A/N: Hope you can stand yet another new story from me.:) This one involves child murders - it's not overly graphic but if this subject matter would bother you, you may not want to read. Hope those of you who do, however, will let me know what you think.:)
Sergeant Carl Horvath scraped his muddy boot against the side of a large, fallen tree branch in a vain attempt to remove what had accumulated there so far; he had only been standing on the forlorn, wind-swept hillside for only a half-hour or so, but after the several days of rain the Pittsburgh area had received, the normally grassy terrain had turned to rivulets of brown, ugly streams of runoff instead.
The overcast, gray sky above him matched the somber mood of both him and his trio of subordinates as they observed the body of yet another small child that had been unceremoniously dumped at the bottom of the ravine below. Even from several yards away, though, he could tell; it was the same M.O., the same pose, the same method of disposal, and no doubt the same, fucking monster that had killed the other previous six children.
He cursed under his breath; he had been a policeman now for over twenty-five years, and he thought he had reached the point where nothing fazed him. He had learned long ago that injecting emotions into a situation, no matter how awful or painful, was simply counterproductive and sometimes got in the way of results. But this time was different – this time there were innocent children involved, and he simply couldn't let it go.
The first killing had occurred approximately six weeks ago, and he had tried to put it out of his mind when he went home to his wife, Debbie, but he found that he just couldn't do it. It kept him awake at night as he lay in bed and replayed the scant evidence they had over and over again in his mind. He analyzed every small bit of a clue at work, trying frantically to zoom in on that one piece of previously overlooked evidence that might provide the break in the case they all so desperately wanted. Normally a voracious eater of his wife's fantastic cooking, he now merely picked at his food as he sat the dinner table, heartsick over what was happening in his own hometown. Try as much as he could, then, it was no use this time; he and his other brothers on the force just couldn't be objective when it came to this particular case. Perhaps it had to do, also, with the taunts and whispers of arrogance the killer seemed to take pleasure in leaving; he or she made sure, however, that it provided nothing substantial to go on.
He sighed in frustration; it was almost as if the fucker knew just what to do – or NOT to do – to get them riled up and mad as hell, and the person probably was deriving great pleasure in doing it, too.
He watched intently as the department photographer snapped several shots of the body at different angles for evidence before the zippered bag was closed. He rubbed his hand over his face, unable to hide the distress in his expression, as one of the detectives walked up to him from the crime scene.
"Same fucker, isn't it?" he asked the tall, handsome detective approaching him.
"Yeah, sure looks that way to me," Brian told him. Brian Kinney had been a raw recruit fresh out of the Pittsburgh Policy Academy approximately 10 years ago when he had fallen under the command of a skeptical captain by the name of Carl Horvath. At first, Carl hadn't liked the brash, cocky brunet; to his consternation, Brian had quickly and regularly fallen into the habit of never following the rules, or at the very least, finding ways to skirt around them. But eventually, Carl had noticed he got results no matter how unorthodox his methods were. For that reason, he learned to look the other way slightly when he knew the young police lieutenant cut corners at times, especially when it involved thugs that deserved to never see the light of day again, and he had grudgingly come to respect the determined, resolute demeanor of his newest rookie.
About two years ago, a detective position had opened up under his command due to a retirement, and almost on a whim, he had decided to offer it to Kinney to see if he could handle it. The man's out-of-the-box approach seemed ideal for the role of a private detective, and the man hadn't disappointed him. He had quickly proven to be a skilled, obstinate, crack investigator who solved practically every case thrown at him no matter how difficult. But as he noticed the frustrated look on the handsome man's face, he had a feeling that this one was going to prove to be a lot harder to solve.
Carl glanced over at the body bag being hefted up the slippery hillside and shook his head. "That's the seventh one," he said. "All boys. All innocent children just starting out in life. What kind of sicko pervert does something like that?"
"Someone who isn't human," Brian spat out. This case was haunting him, too, because it hit far too close to home. His son, Gus, was now six years old, pretty much the same age as the boys who had been murdered. Every time he spoke to his son on the phone, or saw him in person for their regular visitation, he couldn't help thinking that it could have been his son lying at the bottom of one of the ravines the monster seemed to prefer for his dumping ground. He shuddered slightly merely at the thought.
"Yeah, it's a fucking raw day out today," Carl commented, misinterpreting his action. He snorted. "Spring….yeah, it's a lovely spring morning, all right – everywhere around." He let out an angry breath.
"I don't envy the police chaplain having to tell the next set of parents that their son has just been found murdered."
Brian shook his head mutely in agreement, unable for a second to speak as he thought once more about his only son, the boy he never in his wildest dreams thought he would love as deeply as he did. When his friend Lindsey had asked him to be a sperm donor for her, that was all he had intended to be – a means to an end. He hadn't anticipated falling in love, though, with the doe-eyed, dark-haired little boy with the perpetually-pink, rosy cheeks and a smile that would light up the room. Only when he was with Gus did he seem truly happy. The boy's innocence and unconditional love for him was what made this particular case so difficult. But it also made his determination to solve it that much more intense, and he wouldn't rest until he had found the fucker who was doing it.
"Did the boys find anything helpful down there?" Carl asked with anticipation. His hopes faded, though, at the discouraged, downcast look on Brian's face. "I didn't think so," he muttered honestly.
Brian shook his head. "No, once more he only left his calling card and no prints anywhere," he growled. He held out a plastic bag toward his boss and Carl pursed his lips tightly together in response. There was no doubt now that it was the same person. From the very beginning, the killer had been meticulous about never leaving so much as a palm print at the scene of the crime. Even his footprints were somehow undecipherable. Brian had a theory that the man actually wore some type of cover over the bottom of his shoes to prevent brand identification; there were never any actual, distinguishable foot or shoe prints; merely a smooth surface as if he or she had been gliding on glass. But the perpetrator never failed to leave one mysterious, inexplicable clue that the police department held as a closely-guarded secret: a paper heart attached by a safety pin to the clothed chest of each victim.
He took the proffered piece of bagged evidence from the younger man and shook his head. "One of the boys already told me there's no discernible tire tracks around, either; the body was apparently placed there several days ago before all this rain. Even if there had been other evidence, everything would have been fucking washed away by now."
Brian stood there in his long, black raincoat; the misting rain had long ago turned his hair wet and unkempt in the windy, forlorn morning. He stuffed his hands into his pockets in an attempt to ward off the chill as he eyed his boss intently. "I want this fucker, Sarge….I want him bad."
Carl nodded sadly. "Join the club, son. Join the club. We all do."
Startled, Daphne's eyes flew open out of a deep slumber at the familiar sound coming from the next bedroom. Not again, she couldn't help thinking as she sighed and quickly rose from her bed. Even though this had probably been the third time this past month she had been awakened in the same manner, she still couldn't help the pang of sympathy that arose from inside because she knew exactly what was going on.
Sure enough, as she exited her bedroom she immediately noticed the soft light protruding from under the adjacent door. Quietly turning the knob, she peered in to find her roommate sitting up in bed, his sketchpad grasped in one hand while his other frantically flew across the paper almost as if he were in a trance. She knew enough by now not to interrupt him, realizing how important it was to him that he get it all down while it was still fresh in his mind.
Finally, after a couple of minutes, the slender hand stilled and he looked up to notice her; the expression on his face was as if he was just now realizing she had entered the room; perhaps he was.
She slowly walked further into the room and perched softly on the side of the bed. She instantly noticed her friend's sweaty brow and flushed complexion; the tears that had fallen down his face during his latest vision were still evident on his cheeks. "You had another dream, didn't you?" she whispered sympathetically.
Justin nodded. "Yeah," he said, letting out a ragged breath. "This was the worst one yet."
Daphne noticed her friend's hand was obscuring most of the charcoal sketch he had hurriedly composed a few minutes ago; she was dying to know what he had drawn but held back for now. "Was it the same type as before?" she asked curiously. She knew Justin drew sketches of each vision he had, but for some reason he had refused to show any of them to her lately. He had merely told her they were too horrible to share and he didn't want to upset her, too.
Justin swallowed. "Yeah," he verified, "only worse." He closed his eyes as the scene played out in his mind again; it was the same, horrific, heart-wrenching picture he had seen over and over again for the past six weeks. Daphne had only been privy to three of the episodes because Justin hadn't told her that he sometimes experienced the same type of vision during the day when she wasn't around. It wasn't only at night when the terrifying scenes played out; sometimes they would flash inside his head suddenly when he was least expecting them in the daytime, too. That was perhaps the worst part of all; even if he tried to stay awake to avoid thinking about them, he would still find himself haunted by them while he was awake, too. It was as if the little victims were crying out for him to help and he didn't know how.
Justin had known since he was a child that he had the 'gift,' as his maternal grandmother liked to call it. Well, he preferred to call it a curse rather than blessing, because all his psychic ability had done at times was make him sad. Because it wasn't the happy things he seemed to envision – it was always the heartbreaking episodes, whether it was a relative about to die, someone cheating on their spouse, or a beloved teacher contracting a terminal illness. He never seemed to have these visions when it was something pleasant to anticipate, and he never knew when he would get them. He only knew that periodically throughout his life, he would get these times where the visions would flash inside his head and he would have to hurriedly sketch what he saw in his mind's eye. It wasn't exactly that he wanted to remember…..but more accurately, he was afraid NOT to. He was afraid that one day he would forget what he had seen and it would be an occasion where somehow he might have been able to help stop it from happening.
So far, he had had these series of visions perhaps nine or ten times in his life; they would always start with nightmares – vivid kinds of plays being performed inside his head – and they would last for varying periods until he discovered somehow that the dreaded vision had come true once again. Each time it filled him with frustration and despair that he couldn't prevent it. But he somehow found a solace in recording what he had seen in his head down on paper in hopes that one day there would be that one time when he could help someone from fulfilling their awful destiny.
This one, though, was different; it involved a monster who was preying on innocent children. "Daphne," he whispered painfully as he opened his eyes. "I think I need to go to the police and talk to them about this."
Daphne's eyes widened as her mouth gaped open. "The police? Why?" She tried to glance down quickly at the sketchbook Justin was clutching in his hand, but he just tightened his grip even more on it.
He stared into the concerned, chocolate-brown eyes of his friend for a few seconds in silent debate with himself before slowly turning the sketchbook around so she could finally see what he had drawn. "Because of this," he whispered as he removed his hand for her to take a look.
Her face contorted in pain as she took one look at the drawing and gasped at the horrid images. "My God, Justin…..What do you think this means?"
Justin bit his lip. "It means someone's killing little boys….and I have to try and help find him."