Lines swerved and swooped around the lightly etched faces. It would have been best to color code them, but that would have meant the puzzle was completed. This was not that kind of puzzle. For starters it was too big, too convoluted, a full size murder board with corresponding book would have been more suitable. Probably more appropriate too.
Not that anyone had been murdered. Not really; that distinction was left to everyone’s personal definition of suicide and when a cluster of cells were officially a human. Enough to drive a person mad. . .
A shiver ran along the arm holding the sketch pencil.
No one had been murdered, yet.
The mop of long, curly hair worked its way into the puzzle piece surrounding the girl. The big smile and row of straight teeth distracting from the very distinctive pinched nose and small eyes. Was she America’s sweetheart or a nasty rat? It wasn’t hard to imagine both being true. People’s personalities were considered to be silos when far too often the version someone got was based on the version they were given.
The clink and clanks of jingling metal overpowered the soft snapping of fingers, what was that quote? Something about giving it as good as you get it. The podcast, focusing on that woman who killed her husband and stuffed him in a suitcase, still had one episode remaining to be listened to. The hosts, like the woman herself, stood by her innocence and the Q&A interview with the convicted murderess wasn’t going to include how she had done it or gotten away with it, because she did and hadn’t, so it remained unplayed.
There were some similarities between that woman, Meredith? Melanie? , and the one sketched in pencil set out on the table. The curly hair, the pointed features. Kimmy could never murder anyone though. Physically, sure. Deep down she wanted a family, but anything outside of that Kimmy needed someone to tell her to do. She would stomp and shout and show more attitude than her friends’ toddlers, but being in control was an illusion, a trick she learned from the floating face currently in the center of the pile.
There was a thud as the capped back of the pencil impaled the heavily lidded eye. The paper shushing along with the wooden surface as the face moved off to the side. The owner of that eye was at the center, there was no question. There was also no proof, yet. There would be, in time. When this puzzle with all its moving parts and floating faces was complete, when clear connections had been made, there was no doubt he would be in the center of it.
For right now, that was okay. There were plenty of pieces and plenty of time. Kimmy’s face was done. Flanking her were three others: another girl, her features overwhelmed by puffy cheeks and a chin that tucked in on itself, and two guys. One couldn’t have been more of a generic WASPy looking man, and sadly it was spot on, and the other was of a villain. At least the kind one would see in a Disney film, with sharp, sunken in cheeks and thick eyebrows surrounding a hooked nose. The four of them staring up and off to the left side. As if they were all perpetually stuck in a lie: Kimmy, Alicia, Mikael, and Sam. Maybe not Sam, he might be an innocent bystander, but to be married to evil incarnate it would take a strong man or a complicit bastard.
The abandoned pencil rolled into the coffee mug, without a handle it looked more like a bowl. The dusting of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon that topped the pumpkin latte swirled along the surface mirroring the fragments of rumors and stories moved in the air. Something wasn’t making sense.
Mikael had hooked up with more than half of the people they called friends, most of them secretly but in that group a secret was like a fart, even when it was kept quiet everyone knew. Except they didn’t not for certain, not the whole truth. As the information was relayed it wasn’t so much a secret as “Jackson can’t know.”
Jackson’s eyes glared up from the corner of the pile. Of all the faces his had been the most heavily sketched to the point where the lines could have been made with ink from their darkness. He would be in the center, but not yet. Why keep something from a best friend? From the leader of the pack?
The heads of Kimmy, Alicia, Mikael, and Sam moved like the shell game. Everything seemed to happen between 2015 and 2016. Mikael and Kimmy stop dating and she meets Bear, Alicia and Sam start publicly dating after months of quietly hooking up, Kimmy jumps Alicia after being provoked relentlessly. . .
Wait! That’s why Alicia and Kimmy don’t like each other. The faces looked up as if they knew they had been found out.
Sam, Alicia, Mikael, and Kimmy.
Mikael and Alicia hooked up when he was supposed to be with Kimmy and she was supposed to be with Sam. It was so clear, so glaring, but still just a small part of the puzzle.
The warmth from the mug radiated against the chill overtaking the room. Sometime between 2012 and 2017 Mikael had started telling everyone he had a cheese allergy to one of those sprinkly cheeses — they gave him coldsores. He also had started traveling with a small orangey bottle sans prescription label. Vomit crept up against the soothing sip of latte. Another secret that everyone didn’t know.
It was full on speculation now, but perhaps Alicia had been patient zero and that’s why Kimmy raged against her even after she moved on with Bear? Had she been patient two? There was always the chance Mikael had gotten it somewhere else and brought it to their little soirée. It would be impossible to know.
This was a small tiny corner, a teensy object in a picture comprised of much larger, uglier, more haunting parts than those burlap sack and face masks from that 2008 horror movie whose title wouldn’t be spoken. Cheating, lying, passing around STDs more fervently than a flower girl starting down the aisle. There was so much to know about each of them, their stories, their secrets. . .
There was no rush; there was plenty of time. As this one scandalous snapshot came into focus, there was a very different picture forming around it, and once armed with every twist and turn revenge could be extracted.