Jeff the Killer is a terrifying Internet meme. As the story goes, at some point Jeff was doused with acid, maiming his facial features - except for two haunting eyes and a clown-like mouth filled with sharp teeth. His hobbies include hiding under people's beds and yelling "go to sleep," killing people, and starring in Creepypastas: scary stories shared via Internet meme. Some of the scariest Jeff the Killer stories are collected here, starting with his terrifying origins.
Jeff the Killer 2015
Another version of the Jeff the Killer origin story, this one from an anonymous user on the Creepypasta Fandom Wiki:
The day Jeffrey Woods and his family arrived at their new home, the sky was overcast and the weather was muggy. The gray skies seemed to punctuate his mood. Jeff was not thrilled to be here. Their new home was beautiful though, a true example of his father’s new found success, but still, it wasn’t the home he’d known.
A week after they’d settled in, Jeff and Liu woke up early. The sky was a crisp and gorgeous blue, and although the Louisiana heat was playing its usual cruel tricks, the brothers decided that a morning bike ride to explore the area would be just the right ticket to combat the slight pangs of homesickness that they’d both been experiencing over the last week.
“I miss home,” Liu blurted out, as Jeff was smearing salsa on the microwaved burrito that would serve as his breakfast.
“Me too Liu, but I guess this is home now, so we just sort of have to make the most of it."
“I know, but all of our friends and stuff are back in New Orleans. Remember that building we’d always sneak up on top of and watch the city lights come on, I miss that,” Liu responded, sounding down.
“Yeah, and ZM Video, the owner knew us and would always let us rent R-Rated movies without our parents, and he’d always hook us up with a free video game rental if we got a few movies… yeah, I miss that too, but Liu, we have to…”
Liu interrupted, “I know, we have to make the most out of this, but still, this place just seems so fake, and mom and dad still treat us like we aren’t even here.”
“Yep, they do. I was sort of hoping the new house would improve their mood, but what can we do?”
Liu had no answer.
Jeff finished his breakfast and the two boys left the house to mount their bikes and explore around a bit more. As it turned out, the subdivision they moved into was rather close to a cluster of stores in a small shopping center.
Village Shopping Center was the name of the short row of businesses. Within these were a Pizza Hut, a Chinese restaurant, a tobacco store, a Sprint store, and, what Jeff and Liu were most excited about, a video store.
“We’ll have to get mom or dad to come down here and open up an account so we can rent movies,” Liu mentioned as Jeff flipped a box over to read the description of a horror movie.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Jeff snapped, feeling a bit of frustration at this thought. He knew getting his parents to actually come down here and set up a membership would take forever, since their usual after work routine was to go off into separate rooms until they got hungry enough to come out and speak.
Jeff glanced over at the girl working behind the counter, “Maybe I can go over there and sweet talk her into giving us accounts,” he joked.
“Yeah right Jeff, one look at you and she’ll probably ban us,” Liu remarked back, a smile broad on his face.
“You doubt me little man?”
“Doubt you? The guy who’s kissed two girls and almost touched a boob, never, please go on over and lay on all the charm.”
“Whatever, I totally could have banged that girl, but her parents came home and….”
“Last time you told me that story, you said her parents were out of town and her sister came home…”
Jeff became flustered and while in the process of trying to make yet another come back, the girl behind the register removed all doubt by speaking to the boys herself.
“Hey, aren’t those your bikes?” the young woman asked, pointing towards the glass window.
Jeff and Liu looked over and saw three boys outside, two of which were riding around in circles on the Woods brother’s bikes. They would spin them around and then jump off, letting the bikes crash onto the pavement, just to stand them up and ride them again. The two boys riding the bikes were both slim in build, while a heavier boy stood on the sidewalk, drinking a Red Bull and watching.
Jeff and his brother made their way towards the doors of the video store, when the fat kid saw them coming. Jeff couldn’t hear what he said to his two friends, but he made some sort of gesture while shouting, and the other two boys dumped the bikes where they lay, and walked towards the sidewalk, directly towards the two brothers.
“Those your bikes?” one of the boys asked as Jeff and Liu entered the summer heat.
“Yeah, why are you riding them?” Liu asked sharply.
“We just saw them there man, relax, figured someone just left them out for us,” the same boy responded, as his two friends joined him on either side.
Jeff, determined to make a good start here, tried to change the course of this confrontation.
“Well, they’re ours. We just moved here about a week ago, we live over on Fairmont Avenue, a few blocks from here. We were just checking out the neighborhood.” Jeff hoped that a civil tone could turn things around, but he could tell by the insolent look on the kid’s face that this was a difficult gamble.
“Good for you, you moved somewhere,” the fat kid remarked.
“Oh yeah, Troy,” the first boy spoke, “they moved into that piece of shit house with the gravel driveway. I was wondering who would move into that place.”
“Well Randy, now we know,” the big kid, apparently named Troy, replied.
Jeff, still trying to salvage the conversation, tried peaceful banter one more time. “Okay, so you’re Troy and you’re Randy, well I’m Jeff and this is my brother Liu, we just moved here from New Orleans.”
“You ain’t in New Orleans now,” the third boy, who’d just now decided to speak, remarked.
“Yeah, and who said you could call us by our names?” Randy asked, that insolent, privileged smile never leaving his face.
Jeff smiled and responded to Randy, “Well, I guess I could have called you names, but I figured I would give you the benefit of the doubt.”
In that moment, a flare of rage replaced the smirk that had rested on Randy’s face throughout this entire exchange. The other two boys, Troy and the still unknown third member of his band, seemed to be momentarily struck silent. Perhaps they weren’t used to being stood up to.
“Oh I’m sorry, was that language too adult for you?” Jeff asked. “And you, quiet boy, we know this isn’t New Orleans,” Jeff stated to the slim kid that had reminded him of his geographical locations, “because if this was New Orleans you three would already have gotten your butts kicked for touching someone else’s things.”
The slim kid looked back and forth at his two friends, however, Randy, clearly the leader, seemed to know what to say. “Keith, you gonna let this guy talk to you like that?”
Jeff knew this part. And while he wanted quite badly to sock Randy and his pals around, a real concern suddenly invaded his mind. If he and Liu got into a fight on their first week in this new neighborhood, their parents would freak. He could practically hear it now. And while things had been far from perfect in their home, even after the move, there was a peace that had fallen over the family, and Jeff, fighting his urges, decided to do his best to keep it.
Jeff looked over the three, very well dressed, very privileged looking suburban kids before them, and dismissed them. “You guys are boring, come on Liu, let them continue their play dates without us.”
Liu laughed at that and followed behind his brother towards the bikes. However, Randy and his little gang of would-be toughs would have none of that. They moved to block Jeff and his brother once again.
“Where you going?” Randy asked, shoving Jeff. Jeff could tell that shove had no real conviction. Randy was trying to figure him out, seeing where his buttons were. He’d push harder eventually, but Jeff swallowed the slowly building anger within him once more.
Liu took a bit more exception to the shove.
“We’re going to your mom’s house, me and my brother saved up a couple dollars from doing chores and we hear she doesn’t charge much.”
As the words left Liu’s mouth, Randy appeared to only register a small portion of it all. Randy Hayden had grown up in Mandeville. His father was a partner at a local firm that made a lot of money, something else that Jeff would soon come to learn. Randy and his friends, while the same age as Jeff, had grown up in very different circumstances. They were used to being listened to; they were used to being feared.
In fact, Randy, the target of the insult, just stood there. It was actually Troy, the fat kid who stepped forward, fist balled, eyes squinted in anger.
“Who you talking to?” Troy shouted, and took a wild swing at Liu.
Liu, who was both in better shape and had sparred with Jeff a time or two during his time spent boxing, was able to avoid the punch, but just barely. Had that been all, it may have once again ended there. Troy was clearly taken by surprise at Liu’s speed, and actually didn’t attempt another punch. However, these were bullies, kids that ran in a pack for a reason. The skinny one, Keith, stepped around and threw a punch that connected with the left side of Liu’s face.
Jeff had seen enough. He’d been shocked at how quickly this evolved into blows, even though he’d expected it from almost the start. When he’d first met Randy and his friends, he’d been curious. From there he’d developed an annoyance with them, and slowly that annoyance had evolved into anger. However, upon seeing Liu punched, seeing the small trickle of blood form on his brother’s lower lip, upon seeing the smug look of satisfaction on Keith’s face, that anger that Jeff felt, suddenly exploded into a rage that he’d never felt before in his life.
Jeff Woods did not hesitate. He stepped forward, his feet automatically falling into the correct stance that he’d learned from the boxing classes his father once enrolled him into, and delivered a powerful right hand to Keith’s face. The skinny boy had no time to register shock or pain. The punch caught him by surprise, and his knees buckled. Keith went down to the ground in a heap of confusion and dawning fear.
Randy, the so called leader here, was almost too shocked to move. He’d had quite a lot of experience starting fights, but no real time logged in losing them. He’d never felt control of a situation slip. He was used to being in charge. So now, seeing one of his friends go down so quickly and easily, left him in a state of shock that he had no idea how to address.
Troy on the other hand seemed to have a plan, throw another punch. He moved towards Jeff deceptively faster than his weight would seem to allow, and threw two equally fast punches. Jeff however had no problem side stepping both attempts. Troy, seeming lost for actions, actually dropped his arms, as if to say, ‘gee, what do I do now?’
Jeff had the answer. He moved in, throwing three hooks to Troy’s stomach. The hefty kid’s eyes went as wide as pie pans, a fitting analogy, Jeff thought. He staggered back, clutching his throbbing stomach. Jeff wasted no time, and stepped in once more, fetching a sharp punch to the big kid’s jaw, causing Troy to promptly fall on his rear. Jeff was reminded of King Hippo from the Punch Out game he used to play. He couldn’t help but smile.
Jeff now turned his focus on Randy. He advanced on the boy, feeling something new forming inside of him. He still felt the anger, the rage actually, at the antics of these three. They had the nerve to mess with their bikes; the nerve to insult two kids they’d never met before, and of course, the ultimate offense, touching his brother. However, mixed in with this rage was also a sweet, enjoyable pleasure. Not only was he kicking their butts, but he was loving every second of it. It was as though the joy of showing them up was perfectly blending with the rage he felt towards them. Together, it formed into a sadistic, controlled sense of power.
That was, until Liu stepped in front of him. “Jeff, stop, that’s enough!”
“Why stop now Liu, they wanted this,” Jeff replied in a flat voice that Liu had never heard come from his brother’s mouth.
“She’s calling the cops, look!” Liu shouted again, and this time, Jeff came back to reality long enough to listen. He glanced over at the video store clerk, and saw her on the phone, talking frantically and pointing towards the parking lot. Suddenly, Jeff’s strange sadistic haze collapsed, and he regained his former self.
“Crap, let’s go!” he stated quickly, and he and Liu mounted their bikes and rode towards the parking lot exit.
“Yeah, you better run!” Randy called behind them. Jeff and Liu paid no mind and peddled away.
A few blocks down the street they dismounted their bikes and began to walk them together. At first, neither brother spoke, then Liu broke the silence.
“Jeff, thank you for standing up for me back there, thank you.”
“Yeah, those guys were pieces of shit, they had it coming,” Jeff replied, looking down at the street as they walked.
“What... what happened? I’ve never seen you like that before?"
“Just defending myself Liu, what was I supposed to do, let them beat you up?”
“I bet they go to our school, I bet we’ll see them there, and they won’t forget this."
“Who cares? We didn’t ask to move here, we didn’t ask for any of this. Mom and dad just wanted a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, and we were along for the ride whether we liked it or not. Think I give a crap what these rich kids think of us?” Jeff stated, and went back to looking at his feet.
“Think we’ll get in trouble?” Liu asked.
“For what, defending ourselves?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, they did start it,” Liu answered, and to the brother’s, the matter was closed.
However, things were far from over.
They found that the trouble they believed they’d escaped was in fact waiting for them at their front door. Jeff and Liu saw the police cars well before they arrived at their driveway. Two cop cars, both parked in front of their house. Both of them felt their stomachs drop, as they well knew why the police were there.
The brothers entered the living room, to see their parents sitting on the couch, the two cops standing up, leaning on the wall, writing in their notebooks.
“What did you two do?” Shelia practically screeched as the two boys entered the house.
Liu, younger and less centered than Jeff, began to fall on the defensive, “Some kids tried to jump us down by that video store, they were messing with our bikes, and when we went outside, they got in our faces!”
“That’s not the way we heard it!” Matt Woods interjected, his voice firm and ripe with anger and dissatisfaction.
“No dad, that’s what happened,” Jeff began to explain. “We were down at Friendly Video, looking around the store, when these three kids started riding around on our bikes. All we did was walk outside, and the kids started talking trash to us, trying to provoke a fight. When we tried to leave, one of them punched Liu.”
Finally, one of the two cops spoke. His name tag read Williamson. “Boys, we have some serious complaints about the two of you. From what eye witnesses at the shopping center say, you two started the confrontation with Randy and his friends.”
Jeff took notice at how familiar the cop’s tone was when he said Randy’s name. This was a small town after all, and there was a good chance that this cop coached Randy in little league, or drank beers with his dad. Hell, it was even possible that this cop could be an uncle to one of the bullies.
“No sir,” Jeff replied, “we didn’t start it, they did. We just wanted our bikes, we just wanted to leave. They blocked us.”
Williamson continued, as though he’d heard nothing Jeff said, “Several witnesses, including the video store clerk, say that you swung first. They say that the boys were riding your bikes, but let me ask you this, did you chain your bikes to anything, or did you just leave them outside the store?”
“What’s that matter?” Liu demanded.
“Well son, if you just left your bikes lying around in the street, you can’t exactly blame Randy and his friends for riding them, now can you? It’d be different had you secured them somehow, but you just left them there.”
“Mom, dad, you’re not buying this crap are you? You know me and Liu don’t start fights, when have we ever? These three punks messed with us, and if you can’t tell that these cops are taking their sides, then you need to open your eyes!” Jeff knew he was skating on thin ice, but that rage, it demanded some sort of satisfaction.
“Jeffrey, do not speak about these officers in that tone of voice, and do not speak to us that way either. Now, it’s pretty obvious that you two aren’t happy here, that you miss your old home, but starting fights in the street isn’t going to change anything!” Jeff’s mother snapped back.
“Listen boys, you’re lucky. None of the parents want to press charges. This will be reported as a simple scuffle between teenagers. But be advised, you’re both on notice. This is a quiet town, not like New Orleans. We don’t tolerate this sort of behavior over here. If you see Randy, Keith or Troy, I highly suggest you tell them you’re sorry. We’ll be keeping an eye on both of you, so don’t let this happen again. You don’t want to have an arrest record, do you?”
Jeff felt his anger bubble over, and he could not hold his tongue. “Who is he to you Officer Williamson? Is Randy your nephew? Is he a friend’s son? Or maybe you go over and screw his mom while you’re on duty? Which one is it Officer?”
“That’s it, both of you go to your rooms!” Matt Woods apparently found that he wasn’t a mute after all, as he ordered his sons out of the room. Jeff and Liu walked up the stairs, however, they refused to hang their heads in shame or feel any regret.
Neither of their parents spoke to them for the rest of that day. Jeff and Liu stayed upstairs, venting their shared frustration to each other. They’d been screwed over, even at their young ages, they knew that. They took some solace in the fact that they at least hadn’t been arrested or cited, but still, they saw what was really going on here.
“That cop, he was protecting Randy,” Jeff whispered to his younger brother.
“No shit,” his brother replied.
“We have to watch ourselves; we have to take care of each other. You saw it down there, even our parents didn’t stand up for us."
“Yeah, what the heck was up with that?” Liu asked.
“Imagine, their image, that’s what’s up with it. All they care about is fitting in here. They want to make sure they blend in with the rest of the Stepford families. No more fighting, if we see Randy or his two friends again, we just walk away, okay?”
“But Jeff, you can kick the crap out of them, why would we walk away?” Liu asked.
“Because I can’t kick the crap out of the cops Liu, I can’t kick the crap out of mom and dad, and that’s what would get us. Randy and his pals are protected here, you and me, we’re not. So, if we see them, just avoid them, okay, please?”
Liu nodded, “I feel like a little wimp though, I owe Keith for hitting me.”
“No you don’t, I paid him back for that, and paid his fat friend too. I hope they just leave us alone now,” Jeff sighed.
Jeff and Liu didn’t hear from their parents for the rest of that day. They remained in their rooms late into the night, and finally came down to eat after they were sure their folks had gone to bed. Liu said that he felt relieved about that, but Jeff had a sinking feeling that the worst was yet to come. Jeff was correct,the next morning, when the two brothers came down stairs together to eat breakfast; their parents were already sitting at the dining room table, staring at the boys, approving of nothing they saw.
“Sit down,” Matt stated flatly.
“What’s going on?” Liu asked.
“Sit….down!” Matt stated again, anger dancing on the words.
The boys complied without further question.
Matt Woods began his diatribe, “Whatever that was yesterday, beating up some kids for touching your bikes, mouthing off at the police, disrespecting both me and your mother, that stops today!”
“We didn’t beat anyone up for touching our bikes!” Jeff blurted.
“Shut up Jeff, this is a one way conversation!” his father barked. “That kid, Randy Hayden, his father is a partner at my firm, did you know that? Did you even think about that when you were assaulting him over your godforsaken bike?”
“You just didn’t think, did you Jeff?” Shelia added.
“How could I have known that?”
Matt continued, “Well, I’ve spent the entire morning talking to his father on the phone. His dad is willing to let it all go, but shit son, I have to deal with that at work now. Do you have any idea how much damage this could have done to me, to our family?”
Jeff felt that rage coming back, and fought with all his might to keep it stifled.
Instead, he once more tried to appeal to the two adults' parental side, “Mom, look at Liu’s face, they split his lip, can’t you see, it’s still swollen!”
Liu turned his head to better showcase the injury.
“My god Jeff, so some kid played a little rough with your brother, is that any reason to fight them? I wanted to make friends with some of the other families in this neighborhood but thanks to you... I just don’t know…”
No sooner could Jeff or his brother construct a proper defense, than their father began speaking again. “So, your mother and I have talked this through. Since there are only a couple weeks of summer vacation left, we’ve decided that Liu should spend the rest of the season at Aunt Marcy’s place. We’ve already spoken to her, and she is willing to let him come out there and stay.”
Both Jeff and Liu were floored by this decision. Both boys began to protest at the same time, but they saw the look on their parents' faces. The decision was made.
“Why can’t we both just go then?” Jeff asked, a last ditch effort to at least get away from his parents.
“Marcy doesn’t want both of you there, she says you two are too rambunctious, and frankly we agree,” Shelia answered.
And so it was, Liu was shuttled off to his Aunt’s place in Abita Springs, Louisiana, a place even smaller and duller than Mandeville, if one can believe that. Jeff watched his brother leave, and then walked back to his bedroom. He felt that rage; however, it began to feel almost... pleasant to him. He couldn’t explain it. He was furious at this turn of events, his parents had turned their backs on their own children. However, through it all, these new feelings he was experiencing weren’t all terrible. This anger for example, he could almost taste it. It felt like thick, sweet syrup, stirring around in him. Of course, he knew the extra ingredient that would complete the flavor. That satisfying joy he’d felt when he had Randy and his friends on the ropes the day prior, that mixed perfectly with the anger, to create some intoxicating product that Jeff almost craved now. He fell asleep lying on his bed thinking about that syrup, that thick, viscous that seemed to work its way into the very fabric of his soul. He wanted it, yet he knew that it was destructive, and that nothing good could come from sampling it again.
Several days passed, and tensions were high between Jeff and his parents. Without Liu around, there was nothing for him to do except sit in his room and play video games. He went outside but didn’t venture far from home. He knew if Randy and his goons showed up again, it would likely result in another fight.
For a few days, that worked well, and Jeff believed he could get through this. However, his mother changed all of that on an early Saturday morning. Jeff was awoken suddenly by sharp sunlight striking his face. He heard his mother humming, something that she rarely did. Even in his half sleeping state, he knew that humming was forced. She was doing it to wake him up, and figured the added sunlight would get things there even faster. When she noticed Jeff’s eyes cracking open, she sauntered over to his bed, and began speaking in a tone that simply oozed false joviality.
At first Jeff had refused. Could his mother be serious, did she really expect him to go over and make friends with Randy? He was still in bed when his mother stopped her incessant humming long enough to tell him to get up and get dressed. Once he learned why, he’d told her no, no way in hell. However, his mother was a shrewd manipulator, and she’d know exactly what would get the job done. She promised Jeff that if he did this for her, went over and made it work with Randy, that Liu could come home the next day. She’d sandbagged Jeff right into the corner with that one. He’d no choice but to agree.
A short time later, Jeff and his mother were pulling into Randy’s driveway. Randy’s mother answered the door.
“Hi, you must be Jeff,” she greeted.
Jeff smiled wanly and confirmed that was in fact who he was.
“Hello, I’m Shelia Woods, nice to finally meet you in person!” Jeff’s mother announced, barging past her son and extending a hand to Randy’s mother.
“Shelia, so pleased to meet you, I’m Bridgette Hayden. Sorry to hear that our boys had a little mishap the other day. You know how it is though with teenagers, hormones going crazy and all. Randy never gets into fights, but he explained to me that Jeff and his brother are still new to the area, and haven’t quite learned how we do things in Mandeville yet, isn’t that right Jeff?”
Jeff couldn’t resist a small jab, “Yeah, sorry about that Miss Hayden. Me and Liu had no idea that it was okay for your son and his friends and mess with our bikes without asking.”
“Bridgette, he gets that mouth from his father, never knows when to shut up. How about you and I go in and have some coffee and you can tell me all the great gossip around Mandeville while our boys get to know each other the right way.”
“Randy is in his room Jeff, upstairs, second door to your left. I’m sure you’ll hear the sound of his video games or something,” Bridgette stated with very little humor to her voice.
“Thank you ma’am,” Jeff answered, and entered the house.
Jeff knocked and heard Randy answer with, “Come in.”
“Hey, so, I guess you heard, our parents want us to hang out, get to know each other,” Jeff stated with little conviction.
“Yeah, that’s my mom alright, she doesn’t like drama. Honestly I think she worries too much, I mean, I’m cool if you’re cool.”
Jeff sat down on the floor next to Randy and struck up a conversation. “So, turns out your dad is my dad’s boss, he freaked out about the fight in the parking lot. He was actually worried that he’d get fired or something.”
“My dad is like, everyone’s boss. I hate it. I think half the kids at my school talk to me because their parents are somehow connected to my dad’s firm.”
“Why do you hate it?” Jeff asked.
“Because it’s fake, this whole town is fake. You’ll figure it out as you go, but trust me; everyone who lives here is just trying to pretend they’re something else. My parents make me do all this crap, all the trophies and stuff, just so they can brag, that’s it.”
Jeff smiled, “I know how you feel. My dad had me in boxing class a year ago, because some co-worker of his had a brother that worked at the place or something. As soon as that guy quit though, I was out of that gym the next week.”
“I wish it was that easy,” Randy responded, “I hate playing baseball, but my dad will sure have me out there again next summer, and the summer afterwards. It’s like, he knows I hate it, but wants to make sure I’m out there with his stupid company name on the back of my jersey.”
“Randy, why did you and your friends mess with our bikes the other day?”
“I told you, this town is fake and boring. There is nothing to do here. We have to find stuff to do. I mean, there are only so many times you can go hang out at the video store, or ride the dirt paths in the woods. All the girls here are stuck up, all the stores close early, there’s no mall and the movie theatre is across town. We were just bored man, so, sorry for that I guess.”
“It’s cool,” Jeff replied, “I guess I’m sorry for too. Things went too far.”
“You mean the fight?” Randy asked, “That was actually cool. Those guys, Keith and Troy, they just leech on because of my dad. It’s like I told you, I’m pretty sure their parents make them hang out with me.”
The afternoon went on, and Jeff soon forgot that this was a mandatory arrangement. He actually started to find himself liking Randy, sure, their first encounter was a little sketchy, but he was coming around to the guy, finding that he wasn’t so bad once his idiot friends were removed from the equation.
About an hour later, things took a new turn. Jeff heard the twin pops of two car doors shutting in near unison, and then heard the engine start up. He dropped the game controller and peered out of Randy’s bedroom window, just in time to see his mother and Randy’s mother backing out of the driveway.
“Our parents are leaving,” Jeff said.
“About time, I figured my mom would eventually talk your mom into going shopping, or going to get coffee, or something like that.”
Jeff heard Randy pause the game.
“Hey Jeff, come down stairs, I want to show you some cool stuff,” Randy invited, and Jeff followed.
Randy led Jeff out to the garage. It was hot in there, with the main door shut. The garage was well kept though, and Jeff observed stacks of magazines underneath a work bench, as well as tools and various other utility items stacked about.
Standing in the small, closed in garage, with the late summer heat lingering about, Jeff began to feel a bit uneasy. Despite the fact that he and Randy had seemed to bond over the last few hours, Jeff couldn’t ignore a sense that things were different now that the adults were gone.
“What did you want to show me?” Jeff asked.
“Hold on, let me get it,” Randy replied, moving the magazines out to reveal a small, red box.
Jeff watched as Randy removed the box and opened it.
“Check it out, my dad’s flare gun,” Randy announced, and waved the red, tubular gun about.
“Woah, be careful with that!” Jeff shouted, more out of shock than real concern.
“It’s fine dude, don’t be a pussy, it’s not even loaded,” Randy said. However, Jeff watched as he fished one of the flares out of a back compartment. Randy then continued to fiddle with the flare gun, popping it open and loading a flare. “Now it’s loaded,” he announced. “My dad showed me how to use this last year when we went out boating. Sometimes I take it out back and shoot flares at the trees. But, maybe this time I don’t need a tree.”
The change in Randy’s voice and demeanor was impossible to ignore.
“Okay, well cool gun. Let’s get back in the house though, it’s hot out here, plus, I’m getting hungry, what do you have to eat?”
However, as Jeff turned to walk through the small door leading back into the house, his path was suddenly blocked by two more familiar faces.
“Where you going Jeffey?” the fat kid, Troy, blurted out, as he and Keith stepped forward into the garage.
“Took you two long enough to get here, I’ve had to babysit this guy all day,” Randy shouted, a wicked joy was present in his words.
“Sorry Randy, but Keith here had to mow his front yard before his parents would let him come out,” Troy said, a sheepish tone to his voice.
“It’s cool, we’re here now,” Keith said.
“What is going on?” Jeff asked, staring at Randy. He noticed that Randy still had the flare gun in his hands.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on Jeff; you owe Keith and Troy an apology for what you did. You sucker punched them, and then ran away. You didn’t even have the balls to fight them fair, so now, you’re going to pay them what you owe!"
“I’m not going to fight you, okay, I’m done with,” Jeff replied as he glanced about the room for an exit.
“You’re right about that, you’re not going to fight. You’re going to stand there and let my boys get their licks in. Then I get mine, and when that’s done, you get out of my house. I’ll tell my mom that you got sick and walked home, and after that, if you see us again, you better walk the other way.”
“I’m not going to stand here and get hit by you or your friends, so just let me go home, how about that. I’ll tell my mom that we’re cool and everyone wins, okay?” Jeff asked.
Randy then raised the flare gun towards Jeff. “No, you stay pussy; you stay and take your licks.”
Jeff felt that sensation once more, that sick, rich dark matter that swirled about inside of him. He could taste it now, it was heaven. In his mind, he imagined himself diving into it, swimming in it, letting it swallow him whole. He looked around and the sensation only grew. He saw Randy, standing there holding the flare gun. It was limp in his hands though, and the hammer was not cocked back. Jeff knew that Randy had no intention of firing it. He looked over at Keith, skinny and pathetic, a kid born to follow. Troy, fat and sweaty, breathing a bit heavy from his walk over, and of course, in the middle of it all, Jeff himself. He felt that pleasure begin to mix with the rage, forming the perfect product. He tried to avoid sampling it; he knew that only regret could come from indulging in it. However, when it was placed so close, when the aroma and the promise of that sweet savory flavor was only inches away, Jeff found that he could no more to stand against it than a ship in the ocean could stand against a typhoon.
Jeff began to smile.
“Why are you smiling at me, you queer for me or something?” Randy asked, a slight nervous tinge in his voice.
“Am I smiling Randy? I guess it’s because I’m just having so much fun,” Jeff announced, and suddenly lunged towards the unprepared kid holding the flare gun.
Jeff struck Randy once in the nose. Randy’s arms dropped, yet he kept hold of the flare gun. Jeff, without even needing to look, realized that Troy and Keith had actually taken a step back, instead of advancing as they should have. Jeff delivered another strong blow to Randy’s jaw, causing the boy to drop to the floor.
Jeff now turned his attention to Troy and Keith, the two tough kids that had yet to actually make so much as a move in his direction. Troy actually backed up a step and stumbled over the stack of magazines that Randy had moved earlier. Jeff took this opportunity and stepped forward, once again introducing Troy’s round belly to his fist. Troy tried to stay on his feet, but Jeff’s punches, combined with the stumble over the magazines, caused Troy to fall back, landing hard and striking his head on the concrete slab that was the garage’s floor.
Keith was actually trying to back away. However, Jeff was currently standing between him and the only exit to the garage, since the carport door was closed. Jeff took two quick steps towards the skinny kid, and felt the most intense joy at seeing Keith stagger backwards, knocking his back into the wall. That perfect blend of pleasure, control and rage had come together. Jeff felt as though he was floating above the world. Somewhere in his mind, he knew there would be hell to pay for this, but at that exact moment in time, he couldn’t care less. He didn’t care about Liu, he didn’t care about being arrested, and he didn’t care if his dad got fired. All he cared about, in that fraction of time, was hurting Keith.
Keith tried to make a run for it, hoping to squeeze through the small gap between Jeff and the door. However, Jeff clipped him a hard right hand to his face, causing Keith to stagger back again. Jeff could see that his knees were buckling, and took full advantage. He moved in, pinning Keith to the wall, and began to deliver blow after blow to the skinny kid’s stomach. Keith’s eyes became as large as saucers. Once satisfied, Jeff stepped back, and watched in demonic glee as Keith slowly slid down the wall, gasping for air.
Randy got back to his feet, but seemed to have no idea what to do.
“We done now Randy? We good, or do you and your friends need more?” Jeff mocked.
“No more, we’re cool..."
“How about you?” Jeff asked.
“It was Randy’s idea…” Keith said weakly.
“Yeah man, we didn’t even want to,” Troy agreed.
The debate may have continued, but the sound of a returning car broke the tension.
“Oh crap, my mom is back!” Randy shouted, his voice cracking in a humorous way. It seemed that the previous tough guy had all but shrunk back to a scared child.
“So, we’ll just say that we were all hanging out,” Keith replied.
“No, the flare gun, if she finds out that I messed with it, I’m screwed!”
“So put it back,” Jeff suggested. That sensation of rage was fading again, and he felt control returning.
“Yeah, grab the magazines, please,” Randy begged. Jeff found that he rather liked that tone, that begging, whipped dog mentality.
Jeff was paying no attention to Randy; he was down on the floor calmly gathering the magazines. He didn’t really care if Randy got in trouble or not, however, if his mother returned and found trouble, he feared that Liu may not be able to return home as promised.
Everything else happened in a flash, both literally and figuratively.
Randy, now in a panic over the trouble he’d be in if he was caught playing with the flare gun, had begun to sweat. As his hands frantically clawed over the gun, his thumbs pushed the hammer back, unintentionally. He didn’t even notice that the gun was cocked. He was turning it over in his hands, trying to quickly disarm it. He then heard the sound of keys in the front door. He knew that he had only seconds now to hide it.
Everything else happened in slow motion. The gun slipped from Randy’s sweaty hands as he’d attempted to rotate it once more. He saw it fall to the floor, seeming to float to the ground, rather than fall. Jeff, busy stacking the magazines, had only enough time to register Randy’s shocked gasp. He turned to look in the boy’s direction, just in time to see the bright red flare gun hit the floor. The gun discharged, launching a speeding ball of fire directly into Jeff’s face. Jeff felt the hot flash of heat and pain tear across the left side of his face. After the initial registry of agony, there was no more thinking. Jeff began to scream, clutching the left side of his face and rolling around on the floor. For a while he forgot everything, as he was plunged into that dark, rich syrup once more, the rage almost serving to dull the pain.
When he finally did come to a stable level of alertness, he realized he was in a hospital room. Half of his face was bandaged, he knew that much. He wanted to open his eyes and speak, let his family know he was awake, but the drugs still had a firm hold. He was awake, but not quite yet functioning. He could hear several familiar voices though.
“Is he going to be okay doctor?” Jeff’s mother asked.
“Oh yes ma’am, your son will be fine, however, he will have a lengthy road to recovery, and will need your support. The flare struck his face and caused 3rd degree burns on his left side.”
“How bad is the eye?” Jeff’s father asked.
“Hard to say at this point, he’ll need to see an optometrist for further review, but the damage appears quite severe.”
“And his face? What about his face?” Jeff’s mother asked, sounding deeply concerned.
“Well, we were able to clean and treat the injury in time, so you’ve no concern for infection or anything of that matter. We’ll want him on antibiotics for a while, and he’ll need to have the wound cleaned and dressed on a regular basis, but all in all, your son got very lucky. The damage could have been more severe.”
“Doctor,” his mother began again, “What if there is permanent damage? What do we do about that?”
“As I said, an optometrist will have to examine the eye…”
Shelia Woods interrupted the doctor, sounding more agitated then before, “You’re not listening, not the eye, his face! What do we do to correct his face?” she demanded.
“Well ma’am, we have treated his face, like I said, there shouldn’t be a risk of infection so long as you….”
She cut him off again, “Not the infection, his…. his appearance? What can we do for that?”
“Miss Woods, that’s hardly a concern at this point. Once he is healed and back on his feet, you can possibly explore plastic surgery to repair some of the damage, but honestly, right now, we can’t waste concern on how he looks. What is important is that your son is healthy. He can expect to be back home in a few days, maybe sooner.”
Jeff’s dad spoke again, “Okay, thank you doctor. Can we have some time alone please; my wife and I need to speak.”
“Certainly,” the doctor replied.
“Liu, why don’t you go down to the hospital cafeteria and get yourself a snack?” Matt Woods suggested.
“But I want to be here in case Jeff wakes up,” Liu replied.
“Liu, they told us that Jeff is heavily medicated. They don’t expect him to wake up anytime tonight. So, just go, and if he does come around, we’ll have you paged,” Matt replied.
Jeff heard the door open and close as Liu exited.
His parents both let out a long shaky sigh, but Jeff was starting to believe it was not a sigh of relief, but rather one of stress.
“We’re going to have to home school him now Matt, that’s just what it’s going to be, we’re going to have to keep him home!” he heard his mother rant, her voice sounding frantic.
“What? I mean, he probably won’t be able to start school right on time, but I doubt he’ll miss a whole year!” his father responded, trying to maintain a calmer voice.
“I’m not talking about that Matt, I’m not worried about him missing a week or two of school. I mean his face Matt, you heard what the doctor said, his face is going to be…. disfigured!” Shelia argued back.
“We don’t even know the full extent of the damage yet Shelia, it could be minor, it could possibly heal, and you heard what he said, plastic surgery could be an option in time.”
“In time? What kind of time? A year, two years, and what about in the meantime? People are going to see him and they’re going to talk, is that what you want? He’s going to be a…. a pariah! You think anyone is going to want to have him around their kids?”
Jeff was hearing all of this, just letting it soak in, slowly. As his mind absorbed the words, he felt that rage return. Sick, rich, dark, that syrup of raw, primal emotion. He wanted to scream at his mother, to tell her to shut up, that he was the one lying here, half his face burned, blind in one eye, all thanks to her forcing him to go over to Randy’s house. He wanted to ask her why she left, why she went off to go shopping or have her nails done or whatever it was that she did. He wanted to know why she’d leave him alone with a kid who just days before tried to jump him and his brother. He wanted to know how she could care more about his appearance than the fact that he was lying in the hospital.
However, there was still so much more that he wanted to know as well. He wanted to know how much more his mother hated him, how much more she saw him now as a, how did she put it, a pariah. He wanted to continue to swim in the thick pool of dark hatred that was starting to form from the rage and anger. That was a new one now. Before it was anger, then it was anger mixed with pleasure. But now, now it was anger mixed with hatred. And while he certainly longed to be free of it, while he most certainly preferred the false sense of love and concern he believed he’d heard from her before, he also wanted to test it out a bit more. He also began to wonder, how well would this new recipe blend with pleasure, how would it feel?
Matt Woods began to speak again, “I just can’t believe he shot himself in the face with a flare gun. I always thought Jeff was more responsible than that.”
“Don’t even get me started on that,” Shelia replied, “I couldn’t believe it when Randy and his friends explained to the medics and police how it all happened. Randy was just trying to show Jeff around his house, and wanted to show him the collection of magazines his dad kept in the garage. You know boys; he was probably hoping that a couple of Playboys would be in there or something. Then he said Jeff found the box containing the flare gun, and just wouldn’t stop playing around with it. You should have heard those other boys Matt, they told me that they practically begged Jeff to just put it down before he got hurt, but he just had to show off. I just don’t know where we went wrong Matt. I thought us moving out here to a nice quiet neighborhood would make everyone happy. Jeff though, he just, he just wants to fight us on everything.”
And while all that came together in Jeff’s mind, he continued to swim in that blackness of hatred and rage. The morphine drip added a nice touch of euphoria, Jeff could almost see himself, plunging into the syrupy waters of hatred, and emerging changed. Each dip brought him so much twisted pleasure. And that was when he finally understood. He could sample the pleasure now. Not because he was enjoying what was happening, but because he knew he could enjoy what was to come.
Just as the doctor had predicted, Jeff was scheduled to go home a few days later. During his time at the hospital, he never asked to see his face. It wasn’t until the last day that he finally asked for a mirror. The nurse had come in to change his bandages, as was the routine. She was a pleasant woman, she spoke to him, asked him how he was doing. He enjoyed her visits. So, on the final day, when she arrived to clean and dress his face, he asked to see himself.
“Are you sure sweetheart? Would you like me to call in your parents first?” she asked.
“No thank you,” Jeff replied, “I think I want to see it for myself first, without them standing over me.”
“I understand,” she replied honestly, without a hint of pretension.
Once the bandages were off, she handed him a small hand mirror.
“Would you like me to step out of the room?” she asked.
Jeff ignored her and looked at himself, taking stock of the damage. Sure enough, his face was a mess. The entire left side at least. The flare struck him traveling upwards, and burned a scar into his left cheek that extended to his eye. At first glance, it almost looked like he was smiling on that side. The scar was still bright red, and burn tissue spread out on either side. Once it arrived at his eye, the news did not get any better. His eye was white, just a lifeless bulb plugged into his face. He closed his right eye, and found that he could see nothing from his left eye at all. The scar continued up the left side of his forehead. The damage was less severe there however. The hair on the left side of his head was burned off, leaving a few strands to stick up here and there.
“Sorry sweetie, but I have to put clean bandages on,” she told him.
Jeff smiled, “It’s okay, there will be plenty to time for me to admire myself later.”
There was no joy from his parents on the ride home, or upon arrival. They spoke very little, and there was a tension in the car that simply wouldn’t fade out. As for Liu, he was thrilled that his brother was okay, but he didn’t know what to say concerning the damage to his face. So, after asking a few questions about the accident and the recovery, he fell silent as well.
They walked into their home at dusk and Liu asked about dinner. He suggested they let Jeff pick a place, to celebrate his return home.
“Just go to sleep, both of you boys, go to sleep,” Shelia remarked. She and her husband both retreated to their bedrooms as well, to argue or feel sorry for themselves, who knew?
Jeff and Liu didn’t speak much that night. Jeff spent most of the evening staring at himself in the mirror. He kept pulling back the bandages and looking at the scars. Liu wanted to see them too, but felt that it might be imprudent to ask.
“I’m glad you’re home Jeff, I really missed you and I’m glad you’re okay,” Liu said to Jeff as he stared at himself.
“I’m not okay Liu, and neither are you. None of us are really. There is a sickness here. The only difference is, now my sickness shows on the outside as well,” Jeff replied, his voice as flat as that on an answering machine.
“What are you talking about?” Liu asked.
“One day, you’ll see it too. This is what happens though, this is what happens when it all falls down,” Jeff said, still peeking behind his bandages.
“Jeff, I don’t know what you’re trying to say,” Liu responded.
Jeff didn’t reply though, and after several moments, Liu left him alone. Liu went down to his parent’s bedroom and knocked on the door.
“What is it?” the voice of his mother asked.
“Mom, I think Jeff is acting weird, you may want to come talk to him."
“Go away Liu, leave your mother alone,” his father’s voice answered. Liu, being young, had no other ideas, so he returned to his own bedroom. He didn’t know that those would be the last words he’d ever hear his parents speak to him.
That night, Shelia and Matt Woods awoke together, both being light sleepers, it took little to bring them out of slumber. The sudden removal of their blanket, as it was snatched from the bed, did the trick just fine. They awoke to see a small light coming from the half-bath that was situated in their master bedroom. The door was cracked only slightly, and the light source was weak. They could make out a human shape, standing over their bed though.
“What, what is going on?” Shelia grumbled.
As their vision came into focus, they realized their son was standing before them. Matt reached over and flipped on the lamp next to their bed. Jeff was standing there, his bandages off, his disfigured face beaming down on them, with a long kitchen knife clutched in his right hand.
“What are you doing son?” Matt asked, his mind still trying to shake out the cobwebs of sleep.
“He’s got a knife!” Shelia screamed, grabbing at her husband’s arm. Matt kept his composure though.
“Shelia, it’s probably the painkillers, he likely got up and got disoriented, relax for Christsake.”
Jeff tilted his head to one side, still not speaking. He stared hard at his father, slowly bringing the knife up, ensuring that he saw it well.
“Son, what are you doing?” Matt asked.
“Scaring you,” Jeff replied, with no emotion in his voice.
“Matt... do something!” Shelia pleaded.
“Okay son, I realize you’ve been through a lot, but you need to go back to bed. I’m going to call the doctor in the morning and….”
Jeff moved quickly across to his father’s side of the bed, his head moving about, alternating between a normal looking young man and the deformed ghoul that had been lurking in the shadows.
“Okay son, you’ve scared me, is that what you wanted?” Matt asked, adjusting to the middle of the bed to put distance between himself and his son.
“Good, now I can start hurting you,” Jeff spoke again, with no emotion.
His father had time to utter a single syllable, most likely to ask another question, to try and reason with his son. Jeff however, gave him time to do no more than that. He lunged onto the bed, driving the knife into his father’s stomach. Matt attempted to fend Jeff off, but the wound to his midsection rendered him into shock, and his arms fell to the side. Jeff could hear his mother screaming, but paid no mind. He wanted to finish with his father first.
Removing the knife, Jeff stabbed down into his stomach three more times, quickly. His father gasped and coughed up blood, his body jerked and twitched each time the knife found its mark. After the third time, Matt Woods lay still.
Shelia had backed up against the headboard of the bed. She wanted to climb down, make a run for it, but she’d balled herself up between the headboard and the end table. In her frantic state of terror and confusion, she couldn’t figure out how to do something as simple as dismount a bed.
“Jeff…. Why, why are you doing this to us?” she asked feebly.
“Randy started it, you must have known that, but you ignored it. Liu had a busted lip, you must have seen that, but you ignored it. I was shot in the face with a flare gun, but you believed Randy, why? So you could fit in?” Jeff asked in a low, almost growling voice.
“No baby, I believed you, it was, just, your father’s job…. And we’re new here, and…. Oh God Jeff please….” his mother begged.
“Tell me about home school mom? Tell me all about how you don’t want to send me out in public because of my face. Tell me how none of the other kids will want to be my friend, and how none of their parents will want to be yours. Tell me about that mom, tell me how nice it’s going to be, you home schooling me…..”
“Jeff please, I was just stressed, I was worried about you that’s all… please I…. I love you…”
“Mom, I think you should take your own advice, you know, what you told Liu when we got home tonight. He wanted to do something nice to welcome me home, and do you remember what you told us to do instead?” Jeff asked, as he now crawled over, cornering his mother on the bed.
“What did I say?” she asked, the question coming out barely a whisper.
“Go to sleep!” Jeff snarled, and drove the knife into his mother’s chest. He stabbed her over and over again, and as he did, he finally found that perfect recipe, that heavenly blend. That rage, hate and pleasure all mixed into one perfect formula, and for a while, Jeff became lost in it all.
Jeff opened his brother’s bedroom door, not surprised to find his brother asleep. He had dozed off with headphones in, so he slept through all the shouting. That was fine with Jeff. It was easier that Liu not have to hear all of that.
Jeff sat down on his brother’s bed and nudged him slightly. It took a moment, but Liu finally opened his eyes and looked up. Jeff removed his earphones for him.
“You’re free now Liu,” he spoke softly.
“Jeff, what… what are you talking about?” Liu mumbled, still half asleep.
“You’ll see in the morning. I just wanted to let you know I love you. You’ve been my best friend, remember that, okay?”
“Thanks, I… I love you too. Now, let me go back to sleep,” Liu replied, already dozing off again.
Jeff smiled and stood up. As he left the room, he looked back at his sleeping brother one last time, before he vanished into the night.
The Beginning of Jeff the Killer
What is believed to be the first Jeff the Killer story on Creepypasta:
Excerpt from a local newspaper:
OMINOUS UNKNOWN KILLER IS STILL AT LARGE.
After weeks of unexplained murders, the ominous unknown killer is still on the rise. After little evidence has been found, a young boy states that he survived one of the killer’s attacks and bravely tells his story.
“I had a bad dream and I woke up in the middle of the night,” says the boy, “I saw that for some reason the window was open, even though I remember it being closed before I went to bed. I got up and shut it once more. Afterwards, I simply crawled under my covers and tried to get back to sleep. That’s when I had a strange feeling, like someone was watching me. I looked up, and nearly jumped out of my bed. There, in the little ray of light, illuminating from between my curtains, were a pair of two eyes. These weren’t regular eyes; they were dark, ominous eyes. They were bordered in black and... just plain out terrified me. That’s when I saw his mouth. A long, horrendous smile that made every hair on my body stand up. The figure stood there, watching me. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he said it. A simple phrase, but said in a way only a mad man could speak.
“He said, ‘Go to sleep.’ I let out a scream, that’s what sent him at me. He pulled up a knife, aiming at my heart. He jumped on top of my bed. I fought him back; I kicked, I punched, I rolled around, trying to knock him off me. That’s when my dad busted in. The man threw the knife. It went into my dad’s shoulder. The man probably would’ve finished him off, if one of the neighbors hadn’t alerted the police.
“They drove into the parking lot, and ran towards the door. The man turned and ran down the hallway. I heard a smash, like glass breaking. As I came out of my room, I saw the window that was pointing towards the back of my house was broken. I looked out it to see him vanish into the distance. I can tell you one thing, I will never forget that face. Those cold, evil eyes, and that psychotic smile. They will never leave my head.”
Police are still on the look for this man. If you see anyone that fits the description in this story, please contact your local police department.
Jeff and his family had just moved into a new neighborhood. His dad had gotten a promotion at work, and they thought it would be best to live in one of those “fancy” neighborhoods. Jeff and his brother Liu couldn’t complain though. A new, better house. What was not to love? As they were getting unpacked, one of their neighbors came by.
“Hello,” she said, “I’m Barbara; I live across the street from you. Well, I just wanted to introduce myself, and to introduce my son.” She turns around and calls her son over. “Billy, these are our new neighbors.” Billy said hi and ran back to play in his yard.
“Well,” said Jeff’s mom, “I’m Margaret, and this is my husband Peter, and my two sons, Jeff and Liu.” They each introduced themselves, and then Barbara invited them to her son’s birthday. Jeff and his brother were about to object, when their mother said that they would love to. When Jeff and his family are done packing, Jeff went up to his mom.
“Mom, why would you invite us to some kid’s party? If you haven’t noticed, I’m not some dumb kid.”
“Jeff,” said his mother, “We just moved here; we should show that we want to spend time with our neighbors. Now, we’re going to that party, and that’s final.” Jeff started to talk, but stopped himself, knowing that he couldn’t do anything. Whenever his mom said something, it was final. He walked up to his room and plopped down on his bed. He sat there looking at his ceiling when suddenly, he got a weird feeling. Not so much a pain, but... a weird feeling. He dismissed it as just some random feeling. He heard his mother call him down to get his stuff, and he walked down to get it.
The next day, Jeff walked down stairs to get breakfast and got ready for school. As he sat there, eating his breakfast, he once again got that feeling. This time it was stronger. It gave him a slight tugging pain, but he once again dismissed it. As he and Liu finished breakfast, they walked down to the bus stop. They sat there waiting for the bus, and then, all of a sudden, some kid on a skateboard jumped over them, only inches above their laps. They both jumped back in surprise. “Hey, what the hell?”
The kid landed and turned back to them. He kicked his skateboard up and caught it with his hands. The kid seems to be about twelve, one year younger than Jeff. He wore an Aeropostale shirt and ripped blue jeans.
“Well, well, well. It looks like we got some new meat.” Suddenly, two other kids appeared. One was super skinny and the other was huge. “Well, since you’re new here, I’d like to introduce ourselves, over there is Keith.” Jeff and Liu looked over to the skinny kid. He had a dopey face that you would expect a sidekick to have. “And he’s Troy.” They looked over at the fat kid. Talk about a tub of lard. This kid looked like he hadn’t exercised since he was crawling.
“And I,” said the first kid, “am Randy. Now, for all the kids in this neighborhood there is a small price for bus fare, if you catch my drift.” Liu stood up, ready to punch the lights out of the kid’s eyes when one of his friends pulled a knife on him. “Tsk, tsk, tsk, I had hoped you would be more cooperative, but it seems we must do this the hard way.” The kid walked up to Liu and took his wallet out of his pocket. Jeff got that feeling again. Now, it was truly strong; a burning sensation. He stood up, but Liu gestured him to sit down. Jeff ignored him and walked up to the kid.
“Listen here you little punk, give back my bro’s wallet or else.” Randy put the wallet in his pocket and pulled out his own knife.
“Oh? And what will you do?” Just as he finished the sentence, Jeff popped the kid in the nose. As Randy reached for his face, Jeff grabbed the kid’s wrist and broke it. Randy screamed and Jeff grabbed the knife from his hand. Troy and Keith rushed Jeff, but Jeff was too quick. He threw Randy to the ground. Keith lashed out at him, but Jeff ducked and stabbed him in the arm. Keith dropped his knife and fell to the ground screaming. Troy rushed him too, but Jeff didn’t even need the knife. He just punched Troy straight in the stomach and Troy went down. As he fell, he puked all over. Liu could do nothing but look in amazement at Jeff.
“Jeff, how’d you...?” was all that he said. They saw the bus coming and knew they’d be blamed for the whole thing. So they started running as fast as they could. As they ran, they looked back and saw the bus driver rushing over to Randy and the others. As Jeff and Liu made it to school, they didn’t dare tell what happened. All they did was sit and listen. Liu just thought of that as his brother beating up a few kids, but Jeff knew it was more. It was something scary. As he got that feeling he felt how powerful it was, the urge to just hurt someone. He didn’t like how it sounded, but he couldn’t help feeling happy. He felt that strange feeling go away, and stay away for the entire day of school. Even as he walked home due to the whole thing near the bus stop, and how now he probably wouldn’t be taking the bus anymore, he felt happy. When he got home his parents asked him how his day was, and he said, in a somewhat ominous voice, “It was a wonderful day.” Next morning, he heard a knock at his front door. He walked down to find two police officers at the door, his mother looking back at him with an angry look.
“Jeff, these officers tell me that you attacked three kids. That it wasn’t regular fighting, and that they were stabbed. Stabbed, son!” Jeff’s gaze fell to the floor, showing his mother that it was true.
“Mom, they were the ones who pulled the knives on me and Liu.”
“Son,” said one of the cops,” We found three kids, two stabbed, one having a bruise on his stomach, and we have witnesses proving that you fled the scene. Now, what does that tell us?” Jeff knew it was no use. He could say him and Liu had been attacked, but then there was no proof it was not them who attacked first. They couldn’t say that they weren’t fleeing, because truth be told they were. So Jeff couldn’t defend himself or Liu.
“Son, call down your brother.” Jeff couldn’t do it, since it was him who beat up all the kids.
“Sir, it…it was me. I was the one who beat up the kids. Liu tried to hold me back, but he couldn’t stop me.” The cop looked at his partner and they both nod.
“Well kid, looks like a year in juvie…”
“Wait!” says Liu. They all looked up to see him holding a knife. The officers pulled their guns and locked them on Liu.
“It was me, I beat up those little punks. Have the marks to prove it.” He lifted up his sleeves to reveal cuts and bruises, as if he was in a struggle.
“Son, just put the knife down,” said the officer. Liu held up the knife and dropped it to the ground. He put his hands up and walked over to the cops.
“No, Liu, it was me! I did it!” Jeff had tears running down his face.
“Huh, poor bro. Trying to take the blame for what I did. Well, take me away.” The police led Liu out to the patrol car.
“Liu, tell them it was me! Tell them! I was the one who beat up those kids!” Jeff’s mother put her hands on his shoulders.
“Jeff, please, you don’t have to lie. We know it’s Liu, you can stop.” Jeff watched helplessly as the cop car speeds off with Liu inside. A few minutes later Jeff’s dad pulled into the driveway, seeing Jeff’s face and knowing something was wrong.
“Son, son, what is it?” Jeff couldn’t answer. His vocal cords were strained from crying. Instead, Jeff’s mother walked his father inside to break the bad news to him as Jeff wept in the driveway. After an hour or so Jeff walked back in to the house, seeing that his parents were both shocked, sad, and disappointed. He couldn’t look at them. He couldn’t see how they thought of Liu when it was his fault. He just went to sleep, trying to get the whole thing off his mind. Two days went by, with no word from Liu at JDC. No friends to hang out with. Nothing but sadness and guilt. That is until Saturday, when Jeff is woke up by his mother, with a happy, sunshiny face.
“Jeff, it’s the day!” she said as she opened up the curtains and let light flood into his room.
“What, what’s today?” asked Jeff as he stirs awake.
“Why, it’s Billy’s party.” He was now fully awake.
“Mom, you’re joking, right? You don’t expect me to go to some kid’s party after…” There was a long pause.
“Jeff, we both know what happened. I think this party could be the thing that brightens up the past days. Now, get dressed.” Jeff’s mother walked out of the room and downstairs to get ready herself. He fought himself to get up. He picked out a random shirt and pair of jeans and walked down stairs. He saw his mother and father all dressed up, his mother in a dress and his father in a suit. He thought, why they would ever wear such fancy clothes to a kid’s party?
“Son, is that all your going to wear?” said Jeff’s mom.
“Better than wearing too much.” he said. His mother pushed down the feeling to yell at him and hid it with a smile.
“Now Jeff, we may be over-dressed, but this is how you go if you want to make an impression,” said his father. Jeff grunted and went back up to his room.
“I don’t have any fancy clothes!” he yelled down stairs.
“Just pick out something.” called his mother. He looked around in his closet for what he would call fancy. He found a pair of black dress pants he had for special occasions and an undershirt. He couldn’t find a shirt to go with it though. He looked around, and found only striped and patterned shirts. None of which go with dress pants. Finally he found a white hoodie and put it on.
“You’re wearing that?” they both said. His mother looked at her watch. “Oh, no time to change. Let’s just go.” She said as she herded Jeff and his father out the door. They crossed the street over to Barbara and Billy’s house. They knocked on the door and at it appeared that Barbara, just like his parents, way over-dressed. As they walked inside all Jeff could see were adults, no kids.
“The kids are out in the yard. Jeff, how about you go and meet some of them?” said Barbara.
Jeff walked outside to a yard full of kids. They were running around in weird cowboy costumes and shooting each other with plastic guns. He might as well be standing in a Toys R Us. Suddenly a kid came up to him and handed him a toy gun and hat.
“Hey. Wanna pway?” he said.
“Ah, no kid. I’m way too old for this stuff.” The kid looked at him with that weird puppy dog face.
“Pwease?” said the kid. “Fine,” said Jeff. He put on the hat and started to pretend shoot at the kids. At first he thought it was totally ridiculous, but then he started to actually have fun. It might not have been super cool, but it was the first time he had done something that took his mind off of Liu. So he played with the kids for a while, until he heard a noise. A weird rolling noise. Then it hit him. Randy, Troy, and Keith all jumped over the fence on their skateboards. Jeff dropped the fake gun and ripped off the hat. Randy looked at Jeff with a burning hatred.
“Hello, Jeff, is it?” he said. “We have some unfinished business.” Jeff saw his bruised nose.” I think we’re even. I beat the crap out of you, and you get my brother sent to JDC.”
Randy got an angry look in his eyes. “Oh no, I don’t go for even, I go for winning. You may have kicked our asses that one day, but not today.” As he said that Randy rushed at Jeff. They both fell to the ground. Randy punched Jeff in the nose, and Jeff grabbed him by the ears and head butted him. Jeff pushed Randy off of him and both rose to their feet. Kids were screaming and parents were running out of the house. Troy and Keith both pulled guns out of their pockets.
“No one interrupts or guts will fly!” they said. Randy pulled a knife on Jeff and stabbed it into his shoulder.
Jeff screamed and fell to his knees. Randy started kicking him in the face. After three kicks Jeff grabs his foot and twists it, causing Randy to fall to the ground. Jeff stood up and walked towards the back door. Troy grabbed him.
“Need some help?” He picks Jeff up by the back of the collar and throws him through the patio door. As Jeff tries to stand he is kicked down to the ground. Randy repeatedly starts kicking Jeff, until he starts to cough up blood.
“Come on Jeff, fight me!” He picks Jeff up and throws him into the kitchen. Randy sees a bottle of vodka on the counter and smashes the glass over Jeff’s head.
“Fight!” He throws Jeff back into the living room.
“Come on Jeff, look at me!” Jeff glances up, his face riddled with blood. “I was the one who got your brother sent to JDC! And now you’re just gonna sit here and let him rot in there for a whole year! You should be ashamed!” Jeff starts to get up.
“Oh, finally! you stand and fight!” Jeff is now to his feet, blood and vodka on his face. Once again he gets that strange feeling, the one in which he hasn’t felt for a while. “Finally. He’s up!” says Randy as he runs at Jeff. That’s when it happens. Something inside Jeff snaps. His psyche is destroyed, all rational thinking is gone, all he can do is kill. He grabs Randy and pile drives him to the ground. He gets on top of him and punches him straight in the heart. The punch causes Randy’s heart to stop. As Randy gasps for breath. Jeff hammers down on him. Punch after punch, blood gushes from Randy’s body, until he takes one final breath, and dies.
Everyone is looking at Jeff now. The parents, the crying kids, even Troy and Keith. Although they easily break from their gaze and point their guns at Jeff. Jeff sees the guns trained on him and runs for the stairs. As he runs Troy and Keith let out fire on him, each shot missing. Jeff runs up the stairs. He hears Troy and Keith follow up behind. As they let out their final rounds of bullets Jeff ducks into the bathroom. He grabs the towel rack and rips it off the wall. Troy and Keith race in, knives ready.
Troy swings his knife at Jeff, who backs away and bangs the towel rack into Troy’s face. Troy goes down hard and now all that’s left is Keith. He is more agile than Troy though, and ducks when Jeff swings the towel rack. He dropped the knife and grabbed Jeff by the neck. He pushed him into the wall. A container of bleach fell down on top of him from the top shelf. It burnt both of them and they both started to scream. Jeff wiped his eyes as best as he could. He pulled back the towel rack and swung it straight into Keith’s head. As he lay there, bleeding to death, he let out an ominous smile.
“What’s so funny?” asked Jeff. Keith pulled out a lighter and switched it on. “What’s funny,” he said, “Is that you’re covered in bleach and alcohol.” Jeff’s eyes widened as Keith threw the lighter at him. As soon as the flame made contact with him, the flames ignited the alcohol in the vodka. While the alcohol burned him, the bleach bleached his skin. Jeff let out a terrible screech as he caught on fire. He tried to roll out the fire but it was no use, the alcohol had made him a walking inferno. He ran down the hall, and fell down the stairs. Everybody started screaming as they saw Jeff, now a man on fire, drop to the ground, nearly dead. The last thing Jeff saw was his mother and the other parents trying to extinguish the flame. That’s when he passed out.
When Jeff woke he had a cast wrapped around his face. He couldn’t see anything, but he felt a cast on his shoulder, and stitches all over his body. He tried to stand up, but he realized that there was some tube in his arm, and when he tried to get up it fell out, and a nurse rushed in.
“I don’t think you can get out of bed just yet.” she said as she put him back in his bed and re-inserted the tube. Jeff sat there, with no vision, no idea of what his surroundings were. Finally, after hours, he heard his mother.
“Honey, are you okay?” she asked. Jeff couldn’t answer though, his face was covered, and he was unable to speak. “Oh honey, I have great news. After all the witnesses told the police that Randy confessed of trying to attack you, they decided to let Liu go.” This made Jeff almost bolt up, stopping halfway, remembering the tube coming out of his arm. “He’ll be out by tomorrow, and then you two will be able to be together again.”
Jeff’s mother hugs Jeff and says her goodbyes. The next couple of weeks were those where Jeff was visited by his family. Then came the day where his bandages were to be removed. His family were all there to see it, what he would look like. As the doctors unwrapped the bandages from Jeff’s face everyone was on the edge of their seats. They waited until the last bandage holding the cover over his face was almost removed.
“Let’s hope for the best,” said the doctor. He quickly pulls the cloth; letting the rest fall from Jeff’s face.
Jeff’s mother screams at the sight of his face. Liu and Jeff’s dad stare awe-struck at his face.
“What? What happened to my face?” Jeff said. He rushed out of bed and ran to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and saw the cause of the distress. His face. It…it’s horrible. His lips were burnt to a deep shade of red. His face was turned into a pure white color, and his hair singed from brown to black. He slowly put his hand to his face. It had a sort of leathery feel to it now. He looked back at his family then back at the mirror.
“Jeff,” said Liu, “It’s not that bad….”
“Not that bad?” said Jeff,” It’s perfect!” His family were equally surprised. Jeff started laughing uncontrollably His parents noticed that his left eye and hand were twitching.
“Uh… Jeff, are you okay?”
“Okay? I’ve never felt more happy! Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa, look at me. This face goes perfectly with me!” He couldn’t stop laughing. He stroked his face feeling it. Looking at it in the mirror. What caused this? Well, you may recall that when Jeff was fighting Randy something in his mind, his sanity, snapped. Now he was left as a crazy killing machine, that is, his parents didn’t know.
“Doctor,” said Jeff’s mom, “Is my son… alright, you know. In the head?”
“Oh yes, this behavior is typical for patients that have taken very large amounts of pain killers. If his behavior doesn’t change in a few weeks, bring him back here, and we’ll give him a psychological test.”
“Oh thank you doctor.” Jeff’s mother went over to Jeff.” Jeff, sweety. It’s time to go.”
Jeff looks away from the mirror, his face still formed into a crazy smile. “Kay mommy, ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa!” his mother took him by the shoulder and took him to get his clothes.
“This is what came in,” said the lady at the desk. Jeff’s mom looked down to see the black dress pants and white hoodie her son wore. Now they were clean of blood and now stitched together. Jeff’s mother led him to his room and made him put his clothes on. Then they left, not knowing that this was their final day of life.
Later that night, Jeff’s mother woke to a sound coming from the bathroom. It sounded as if someone was crying. She slowly walked over to see what it was. When she looked into the bathroom she saw a horrendous sight. Jeff had taken a knife and carved a smile into his cheeks.
“Jeff, what are you doing?” asked his mother.
Jeff looked over to his mother. “I couldn’t keep smiling mommy. It hurt after awhile. Now, I can smile forever. Jeff’s mother noticed his eyes, ringed in black.
“Jeff, your eyes!” His eyes were seemingly never closing.
“I couldn’t see my face. I got tired and my eyes started to close. I burned out the eyelids so I could forever see myself; my new face.” Jeff’s mother slowly started to back away, seeing that her son was going insane. “What’s wrong mommy? Aren’t I beautiful?
“Yes son,” she said, “Yes you are. L-let me go get daddy, so he can see your face.” She ran into the room and shook Jeff’s dad from his sleep. “Honey, get the gun we…..” She stopped as she saw Jeff in the doorway, holding a knife.
“Mommy, you lied.” That’s the last thing they hear as Jeff rushes them with the knife, gutting both of them.
His brother Liu woke up, startled by some noise. He didn’t hear anything else, so he just shut his eyes and tried to go back to sleep. As he was on the border of slumber, he got the strangest feeling that someone was watching him. He looked up, before Jeff’s hand covered his mouth. He slowly raised the knife ready to plunge it into Liu. Liu thrashed here and there trying to escape Jeff’s grip.
“Shhhhhhh,” Jeff said,”Just go to sleep.”
Beware of Those Who Would Do You Harm
From Creepypasta author Angel Rocket:
When Tucker opened his eyes again, Jeff lunged at him. Tucker managed to dodge the knife and pulled a small pocketknife out of his back pocket. Jeff instantly recognized it as the same pocketknife he had thrown at Wendy…that night. How the heck did he get it? Tucker pointed the knife at him.
“Let’s go, pretty boy.” Tucker said through his teeth.
Jeff stood up a little straighter and put his hand on his chest. “You really think I’m pretty?” he mocked. He chuckled and then crouched to prepare for another strike. But Tucker had suddenly gone pale.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” He murmured. “You were there, laughing, the last time I talked to Abby!”
Jeff shrugged. “She was…quite amusing.”
Tucker gritted his teeth and swung his balled up fist at him. Jeff casually grabbed it in midair and squeezed as hard as he could, causing Tucker to cry out in pain. But, it wasn’t the hand that was holding the knife. Before Jeff realized this, Tucker swung his knife-wielding hand around and stabbed Jeff in the side. Jeff howled in agony, but didn’t loosen his grip. Jeff looked down at the knife and the practically black blood flowing from the wound. It had been a long time since he felt pain like this, his victims rarely fought back. He sort of liked it. He brought his own knife up to take a swipe at Tucker, but Tucker pushed the blade in deeper causing Jeff to finally let go. He backed away and pulled out the small knife before Tucker ran at him and tackled him to floor.
Jeff dropped both knives as Tucker sat on his chest and started punching him in the face, roaring with every hit. Tears ran down his face as visions of Abby and Wendy’s smiling faces flashed through his mind. Jeff flipped him over and punched Tucker as hard as he could. He wrapped his arms around Tuckers neck to choke him, but the sharp pain in his side allowed Tucker to gain the upper hand. Tucker pressed down on the spot where he had stabbed Jeff and pushed him off. He then stood up and commenced to kicking and stomping Jeff repeatedly as he writhed around on the floor holding his side. Getting exhausted, Tucker straightened up and walked over to where the bloody pocketknife lay. Crouching down to pick it up, he sighed.
“She was the best person I’d ever met, and you, you took her away from me.” He muttered, dryly.
Jeff sat up on one elbow and giggled as he wiped his face. Tucker turned and glared at him.
“Laugh all you want. You won’t be laughing when the police get here.”
Jeff stopped giggling. “The police are on their way, huh? Guess I’d better wrap this up.” Jeff hopped up and marched towards Tucker. Tucker stood and aimed the knife at him.
“This is for Abby and Wendy!”
Tucker swung the knife at Jeff three times, but each swing missed. It was clear that Jeff had been holding back before. Tucker held the knife over his head and tried to stab Jeff. Jeff simply side-stepped and struck Tuckers back as he went past him, causing Tucker to fall to the floor with a loud thud. Jeff grabbed Tucker by his hair and stood him up. Before Tucker could react, Jeff hit him in the gut a few times. He then banged Tucker’s forehead into the nearest wall and then let him sink to the floor.
As Tucker tried to stand up again, Jeff picked up his knife and went over to the bed and sat down. He looked down at the dead girl and chuckled.
“Not so tough now, is he Clarissa? I wonder…how I should kill him.” He paused for a minute, and then put his ear close to her slightly open mouth. “Hmmmm…what’s that?” Pause. “Aw, but that’s no fun.” Another pause as Jeff tapped his cheek with the knife. “You’re right, it needs to be quick since the police are on their way.”
Tucker finally stood up. He yanked Jeff up by his hoodie and slammed him against the wall. He raised the pocketknife, preparing to take a life for the first time.
“Now die.” Tucker was just about to sink the knife into Jeff’s heart when a sound in the distance stopped him. It was the sound of police sirens, meaning that his saviors were almost there. He was only distracted for a moment, but it was long enough for Jeff to turn the tables on him. Before Tucker could even breathe a sigh of relief, Jeff knocked the knife away and turned him around in two quick moves. He covered Tucker’s mouth with one hand and held the knife to his throat with the other. As Tucker fought to get free, Jeff whispered in his ear.
“Now, you can join Abby in the land of dreams and nightmares.” Jeff said, as he slid his knife across Tucker’s throat. “Sleep, forever.”
Tucker’s body went limp, and Jeff wasted no time in hoisting him up and carrying him through the small door. He cringed a bit from the pain in his side, but he knew that there wasn’t much time. Through that door was a smaller room with nothing but a metal operating table in it. He would often use this room to torture his victims before finally finishing them off. A small sound escaped from Tuckers lips.
Jeff realized that he was still hanging on to life by a thread. He laid him out on the table and quickly tied his hands and feet down. That way, he could just lie there and bleed to death. He ripped the bottom half of Tucker’s shirt of and wrapped it tightly around his waist to use as a bandage for his wound.
Jeff started to leave as he heard the front door open downstairs followed by two voices, but he had an idea. He wanted to leave his mark on this little town before he left for good. He dipped two fingers into the pool of blood that was forming under Tucker’s neck and wrote one final message on the wall.
“Jane! I’ve got something over here.” he heard a female voice yell. Time to leave. Jeff quickly grabbed everything he needed, which was only the computer, as he had no other belongings besides his knife, and blew out the candle. He slipped out of the room (he didn’t need the light because he knew the house like the back of his hand) and quickly hid in a trap door that blended in with the hallway just as two cops, an older male and a young female, came up the stairs. As he had hoped, although they shined their flashlights over the door, they did not notice it. He waited there until they entered the room. As he crept past the doorway, as quiet as a killer in the night, he heard the female officer say, “He must have found out we were coming.”
Their conversation continued, but he didn’t care to listen. He needed to get the heck out of there. As he crept down the stairs, he could hear more police officers coming up to the front door. He ducked under a table just as they walked in. They spread out and searched, shining their flashlights at every little thing. He knew that he couldn’t stay under the table for long. Luckily it was pitch black inside the house, so he moved through the darkness, ducking behind something when a flashlight beamed or a cop came in his direction. Although the computer was weighing him down, he kept this up until he finally made it out the open front door.
He tiptoed outside and headed towards the cornfields, careful to avoid two cops who were exploring the sides of house. As he reached the cornfields, he heard shouting coming from the second floor. It sounded like the female cop; she must have found Tucker, and his little message. The two officers who were outside quickly ran inside, guns drawn. Jeff smiled inwardly. His job here was done.
Just as he was about to make a run for it, he heard crying. He turned around to see the female officer run through the front door, followed by the male officer. He decided to put down the computer and hide in the corn to listen in.
“Mason. Mason! Get yourself together.” The male officer said, turning her around and shaking her.
“I didn’t sign up for this shit, Jane!” She cried. “The only reason I became a cop in this town is because nothing like this ever happens!”
“You knew exactly what you were signing up for.” He replied, sternly. He let her go and combed his fingers through his greying black hair. “Murderers and psychos are everywhere, not just in big cities.”
The female officer pulled her jacket tighter around her. “Maybe so, but this? What kind of human being would do that to all those poor people. And those kids, Jane, they were the same age as your daughter. They probably even went to the same school, didn’t they?”
“Yeah, maybe.” He said, quietly. “Come on, let’s go inside and wait for homicide to get here.”
As they walked back inside, Jeff decided he would stay just a little longer. Someone needed to teach all those cops a lesson for interfering. He especially wanted revenge on that old fart, Officer Jane, was it? He’ll teach him a lesson for calling him a psycho, starting with his little daughter.
Jeff wiped the blood off his knife and grinned as he slunk back into the shadows to plan what he would do next.
A Letter from James Lamb
A story from Anonymous on PasteBin:
I’m writing in response to your inquiry regarding the Keaton homicides. I've given it some thought, and I've decided I'd like to give you my testimony. Stories like this one shouldn't be stuffed into a drawer and forgotten. I'll admit, some of the pertinent details have slipped my mind over the years, but I've had a chance to visit the archives and have a second look at certain relevant documents—perks of being a former detective—and I think I'm probably in the best shape to give you the full story. Attached is my complete statement on the case, from beginning to end. Best of luck with your book.
Yours, James Lamb
A lot of people will tell you this story starts with a murder, but that’s not quite true. For me, this started before all the talk of serial killers—in fact, it started half a year before a single person at Lowry County PD had even heard the name “Jeff Keaton.” It started with a string of break-ins. They were in residential areas, and none of them resulted in anything of substantial value being reported stolen. All in all this was the kind of crime which we at the department wouldn’t have taken all too seriously had it not been for the fact that the break-ins had victimized certain members of the upper echelon of the community. If you’re going to really understand this story, then it’s important that you understand that this town is all about connections. The big businessmen, the politicians and various venerable families are all part of a group of people I call the town elite, and the town elite takes care of its own. By that I mean that these folks have a rich tradition of scratching each other's backs. So when a known socialite and donor for the mayor’s re-election campaign has a run in with cat burglar LCPD doesn’t hesitate to break out the big guns and conduct a thorough investigation, regardless of how little evidence there is to work with or how inconsequential the damages are.
Don’t let my outspokenness fool you—retirement’s made me blunt, but back then I was just another cog in the machine; I pretended all of this stuff didn’t exist just like everyone else. So when they asked me to put off actual work to do a formal interview of some six-year-old who claimed to have seen the burglar in the dark for less than thirty seconds, I didn’t complain; I did it with a smile. I’ve reconstructed the interview from notes in the archives, and here’s his basic story:
He woke up in bed, and he saw a figure crouching at the head of his bed. It was dressed in black, but he said the light from his window (his open window) was enough to see some of his face by. He had, and these are the kid’s words: “white skin, and black-ringed eyes.” They looked at each other for a minute, and then the figure smiled at him, whispered “go to sleep,” and climbed out the window.
I could buy that the kid saw the burglar. The face I rationalized as the distorted description of a white ski mask. The rest? I dismissed them as products of the kid’s imagination. Couldn’t fault a six-year-old for exaggeration, and god knows this kid was probably getting more attention as a “witness” then he usually got from parents as busy as his. If I were him, I probably would have sensationalized the story to make myself feel a little special, too. So that was that. I filed away his testimony and called it a day, and the burglar never struck again and of course we never found him. It’s only in retrospect that I can see, with chilling clarity, that it was him. Cutting his teeth on breaking and entering, biding his time until he got good enough at it to do what he really wanted to do. In a morbid sort of way, it’s funny: if we’d caught him back then, Tabitha Cromwell and the others would still be alive today. I try not to think about that too much.
Fast-forward a few months. I’m writing up a report on a 20-something man, a kid really, gutted in his house in the projects. I barely needed to do the requisite background checks to verify my first suspicions: gang violence. Strange how so many well-to-do folks and so many underprivileged ones can coexist in the same town like that, but that’s how it was. Gangs had been a thorn in our side for decades, and gang-related homicides were all the more tragic for their frequency. Fingerprints at the scene belonged to a guy already in the system. Jeffrey H. Keaton. I ran the name through the archives, got a profile on him.
Interestingly, we—the system, that is—were already acquainted with him. He had a brother, Liu Keaton, serving a term in the Stockton Juvenile Detention Center for assault with a deadly weapon, and he’d been reported missing at 14 after running away from home. The incident hadn’t received much press, apparently because his parents didn’t press LCPD to locate him. From all that, I was pretty sure at the time that I had him figured out. Kid in a bad neighborhood, indifferent parents, criminal brother, the ingredients for a gang kid were all there. I could only guess at what happened to him after he ran away but I assumed he became homeless and from there I can tell you from personal experience that most folks will do anything they have to to survive.
As self-assured as I was about my theory about Keaton’s life, however, there were a few things about the nature of the crime that suggested something more sinister than gang violence. For one, the state of the corpse: it had been mutilated, skinned in places and riddled with dozens of shallow cuts carved into the flesh. I saw it myself, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a gang casualty brutalized like that. They could be vicious, but they weren’t psychopaths. For another thing, they’d apparently broken into this guy’s home, deep in an area we knew was dominated by one gang, to kill him. Gang wars took place out on the open, in the streets like the displays of strength they were. And when they entered private residences they were rarely carried out in stealth like this break-in had been or done so close to territory that wasn't in dispute.
It didn’t all add up so I had my suspicions, but personal curiosity doesn’t often translate into professional action in my line of work. Kids in the projects didn’t have wealthy benefactors to make sure their cases stayed open. I put in the minimum effort required (placed him on the right lists, put out a warrant for his arrest) and then I moved on. No concerted effort was ever made to find Keaton; he just joined the faceless mass of people suspected of gang affiliations and that was the end of it. Or so we thought. Whoever said hindsight’s a gift never made any mistakes.
It all went to hell two months later. I can’t speak for other departments, but LCPD has an unfortunate tendency to slip into complacence around the holidays, when the prospect of winter leave is on the horizon. Maybe they’re all like that, or maybe this is just that kind of town. Either way, the events of mid-December could not have occurred at a less opportune time.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon when I got the call. I still haven’t forgotten the little details: picking up my phone, getting in my car, pulling out of the driveway trying to remember if the name Tabitha Cromwell meant anything to me. When I got to the station, everyone was already on their feet, pacing, talking with one another in low, anxious voices. After maybe twenty minutes, the chief came into the room and this is more or less the run-down he gave us:
Two days before, a maid who did weekly housework for one Tabitha Cromwell had let herself into her employer’s house with a spare key to do Saturday cleaning, found Cromwell’s body mutilated on her living room floor, and called 911 in a panic. LCPD had sent a ground crew to the scene to corroborate the maid’s story, and they found everything just as she’d described it. They did a preliminary investigation and found a few items of note: a) the state of her body suggested she’d only been dead one or two days at the most and b) there were fingerprints around the house. The boys in forensics had run them through the database, and as you’ll already know they belonged to Jeffrey H. Keaton. The Cromwells were already pressing for an investigation, and the chief had called us in to start assembling a case. I’d find out later Tabitha was the widow of John Cromwell, three-term city councilman and, in his prime, contender for state senate.
My first thought about Keaton in six weeks was this: he was a dead man. Like I said, the elite in this town move mountains. Gang-related homicide was one thing, but this? Her in-laws would be breathing down our necks until we caught him, and after that he wasn’t going to see an ounce of mercy in court. To tell the truth, the fact that people as well-to-do as her could be victims of crimes like this at all was jarring. They way we see them, the way they carry themselves, sometimes it’s easy to forget they’re only human.
In a sick way, when the chief told me I was taking the lead on the case, I was excited. One has to understand, at this point I looked at this case in a completely impersonal way, and I’ll put it plainly: handling high-profile cases isn’t an uncommon way to rise in my line of work. I’d been tapped for the job for two reasons. For one, I was something of a rising star in the department (and besides that some of the more obvious senior candidates had taken their leave already). For another, after looking at Keaton’s file the chief had noted I’d handled his other case and assumed I’d be more familiar with him. So that was that—this was a manhunt for a serial killer with two murders under his belt, and I, young and ambitious, wasn’t going to squander the opportunity to prove myself.
I planned to handle it by the book. We put out press releases and gave statements to the local news giving descriptions of the suspect and urging people to report in with information. I also arranged for interviews with residents who'd lived near Tabitha, the neighborhood watch in her area and even the family of that projects kid who'd long ago lost faith that their boy was ever going to get justice. That last group was oddly lucky that their cause was being unknowingly championed by the Cromwells; a rising tide lifts all ships, I suppose, even if that tide is blood.
It was Tabitha’s father-in-law who initially suggested we try to compile a psych profile on Keaton. Early on, Maurice Cromwell (“Call me Maury.”) started making regular visits to the station to follow up on the state of the case, and by the end of the investigation I got to know him a lot better than I cared to. He was slight and old, but there was authority in his voice and his mannerisms. He was, after all, the driving force behind the investigation. He was also, as he was polite enough to refrain from mentioning more than a couple of times, one of many private sponsors of LCPD. Go figure. One of our meetings early on, he mentioned that he had a lot of faith in psychological profiling. I tried to explain that we generally didn't approach homicides that way. By way of reply, absurd as it sounds, he cited some crime show as evidence that this was the way to catch a serial killer. At first I thought he was joking, but when I realized he was dead serious I assured him we’d have a thorough psych profile assembled. I knew the man could have had me removed from the investigation with one word to the chief, so I wasn't about to question him. Little did I know how radically his half-baked idea was going to change my perception of this case.
I started gathering a list of potential witnesses to contribute to the profile. The pickings were slim. Keaton’s parents, the obvious choice, made it clear they weren't going to give a statement and though I made many efforts to get them to reconsider eventually I had to accept that they weren't going to come around. I asked around his former school and his neighborhood too, and though there were shreds of information from various people it seemed as though no one had known Keaton in an intimate way, or if they had the prospect of confessing about a suspected serial killer was enough to frighten them into silence. I tried to impress upon them that their testimony would be anonymous but as Keaton had been a kid when he ran away most of them were also kids and a prone to irrational fear—to be fair, we all are. That was that. It took me longer than it should have to finally consider speaking to the kid who would eventually become my best witness: Jeff’s delinquent brother, Liu.
When I first sat down to talk to him in Stockton JDC, I had a general idea of what he'd be like. I didn't know anything about him save that he’d been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, and I'd dealt with people with histories of violence. I pictured someone intimidating, and uncooperative. From past experience, I had the corrections officer in duty stay on hand in case things went sour, even though he insisted Liu "wasn't that kind of kid."
I was taken aback when this lanky, pale boy with thick glasses and a dog-eared book under his arm walked in and introduced himself as Liu. In retrospect, I wonder how I neglected to find a picture of him before coming to talk to him. Trying to hide my surprise, I introduced myself as well and held out my hand. He shook it halfheartedly. I've been watching the news,” he said abruptly. “I know what he did.” It took me a minute to realize that Liu was cutting straight to the point and talking about Jeff.
“He’s still only a suspect,” I replied.
“I'm not going to tell you anything. The only reason I agreed to see you is to make my supervisor happy.” Liu didn't say this with malice. He said it matter-of-factly, as though he'd made up his mind the minute he heard my proposition. He paused. “I'm not going to sell him out. And even if I was, I haven't heard from him in years.”
We went back and forth a while. I explained that information didn't have to be recent to be valuable, and I hinted at the promise of an early release, but he didn’t seem interested. After a few failed starts, I threw out something that stuck.
“Think about it this way. I'm looking for background information, and that always humanizes a suspect in the eyes of a jury. I can sympathize with your loyalty to your brother, but you have to understand that by telling us who he was you'd be helping him. It's a lot easier to put a person to death when you don't know them."
That resonated with him. I could tell as soon as the words left my mouth. Deciding to quit while I was ahead, I took out my business card and slid it across the table to him before rising from my chair. "Take a week to think about it, okay? If you change your mind, tell your supervisor and they'll arrange another meeting with me."
Of course, I was lying through my teeth. Like I said earlier, once he was caught, Keaton had no chance. The Cromwells were going to make certain he was crucified. But I wanted Liu’s testimony, so I didn't tell him that. And a few days later, the phone rang. I've always been a particularly good liar.
I started seeing Liu every Wednesday; visits to Stockton became a kind of weekly ritual I performed after the day’s office work on the case was finished. I probably would’ve taken the assignment less seriously had Cromwell not checked on the progress of the psych profile every week. Because of him, I had to remain diligent. The first few weeks, Liu was reticent and the material he gave me was innocuous. Quickly though, without much plying from me, he started telling Jeff’s story in earnest, almost eagerly. At first I had no idea what had caused him to become abruptly cooperative, but gradually I realized that this was a story he desperately wanted to tell someone, anyone. A dynamic emerged between us. He became my informant, and in return I became his confessional priest. I can only guess as to whether our relationship benefited him as much as it did me.
The following, compiled from maybe a half dozen separate interviews with him, is the complete (to the best of my knowledge) story of Jeffrey Keaton, as told by Liu, spanning until the time of his brother's imprisonment. Much of it was verified after the fact through interviews with other witnesses (who, strangely enough, became more willing to talk as the hunt for Jeff drew on) and the rest was taken on faith, but it's my conclusion that the core of this story is true. I include it here because though it's relevance may be dubious now, in the end this testimony was probably the defining factor in my handling of the case.
Jeffrey Keaton and his brother Liu moved to Lowry County three years ago, when Jeff was 13 and his brother was 16. They’d lived in some no-name rural town, so urban life was a bit of a culture shock. Jeff took the transition particularly hard. Liu didn’t have much trouble integrating into the community, but Jeff struggled. He had always been a quiet, solitary boy who spent most of the day in his room and he had a hard time getting close to people. Liu told me matter-of-factly that sometimes he thought he was his brother’s only real friend. In a small town where everyone kept to themselves, he was let alone for the most part. But here, in the city schools, outcasts were prey.
Jeff had trouble with bullies since the beginning. Liu didn’t hesitate to name names: apparently, three kids named Randy, Troy and Keith were the ones who started it. It started one afternoon when Jeff seemed unusually bitter, after Liu asked him if anything was on his mind. See, besides being quiet and reclusive, Jeff had had trouble making friends in the past because of his problems with anger. The kid didn’t like to express his emotions in general; in the face of good news his enthusiasm was usually muted, and when he was sad he found it hard to cry. But anger was different—he held on to his anger, sharpened it like a blade and, at the least expected times, allowed it to translate into impulsive and violent action. By way of example, Liu recited for me the story of a birthday party when Jeff was no more than 8. He and the birthday boy didn’t get along, but Liu was excited to go and it would have been discourteous to invite one but not the other. Jeff behaved himself all night, until the guest of honor made a passive aggressive comment (tamer, according to Liu, than most of the insults they’d slung at each other in the past) and Jeff lost his grip and overturned a table, sending a dozen pieces of fine china and the birthday cake clattering to the floor.
There were visits with doctors and psychiatrists afterwards, but in the end the most they could provide were prescriptions and Liu’s parents were the kind of folks who were embarrassed by the idea of needing medicine to control their child. But social standing was important to them, and they were furious with Jeff for humiliating them in the eyes of the community, so ignoring the problem was out of the question. According to Liu, Jeff’s father took out his anger under the pretense of disciplining his son and all Jeff got in the way of help for his violent impulses was violent treatment.
Since then, Jeff’s violent outbursts had been few and far between, but no matter how many bruises his father gave him after the fact, he was never quite able to stop them from happening. Liu, for his part, had taken a vested interest in his brother’s mood and feelings. So when he told Liu that some kid named Troy had made a snide remark to him at school and the class had laughed, Liu took it very seriously. He urged Jeff to ignore anyone who harassed him but even as he said it he knew from personal experience how empty his words were. He prayed that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. A week later, Troy had pushed him in the hall, and then a few days later Troy and his friends had started following Jeff home from school some days and jeering at him. After listening to Jeff’s story feeling helpless to act, Liu jumped at the chance to defend his brother. He offered to walk him home from school as long as he wanted to.
The first few days were uneventful, and then one day Liu was there to see Troy and his friends Randy and Keith following Jeff on the sidewalk. From the beginning, their intent was clear: “Didn’t realize your boyfriend was walking you home Jeff.” Liu turned to the boys. He was three years older than them, though he wasn’t substantially taller or bulkier than any of them. At first he tried to defuse the situation by cracking a joke, but Troy and the rest weren’t having any of it. So Liu threatened to hurt them if they kept following Jeff. Now like I said, Liu isn’t the most physically intimidating person. They called his bluff, and Liu admitted, with shame in his voice that had clearly survived the years, that he couldn’t follow through. And then, Jeff punched Troy in the mouth. He reeled, and his lip started bleeding. No one had expected it, least of all Liu. Randy and Keith just stood there, dumbfounded. Liu, coming to his senses, led Jeff away and the boys didn’t follow them. The rest of the week, they walked home without being bothered.
Liu was proud of his brother for standing up for himself, but at the same time he was scared. Scared because he knew how easy violence came to his brother and feared he’d lose control if he did anything like that again. He made Jeff promise he’d only ever hurt someone again if he was certain he was in danger. Jeff seemed unhappy that Liu was upset that he’d defended himself, because he maintained Troy had deserved it. That was another thing Liu told me about Jeff—he had a strong sense of justice, if it could be called that. He didn’t believe in hurting what hadn’t hurt him. One of the few links between his various fits of rage over the years were that, at least by his own admission, everyone he’d hurt had hurt him first. Nevertheless, he promised. He looked up to his older brother, and the last thing he wanted to do was disappoint him.
For a time, Randy and the others left Jeff more or less alone. Troy never reported the attack, whether out of shame at being beaten or fear of the consequences Liu didn’t know. Liu started to believed that Jeff’s problem was solved. And then, one day in the winter when the sun was setting earlier and earlier and Jeff and Liu had started to walk home in the dark, they were back. The way Liu tells it, he barely saw them coming and then suddenly Randy and company were in front of them. They were walking down a narrow side street, and no one was around. There was a moment of hushed silence, and then there was the rustling Randy’s coat and Liu saw something silver glinting in the moonlight. A knife. In that moment, his heart fell. He didn’t remember what Randy and the others had said, only that they’d started advancing towards him and he froze. He couldn’t take his gaze off that knife.
And then with a strength he didn’t know he had, he ran at Randy. The younger boy hadn’t expected it, and in the moment of surprise the knife fell from his grasp. Liu scrabbled for it on the pavement and clutched the handle in his fist, and then, according to him, he lost control. Randy looked as though he was about to get up, and Liu took the knife and plunged it cleanly below his ribs. Randy’s breath caught in his throat, and it was clear he wasn’t going to rise again, but Liu couldn’t help himself. He stabbed him again, and again, until Randy’s coat was soaked with blood and his face was white as death. He didn’t know how long he stood there, crouched over Randy’s body, but at some point he heard a man’s voice and then he dropped the knife and felt his arms being wrenched behind his back. Troy or Keith had called the police, and they had found him there, shirt covered in blood, a knife in his hand, Randy’s twitching form lying on the ground beneath him.
The rest was in the archives. He’d been held on bail and eventually had his day in court. I’d already seen the records. His public defender had made the case for self-defense, but in the end he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and Randy and the others had walked away. The official story was that Randy and the others were unarmed, and Liu had attacked them unprovoked with a knife. Of course, that could have been true, and Liu’s version of events could have been completely manufactured. But I looked into the facts surrounding the court case and I found some items that make that unlikely.
For one, this wasn’t Randy’s first run-in with the law over an altercation with someone else. He usually got off with a warning, but the history of violence was there. For another thing, the knife was found to have had Randy’s fingerprints on it. No effort was made to explain that. The jury may have ruled in his favor, but from skimming their post-verdict interviews I gathered that the prevailing opinion among them was that Randy couldn’t have been entirely innocent of blame.
But assuming he started the fight, why did he get off scot-free? Simple. Randy’s full name was Randall Cromwell, and Tabitha Cromwell was his mother. If Liu was to be believed (and I believed him, to an extent at least), Tabitha had used her influence to coerce the court into looking the other way while she spared her son from blame and gave Liu a substantially harsher sentence than was typical for his crime. If playing the system like that sounds absurd and impossible, just think of it as the logical extension of giving someone’s break-in a more thorough investigation than it deserves because they’re powerful. These things are far from inconceivable, at least in my town.
So, that brought us to Liu’s arrival in Stockton JDC. I wasn’t done with him just yet, but I had some things to sort out before I continued to take his testimony. I let him have a week off while I made use of his story. By now, I was convinced Maury Cromwell, in his bumbling way, had stumbled on a stroke of genius in asking me to write up a psych profile.
There were two conclusions I drew that made this whole thing worthwhile. Firstly, I thought I now had a fair idea of Jeff’s motives for killing Tabitha Cromwell. As Liu told it, he was Jeff’s only friend. If Jeff were going to turn violent, one of the objects of his rage would certainly be the woman who the whole town knew played a role in getting Liu imprisoned. The fact that she was Randy’s mother certainly didn’t help. I presumed the boy would have been killed to had he not (as some research revealed) left town for a boarding school years ago. Maybe it was simple revenge, but I recall Liu saying Jeff believed in hurting only the people that had hurt him. Was this his idea of justice? She’d gotten Liu branded a felon, and his extended sentence was her doing as well. When he got out, his prospects of a meaningful career, a decent life, were all but gone. She’d stolen his life, even if she hadn’t killed him. Maybe to Jeff’s mind, she’d paid with her own.
The second conclusion I drew was that Liu was lying. I realize I just explained that I believe him, but I only believe him to an extent. His story wasn’t completely true. He wasn’t lying about Randy’s role in the confrontation, he was lying about his own. And unlike me, Liu was not a good liar. The whole interview process, I got to know Liu’s personality. Increasingly, it baffled me that this calm, even-tempered kid with his nose in the classics and his self-professed history of being easy-going and nonviolent could commit assault with a deadly weapon. The truth, as I understood it, was that he hadn’t. When you alter a story you alter all of it, you don’t just alter that parts that suit you and leave the rest the same because that leaves inconsistencies. Liu’s story didn’t add up. He’d admitted he’d been unable to make good on his threats to hurt Randy when the boy was unarmed. Yet suddenly he managed the courage to fight him while he was armed with a knife? Jeff, on the other hand, had a history of aggression. A history of losing control when he was confronted and giving into violent impulses.
I decided that Liu had told the truth right up until the end, and then he’d lied and I knew why. In Stockton, Liu could manage more or less alright. Jeff would have been thrown into the psych ward the first time he got angry and probably would have spent the rest of his life being slung from one mental institution to the next like so much trash, drugged out of his mind. But why would Troy and Keith go along with the story that Liu had stabbed Randy when they’d seen otherwise with their own eyes? I don’t know, but maybe having seen the whole incident scared and in dim lighting they were unsure of their own memories and decided if everyone else believed Liu was the aggressor he was. Or maybe after seeing what Jeff was capable of they were too frightened to try and incriminate him. Either way, they kept quiet.
I could see it play out in my head. Three boys meet two brothers in the dark. One boy has a knife and moves to hurt them. One brother just stands there, frozen. Suddenly, the other loses control, rushes the boy with the knife and knocks him to the ground before grabbing it and stabbing him a dozen times in the chest. The older brother looks on, and sees the other two boys standing there in shock. One of them takes out his phone and calls a number. Realizing what's about to happen, the older brother rips his brother’s bloodstained coat off and switches it with his own before prying the knife from his hand and shoving him out of the way. He stands over the bleeding boy, feigning shock, until the police arrive and then he lets them take him away.
Time didn’t stop while I got what I needed from Liu. In the outside world, new developments were taking place and Jeff, or “Jeff the Killer” as they were calling him now, had been busy. As you’ll already know, there were two more murders. The victims were precisely who you’d expect—Keith and Troy. After it came out who those boys were and how they’d known Jeff, a lot of people started reaching the same conclusions I had: Jeff was killing those he thought had wronged him. Of course the media sensationalized the whole thing: they started portraying Jeff as some kind of horror movie villain, crossing names off a list of people who’d hurt him to pursue his sick brand of justice. If that list existed, the people I knew to be on it were drying up, but that wasn’t any relief. For all I knew, there were a million other people Liu didn’t know about who Jeff thought deserved punishment.
Troy’s younger sister witnessed him entering their home, and her testimony started to shape the public’s perception of Jeff as well. She described him much as that break-in victim from almost a year ago had, with white skin and black rings around his eyes. Everyone had their own explanations for why he might look that way, though eventually it came out that his face was disfigured after suffering severe burns. But more importantly, the girl said that Jeff had told her to “go to sleep.” Everyone had a field day with that. After some tasteless local talk show theorized that was his catchphrase, people started repeating it to each other in mock-menacing voices as a joke. Leave it the general public to make light of a serial killer at large.
Liu had little else to say. He told me that Jeff had tried to visit him every week after he was sent to Stockton. Neither one of them mentioned Randy’s stabbing. Liu heard that Troy and Keith left Jeff alone at school, and he was finally let alone. And then Jeff got into an accident. Liu didn’t hear from him from months, and he stayed up some nights wondering if he'd ever see him again. When he finally came back in to Stockton, half his face was swathed in gauze and what wasn't was scarred beyond recognition. Liu learned from his parents (who visited him on occasion, even though as a felon he was a source of more shame for them than Jeff at this point) that Jeff had suffered severe injuries in a house fire. Liu tried to get Jeff to open up about the accident—he had his suspicions about it—but Jeff refused to say anything, claiming he didn't remember and he didn't want to talk about it. Liu told me Jeff wasn't the same afterwards: he was less coherent, harder to fathom, and listless. As time passed, his visits got rarer and rarer and then one day Liu's parents told him Jeff had run away. He never came to say goodbye.
As it happened, I already knew the circumstances behind Jeff’s “accident.” On my break from visiting Liu, I’d driven to Randy’s boarding school. He wasn’t hard to track down, and when I did he wasn’t hard to get a meeting with. No one, not even Maury Cromwell, suspected he could be a victim so he’d been allowed to stay put and I think he liked being as far from Lowry County as possible. From milling around the campus and casually questioning passing students without telling them who I was, I gathered quickly that news of Jeff the Killer had spread past Lowry County. Kids here were by and large as morbidly fascinated with the manhunt going on as anyone their age who’d heard of it.
When I got to Randy’s dorm, I had to wait for him to unlatch the deadbolt and chain before I could step inside. The look on his face told me he’d be an open book; he was pale and sallow, and he had rings under his eyes. He’d clearly bought into the media’s idea that Jeff was out for revenge and feared he’d be a target. Up front, he asked for a guarantee that nothing he said could be used to incriminate him. Reluctantly, I gave him that assurance and that was all he needed. Guilt had been eating away at for a long time, and now that he feared for his life he wanted desperately to make his presence known to the police, even if he had to get their attention by airing his secrets. This is the story he told me:
He spent his two-month recovery alternately terrified of and seething at Jeff. He had nightmares about the kid rushing him and the knife slipping into his chest. When he heard Liu had been blamed for the incident, he told his family he remembered Jeff stabbing him but by that time the public’s mind was already made up and his concerns were brushed aside as a misremembering of a traumatic incident. At times, he told me, even he started to believe he was mistaken and Liu had stabbed him, but then he fell asleep, woke up in a cold sweat after a nightmare and was sure of himself again. After a while he stopped insisting Jeff was his aggressor, but privately he started making a plan to deal with him.
According to him, it wasn’t even really revenge. Randy was convinced he’d seen something unholy in Jeff that night in the dark, and he felt strangely, strongly compelled to do something about it. So when he was strong enough to get back to school, he strong armed Troy and Keith (who would have been content never to see Jeff again) into accompanying him to Jeff’s house (they’d followed him home enough to know where he lived) in the middle of the night. He took a can of gasoline from his garage and and a matchbox. He didn’t know quite what he wanted to do, but he had a vague idea. He said he’d had no concept of the severity of the crime he’d been planning. They opened the lock on Jeff’s front door and crept inside. Randy searched until he found Jeff’s bedroom, and then suddenly his hazy, uncertain plans for arson coalesced into one overpowering urge. He opened the can of gasoline and threw it over Jeff’s sleeping form. The boy stirred, and Randy waited until he had opened his eyes and he was certain Jeff recognized the three of them. As Troy and Keith watched in mute horror, he lit a match and flung it on the bed.
In the instant the dim room exploded into light, the horrible realization of what he’d done dawned on him. Randy swore to me he hadn’t been thinking straight until that moment, and when it happened it was as if he snapped out of a trance. Jeff screamed in agony, and he ran down the stairs and out the door, Troy and Keith on his heels. He regretted his actions every moment since then, especially after seeing Jeff’s scars when he came back to school.
I thought I knew then why Jeff hadn’t talked to Liu about his injuries, why he’d grown incoherent and why he’d run away. The boy had been plotting his revenge since he became lucid in the hospital. This incident, I was fairly sure, had pushed him past the breaking point. He’d waited until his scars were no longer raw, until he was off the pain medication and could survive on his own again, and then he had run away to begin a years-long scheme for vengeance. This was, I thought, the beginning of his descent into the person he eventually became.
I opted not to tell any of this to Liu. His utility to me was about to come to an end, and I wanted to part on a more pleasant note. On my last meeting with him, I tried to make it clear how grateful I was for his cooperation. He hadn't asked, but I promised to look into reducing his sentence for helping me. He didn't object. He seemed preoccupied with something. It was only as I was getting up to leave that he gave me the letter. It was a plain envelope, with the name Sara written in a fancy script on the front. “Could you do something for me?” Liu started uncertainly. Before I could ask him to elaborate, he explained. “I’ve been . . . it’s been hard. This girl, my neighbor, Sara, I haven’t seen her in a long time. We used to be really good friends, but her parents think I’m a bad person so they don’t let her visit me. I just . . . I don’t have anyone right now, and she’s the only person I can think of who’d hear me out. I’ve been wanting to get something to her for a while now, but she never replies to my letters; I think her parents throw them away. But you could get this to her. There’s a house next to mine that’s been unoccupied since we moved here. Me and Sara, we used to send each other messages through the mailbox. It’s a long shot, but maybe she still checks it. If I gave you the address, could you put it there?” I thought for a moment, and then smiled and promised him I would. He smiled back, and I could tell he believed me.
Like I said, Liu was a bad liar. I didn’t buy his flimsy story for a single second, but I don’t think he expected me to. See, when he gave me Jeff’s story, I made a show of acting as though his testimony had humanized his brother in my eyes. To tell the truth, it wasn’t even all acting—as time went on, his story had made me sympathize with Jeff to an extent. The boy was a victim of his circumstances, and I pitied him. But if Liu thought that was going to make me look the other way while he delivered a message to Jeff, he was mistaken. The case came first. I didn’t enjoy violating his trust, but I opened the letter as soon as I got to my car. Before doing so, I resolved that if it was harmless, I’d make sure Jeff got it if or when we caught him, if we took him alive.
I expected some kind of heartfelt message, but instead I got a notecard with two dozen words on it. It was an address for a local coffee shop, and a date and time two weeks from that day. My heart leaped into my throat. Could Liu have unwittingly engineered a sting operation to catch his brother?
It seemed perfect, but the more I thought about it the more guilt I felt at betraying Liu. If I set up a stakeout of his mailbox and his brother showed up, they’d never see each other again. I tried to dismiss the feeling with the rationale that this was all being done in the name of the case, but it wouldn’t go away. In the end I made a decision that went against every professional instinct I had—I’d let Jeff get the letter on his own and then trust that he’d come to the coffee shop on the appointed date so that Liu would have his chance to see his brother again before he arrested him. Even as the idea entered my mind I knew it was ludicrous to throw away my first opportunity to catch Jeff, but I also knew I’d never be able to live with myself if I didn’t.
I dropped the envelope off at the assigned location, and when I checked back on it a week later it was gone. I informed the chief and Maury Cromwell that a sting operation was underway while altering the details enough to skirt around the fact that I’d wasted a chance to catch Jeff, and both of them were ecstatic (or at least Cromwell was as close to ecstatic as a man still grieving his daughter-in-law could be). The whole station held its breath until the night came.
We took a single unmarked police car into the coffee shop’s parking lot a few hours before the time Liu had set. Four cruisers took up positions far enough around the building so as not to be seen but close enough so that they could respond at a moment’s notice. With all the pieces in place, we waited. Sure enough, eventually Liu arrived and took up a spot on one of the outside tables. When a figure in a hooded sweatshirt matching Jeff’s description walked up to him, all of us let out a sigh of relief. We had him.
The officers were waiting for my call to advance. I waited maybe ten minutes. Jeff and Liu were sitting opposite one another. I could see they were talking as soft snowflakes fell around them. Liu had stepped inside the coffee shop to buy something, and he slid it across the table to him. I wasn’t close enough to see their faces. They talked for fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. The other officers weren’t clear on why I was waiting and though they were patient I could tell they were getting restless. Eventually, I had to go in for the kill.
I called in the other officers and in minutes the storefront was surrounded by cruisers. I alone got out, having already instructed the other officers to allow me to make the arrest, and approached Liu and Jeff. As soon as he saw the police cars Jeff shot up from his chair and his hood came off. I stared at his pale white face and black-ringed eyes. It was every bit as surreal as I’d imagined it would be. I advanced slowly, my pistol leveled at him. As soon as I had gotten within thirty paces his arm moved to his waist lightning fast and he drew something from a sheath there that glinted and glimmered in the neon light of the storefront sign—his knife. Suddenly, Liu screamed. “No!” He shoved his brother hard and sent the knife clattering to the ground. Liu knew that if we saw him as a threat we might shoot him.
I looked at Liu “I’m sorry,” I said. Liu just stared at me, his eyes filled with fear and sorrow. Jeff looked from one of us to the other before turning on his heel and running into the coffee shop. I’d expected him that, and I followed him inside. I elbowed my way through alarmed patrons as I chased him down a hallway and through a pair of double doors into the kitchen. I knew my fellow officers were on my heels. “Put your hands behind your head.” I said plainly. Surprisingly, Jeff complied. He knew he was caught. When he did what I asked, something dropped from his hand and fell to the floor. I looked at it. It was one of those cheap Hallmark Christmas cards.
If you’ve read my official report on the incident, and I assume you have, you’ll know that I claimed Jeff managed to evade us in the end by slipping out the back entrance. That was a lie. I said I was good at lying, but I never said I liked it. The statute of limitations for admitting to what I’m about to admit to is long expired, and I don’t want to lie anymore. Maybe telling you what I’m about to tell you was the main reason I agreed to give a statement in the first place—I can’t say. You can decide whether or not you want to believe me:
When I saw that card everything changed. It was from Liu, obviously. I took a step back, and looked at Jeff again. I looked past the scars and the unkempt hair and the hooded sweatshirt and realized this was a kid of no more than 16. He was a murderer, there was no doubt about that, but he was still a kid. Moreover, he was a kid someone loved. Absurdly, standing there, the man I’d been searching for for over a month in my grasp, it hit me how unfair it all was. Jeff was a disturbed kid who’d never gotten the help he needed, and had suffered cruelties no one his age should have. He’d never had a fair chance to be a good person. If he’d turned into a monster, could he be blamed? Certainly he’d murdered people, but his victims were hardly innocent. Did their crimes warrant death? Maybe not. But in light of all he’d been through, did his? Handing him over to the Cromwells was the same as putting a bullet in his head.
Aware that I had only moments until my fellow officers burst through the doors and narrowed my options down to one, I made a decision. “Hide. I’ll tell them you got out. Wait fifteen minutes and then leave through the back entrance.” He seemed uncertain at first, but I urged him to do what I said and eventually he did. No sooner had he crouched behind a storage rack than two officers burst through the kitchen doors, guns drawn. “He’s not in here,” I said. “I think he circled around to the back entrance.”
I had a cruiser stay out front and the other three comb the surrounding area, but of course we didn’t find him. Eventually we were forced to give up the chase and accept that he’d disappeared into the night just as he had so many times before.
After that, I was off the case. The chief was appalled that I’d allowed our chance to catch Jeff to slip through my fingers, and Maurice Cromwell called me an incompetent to my face. I had to live with that, and watch as some other detective take over the investigation. It was over, though. We never saw Jeff again, and there was never another murder. It took a long time for Cromwell to drop the chase, but eventually even he conceded that Jeff was gone and the case went cold.
I managed to salvage my reputation at LCPD as time went on, and the chief didn’t hold my failure against me forever. I never spoke to Liu again, though I did succeed in reducing his sentence. Randy Cromwell eventually left the state and I don’t know what happened to him since then. Jeff’s abandoned knife was put into the local police museum, but it was stolen a while back. Culprits were never caught—I guess the local punks finally wised up enough to stop leaving their fingerprints at the crime scene. I’ve done a lot of cases since, but none quite like this one. I still wonder some nights if I did the right thing. I’ll never know for sure, but that’s life, isn’t it? Is there a lesson to be learned here? Maybe not, but if I took one thing from this experience it was this: there are two sides to any story. What you choose to take from it, if you choose to take anything from it, is up to you. That’s really all I have to say.