurately pulled her legs up which completely caught her off guard as she was pushed backward, her upper body completely submerging in water. Her distress and inability to pull herself up as I raised her legs higher and higher fueled me as I challenged myself more and more and was insistent on finally succeeding.
Drowning is often believed to involve a huge struggle as the body fights so hard to survive. Although it’s true, it’s not always the case. For the most part, it’s subtle, quick and silent. When Natalie was caught underwater, her body dropped and went completely still. There was no jittering, shaking or fighting back. I put her legs back down and found her unconscious. I immediately pulled her out of the tub and dragged her across the apartment to the living room floor where I tried to resuscitate her. She felt numb and her eyes were closed. When I forced them open, they were glassy.
I couldn’t understand how things went south in a split second. From my knowledge, she couldn’t have drowned. I was putting her life in jeopardy the more I waited, but I was reluctant on calling 911 knowing they wouldn’t buy it if I told them what actually happened. I relied on myself to bring her back to life — as arrogant as that might sound. I turned her head to the side to drain some of the liquid from her mouth and nose. I then turned her head back to the center, pinched her nose and breathed into her mouth to get as much of the water clogging her passageways as I possibly could. I repeated the cycle a few times until her consciousness unexpectedly restored.
When a sudden rush of water enters the nose and throat inhibiting both the vital cranial nerve and the vagus nerve, a sudden loss of consciousness can occur. Natalie had inhaled a big amount of water that flood through her lungs, harming the lining and preventing her from taking any oxygen. I was deeply regretful for being reckless with her life, but at same time I felt very accomplished and so my action was justified. Natalie didn’t seem to be too traumatized by the incident — just a bit fazed. I think she kind of enjoyed it; being in danger is an exciting feeling to have. I wasn’t sure whether she was going to tell Sven or not, but I was hoping she’d keep what happened between us a secret since I was unsure about his reaction. When he finally walked through the door and asked us what we were doing, I awkwardly stared at him in silence and let Natalie take charge of the situation.
“Not much. I just took a shower”, Nat responded as she dried her hair with a towel. We left it at that. Sven started unloading his duffle bag and suggested we order in for dinner.
The next morning, he acted a bit stand-offish and weird, so I knew she must’ve told him. He didn’t confront me about it, though, and I had to make it to court to present my testimony. The judge deliberated for an hour before convicting Mr. Ritter, who was also having an affair with one of his students. Back at the office, I was congratulated by Grant and David for turning the case around and providing detailed strong evidence that couldn’t be argued by the defendant attorney.
When I returned home, Sven finally sat down and spoke to me. He didn’t mention anything about the incident, but I knew he was thinking about it as he revealed to me his plans to move out, claiming he’d rather live privately with his girlfriend. When he got up to take a shower, Natalie apologized to me.
“I’m sorry, Felix. I didn’t know he’d make a big deal out of it.”
“It’s fine. I just don’t want to have tension between us.”
“I’m sure he’ll get over it. I’m fine. At least you got to prove it. Beside, we were planning on moving out anyway.”
I wasn’t in the mood to further our conversation, mainly because I was hoping she’d keep my secret. Knowing how close her and Sven are, I guess should’ve known better.
“By the way, I grabbed the mail. It’s in your bedroom. More envelopes for Damien…” she said as she walked away.
Damien is the name of the previous tenant. I still get some of his junk mail. Also, Clarisse’s. I used to collect them just for the sake of it. Now I just toss them in the trash.
Before going to bed, I went out for a short walk around the neighborhood to clear my mind. A few blocks away from my building, I found an old woman sitting in a wheelchair. She was picking the flesh off a deep scab in her knee. She kept doing it which grossed me out, so I turned around and walked back home.
I entered my apartment to the static sound of the record player and shaded noises coming from Sven’s bedroom. I took off my coat and walked through the corridor. As I got closer to his bedroom door, I could hear heavy breathing and moans. Natalie was in there too. They were fucking. I got my ear as close to the door until it was fully glued to it. I closed my eyes and focused on the sound of their lovemaking. I haven’t had sex in months I’ve missed this intense feeling of arousal. I felt like a creep doing that, but I needed to release the inner tension. As I stroked my cock, flashes of the night I witnessed Hilda and Stephen fucking came back to me like a fresh memory. I was a virgin when that happened, and my current sexual deprivation made me feel like I was back to being one. Ever since Matthew died, my libido became low and corrupted.
The noises coming from the other room got louder and louder. I was expecting them to finish off at any moment, but they kept on going. Listening to them aroused me, so I slid my hand inside my briefs and started stroking my cock harder and harder. The axe was going to drop at any point, edging closer and closer, but at the end it just teased before completely waning off. I became frustrated trying to figure out why they stopped. It frustrated me. Once I heard one of them get out of bed, I rushed to my bedroom, closed the door, took my clothes off and jumped into bed. I spent the rest of the night stroking furtively, desolated by the lack of sexual attention until I stealthily came all over myself.
The next morning, I woke up and realized I didn’t make it to the bathroom to clean myself up, my semen jelly-like and sticky. I reached down and picked up a dirty shirt semi-tucked under my bed and cleaned up the mess I’ve made.