Killer on Coal Street
By Kim Lindquist
Hector was a simple man. He didn’t ask for much from life, other than to keep to his stringent routine. Every day was the same; his eyes would flutter open as the sun shone through the slits of the blinds, and he would roll out of his crisp, white, linen sheets, slipping his feet into woolen slippers. He would pull his blue-striped robe over his middle-aged arms as he descended the stairs into the kitchen. Today, as always, the maid had laid out his favorite breakfast: cheesy scrambled eggs with buttered wheat bread, toasted to perfection, alongside a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a tall mug of Belgian hot cocoa, rising high with a tower of fluffy whipped cream.
Hector Banville was a man of luxury; but more to the point, a man of loneliness. His wife, oh sweet Lucy, had suffered from a serious illness. The doctors didn’t know what it was, but it left her unable to bear a child. She had passed six years ago this spring. It was only shortly after that Hector had moved to his current house in a nice, quiet neighborhood, with nice quiet neighbors. Here, he could try to forget. But he couldn’t really, and the thought left a bitter taste in Hector’s mouth. He put down his fork.
He hardly saw anyone anymore. All close relatives were long gone, and he’d never been very good at making friends. He hardly even saw the maid anymore. Olivia had requested more time at home since she had her new baby. Hector glanced at the clock. Was it that time already? He left his food and hurried out to the chair on the front porch, and just in time. Miss Pefferdy was passing by the house with her golden retriever, Brutus. Miss Pefferdy was one of the ladies who lived in the neighborhood. She was very sweet and very pretty, and yet had never married. But then, she was blind after all. The house on the corner was hers; it was blue, with white trim, like lace. She lived there alone. Well, not exactly alone, she did have Brutus. He was truly an amazing creature. The dog guided her everywhere, and he did really love his owner. He could help her with most everything she needed. Except the cleaning of course, but there was a kind young girl around the block who came over in the evenings to tend to that.
Hector wasn’t sure what it was that he found so interesting about the woman. All he really knew was that she was out here each morning at this time walking Brutus. He’d watched her every day for the past three years. On a few occasions he’d even worked up the nerve to follow her, but never to speak to her. He knew he really should feel ashamed at himself, but it wasn’t as if anybody really cared what he did. And besides, Miss Pefferdy would never know; he was invisible to her, as was the rest of the world.
But where was she going now? She’d never turned left there, not in all the time Hector had watched her. She always took a right at the end of the street. She was out of sight now, but Hector had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. There was no sense in wasting time. Hector rushed inside and threw on some clothes, not bothering to check if they matched. He grabbed his hat as he marched out the door, and walked briskly in the direction that Miss Pefferdy had disappeared. Around the corner, down the street, and finally he came to a park, with a big patch of large leafy trees.
There was low growling coming from within the foliage. Hector had stopped to listen. He heard a bark and heavy breathing, followed by a sickly thud and a scream. A struggle, and then footsteps running away. Hector wasn’t sure what to do. He slowly lifted his hand out in front of him, and pushed aside some of the branches. The sight almost caused his heart to stop. Miss Pefferdy was huddled tight against a tree, her head pressed against her knees, rocking back and forth. There was a rip in the leg of her pants, and her arm was bleeding heavily. Hector watched, paralyzed as the red spread across her white sleeve, like a grotesque summer sunrise. Brutus was knocked out, sprawled on the ground a few feet from her.
Hector took a breath and pulled himself together. He walked towards her and stretched out a shaky hand.
“Um, hello,” he said, uncertain, “I- I’m Hector. Hector Banville. I live down the street from you. Are you – are you alright? I mean, obviously you’re not alright, but, um, what can I do? How can I help?”
Miss Pefferdy looked up and turned her head, staring at him with those unfocused, and ever so frightened eyes. “I don’t know what happened. I, I was walking and following my dog, like always. But he led me off the path. It was like he was following something. And then, oh and then he grabbed me! I think it was a he, the hand was so strong. But then he was gone, and I just, I don’t understand,” she spoke rapidly.
“Well, why don’t I, um, help you home? Then we can call the police.”
“Yes, yes alright, thank you. Brutus, Brutus come here.”
Brutus didn’t budge. Hector walked over to the dog and searched for a pulse, but there wasn’t one. He put his hand in front of it’s snout; no breath.
“Um… I don’t think Brutus is here. He must have followed whoever attacked you,” Hector lied.
“What, really? Well, alright. Um, I live over on Coal Street, the blue house on the corner.” Miss Pefferdy seemed very shaken, but recited her address.
Hector put her good arm over his shoulders, and got her to her feet. They walked all the way back to her house in an uncomfortable silence. Neither of them really knew the appropriate thing to say. Once they arrived, Hector set her down in a chair, and snatched a washcloth off the counter to stop her bleeding. She took it and applied pressure to her wound. Then Hector dialed 911. He explained what had happened, and requested help.
The police were there in minutes, along with an ambulance. The medics rushed in and tended to Miss Pefferdy’s wounds. The officer walked up to Hector, notepad in hand. “So, what exactly happened here?”
Hector tried to explain the best he could. He told the officer that he watched Miss Pefferdy walk everyday, and that he knew she’d gone the wrong way and decided to follow her, and that when he found her she was injured. The officer looked at him suspiciously. The medics filed out the door behind him.
“I’m going to have to bring you in for more questioning,” the officer said.
“What about her?” They both turned to look at Miss Pefferdy, sitting helpless and alone. They had bandaged her up pretty well, but how could they leave her by herself.
“One of my men will stay here and try to find someone to come stay with her. As for you, you are going to have to get in my car.” The policeman took Hector’s arm, and dragged him out to the car. Hector didn’t really understand.
“Wait, what did I do, I was just trying to help.” The door shut in Hector’s face. The officer walked around the car and got into the driver’s seat.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Banville. Hector Banville.”
“Yes, well Mr.Banville, we received a report a few weeks ago that someone suspected you have been stalking Miss Pefferdy. They said it may have been going on for a long time, and they weren’t sure what to make of it. Apparently you are not very friendly with the people around here, and they were concerned for the lady’s safety. After today I see that it was with good reason.”
Hector was stunned. “You, no, you cant actually think that I would have done this.”
The officer started the car. They began to drive away. Hector wanted to stop all of this right now, but he was caged in. He turned to look at the blue house as they rounded the corner. NO. He turned pale as a sheet. He saw it, only for a split second, but he was sure. There was a face in the shadows. Miss Pefferdy was not safe.