Fiction in Three Flashes – “The Crimson Sweater”

Park Bench.jpg

Gertrude Barrington – 10:53 a.m.

In spite of the cool morning breeze, beads of perspiration streamed across the woman’s wrinkled brow. Her arthritic fingers shook as they struggled with the knitting needle, her failing eyes squinting in concentration.

Almost there… almost there! Her mind whispered. Oh, how she hoped this project would be ready in time!

In her hands she held a bright crimson sweater. As she wove the final stitches, she couldn’t help but think of the first time she had knitted a sweater like this.

Oh, my baby… my precious baby! She silently wailed.

“What a lovely sweater,” a young woman mused as she strolled by the bench. Startled, Gertrude glanced up and smiled sweetly, though her mind was screaming in pain.

The young couple sauntered past the bench, hand in hand. Suddenly, the sound of a man’s tearful voice pricked Gertrude’s ears, and she glanced up to see that the couple had separated. All of a sudden, the two started to scuffle.

Gertrude paid them no mind. She had more important matters to attend to. There… it’s perfect. She held up the sweater and gave and nodded in approval. Yes, her baby would look real fine in this beautiful sweater…

…lying in his coffin.

 

Ronald Barrington – 10:53 a.m.

The engagement ring felt heavy in his pocket as he strolled through the park with Kate at his side. He stole a glance at her, grinning foolishly as their eyes met. She blushed, and Ron couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful she was. He had absolutely fallen head over heels for this girl!

But she doesn’t know me, he reminded himself. Not the real me. What would Kate do if she knew about his bloody past? Would she still offer a loving gaze, or would she bolt in terror?

Then it happened. They passed a small park bench, where a woman sat knitting. His blood ran cold as he saw the red sweater in the woman’s trembling hands. Blood red. Just like the one his baby brother had been buried in, all those years ago.

“What a lovely sweater,” Kate murmured absentmindedly, and the woman looked up.

Their eyes locked. And Ron found himself staring into the face of his weeping mother.

Tears streamed down his cheeks as he remembered the day they had buried his brother, the way his mother had wailed as they closed the tiny coffin. More than anything, he remembered the bright red sweater they had buried him in.

It was your fault, Ron scolded himself as Kate let go of his hand, alarmed at his sudden show of emotion.   It’s always been your fault… their blood – all of it – is on your hands.

And now his mother was making another sweater, as if she knew. She had made countless others through the years. All of them bright red. All of them signaling another death. All of them knitted through bitter tears.

Oh, how he wished he could make it stop… but he couldn’t.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, turning to Kate.

She looked alarmed. “What?”

“I’m sorry you had to find out this way,” Ron sobbed. “I’m so, so sorry…”

And with that, he reached into his pocket. Ignoring the ring, his hand whisked out a pocket knife, its blade gleaming as he snapped it open.

Then he lunged at her.

 

Kate Harris – 10:53 a.m.

Special Agent Kate Harris wanted to gag at the overpowering stench of his cheap cologne, but forced a smile as he watched her like a lovesick puppy. During her FBI training they had told her she’d be tracking down criminals, but they never said she’d have to make them fall in love with her.

But she had played her role quite convincingly, and she almost pitied the man as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

Then her mind flashed over the murder scenes – to the bodies wrapped in scarlet sweaters, and the newspaper headlines that screamed, “RED SWEATER KILLER SWEEPS MANHATTAN.”

Her mind snapped to attention as they passed the park bench, and the woman knitting a sweater. A bright red sweater. So this is how it happened.

Play it cool, she told herself. Taking a breath, she did her best to sound casual. “What a lovely sweater.”

She was grateful for his sudden tears, since it gave her an excuse to put some distance between them.

“I’m sorry,” he choked, glancing at her with eyes full of the deepest kind of pain.

He rushed toward her, knife flashing, and she touched the small chip in her ear. “Now!” she shouted. Milliseconds later, a gunshot cracked through the air and Ron Barrington collapsed to the ground.

Heart racing, she walked up to him grimly. At last, it was over…

Ron stirred, glancing at her with a pained expression. “I’ve tried to stop her,” he moaned. “For all these years, I’ve tried to stop her…but I…I just couldn’t do it.”

Kate froze, the pieces snapping into place. The way he’d rushed toward her just now, his gaze fixed not on her, but on something behind her.

Kate gasped, stifling a cry with trembling fingers. Hot tears splashed across her cheeks as Ron’s body grew still, a diamond ring rolling from his pocket.

“Kate, are you okay?” a voice crackled in her ear. “We heard a gunshot, but our men haven’t made it to the scene. Kate, do you copy?”

She glanced at the park bench with a loud moan. The bench was now deserted… with the exception of a bright red sweater.

Oh yes, Kate copied. She understood what had happened here all too well.

The Red Sweater Killer had struck again.

 

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves.”

– Matthew 7:15

 

___________________________________________________________________________

Writing 101 Day 9 Challenge: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

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