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To whom it may concern,
I strongly suspect that my room-mate is a serial killer. I’m taking a chance just by writing this now as, should it fall into the wrong hands, then I will likely never be seen or heard of again. But I have to say something; there are too many little coincidences and my mother used to tell me that there is no smoke without fire so I’m assured it isn’t paranoid delusion. I’ve remained tight-lipped until now and tried to rationalize every strange thing that has happened over the last month but nothing is adding up. I guess it’s my own stupid fault for shacking up with someone who I knew precious little about but, in my defense, I wasn’t expecting to be faced with the predicament I’m in now. You meet all manner of oddballs and kooks on campus and Charles Croft didn’t seem to fit the criteria. He came across as mild-mannered and hospitable; moreover, he kept himself to himself. I’m here to achieve my grades and do my parents proud; not to party hard and sleep with anything with a pulse. Charles appeared focused on his studies and interested only in keeping his head down which endeared him to me immediately. First impressions can be rather misleading as I am finding out fast.
To begin with, my choice seemed somewhat astute. We made polite conversation but he did his thing and I did mine. I hardly moved from my dorm for the first three weeks or so as I wanted to hit the ground running and Charles was respectful of my request for a peaceful co-existence and I hardly knew he was there for the most part. He would invariably hit the hay before me; around nine thirty like clockwork. Meanwhile I would huddle up under my bed sheets with my night-light and continue my studies until which time as my eyes got heavy, which was never long considering I like my eight hours sleep every night and cease functioning without them. Each morning he would be up at the crack of dawn but was always mindful of the fact that I was still sleeping. We fell into a comfortable routine in no time and respected each other’s need for privacy. That was until the first warning sign.
I’ve never been one for prying; how anybody else chooses to spend their leisure time is no real concern of mine. I was never what you would call particularly popular with my peers; but neither was I a target for bullies either. At the end of the day, I steered clear of incident, and it served me well as I flew just under the radar. See no evil, speak no evil. If a group of kids were planning a prank or some kind of public humiliation then I would pay them no mind. My father warned me about grassing up others and I followed his advice to the letter. So when things ceased adding up with Charles, I was prepared to let it slide. Anything for a quiet life; my friends say that I’m old beyond my years as though it’s a bad thing but I consider it the opposite. While others are filling in their applications for McDonald’s I will be commencing law school and toward at a bright industrious future. No incident is good incident as far as I’m concerned so, when he started getting up around midnight and slipping out surreptitiously, I put two and two together and came up with four.
He was obviously an insomniac; maybe my snore was keeping him awake. I’ve been pulled up on it before and have even attempted sleeping on my left side even though it felt uncomfortable. Still, the grunting continues. However if, indeed, I was the reason for him missing out on his sleep then he certainly wasn’t forthcoming about it. By morning he was as fresh as a daisy and we engaged in the obligatory small talk before one of us headed off to first lecture. Yet, without exception, Charles would head off for whatever nocturnal activity was floating his boat. If anything, it was me who paid dividends for his excess as broken sleep began to take its toll on my grades. Really there was nobody to blame but myself for my current slide. My imagination would get the better of me and I ended up lying awake for an hour or so endeavoring to solve the conundrum. But I was always fast asleep by the time he returned to the dorm and he was respectful of my need to rest at all times.
That was until last Thursday. I had an exam the very next day and had exceeded my own self-imposed curfew as it was around eleven before my head hit the pillow. Problem was, in my haste to ensure freshness, I downed a couple of Red Bulls and they left me feeling ill at-ease and edgy. Lights out felt different this night; I was nothing if not alert and privy to every single sound around me. An hour passed and Charles set off with minimum fuss while I watched on utterly transfixed and still tweaking from the energy drinks. It was about a quarter past two when he made his return journey and I still hadn’t had a wink of sleep so decided to feed my curiosity once more. It was hard to see as our black-out blinds proved most effective although my eyes had long since grown accustomed and it did appear his appearance had changed somewhat so I gawked intently. After a few seconds he made his way to the bathroom and flicked the switch. The door was half-shut so I struggled to gain clear vantage but, as he stepped up to the mirror and turned the sink faucet, I made my first ominous observation.
He appeared to be cleaning a blade; a kitchen knife to be precise. It was sheathed in what I could only assume was blood and took a good five minutes to restore to its previous sheen. Once satisfied, he slipped back into bed and I laid awake until morning. I think I may have flunked the exam as my energy was so depleted that could barely focus on the paper, let alone make sense of it. Instead I keep pondering over what I had witnessed the previous dusk and coming up with no answers. If he was, indeed, culpable of atrocities then where was the evidence? None of our dorm mates had gone missing and college life was just as dour and uneventful as it had been since my arrival. Curiosity got the better of me and I stocked up on Red Bull in an attempt to fool my body clock once again. Taurine was proving to be my kryptonite and its aftermath knocked me totally out of sync as, by the time my midnight marauder vacated the room, I was totally alert and primed to take a brisk jog around campus should that be my desire.
It wasn’t. I sat and I waited impatiently until quarter past two and, true to form, Charles took the walk of secrecy to the bathroom where he rinsed off his murder weapon blissfully unaware of my roving eye. He was clearly a creature of habit and it takes one to know one I suppose. It all seemed so meticulously planned and executed; everything he was doing was taken well into his stride as though he was borderline nonchalant. It must take some plucky resolve or immense indifference to snuff out a life and calmly return to your sleeping quarters as though water off a duck’s back. I felt utterly discombobulated; on one hand I was mortified that I had been saddled with Jeffery Dahmer’s nephew as my roommate whereas, on the other, I rather enjoyed playing silent sleuth. Excitement in my life was not a mainstay by any means and, up until now, the closest I had come to courting controversy was returning Great Expectations to the campus library two days past its overdue date. This presented a challenge; one which trumped any lackluster curriculum or pointless exam papers.
Every night since has been the same. I fear I have become a caffeine whore as I feel twitchy if I haven’t got one in my system by second period. Still no dead bodies or missing persons to speak of but, every single night without fail, Charles is up to his elbows in blood. At which point does vague curiosity become wholehearted obsession? Wherever that marker may be, I had well and truly passed it by now. Every time Charles would attend a lecture I would root around his side of the room for clues as to whatever kind of sickness was providing auto-pilot. He traveled light, left nothing to chance, and my investigations threw back a large chubby zero. Until today that is. Finally I think I may have solved the crime or, at the very least, confirmed that I’m not losing my mind here. His blade was wrapped tidily in cloth and strapped beneath his bed frame. That had been the first place I had checked but it was tucked behind one of the slates out of view and I only discovered it by running my hand around the surface out of desperation more than anything else. My moonlighting has served me well. I’ve never blown the lid on anything before now; the first sixteen years of my life have been largely uneventful. That’s about to change.
I can’t let this go on under my nose every night; from what I have learned about law I’m fairly sure that makes me an accessory. Not that I’m facilitating any murderous pursuits. I’m just a victim of circumstance. I wonder if that would hold up in a court of law; particularly given the fact that my prints are surely also now on that blade. I think I will give it tonight and deliver any findings to the dean first thing in the morning. I’m sure he would be interested to learn of one of his students’ nocturnal exploits; especially upon receipt of a murder weapon. This could act as a springboard; I can see the headlines already. “Campus killer foiled by cunning freshman!” Has a rather nice ring to it actually. Even Mickey Spillane had to start somewhere. I’m ready to crack this case. If everything should turn awry then this journal should fill in any gaps in logic. I’m banking on it as everything I have known to this point is at stake. I have but one request.
Whatever happens over the next twenty-four hours; whoever reads this, I would appreciate very much if you would provide some closure. Nothing fancy; just a few lines to finish telling my story. If that is the case, then my plan will have likely been thwarted and, given Charles’ indifference to ending lives, I will be just another statistic. That’s what sticks in my throat most; still nobody is any the wiser. People don’t just disappear into thin air without some form of inquiry and I just wish I knew of his victims. Perhaps I shall learn more of them this evening. Regardless I shall strap this journal beneath my bunk and leave it to chance. Right now I must prepare for one last night in the trenches.
Thank you for your correspondence. I have to admit that, when I first stumbled upon your journal, I was a little freaked out. My first consideration was that I should surrender my findings as I am privy to a little more of this story than you ever were. However, after reading through several times I decided, against my better judgement, that I owed it to you to finish the story and supply any closure you have requested. Besides, the case has long since been closed so it’s not as though I can influence any investigation. Some may call it foolish; others accuse me of perverting the course of justice; I prefer to call it simply granting a dying lad’s final wish. It feels strange writing to you this way. After all, it’s over three years since your death and I know you’ll never get to read my words. But you deserve to know the truth and I feel almost obligated to provide you with the answers to your questions.
Charles Croft wasn’t responsible for your death; at least not directly. From what I hear he was a placid boy and never raised a clenched fist toward anyone during his time her on campus. Indeed most of his classmates barely knew his name. When he took his own life right here in the bathroom, it sent shock waves through the community although you probably would’ve been too young to remember any controversy. You were granted a rather exclusive privilege when you were allotted your room here at Princeton Academy as it became known after its infamy prevented parents from allowing their children to enroll here. It appears as though it may well have been a poison chalice. Room 17 had remained unoccupied since the night he severed his tendons over the sink and bled to death in solitude. That is; until you.
I took it upon myself to read the archived newspaper reports in the campus library. In none of them is there any mention of a roommate. Because of bloated enrollment figures that year the faculty were forced into reopening Room 17 but the side of the room which had belonged to Charles Croft remained unoccupied out of respect for the dead. After cutting the main arteries in his wrists he bled out in seconds; almost identically to the manner in which you too ended your life. I guess nobody will ever know what compelled you to do what you did. Like Charles, you were somewhat ambiguous to others in the building and barely ever left your quarters. It seems fitting that I give you the closure you have asked for so that you can finally be free from these confines and find your eternal peace. As for me; I shall return your journal to its spot under the bed and won’t breathe a word of this to another soul, of that you have my word. I feel that I have acted honorably and granted you that final wish. With that I bid you adieu as it’s almost midnight and there is no way I am spending a solitary night in this room.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014