Short Story – Interstate 495

Tommy frantically rushed to the newsagents early Saturday morning. The night before he overheard his mother on the phone discussing the day’s events.

“Oh god, not another one. That’s the second this month! What was her name? Rebecca. Only nineteen. This is just awful. Let’s just pray the police find this guy. You stay safe Julie.” Helen said.

He didn’t sleep that night, the insomnia took over.

He looked awful the next day, the colour drained from his skin, darkness under his eyes. He was deteriorating from the inside out. His family became increasingly worried, his mother Helen in particular. Since the start of the killings Tommy’s demeanour had done a complete one eighty. The once happy, caring boy who was full of life became a thing of the past. He’d become isolated, paranoid and a fragile being. The walls were closing in on Tommy White.

The front door burst open startling his mother. Tommy sprinted up the stairs, firmly clutching a newspaper slamming his bedroom door shut.

“Tommy…! Tommy are you okay?” his mother said.

He didn’t respond.

His heart was beating out his chest, his breathing becoming heavier and heavier the more he read the article.

“College Student becomes fourth victim of the Long Island Killer”

The article read that Rebecca was found lying face down in a ditch just off interstate 495 with multiple gun shots to her back, legs and head. The killer was starting to get cocky, they stopped trying to cover up their crimes. Instead they began tossing bodies on the side of the road like a cigarette out a car window.

Tommy was fixated on this article but his concertation was broken from a loud knock at the door. He quickly hid the paper under his mattress before composing himself.

“What?” He said

This mother gently opened the door with a cup of hot cocoa. She was careful with her words, showing empathy towards her son, who was falling apart in front of her. She felt helpless.

“It’s only me honey. I made you cocoa.” She said

“Thanks mom, just leave it on the bedside table.”

The atmosphere was tense. Tommy wouldn’t make eye contact and would barely talk. She didn’t want to leave the room but she knew she was overstaying her welcome. She watched him for a moment before dismissing herself.

“Mom.” He said.

She swung around with sheer joy. Maybe Tommy was about to open up to her. Tell her what’s really wrong.

“Yes honey!” She said

“Close the door on the way out.”

Her heart sank. She didn’t reply to his request but she did it anyway.

She needed to distract herself for a while before Norman gets home. She slumped into the sofa while contemplating her next move. Closing her eyes and letting out a deep sigh as if she were about to sleep for the next year, she was exhausted. She couldn’t stand the atmosphere in the house anymore. She couldn’t stand worrying about Tommy day in day out. She didn’t understand why the recent events of the murders were getting to Tommy so much?

“These killings… ever since these killings started he’s changed… But why? Why are they effecting him so much?” she whispered to herself.

Her eyes began to well up as she racked her brains trying to think of a possible explanation but she had nothing.

She wiped away her tears and took a deep breath before mustering up the strength to get up and do something, anything.

“Housework. That’ll keep me busy until it’s time to start dinner. Until Norm gets home.” She thought.

She turned on the radio and began in the kitchen, dusting window ledges, wiping work surfaces and washing dishes.

About half an hour past, Helen was fixated on cleaning the windows, scrubbing as hard as she could do remove every finger print, every bit of dust and dirt, however she was startled by the sound of the front door slamming shut.

She abruptly stopped what she was doing to look at the clock only too realise it was too early for Norman, her husband to be home from work. Her mind turned to Tommy. She rushed to the bottom of stairs and shouted up to him.

“Tommy…! Tommy honey are you there?”

She got no response which sent her into a panic. Her attention was broken when she heard a car engine fire up outside. Darting to the window she saw Tommy pulling out the driveway in his run down Mustang. She watched him speed of down interstate 495 turning right towards New York City.

“What’s he doing?” She asked herself.

About four hours had passed since Tommy left. Helen sat at the kitchen table gnawing on her nails. She needed to figure out what was wrong with her boy. She took it upon herself to rummage through Tommy’s room hoping to find some clues as to what’s going on. After lifting the mattress she found something. A plain black scrapbook and a newspaper. She glanced at the paper but it was a normal paper, nothing out of the ordinary, she tossed it aside and sat on the edge of the bed flicking through the scrapbook. What she saw left her speechless. She carried on studying the contents of the book before the sound of the front door startled her. In a panic she straightened out the bed and scurried out the room carefully closing the door behind her. She rushed into her and Norman’s room and hid the book in the back of the wardrobe.

“I’m home…! Helen?” Norman said

A wave of relief overcame her. She rushed down the stairs to greet her husband with a kiss.

“Hi honey. How was your day?”

“Oh it was fine thanks. What’s for dinner?”

Helen paused and stared blankly at Norman. He knew something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Tommy.” She said

“What’s happened…!? Where is he? Is he okay?”

“He went out a few hours ago. I don’t know where… Come upstairs I need to show you something”

Helen led Norman to their bedroom, he was apprehensive. She pulled out the scrapbook from the wardrobe and showed Norman the contents. He was shocked to say the least, confused and alarmed, they both were. The book was filled with newspaper clippings, conspiracy theories and research dating as far back as 1963. Information about T. Eugene Thompson’s trial, the 1986 Murder of Helle Crafts and information about the authenticity of the film Fargo that came out a year earlier. Tommy was obsessed with Fargo, he watched it in theatres over ten times and wouldn’t stop talking about it at home. But his parent’s never thought too much of it. As well as the information, Tommy had written his own thoughts and theories in the scrapbook. One entry in particular caught Helen and Norman’s eye.

“They were warnings. How could I miss it? It’s going to happen to me. I’m scared. How do I escape…? Poor Rebecca the paper said she wasn’t fast enough. Poor girl.”

Helen began to cry. None of this made any sense to them. What was wrong with their son?

“What the fuck is this?!” said Norman

“I don’t know…! I think he thinks these events are linked in some way” said Helen

“This doesn’t make sense. He thinks the events of ’63 and ’86 are somehow linked to this serial killer on the loose?”

Helen was at a loss for words. She just shrugged and hung her head in despair.

“I knew something was up with him. Ever since these murderers went public he started acting strange, but I still don’t get it Norm.” Said Helen.

Norman carried on scanning through the disturbing content.

“You know, one of the guys at work said he heard that the cops are close to catching this guy.” He said as he continued to look through the book. Helen didn’t respond, instead she kept on weeping. She didn’t care about any murderer, her biggest concern was her son. Norman closed the book and turned to Helen. He gently pushed upward on her chin to get her attention.

“I think it’s time we call someone Helen.” he said

“Call who?” she said

“I don’t know, a doctor maybe?”

Helen glared at Norman with confusion and disgust.

“What? Are you kidding me? He doesn’t need a doctor Norman. He’s just scared! As soon as this guy’s caught this will all be over.”

This response confused Norman. He thought they were on the same page in regards to their son’s mental health? He was shocked and didn’t know what to think.

“Helen! Look at his behaviour over the past month for Christ sake! He’s not well! I really think we should call someone.”

Norman walked out of the bedroom before Helen had a chance to respond. She chased him down the stairs and into the living room pleading with him to think his suggestion through.

“Please don’t do this Norm. Please!”

He began searching through a phone book and took down a phone number which angered Helen immensely.

“Norman! For fuck sake stop!” Helen shouted before snatching the book out of his hand.

Norman was becoming increasingly angry, not understanding why he didn’t have his wife’s support.

“What else do you suggest? Ignore all of this and let it escalate into something worse? Is that what you want for your son? For our son!?”

“Just wait! Please. We don’t have all the facts yet. If we confront him with the book maybe he’ll explain? Maybe there’s a rational explanation too all of this” she pleaded.

Norman was starting to think Helen was as crazy as Tommy. He paused for a while as he was trying to understand Helen’s insane suggestion.

“Really Helen? And what do you think will happen if we confront him? He’s not in the right frame of mind! It could push him over the edge.”

“Well we’re not psychologists after all, maybe he’s just stressed? And before we start getting doctors involved why don’t we try to talk to someone else?”

“Like who?” Norman asked

“Uhh I don’t– I don’t know, family maybe? Friends…? How about Julie!?”

Norman was astounded by her suggestion. His voice raised and his pointer finger was inches from her face.

“Out of the question! This is a family matter and that’s how it’s staying do you understand me Helen! The last thing we need is one of your friends gossiping and Tommy becoming news of the town.”

“Well you’re the one who wants to call someone so bad Norman!”

“A doctor Helen! A professional who can help our son! Our family!”

Helen began to panic, the last thing she wanted was a doctor getting involved. She’s so sure this a temporary issue, something a home cooked meal and a hug could fix. She tried to find any excuse for Tommy’s behaviour.

“He’s always been an emotional boy Norm, somewhat of an introvert, you know that Norm. Surely this will pass. It has too.” She sobbed.

Norman was at his breaking point he could no longer try to open his wife’s eyes. He took a deep breath before leaving the room.

“I can’t be around you right now Helen.”

He walked into the kitchen, slamming the door shut behind and proceeded to pour himself a whiskey hoping Helen wouldn’t follow him. She didn’t, instead he listened to her sob in the next room while he sipped on a glass of Jack Daniels.

About half an hour and half a bottle of Jack Daniels in, Norman could no longer hear the whimpering of his wife. He walked into the living room and looked at her on the sofa. She looked lifeless, the happiness had drained from her. He sat on the chair opposite. He barley recognised the woman in front of him. The pair sat in complete silence for the next ten minutes. Norman, intensely staring at her, was waiting for her to admit that something needed to be done. He loves his wife and it kills him to see her so broken, but he can’t let this one slide.

She was doing everything in her power to avoid eye contact. She was fidgety, clearly uncomfortable but knew she needed to break the silence.

Norman’s patience was running out. He can’t understand her thought process.

“Why doesn’t she see what I see? Why won’t she help me get our son the help he needs? Is she that selfish?” he thought to himself.

Deep down Helen knew something was wrong with Tommy, but she couldn’t admit it. Her only child branded a psycho? Will people talk? If news got out about Tommy would her friends turn their backs? Would her family? At this point she had two options, to continue living in denial or to do right by her son by getting him the help he needs. But she’s torn.

“Is this really a mental issue or something more innocent? He’s a teenager after all, it could just be a faze?” She thought to herself.

Norman felt defeated, he knew this was something Helen had to realise on her own. His presence was doing more bad that good at this point. He took another deep sigh before leaving the room. He turned around in the door way to look at Helen. Helen’s bloodshot eyes locked onto his.

“Helen. I don’t know how much more of this I can take…” He said. He struggled to get his words out. He was at the end of his tether. Helen didn’t respond.

“If you want to continue living a lie, be my guest. But that will be it. I’ll leave and I’ll take Tommy with me… I’ll do this alone if I have too.”

No response from Helen once again, just an intense stare.

“I’m going upstairs, I need to be alone for a while.” he said

Helen hung her head in sadness as Norman walked back into the room for a moment, placing a piece of paper with a phone number on the coffee table in front of her before leaving.

“Think about it. But not for too long.” he said.

Norman left the room and the ball in her court. She started to sob once again, she just wanted someone to talk too. For someone to tell her everything’s going to be okay. She wanted so bad to call her best friend Julie but Norman made it perfectly clear this was not to go beyond this house. She kept thinking over and over that this will pass, her head was spinning. The piece of paper on the coffee table was so intimidating to her. But enough was enough, taking a few deep breaths she picked up the phone, she couldn’t suffer any longer. Her hands were trembling as she began to dial a number.

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