The Canyon Killer Crime Flash Fiction By Curtis Ippolito

The Canyon Killer: Crime Flash Fiction By Curtis Ippolito

Curtis Ippolito, author of The Canyon Killer, has previously published short fiction in Grasslimb among others. In “The Canyon Killer”, a man who found a dead body with his sister as kids now hopes discovering the identity of the killer 30 years later will stop the nightmares and fear he still holds. 

*****

I’m about to find out in a text the name of the killer who has haunted me for the last 30 years.

My sister just sent, “Did you see this?” with a link to a San Diego Union-Tribune story titled: “Online ancestry, detectives’ work snares serial killer.”

I click the link and start reading the story in a mutter.

“John Allen Webber, 67, of Lakeside was arrested and charged…”

I’m driving my family to church and swerve a bit.

“Can you stop texting and get us there in one piece?” my wife barks.

“Sorry,” I say meekly, picking up the phone from between my legs and plopping it into one of the cupholders.

My palms are clammy, my hands shaking and my vision isn’t so clear.

“What’s wrong with you, Craig?”

“Allison—”

“Is she ok?”

“Yes, yes. She sent me a text—” I lower my voice to keep our daughters from hearing and whisper, “The police caught him,” bugging out my eyes.

“Who, daddy?” our oldest asks.

“Nothing. No one, dear,” I say, straightening up and add, “Never mind,” to my wife.

She knows the torture this killer has put me through. The sweat-soaked nights. The lack of confidence. The fear I live and parent with.

“Pull over,” she says.

“We’re almost there. I’ll check it later.”

“Pull over,” she repeats, her hand on my arm.

She knows the torture this killer has put me through. The sweat-soaked nights. The lack of confidence. The fear I live and parent with.

My sister? Not so much. The killer inspired her; made her the success she is today. Where I fled into the boring arms of information technology, Allison went to medical school, became a physician and now relishes her acclaim as the County’s medical examiner.

I pull the car over, the tires crunch on the beat-up shoulder of this residential street.

It began the summer when I was 13 and Allison was 11. Our family lived in a neighborhood on a mesa, the outer street of which snaked along the rim of a densely-planted canyon.

We begged our parents for weeks to let us hike down to the bottom and back.

“But there’s a trail!” I screamed after our mom insisted people weren’t allowed to hike there.

My logic won their approval and we set out the next day. It only took me and Allison a few paces down the trail to realize it was not man-made, but one beaten by the canyon’s wild animals. Probably coyotes. But maybe a mountain lion.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to see a mountain lion?” I asked Allison.

“Not at all,” she replied with a snap in her voice. “Do you want us to die or something?”

I laughed and poked her with that stick the rest of the way down. I even faked seeing a mountain lion paw print at one point.

“Look!” There’s water in it, so you know one has been through here recently,” I joked, tugging at her pink t-shirt. Allison correctly identified it as a dog print that I had poured water into from my thermos. It was still fun to mess with her.

We got to the bottom of the canyon, or as far as we could, in about an hour. The narrow trail had collapsed and we were surrounded by mounds of buckwheat and salvia bushes and nests of rambling cactus.

We decided to take a break and found a boulder to rest on. Taking in the canyon as we split a Ziploc bag of Cheez-Its, we pointed at the tiny estates perched on the rim above and watched lizards and birds navigate the scrub brush. The afternoon sky was cloudless and the air cool.

We had almost finished the Cheez-Its when Allison noticed a trampled section of bushes. We wondered if it was another trail we could explore and I volunteered to investigate.

We decided to take a break and found a boulder to rest on.

I kicked my legs out, hopped off the boulder and bounded over. As soon as I got to the suspected trailhead, I instead found the twisted body of a dead woman.

I don’t recall what I cried, but Allison ran over and yelled, “Whoa!” with wonder in her eyes.

I spun away and squeezed my eyes shut, but the woman’s shocked eyes flashed behind mine anyway. Multiple splintered bones protruded through her pale skin. What was left of her clothes was in tatters and her red hair full of twigs.

“Think she fell in?” Allison asked.

“I, I don’t know,” I managed while gagging.

“I bet somebody threw her in.”

“Shut up!” I yelled.

We climbed out of the canyon and returned with the police to show them what we found.

Over the next months, Allison checked the paper every day for updates on the case. She told me all about how detectives were trying to identify the woman. How they didn’t have a suspect but dubbed him “The Canyon Killer.” And how the victim had been raped post-mortem.

The case went cold, but my dreams persisted. The mom-aged woman I found as a child gets younger looking with each passing year. Her eyes never look less surprised.

I switch seats with my wife and I’m skimming through the newspaper article for more information about John Allen Webber as we pull into First Lakeside Church.

“I can’t believe they found him,” I mumble. Maybe now the dreams will stop.

“Girls. You’re going to be late for Sunday School,” my wife says. They jump out of the sliding doors and run into the church, their matching sundresses flapping behind them.

Looking back at the article, I gasp.

“What is it, Craig?”

I look at her and feel my eyes throbbing.

“He lives on our street.”

*****

If you’ve enjoyed “The Canyon Killer″ by Curtis Ippolito, feel free to check our free digital archive of crime, thriller, and horror flash fiction which is available here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

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