The Hairbrush Murderer
Miriam opened the door to her bedroom and hurried in, glancing through the window at the darkened back yard. She yelled to her husband downstairs. “I’ll be ready as soon as I brush my hair.”
“Okay, Dear. I’ll get the umbrellas. Rain, on New Year’s Eve. And you wanted snow.”
Miriam walked to her vanity and halted, her face frozen in mid gasp. In the middle of the clutter sat two hairbrushes—one of them, with brown tortoise shell handle, definitely not hers. Miriam’s stomach roiled.
“Jacob!” Her voice cracked. “Come quick. He’s been here.” She heard Jacob’s footsteps thumping on the wooden steps and turned to meet him as he entered the room. “This brush…, Jacob,… it’s not mine. I’m scared.”
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“I’m calling the police.” Jacob lifted the receiver from the telephone at his bedside. “Dead—line must be cut.” He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed 9-1-1. Shaking, Miriam sat on the bed and picked up the Times. She read the headline: “Hairbrush Killer Attacks Again.”
Jacob eyed her and the quivering newspaper, and then turned back to the phone. “Yes, it’s an emergency. My wife found a hairbrush…. It’s not hers…. On her dressing table. I think it’s that guy—the one who leaves a hairbrush when he kills women…. Yes, right away. I think he’s in the house.”
Miriam dropped the newspaper to the floor, exposing the photograph of a young woman lying on her bed, her hair neatly brushed into a fan above her head. Blood pooled on the pillow, and a tortoise shell hairbrush lay between her breasts. Jacob turned and walked to Miriam, the phone at his ear.
“Jacob, I’m so frightened,” Miriam said. She slapped her hands over her face. “I think he’s in the house. That brush wasn’t there when I took my shower.”
“Okay, honey,” he said smoothing her hair. He strode to the bedroom door, closed and locked it. Then he went into the bathroom, jerked aside the shower curtain, and returned to the bedroom. “The police will be here soon.”
A crash from downstairs startled them both. Miriam drew her knees up and clutched them with her arms, her heels on the bed. Jacob instinctively stepped between the bed and the bedroom door. He looked around the room for a weapon and discounted the small scissors and nail file on Miriam’s table. The shoe he picked up and dropped clattered on the floor. He rushed to the closet and lifted an end of the pole, sliding hangars and clothes off into a heap on the floor. With the pole gripped in both hands, he resumed his position beside the bed.
Another thump, the sound of a drawer slamming in the kitchen. A moment later Jacob heard the thud of wood on wood and guessed someone had overturned the chair at the foot of the staircase. Miriam sat up, her eyes wide, jaw clenched, her hair now a tangled mass of brown. She picked up one of her high-heeled shoes, held it in her right hand, and from the table, she grabbed a can of hair spray and pointed it at the door. She moved to Jacob’s side.
The sound of shoes slapping on wooden stair treads penetrated the bedroom door. Jacob and Miriam tensed, their breathing imperceptible. His knuckles whitened as Jacob gripped the pole. Miriam gripped her shoe and stepped behind Jacob. They no longer heard footsteps and knew the intruder was on the rug in the hallway.
In the next instant they heard the din of breaking glass and seconds later a terrible commotion. A shot reverberated in the hallway, and the bedroom door vibrated with a loud thump. The commotion stopped and was replaced by a long silence while Jacob and Miriam stared at each other.
Then an abrasive, male voice said, “Police. Open up.” Jacob turned his head to the door, then back at Miriam, his brow questioning.
“Shove your badge under the door,” Miriam said. Jacob walked to the door, and Miriam lowered her shoe.
“Won’t fit, ma’am.”
Turning back to the door, Jacob raised the pole in his right hand. He glanced at Miriam. She shook her head vigorously and mouthed something he didn’t get. As he reached for the doorknob with his left hand she cried, “Jacob!”
He hesitated for a moment, then unlocked the door and turned the knob.