Upon seeing a news story about his death, Jason visits the scene of the crime for answers. 

I didn’t care about being made fun of for eating cake while watching the Friday night news. Everything was more fun with cake. It was part of my end-of-the-week ritual after my shift at the hospital. What wasn’t part of my routine was dropping my plate while seeing news about myself.

“In a strange turn of events, the serial killer known as the Isolation Cleaner has changed direction with their latest victim, Jason Sizemore,” the TV news reporter announced. Two paramedics dragged my disfigured and waterlogged body out of the river in the video clip that popped on the screen. “Police say, Jason Sizemore, Caucasian, male, age 27 is the youngest victim of the serial killer who in the past has only targeted senior citizens who lived alone. Jason was found earlier today along Green River at Fort Dent Park in Tukwila. Police are asking for any information.”

“This has to be a mistake,” I muttered as I replayed the clip on my DVR. “I must be imagining things.”

But I wasn’t mistaken. The news didn’t change when I rewatched the clip. I took a deep breath and decided I needed to know more. I searched online for directions to the park–a 15-minute drive–and grabbed my jacket, leaving my cake on the apartment floor. It’s not like I had any roommates who would complain.

Thanks to the bright yellow crime screen tape blocking a section along the Green River, finding the scene was easy enough. I was surprised to find that there weren’t any officers posted there. I hoped to speak to someone, but I took advantage of my fortune and crossed the tape. There had to be some clue still around to tell me what happened—anything as I wadded into the water.

What I did find was a bright flashlight in my face.

“What are you doing here?” the voice demanded.

“I’m Jason Sizemore, and I’m the person the police said they found earlier,” I explained, trying to see who I was speaking to, but she kept the light on my eyes. “There has to be some mistake because I’m not dead.”

I tried to step forward, but she ordered me, “Stay right there.”

“I’m staying right here,” I reassured, raising my hands while using one to shield my eyes.

“I tried to go to your house, but the address was fake.”

“I’m a private person.”

“But here you are. I had to go to great lengths to find you.”

Wait. Great lengths to find me? I thought. I had to ask, “What do you mean you went to great lengths to find me?”

“I hired some performers for a short film, which was the news clip of the police finding your body. Then I visited the local news station under the pretense of a story for my podcast. I set up a backdoor into their systems to keep tabs on them for when they would air a story about the Isolation Cleaner and replace it with you.”

As I listened to her tale, I began to recognize the voice. “You…”

She cut me off. “You got pretty cocky calling into my podcast explaining the Isolation Cleaner to me, like how you got off watching the news of your accomplishments while eating cake. But, you’re not the first serial killer I’ve tracked down and ended because I’m the Pacific Northwest Podcaster.”

I moved to run, but I wasn’t fast enough for her stun gun. I face-planted into the river, with the water filling up my lungs, unable to move.

This week’s short story was inspired by the writing prompt: “Your name, age, height, weight, and race all flash across the T.V. screen. You look in horror as you see your dead body being dragged out of a river as a reporter announces that you’ve been brutally murdered by an infamous serial killer who has been on the run for years.” 

For my take, I thought I would have the prompt be a trick to lure out the real serial killer by another one, with the return of the Pacific Northwest Podcaster. One idea I had was to reveal her sooner with her interviewing him, but I decided it was best to keep the twist as late as possible. 

Thank you for reading!