Souvenirs

by Gracie Turpin
As it goes, my best friends are taking me out for a celebratory dinner after one of the biggest nights of my life. Not a job promotion, a milestone birthday, or winning the lottery (though I wish), but the engagement to the absolute love of my life.
I’ve been in a committed, monogamous relationship with my (now fiancé) Dane for four years. Those four years I’ve spent with him by my side are unarguably the best four of my life so far, and I still pinch myself thinking about the fact that I scored him.
He’s the type of guy that’d give you the shirt off his back if you asked him. He’s charming and well-mannered, the perfect southern-gentlemen all the way around!
“Congratulations, Drea!” My best friend raises her class and smiles widely at me, “to many more years of happiness with Mr. Wonderful.” She toasts.
The table cheers and I smile proudly, “thank you, thank you. Sorry to crush all of your hopes and dreams of having a shot with Dane one day.” I joke, speaking highly of my soon-to-be husband to my group of girl friends.
After hours of giggles, toasts, and girl-talk, the night starts wrapping up. I bid my farewell to my friends, seeing them off to their Ubers and Lyfts before meeting my fiancé out front of the restaurant.
“Looks like you all had quite the night.” He charms, flashing his beaming white teeth at me.
“We had a great night!” I smirk, leaning over the console and taking his lips into mine. “Everyone is over the moon about the news, slightly jealous, but still excited for us.” I grin to him.
He winks, “glad to hear that I’ve been given the stamp of approval from your friends.”
I roll my eyes and sink back into the seat, looking over his side profile carefully as he drives us home.
Dane and I have lived together for about three years. When we first began dating I was shacked up in a tiny studio apartment with one of my close friends, so when the opportunity arose for me to move in with him, I jumped at it.
Now we live in a big house on the hill, courtesy of his late father. From the outside looking in, my life appears perfect. Hell, from this inside looking out it’s pretty perfect too.
Monday morning comes quick and it’s back to reality. Unfortunately, the reality is that Dane travels for days at a time for work, leaving me all alone in this house.
He gives me a kiss on the head before he leaves and the last I see of him is in a suit and tie, leaving our bedroom.
“I love you.” I mutter, not even loud enough for him to hear it because I’m so exhausted from the lively weekend I had.
A few hours pass and I’m able to drag myself out of bed and get started on my day, which consists of chores around the house and cringing at the latest Kardashian news on bad daytime talk-shows.
I’m forced to move from my spot on the sofa when the gate at to bottom of the hill buzzes in.
“Yes?” I call out, holding down the button on the wall.
“Uh, hi. I have some mail, a package for…” there is a long pause, but the man’s voice continues,
“Andrea Bowman.”
I furrow my brows, not remembering and late-night Amazon purchases recently. “I’ll buzz you in.”
A few short minutes later the mail courier climbs the brick staircase and meets me at the door, handing over a small bubble-package.
“Just sign here.” He points.
I scribble my name on the line and he goes, leaving me with the strange package in my hand.
I make my way back into the house, shaking the bubble-envelope to try an identify its contents. I fail at that game, and result to opening the tightly sealed envelope on the counter in the kitchen.
Out falls some pictures taken from a Polaroid camera, several folded pages with handwritten words, and… is that underwear?
I wrinkle my nose and use the envelope opener to push the foreign fabric as far away as possible and begin looking through the other things. The three page letter is the first thing to catch my eye.
  I’d love to begin with offering my genuine congratulations to you on your new engagement, Ms. Andrea, but unfortunately there is only a need to offer condolences.
“What the hell is this?” I mutter to myself, genuinely confused at what I just received.
I realize that you must be confused, and I also realize that what you are about to read may strike fear into you, so I apologize for that as well, but it must be said. It would be incredibly irresponsible for me to allow you to go on with this marriage without first informing you of some things pertaining to your partner.
  The man you’ve promised to spend forever with is guilty of more than just “loving” you. He’s, what I’d like to call, a monster, with secrets so dark and deep that you’d never even think them up. These are not accusations that have been formulated out of my imagination, but true events that your beloved fiancé has taken part in for years now. Many would argue that this is letter is an attempt to lure you away from Dane and into the arms of another, but again, that is not the case, which is why I’ll remain anonymous in this confession.
  Dane is responsible for the brutal slaughterings of over twelve women and girls in the surrounding counties.
I let out a pitiful laugh at the statement and start to call Dane immediately to tell him that his joke is not funny. The moment my hand touches my phone something in my tells me to keep reading.
I put my eyes back on the letter and read on, treading lightly.
I know you have no reason to believe me, which is why I’ve provided you with proof of the heinous crimes in the form of polaroid photographs, and one of many cherished souvenirs from
Dane’s growing collection.
At this point, I realize I haven’t even looked at the photographs. They’re face down on my countertop and now I’m hesitant to turn them over. I don’t know what kind of sicko would think a prank like this is funny, but it isn’t.
I place my hand on the polaroids and pull them to the edge of the counter, flipping them slowly and allowing my eyes to take in the images.
“What the…” my voice trails off and I feel my stomach flip as I come to terms with the fact this may not be a prank.
I’ve seen special effects make-up before, I know people who do it for a living. These images aren’t created with latex and fake blood, and that definitely isn’t Dane’s doppelgänger doing an unspeakable act to a young girl’s corpse.
You should know that this is only a portion of what Dane is capable of. I should know, I’ve seen first-hand what he can do… I am the one who took the photographs. I promised my loyalty to your fiancé years ago, but after meeting you some months ago, I realized that you deserve to know the truth.
  Fear not, Dane would not dare hurt you or even imagine doing to you what he’s done to these women, he isn’t an animal after all, but I do believe it is your place to know these things and consider the options carefully.
  I wish you the best on your decision and life.
The letter slides out from between my fingers and I’m left looking at the gruesome images once again.
My lips start to tremble, along with my hands, and my skin grows cold. My vision gets blurry and narrows to a two foot circle in front of me.
This can’t be real, this can’t be real.
My head begins to spin and my tears grow wet with my tears that have begun pouring from my eyes uncontrollably.
My vision opens back up, allowing me to take in the fabric that lays on the counter, belonging to some innocent, undeserving victim of the man I am marrying.
I react quickly, snatching the ring that was given to me just three days ago off of my finger and flinging it across the empty kitchen. My back leans against the fridge and I find my body sliding down until I melt into the floor, knocking my phone to the ground as I try to grasp the counter.
My breathing gets out of my control and I begin hyperventilating and clenching my t-shirt in my head, desperately trying to regain my composure.
In the midst of my meltdown, my phone vibrates in circles against the hardwood floor. I make out my best friend’s name and somehow manage to swipe a finger over the screen, taking the
call.
I’m unable to focus on the words she says to me, all I can mutter through my sobs is a variation of “I need you.”
The line stays active as I continue to sob in the middle of my kitchen floor, my hands tangled up in my hair and my entire body cringing at every though of Dane that enters my head.
After what feels like an eternity, I see a figure come into the kitchen out of my peripheral vision. I turn my head, panicking and fearing that it’s him. I let out a bloodcurdling shriek capable of shattering crystal glasses and my friend Noelle meets me in the floor.
“Hey, hey. What is going on? Calm down, it’s me!” She says, gripping my arms and trying to keep me from fighting her. “Drea! Look at me, breathe.” She insists, finally capturing my attention.
I force myself to inhale slowly, still unable to get a steady breath through.
“I- he- Dane.” I stutter and pull her close to me, terrified.
“I can’t understand you, Drea. Try to calm down.” She coos, stroking her hand over my disheveled hair and cupping my soaked cheeks.
“The- the letter. Read the letter.” I manage to get out and she glances at the papers lying on the floor.
Noelle picks the letters up and I watch her eyes scan from left to right, her expression changing with each line she reads to herself. Towards the end she glances at me, deeply concerned.
“Andrea, where did this come from?” Her voice is cold and shaky. I can’t form words, so I just look at her in fear. “Where did they come from?”
“I-I don’t know! They just got delivered.” I stutter, focusing on her eyes.
She quickly stands up and snatches two small newspaper clippings from the counter, reading them aloud. “Double rape and murder of two sorority sisters in Bay county… killer strikes twice in one night.” Her voice trails off and the words only make me cry more.
My whole body shakes and I slam my hand against my head, trying to block it all out.
“Andrea, we need to go to the police. This- this is serious… and absolutely insane.” Noelle says, just as shocked, but much more calm than myself.
“Go to the police about what?” A cold, deep voice speaks up from the far doorway.
I recognize it immediately and my head snaps up, my eye’s meeting Dane’s.
“Dane…” Noelle mutters, standing between myself and my fiancé.
I have never feared Dane. He’s always been the person who makes me feel secure, but now… I am shaken to my core at the sight of the man who stands before me.
Dane drops his suitcase to the floor and loosens the tie around his neck, his eyes starting to crawl over the kitchen. He looks around, catching a glimpse of the photos and I see it click in his brain. He knows we know.
My fiancé takes a step forward and Noelle steps back. I see the fear in her eyes and I feel it in my chest.
“Where are you headed off to so fast, Noelle?” He asks, his voice taking a much different tone than usual.
“Dane, stop.” She says, trying desperately to hide the shakiness in her voice. “I’m calling the police and-“ before my friend can finish the sentence Dane charges her, smacking her phone out of her hand.
I jump a bit and swallow hard, now too scared to run for help. Would he really hurt me?
“Dane!” Andrea yells, now backing up slowly with her palms facing my fiancé. “Please, just let me leave. I won’t say a word, I promise. Just let me go.” She pleads.
I have never seen Noelle so terrified in all my life, and that’s saying a lot considering everything we have been through together.
The fear in her eyes gets even more intense when Dane shakes his head and grabs her arm, twisting it behind her back, all in one swift motion. I see my best friend’s face wince at the pain and tears begin sliding down her cheeks.
“Please!” She cries, now realizing that the chances of getting out of this are slim to none.
“Let her go, Dane! This doesn’t have to be like this!” I beg, figuring I am Noelle’s last hope.
His eyes pierce mine and he shakes his head slowly, “I wish that were true. I really do.
Unfortunately, I can’t afford to let you go ruin something you know nothing about, Noelle.” As he finishes his sentence he twists her arm further than it will go willingly and I hear a crack that will ring in my ear for eternity.
Noelle yelps in pain and falls to the floor at Dane’s feet. My hand instinctively covers my mouth and I begin to sob uncontrollably at the realization of what a monster the man I agreed to marry really is.
“Noelle!” I scream her name as Dane towers over her limp, helpless body. “I’m so sorry.” I mutter through my tears as she looks at me with a trembling lip and defeated eyes. She just came over to see what was wrong with me, and now she is at the mercy of my apparently psychotickiller fiancé.
“Andrea, stop with the crying. This is for us!” Dane reasons, still not offering to hurt me. “Do you really want to let her ruin us? Ruin me?” He asks with a sympathetic voice.
My head shakes no out of fear and he looks back down to Noelle, who is doing her best to slither away towards the door. Dane picks up his foot and presses down in the center of her shoulder blades, pinning her to the floor.
“You should have stayed away.” He grits, squatting down and violently grabbing a fistful of
Noelle’s hair. He twists and pulls, forcing her body to leave the floor. I watch hopelessly as he drags her across the room and to the staircase leading to the basement. “But you just couldn’t, could you?” He hisses, quite literally throwing her down the stairs.
I remain frozen in fear as tears continue to run down my face. I listen to the thumps and thuds of a body tumbling down the stairs, followed by painful cries.
Dane disappears from my view, following Noelle down the stairwell and I watch the door anxiously.
I hear faint whimpers and whines, but it all gets quiet after a minute or so. I find the courage to move from the spot I seemed to be glued to, and I check the stairs. I find Dane’s tired, but hopeful face glaring up at me from the bottom where he sits on top of Noelle’s now lifeless body.
“It’s all gonna be okay now, Drea. She’ll never be able to tell a soul…”