“In the Forest” Noir Thriller by Peter J. Dellolio

Peter J. Dellolio was born in New York City in 1956.  He went to Nazareth High School and New York University.  Graduated 1978: BA Cinema Studies; BFA Film Production.  Poetry collections “A Box Of Crazy Toys” published 2018 by Xenos Books/Chelsea Editions.  “Bloodstream Is An Illusion Of Rubies Counting Fireplaces” published February 2023 Cyberwit/Rochak Publishing.

“I thought the forest murders were a cold case.  Didn’t the lead detective commit suicide?”

“That was a long time ago.  I can’t remember.”

“I wanted to have a look at the transcript, the last interview with the man who admitted to the killings.  Do you suppose all the records have been put into storage?”

“They’re probably in the basement.  They’ve been filed away for years.  I don’t know for sure.  I can’t remember.  It really doesn’t matter.  That man got away.  They threw out the confession.  There was psychiatric testimony.  They said that man was delusional.  Psychotic.  I think the diagnosis was that he suffered from multiple personality disorder.  I’m not an expert but that’s supposed to be a very rare condition.  Anyway the dominant opinion held that the confession was coerced, phony, suspect, tainted.  There was no trial.  He was never convicted.  I haven’t spoken to anyone about the forest murders for years.”

“You seem a little touchy about all this.  I’m sorry because I’m new.  I know I haven’t been in the department as long as you.  It’s a famous case and I guess I’m just curious.  Didn’t you play a big role in it, too?”

“It’s not your fault.  I was engaged to one of the victims.  She was the woman they found near the resort lodge.  The one he clubbed to death with the chunk of marble from the fireplace.  I had been on the case for six months.  We couldn’t find any real leads.  They gave me medical leave for a short period when my fiancé was murdered.  I was so deeply in love.  I wasn’t thinking very clearly after that.  I used to stare at things all the time.  I examined and studied the evidence countless times.  The hammer.  The shotguns.  The hunting boots.  The rabbit traps.  The red jogging suit.  The child’s plastic identity card with the metal clasp.  I examined the car over and over again.  I went back to the resort lodge hundreds of times.  The apartment, too.   Everything. At one point we thought there might be several killers.    The logical examination of an illogical event can withstand only so much contradiction.  Things were duplicated, events overlapped.  How could so many different victims get killed in an identical way in the same place?  The whole timeline of the murders began to get confused, but somehow all the evidence always pointed to the forest.  Everything led to the forest.”

What’s the point of keeping this goddamn journal if I don’t have a smoke when I want one?!  I need a smoke.  I knew it wasn’t an ordinary case.  I didn’t need a crystal ball to figure that out.  Murder for profit or revenge or passion made sense.  There’s simplicity and logic to it.  Like an engine, like a fire.  If a husband blows his wife’s brains out because he catches her with another guy, it isn’t pretty but it certainly isn’t surprising.  But these forest murders just didn’t make sense.  Why would a man plan a killing in a place that would be swarming with kids from a field trip?  Why would a perfectly responsible woman let a stranger into her apartment, especially when she had to prepare for a hunting trip with her father?  Why would a jogger run along a path that was frequently littered with broken glass?  Why would a murderer use a hunting knife, a garrote, and a shotgun when any one could have sufficed?  This case was a bad one, all right.  People don’t like hearing about murders that don’t make sense.  Especially when it’s gory and illogical and the victims are all young women and the only clear thing is that there’s some deranged creature out there who’s going to do it again and again until he’s stopped.  The more I looked at this case, the less I understood.  The forest murders began after they transferred me from vice to homicide.  I remember when I was in vice and you’d get some poor old junkie.  For them old was around forty.  Sometimes I’d find a poor bastard gazing at the sink or the wall or the floor with that weird transfixed look, like Bernadette’s frozen stare, as if the stains of their own shit and puke and blood on the filthy floor were some kind of beatific road map revealing the secrets of the universe or something.  The thing that always spooked me was that little fart of choked laughter you’d hear when you put the cuffs on.  You’d have to carefully walk them down the cracked wooden steps because by this point the only thing holding them up was wishful thinking.  I’d always look away when they’d turn around and gaze up at me with those empty eyes.  Sometimes their voices were so raspy from years of junk that the words sounded like twigs snapping in a fire.   I hated that.  No, this certainly wasn’t an ordinary case.  That’s the goods, all right.   I started this journal to keep track of the questions, all the damn questions about the forest murders. The questions without answers; the questions that won’t go away.  Did the murderer plan the whole thing so it would look like the killing in the book we found near the car?  Did the killer disguise himself as a hunter so he could move through the forest undetected?  Was he the father of one of the boys on the school trip?  I’m not convinced that the Law can help anymore.  What about those tape recordings of all those poor kids screaming?  It was that husband and wife abduction case.  They used pliers on the children and recorded the torture sessions.  Bitch chewed gum during the trial, filed her nails like a proud animal licking blood from its fur.  I couldn’t let it pass.  I’m not supposed to stick around after I deliver the groceries.  Why am I wasting my time with this?  What’s the use of writing this down when the words won’t mean the same thing tomorrow?  I’ve got a case to solve.  I have to get out there.

Why did you commit the murder in the woods?

I always wanted to kill her in the forest.  It had to be there.  The thought never left my mind.  I wanted it to be violent.  Nature’s violence.  Plant life devoured by insects, insects eaten by rodents, rodents captured by birds, birds shot by humans.  I wanted to become a link in this chain of natural bloodshed.  Lush surroundings.  Ghostly trees. Tall. Very gaunt; very gnarled.  Maze of paths choked with leaves.  Chips of bark snagged in her hair as I rolled her limp body through the grass.  Sharp twig ends were sucked into her nostrils.  Blood mixed with mud.  Blood sprayed across my hunting boots.  Did I tell you that I was an experienced hunter?  I was quite a sportsman.  Deer; rabbit; duck especially.  There was plenty of legal game in that forest, depending on the season. 

Please stick to the questions.  You were talking about her blood…

Blood in a fine spray speckled the last page of the book I had with me.  Smooth and cold pebbles covered with warm blood.  Not too far from my resort lodge.  Then I could drag her back without too much bother.  Never mind about the kids playing.  My son was with the group.  I wasn’t expected for hours.  I could find a way around that difficulty.  Those field trips usually took up the entire school day.  The forest is limitless.

Did you hear anything unusual when you killed her?

No.  The kids from the school trip played wildly but I couldn’t hear the metal clasps that connected the plastic identity cards to the elastic bands they wore around their necks.  The clasps shook fitfully, every time the ball was thrown, every time the blindfold was fastened, but I couldn’t see them, either.  I did hear her gurgling throat.  Desperate gasps for air.  Her body shook like stones rattling in a metal box as she struggled to breathe.

When you were arrested, why did they find you thrusting your hands into the sky, as if you were trying to grab one of the birds flying above the resort lodge?

It was part of my overall sense of murderousness, the brute force I wanted to create and luxuriate in.  I projected my arm with abruptness, the way I stabbed her, the way I shredded the soles of her feet with glass shards, the way I tightened the ligature made of rabbit trap nylon across her throat. I imagined the clatter of the shaking clasps, a clatter that was chaotic and unnerving.


What happened to the book you had with you?

I don’t remember.  It was covered with blood, smeared with mud.  Nothing could remove the stains.  I lost my place so many times that day.  I know when I looked away from the birds it was that same page, it was always that same page, the one with the candid language of a detective writing in his diary, making a daily account of the case he was on.  There was a gruesome description of a woman receiving a merciless, fatal beating.  The detective knew she was already unconscious. He, in fact, was the killer.  The book kept you guessing at it for a long time.  The detective was insane; he used his knowledge and power to make the evidence point in all directions.  He killed women who loved him.  He was very cruel.  His last victim had very slender arms, like stalks, like branches.  Pure white skin splashed with blood from his fierce, continuous blows.  He beat her with the hot brutality of an animal: savage, persistent, thorough.  A chunk of the mantelpiece rested across her skull.  He clubbed her with the marble after breaking it with his hammer.  Her father stood with several friends in the photograph taken by the pond.  Her blood spiraled down the glossy black and white picture, as though it dripped from the tips of the shotgun barrels.

The medical report revealed that your victim had been dead approximately ten hours by the time of your arrest.  Do you recall at what time she lost consciousness?

The birds distracted me.  They were frightened.  They were too close to the pond, they could sense the danger of the raised guns.  I didn’t notice but I know she fainted at some point.  Probably just after the mantelpiece shattered.  A chip of marble lodged in her eye.  The shock of the impact and the realization of what the detective planned to do must have been too much for her.  The birds’ departure startled me, a rapid movement of flapping wings.  Like thunder claps, like faucets turned on full blast.  I could see this.  Just as I propelled my arms to grab the metal clasps, to stop them from shaking.  But I had already looked away from the sky.  I lowered my eyes from the birds to the page of the book where the clatter of the clasps was described, the clatter that couldn’t be heard.  I projected my arm with jerky energy, with a clenched bloody fist that descended upon her slender white arms already bloodied by my fierce blows.  A knock at the door?!  Was she expecting visitors?  I must wash out the blood.  I must leave quickly.

What about the jogger?


Somebody was out there running.  He was testing his endurance, trying to cover the whole forest.  The sound of his loud footfalls blended into the din produced by the jangling clasps.  He saw dark blurry forms, like shafts, like trees.  As he ran, these forms passed in rapid succession, lined in rows on his left and right.  They must have been trees.  Hundreds of noisy sparrows perched among the branches.  Their chirping drowned out the remote dissonance of the hunters’ duck calls in the distance.  The combination of artificial and natural bird noise almost obliterated the police sirens that prompted me to leave the blood-splattered apartment.  He was wearing a bright red jogging suit.  The deep red glowed with sunshine, with fall colors, as if it were burning, as if he were incandescent, luminous, it was as if the sturdy, straight pine trees wobbled and swayed, affected by the burning, by the brightness.  There were slivers of glass strewn throughout the road.  An angry hunter had spitefully shattered some camp lanterns.  The jogger ran at a measured pace.  Occasionally tiny pieces of glass became embedded in the rubber soles of his running shoes.

Do you think the jogger or the hunter saw you at any point?

It’s possible.  Anything is possible in the forest.  My furious movements, my nervous gestures, snapping my arm out suddenly, screaming at the top of my lungs: none of this drowned out the sound of the approaching man, so I continued to beat the woman.  I knew the jogger was still deep in the forest and couldn’t interfere with the crime.  The silent shaking clasps had become a blur, a confusion of dizzying motion.  There was a vertical row of buttons on each child’s jacket.  Some were on the left, some on the right, like shafts, like trees.  I had an image of running feet, swift movements, glass splinters imbedded in the intact, firm trees, hundreds of startled, chirping sparrows.  The bright red jogging suit was extremely tight, excessively tight, a stinging tightness which cut into the jogger’s flesh.

Your feet were bleeding too, weren’t they?  Hadn’t they been cut in some unusual way?

Yes.  They were in very bad shape by that point.  In spite of this I had reached the top of a steep hill.  When I looked down I saw all the red leaves stuck to the razor-edged Black Needle Rush points lining the slope on both sides.  And I know on that day of hunting in that very forest her father must have realized how easily these leaves could be pierced by the plants’ dry thorns: the moment before the photograph was taken, a flock of birds pierced the sky with equal precision, equal sharpness, the leather-thick flapping of their wings heard by all but not included by the lens.  The shock of wing noise almost made me lose balance and fall from the hill.  All the cuts I received made me lose a great deal of blood.  When I lowered my arm I noticed several drops of my blood falling past. The dripping blood partially obscured the image of the white birds.  I heard shotgun fire as I stabbed her.  Distant, muffled, like faraway thunder, faraway waterfalls.  The hot blood, the driving blade hitting bone, the racing ants showered with intestinal fluids, the severity of the barrels, the red metal of the guns, the overlapping knots of the tree roots, the frenzy of nature’s energy: I slung out my arm, fiercely directing it toward one of the white, convulsing, blood stained forms.

It must have been quite a struggle to reach the top of the hill.


More than a struggle.  It was a feat of endurance.  An exhibition of stamina.  And when the jogger finally reached the peak, he glanced back.  Black Needle Rush (Juncus roemerianus) plants lined the slope.  Their inflexible projections had shredded his feet.  The tight running suit would not stretch against the movement of his body.  The bright garment, glowing in the golden autumn sunlight, was speckled with sticky red leaves.  Trying to stand at the top of the hill, his balance was disturbed by the shocking flap of multiple bird wings.  Dizziness accompanied his blood loss, and the numerous cuts which caused the bleeding made him understand that the Black Needle Rush points were like tiny spears, allowing the plants to harpoon objects such as leaves which might somehow come into contact with them.  He heard multiple shotgun fire in the distance, a muffled volley of shots which must certainly kill several white birds, causing blood drops to fall past those white forms.  The red metal of the barrels, the explosions they produced: the fury of it all made him whip out his arm, in the manner of a very precise callisthenic gesture, muscles tightened and overlapping like tree knots, like marble veins.  He fiercely projected his arm.  He wanted to become part of the destructiveness of the shotguns.  The long guns were lifted suddenly, swung to the right, and fired. They created explosions that penetrated the distance, reverberating beyond the targets. He focused on this extraordinary violence from afar. He saw the savage redness of the barrels.  The hunter searched the nearby bushes, hoping to find a number of dead birds.  He had promised his daughter an early start on their weekend camping trip, and he would like to make a good showing in the hunt in order not to be embarrassed when the group photograph was taken.  He was very annoyed: his fire brought down only one bird.  He squatted beside the limp, bloodied form. His anger mounted over having shot so poorly all day.  In frustration he thrust out his arm in a quick, impatient manner, picking up the bird and hastily flinging it into the bag.  He raised his eyes from the spot where he had retrieved his game.  He looked at the darkening sky where many other birds continued flying, as if in mockery of his inferior marksmanship.  He found it unusual to see so much of the flock still in the area, in spite of the casualties already inflicted by the gunfire.  I closed my book and prepared to leave.  The approaching hunters and the swift accumulation of rain clouds convinced me that this afternoon of reading was about to come to an end.

Were you still reading that same page?

I must have been.  It was always the same page, the one with the impassioned description of the red gun barrels smoking in the distance, producing noise that penetrated far into the forest, creating vibrations that shook nearby bushes in which I hoped to find some dead birds.  I was always searching for something in the forest. I would never leave the forest.  I searched the apartment, looking for the shotguns that had been recklessly fired.  I was distressed to discover that my hammer cracked the marble in one place only. I wanted several pieces to beat her with and my anger mounted over having overlooked so many bloodstains.  I squatted beside her bloody form, lying at my feet in the final moments before death.  I sharply extended my arm towards the bird, picking it up and angrily flinging it into my game bag.  I found it unusual that the doors to the neighboring apartments remained shut in spite of her horrific screams moments before, not to mention the darkening sky where many birds continued to fly.  So I closed my book and prepared to leave: the spot previously occupied by the shot animal, and the sudden accumulation of rain clouds, convinced me that the hunter’s fire brought down only one bird.  The business of this afternoon was about to be concluded.

What happened after you finished the last page?


Some of the words were the same, they were repeated from paragraph to paragraph, but many of the words were different.  I didn’t notice the flecks of mud on the sleeve of my khaki jacket.  I raised my eyes from the bloody corpse and glanced at the clock on the nearby desk.  Seeing the time, I realized I must leave very soon: the dead woman had expected visitors and someone might knock at the door at any moment.  First I washed the blood from my hands, and then I changed into the fresh clothes I had brought.  I nervously scoured my hands in the sink. The hot water gushed from the faucet with great force.  When the shotgun fire subsided, the jogger looked up at the sky, watching the flock of frightened birds.  Returning to my book, I glanced at my sleeve and became annoyed when I saw the mud.  I knew very well it would not wash out.  I raised my eyes from the bloodied corpse, turning to the last page of the book.  Seeing the time, I realized that a few flecks of mud were on the left sleeve of my khaki jacket.  After the shotgun fire subsided, the hunter became annoyed at the clock on the marble mantelpiece.  He must leave very soon because the sink had not been washed clean.  Water shot from the faucet as he looked at the woman who was certainly dead by now.  At any moment someone might enter the apartment and change into the fresh clothes he had brought with him.  Before that happened, he would wash the blood from his sleeve.  He was expecting visitors, and he was quite annoyed to see the flock of frightened birds.  I decided to spend that afternoon jogging in the forest.  I was in no mood to entertain guests.  Totally inconsiderate of those who expected to find me home, I left early in the morning without notifying anyone of my change in plans.    

“Sorry to hear that.  It must have been tough for you, losing the woman you loved.  You were able to work on the case, though.  That must have given you a little satisfaction.  Was it tough holding on to some hope that you could catch him?”

“The thought never left my mind.  I tracked down everybody.  The hunter, the jogger, the group of children, the resort lodge owner, even the author of the book that was found.  None of it ever led anywhere.  Most of the bodies were discovered during the summer months, when there were lots of hunting parties in the forest.  We detained and questioned everybody.  The Captain was worried about me.  Officially I had been taken off the case, for obvious personal reasons.  The Captain let me do my own interviews, my own investigation, off the record, so to speak.  He knew I was losing my perspective, though.  I would go maybe four or five days without sleep.  I had nightmares when I slept so I drank coffee all the time.  I remember the nightmares very clearly.  I was running through the forest.  It began to rain suddenly.  The rain hurt.  It was heavy and cold and the sheets of water cut into me.  I was being flayed as I ran because the water was sharp and it sliced off parts of my body.  I was drenched in blood but I kept going.  I could see myself running from across the road.  I could see myself from the vantage point of the many trees that lined the road.  Finally I became a skeleton, a fleshless thing charging through the forest, like something out of an old ghost story.  After my fiancée was murdered, I lost my way.  I don’t remember sleeping at all.   I spent weeks looking at photographs of her.  Places we had been.  I used to kid her about a photograph she had taken with her father.  She was a hunter, like her old man.  I told her she looked cute in her hunting outfit, the camouflage gear, floppy hat like Elmer Fudd.”

It’s almost 10pm.  Somehow we got a lead that the killer might be making films of the girls.  Snuff movies, torture movies, sick shit.  A pal of mine in vice did a raid and wound up with some films like that.  Some of our victims were mature women, but some were younger, a few runaways, too.  There were two who fit the age and description of the runaways who disappeared and wound up on those god-forsaken films.  I found the bastard who trafficked in those movies and left him standing on a stack of wobbly phone books with the noose around his neck and his hands tied behind his back.  If he didn’t choke himself by the time I get back down there, maybe he’ll have a different story to tell me about some of the new girls.  It started to rain while I drove across town to get something to eat. I thought it was funny how I could almost see his hands wriggling as the wipers swept the rain off the windshield.  I like storms.  They give me a weird energy, in spite of the gloom.   The questions won’t go away.  Are the killings cult inspired?  Why are so many things red?  The jogging suit, the car, the shotguns.  Whoever heard of red shotgun barrels?  How does a man beat a woman to death, then stab her dozens of times, then strangle her, then blow her apart with a shotgun, and remain undetected for an entire afternoon in a place where joggers and hunters and school children are all less than a couple of hundred yards from one another?  Got to find out what’s behind this.  I don’t plan on disappointing anybody.  I spent enough time in the butcher clinic with the coroner.  I saw enough of what this psycho did to the two other girls.  I don’t like counting unrecognizable bodies.  I don’t like having to tell the parents that we need DNA to make a positive I. D. because the bodies don’t have faces anymore.  I got a few ideas about this case.  I know what to do.  I trust my instincts.  Better that way.  No reason to explain anything until the time comes.  I’ll keep things to myself for now.       

So, no one knew you would be in the forest?

Of course not.  I had planned to kill her that day.  I quickened my pace from time to time, darting off in a sprint for about two hundred yards.  I felt good.  I knew my plan was sound.  I made a rapid mental inventory as I ran.  I remembered everything.  I remembered a recent dream in which I passed some children from a field trip playing blind man’s bluff at the bottom of a valley, but for the most part I ran on the main road, lined on both sides with dark oak trees.  As I passed the children, one of them looked up. He must have seen me.  Because of the distance and the speed of my movements, one of the children saw me only for an instant.  I was no more than a blur which quickly lost its hold on the child’s attention.  The road was littered with broken glass and other debris.  It was useless for the hunter to continue searching that area: he knew his fire brought down no other birds.  So with complete disregard for those who expected to spend an afternoon jogging, the hunter spontaneously increased his pace, darting off in a sprint for several hundred yards.  He ran on the main road, lined on both sides with groups of playing children.  He decided that one of the children saw him only for an instant.  And he left quite early, without even bothering to tell the others that he would be at the bottom of a valley.  But as he passed the children one of them happened to look up and find him home.  Because he was in no mood to entertain guests, he was no more than a blur.  It was useless to continue searching the area, mainly because of the distance and the speed with which I ran through the forest.  My gunfire lost its hold on the child’s attention.  No other birds caught a glimpse of me, running on the main road littered with broken glass.

Was the hunter very bitter that day?

American National Standards Institute Inc.

Uncontrollably.  Scowling at the empty game bag, he hastily wiped the blood from his hands as he contemplated the now impossible timetable he must follow in order to pick up his daughter at the appointed hour.  Droplets of rain were already falling, adding to the disgust and frustration he felt over this day of fruitless hunting which was about to end.  The last page of his book had become a little soggy.  He ignored this for the moment: he was anxious to finish the story, and he didn’t think the rain would come down too heavily just then.  The book was meant as a birthday gift for his daughter, a popular murder mystery.  The steady beads of rain had moistened the mud spots on his sleeve.  The dry earth dissolved into thin lines which streamed down the khaki fabric.  The jogger dried his hands, he washed out the sink with hot water, he wiped the blood from the burglar tools, he listened for footsteps in the hallway.  Gradually the blood disappeared from the sink, the last red traces obliterated by the steady splashes of very hot water.  He thought of everything.  Yet in spite of his preparedness he was foolish to ignore what appeared to be only superficial wounds: he was unable to run any farther, in fact he could barely walk.  He sat down at the top of a hill and tried to summon new strength.  Meanwhile the children grew impatient with the distracted behavior of one particular boy: they wanted him to return to their game, to exhibit the same enthusiasm he had manifested earlier in the day.  The boy lowered his eyes from the top of the hill and gazed at his friends who were so anxiously concerned with his participation in their fun.

Did the hunter manage to keep his appointment?

I’m not sure.  I was in the final stage of the murder and my mind was elsewhere.  I had a huge combat knife with a very wide blade.  Little reflected pieces of the scene flitted across the shiny metal.  The shotgun blasts shattered the marble into a thousand pieces.  As I dragged her body I heard the birds overhead.  They flew above her corpse, casting waves of shadow over her nude bloody form, like rippling nets, like swaying leaves.  I was very angry when I glanced at the empty game bag.  I ignored the soggy last page of the book.  Drops of cold rain made me regard my muddy sleeve with disgust.  My hands were moistened by the light but steady beads of rain, so I wiped off the remains of the blood.  I was anxious to conclude that ridiculous day of hunting.  I didn’t think the rain would stream in thin lines along the khaki fabric of my jacket.  I dried my hands.  I washed out the superficial wounds.  Lowering my eyes from the top of the hill, I could see the splashing, extremely hot water.  Gradually the blood disappeared down the drain, although traces of it remained upon the thorny plants lining the hill.  And I was foolish to ignore my friends.  I was unable to run any farther, I couldn’t even walk.  My distracted behavior was about to end.  It was time to think about the resort lodge, the best path to use in dragging her body there, the timetable I needed in order to meet my daughter on schedule, the plastic sheets I had left in the backseat of my car, the sheets I would use to wrap her body, the excuse I planned to give my daughter, to explain my lateness.  The field trip playmates, previously so concerned with the boy’s participation in their fun, seemed oblivious to his exhaustion.  They ran about in the sunlight while he stood in shadow.  He had perspired from running around so much, and with the air becoming chilly he decided to button his jacket.  The gradual accumulation of large, dark clouds blotted out the sun, and he realized that it would rain very soon.  His playmates were engaged in their game and, unlike him, they had not buttoned their jackets; they seemed unaffected by the cool air.  I don’t think they had perspired as profusely as I, and therefore they did not feel the least bit chilled.  Raising my eyes, I looked at the sky. I saw several birds flying away from the trees.  Then I looked from the sky to the little spots of dried blood on the palm of my right hand.  Earlier a rude jogger accidentally shoved me and I scraped my hand against the ground.  The burning pain of that injury in addition to the clear sign of a furious rainstorm convinced me that I should leave the forest.

Was it very cloudy and dark by the time you killed her?   


A jumble of leaf shadows surrounded the boy because he remained under a large tree. The air had turned cool and his young friends ran about in the sunlight.  The accumulating rain clouds gradually blotted out the sun.  The boy realized that it would rain very soon but, unlike himself, his playmates had perspired.  And for a moment he thought about raising his eyes from their jackets and looking up at the sky.  He buttoned his own jacket while several birds were peacefully floating across the sky.  However, the birds did not move as quickly as the trickle of blood across his right hand.  Lowering his eyes from the little spots of blood on his playmates, he looked at the burning pain received from a downpour.  Earlier, one of his friends had lacerated the ground.  He did not wish to remain in the area because of this irritation.

What about the words on the last page of the book?

I read them with feverish anticipation. This was the denouement, where, many years after the murders, the detective broke down for some inexplicable reason and let a newcomer see the truth.  It must have been the cumulative effect of the detective’s questionable emotional state, his derangement. It was finally revealed that, by assuming the identities of some of the key figures from the case who were questioned, the detective hoped to cast suspicion elsewhere.  But before I turned to the last page, I stopped for a moment to try to remember where I had parked my car.  The unforeseen noise of the shotguns made me think of the location of the red automobile.  Instantly I recalled that I had parked just off the main road, approximately two hundred yards to the right of the resort lodge.  There was no cause for alarm.  Even in the event of rain, indicated by the darkening sky, it was not difficult to locate the vehicle.  My only concern was that the dark clouds and the late hour might impede my progress, perhaps making me lose my way.  Remembering that some time long ago I had gotten lost in this forest under similar circumstances, I naturally didn’t want a repetition of that situation.  I continued reading, thinking that I heard the distant sound of someone running, but at that point I was much too absorbed in the ending of the book to pay any attention to such a vague sound.

Did you hear voices when you killed her?  Did you hear or smell strange things that day?  Can you hear me?  Do you want to take a break? 

I read feverishly for only a moment or two, desperately trying to remember where I parked my car.  The shock of the shotgun blasts made me think of the last page of my book.  Before I turned to that page, I stopped the bright red automobile.  I decided there was no cause for alarm: I could park just off the main road.  The clouds hovered to the right of the resort lodge.  And the spot I was in wouldn’t be difficult to locate, even in the event of rain, a factor which under similar circumstances would make me lose my way.  But the more I read the more I thought that some time long ago I had been totally absorbed by the sound of someone running, and that the runner’s concern was whether or not his sounds would impede my progress.  I paid no attention to the darkening sky.  I was so exasperated by the small number of birds I had shot, I completely lost track of my friends, still busy retrieving their own game.  I stood up and removed my long hunting knife from its sheath.  I wanted to inspect the ground.  The blade was very sharp and I nearly cut myself as I held it in my hand.  I laid down my shotgun.  I cut loose all the empty rabbit traps I had set earlier in the day.  My impatience and frustration made me careless.  Most of the stab wounds were too deep: I could not catch the blood and I deprived myself of the pleasure of watching her die slowly.  I thought of the agony of the trapped rabbits, the shot birds, the captured insects, the hunted mice.  The traps were now useless; I had cut them out of the bush too hastily.  This didn’t concern me at all.  My only desire at that point was to leave the forest as soon as possible.  And with good reason.  I was so completely annoyed by the poor number of birds I had shot that I stood up and removed my long hunting knife from its sheath.  And before I examined the ground, I lost track of my friends still busy retrieving their own game.  The blade was very sharp.  I cut myself.  I held the empty rabbit traps in my hands.  My shotgun rendered them useless.  Earlier in the day I laid down my impatience, my exasperation.  By this point my only desire was to leave the forest as soon as possible.

Can you hear me?  Do you want me to call for the doctor?

Everybody was in a weakened state.  No one wanted to remain in the forest after dark.  It was idiotic of us not to tell anyone we would be here.  We had already lost a great deal of blood.  Now we weren’t sure if we could make it back to the main road.  Certainly it was too late to expect other joggers and hunters who, like ourselves, might’ve ventured this far into the woods.  We managed to stand up, walking feebly but steadily ahead.  If we continued at this pace, we might reach the road in about two hours (if we were lucky).  But we were foolish to remain in the forest after dark.  We were too weak; we didn’t want to tell anyone.  Other joggers had already lost a great deal of blood.  They didn’t know if I would make it.  Certainly it was too late to expect to walk steadily ahead.  I managed to stand up.  I had ventured far into the woods.  If I continued at that pace, I would proceed only feebly.  At that moment my leg started to act up again.  I knew I had to get out of that apartment as quickly as possible.  Having committed the murder, my confidence swiftly evaporated.  Now I leapt across the bloodstained corpse, running as fast as possible.  My footsteps echoed loudly in the long empty hallway as I cursed the slow elevator.  And with my leg ablaze with pain, my confidence was shaken.  Having completed my crime, I knew I had to leave the apartment as quickly as possible.  I cursed the slowness of my footsteps.  The elevator seemed to take forever to reach the blood stained corpse.  The hallway echoed loudly as I leapt across the bloody blanket of sparrows and rabbits.  The boy rejoined his friends, already climbing the hill, eager to return home.  The rain clouds had finally burst, and the water streamed down heavily.  He knew they could all run for cover to a nearby resort lodge, owned by the father of one of his friends.  He realized he would be the last to leave; his own father was not supposed to come for him until much later.  But in the meantime he could join his friends, already climbing the hill.  Eager to return home, the rain streamed down heavily.  The boys’ playmates realized that they would be the last to leave.  They knew that their fathers were not supposed to run to a nearby resort lodge.  I saw my car as I rushed through the pouring rain.  Not intending to wander off when I did, I had left the motor running, and I heard the car’s vibrating body.  I could see the car.  I ran towards it in the pouring rain.  I hadn’t expected to wander through the forest, and I had left the motor running.  I could see the car’s vibrating body.  I found the bloody hunting knife next to the fender, sandwiched between the pages of the book.  I withdrew the knife and wiped the blood from the blade.  I could see another forest reflected on the bright metal.  In that forest was another book, and another bloody knife between its pages.  

“No wonder this case got so much publicity.  The strain on you guys must have been horrible.  Your partner must have had it pretty bad, the guy who killed himself.  Pardon me for asking, but did he kill himself when the suspect was released?”

“I didn’t have a partner.  I was the only one assigned to this case.  It was my case.  It belonged to me.  It would always be my case.  There can’t be any doubt about that.  I suppose they think that if they keep playing their little game and constantly put people like you in my path, I’ll finally give in and admit that there’s nothing left to solve.  I know better.  I am not going to give up.  I visit her grave every night.  I loved her so.  She’s buried somewhere in the forest.  There’s a cemetery.  It is very old.  I know where the headstone is but I need markers to guide myself.  I can always ask one of the hunters if I lose my way.  Maybe the people in the resort lodge will let me stop and rest for a little bit.  I’m very tired these days.  I think I need to sleep.  I’ve been working too hard.  I shouldn’t overtax myself with all that exercise.  Running is supposed to be good for the cardiovascular system.  I think shooting defenseless birds should not be a sport.  It is a sick amusement for those who do not value the preciousness of life.  I know how important life is.  I would not harm a bird.  I gave up that wretched hobby long ago when I had a bad dream about all the birds dying simultaneously.  I could not find my game bag and the image of the dying birds filled my mind and I ran away in shame.  I do like movies.  I saw a documentary about the underworld and how murders are often filmed for huge profits.”

I know about that.  I have to talk to that guy who we suspect.  He gets films like that.  I put it in my journal last night so I wouldn’t forget.  It’s on page…  I forgot the page but I know I wrote it down.  So this morning we hauled in Flicker Frankie for some routine ball breaking.  Runs a porno parlor downtown but we know he gets the young stuff.  It’s always timing that screws things up because he’s a clever bastard.  He knows what to hide and when to hide it, like a worm burrowing into fresh mud.  He’s a human sore.  If they’d let me I’d kill him so slowly you’d need time elapse photography to figure out how his body got like that.  There’s information out there and I have to get it before another woman dies.  Confident prick sits there arranging his lard-slick hair with a stainless steel comb.  I don’t deal no under age stuff, he says.  I ain’t about to let nobody search nothin’ without a warrant, he says.  You got probable cause?  You got a charge?  I got a business to run.  Yeah he’s got a business, all right.  The wretched lives of some abused runaway kids get knocked down into the slime a few more notches when they do a little of Frankie’s business on a stained mattress in front of a few cameras.  Just some warm-ups before the street life kicks into high gear.  Right there in the middle of the interrogation room I wanted to cut him open.  Right there I wanted to pluck his eyes out of his head and stuff them down his wretched throat.  I don’t suppose they’d let me include it in the report.  I heard the old stairway creak under Frankie’s fat ass as he walked out of the station.  Plenty of stories that won’t go away about some kind of a cult that imports women for weird sex rites and I’m convinced that ton of shit is a middle-man for the trade.  FBI boys “volunteered” one of their cute ass psycho profiles and they’re into the idea of a lone hunter.  That could be, too.  Hunter and prey, ancient stuff, it’s burned into our genes and we’re trained through life to discard the urges but deep down the original impulse is still alive.  I’ve been going through a few things on anthropology.  The Egyptian stuff in particular, plenty of rites of the dead, that weird resurrection symbol.  Who knows?  Maybe there’s a lead here, something I’ve been missing…I don’t want to miss anything…I have to be thorough…where’s the journal?…time to write it all down…don’t want to forget anything…very important…who knows for sure who’s killing these women?…got to find out…write it all down…write it all down…there’s always a certainty of some kind when you write something down…I saw the film…there was a killing…some kind of strange ritual…I was wearing a hunter’s outfit…they gave me the large knife…I heard stones rattling…it was all very hypnotic…like water falling…they made the film in the forest…the jogger was a rich businessman…he owned a resort lodge there…they told me to do it…I liked the way she gurgled on her blood…let me alone…let me alone…





His insanity had been growing all the time, like a stubborn weed, and the papers and the media had feasted off it. He had fooled everyone.  Now it was over.  He was glad.  The murders in his mind were like being sick on a case of bad scotch while you stumble through a funhouse.   It was like being rolled inside a blood soaked rug while you scream in a nightmare.  No matter what angle he used to look at it, everything turned into another mirrored box, another secret room, nothing that was for sure, like shadows on the walls of an opium parlor. It was like fog sneaking into corners, bending its milky fingers, circling every tree in the forest, leading you nowhere all the time.  A Merry-Go-Round of hooded figures pointing the way and everything just keeps going in circles. On some magical island paradise the Law does its exotic, perfumed dance, but from where he sat the Law was a scarecrow flying into your bloodstream, brandishing hatchets and poison darts; a chunk of raw meat riddled with maggots, spitting up bile, insane, savage.  A nightmare sucking oxygen out of the air. A disfigured pancreas floating through Hell.  No.  There was no Law for him.  There was only the need to kill women. They confiscated his gun and his badge.  He was under arrest. His lips formed a twisted smirk like a deranged Halloween pumpkin.  He knew there would always be something to harvest in the forest.

Peter J. Dellolio was born in New York City in 1956.  He went to Nazareth High School and New York University.  Graduated 1978: BA Cinema Studies; BFA Film Production.  Poetry collections “A Box Of Crazy Toys” published 2018 by Xenos Books/Chelsea Editions.  “Bloodstream Is An Illusion Of Rubies Counting Fireplaces” published February 2023 Cyberwit/Rochak Publishing.

If you would like to be part of The Chamber Magazine family, follow this link to the submissions guidelines. If you like more mainstream fiction and poetry with a rural setting and addressing rural themes, you may also want to check out Rural Fiction Magazine

Please repost this to give it maximum distribution.

Leave a Reply