I’m writing this to tell you my town, Dorburn’s, story. I’ll start from the beginning. My name is Tommy Chatin. I’m a junior at Westborrow High School in a small town in Michigan. When I say a small town, I mean a small town. The kind of town where everybody knows everybody else. And we’re religious. As in we have one high school, and 6 churches. I didn’t exactly love my town, but I wasn’t one of those kids itching to get out. I could see myself working as a cop down here, following in my father’s footsteps. Everyone said I was a carbon copy of my dad. It was our brown hair and green eyes that gave us away. I wasn’t one of the popular jocks, but I wasn’t one of the nerds either. I was in that good middle where I knew all the drama and I got invited to all the parties, but I was never dragged in the middle of it. Honestly, life was good. It was great actually. Until he decided to ruin it all. I have no idea why he did it. It makes no sense. I think about it all the time and I can never come up with an explanation.
It all started when a new kid moved into town. We didn’t get a lot of newcomers. Everyone who lived here had ancestors that go way back to the original settlers. The new kid was weird from the beginning. He kept to himself and didn’t talk to anyone. Apparently. I had never actually met the guy but the rumors definitely painted a picture.
“Did you hear about the new kid?” Suzy Weindham asked me. I was putting my books away in my locker, getting ready for the last period of the day.
“Yeah. Heard he was some weird kid from California. His parents went bankrupt so they had to move here.” Suzy and I had been friends since we were in diapers. Our dads were on the force together, and our moms always teamed up for the PTA bake sale. She always had her curly blonde hair in a ponytail and a sketchpad in her hands. I guess some things don’t change as you grow up.
She leaned in close, “I heard that his parents are actually fugitives and they’re running from the law.” I just laughed and shook my head. Of course, rumors like this were spreading. People didn’t have anything better to do than stick their noses in other people’s business. “Suzy, come on. That’s ridiculous.” She humphed and hugged her books tighter to her chest. “Well, that’s what I heard.”
The bell rang, and Suzy waved a quick goodbye before running off to her class. This new kid was already the talk of the town and he’d barely moved in. I walked to my favorite class - Anatomy. I don’t know why I loved it, but it made sense to me. I liked knowing what was going on in my body and I always wanted to know more. It Didn’t hurt that Mr. Gosman and my dad have been friends since high school, so he knew me already.
“Hey, Tommy. You ready for the lab today?” Mr. Grosman asked from his desk. I thought he was a pretty healthy, good-looking guy. But according to the whispers from the girls in the first row, he was a real hunk. “Yeah,” I said, setting my books down on my desk and sliding into my chair. “I’ve been looking forward to this all week.” We were gonna dissect a cat today. A couple of the girls had already opted out of it, but I was looking forward to seeing what made them tick. It was cool to see that only a couple organs made us who we are and gave us life.
“Can you come here for a second Tommy?” Mr. Grosman motioned me over to him. “Yeah, Mr. Grosman?” He leaned against his table and ran his hand through his dark black hair. “I’m sure you’ve heard of the new kid in town?” Goddamn, I really couldn’t even go an hour without someone talking about him. I knew where this was going, and I really didn’t want to be a babysitter. “You have the best grade in this class. I was hoping you could show him the ropes. He came on one of the most difficult dissections of the school year.” I knew Dr. Grosman saw my face fall cause he put his arm around me in that way parents do when they tell you that your dog has to go the ‘farm upstate.’ He sighed, “I know you don’t want to be looking after this kid, but it would really help me out. And you know, teaching someone else might help you learn even more. And who knows? You guys might get along.” Internally I was rolling my eyes. I couldn’t believe this kid hasn’t even been here a day and he’s already ruined the one thing I’ve been looking forward to all semester. But I knew I had to. If not for Mr. Grosman, for my dad. He would hear about it the second I said no. “Of course, Mr. Grosman. Happy to help out.” He chuckled, ruffled my hair, and sent me back to my seat.
I had just finished getting all of my supplies ready. I had my tools out, my safety equipment on, and I was just starting hope that the new kid just didn’t come to his first day of school. “All right. I’m gonna pretend like you all read the procedure last night. So, let’s get starte-.” A kid wearing blue jeans and a meme shirt ran into the classroom. His face was bright red and his breath coming out in pants. “I’m so sorry I’m late. I got lost.” Wow. Great first day.
“Not to worry. We have a seat for you right next to Tommy.” Mr. Grosman said, motioning towards me. “Class, this is Ethan Sakin.” Ethan hurried over to his seat and started preparing his safety equipment, ignoring all the stares of people trying to figure out if any of the rumors were true.
“I’m Tommy. Nice to meet you. I’ll help you out with any questions or whatever.” I said, giving his hand a shake. He smiled a timid smile at me. He had dirty blonde hair that flopped down over his forehead and hazel brown eyes. I could already tell that the girls were gonna start whispering about how cute he was. “I’m Ethan. Thanks, but I’ve always been good at anatomy. I think I’ll be okay.”
And that is how our friendship began. He wasn’t kidding when he said he was good. He knew more than I did, turns out he had taken some extra classes on it back home. After this, we became practically inseparable. We liked going into the forest and digging up animal bones. This was our little secret. We would tell our parents we were going to some study session or something and hike through the forest for hours, searching for whatever we could find. This was something that was just ours, something that nobody else knew about.
And then strange things started happening around town. It started off slow at first. Things would go missing, like some utensils from science class like a scalpel or a bone saw. Mr. Grosman just figured it was some kid pulling a prank.
But then the cops found a dead raccoon in some bushes near the high school. That usually wouldn’t be weird, but the raccoon had been cut open. Someone had removed its organs and dug around in its body. The cops didn’t really have an explanation for this. They tried to keep people from knowing about it but that was almost impossible.
And then the Dorman’s new puppy, Rocks, went missing right out of their backyard. The cops had no clue who could have done it because everyone knew their backyard door latch didn’t work. Really anyone could have taken their puppy. It was only a week before Halloween, so dad told them not to worry. That it was probably some kid taking it to freak people out.
A 6-year-old girl found Rocks in the park a few days later. He had been cut open just like the raccoon. His body had been laid out like a display for whoever found him. This time the police department took Rocks to the vet to see what had killed him. The examiner said that the official cause of death was “manual asphyxiation.” Basically, someone had choked the puppy with their bare hands and then cut him open to dig around his insides. Dad said the worst part wasn’t even that Rocks had been killed or basically butchered. It was that the person left him on the playground in the park. He wanted Rocks to be found, most likely by some kid which would scar them for life. The person who did this was a real sicko.
My town used to be that kind of place where you could leave your door wide open and feel perfectly safe inside your house. Now, everyone locked their pets up and made sure to double bolt their doors. And of course, enemy number one was Ethan. When he was finally starting to get accepted at school, people would whisper about him, about how weird he was. He would get anonymous notes about being a puppy killer and his parents would get passive aggressive looks from the other parents. Didn’t matter that the police didn’t have a shred of evidence. Nobody thought their neighbor could be a killer. It was just easier to blame the new kid. School was hell for a while for Ethan, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. He still had me. My dad always told me that you were innocent until proven guilty and he was the only one on the force who didn’t blame Ethan for the killings.
But then Allison Welham went missing. At first, it wasn’t so weird. She didn’t go a single day without complaining about being here. She talked about running away just as much as she talked about her hair or the new lip gloss she had just bought. She had dreams of becoming some hotshot actress or model and never looking back. Everyone just figured she had run away to LA. She had threatened to do that more times than her parents could count. We just figured that she finally had the balls to follow through. Nobody suspected anything until we checked her social media. She was like a heroin addict in that if she didn’t tweet at least once every couple hours, she would go through withdrawal. So, the police force organized a huge manhunt. Everyone in the entire town helped out. We searched everywhere; every nook and cranny. Even the woods where Ethan and I hung out. She was found in less than an hour. She was a few miles into the woods, barely covered with leaves. They wouldn’t let us see her body, but word travels like wildfire around here. Turns out she had been choked to death and cut open. Just like the animals. She was put on display. Her arms and legs were fanned out as if the killer wanted us to see every sick, twisted thing he had done to her.
Everybody was suddenly on high alert. Nobody was safe anymore. There was an informal curfew, parents wouldn’t let their kids walk anywhere alone, everyone’s pets were always locked indoors. And Ethan was ostracized. Nobody said anything outright to him, but everyone knew the rumors that were spreading. My mom didn’t like me spending time with him, but my dad was adamant. Unless they found evidence of Ethan being the killer, he was innocent. And they had nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. No fingerprints. No DNA. Not even a shoe print. The only thing the medical examiner could tell us that she had been dead a week and that the person had used medical equipment – like the kind stolen from science class. But that didn’t help. Anyone could have stolen them. It would have been just as easy for a parent to walk in and steal the supplies as for a kid.
For a while, everything settled down. It had been months since anything unusual had happened and people kind of forgot about Ethan. It was back to normal. We would still see Allison’s parents at the grocery store and they would look like zombies. They had cold, empty stares and they would be looking off into nothing. But the town moved on quick. If I’m being completely honest, nobody missed Allison around here.
But then Clara Morin went missing. Clara was the exact opposite of Allison. Everyone knew she was going to grow up to be the kindergarten teacher at the elementary school. She taught Bible class every Sunday. She volunteered at an animal shelter. She was the town sweetheart. The day her parents found out she was gone, there was a massive search for her. But she was nowhere to be found. The police knocked on almost every single door, searched every house, interviewed almost every residence, and covered every inch of the woods. But she had just disappeared.
A week later, a jogger found her a mile away from where Allison was found. Exactly like her – cut open and barely covered with leaves. But this time was different. And so much worse.
According to the medical examiner, she hadn’t been choked this time. She died from “exsanguination.” Blood loss. The psycho had cut her open when she was still alive. And just like last time, there was no evidence at all. The entire town was horrified. Parents started pulling their kids out of school. Some families sent their daughters to a family member’s house in another town. The Davenports even talked about moving. But then 6 months passed, and it was like some bad dream again. Even though everybody loved Clara, we could only stay on one topic for so long. After a while, people even started making a joke out of it. “The crazy psycho killer is gonna get you in your sleep.”
The town finally felt safe enough to have a town celebration for the Fourth of July. Our Independence Day celebrations were impossible to beat. We set up an amusement park complete with tooth-rotting candy, giant pretzels, and the fireworks display went on for hours.
“Really? The whole town? Sounds kinda lame.” Ethan said to me. We were at my house playing video games before heading to the festival. “Yeah, I know. But it’s actually pretty cool. We go all out and everyone from the towns there.” Ethan just shook his head, pausing the game. He pulled his navy-blue jacket closer to him when a draft blew through the windows. “I don’t know man. You wanna ditch and go to the forest again? We have more fun there anyway.” He was right. We had more fun when it was just us. But I knew my dad would flip if he didn’t see us there; it was basically a town tradition. “We can go after. We just gotta show up for a couple hours.” Ethan just muttered “whatever” and went back to playing the game.
Come carnival time, we were in a huge crowd of people, waiting in line for the claw ride, joking around as usual, when we saw Mr. Weindham, Suzy’s dad, frantically running around, scanning the crowd. Mrs. Weindham was right behind him, calling out Suzy’s name. There were tears running down her cheeks and she looked like she was about to go into hysterics. My dad comes running up behind them and shakes his head. Suzy’s dad’s knees buckle from under him like they couldn’t support his weight anymore, and her mom just kept screaming out her name. Ethan and I run over to dad as he tries to console Mr. Weindham. Or at least get him standing up again. I couldn’t believe people didn’t notice any of this. Everyone was just lost in their own little worlds.
“What happened? Is Suzy okay?”
“What’s wrong? Where’s Suzy?” Ethan and I asked at the same time. My dad gives me the same look he gave me when he told me what happened to Allison and Clara.
“When was the last time you guys saw her?” Dad asked. Mrs. Weindham just stared straight ahead, tears streaming down her face, not really looking at anything. Mr. Weindham was still kneeling in place and I already knew what he thought. That he was picturing seeing Suzy’s body just like he saw the others.
“We saw her yesterday at school,” Ethan said. I nodded my head in agreement. “Yeah. Did she get home from school?” I asked. Mrs. Weindham nodded. Her voice was a small quiver. “She went to her friend’s house, so they could come here together.” Her voice broke at the end. She took a moment to wipe the tears off her face. “We didn’t want her going anywhere alone. We were supposed to meet her at the hot dog stand three hours ago.” By the end, her voice had trailed off to a sob.
It wasn’t even a question whether we would help look for her. Dad just told us to make sure not to tell anyone. If people learned that she had been kidnapped on the one day the town felt safe, it would be hell to control everyone. Turns out Suzy never even made it to her friend’s house. Dad and the Weindhams knew that it was the same guy that killed Allison and Carla. There was no way Suzy got lost in the same place she grew up her entire life. We covered the entire carnival, our neighborhood, we even checked the school to see if she decided to go there for whatever reason. Nothing.
It was starting to get dark, so we headed back to my house. It always got chilly when the sun went down and I could hear Ethan shivering next to me. “You can borrow my jacket when we get back,” I told him. But as soon as we walked through the doors, my dad was there waiting for us. Along with three other police officers.
“Where were you.” He growled as soon as our feet passed the threshold. I’d never seen him this mad before. I took a step back, my arms coming up defensively. But he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking right at Ethan. “We were coming back from school. We were checking to see if Suzy was there.” I said. Dad didn’t say anything. He just stared at Ethan as if he was trying to figure him out. And Ethan just stared right back, his face completely blank. I got in between them, my hands still up. “Dad, what’s going on?”
He looked like he had just been shaken out of a trance. “Get out of the way Tommy.” He and the other cops took a step forward. I could see Hernandez, the cop who found Allison’s body, reach for his handcuffs from his belt. “Not until you tell me what this is about.” I wasn’t going to let them take Ethan away just because he was the new kid. The town had finally just gotten over this.
“Tommy.” Dad snarled. He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the way while Hernandez put the cuffs on Ethan. I was pulling at dad’s grip, trying to get to Ethan, but he was the calmest I had ever seen him. He didn’t struggle, didn’t argue, didn’t even flinch as Hernandez tightened the cuffs to the point I knew they would leave marks. Ethan’s face was completely blank. It was almost like he had been expecting for this to happen. They led him out of there as I screamed and struggled against dad’s grip, but he grabbed my hand so tight, he had cut off the circulation.
I whirled around when Ethan was out of the room and yanked my hand away. “How could you? You always said they were innocent until proven guilty. Tears were streaming down my face, my hands were shaking uncontrollably, and my face was bright red. Dad gave me a sad look and shook his head.
“We found Suzy’s body in the woods.” He whispered. “And Ethan’s jacket.” And my entire world froze. I could feel ice spreading through my veins, hear my heartbeat. “No,” I whispered. It wasn’t him. I knew it wasn’t him. “He was set up. He had to be.” I looked up at dad, pleading for this to just be some horrible prank. He just shook his head and sighed. “It was covered in blood. I’m sorry.” His eyes filled with tears. He had known Suzy since she was in diapers. The entire town did. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell George. I think secretly he was hoping that she had just run away. God knows anything would be better than this.” Dad patted my shoulder and walked out the door.
It’s been three weeks since Ethan was arrested. Rumors started spreading the hour after he was handcuffed. His parents practically had to be put in protective custody. They couldn’t leave the house without someone at the very least screaming at them. Turns out they left their old town because the cops there suspected him of the same thing. The only difference was that they couldn’t prove it. They found the equipment stolen from science class at his house. His basement had been scrubbed clean, but they found evidence of all three girl’s blood down there. They have more than enough evidence, but they’ve been keeping him in interrogation. I think the town just wants to know why. But he never confessed to any of his crimes. Until yesterday.
Hell, I want to know why too. Why would he do something like this? He was going away for life already. Why did he have to tell everyone that it was the both of us? Why? It’s not like they offered him a deal or anything. I’ve been making sure dad didn’t connect the dots. And I figured that even if Ethan told him, dad wouldn’t believe him. It never even occurred to me that Ethan would tell them about the videos. A file for Allison, Carla, and Suzy. Everything we had done in his basement and in those woods. We spent hours there. There were even videos of what we had done to Rocks. Those were supposed to be ours. Our trophies to watch and rewatch. Now we were both going to be strung up.
I wanted to write down our story before I was gone for good. I knew something was wrong when dad came home last night. He always told me what happened because he knew how hard I was taking it. But when he came home last night, he was acting weird. He told me that Ethan had mentioned something about videos and I knew then that I was on borrowed time. I’ve blockaded my room and the front door, but I can hear the sirens outside, see the flashes of red and blue, and my dad with a megaphone asking me to come outside so we could “talk”. I can’t believe they actually think I’m that stupid. I can picture my mom at the station crying her eyes out. I can hear them try to break down my front door with a battering ram. I know it won’t be much longer now. I just wanted to leave you with one last answer - the answer to the question people will be asking us for centuries. Why did we do it? Why did we torture those girls?
Easy. Because we wanted to.