Hesitation Marks

The first two looked like suicides. Still do. I remember poring over the crime scene photographs after we found the third scene – the scene that made it clear we were dealing with murders – and trying to spot things we had missed. Every time they looked like textbook suicides. Right down to the hesitation marks on the wrists.

The third scene was a family, two parents and a twelve year old, who had just returned from a soccer game. Just like the first victims, their wrists were cut. Left to bleed out. More hesitation marks. We thought it might have been a murder suicide until the scene techs confirmed the child was the last to bleed out. He saw the whole thing.

From there, they just got worse. A young girl and her puppy in a park. A grandfather and his grandkids coming home from ice cream. A mother and her newborn twins. Each one an artery cut. Each cut surrounded by hesitation marks.

Then we caught a break; DNA left on one of the victims. A tear stain, of all things. The killer was a young man just released from prison on manslaughter charges – he killed a mugger and the self-defense argument didn’t cut it in court.

When they brought him in, I had to know why.

“Do you know about predestination? When I killed that man, I knew I wasn’t selected for salvation. I was predestined for damnation. Prison showed me that I was weak. If I almost broke there, how would I handle a Hell of infinite pain?” Tears flowed from his eyes. “I’ve been hardening my soul for what’s to come.”

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