Daniel Hawthorne was walking home from the late business meeting he had been forced to attend. All he wanted to do was to go home and hug his daughter Lily. His wife had died 5 years ago and his 6-year-old little girl was his everything. At the end of the lane was his house, a respectable house in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Lily’s room was at the window to the right with the teddy bear sitting on the sill.
The light was still on in the living room but Lily should have been in bed. Maybe the sitter was still downstairs in the living room, he thought the door to his house opened. A man walked out of his house. When the man heard Hawthorne’s footsteps he turned to face him before he ran into the darkness.
Hawthorne started running. What had happened? Was Lily hurt? How had that man gotten in? He reached the door of the house. He entered and saw that everything seemed in order, but the baby sitter was no where to be found. He dashed upstairs to Lily’s room. Everything was strangely quiet but he saw that Lily was peacefully asleep. He thought not to alarm her and went to sit by her, watching her sleep. He would have a stern word with the baby sitter tomorrow. Lily’s eyes were closed peacefully; her curls framed her pretty face.
He touched her cheek but she was so cold. He should put a quilt on top of her blanket. He saw something small on top of the blanket but couldn’t quite make out what it was. He turned on the light to see that it was the handle of a knife. Then came the realization that the blade was plunged right through the blanket into Lily’s chest. He could now see the other side of the bed and there lying on the floor was the babysitter – her throat had been slashed.
Seeing Lily being taken away in a body bag, going to the police station, describing the man who walked out of his house that night was like a nightmare he couldn’t escape from. Finally he watched a police line-up. The suspects were filing in on the other side of the one-way glass. One of them was the murderer Hawthorne thought. He wanted to wring that man’s throat and put him through the torture he had inflicted on his little girl. He watched the men file in – it wasn’t number 1, nor was it 2,3,4 or 5. Who could it be? Despair set in. Then number 6 came in the room. Hawthorne studied his face; he looked so much like the man, so much like the man…
“It’s number six”, the words came out his mouth even when he knew he wasn’t sure, but when they told number 6 that he couldn’t leave, the expression that came over his face made Hawthorne positive that he had chosen the right man.
The trial had gone smoothly. Number 6 was Keith Stevens, an African American aged 34. The prosecution, his lawyer, was delivering closing arguments – it would be over soon – his lawyer was sitting back down – the man would be put in jail – the defence stood and gave a feeble attempt at trying to convince the jurors not to give him murder 1 – maybe he would get some closure from this trial, the murderer of his daughter punished – the defence sat back down. The jurors were about to leave and make their decision when someone came into the courtroom and spoke to the defence attorney. The defence attorney stood and spoke to the judge. His lawyer was called up to join them, the three of them stood whispering in a silent and intent courtroom.
The prosecution seemed shocked. His counterpart looked victorious. The judge was lost in thought. What was happening? His lawyer came back, Hawthorne was confused and asked him what could have happened, but all he did was mumble in a vague, quiet way, something about sloppy police work and how they might lose the case. Lose the case? But Hawthorne had been told this was an open and shut investigation. This was the trial to justify his daughter’s death with some sort of punishment. They couldn’t lose, now when they had the man, when they had everything they needed to convict him!
He was told that the judge had to make a decision and they would be informed when he had done so. Soon they were called back into the courtroom, only to be told that Keith Stevens would be set free on a technicality. Number 6 hugged his lawyer and was let out of the courtroom. But Daniel Hawthorne just sat, he couldn’t move, the murderer of his daughter, set free, no punishment for number 6, just a lifetime of pain for him and nothing for his daughter.
* * * * *
He was home now, in a house too big for one person. He went to his daughter’s room, which hadn’t been cleaned. There had been a nice burial in a small cemetery behind a Catholic Church and he had prayed at that church after the funeral for the strength to carry on. But Hawthorne just wanted to kill that son of a… and then the idea of revenge entered his mind. He couldn’t come to terms with his grief. It washed over him in waves and controlled his every move and thought. He couldn’t let number 6 go; he had killed his daughter. The police had failed him and the legal system had failed him but he would not fail himself, number 6 would be punished.
For days he pondered how he would carry out his act of vengeance. He could not go to anyone else, as they would report him to the authorities so he would have to do it by himself.
He couldn’t sleep so he sat alone in living room, whispering to the walls “I will not let the person who killed you go free, Lily, don’t you worry, your daddy is here for you.” He went to a drawer and pulled out a revolver, it wasn’t loaded because he was afraid of the accidents that could happen if his Lily found the gun, “no need to worry about that now” he muttered. But as he looked at the gun he realised that he couldn’t kill the murderer then and there, he would almost surely be caught. He needed to find out more about number 6.
His name was Keith Stevens, wasn’t it? He should have a number and address in the directory. Hawthorne wanted to run out and find one at that moment, but as he didn’t want to be conspicuous he waited until the next morning to go to work. He would nonchalantly go to work as normal and just stop by the phone booth. He had his plan set out in his head and soon he would carry it out.
* * * * *
At 8 o’clock he dressed to go to work, he had not slept the whole night but was not tired. He stepped into a phone booth near the bus stop, pretended to make a call and looked in the directory to find Keith Stevens’s address and phone number. When he found it he etched it into his memory, he didn’t want to write it down as anyone could then see it.
Work was monotonous and when it was finished Hawthorne was eager to get home. On the bus he wondered how he would avenge his daughter, it certainly wouldn’t be very pleasant, he would make sure of that. It hadn’t been pleasant for Lily. He reached home and went to his study. Number 6 lived on 178th street in the slums of Los Angeles. Hawthorne sat thinking about this for a long time in the dark. The long hours thinking turned night into day and when morning came he called into work saying that he was sick. He travelled to 178th street and rented a motel room for the day, from this motel room he could see directly into number 6’s house.
Number six left the house at 10 o’clock and came back numerous times until he arrived home at 6 o’clock in the evening. He then made something to eat and went out at 10:30 only to come back at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Hawthorne was watching the murderer of his daughter free, it was almost too much but he kept his composure, he didn’t breakdown. There was something more important to be dealt with. The next day Hawthorne went home and called his company to say that he wasn’t going to come into work anymore. They would understand, he thought, they had to have some compassion, his daughter had died only a few days ago. He packed some clothes, food and money and left to live in that hellhole slum.
* * * * *
Hawthorne watched number 6 from a darkened motel room for weeks, but it seemed that there was no pattern in his movements, then Hawthorne realised that he was always home for 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock every Wednesday. He took notes of everything from where number 6 stored his plates to how to turn on the TV.
On the Monday of the fifth week Hawthorne bought a cheap doll from a shop and tied it into an upright position, he then took a sharp knife, walked up soundlessly behind it and in one quick movement slashed it’s throat so that the stuffing came tumbling out. He did this over and over again until he felt he had done the action with perfect technique.
On Tuesday he went to a medical supply store to buy latex gloves, he then bought a wig, a pair of large sunglasses and some very baggy clothes from the nearby Wal-Mart. When he went back to the motel room to put them together, he hardly looked himself.
On Wednesday morning he sat watching number 6, his anticipation was growing and his patience waning. Hawthorne was ready to strike but he had to wait, those few hours waiting for number 6 to return seemed longer than the five weeks he had been stalking him. At 7:14 number 6 stepped into his building. Hawthorne knew the man would be there for over an hour and so he took his time when packing his things.
At 7:38 he stepped out of the motel, bringing all his belongings with him. He told the motel manager that he would be leaving but asked if he could use the washroom on the ground floor. The motel manager gave him permission and Hawthorne used a cubicle to dress in his wig, sunglasses, latex gloves and baggy clothes. He walked out the back entrance of the bathroom so no one would see him. Leaving all his belongings, apart from his knife, behind the motel he walked to number 6’s small, crummy apartment building.
It was 7:50 by his watch as he climbed the steps to the right floor and entered the apartment. It was surprisingly easy as there only one lock to pick which he did very quietly. He entered the apartment silently and saw number 6 with his back to him in a sofa watching TV. Hawthorne took out his knife, stepped behind number 6 and slashed his throat like the doll. A perfect execution. Number 6 lay on the ground for a few seconds, his screams coming out as gurgles in the blood seeping out of his gutted neck. Hawthorne then left as quietly as he had come, he picked up his belongings from behind the motel and left for home.
* * * * *
When the police asked neighbours about Keith Stevens’s death, they say they saw a Caucasian man with dark brown hair and sunglasses walking into and out of the building at the time of the murder. Nothing else was found out about this man, not a hair or fibre or fingerprint.
Hawthorne reached his room and at last fell to sleep.