I came up with the first paragraph in about 5 minutes in class. The assignment was to create a setting. I was then asked to expand on the story. I am not that proud of it for the most part, but people have been responding well to it, so I thought I would share. I’ve never been good at being blunt. Usually I like to be vague, and keep the audience guessing. I think I did a fairly poor job of that here. I always aim for Hemingway, but end up being more like Dan Brown, as in “good if you don’t think about it too much.” Anyway, I will let you be the judge. (This is the unedited version so expect errors and redundancies.)
Snow had never been his favorite. Snow was wet. Snow was cold, and it wasn’t just an outside feeling. No, this was the cold that gets inside you. The cold that defines you. This was the cold that made you stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and repeat, all in some hopeless mission to return to the comforting bosom of warmth. Surveying his surroundings, all he could see was white. He hated that almost as much as the cold, but at least the cold was honest. White gave the illusion of innocence. It was so bright you couldn’t see the truth it was trying to hide. The secrets waiting under the surface were always dark, and today it tried to hide the body of a young girl. A phony innocence covering an honest innocence. It would have been poetic if it weren’t so cruel. The serenity the snowy plain was trying to portray was broken by the red and blue lights flashing from his squad car, and the shoveling of the coroner’s. The situation was beautifully chaotic. A writer would have called it a veritable “winter wonderland.” What an oxymoron. As far as Officer Harris was concerned, the biggest liar to suck in air was the idiot who smacked “winter” and “wonderland” together into one unholy union.
Once the coroners stopped dragging their feet, he could go back inside, which sounded like a goddamned Hawaiian vacation right now. He could overhear them, throwing out terms like “cervical fracture,” when something simple like “broken neck” would have sufficed. Eggheads always have to complicate things in some vain attempt to sound superior. “Fuck that,” Officer Harris thought to himself. Let things be simple. Why drag things out? The cold was getting to him. He could see the body now. Blue and black had overtaken the girl’s face, like some kind of mask.
They had bagged the perp earlier that morning. He now sat in the back of Harris’ cruiser. Catching him wasn’t hard. This wasn’t a premeditated act. The guy wasn’t the Zodiac Killer. This was some chump that worked in a gas station. This was some chump that always worked the late shift. This was some chump going nowhere in life. This was some chump who needed a car. He had never met the young girl that came in that night. She had just stopped in the station to fill up the car she had just gotten for Christmas. A gift from her parents. The struggle was caught on camera. This wasn’t rocket science. This guy did it, plain and simple. He took her car, and buried her in the snow. The trial would be an open and shut case. Of course the media would make it out bigger than they needed to. They had to. In a small town like this, what else did they have to talk about?
The other two officers on the scene seemed on edge. He locked eyes with Lt. Anderson. The double-edged sword of living in a small town was that everyone knew your business. No matter how personal, everything you did could have made the front page of the newspaper. Hell, you could let out a fart weird in this town, and the next day, the mayor would know. Anderson knew he hated the cold like he had written about it in a diary. He hadn’t said a word, but his face said more than his mouth ever could when their eyes parted. The same went for Glover, except she looked seasick. Rookies. It seemed like an entire lifetime since he was in her shoes. She’d get to his point one day. Every green-faced newbie was granite by the end of their fifth year in this department. She meet his eyes as well. She gave only the slightest acknowledgment of the cold as he broke eye contact.
After what seemed like the entire winter, he was finally given the go ahead. His orders were to get the perp down to the station for further questioning. So easy a monkey could do it. As he entered his vehicle, he felt all eyes turn to him, and his cargo. The drive shouldn’t take long. The station was a straight line from where they were. They just had to go through the woods first. As he started the car, the stagnate waves of the heater kicking in began to pat his face almost like the appetizer to a main course. “Let’s get this over with,” Officer Harris caught himself saying aloud.
He always felt uncomfortable when he had to drive through the woods on the way to the station. All of those trees reminded him of tombstones. He knew this would be the best place to do it though. When they had reached a comfortable distance, he pulled over, and turned off the car. The cold was already seeping back into his bones the second the heat went off. The perp wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack, but even he could put together what was happening. He had to pull the kid from the back the car like a newborn baby pulled from his mother’s womb. Officer Harris flashed his gun. The kid didn’t need any more convincing after that. He marched him into the woods for a good ten minutes before he made the kid get on his knees.
Once this was over, all signs would point to him. How could they not? He didn’t care. The courts would tell him that it wasn’t worth it. That revenge couldn’t bring back the dead. It would be a circus. Situations like this always were. As far as he was concerned, the process was just being sped up to its natural conclusion. In many ways, this was mercy. More mercy than a being strangled to death in the back room of a gas station. This wasn’t going to be fair, but neither was a 220 lb. man taking on a 135 lb. high school girl.
Enough people would come to his defense when the trial started. Anderson and Glover had said as much when they had all locked eyes earlier. The double-edged sword of living in a small town, Harris reminded himself. Everyone knows your business, no matter how personal. They knew what had to be done. No one would be happy about it, but they would all understand. As far as he was concerned, their defense was irrelevant. The “legality” of his upcoming actions amounted to shit. His mind was made, and there was no going back.
The kid was going through the motions. Saying he didn’t mean to hurt anyone. That he was sorry. This was all white noise to Harris. The snow was starting to fall harder than ever now. It would cover his tracks to the best of its ability. He allowed himself a smile even he knew was ironic. He pulled back the hammer, and for just one brief, hallucinatory, beautiful second, he was in Valhalla. He felt the brief twinge of the warm heaven he longed to return to. He was reclining in his beloved Lazy Boy. Work was done for the day, and the Cowboys were about to kickoff. Lori was cooking something in the kitchen, and he could hear his daughter, Samantha talking to one of her friends on her cellphone in the other room. She was excited to drive her new Nissan. She just needed to go fill up, and she’d be right over. He fired. The warmth went as quick as it came, and cold reality welcomed him like an old friend. He knew it would never come back. He had no illusions about that. He stared down at the body now sprawled out in front of him. Suddenly, to his shame, officer Harris felt a small twinge of envy. At least Hell was warm; a goddamned Hawaiian vacation. All he had left now was the snow.