Common Sense

Brandon could hear the sound of footsteps, silently creeping up the stairs. He could just imagine his Bethany now; a mix of alarm and trepidation clouding her eyes as his girlfriend tried to silence her heart that continued to thump in a rapid, erratic pattern. It had beaten in a similar manner when they had first met. However, instead of her regular anxiety, her heart was fueled by the butterflies fluttering gleefully in her stomach. He knows this because he had felt the same sensation: a sensation of love and adoration so strong, that even with his own mother he had never felt this way before. So on that very day, the day when his life first intertwined with hers, he decided to make a vow. A vow he swore he would never break till the day he took his final breath.

“I promise I will always treat you like the princess you are.”

And he did. At first. He always came to her rescue, saving the poor damsel in distress all while maintaining his dazzling, charismatic smile. He slayed all of her dragons, whether it be something as severe as financial issues or something as insignificant as a growling stomach. To her, he seemed perfect; like a prince in shining, steel armor.

It’s too bad she didn’t realize how quickly steel rusted.

For on one fateful day, inside of Brandon’s head, a voice appeared. It was nothing more than a sound; echoing and reverberating against the walls of his mind. When it came, it came bearing the title of ‘Common Sense’ and claimed that it would enlighten Brandon with its philosophy of rationale and logic. Brandon didn’t think much of it at the time; after all, it seemed like only good could come out of his new companion. But then, right when he had started to trust this newfound associate, the accusations began to emerge.

“Hey, I’m going out with my friends tonight to see that new movie. Is that alright?” Bethany had told him with a elated expression flaring in her eyes as she gleamed down cheerfully at the electronically lit phone in her hands.

Brandon had opened his mouth to say “Of course!” when Common Sense decided to interfere and assert its own opinion.

“She’s a liar.”

“She’s going out with another guy.”

“Don’t trust her; She’ll leave you.”

“No.”

Bethany’s gazed whipped up to meet his infuriated glare. “Huh? What do you mean ‘no’?”

“I mean, you’re not going. You’re going to stay here with me. We can go see that movie later this week together if you want. But it’ll just be me and you; no one else.”

Although she looked rather disturbed by his vindictive response, she reluctantly agreed. And as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into eternity, this became embedded into the foundations of their relationship: an unspoken rule between the two of them that she wasn’t allowed to leave the house unless she was beside him. For a while, all was good. Bethany was a very obedient girlfriend: constantly submissive to his every command. Tonight however, it seems like she gained a streak of defiance; as if she thought she could break the regulations and expect to get away with it.

If he weren’t so furious, he would think her naivëty cute.

“Where were you this evening, Bethany?”

Bethany froze as she felt a chill run up her spine from his irate, acrimonious question. She began backing up when she saw the enraged expression haunting his eyes.

“Brandon! I didn’t know you would still be up.”

When Brandon saw her trying to escape back down the stairs, he reached out and aggressively seized her wrist.

“She was out with her friends again.”

“You were out with your friends again!”

“She was trying to make you angry.”

“You were purposely trying to make me angry.”

“She’s a liar.”

“You lied to me!”

Bethany, unable to take the accusations thrown at her, raised her voice to match his volume. “What was I supposed to do? You don’t let me leave this house without you! I can’t see my family, my friends, anyone anymore! I just can’t do this anymore, Brandon! I want to leave! I want to—”

Brandon couldn’t remember what happened next. All he could recall was that a white-hot wave of rage overtook his senses until all he could see, smell, think, and do was anger. When the heat began to dissipate and the darkness began to disperse, the sight that was revealed to him made him recoil in horror. Bethany stood in front of him, her eyes wide with disbelief and betrayal. Her wrist was stained with a grotesque, yellow bruise in the exact place where his vice-like grip was mere moments ago. She was protectively caressing her cheek, which was tarnished with a flaming red mark that was dubiously in the shape of a handprint. It didn’t take long for him to piece everything together.

“Bethany I’m—”

He wasn’t even able finish his sentence before Bethany ran out of their apartment, the door slamming shut with a resonating crash.

Brandon felt his brain shut down and his emotions run rampage as, once again, anger hijacked his senses. Only this time, his fury was intertwined with another emotion: regret. He felt a burning, desperate desire in the depths of his stomach to turn back the hands of the clock; to take back his mistake. And his rage increased tenfold when he realized he couldn’t.

Swearing horrid, obscene words that made his mouth feel disgustingly vile, he unleashed his rage on a nearby mirror, shattering his reflection so severely that it became unrecognizable. Although crimson blood trickled down his clenched fist, he found himself unable to stop, because the pain from the shards of glass that lodged into his skin was a pain he was able to endure. Losing the one and only person he had ever loved; being alone; that was a mental anguish he wouldn’t ever be able to sustain.

Eventually, his anger began to ebb away, leaving him to face the bitter disappointment that plagued his heart head first. Gasping for breath (as in his heated moment of outrage, he had forgotten to breathe) he assessed his damaged fist, carefully trying to remove a reflective shard that was embedded into his knuckle. Moving his gaze from his hand to his mirror, he howled in horror. For the thing where his reflection should be was most certainly not him. Instead, a gargantuan behemoth was glowering at him, hostility gleaming in its sickly pale green eyes. The beast growled, baring wicked, razor sharp teeth that were coated in a repulsive yellowish plaque. It eyed Brandon hungrily, as if contemplating devouring him whole, all while flashing his wicked, deformed claws that gleamed under the moonlight filtering in through the open window.

Brandon could hardly believe the atrocious deformity in front of him. Trying to convince himself that this is and only will be a dream, he closed his eyes, inhaling a deep breath all while silently praying that when he reopened them, all signs that this mutant ever existed would vanish.

He opened his eyes. His voice hitched in his throat. For peering at him from behind the shiny, reflective mirror wasn’t that grotesque, green-eyed demon, but something much, much more horrifying. They way it looked into his eye caused his heart pump dread and terror into his veins and his blood to run ice-cold.

For staring back at him wasn’t some kind of hellish leviathan or freakish mammoth, but a man. A man named Brandon Smith. A man who has now harmed the one and only person who has ever mattered in his life.

And that was more horrifying than any monster could ever be.

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Mr. Lawyer

The second the heel of his shoe came in contact with the concrete in a resounding click, all eyes flew to catch a glimpse of him.

The man had anticipated this. He stood out among the crowd like a gold coin would in a pile of drab, lackluster pennies. While the women around him wore faded, orange jumpsuits, he was adorned in a three piece suit that was the color of the stormy clouds hanging ominously in the sky. While their bare, grimy feet remained unsheltered to the harsh elements, his were encased in expensive dark leather. And while their faces exhibited a distrustful glower, his held a professional smile.

It was fortunate for the man that their had been cell bars between him and the females, or he might find himself in a morgue by the end of the day.

An elderly woman with a golden badge perched on her shoulder hobbled over to him.

“Are you Michelle Anderson’s attorney?”
The man did not even bother verbally responding to her inquiry. Instead, he simply flashed the tiny emblem pinned to his collar. The guard, noting the set of scales etched into the metal, unlocked the fortified door into the interrogation room. As the man entered, he swore her heard the woman mumbling under her raspy breath, though he could only catch the words “audacity” and “whippersnapper”.

As he entered the room composed of four stony slabs of concrete, he heard a perpetual, mechanical ticking. Glancing up at the wall, he noticed that the analog clock on the wall displayed the time 6:30 PM. Normally, when the hands of the clock were in this position, he would be setting the table, greedily awaiting his wife’s cooking.

It was a shame he had to be here when he could be at home with her, but it would be over soon enough.

The man then turned to the woman sitting at the table, eyes flickering to the shiny cuffs on her wrists, connecting her to the table.

Pasty skin framed by wrinkles and furious brown eyes circled by dark rings, she held the atmosphere of a caged predator who was itching for the chance to dig her claws into fresh meat. The way she analyzed his every move with a distasteful glower plastered on her face made him think that he was her next prey.

Though the man did not tremble at this thought, nor did his masterful mask falter. He slid with ease into the chair, noting the way the table wobbled on the shortest leg as he placed his briefcase on the unsteady surface.

“Hello, Mrs. Anderson. Your father had contacted me and requested for me to represent you in court.” He began, his cheery voice not missing a beat as he opened his briefcase and fiddled with its contents. “Now, what were your charges again? Second-degree murder?

“Voluntary manslaughter.”

The man gave an apologetic smile. “Thats right; it slipped my memory. I apologize for my blunder.”

The woman ignored his polite attempts to converse. “Just get me out of this mess.”

He pulled out a ream of pristine, white paper with her name printed at the top in bolded, black letters.

“Of course, of course, Mrs. Anderson, but I do need to know the circumstances around the crime. I have skimmed through the case files, but,” The lawyer leaned in, resting his chin on his palm.

“I would rather hear the details from you.”

“Well, that sucks for you, Mr. Lawyer,” Michelle sneered, as if she could not think of something more horrendous or slanderous than calling someone an attorney. “Because I just can’t seem to remember.”

The man appeared outwardly unfazed by the prisoner’s ill-mannered comment.

“Well then, I’ll just have to jog your memory, will I not?”

His eyes began skimming through the case files.

“At 6:00 A. M. on a Sunday, a thirty-five year old woman was killed in her apartment building. From the autopsy report, the forensic scientists at the precinct determined that it was blunt trauma from the back of the head that ended her life. I believe the woman name was Katherine? Katrina?”

“Katerina.”

“Oh, yes. I remember now. Katerina Goodman. I believe in the report it stated that she was recently married?”

The woman rolled her eyes. “Why should I care?”

The man’s demeanor faltered slightly. “Well it always sad when something like‒”

Michelle glared at him.

“Look here Mr. Lawyer. You are supposed to be worrying about me, defending me, not some dead tramp. Got it?

The lawyer’s smile returned, but it seemed almost forced now.

“Yes, of course. I apologize, Mrs. Anderson.”

Michelle scoffed. “How many more question do you got?”

“Just one more, Mrs. Anderson.”

She let out a weary sigh. “Just get on with it.”

“Did you murder Katerina Goodman?”

Michelle facial expression did not change. “I don’t feel like telling you that.”

“Mrs. Anderson, I know this must be difficult for you, but I need for you to tell me the truth. No matter how you respond, I give you my most sincere word that I will be with you in court. So I will repeat my question: Did you murder Katerina Goodman?”

Now, Michelle Anderson has never been a particularly trusting person. She did not trust her father, her mother, her sister. No one. But there was something in the way the lawyer spoke that compelled her to spill everything to him.

But she didn’t. Or at least, not all the gritty details.

“Yes.”

At that’s where everying thing changed.

The warmth in the man’s face went cold and the friendliness went hostile.

“That’s all I needed to hear.”

Opening his briefcase, the lawyer pulled out a small, black device.

It was a recorder.

Michelle felt the rage burning up in her as he hit a button, turning off the machine.

“You were recording this?”

The man did bother responding as he slipped the recorder back into his case and swiftly made for the door.

“Wait, wait! What are you doing?”

The man did not even bother turning around. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m going to present this to the police.”

“But you promised. You promised that you would defend me! You promised that you would get me a ‘not guilty’ verdict!”

“I remember no such thing. I said that I would stand by you in court. And I will. On the witness stand.”

The woman felt her body tremble in a mixture of fury and fear. “You’re a liar, Mr. Lawyer. A terrible, filthy liar!”

This time, when the man responded, he whipped around to face her.

“I would rather be branded a liar rather than a defender of a cold-blooded killer.”

Michelle recoiled. There was no love in his eyes; only pure hatred.

The following words passed through her lips without her mind’s consent.

“I trusted you, Mr. Lawyer, so why? Why would you do this?”

The man’s professional smile returned, but, rather than comforting her, it sent chills down Michelle’s spine.

“Mr. Lawyer? Oh, how rude of me! I never introduced myself, did I?”

He extended his hand spitefully, as if taunting her and her restrictions. She had not noticed it before, but there was a gold band resting on his left ring finger.

“My name is Randy Goodman. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”