She stayed with me. Even before the case opened, even before she was found, she was already with me.
I was happy. Genuinely happy. The day we went to the boardwalk for the fair and carnival, I was extremely content with life. Madison and I were amazing. We had a relationship that people could only envy. We were approaching our three year anniversary with the hopeful plans of a wedding within the next nine months. We were optimistic. My career was on the perfect path. I had just been promoted from the traffic desk to homicide two weeks earlier. Our going to the fair was a small way of celebrating, she knew I never liked surprises. I had not felt this content with my life in a long time. And then I saw her.
As Madison and I were getting on the carousel, her favourite ride, I saw a girl, roughly about the same age as me. Our eyes met and we smiled. I do not know what made me smile at her but I did. It was a strange immediate attraction. She saw that I was with Madison but that never stopped her directing sexy, peculiar looks towards me on the ride. I could not help but follow. I loved Madison with all my heart but there was something about this girl. She had an amazing infectious smile. Her hair was red, not orange-red but red red. I was unsure if she was maybe one of those unique people whose hair is luckily naturally red or if she dyed it. Either way, I liked it. She wore red lipstick, a feature I had always liked on a girl. Just as we got off the carousel, the redhead stayed with her friend to go on it again. As Madison tugged me away to another ride by the hand, I could not help but look at the redhead standing in line. Our eyes locked on again and I winked at her. She liked it, her face lit up when I did. And to be truthful, I loved it.
Our day at the fair and carnival was kind of magical. I had always loved funfairs and similar things but this one on and around the boardwalk had a unique vintage feel to it. It was as if it was pulled from the 40s and put in a modern world. Throughout the day, smiles were continually exchanged with the redhead. In many lines, just walking through the fair, on some rides, at stalls, we seemed to meet everywhere. I was able to, at certain points, follow her without Madisons notice. The redhead knew I was looking for her and I knew she was looking for me. Towards the end of the day, Madison and I sat on a bench right next to the carousel. The redhead was on it. Every time her carousel section passed us sitting, I stared at the redhead. Around half an hour later, Madison decided we had to leave but I honestly did not want to. Not because of the rides or the stalls but because of the redhead. I wanted to see her just one more time. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw red hair walking into the restrooms. Luckily, moments later, Madison wanted to use one. I stood outside the restroom wondering who would come out first; Madison or the redhead. If it was Madison then we would walk away, go home and I'd never see the redhead again. If it was the redhead, I wondered what would happen? Would we speak? Would we just share another meaningful smile? Or would it be something more?
Madison came out first. I did not know whether to be happy or sad because inside, I think I felt a little disappointed. Madison stopped to look at the display cabinet showing an array of porcelain ponies and unicorns. It was the area you could exchange tickets you won for prizes. Just as I was nudging Madison to continue walking, I saw behind me red hair. Madison took my hand and we walked out heading to exit the fair. I could feel the redhead behind me. I loved it. I deliberately stopped to let her and her friend pass us. Then, just as Madison walked ahead to leave the fair and the redhead walked back into the collection of amusements with her friend, we shared our last smile. I got one last look at the red hair, at that bright lipstick smile and I captured her face in my mind. Just leaving the exit, I could not help but rotate my head to try and witness her pretty face, however, she was already back in the fair although I saw her doing the exact same thing looking for me. And then, I never saw her again.
On the way home, Madison hugged into me and thanked me for a great day. I kissed her gently on the forehead and she smiled. I did not really feel guilty about the redhead because I knew I would never see her again. I put my arm around Madison tight and told her I loved her. We walked home in peaceful bliss, watching the night stars. There was still a part of my mind, fixated on red hair.
Over the next three weeks, Madison and I were redecorating our apartment. Luckily we agreed on color so there wasn't many disagreements. We were a happy loving couple. I could not wait until she was my wife. Although as much as she took up all of my mind, I still couldn't help but think about the redhead. She really provided an impact in my mind. I fantasized over the idea that I'd see her again, just to see her face again. My mind lingered on the thought of what would've happened if she had came out of the restroom first. The thoughts surrounding her stayed with me for three weeks gradually decreasing and then it happened.
Roughly, my ninth major case as a homicide detective. I got a call from Stefan Cole, another homicide detective who I had worked on a previous five cases with. I liked him, some called us partners and we were close to being them. I was sitting at my desk in the department finalising old cases when he called me. Said a woman's body had been found just outside a close national park, amongst some trees. He gave me the specifics and told me to hurry downstairs. We rushed in his car, hit our small siren and he hit the gas. On the way, he told me the woman had been found by a park employee on his daily inspection. She was found naked and had a large wound in her back and some on her head. The coroner and other personnel were at the scene now. This sort of thing never really bothered me at the time, never bothered me the way it bothered other normal people. For me, it was my job, nothing else. There was no need to get personal.
As we turned a corner, onto a long road, I saw the entrance to the national park but farther down the road, I saw a group of police vehicles. We stopped the car next to them and one officer asked us if we were the homicide detectives. He led us through a small clearing among trees and we saw the coroner. The coroner starting talking to us about what had happened. Major stab wound in the back, probable cause of death was loss of blood. Blunt force wounds on head that knocked her unconscious and she was raped. He was telling us there was no trace of the killer here but they were going over the surrounding areas. Just as he said that we had quite a case on our hands, I looked at the body. It was on its side. Its back was facing us and I examined the back wound. It was deep and looked like someone had wiggled a knife in there. I looked around the body and saw something that caught my eye. Red hair. The coroner continued talking to Stefan as he turned the body over but I was not listening because I had just seen her face.
It was the redhead.