December 23, 2016

Missing Rachel - Entry VII: Norman
Missing Rachel
Entry VII: Norman
Location: The Store
Date: Friday, June 19th, 2015

I had been traveling down the paved road for about twenty minutes when I finally reached Norman’s store. The garbage bin next to his store was a disgusting mess of rotten food and slick, black bags. Why did Norman let it get so bad? I saw a thin, greenish corner poking out from one of the bags. As I examined it closely, I saw that it was my driver’s license and it looked damaged. What was it doing here? Was I here before? I cleaned the license off as best I could and tucked it into my wallet next to the credit card. As I entered the back of the store where Norman lived, a light rain began to fall. It was oddly quiet inside except for the faint sound of a television. I went to the front of the store, the entrance was locked from the inside and it looked like I wouldn’t be able to just pop it open; it needed a key. There was a bit of what appeared to be blood on the keyhole too.

I went upstairs to see if I could find Norman, but what I found was more shocking. In Norman’s bedroom, I found one of Rachel’s old autumn coats hanging from a rack. What the hell…? What the hell was going on here?! What was Rachel’s coat doing in Norman’s bedroom?! I couldn’t think, my mind was reeling, why was Rachel here? Why was she with Norman? And where are they now? I searched the room for clues, any sign of where they might be. I found a cabinet filled with a small but impressive collection of hunting rifles, shotguns, and other items I didn’t think were legal here. One of the slots on the rack was empty, the gun I had in my pocket seemed to match the space. Was this handgun Norman’s and what the hell was it doing in that man’s house? Nothing was making sense, nothing!

I moved into a different room where the TV still flickered some indecipherable channel. My eyes searched the room until… oh no… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Norman, my coworker and one of the few friends I had in this town, lay dead in his armchair. His face and shirt were covered in blood; it looked like he’d been shot trying to get up. His eyes were wide with shock though they were already drying. Norman, what was Rachel doing here? Why did you have her coat?! I wanted to scream at him, grab him by the collar and shake him until he answered… but it was no use. Norman was gone. Maybe he deserved better, he probably did. I closed his eyelids down, shuddering as I did so. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give him peace or if I just couldn’t stand the thought of his lifeless eyes staring at me. What the hell was going on? I just wanted to wake up from this nightmare and find myself at home with Rachel beside me.

I went into the kitchen, Norman kept it clean enough, but there were water rings from two cups still on the wooden table. The kitchen trash bin was starting to stink; I found a hairpin amongst the rotting food. I hoped that I may be able to pick the front door lock with it. I was about to leave the kitchen when I noticed a chain hanging from the ceiling. I gave it a slight tug and a simple folding ladder to the attic popped down. I slowly climbed up, making sure to shine the flashlight into the darkness until I could finally see. Inside the attic, there was a large cardboard box that hadn’t been sealed. I opened up the old box and wasn’t entirely surprised by what I saw. There were more of Rachel’s things… more of my wife’s clothes! Photos, shoes… and even that old radio I gave her for her birthday. Why, Rachel? What were you doing here with Norman? I climbed back down the ladder, not sure if I even wanted to find out the answer to the questions I was screaming in my head.

I went straight to the front door and used the hairpin to pick the lock. It was a skill I had learned as a teenager and thought I’d never have to use again. I was now inside Norman’s actual store, it was small and clean. It had the usual things; postcards, snacks, magazines, and canned goods. I never went there much; Rachel usually stopped by after work if we needed anything. The register was mostly empty and a fat stack of travel magazines sat beside it. Many of the destinations had been places Rachel talked of going to. Paris, Rome, Bali, the usual desirable destinations but we never seemed to have the money or the time to go. The icebox seemed to be unplugged, it must have been off for a while; most of its contents were already melted. There were various postcards from the area, especially from the tourist traps. One of the postcards showed an old black-and-white photo of the water tower; it was in much better shape back then.

The night continued to take horrible turn after horrible turn. It’d been weeks since I’d last seen Norman, but to find him like that… as I thought of him still lying in his armchair upstairs, the gun I carried seemed to be ever-present. Seeing that dusty box of those old clothes was a shock; how long had they been there? And what was Rachel doing at Norman’s place? Then there were the other dead bodies; the man in the house, the sewer worker, the two campers, and the security guard. Who killed them? Who had done such a terrible thing? I was exhausted and wanted this whole ordeal to end. I felt like I had only discovered more questions no answers but I was close to home. It was time to find out the truth… it was time to go home.