part 1 of the Braunville Chronicles
By the time she was discovered, Annika Pataky had been dead three months. The Braunville PD had to shift approximately 900 pounds of refuse before they could attempt to mount a search for her body.
Annika had been a shut-in for an indeterminate amount of time. Neighbors paint her as a quiet, sensitive type who had been friendly when she first moved in but gradually withdrew from the public eye. She did not talk about her family or past. She would undergo bouts of paranoia that gradually increased until conversation was all but impossible, for no one could convince her that they hadn’t been “sent” for her. She held a visible fear of cars, chiefly the Lincoln town car, ducking out of sight the moment she spotted one. She also displayed a verbose but odd vocabulary, using terms like “dry” to describe negative things and mixing up verbs frequently. After two years, Annika stopped appearing in public, but the neighbors did not contact authorities for they could still hear her moving around in her apartment.
The mystery of Annika’s death starts with the question of who notified the police. An anonymous tipster alleged a foul smell emanating from Pataky’s apartment, but when questioned, no neighbors confirmed any detectable odor. Moreover, it became clear over the course of the investigation that someone had been in the apartment before the police. Documents elucidating Annika’s mental state were found scattered throughout the apartment, including diary entries and “observational data reports” detailing social activity in the neighborhood around her. Even though the diaries are meticulously kept and appear to have been written nearly every day, gaps appear in the time line(though since the diary takes the form of a loose-leaf binder, no definite gap can be confirmed.)
The second mystery is the cause of Annika’s mental state. Neighbors describe her as a calm, rational young woman, even in her retreat from society. She seemed somewhat apologetic in her withdrawal, but emphasized the necessity of doing so. The state of her apartment seems to indicate an anxiety disorder, as evidenced by the hoarding, while the narrative of persecution in her diaries points to a possible late-onset schizophrenia. The state of her apartment appears to be deliberate, however, with Annika aware of the fact that she is hoarding refuse. One journal entry states:
“more rods. I nevr[sic] wanted to dry this way, but they can slump in at any day and I just cant[sic] be caught under.”
This and several structures within the hoard led police to believe that the hoarding was a primitive sort of self-defense, and that Pataky had attempted to construct several booby traps out of the collected trash.
The third mystery is the cause of her death. Annika was found on her back in the middle of a “clearing” she had constructed in the middle of the apartment. As the body was badly decomposed, the autopsy was inconclusive. The signs of forced entry on a barricaded window indicate that she may have been murdered, but there were no signs of violence on the corpse and no fingerprints beside Pataky’s at the scene. The theft of several papers indicate Pataky’s paranoia may not have been entirely unfounded, but as to who and what, there are no answers. A few remaining journal entries allude to an all-powerful organization, possibly a cult, whom Annika had formerly been in contact with. Later entries note with terror that a satellite community of said organization existed in the city, and that she must arm herself against “reabsorption.”
The fourth and biggest mystery is who Annika Pataky actually was. No photo id, social security card, or other form of identification exists with that name. Pataky signed the rent agreement with the pseudonym and paid cash deposit. Monthly rent withdrawals were drawn automatically from a trust set up in that name. Pataky’s fingerprints do not show up in any government database, and inquiries into possible family connections have led nowhere.
Her apartment is currently being renovated by the owner. Water damage to the floor and an infestation of black mold have complicated the removal of most of her hoard. Felix Lowell of Dry Dock construction, the company assigned to the renovation, assured that they would turn over any new evidence over to the police.