I was finally moved into my first place on my own. I was working two jobs to afford it, but it was a freedom I had never had before. I spent the first 6 years of my life moving from crack house to crack house with my mother and the living in a group home until I was 18. I lived with roommates after that until I was 25 and was lucky to get this place. One bedroom, second floor apartment in a five-story building smack dab in the middle of downtown Phoenix. I had never been so lucky in my life. Two weeks later, I got the news that I had won a full scholarship to Arizona State University. Life was going so well! I admit it was tough working two jobs and going to school, but I knew it was temporary and one day I would be able to work one job and get a house. I was determined and happy.
I had lived in my new home for about 7 months when it started. I came home and noticed a drop of dark red liquid on the kitchen floor. I had pizza the night before, so I thought it was sauce, but when I wiped it, it looked more like blood. Maybe I cut myself or something? I dismissed it and went on with the evening. Two days later, I woke up on my only day off in weeks and the drop was back. In the very same place. I quickly cleaned it up. I made a thorough inspection of my body, looking for small cuts or scrapes, but only found a few bruises here and there. I chose to not think about it. I did not need anything added to my already full plate. About a week later, I came home late from my 2nd job to find a small puddle of the liquid in my kitchen. Same spot. It was about the size of a golf ball and shaped like a bow tie. I inspected the ceiling after that. I looked for soft spots or stains or anything. The vent was way too far for anything to drip out and get where the liquid was. I was so tired, though, so I cleaned it up and crashed into bed. I slept restlessly.
Over the next months, the red liquid would appear randomly and in various amounts. I finally told a co-worker and she told me to take pictures and call maintenance. The next time a puddle showed up, I grabbed my phone and took a picture. This one was also shaped like a bow tie. However, when I opened the picture to show my co-worker, it didn’t show the liquid. It was just a picture of the yellow tiled kitchen floor. I rationalized it by saying it must have reflected the light and not shown up, but it disturbed me more than I wanted to admit.
I had a couple days off and I was really looking forward to staying home and reading a good book. Maybe even binge-watching episodes of my favorite shows. However, I woke up to the biggest puddle of the dreaded liquid I had yet to see. I immediately searched through the junk drawer for the piece of paper with the number to maintenance on it and called. They said it would be a couple hours. I couldn’t leave the plate sized puddle on the floor for hours, so I cleaned it up. I couldn’t help but compare it to blood. It was the color, the thickness and it even smeared like you see in the horror movies. I tried really hard not to think about that.
A bearded man named Stewart arrived a few hours later. He looked tired, but cheerful. I told him what I was dealing with after beginning with “I know this sounds completely bizarre…” He agreed that it sounded very strange, but he was sure there was an explanation for it. He got down on the floor and looked under the cabinets, the fridge and the dishwasher. He then went and got a step ladder to inspect the ceiling. He didn’t find anything, and I felt some serious disappointment. He stepped down from the step ladder and asked a few questions about when I saw the stuff and what it looked like. I felt like I needed to prove that the blood like liquid was real, so I pulled the trash can out from under the sink to show him the paper towels I used to clean it up. The can was full of paper towels, but not a single red drop was on them. I could not believe it! I muttered something about invisible ink and swore I was telling the truth. Stewart put his step ladder in the hall and told me to call if the liquid showed up again. He was shaking his head as he walked out the door. I had no idea what to think. Was I going crazy? Was the stress getting to me? More than likely, my mother had some form of mental illness. Maybe this is why she got hooked on drugs. Maybe I was going down that path. I shook my head. No. I was different. I was holding a 3.5 average in school and my bosses both said they were happy with my work. I wasn’t going crazy.
The next few weeks flew by. Exams, busy season at work and I had met a guy named Aaron from the first floor of my building. We had gone out on a few dates. I had forgotten about the evil red liquid until I came home from work in the early evening to the floor covered in it. It looked like an animal had been slaughtered. I ran out of the apartment, and down the stairs and knocked on Aarons door. I told him the whole crazy story and he suggested we get maintenance before going back up there. Stewart didn’t look too annoyed that we were at his door and was willing to go with us back to my apartment. However, when we walked in the door, the kitchen was spotless. Not a single sign of red anywhere. I stared in disbelief and shock. I looked at the number on the door to make sure we were in the right apartment even though it was my key that opened the door and my furniture in the living room.
Stewart and Aaron stood next to me silent and awkward. I stammered out a “I’m not lying or crazy”, but the evidence wasn’t exactly backing me up. Stewart politely excused himself by saying something about his wife having dinner ready. He shut the door behind him, and I broke down in tears. I totally expected Aaron to run out and ghost me, but to his credit, he didn’t. He stayed and helped me dry my tears. However, we didn’t talk about it after that. It was the elephant in the room when he was at my place, though. I almost hoped that just one time, Aaron would see the blood on the floor, too.
Then came the horrific day in March. It was the 13th, but a Tuesday. I was almost done with school. I could see the finish line. Aaron and I were getting serious and he had introduced me to his parents. We had just spent the day helping his sister move into her dorm and were going home to shower and change our clothes to go out for dinner. He walked me to my apartment. The smell hit us as soon as the elevator doors opened. It was awful. I felt sick to my stomach. It was even worse in my apartment. I called Stewart, grabbed some clothes and went with Aaron back to his apartment on the first floor.
The headline in the local paper read “11 Bodies Found in Serial Killers Apartment”. He had killed and dismembered at least, 11 people and just left them on the floor of his kitchen. He was dubbed the “Bow Tie Killer” because he had a significant bow tie collection in his closet. His kitchen was directly above mine. He was a quiet neighbor and I only saw him once or twice on the elevator or by the mailboxes. I would never have thought he was capable of the crimes he was convicted of. The strange thing is that he had cleaned all the blood up. There wasn’t a pool on the floor or anything to soak into the tiles and down into my apartment. Poor Stewart helped with the clean up and told me. I was horrified and had nightmares for awhile after that, but I felt relief that I wasn’t as crazy as I was starting to think.
I moved in with Aaron a week later and they had to completely gut the killer’s apartment to get rid of the smell.
Credit : Jennifer Schrimpf
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