As Carl laid the still-warm body on the cold concrete floor of the warehouse, an overwhelming sense of panic enveloped him. Was anyone watching? No. There were no windows in this room, and he had cautiously blocked the only door. He listened carefully for several minutes- waiting to hear footsteps, voices, anything that might indicate a witness. Nothing. Satisfied, he stepped back from the corpse. The thick red blood seeping from his victim’s neck wound was already pooling underneath the twisted corpse. It began slowly oozing toward Carl as the young man’s heart beat for the last time.
Carl had meticulously planned this man’s murder. He knew during his scheming that he would have no fear, no hesitation, no guilt. But, as he stared at the young man, he couldn’t help feeling an awkward sense of sympathy for him. He was barely 24 years old. Suddenly, Carl’s mind grasped a distant memory of himself at 24- he knew nothing then of the cruelty of life, nothing of hate, nothing of death. He remembered how he had loved Elizabeth and their daughter so much that his heart ached. But, the beautiful memory was quickly replaced with the rage he felt after–. He closed his eyes and drew a deep, relaxing breath. He had to focus.
Carl began dragging the body toward the center of the enormous room. As a former architect, he knew precisely where to place to the corpse so that the full weight of the building would come crashing down upon him- splintering his bones, splattering his blood, concealing his previously inflicted wound. Four stories of concrete and steel beams would leave nothing but a soupy mixture on the floor. Carl eyed each of the six explosive devices that were attached to specific columns throughout the room. Once these columns collapsed, the warehouse would be flattened in a matter of seconds.
Before detonation, however, Carl had several tasks to complete. First, he stripped to his boxers and rubbed his entire body with a sanitizing liquid. Next, he pulled a brand new pair of elbow-length rubber gloves onto his steady hands. He dropped the air-tight plastic bag that contained his change of clothes into the deserted hallway just outside the door and promptly blocked it once more- just to be safe. Carl turned and gazed once more on the body of the young man. It was only now that he saw the lump in the man’s back pocket- a wallet. Carl attempted to pull the wallet out, but was unable to fully utilize his fine motor skills due to the gloves. Against his better judgment, Carl slipped off the glove on his right hand, and slowly plucked the wallet from the young man’s pocket. Carl turned his back to the young man as if in fear that he would wake up and demand an explanation. The wallet was empty save for a few crumpled dollar bills and a driver’s license.
He wasn’t looking for money, but he had definitely expected to find some. Carl had not killed this man for his own financial benefit. He had killed him because he hated him. This man was single handedly responsible for the devastating turn for the worse that Carl’s life had taken recently. This young man, Brian Webster, had taken Carl’s wife, child, career, and everything else he had loved- still loved. Brian had been a firefighter for less than a year when he responded to a blaze at one of Carl’s most prestigious buildings. After a full investigation, Brian wrote his report which stated that the building’s design had contributed to the severity of the fire, and that faulty building materials were used in its construction. Eight people were killed and several others were injured. Afterwards, Carl was shunned in the community that had once embraced him wholeheartedly. Carl was blamed for the deaths and injuries of the workers in the building. He began to lose clients, which led to losing his business, and eventually his family- all because of this kid. He probably didn’t even know what he was doing!
“No credit cards, almost no cash?” “Just a stupid ID and a…” Carl’s voice trailed off. Behind Brian’s ID was a picture- a wife and twin boys. They looked about 3. Suddenly, Carl’s head was spinning, he felt nauseous, terrified, panicked. What had he done to these innocent children, to this woman? Carl realized that he was not punishing Brian, but this family- they would have to live without a husband and father.
It was too late. Even if he had called someone, Brian was already dead. Carl wouldn’t be able to stand any more hatred from his friends and family. Now he had killed someone on purpose! Looking down at his hands, he finally admitted it to himself- he had taken eight lives with these two hands, and Brian made nine.
Guilt ridden, Carl began frantically executing the remainder of his plan. It was difficult to concentrate with Brian’s body lying there, but he carried on. He must not be implicated! There would be no chance at regaining anyone’s trust if he were caught. Carl began drenching Brian’s body with alcohol. He broke several bottles which allowed the liquid to flow toward the crates of cardboard boxes that were stacked against the wall. Finally, he readied the explosives and laid a lighter and a pack of cigarettes next to Brian’s lifeless body.
Carl thought back to how he had lured Brian into his trap. After setting up the warehouse, which was on Brian’s way home, Carl waited for Brian to walk by. Dressed as a homeless man, he baited Brian into inspecting the building by telling him that he had seen someone passed out inside. As a firefighter, Brian instinctively wanted to help.
“He just wanted to help” Carl thought guiltily as he dropped the lighted match into the alcohol.
Carl had set the timers on the small explosives for two minutes. He frantically pulled the clothes on after shutting the door behind him. He could now hear the fire crackling as it consumed the boxes. One minute left. Carl ran to the street as he knew there was little time before the bombs went off. It would be just enough of a jolt to break the columns, but the building would fall quickly so he had to get far enough away. He could have no association with the building. Running down the street, Carl was suddenly overcome with a terrible revelation- his jacket! He had meant to leave the jacket inside the burning building! But, there it was, in his hand. Thirty seconds. Just then, he saw a man in the alley. He was now at two blocks from the warehouse. He handed the jacket to the homeless man and bolted down the street. Three, two, one…
It was two weeks later when the detectives knocked on Carl’s door. He was taken to the police station and interrogated for endless hours. But, he explained that he was out of town- the tickets he had bought in advance added evidence to his alibi.
“He ruined your career. Your wife left you. Didn’t you hate him?” They whispered in his ear. Carl was not shaken. He stuck to his story. Even with the guilt rising inside of him, the terror gripping his heart until each beat felt like a knife through his chest, he stuck to his story.
“I was out of town.” He repeated.
“Someone tried to make it look like he had been stopping there after work to have a drink and a smoke. Nope. His wife says he calls from the station before he leaves every night and he is always home ten minutes later. Not that night” the detective scorned. “We know it wasn’t an accident. There was evidence of explosives.”
Carl’s heart stopped. He knew at that moment that he would be discovered as the murderer that he was. The police held Carl under suspicion until the next day.
“Sorry for the inconvenience. We caught the guy. You’re free to go.”
As Carl hastily walked out of the cell, he passed a familiar-looking homeless man. His newfound sense of relief suddenly soured in his stomach and a feeling unlike anything he’d ever known enveloped him.
“He was only two blocks away. We found evidence that he had been in contact with Webster just before he died. Webster’s blood was all over that jacket. He’s going to be locked up for a long time.”
Carl walked outside the police station in shock, but before he could turn around to confess his sins; the Number 7 bus plowed into him, pushing his mortally twisted body into the pavement- killing him instantly.