Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.
A creature of habit would be an excellent way to describe me. My morning routine is near ritualized. Out of bed by 5:30 AM. Use the bathroom followed by a quick shower and shave. The coffee is brewing by 6:15 AM at the latest. Grab the newspaper off the porch. Two sunny-side eggs, a single piece of toast, and half a grapefruit as I read the news highlights. Nothing ever derailed my morning routine. That is until 8 months ago when I found the first blood-caked knife under my morning paper.
I was enjoying the smell of the coffee as I made my way to the front door and stepped outside to grab the paper. The day was unseasonably warm and I decided to linger for a moment and draw in a few lungs full of fresh air. Stooping down, I scooped up the paper but as I did, I heard the sound of metal scraping against the bricks of the step. When I lifted the paper out of the way I saw a knife, roughly five to six inches long, sitting on the top step.
Panic immediately set in. The blade was caked in dried, flaking blood. I knew I had to call the cops. Had I touched the damn thing? I didn’t think so but my panic escalated as I feared that perhaps I had inadvertently touched it and left a print or DNA. If I had would the police even believe me? That was a problem for later I decided and headed in to call the police department.
Within ten minutes of my frantic phone call to the local authorities, three cruisers were parked on the street in front of my tiny piece of suburbia. Two officers entered my house and immediately began to pepper me with questions as four other officers searched every inch of the outside of my house. The questioning was briefly halted when the four of them entered as well and requested permission to search the inside of the house. I agreed without hesitation and they began to search through my small home as the two remaining officers resumed their questioning.
Do you have a security camera or alarm system? No. Does the weapon belong to you? No. Did you touch the weapon? I may have when I picked up the paper. Have you found any other unusual items on your property? No. Can you think of anyone with a grudge against you or anyone who would like to hurt you for any reason? No. Have you seen anyone in the neighborhood lately that seemed out of place? Not that I can recall.
The questions continued for over an hour as the officers continued to search my home and property. Satisfied that there was no additional evidence to collect the interviewing officers gave me a card and told me they would be in touch. I was instructed to call them if any similar incident or anything out of the usual occurred and I assured them I would. The officers departed and I attempted to get my daily routine back on track.
My concentration on job tasks was understandably low so I called my boss and explained the situation to her and requested a day off. She kindly agreed and told me to take the next day off as well so I could come back fresh. Rather than spending the day scouring the internet for local stories of bloody knives found mysteriously on porches. My efforts locally were fruitless. I continued to expand my search until I had read news coverage for the entire tri-state area with no luck.
I returned to work two days later and things were back to normal. As best I could I wrote off the bloody knife as an anomaly. While it still lingered near the front of my mind, I was able to stay on task throughout the day with few issues. After lunch, I had settled back in front of my computer to resume work when my cell phone rang. Looking down at the screen I could see the number from the police investigator’s card illuminated.
When I answered the phone, the officer reintroduced himself. The knife they had recovered from my property had tested positive for the presence of human blood. My heart began to slam in my chest. I had known that was a possibility of course but knowing for sure brought back the same sick sense of panic I felt the moment I found it. The officer had then asked if I would travel to the department and submit myself for DNA collection and some additional questioning. I agreed to meet him after work in the early evening and ended the call.
In short, the DNA collection and questioning were uncomfortable at best. I can’t remember now all of the questions they asked but it was clear from the direction that I was suspected of having committed some kind of crime. As the questioning intensified, I was certain I would be cornered into making some kind of incriminating statement but to my relief, after two hours of nonstop conversation, they told me that I could go home. The original investigator informed me in a less than friendly manner that they would be following up with me.
The next few weeks were rough. My weight dropped rapidly, I could hardly sleep at night, and my workplace performance had dropped to a point my manager had met with me one on one to express her concerns. She was kind and understanding but made it clear if I couldn’t regain my focus that my position could be in jeopardy. At the end of the conversation, she recommended I take a two-week leave to get things back in order and I readily agreed. Only minutes after my meeting my phone rang again.
I answered without looking at the number and recognized the voice of the police investigator. He informed me that after a hurried DNA test that the blood matched no known victim of any variety that he was able to assess. Tears ran down my face in relief from this glimmer of hope that this matter may be in the past for me. As with our last conversation, he ended the conversation by letting me know he would follow up in the future if anything of interest came to light. I hung up the phone and cried in silence until I went to bed.
My two-week leave ended and I returned to work with a new sense of stability. There were no more calls from the police and no more gruesome surprises hiding under my newspaper. Over the following month, my productivity was back up to normal, my mental health was blessedly healing, and I felt like my reasonably optimistic self again. It had never occurred to me before how normal and satisfying my life had always been. This speed bump had reoriented me toward being grateful for all of the good things I had going in my favor.
And then I found the second knife. It had been maybe six or seven weeks since I found the first one. Same delivery and discovery method. I scooped up my newspaper, heard the metal on brick, and my heart sank all over again. This knife was a bit smaller, maybe four inches, but it was covered in flaking blood just like the last one.
Instinctively I fished my cell phone out of my pocket to call the police but my hand froze before hitting the dial button. For longer than I like to admit I weighed the pros and cons of just scooping the knife up and throwing it in the garbage. I had kept a thread thing grasp on sanity the last time this had happened. How could it possibly go any better this time?
I hurried into the kitchen and grabbed a plastic bag with the intent to scoop the knife up and dispose of it but regained my composure before I made it to the door. Tears began to well up in my eyes as I retrieved my phone again and dialed the police. This time I called the investigator directly rather than emergency services. He picked up and as he said hello, I just let out a sob. It took me a few moments to regain my control but I managed to explain what I had found.
It would be an exercise in redundancy to explain the second process as it was nearly identical to the first. There was the search, the questions, the DNA test, the follow-up questions, the failure to find a DNA match. The only difference this time was the introduction to undercover surveillance units in my neighborhood. Two nondescript sedans were parked at either end of my block with hidden cameras installed. This comforted me as I felt perhaps, they thought I wasn’t a serial killer taunting the police and that someone else was doing this.
The same day the two surveillance units were parked on my street I went to the local big box hardware store and purchased a home safety system with door alarms and cameras. With a hefty subscription fee, I opted to have all of the surveillance films archived via cloud access. I spent the remainder of the day installing the sensors and cameras as well as adjusting the angles to cover all sides of my home. Pulling up the new security app on my phone I was satisfied that no one would be able to get on my property without being seen.
I didn’t fall to pieces this time and life went on much the same but I did spend an obsessive amount of time each evening in bed watching the camera shot positioned at my front door. The two police surveillance vehicles were moved after a month with no evidence or suspect spotted. No more mysterious knives appeared and no mysterious stranger appeared on my front porch.
Four days after the police surveillance was removed appeared the third bloody knife. Just like the others, it was tucked directly under the newspaper but my newfound paranoia had altered my routine to grasping each end of the plastic bag and lifting it. No metal on brick this time but there the knife sat. The blood was mostly dry but there were a few spots that hadn’t quite hardened into the rusted color I had become accustomed to. It must have been used more recently.
Without a second thought, I ran inside and logged on to the surveillance app on my cell phone. Scanning through the front porch video I taped down the load bar to try and find when the knife had been placed on my porch. As I continued tapping through the video, I eventually moved the progress bar to 4:30 AM that morning and suddenly the screen had become static. I began to hit the rewind button until a view of my porch came back and let it play.
As the grainy, nighttime video played I could see that the time was 4:18 AM. Nothing was moving. There was no knife on the brick steps. I scoured the screen of my phone looking for something unusual when a sudden movement caught my eye. A man… or maybe a woman emerged from between the privacy hedges in my across-the-street neighbor’s yard. They walked slowly and smoothly across the street, traveled up my walkway, and stopped at the foot of my front porch steps.
The figure wore heavy work boots, carpenter’s pants, and a dark hooded sweatshirt. It was almost skeletally thin. Their face wasn’t visible as they seemed to be staring down at the steps. After a few moments without movement, a gloved hand slid out of the sweatshirt pocket and produced the knife. The figure kneeled and placed the knife gently beneath the newspaper on the top step and lifted its head toward the security camera. I couldn’t see their entire face but I could see an unsettlingly wide and thin mouth spread into a smile. The figure stood up, maintaining eye contact with the camera, and blew a kiss in its direction before turning and walking back into the hedges across the street.
Pulse racing, I tried to rewind the tape to 4:17 AM and watch it again but it was now nothing but static. As I kept rewinding further back all of the footage. Everything was gone. I called tech support at the cloud storage facility and they likewise reported that no footage from the date of purchase had yet been uploaded. I had no evidence.
After a half-hour of worrying and pacing, I still hadn’t called the police. They hadn’t been helpful so far and I was terrified to call them back and bring suspicion back on myself. If I called them, I was certain it wouldn’t end well for me. Who would believe that security video of a shadowy thing with a thin smile had vanished into thin air? I hardly believed it and I had seen the damn thing myself. At least I’m pretty sure I saw it. I couldn’t have imagined it, could I?
I decided not to call the police. With a thundering heartbeat, I put on a pair of gloves and retrieved the knife from the porch, rolled it into the newspaper, and carried it with me into my basement. The basement of my house didn’t expand to the edge of the foundation. There were holes in the cinderblock walls that lead into a no longer reachable crawl space. I threw the newspaper-wrapped knife into the darkness of the old crawl space and went back upstairs.
Life went on for a few weeks as though nothing had happened but it was short-lived. I had the security system replaced twice under warranty but both replacements resulted in the same static capture and nothing else. Only two weeks after the last knife appeared a new one took its place. Four days later another one. Eight days later another one.
I’ve lost track at this point of how many knives I have hidden in the crawlspace of my house. A few days ago, I had reconsidered calling the police and telling them about all of it but decided against it. Having a pile of bloody knives in a crawl space wouldn’t be a good look and even the truth would be a hard pill to swallow. Security cameras don’t work anymore and I’m sure as hell not going to wait around all night to see that terrible, thin smile through my peephole.
Art by Danny Ingrassia
My mental and physical well-being is deteriorating rapidly. I’ve lost so much weight now that you are beginning to see the outline of my ribcage. My face hurts constantly and it feels like my skin is stretching tightly around my face. The weight loss has also made me feel frozen to the bone most of the time. I’m almost always wrapped up in a hoodie or blanket. And the damn knives keep showing up. I don’t want to keep throwing them into the crawl space and I’m not going to call the police.
Maybe I could just pick them up and start taking them somewhere else. Another town maybe. Another state. I feel like I could just put them on someone else’s porch during the night. Maybe I can make a routine of it. Somehow, I feel like this would make me feel better.
The thought even makes me smile.