The Sinners

by Jan Hope


When you think you are all alone and no one is watching...

It was just before sunrise outside the small town of Cooksville in Texas. Gregg Peterson scanned the lake, there was a fine mist hovering above the water, it looked cold and eerie, he dreaded the thought of stepping into the coldness. He anxiously made his way towards the water’s edge, looking around to make sure there was no one around, and wishing he could turn back the clock. What a fool he’d been, stupid not even thinking about the consequences of his actions at the time. An owl hooted loudly, making him jump! His life would never be the same again, he would always be looking over his shoulder. Would someone find out, did anyone know already? All these thoughts going through his head, driving him crazy!

Gregg had taken great care to mark the spot where he needed to swim out to by tying a small bit of green cloth to the branch of a tree. He removed it and put it into his bag. He would have to burn it with everything else when he finished this gruesome business.

Gregg undressed until he stood totally naked, his flesh shivering more from fear and nerves than the coolness of the early dawn air. He took in a deep breath, then nervously stepped into the water wading towards the middle of the lake. He turned himself over and swam towards his destination. Panic set in, where had she gone!? He’d put bricks in the bottom of the sack to keep her from rising to the top of the water. He swam around in a circle, his heart pounding, the night before flashing vividly through his mind. HIs rage at Nancy over her latest love affair, Nancy, laughing at him. He could see his hands going around, her throat, her eyes almost popping out, finally her last breath! She just hadn't been able to stop herself from chasing men, and he’d been a laughingstock for years, yet he’d loved her. But, with every new affair, he’d been driven closer to murderous thoughts until finally, he’d cracked. Gregg recalled his last words to Nancy. “You're going to die for the pain you’ve caused me, and I will die beside you.”

It had been his intention to kill Nancy, and then himself, but he just didn’t have the courage to carry out his own suicide. He anxiously made his way back to the grassy bank, his body shivering from head to foot, his head throbbing with the reality of what he'd done.

Gregg had panicked after killing Nancy, not knowing what to do with her body, then the lake came to mind; it was only a short distance from where he lived. He’d decided that would be a good hiding place for a few days until he was thinking straight, and he could come up with some kind of plan to get rid of her body permanently. He would need to explain her sudden departure to family, friends and their neighbours. Gregg waited until the early hours of the morning before dragging her body wrapped in a blanket to the barn. He’d found a large hessian sack and some bricks which he thought would keep her body secured at the bottom of the lake. It had taken him all his strength to put the dead weight of her body into the sack and then heave her on to the back of his truck.

Now he stood on the bank, shaking with fear, his thoughts racing from one explanation to the next. He wrapped a towel tightly around his dripping, cold body. Maybe he’d misjudged the spot, but couldn’t see how. His second attempt to find Nancy’s body was another failure. Perhaps somehow the bricks had come away from the sack.

There were lots of maybe’s going around in his mind! Gregg just wanted to get to the safety of his home and try to think this out.

He was almost dressed, when suddenly a voice from behind him said, “Looking for something mister?”

Gregg, shocked by the voice, spun around to see a white-haired man standing just a few feet away. As the man walked nearer, Gregg looked into a haggard face and large staring eyes that looked questioningly into his. Gregg looked away and turned his face upwards towards the sky, trying to remain as calm as he could.

“Nope, just having an early morning swim," Gregg, replied, struggling to keep the fear out of his voice.

“You look a bit cold mister,” the man remarked, “kinda funny time to be swimming ain’t it?”

The man looked out across to the middle of the lake, his statement hanging in the air like mist hovering above the water.

“Well, I guess so, but I sort of like it that way,” Gregg said, feeling his stomach churn over. “Best be getting off home.”

Gregg turned and started to slowly walk away, every inch of his body shaking inside.

“You forgot something, mister!” the man shouted after him.

Gregg thought he was going to throw up. He turned around to see the man holding his bag.

“Oh boy, thanks,” Gregg said, taking the bag, throwing it over his shoulder, then heading off towards the wood again.

“I was here the other night when you came with the dead woman," the man shouted, "saw everything. I followed you home, then came back, fished her out and buried her. I knew you’d come back when you tied that piece of cloth to that tree."

Gregg stopped in his tracks. He put the bag down and turned around.

“You don’t understand, she was always cheating on me, running after men… I couldn’t take it any more all those years and years…” was all Gregg could choke out.

“Thing is mister, you committed a sin, the worst sin of all in my Lord’s eyes, know what I mean? Did she really deserve to die? The man started to walk towards Gregg. “Sorry mister, but I can’t let you get away with it, so I’m going to have to do the Lord's work and bring you to justice.”

Gregg never saw the steel of the knife that tore into his heart, and death came quickly!

The white-haired man bent down and put a note in Gregg’s pocket.

“That’ll tell them where the woman is,” he muttered, shaking his head sorrowfully. “Time to go now, so much work to do."

The residents of the small town of Cooksville, Texas, were shocked when the story appeared in the newspapers. Bars, beauty salons, hairdressers, and gyms were full of gossip about the whole sordid affair.

“Who killed Gregg Peterson, that’s what I want to know?” Amy Hopkins declared, nodding her head full of rollers to no one in particular.

“Sounds very familiar,” Pamela Bridges said loudly, now holding everyone’s attention.

“What do you mean?” asked the hairstylist.

“Well,” Pamela Bridges said, loving the attention she was getting. “Some twenty-five odd years back a similar incident happened just like this one, not that far away from here. A note was found in a deceased’s pocket telling the police where a body could be found. Eventually, they caught the culprit. The man was declared insane and sectioned for life. He'd been dishing out all kinds of punishments to people he thought were sinners, some really brutal I can tell you. Turned out to be some kind of religious freak, and definitely out of his tiny little mind!”

“Without doubt insane then?” Amy Hopkins, replied.

“Yes, there was no doubt about it. He must still be behind bars somewhere, the best place for him,” Pamela Bridges said, looking very smug.

The elderly white-haired man who casually walked past the hairdresser muttered to himself, “Gossip mongers shall be punished without mercy. That tongue which speaks for the devil shall be cut out, so much work to do…”

Pamela Bridges, carried on the conversation having no idea that her days of talking were soon coming to a very gruesome end!

The End

© Jan Hope 2023

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