In October, we held a fright fight contest to get in the mood for Halloween. Contestants were asked to submit a spooky, scary, or Halloween themed narrative of no more than 1000 words for a prize and the chance to be published.
“Not Guilty” won first place. The suspense in this murder story from beginning to end garnered the majority of our staff’s votes.
by Caitlyn Sullivan
Winry Byrne did not kill her best friend.
Victoria Sousa, age 19, was found dead last Saturday morning— stabbed 28 times.
The two girls had been camping with friends for the weekend when Winry had woken up to find Victoria dead beside her, both of them soaked in blood and a knife clutched in her hand. The young woman had screamed and fled the tent. Her pajamas and hair were sticky from the blood. Her friends had stumbled from their tents, and with one look at Winry’s trembling form, the knife she clutched in her hand, fat tears streaming down her face, they kept their distance, horrified.
“What have you done?”
Before she knew it, Winry was in handcuffs, and one ride in the back of a police car later she was seated in an empty room, handcuffed to the table in front of her. She stared blankly at the wall, her consciousness numb from the shock of waking up and seeing her friend’s mutilated body.
“Miss Byrne? Can you answer a few questions for me?”
Winry shifted her gaze from the wall to the investigator sitting across from her, a manilla folder placed between them. The investigator’s eyes roamed over her, his gaze lingering on the blood drying against her skin and clothes. Winry wasn’t stupid; she knew how this looked. She’d woken up covered in blood with a knife in her hand. She didn’t understand who or why someone would frame her for murdering Victoria, and she especially didn’t understand why they would kill Victoria, but spare Winry.
“I didn’t kill Victoria,” she whispered, her throat dry and sore from screaming.
The investigator only nodded and took a breath, his eyes swimming with uncertainty and impatience. After a moment, he broke eye contact and opened the manila folder, shuffling through a few documents before taking out and placing a photo in front of Winry.
It only took a glance for Winry’s stomach to churn, bile rising in her throat. Her heart started to beat faster and faster the longer she stared at the photo, her mind whirling with thoughts of denial, going over every scrap of memory she could surface from the previous night.
“Please,” she whimpered, turning away, tears racing down her face as she squeezed her eyes shut, “I didn’t—”
“Twenty-eight stab wounds!” the investigator shouted, slamming his hands down onto the table as he stood, his chair knocked to the floor. “Just admit it, Miss Byrne, you killed Victoria, you stabbed her! If you confess, it will make this process much easier.” he practically spat, no longer masking the disgust on his face.
He leaned across the table and got right in Winry’s face, the young woman’s eyes wide with fear. This wasn’t happening, this had to be a nightmare, she would never hurt anybody— nevermind her best friend! The air was too thin, her lungs were too shallow, her heart was beating too fast, and her mind was racing and writhing with fear and pain and—
Reality slapped Winry back to the present, blood roaring in her ears and the edges of her vision dark and blurry. She didn’t kill Victoria, Winry thought of her like a sister! How was this even happening? Why was this even happening?!
“Why did you kill her?! Confess! Your fingerprints are the only ones on the knife, you’re the only person who was with Victoria after you and your friends went to bed, and there was no
evidence of anyone entering your campsite,” the investigator snapped, his face mere inches from Winry’s.
How… was that possible? Could she have… no . No, even the idea was ridiculous.
Winry paused, time standing still as doubt and fear invaded her mind. Memories that didn’t exist started to fade into her consciousness, memories of uncontrollable rage and being unable to stop herself. Memories of Victoria crying silently as she died by her best friend’s hand and of laying back down beside her dying friend emerged before blacking out.
“ Confess, ” the investigator insisted, his voice deep and cold.
Winry started to tremble in her seat, her gaze breaking from the investigator as she looked down at her blood-soaked hands. More and more memories she didn’t remember bubbled to the surface of her mind, memories of anger, fear, violence—
Of murdering Victoria.
Winry’s entire being and sanity shattered, loud, frantic sobs erupting from her trembling body, sheer panic, and heartbreak clawing and shredding its way up her throat. The investigator backed away from her, a cold, evil smile on his face as Winry sobbed her confession.
She watched through blurred, spotty vision as the investigator left the room, the door swinging shut behind him. A minute later, the door slammed back open and two police officers rushed in, one man and one woman.
“What happened?!” the woman demanded, rushing over to Winry, the bloody young woman hysterical, thrashing and screaming in her seat.
“I have no idea— who the hell brought in the evidence?!” the man asked, scowling. He swore under his breath seeing the photo of Victoria’s mutilated corpse in front of Winry, quickly shoving it back into the folder.
The woman managed to soothe Winry from her wailing to quiet sobs, her head hanging and her body limp. Soft whimpers of ‘I’m guilty, I killed her…’ passing through her lips.
The woman looked up at her partner, realization dawning over them both.
“Miss Byrne, did someone come in here?” the man asked gently, the female cop attempting to comfort her.
Winry nodded, and the man left to check the security cameras. While he was gone, the woman continued to comfort Winry, assuring her over and over that everything was alright.
The man came back soon enough, a blank expression on his face. Before his partner could ask what was wrong, he looked at her, genuine confusion and fear in his eyes.
“There was no one on the tape.”