Library of Virginia’s ‘Dark Side’ Essay contest.
As an exercise in super short story writing (under 1000 words), I submitted my entry for the Library of Virginia’s ‘Dark Side’ Essay Contest. Above is the photo that inspired the story.
The original link can be found here: http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/dark-side/2013/05/31/central-national-bank-richmond-virginia-ca-1950/
My submission is below:
The Bloody Banker
Richmond is one of those old cities. Not as old as London or Paris, but still old enough to have plenty of ghosts. Thanks to the Nickel Bridge Killer, there are a few more ghosts in Richmond tonight.
I used to think that murder was something reserved only for the most foul, the most evil creatures. The ones who have nothing where their souls should be. I want to still think that. But after these past few weeks, that’s been tougher to believe. How do you feel about vengeance when it’s someone you love being murdered? You feel pretty damn sure that vengeance is the only thing that matters. But how do you feel about it when someone you love is the one doing the murdering?
My little brother and I were close as kids, but no more or less then any other siblings I guess. I got into trouble more than he did; I remember that. He liked books, science, and math. I was more of a P.E. guy. And when he graduated and went off to that fancy college, I stayed home and married Doris. Then he came home, and got a job at the Central National Bank. I was a patrol cop, nothing more than a glorified meter maid, but it was honest work, and it fed Doris and the kids.
The first girl was found in Byrd Park, where a lot of rich children play. She was young for a hooker, maybe eighteen or nineteen. She had this yellow hair, the kind our mother used to call bottle blonde, but I think it may have been real on her. It reminded me of Donald’s freshman year at the University of Virginia. He was real sweet on a bottle blonde named Susan, or maybe it was Sally. Anyway, it didn’t go anywhere. She was rich and he was just some cop’s little brother. You can probably guess the rest.
The next two girls were found a week later. They weren’t far from each other. One was found off Boulevard and another floated ashore during high tide on the James. They were both bottle blondes again, just like Susan. Donald and I used to spend time near that stretch of beach where the third girl washed up. It was just a few yards from Nickel Bridge, and except for the cars above, plenty private. I’d pull crabs out of the muddy water, and he’d pick seashells off the sand. If we found big enough crabs, we’d take them home to boil. I used to throw the small ones back. But one day, when Donald was about eleven, he asked if he could have a few of the smaller crabs. I tossed them his way, not thinking much of it. Then Donald pulled a hammer out of his back pocket and started smashing the crabs open, right there on the sand. They didn’t all die right away; some tried to scuttle back toward the water. But Donald chased them down and got them all. As they died, their eyes stuck so far out of their heads they looked like snails, and their guts oozed out like dark green slime.
Later that day, I asked Donald why he did that. He said he didn’t know; he just had the idea to see what they looked like before they got cooked. But I didn’t think it was a sudden impulse. Why else would he bring a hammer to the beach? He must have been thinking about smashing them crabs open for who know how long. Anyways, I never took Donald back to that beach. And I never ate another crab after that.
The fourth girl had her head smashed in, just like the other three. She had been attacked from behind, and there was a fair amount of blood in her hair, but you could still make out the roots, and yeah, they were bottle blond.
It’s true I’m not a detective, but I have been a cop for nearly ten years. And sometimes you just know, especially when it comes to family. I called Donald this morning and told him to meet me here, at the bank. It had to be after dark, where nobody’s prying eyes can see. If things go down the way I think they will, I don’t want anybody saying I helped the Nickel Bridge Killer escape justice. It would cost me my pension, and I couldn’t do that to Doris. But Donald’s my brother, and I have to know the truth.
Our mother used to say the Donald and I were like oil and water. He’s scrawny and I’m solid, he’s a successful banker and I’m a lowly cop, he’s a genius and well, let’s face it, the last book I read was in high school. But I’m smart enough to know I’m all he’s got. Donald may be a killer, but he’s still my little brother. No matter what happens tonight, he won’t forget that.
What do you guys think? Sound of in the comments below!