Chapter 5 : Hunters


Perfect. That one was the one. A small smile shadowed
his mouth. The man he stared at intently remained
oblivious. A few thoughts about what he would do to
him flickered through his mind, winding their way
leisurely between neurons. He couldn't help but want
more, all this life pulsing around him and he wanted
it, no, *needed* it so badly. It was more than an
addiction, it was a necessity.

With a small sigh, he turned away. He needed to space
things out, the last one hadn't been more than the day
before. Chuckling to himself, he made his way through
crowded streets. He had somewhere to get to and a job
to do, no matter how wearisome. A spring in his step,
the hunter left his playground.

***
Later
***

Zeke yawned lazily under the stream of hot water. Why
he yawned, he couldn't have said. Breathing was no
longer a necessity, but normality was something to be
enjoyed, and a morning shower before heading out into
the world was one of those things. Finally rinsing off
the lather of soap, he turned off the water. Reaching
out, he pulled back the curtain to get a towel and was
confronted by a sight that both horrified and
disturbed him. With a yelp of surprise, he grabbed the
towel and wrapped it around himself, glaring
indignantly at the person sitting on the toilet
reading a newspaper. It was times like this that he
really hated his job.

"Don't you know how to knock?" Zeke practically
growled, knowing how ridiculous the entire situation
was.

The Devil, who had remained fully clothed in what
appeared to be a suit, smiled at him and folded up the
paper, setting it neatly on the sink. "Don't worry,
Ezekiel, it isn't anything that I haven't seen before.
I thought I'd catch you before you went out for one of
your five-course breakfasts. You do have other
important things to be doing, like catching certain
damned souls."

The dead cop muttered to himself irritably then
glowered at his employer. "Do you mind?"

"Not at all." There was a Cheshire grin as suited legs
recrossed and the Prince of Darkness reclined back
onto the toilet.

He continued to scowl. It was bad enough having to
work for the guy, there was no way he was going to
have to humiliate himself any more by performing a
second rate strip show for him.

"Fine." The Devil stood to his feet. "People these
days are such prudes. I just thought I'd bring you the
paper this morning. Section C8 is especially
interesting, I have to say. You might appreciate it."
With that he vanished and Zeke would swear that the
smile disappeared last.

After drying off quickly, he grabbed for the
newspaper. He hoped this wasn't another one of the
Satan's jokes. Section C8. He turned pages and the
title of one article stood out to him, the black words
taking on almost a demonic life of their own.

'Mutilated Body Discovered, Cannibalism Suspected.'

***
Later
***

The dumpster was a dejected shade of orange, or had
been once. Trash littered both the area around it and
the rest of the alley, fragments of garbage barely
distinguishable from their surroundings. Graffiti that
may have once been brightly colored, lay incased in a
blanket of smog. Ezekiel Stone winced in distaste as
he felt water enter his shoe as he splashed through a
small puddle. It was here that the body, or what was
left of it, had been discovered.

As he reached closer he barely made out the fetid
scent of death above the filth surrounding him. It was
unlikely that he would find anything. The police would
have already combed the area. Still, there was no harm
in looking. Then, he could talk to the people in the
area. Without Ash, he could no longer count on aid
from the police so he'd have to start on his own.

The newspaper had had few details, only that the body
had been gruesomely mutilated and had been left here
until discovered by accident. There were no doubts in
his mind that this was the one the devil had been
talking about. He had to stop this monster soon,
before something like this happened to anyone else.

***
Later
***

"I already said this, man. I don't know nuthin'."

It was frustrating, but not really unexpected that he
was no further along now than he had been before. It
was even worse when he had to pretend to know
information he didn't have, like the identity of the
woman who had discovered the body for example and the
condition it had been found in.

Fortunately, the man he was interviewing continued, "I
just heard the chick who found it and saw her run past
me out of the place down the street."

The man pointed vaguely to the right. "Pretty little
thing, long dark hair, must be crazy or somethin' to
have gone down there by herself. Hell, crazy to be
walkin' around here anyway."

The guy took a drag of his smoke, filling his lungs
with their toxic touch.

"Than again. She ain't from around here, didn't
recognize her at all."

"So, you didn't notice anything? Nothing unusual?"

There was a wry chuckle. "Around here? You've got to
be kidding. Sorry, I already told all you guys."

Zeke took this as his clue to leave. "Sorry for
bothering you." He picked up his coat, which had seen
him to hell and back, and made for the door.

"No prob." There was a pause. "Was it as bad as I've
heard?" The question came with no warning.

Having no way of knowing, but he could certainly
guess, he nodded grimly.

"Oh, man." Another long drawn drought echoed through
the room as he made his way out.

***
Later
***

He walked thoughtfully down the street, hands deep in
his pockets. Now, he had a basic description of the
woman he wanted to talk too, who had actually gotten
close to the body and had seen what it looked like.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few woman with dark
hair in this city. It almost looked as if he might
have to wait for another murder, something he had no
intention of doing. There was no way he'd just sit
there and wait, even if he had to waste his daily
$36.27 on a psychic hotline or something like that.

With gritted teeth, he finally left his thoughts and
looked around. He had only walked a few streets in the
same direction as the witness had taken from the crime
scene, but if he kept going, knowing his luck lately,
he'd get lost. Dead eyes took in the decrypted
buildings, the children playing in an empty parking
lot, and a hotel of the more disreputable kind.

Suddenly, it clicked. One might even think he was a
detective, he said to himself. There was no way that a
woman would, alone, go knocking on doors trying to
find a phone around here. Well, maybe. She had been
making her way down that alley, but it was unlikely.
There was no other place that she could have phoned
from on his route. If she wasn't from around here, it
could mean that this was where she was staying, or at
least where she had called from.

Hopefully, he was right. He had no other leads. With
that he made his way towards the building. Fading
white paint contrasted with the flickering `Vacancy'
sign in the window. Ezekiel also wouldn't have trusted
the steps with his life if he hadn't already been
dead. There was an off tune chime as he opened the
door.

There was a slightly balding man at the desk, who
turned his head away from a television at the sound.
Making his way across carpet badly in need of repair,
Zeke approached the desk.

"Can I help you?"

I hope so, was what he thought, but outloud he said,
"I'm looking for a woman."

Before he could continue, the man smiled sleazily.
"Well, I think I can help..."

Zeke cut him off. "Long hair. Dark."

The man nodded dismissingly, obviously disappointed.
"Oh, her. We've been getting a lot of that the past
day or so. Second floor, room six." With that he
turned back to his show. Now, he only had to hope that
it was the right woman. Given the desk man's attitude,
this was promising.

The stairs creaked as he made his way up and he was
glad when he finally reached the second floor. "Room
six," he muttered under his breath, his feet coming to
rest in front of said door and he knocked politely.

"Coming," came from the interior, along with a few
muttered expletives. The door clicked open part way
and one feminine eye took in his appearance with a
grumbled, "Not another one."

"Yes?"

It was then that he realized he didn't know her name.
Well, it wasn't like he had much of a choice. Ezekiel
pulled out his badge.

"I'm Detective Stone, I'd like to ask you a few
questions, if you don't mind." The door shut in his
face, though his disappointment lifted when he heard
the rattle of chains being unhooked and it opened
fully.

"Do you know how many of you guys I've talked too?"
The voice sounded tired and she sighed. "Alright, come
in. If I'd known about all this mess, I wouldn't have
called it in the first place. It's not like I'm that
good a person or anything." She sat down on the bed,
rumpling even further the off-white blankets, and
looked at him. "What do you want to ask me this time?"

Thanks to her question, Zeke finally managed to get a
word in edgewise. She seemed pretty blasé about the
entire incident. "Maybe if you started from the
beginning."

"Sure. There really isn't much to say, really. What I
noticed first was the smell. I'm still not sure what
made me even look, I mean, it's a dumpster, of course,
but I just had a feeling, you know?"

She paused a moment for breathe. "Anyway, that's when
I saw it. I've seen a lot of disturbing things in my
life, but I don't think I've ever seen anything like
that. I haven't slept since."

That explained the bags under her eyes.

"There he was, laying on his side in the
garbage, the back of his head looking like, well, it
had been stabbed with something and his face..." She
grew pale and inhaled a shuddering gasp. "Well, you
already know this. So I ran like hell, came here and
called the police. That's all, really. Sorry I
couldn't be of more help."

"No, thank you." Well, he knew a bit more than he had
before, but not much. Still, something was better than
nothing and he doubted that he would gain any more
from questions. "I'll let myself out."

"Yeah, sure."

***
Elsewhere
***

He watched through the window the ebb and flow of
humanity, woman trying to draw attention in
ridiculously low cut outfits, others clad in business
suits, men as well wandering to their apparently
urgent destinations under his eyes. His focus passed
over them; they weren't important, from the outrageous
peacocks to the stern lawyers, business men and
accountants.

The body had been found. He hadn't expected it to
happen this quickly. Last time, it had taken much
longer.

Still, it wasn't like he could just stop. He'd already
decided on the next one, he was perfect. The mop of
unruly dark hair and the quick smile. Handsome, in his
own way. America really was a wonderful place, so much
opportunity everywhere he looked.

***
Later
***

Zeke decided to go home for the night, not to sleep,
since that was something he no longer needed to do,
but to think. It wasn't night yet, but he doubted that
there was much more he could get accomplished before
then and he really needed to get some ideas. He gave a
little wave to Max as he passed her desk and she
looked up from her computer and smiled. At his floor,
he gave a nod to Michael, his European neighbor, who
was fumbling with his keys and trying to get into his
room. He moved on, catching the answering tilt of the
man's head in the corner of his eye, the dark dragon
embossed on pale flesh lowering in recognition.

When he finally reached his own place, he closed the
door behind him and kicked off his shoes, threw off
his coat and flopped down on the bed. Well, not so
much flopped, because the dilapidated piece of
furniture would not stand up to the abuse, but he gave
a moderate attempt at collapsing on it.

***
Later
***

He looked at the clock. He'd only been there for half
an hour. This was getting him no where. He needed more
information. It certainly didn't help that the killer
could have come from any time at all.

What he really needed was more information, a way to
narrow his search. Usually, the previous souls had had
something that tied them to the victims or the areas
where he had found them. Unfortunately, no one knew
yet who the body was, or if they did, the press hadn't
gotten a hold of it.

Ezekiel sighed. There had to be something he could do.

Well, it was still early. He could try and convince
Max to help him use her wonderful machine and see if
he could find some information about deceased cannibal
killers. With luck, he might find some information,
before trying to dig back through paper records that
could end up being well over a century old.

There were a lot of sick people out there that would
put this kind of stuff up for other people to read.
After all, look at how many serial killer novels
became best sellers these days. It was certainly more
useful than waiting here for someone else to get
killed.

***
Downstairs
***