Unraveled - Part I
They walked into a murder scene. Technically speaking, it wasn't a murder scene officially, not just yet. But when Caleb and Marnie walked into their living room after a lovely evening out, that's what they saw. Blood cast across the room in graceful, cascading arcs; shocking red against the soft eggshell white of the walls. The champagne carpet was splashed recklessly with the stuff. Marnie clutched her husband, a strangled scream escaping her. Caleb choked back his own yelp, drew his handgun from it's holster on his hip, and began backing out of the room, hysterical wife in tow.
His police training served him well, after the initial shock of coming home to a slaughterhouse, Caleb quickly put his thoughts in order once outside the house. Still a rookie, he hadn't yet ever seen anything like this, but he knew the basic protocol. The suspect could still be in the area. He put Marnie, shaking, in to the car and got in the driver's seat. Doors locked from anyone that might still be lurking, Caleb dialed the Sheriff's office.
"Hey Janice, it's Officer Garnett, there's been a break-in. Yes, my house. Send ambulance too, there's an awful lot of blood in there. No, was like that when we got home from dinner. Yes, Giovanni's. Yes, wonderful pasta. Janice? please just send everyone."
While they waited, he spoke softly to Marnie, stroked her hair gently, anything to calm her. She'd always been a frail little waif, since he met her in college. He'd felt an instant need to protect her the moment they met; part of the reason he'd joined the police. Though she had objected at first to the long hours and dangerous nature of the job, eventually she became accustomed to it. The one thing that never changed was that she was afraid of everything, sometimes even (quite literally) startled by her own shadow. She could be counted on the call the station at least once, sometimes several times a day for a noise she'd heard in the house or a man that had looked at her strangely in the grocery store. She ran him weary with her many fears... and he loved her for it.
Within minutes flashing blue lights flooded their quiet street, the wail of the ambulance shattering the peaceful slumber of their sure to be sleeping neighbors. The house was checked and cleared of any intruders. When the Sheriff came out, Caleb was leaning in the passenger window, still sweet-talking Marnie out of her terror.
"Caleb, son, come on over here" Sheriff Eckhart called from where he and the deputies stood on the front walk, waiting for the forensics team to arrive.
"What is it, Sheriff? What happened in there?"
"Well, son, don't rightly know"- Caleb cut him off abruptly
"Don't know?! Sheriff someone's been killed in my living room!!"
"Now we don't know that yet, just have a lot of blood, no bo-" he stopped short as Deputy Stith popped his head out the front door and called out
"Got a body in here!"
Eckhart turned back to Caleb. "Alright, it's a murder scene. Why don't you and Marnie go to a hotel tonight, I'll send a car over just in case, we'll talk in the morning."
"We'll need a few things from the house"
Sheriff Eckhart shook his head "Now, boy, you know you can't take a thing from that house. I'll have one of the deputies go by Walmart and get you whatever you need."
Caleb nodded and went back to the car where Marnie sat, crying softly, in the passenger seat.
"Hon, we're gonna go to a hotel for tonight, they've got to process the scene."
Marnie only nodded while she dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex.
Finally, after a hot shower, Caleb pulled his wife to him as they stretched out on the bed watching TV.
"What do you think happened in our house, honey?"
Caleb sighed and kissed the top of her head.
"I don't know, babe, but the guys will be working the scene all night. We'll know something by morning. Just try and sleep."
It had been two weeks and still the entire Sheriff's department remained completely baffled by the bloody carnage in their fellow officer's home. The body was as of yet unidentified, not that there was much left of her to identify. Hands and feet gone, teeth pulled, and throat cut ear to ear. Caleb, after a few days off with Marnie, had returned to work at the Sheriff's protesting.
"You know that wife of yours is sitting in that hotel room scared to death."
"She's okay, she knows there's am officer outside. Any word on our Jane Doe?"
"I can tell you she's an old gal, at least 55. M.E. says she was pretty much bled out, the spray pattern in the living room wasn't from the attack. She was drained, Caleb, hung up like a hog to drip-dry, the hands,feet, and teeth were definitely removed postmortem. She wasn't killed in your home, Cal"
"So... you're saying someone let this woman bleed out, saved the blood, cut off her hands and feet, pulled her teeth, then toted the body to my house and flung her blood all over my living room? Sheriff...please..."
Eckhart held up his hand "Son, I know it sounds unreasonable and crazy, but you saw the same scene I did, you've seen the body, you've heard what the M.E. has concluded...that's what has appeared to have happened. As for why.." He held up both hands, palms up "Your guess is as good as mine. I know you haven't got an enemy in the world... but what about Marnie?"
Caleb almost laughed at the suggestion that his wife, frightened little mouse that she was, could ever gain an enemy.
"She hardly leaves the house, she works from home, does all her conferences via email and video-chat, how could she possibly have any enemies?"
"Don't know, Caleb.. just don't know. What about her family?"
"She hasn't got any, you know that."
"She's an orphan... I know that, but has she ever mentioned maybe looking for her family? or perhaps that they were looking for her?"
"No. I'll speak with her about it later."
"See that you do."
With a curt nod, Caleb punched his time card and left the squad room.
The next morning, Caleb woke to an ear-shattering shriek that could've raised the dead. Marnie stood in the open doorway of their hotel room, holding something in a brown paper bag and screaming to high heaven. He was out of the bed and across the room in an instant, taking the bag out of Marnie's hands and tossing it aside, pulling her to him, her screams stifled against his chest.
"What is it, Marnz? shh... it's okay. What's in the bag, baby?"
She looked up at him, tears streaming down her cheek, nearly hyperventilating, and a bit green. She could only point at the bag before dashing to the bathroom to vomit. Caleb apprehensively picked the thing up and peeked inside. Teeth and fingers. Caleb felt a bit nauseous himself, but remained calm, set the bag back on the floor and phoned the Sheriff's office again.
"Hi Janice, yes it's Caleb. Is Sheriff Eckhart in yet? OK, please call him and home and tell him to come over to the hotel. Yes, it is urgent. What's that? Oh... yes, the place has a lovely continental breakfast...Janice,please, the sheriff? Thank you."
He tossed his cell phone onto the bed and went to check on Marnie, who was still dry heaving and sobbing over the toilet.
"Marn', honey, it's okay. The sheriff is on his way, just calm down - "
She turned toward him abruptly. "Who is doing this to us!?! Why? What have we done?"
Caleb could only shrug helplessly. "I don't know, sugar, but we'll find the sicko, I promise you that."
He gathered her up off the floor and carried her to the bed, laying beside her. Wrapped in his strong arms she breathed deeply of his smell and felt calmed, warmed by the closeness of the moment.
"Could it be some criminal you've arrested? trying to get back at you?" she wondered aloud.
"We've been looking into that, but we haven't found anyone yet..." Caleb drew his own deep breath and prepared the broach the subject she'd long ago made him promise to leave alone.
"Marnz, honey, what about your family?" He felt her tense.
"I don't have any, Caleb. You know that." Her tone had gone icy.
"I know you don't know them, but somewhere they exist, right? maybe not your parents, but some blood relative? A brother? A sister?" Caleb knew he was pushing her, but the cop in him couldn't let it go. The cryptic memories she had of her earliest youth, the story she had told him, her night terrors, the sleepwalking...
They met freshman year, at a mixer. She was perched on a stool in the kitchen, quietly sipping a soda while the party carried on around her, observing as a fly on the wall, taking part in none of the drunken shenanigans of the others. He liked her at once. It took a long time for him to gain her trust, like getting a wild doe to take grain from your hand. Finally she allowed him to buy her dinner and walk her home. They became inseparable, and through graduation they stayed together. Finally, a few days after their engagement party, she agreed to tell him what she could decipher about her past. She had broken fragments only...someone screaming, being afraid all the time, and hunger. Always hunger. Then the foster homes. One after another, some nice, some not so, coming close to being adopted and then the crushing defeat of the inevitable fall-through and return to the group home. They would murmur quietly with the social worker about their reasons for bringing her back, but she could always hear; too clingy, sickly,the list went on. When she began the tale, she'd told him clearly; she would tell him once. Just once. They were never to talk about it again after, for the nightmares and garish memories were enough. He'd promised her he would never ask again.
And now he had broken that promise. He hated to do anything to cause her to be anything but happy. Marnie had drawn away from him, was staring up at him, her usually soft brown eyes distant and hard.
"I know, but, I mean come on, look at what's happening? first we come home to that mess, now this. It's odd, beyond odd, it's insane, and I think these extenuating circumstances warrant that we look at all possibilities,hon"
"Well rule that one out" she said, and sat up on the bed as they both heard ascending footsteps on the staircase outside.
The Sheriff collected the bag and spoke briefly with Caleb and Marnie, suggesting they come stay at his house.
"Laura will love the company, and it's the safest place you could be"
Marnie, apprehensive at first, finally agreed. They checked out of the hotel that afternoon and drove to Sheriff Eckhart's house, where is wife was already cooking an enormous spaghetti dinner complete with fist-sized meatballs and a loaf of garlic bread as big as a baseball bat.
"Afternoon, Laura" Caleb greeted her as she scurried around the kitchen.
"Oh hello darlings! so good to see you! Oh Marnie! come and sit, love, you poor thing!" She rushed to pull out a chair at the kitchen table, which Marnie reluctantly accepted.
"Caleb and I will get your things up to the guest room, Laura, dear, try not to smother the poor girl" Eckhart said, knowing his wife and how ecstatic she became over having house guests. Ever since their boys had left home, she'd been missing having people to care for. Eckhart himself was hardly ever home and she got so lonely in the big empty house.
Marnie was off-put by her boisterous ways, but for her husband's sake, did her best to like the older woman. They sat and talked while the meatballs simmered on the stove.
"I keep telling Joseph he should be moving your Caleb up in rank. I hear nothing but good things about the boy. Of course that will mean a lot of time at the station but It would be well worth it when I finally talk Joey into retirement." Laura went on while Marnie absently sipped her tea. "Don't you worry, the Sheriff always eventually listens to his wife." she said, reaching over to pat Marnie's hand encouragingly.
"Isn't that right,Marnie?"
Finally, after over an hour of idle chitchat, they worked there way around to recent events.
"I just couldnt believe it when I heard, I can't imagine a soul wanting to harm you or Caleb."
"Yes... I've been finding it hard to believe myself. It's clear we're being targeted... but why?" Marnie suddenly lost her composure, as she often did, and burst into tears. "I haven't slept, I'm so frightened all the time!"
"Oh dear.." Laura leaned close and put an arm around Marnie's shoulders. "You'll be perfectly safe here. Nobody fools with the Sheriff's house" she gave Marnie's shoulders a reassuring squeeze and hurried over to the stove to stir her meatballs.
It was only a matter of seconds, not possibly more than a minute, that Mrs. Eckhart had her back turned. When Marnie's blood curdling scream shattered the silence of her warm and cheery kitchen, she was so startled the pot of meatballs was sent crashing to the floor.