“Don’t touch anything.”
“I know the drill.”
Despite being on the third week of dismissal from the station, ex-detective Robert Greer was not one for neglecting protocol. The last thing he wanted was for his superiors back in Dallas to find he was still investigating the case.
Robert waved his flashlight across the room, illuminating the gruesome scene: a shattered flat-screen T.V. was in shards on the floor, strange red depictions featuring strange symbols and images stretched along the walls, and then there was the blood and the body. “Shit, fucking bitch,” officer Stephenie Moran exclaimed, surprised at her colorful choice of words. “Is that the one?”
“Nope. He’s too young. All the others have been over eighteen; that kid looks to be fourteen or so.”
Suddenly, Moran felt something brush against her leg. “Mrrp.” A little tabby rubbed its little cheeks on her boot. The etched name on its collar read Mumu. The small cat seemed totally careless of the scene that had just played in front of its chestnut eyes.
“Get it away.” Greer growled. “I don’t have time to run back and get my inhaler, so keep the kitty away please.” She shooed the cat away, who ran into the kitchen, obviously on the hunt for some chow.
Moran trained under Greer at the academy; he taught her all she knew. So when she discovered his plan to continue the case without formal support, she felt obligated to follow along. Greer was the only one to ever stick up for her – standing at a plump 5’4” with a face for radio, she was always the victim of her peers’ jokes. So her support in the case he was so passionately involved in was the very least she could offer.
“You coming along, Moran?” Greer had that look on his face, the one he got right when shit was about to go down, as if he somehow knew what he was going to find upstairs.
Stephenie nodded, her nose in her palm. “Yeah, boss.” Adding: “How much longer do you think we have before the squad shows?” She dusted the cat fur from her boot.
“Ten minutes.” He traced his light along the winding staircase, noting a singular set of bloody footprints ascending the steps. “Be careful there,” he advised, gesturing at the blood. “We can’t leave any footprints.”
Moran shook her head and sighed. When was he ever going to stop looking at her as a rookie and consider her his partner? “You got it,” she chirped.
The bloody caricatures and footprints stopped at the farthest door in the hall. It was the master suite. A few days ago, the room would have looked expertly designed and beautifully kept. Eggshell drapes covered the room’s two large windows, wonderfully complementing cashew walls and glossy mahogany trim. What elegance the room displayed had been completely washed away under a layer of blood and brains.
“That’s the one.” Greer pointed, his lips parted in a painful sneer.
“Does he have the…?”
Robert nodded. “Yes. Right there. See?”
Sure enough, there was the mark. Moran could not believe her eyes. Seven murders scattered across the nation alone – possibly more once they get the files back from Interpol – all connected by a miniscule detail often disregarded in investigations. At first glance, any expert would deem the scene a murder-suicide, and leave it at that; however, each of their perps have a small four-spiked star printed just behind their left earlobe. The star is only visible for a few hours after the act is committed, eventually vanishing completely.
While Robert was a renowned detective, he could analyze copious amounts of information at record speed as well as recognize complicated patterns in bundles of random information. He attributed his many past successes to his attention to detail. Granted, his obsession with patterns got him kicked off the squad, he was in too deep with his case to simply turn in his gun and badge and leave it at that.
“Well I’ll be damned. Rob, we’ve got to say something to the commissioner. Looks like we’ve got a serial killer.”
Robert missed the suggestion, as he was too occupied with what he was observing out the window. Three officers were speaking with the neighbors, the ones who reported the attack. Moran and Greer had seconds to get out of the house before they would be booked. “We’ve got to go now! Check one of the other rooms for a window with access to the roof. If we can get out the back, we still have time.” His breathing was heavy and thick. He wished he wasted the few minutes to retrieve his inhaler – he was going to need it.
The two found an open window in the young boy’s room at the back of the house, forgetting about paying careful attention of smudging the floors. “We didn’t get pictures of the symbols, Rob!” Greer helped Stephenie onto the roof.
“We’ll get some at the next one,” he muttered, dropping off the roof, with an empty flowerbed breaking his fall and roll. “Now you. Hurry. We’re on foot now.”
Moran leapt from the house, and they ran, jumping hedges and scaling the rustic privacy fence. As they were sprinting for the woods, Stephenie peered back at the scene – she counted four cars and an ambulance, all arriving within seconds of each other. Two officers were turning Greer’s black Mercedes inside-out.
“How are we going to find the next one?” Moran inquired between exhausted huffs.
The two had reached the woods and kept going. Robert almost missed a short string of bare barbed wire, nearly getting a face of snow and leaves. “It’ll find us. It always does.” Images from Greer’s past flooded his mind, bringing him back to that frightful night in Chicago where he first encountered the thing. His difficulty in describing the sight to his superiors was what consequently led him to his dismissal and round with alcoholism.
But Robert Greer finally had a name for what he had encountered in Illinois. Moran was correct in her speculation that they were dealing with several crimes committed by one entity, but calling it a killer was assuming it was human; the thing that murdered his girls was anything but.