Trigger warning: Child death
They brought him on a Thursday morning with shackles on his arms and legs. He struggled against the officers that kept pulling him forward. His screams rang through the hallways, over and over and over:
“I’m not insane! Let me go! I’m not insane!”
Three hours later I sat opposite a crying man. Dark spots had formed on his orange sleeves.
“Hans.” I said. “You need to talk to me.”
His head stayed on his arms while the chains around his wrists tapped on the table with every sob.
I left after thirty minutes.
“Relax.” I said. “It will all be fine.”
Even then I knew that was a lie.
The next day I found him lying on his bed; a penetrant smell of old sweat lingered in the air.
Hans sat up when I greeted him. His eyes were red and his pupils large; he had been crying all night.
He didn’t remember me, but the nurses had warned him that someone would come.
“I was happy.” Hans said. “We were happy. And then they took everything.”
They had just bought the house two years earlier. Three kids: His son was four, the two daughters seven and nine. Hans’s wife, Lyndsay, was working in a small coffee shop. He himself worked part-time as an English tutor and part-time as a programmer.
Then, on the 4th of November, Hans woke up to noise from downstairs.
“I wasn’t sure what it was. It just sounded like a scratching sound, and occasionally like water flowing. I sneaked slowly down the stairs, careful not to wake Lyndsay or the kids, and every step I took the noise got slightly louder. Some sort of movement, mechanical sounds and a slow, steady hum. You can’t imagine how relieved I was when I realized it was just the dishwasher.”
Hans decided to turn the dishwasher off so that he would be able to fall asleep. He pulled the door open, steam rose to his face – and he froze.
“There were no plates or cutlery at all, the dishwasher was completely empty. Except on the top level, where the glasses go, there was one of our kitchen knives.”
Hans grabbed the knife, sneaked out of the room and to the front door. It was locked. Then he slowly moved back towards the stairs, quietly and slowly walked up the stairs and went back to the bedroom. He woke Lyndsay up.
“I asked her whether she had turned the dishwasher on.” Hans said. “But she said ‘no’. At that point I didn’t even wait anymore, I just ran, with the knife in my hand, to the childrens’ rooms. I first check on our youngest, Tzyy, but he was just sleeping peacefully. Then I ran to Momo’s room, but she was happily snoring in her bed.”
Tears welled in Hans’s eyes while he spoke.
“I actually relaxed then. I would never have imagined that something could happen to Jessica. But still I opened the door to her room; I still remember the cold door handle in my hand, how I pushed it down and slowly opened the door. First all I saw was the blood, on the floor, the walls, and all over the bed. Then I saw Jessica’s body, in her bed, curled into a small ball. Her mouth was wide open, as if she had screamed for a long time.”
Jessica was long dead when the police arrived. They questioned Hans and Lyndsay, and even Momo and Tzyy. But they all had just slept. They hadn’t heard anything. The police wanted to keep Hans at the station – because they couldn’t find any signs of a break-in and the only fingerprints they found on the knife were his. But Lyndsay begged them to allow Hans to leave; she swore that he would never touch his children and that he loved his children and particularly Jessica with all his heart.
Lyndsay’s testimony, and the assurance by Momo that he had always been kind and gentle, saved Hans. Tzyy didn’t yet know what ‘death’ meant, still he cried, as if he knew that he would never see his sister again.
The family moved to Lyndsay’s parents. They organized a small funeral, planted flowers on Jessica’s grave. Lyndsay and Momo cried a lot. Hans walked again and again through their house, desperate to find just any clue as to what might have happened. But just like the police he didn’t find even the slightest clue.
“They said the only thing they knew for sure was that Jessica was asleep when she was stabbed. She didn’t fight at all; she was dead quickly. At least she didn’t suffer.”
That was the only solace: She was dead quickly. Still, there were more than a hundred knife wounds in Jessica’s body.
A month after the funeral Lyndsay and Hans planned to return to their house. They had exchanged all locks, installed strong window shutters. But the pain of walking past Jessica’s room was too strong. They sold the house and moved into a small rented apartment not far from Lyndsay’s parents.
Lyndsay and Hans took the small bedroom for themselves; Momo and Tzyy shared the second, larger room. Momo protested against sharing the room with her brother, but she accepted the argument: She was his big sister, his protector. After Jessica’s death Tzyy had begun to wet his bed. Only when he slept with Momo he felt safe, and only then he slept deeply and didn’t wet his bed.
In the early morning hours of the 16th of December, just the day after they had bought Christmas presents together, Lyndsay shook Hans awake at three in the morning.
“Lyndsay asked me whether I heard anything. I didn’t even need to think; I recognized that noise right away: The dishwasher in the kitchen was running.”
“I told her to call the police and I grabbed a squash racquet and ran to the childrens’ room. I pushed the door open – it felt like a punch to my chest when I saw the blood. It was smeared in thick stripes on the wall next to her bed, and on the floor and there were bloody handprints on Tzyy’s bed.”
Momo was dead. Tzyy was unharmed. He must have slept while his sister was stabbed to death.
In the dishwasher they found four plates, four glasses, four sets of cutlery and one large kitchen knife.
There were scratches at the lock of the front door. Still, they kept Hans in a holding cell while Lyndsay was escorted to her parents. She and Tzyy slept huddled together with her parents in the same bed, the bedroom door locked.
Hans slept in a cell. He missed the funeral; Lyndsay’s father held Tzyy in his arms while Lyndsay’s mother held Lyndsay, so that she would not faint. Hans’s parents held each other and cried with open mouths while the rain soaked into their clothes.
The scratches on the front door saved Hans. There was no other evidence of a break-in – and no fingerprints on the knife.
After a week Hans was released. He, Lyndsay, and Tzyy moved to the guest bedroom. Hans cleared out their old apartment – at least all those things that were not covered in blood. Lyndsay refused to go back.
They slept together in an old queen size bed, Hans on the side towards the door, Tzyy in the middle and Lyndsay on the other side of the bed, near the window. Every night Lyndsay waited until Tzyy was asleep. Then, when she was sure that Tzyy wouldn’t wake up, she cried, quietly, while Hans patted her head and shoulder until she too fell asleep.
On the 8th of January, at 5 am, Lyndsay’s screams woke Hans up. The moment he was awake he, too, felt the warm liquid on the mattress. It took him a few seconds to realize what it was.
By the time Lyndsay’s parents reached the guest bedroom Hans sat, crying, on the floor; Lyndsay was sitting on the bed, cradling the still warm body of her dead son. Hans, Lyndsay and the bed were all covered in blood.
Lyndsay’s father stopped the dishwasher. When the police opened it they found several half-cleaned plates, several cups, some cutlery – and another large kitchen knife.
Both, Hans and Lyndsay were taken into custody. They had cooked together. Both their fingerprints were on the knife, and so was Tzyy’s blood.
The back door was unlocked. Lyndsay’s father told the police he had checked all the doors before he went to bed; that had become a habit since Jessica’s death.
The police interviewed several hundred people – neighbors, friends, relatives, even Jessica’s teachers. They tried to find reasons and a person to blame. They found neither.
Lyndsay was released a week later. They held Hans for two, then the law required him to be let go. They both swore that the other would never kill; they both swore that neither of them would ever have harmed their children.
Hans and Lyndsay moved into a hotel. They placed a camera next to their bed. They barricaded every entrance to the room – the door, the balcony door and the two windows. They made sure not to bring any sharp items.
On the 1st of February Hans woke up from a strong pain in his hand. Then he felt the cold, sticky liquid on the sheets.
Lyndsay’s body was already cold; the blood covering Hans’s body was already dry. The tap was running and a piece of the mirror lay in the hot stream.
Hans cried while he described to me how he called the police; how they took him away.
“It wasn’t me.” He said. “I loved her so much. And I loved my children. I would never have hurt them. Please, you have to believe me, it wasn’t me! They were my everything; I would never have touched them. Somebody must have framed me. It wasn’t me!”
He sounded sincere. He didn’t sound like a man that killed his family.
The tape shows Lyndsay and Hans first talking, then crying together. They fall asleep, her in his arms. Occasionally their bodies shift during the night.
At 2:31am Hans slowly sits up. He opens his eyes, but his face stays motionless. His body slowly turns to the side, his legs move over the edge of the bed. He gets up, very slowly walks towards the foot of the bed. He walks out of view.
A few seconds later Hans’s face appears in front of the camera.
His face looks stiff.
His eyes are all white.
His arm moves.
The tape ends.
This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.