Volume 43 ~ 2021       

Mercedes Holmes


Not Your Protagonist


If this was a story I would not be the protagonist

At the start of this character development 

I am the character on the side

Loyal to you, helping the real protagonist 

Fighting side by side till the battle is won

But now the antagonist is defeated

And I am cast to the background

Only noticed when needed or used as your comic relief

At first I played the role, 

acting like it was fine

But now I defend myself

I don’t help the protags or the side characters

And I’ve stopped pretending 

You say I betrayed you 

But remember your decisions

And how I’m only your villain 

The Coffee Pot Is On


Practice, Practice, Practice


It was tough, it was stressful. We wrote the script, but it wasn’t our story.                                                    

We were assigned characters – people – who had actually lived these events, we were telling their story, and we didn’t want to change it.                           

We wanted everyone to remember this story.      

Lines, Lines, Lines                


We spoke them, but they were not our words. We merely repeated and relayed the voices of those who worked, fought, and helped back then. This was the one play where we didn’t add, cut, or improvise lines.                            We were all memorized.                                                                                                        

Perform, Perform, Perform                                                                                                    

Our stomachs did flips and our nerves were shot. When we played the music and told the jokes, the audience clapped along and their laughter danced around. But when that scene came on, silence became our new audience, and those who understood, stood tall with their hats down, and tears in their eyes. Their stance was louder than our speakers, because they remembered.        


Placing, Placing, Placing   


Legs bounced, listening to who got third, second, and – we were in the air. We were going to tell the story at state, and we repeated the process.     


Practice, Lines, Perform, Placing

We were buzzing with emotions when we were crowned second but screamed louder than banshees when our rivals weren’t placed first. I won’t forget that feeling.    


One more time     


We weren’t done just yet. The city where the original story took place asked for a special performance. We brought it to them, telling a story that they all knew by heart. Their laughs, cheers, and cries were the loudest ever. When the story was told, we bowed one last time.


Murder in the Morning


Agent Henry Diamant gave a heavy sigh as he pulled up to the barn. A large group of civilians were already crowding around the barriers surrounding the crime scene; he could barely see the forensics team buzzing around gathering. Diamant rubbed his eyes, wishing that he could be back home in his bed, before getting out of his car and walking towards the barn.

It was a cool morning, with dew still on the ground, while everyone's breath danced in front of them as if they had gotten together for a smoke. Diamant pulled his jacket tighter as he squeezed by the group of onlookers and passed the barrier, showing his badge to a dubious sheriff.  Diamant's eyes glazed over the scene; the forensics team had covered the entire area. They were like bees at work, buzzing everywhere, focusing on their job, looking for any bit of evidence that could possibly be looked over while somehow not running into anyone. Flashes of light came from the small opening between the barn doors, no doubt where the main crime scene was. 

Diamant was hoping this would be a short case so he could return home as soon as possible, but given how large the groups of forensic workers and officers was he figured this case may take a little while. His mood was lifted when he saw his partner walk over to him holding two cups of coffee. 

"Nothing says ‘welcome home’ like murder in the morning, huh Diamant?" His partner said, handing over a cup of coffee. 

Diamant scoffed as he took a sip. "Of all the cases it had to be in my hometown. How did you get here so fast Yates?"

"Because I didn't drag my feet to get here. Now, tell me, how many girls did you bring over to this place?" Agent Yates asked with a smirk.

Diamant rolled his eyes and began towards the barn.

When he was a kid, this barn was old and unused. Just a worn down building far enough away from the city to make it a great place for teens to do stupid things, like getting drunk and daring each other to do tricks off the roof. Now, however, gthe barn's old wood was replaced with bright red metal, and was equipped with cameras and lights that Diamant guessed were motion-sensored. 

"What do we know?" Diamant asked. 

"That you’re avoiding the subject of your hometown and that I'll just keeping asking questions."

Diamant turned to Yates and gave him a glare. 

Yates chuckled and lifted his hands up in surrender, "Okay, Okay. Honestly, we don't know much yet." The two of them continued towards the barn as Yates continued to fill Diamant in.

"Mr. and Mrs. Johansen just got back from visiting Mrs. Johansen's sister's family. They came out to do chores. They use this barn as a storage area for harvest and planting equipment. They came out to grab some weed killer when they noticed the side door to the barn was halfway off its hinges and found the victim laying there. Mr. Johansen fainted, and Mrs. Johansen called the police right away."

"Does he have an easy stomach, or is it that bad?" Diamant inquired taking another swig of coffee.

"It's that bad," Yates grimaced, "I don't even think you can handle it." 

Diamant took that as a challenge; even before working in the field, he'd seen his share of disgusting things. As he got closer, he stopped and held his jacket sleeve up to his nose, trying not to lose the coffee he had consumed. He smelled the metallic odor of blood, but what really made him gag was the pungent smell of rotten eggs.

"Whew, you sure it was the sight of the body and not the smell that made Mr. Johansen faint?" Diamant asked as he poured his coffee out, suddenly losing his appetite. 

"Trust me, it gets worse," Yates said as he grabbed two pairs of muck boots "You'll want to put these on."

Diamant raised an eyebrow but didn't question it as he switched his dress shoes out for the boots. Once both of them had changed shoes Yates led the way through the side door, which was still loosely hanging off the top hinge. Diamant froze. Seeing the dead is something Diamant had become accustomed to - from the freshly dead to those who were nothing more than bones - but this was something he never thought he’d see.

"Holy shit," Was all Diamant could muster.

Amongst the forensics team, in the center of the barn was a splotch of red. The victim looked as if they had jumped from an airplane into a shallow pool of blood, splashing almost everything - the floor, the walls, all of Johansen's equipment - even the ceiling - in blood. Diamant could see remnants of the victim's legs and arms, but their chest was dug out showing off broken ribs. Their intestines sprawled around them. Diamant was hoping that this was an unfortunate case of some kind of animal attack, because he didn't want to believe that a human being was somehow able to do this, but when he looked at the beaten in skull, he knew without a doubt that someone was trying to keep the victim's identity hidden.

"This can't be all of the victim's blood, can it?" Diamant asked, still in disbelief at the scene in front of him.

Yates grimaced again, "Forensics are sampling everything just in case, but apparently, the human body holds more blood than we think."

The two agents walked up to the forensics team still looking over the body, Diamant flinching as they stepped in the red puddle. 

"Please tell me that this was a rabid animal attack," Diamant pleaded, still holding out for some hope that this was an ill-fated accident. 

A blonde-haired examiner, looked up with a mixture of disappointment and disgust. 

"Unfortunately, there is too much blunt force trauma to his body to suggest otherwise. That, and the non-existent face," she said, pointing at where the face should have been. "Thankfully we can run DNA with the leftover hands."

"So do you have an idea what happened yet?" Yates asked.

"Well, whoever did this punched their way through before pulling back and taking everything with it,” a younger examiner explained as he made a slower motion with his fist.

"Wait, punched? Like, with their fists?" Diamant questioned.

"We don't exactly believe it either but that's what the evidence suggests," The blonde examiner answered. "We'll know more when we bring him back to the lab."

"Do you have anything you can give us to work with right now?" Diamant asked.

The blonde examiner stood up still looking down at the victim, "Male, late twenties early thirties. Given the skin on his arms we assume caucasian, time of death around three-thirty in the morning. And from the fancy pants and shoes, we’d say upper class. "

"We also found this black substance mixed with the blood," The younger examiner added, holding up a clear cup full of a black substance with the consistency of syrup. "No idea what it is yet, but it’s the same as the stuff on the barn doors." He pointed at the large doors in the front of the building.

Diamant and Yates followed his finger and saw a large drawing of a spades with a K in the middle of it, broken in half from the doors. It looked like someone stuck their hand in paint and used the doors as a canvas, the black goo still dripping.

"How did we miss that?" Yates asked, leaning over to Diamant.

"It wasn't the first thing we saw either," assured the blonde. "You think we've got a serial killer whose got a name for themselves already?"

"Maybe," Diamant groaned. If they did have a serial killer on their hands, and the killer could do all of this, then this case was going to be a pain in the ass.

Diamant let out a sigh as he looked down at the body again. He looked at the victim's hand seeing if there was a ring to indicate a spouse when he noticed a black etching on the inside of the arm - a tattoo. Diamant could only see half of it, but it was enough to make his heart skip a beat.

"Hey, turn his arm over. I need to see his tattoo." Diamant demanded. 

The young examiner gently moved the arm to expose the tattoo. Four hearts circling each other to form an abstract flower. Diamant cursed the familiar symbol.

"What's wrong? Do you know the guy?" Yates inquired looking between the victim and Diamant. 

"No-well yes- Its-" Diamant stopped and took a breath, "I don't know who he is, but I know his cousin- family. I know the family."

"Well, who’s his cousin? Diamant, we'll need to ask them questions, so we find out who the guy is." Yates said.

"I know, it’s just-" Diamant snapped. He took another breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. He sighed one more time before giving Yates an unamused look.

 "His cousin is the only girl I ever brought over to this place."