There were dark shadows in the room. The man named Henson sat in an easy chair talking to her, a silhouetted figure who sat on his flowered sofa.
Soft, romantic music played on his radio, because that was her favorite.
He held a mixed drink in his hand. Hers sat untouched on the coffee table.
“It was in the papers about those women,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to you.”
When she didn’t reply, he set his drink down and moved from his chair to sit next to her on the sofa, gently curving his arm around her, kissing her lips.
“I love you,” he said.
Later in the bathroom that night, Henson undressed to get ready for bed. As he slipped on his pajamas, he called into the next room, the bedroom.
“I’ll be right there!”
He brushed his teeth, gargled, combed his hair, applied cologne, opened the bathroom door, and walked toward the bedroom.
The bedroom was shadowed, and he didn’t turn on a light. He walked over to the bed.
She was under the sheet, her back toward him.
Henson sat on the edge of the bed, smiling shyly over his shoulder in her direction. He unbuttoned his pajama shirt, then draped it over the back of a nearby chair.
“You’re not still mad at me, are you? I had to work late on some reports. It’s the truth. I wouldn’t lie to you. I don’t want anyone else.”
When he received no answer, he turned and slipped under the sheet, draping his arm around her waist and drawing her back against him. His breath came heavy, his pulse increased as he pressed himself against the back of her.
“Can’t you feel how much I love you? I would never cheat on you.”
He kissed the back of her neck as he slid his hand beneath the sheet to stroke her.
Standing outside of an apartment door a block away was a police officer named Brady, and the landlady.
The policeman knocked for the second time.
The landlady looked concerned and said to him, “Wendy hasn’t answered in days. I was going to give her some soup because she’s been under the weather.”
Officer Brady knocked a third time.
“Wendy!” he called. “This is the police! Everything okay in there? Landlady’s a little worried about you!”
The landlady frowned. “I worry with that strangler out there.”
They waited, and finally, because the officer had a meeting with the chief in fifteen minutes, motioned for the landlady to open the door with her key.
When they went inside, they found Wendy lying dead on the floor, a silk handkerchief around her neck.
The landlady screamed and reached for a chair to sit down.
10 am next morning.
The police station wasn’t always a hugely busy place, but recently it was. Phones were ringing, a TV was playing, there were voices of other cops working around the room--some interviewing witnesses, some talking on the phone to reporters, some entering or retrieving data on computer. The strangler was keeping everyone on their toes.
A criminal was being booked at the front desk by a uniformed officer when Henson timidly walked up to it with his hat in his hands.
“I have to talk to somebody.”
The desk sergeant looked up. “You want to report a crime?”
“In a way.”
Five minutes later Henson was sitting across a desk from the chief of police.
“I don’t want to turn her in,” Henson said glancing down at his hat. “But I have to.”
The police chief laughed. “You think our strangler’s a woman? And one you know?”
“Oh, I know it is.”
Henson reached into his hip pocket, then placed a silk handkerchief on the desk in front of him.
The chief used a pencil to lift the handkerchief for a closer look.
“More,” Henson said wistfully. “She’s my lover. My life. I don’t want to turn her in, but I have to.”
“It would take a powerful woman to be a strangler.”
“She’s very strong.”
“A lot of women have silk scarves.”
Henson reached into his other hip pocket and placed an instant Polaroid of strangled Wendy on his desk. And then one of strangled Amber. And strangled Deidre.
“I found them in her purse,” Henson said just above a whisper. He turned his head as if ashamed. “I’ve worked with these women. Melody thinks I’m seeing them. That’s why she…”
The chief reached for his cell.
His living room was in shadows again.
She sat in the easy chair, while Henson paced the floor in front of her.
“When they come, Melody, don’t be frightened. Just answer their questions, do what they say, or they’ll go harder on you. You should tell them it isn’t all your fault. You should tell them about your mother, and the cellar, the rats, and all the rest. You may even plead insanity. A good lawyer will help you do that. Surely they will under--”
The sound of slamming vehicle doors sounded outside. Henson went to the window to look out, and turned toward her with a frightened look. “They’re here, Melody. I’m sorry.”
He dove to her chair on his knees and buried his head in her lap.
“I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”
There was a knock at the door. Henson looked at it, then back at Melody.
The door opened and the cops came in, turning on the lights.
The light revealed Melody to be a mannequin dressed in fine clothes, wearing expensive jewelry. Her hair was long and lustrous, and her makeup was perfect. The purse next to her was open, revealing a bejeweled wallet, cell phone, and silk scarf.
Officer Brady looked at the detective accompanying him.
Henson’s hands flew up and covered his face.
“I’m sorry, Melody! I’m very sorry!”
The detective advanced toward Henson.
“You’re under arrest, Mr. Henson.”
Henson slowly moved his head no.
“It’s her. Didn’t you hear me? She’s the one.”
Henson turned to run toward the door, but Brady and the detective caught him and pulled him back.
The detective began to read the man his rights, while Brady moved toward the mannequin, shaking his head in disbelief.