Rigged

Art. The word means so many different things to so many different people. Classics like painting, writing, or dance might be what you first think of. It might even be something like cooking or gardening if you’re that way inclined. To some of us, however, art can take very different forms.

Imagine the scene of a girl covered in a complex criss-crossing pattern of ropes, suspended in mid-air with her back curved gently upwards and one leg hanging free of restraint, toes pointed gracefully down. With the right lighting and angle, it could definitely be art. To many, even the girl herself, this probably would have been. No, it definitely was. Until she died.

Screams drew me out of the security room and one of the residents of my apartment building ran to me yelling about calling the police. She’d been gone for a few days with her husband, leaving her eighteen-year-old daughter to her own devices. They never would have thought anything like this would have happened—who would? Celine was old enough to look after herself, and no one had any reason to believe she was interested in any questionable activities. Everyone seemed to have been mistaken.

When I came into their apartment after notifying the police I found James, the father, in Celine’s room trying to cut the ropes and pull her from the suspension. He was crying, muttering his daughter’s name, saying that she was going to be alright. The dead colour of her skin said otherwise, as did the noose biting into her bruised neck. I tried to calm him down, to pull him away. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say, but he needed to know that the police would want him to leave the ropes as they were for evidence. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Soon, he’d cut her down completely and lain her onto her bed, which had previously looked untouched.

In fact, everything in her room was spotless. It was as if someone had cleaned everything meticulously before they’d left. The scent of lemon disinfectant even lingered around the place. Whoever had done this had done a fantastic job of cleaning up their mess.

Police came quickly. They cleared the area and brought each of us in for questioning. Of course they got nothing out of the three of us—James and Ellie had been gone and I had an alibi. Officer Harrelson found that the phone lines into their apartment had been cut and the security camera in the hall, which had been faulty for years, caught nothing but static. No one out of the ordinary had been seen going in or out of the building. Logical reasoning brought them to the conclusion that the perpetrator must have been one of the residents.

Weeks of questioning passed, and nothing came of it for a long time. Everyone seemed to have an alibi, or there simply wasn’t enough proof. Until they found the photographs.

In an unassuming cardboard box not hidden well enough underneath Thomas Warren’s bed, a floor above the scene of the murder, the police found them. Celine hung beautifully in her bindings, bathed in the orange light of summer sunsets. Photographs like that were pretty damning evidence, especially combined with the newly-found footage of him walking into the stairwell close to the estimated time of her death.

“It wasn’t me!” His protests could be heard through the building as I watched the CCTV footage. “I’ve never seen those photos before, I’ve been framed!”

“Save it,” Officer Harrelson dragged him down, pinning his arms back with handcuffs. “Creeps like you should rot in a cell.”

 

A few weeks later I was called in as a witness for his trial. Thomas was still adamant that he was framed, but the evidence was stacked against him. Memory cards full of images similar to the ones that had been printed, for one. Other than that nobody saw him around much, with him being a quiet recluse, and a lot of residents had found him creepy. In fact, there had been an anonymous tip-off about him which is how they had found the evidence in the first place. No family, no partner to speak of. He worked from home, too, something about websites. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter. He didn’t have an alibi. I didn’t hear much more about it after the initial trial, but there was word he’d been sentenced to life in prison.

 

Months rolled by and things were quietening down. Celine’s family were grieving, but after they had someone to blame for her death they seemed to find a grave sort of closure. James and Ellie moved out of their apartment, and it remained empty for a long time. Turns out people don’t want to live on the scene of a murder, and this one was pretty high-profile so even the estate agents couldn’t cover it up. I got a nice little pay rise for my help with the case, though, and I was able to buy a new camera. My old one had gotten broken in an accident a while ago.

All in all, life moved on. Like with anything, with enough time the entire thing would be brushed under the rug. I got transferred to another apartment building and life was working out rather well for me. Things were quiet, the residents seemed nice. Jennifer especially. She would flirt with me when she walked past the security station, flashing that beautiful smile of hers, but me being the age I am I politely ignored her advances. She was far too young for me, but honestly I was never against younger girls—she would be eighteen soon anyway and she was very pretty. When she turned legal there wouldn’t really be anything stopping me, maybe then I could consider. I bet she would look beautiful in ropes.

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