“The Cannibal Killer” – Part VI: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes, June 18th, 2016

*Authors’ Note:  Sorry for the delay between posts.  We work for the county and are currently winding down the fiscal year which runs from July 2017-June 2018, so we’ve been run off our feet.  But things will be calming down in another few weeks so please bear with us.  In the meantime, here is a lengthy entry to help make up for the lack of posts.  We hope to get back on our more regular posting schedule before July is out.  Thank you for you patience – Allan and Helen Krummenacker

madness

    “Nadine!” I screamed and rushed to her side, while my boss and our back up started moving slowly towards our suspect. The Cannibal Killer was still on the ground having spasms, and seemed to be completely unaware of our presence.

      I carefully rolled Nadine on her side and studied the knife handle which was all I could see. The bastard and really rammed it in deep. Luckily, I knew from past experiences that it would take more than a knife in the back to stop Nadine. Even if the guy had struck where her heart should be it would’ve failed, because her body would’ve moved the vital organ or created another to keep her going. For all the similarities between her and the vampires of legend, she was something more.

      Still something wasn’t right. Even though her eyes were open and staring right at me, she didn’t speak. And the look on her face… what was happening?

      That’s when I noticed her bare shoulder and nearly threw up. It took me a moment to get myself under control. I’ve seen a lot of injuries in my line of work, including what our perp had done to his other victims… but none of them had still been alive at the time. The bastard had literally taken a bite out of her.

      But the thing that was getting me was the fact that the wound was… doing things. The ragged edges of the wound kept moving, as if they knew they should be reaching across to their counterparts to seal the injury but couldn’t. Instead, they simply kept waving about likes streamers attached to a fan… only bloodier.

      I was almost grateful when I heard the sounds of a struggle breaking out behind me… almost. Before I could turn, one of my fellow deputies landed hard beside me and Nadine and rolled.

      Whirling I saw I saw our perp was back on his feet tossing both my boss and another deputy aside as if they were a couple of five year olds. Then instead of fleeing the scene, the guy just stood there… laughing.

      “Oh… Joanie,” he called and turned in my direction, only his eyes were fixed on the prone form of Nadine in my arms. “I’m not finished with you, not by a long shot!”

       Before he could take a single step I raised my gun and fired.

       I saw the pocket covering his heart explode as the bullet hit. The impact knocked him back yet he managed to keep standing. For a moment he stared at the hole in his jacket dumbly, as the cloth slowly turned dark then stopped. Then to his shock, and mine, the stain slowly began to shrink.

      Immediately the true horror of our situation hit. The guy had eaten and swallowed of not only a piece of Nadine but the Sangui-Sapio life form from that Para-Earth she’d landed up in back in 1862. And just as it had changed Nadine from a simple human into a pseudo-vampire in order to save her life, it was now doing the same to the maniac standing a few yards away from me. But the change was only beginning.

    Our psycho staggered and fell to his knees. His eyes were glassy-looking and he seemed confused.

      This was our chance! I started to get to my feet when Sheriff Parkes waived me off as he and three more officers, who had materialized out of the darkness, descended on the Cannibal. They were able to grab his arms and cuff them behind his back without the slightest bit of effort. In fact, they well into the process of removing other weapons he had secreted about his person before he seemed to realize what was happening.

       Then he laughed.

      Something about that sound made all of us back up and draw our weapons. “On the ground! Or you will be shot!” my boss warned.

       For a second no one spoke or moved.

      Then the killer began to murmur and giggle, “Now I get it… you were right, Joanie. I wasn’t man enough for you before. How could I be… you had a secret but wouldn’t share it with me. But now I know it…”

      “I said don’t move!” my boss repeated cocking his weapon.

   But the Cannibal didn’t listen, instead he turned towards where Nadine lay and whispered almost sweetly, “…Because I taken from you. But it’s not enough, I want it ALL!”

      In flash he was on his feet, snapping the handcuffs behind his back in the process.

      But we were faster and opened fire.

     At point blank range, every one of our shots struck home and I watched as the Cannibal jerked with each impact. But he never went down. Instead, he lashed out with superhuman strength and speed. His first blow sent Sheriff Parkes sailing over Nadine and into the pond beyond her, while another sent our backup rolling a good twenty yards in opposite directions.

     Instinctively, I started to turn towards the pond, but my superior was already getting back to his feet, bellowing, “Stay where you are, protect Collins!”

      He was right. At this point I was the only one left to keep the super-powered Cannibal from reaching his target.

     Weapon raised, I wracked my brain for ideas as our perp started towards me. Bullets weren’t going to stop this guy, but maybe one in each of his eyes would at least buy us time to regroup…

     Suddenly, Nadine appeared between us. Arms outstretched she stood protectively in front of me.

     I could see her shoulder was finally healing, but it was doing so slowly, as was the spot in her back where the knife had been. Her entire frame trembled for a moment and I feared she might collapse, but she held her ground and spoke.

     “You’re scared… confused. This isn’t what you expected,” she said gently.

     The Cannibal Killer chuckled, “No I’m not, Joanie. I’m seeing things clearer than ever before. This is how come you never stayed dead. You kept coming back over and over again, taunting me, laughing at me. But now I know how you did it. And now you can’t stop me. No one can! I’m like you… only better.”

     Now he started moving towards us, yet Nadine didn’t move. Instead she gently reached out a hand and said gently, “We both know what you really want.”

      That made him stop as he stared at her stupidly at her for a moment.

     Behind him, the two deputies he’d thrown were getting to their feet and regrouping so silently, if I hadn’t seen them I’d have never known. Still I kept a poker face, so as not to give anything away.

     Yet, without looking away from us the Cannibal Killer pointed at them saying, “And don’t expect them to stop me Joanie… because they’re going to be the warm up act. Once I’m done with them and the one behind you, I’m going to start on you and not stop…”

      “You’re in pain,” Nadine cut in, “Don’t let it hold you back, let go.”

     “YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE ONE IN PAIN JOA… UNGH!” Suddenly, the killer froze and began to jerk uncontrollably like a marionette whose strings had gotten tangled.

      “I wasn’t talking to you,” Nadine smiled and took a step toward him.

     The look in the Cannibal’s eyes changed from hungry rage to horror as she drew closer.  

     Just then the other two deputies rushed forward and tried to tackle him from behind. At the last second the killer spun, grabbed each of them and threw the pair directly at us.

    Unfortunately, Nadine was not fully recovered. In spite of her attempt to catch my fellow deputies, their combined mass and speed knocked her back into me and the four of us went down in a sprawl. By the time any of us were able to get up, the Cannibal was already gone.

night

TO BE CONCLUDED….

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“The Cannibal Killer” Part – V: Nathan’s Private E-Journal June 18th, 2016

****NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  A quick reminder that this story is darker and more graphic than most previous entries as it deals with violence against women, as well as  a very deranged mind.  There will be fewer images in this entry than usual as I do not wish to cause ‘triggers’ in readers.  If you feel just reading about violence will trouble you,  I recommend possibly taking a pass on this one.  The story will hopefully be concluded in two more installments – Thank you.****

I’ve seen inside peoples minds before, especially when I take a blood “donation” straight from them. And if I’m putting some of myself into them, I see it ALL. Which is why I usually prefer my intake to be from bags, or in a rare case a transfusion. Still, it’s not always a bad thing to get a donation directly from someone close. I get to know them more intimately in ways others don’t. And considering my long existence I can keep their memories alive and share those treasures with the donor’s descendants for many years to come, so they are never forgotten.

However, there have been occasions where I’ve been inside the minds of certain people and am forced to carry their memories with me, because I cannot forget… anything! Oh, I may have a hard time recalling the information at will, but it’s all there, hidden behind doors and piles of other recollections. And try as I might, I can only bury those darker items so deep.

I only pray I can bury the things I saw tonight so deep that they will never plague my slumbering moments…

As I said, I normally I only see inside another person’s mind when I take from them, but tonight I learned it could happen when someone took from ME!

Thanks to the mist I’d released earlier I knew the assault was taking place near the pond in the center of the park which meant I had to move fast. Normally I don’t show off my inhuman speed, but I figured I’d be able to alter the Sheriff’s memory afterwards. As the scenery blurred past me, I sent the mist I’d released into the park earlier into the killer’s nostrils hoping to gain some control over him after he breathed me in, which he did. But it didn’t work. The guy was so on an adrenaline rush from the excitement of having captured another victim, that nothing I did was even slowing him down.

But I could see through his eyes and saw he was straddling the girl, one hand clamped firmly over her mouth while the other held a wicked looking military blade. A second later, I burst onto the scene.

Sure enough he was on top of her and was in the process of slicing open her blouse to expose her chest.

Without slowing I allowed my arm to stretch a couple of feet longer than normal in order to grab his hand with the knife and pull it away from the girl. Unfortunately, this gave him time to look up and see me coming just before the rest of me slammed into his solid six foot frame. The creep actually started to smile until our bodies collided. He certainly had not expected someone so much smaller than himself to have enough force to knock him off the girl, much less send him sprawling several feet. By the same token, I never expected him to grab my “overly-extended” arm with the hand he had clamped over the girl’s mouth to pull me with him.

blade

The two of us rolled across the ground each struggling for the advantage. Normally, my inhuman strength should have given me the advantage, but the guy knew what he was doing. I quickly realized Michael was right about the killer having had military training. I got a close-up look at the blade as we struggled and recognized it as an LMF II ASEK, with a foliage colored handle to match his camouflage make-up and attire. But it was his fighting style that really told the story and was giving me a tough time of it. At first I couldn’t get any decent leverage to pin him, but then I realized I was fighting like a normal person and not using my full talents.

At last I let him pin me, as I did so the smell of tree sap and fresh leaves reached my nostrils. So that’s how he’d gotten past the patrols. He’d hidden himself up in one of the trees during the daytime, probably when the park was busy, and had stayed there. No doubt he’d put on his camouflage make-up and changed his shirt, while waiting for night to come. Then he’d just waited for the right moment and…

“Am I man enough for you now… Joanie,” he panted excitedly.

‘Joanie?’ I thought briefly before he head-butted me, which hurt! Yes, I can feel pain just like anyone else, but I can take more abuse than most. But it still hurt and I saw stars briefly. In that moment I realized MY suspicion, that our friend was someone who had either killed or wanted to kill a certain type of woman over and over again, had been right. Not that I felt like patting myself on the back at that point. Especially when he started wriggling on top of me and I could FEEL how excited he was (shudder). Now I could really appreciate the things Penny had told me in private on more than one occasion. How many women had known terror as they suffered at his hands?

His head rocked back, to deliver another blow to my skull but I was quicker. My left leg shrank while a fist shot up from between my cleavage connecting with his chin on its way down. I felt the impact throughout my chest as Mr. Psycho’s eyes rolled up into his head. For a moment I thought for sure he’d knocked himself out, but his grip on my regular hands barely loosened. Once more I unleashed a third fist, this time into his rather abdomen and I felt the air rush out of his mouth and into my face. Someone seriously needed a breath mint. This time, I was the one to deliver the head-but which seemingly ended our fight. Mr. Norman-Bates-wannabe, fell off of me and lay still.

Immediately, I got up and turned to his original target who was crouched nearby, holding up a large rock. Apparently, she had been hoping for an opening to clock the bastard while he was dealing with me. I gave her a reassuring smile as I studied her. Sure enough, she was blonde, about my current size and shape, and dressed like someone who full of self-confidence. Though at the moment she was looking more vulnerable and shaken, as she stared at me with eyes full of amazement.

“Easy, you and I are okay…” I started to tell her, then I saw her eyes widen in pure horror.

“BEHIND YOU!” she screamed, just as I felt the blade of the knife rip through my back and out my middle.

I remember cursing myself for making such a rookie mistake. The guy was ex-military, of course he’d play ‘possum’ to get me to turn my back on him. Still, I’m not normal, and it would take more than a knife in the back to finish me off. Unfortunately, before I could swallow the pain to retaliate, that’s when he sank his teeth and took a bite OUT of my shoulder and I got a look inside a world of madness!

vortex

“The Cannibal Killer” – Part IV: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes, June 18th, 2016

    For a moment I didn’t know what to do. I was certain Nadine could take care of herself, but then I realized her ‘attacker’ was wearing the same uniform I went to work in.

     Rushing forward I explained in a hushed voice, “Hold up, she’s with me!”

   “Rhodes?” the officer turned and I saw it was my boss, Sheriff Jim Parkes, looking none-to-pleased. “What the hell…”

     “Not so loud, we don’t want to give away our position,” I hissed and gestured that the three of us move out of the park.

     Nodding, he let Nadine go, but gestured that she was to lead the way.

    Once we were a safe distance Parkes growled, “Okay, this should be far enough. Now what the hell are you playin’ at? And you’d better not tell me you were going to try another decoy routine.”

    “Would you believe…” Nadine began, but I cut her off.

   “Actually we were, Chief. This Detective Nadine Collins from Maine. She and her people dealt with a similar set of murders but never caught the killer. She thinks our boy may be the same guy…”

    “And you came to try and help us catch him,” my boss finished with a nod. “You know there are procedures to be followed like introducing yourself at the station.”

    “You were already gone and Deputy Rhodes thought we might find you here,” Nadine supplied smoothly, while I gave him a rather believable account of what had supposedly happened up in Maine. As I spoke I noticed a faint greenish haze slowly building around us at ground level. I had an idea what that Nadine planned on letting my boss breathe her in so she could influence him, but I gave her the faintest head shake. You don’t work with a man for years without getting to know his mannerisms and way of thinking. And I could already tell he was buying my story because he trusted me. Hell the man had recruited me himself as soon as I had come back from the army He didn’t even bother to ask to see her credentials, instead he gave us the full rundown on the situation.

     He’d managed to pull in some extra help from the state. Several troopers were hidden throughout the park, while others were quietly patrolling the streets in unmarked vehicles. If our perp struck, we were going to run him to ground tonight.

    As we spoke I noticed the mist Nadine had created earlier was drifting off towards the park entrance and spread out until no trace of it could be seen. ‘Trying to do some recon, good plan,’ I thought to myself as Parkes continued to fill us in on the situation.

     Once he’d finished, Nadine and I shared what we had figured out about our Killer’s targets. Like me at first he seemed unimpressed until we got to the part about the women having an air of confidence which impressed him as much as it had me.

     “That would explain why he’s so violent with them,” he breathed after a moment. “Probably trying to kill the same woman over and over in his mind, but what about the cannibalism?”

    “We’re dealing with a sick mind, Chief,” I shook my head, “There could a be dozen demented reasons why he’s eating them… sort a souvenir? A way of keeping them close to him? I don’t know…”?

     At this point we both turned to my companion saying, “You got any…” and then stopped. She had started moving back towards the park, following the same path her mist had taken moments before.        “Detective Collins? What is it?” Parkes shouted as the two of us started towards her.

   But just as we were about to reach her, she shouted over her shoulder, “He’s here! And so is someone else… a girl!” A second later, she was gone. Normally, Nate… I mean Nadine wouldn’t have let anyone see her inhuman speed in action, but a life was in danger and this was no time for being subtle.

    Not that I had any reason to worry, Parkes was busy barking orders into his radio alerting the rest of the team of the situation. He’d barely gotten the order out when a scream erupted from the darkness. The killer had struck.

    Without pausing we both raced into the park trying to figure out what direction the scream had come from when it erupted again, this time calling for help repeatedly. Following the sound we veered off the path and into the trees and bushes off to our left. The cries were getting louder when suddenly a young woman burst out of the darkness and into our arms, tears streaming down her dirt covered cheeks.

     “He’s near the lake and he’s got her…” she blubbed, still shaking. “He jumped me and had me on the ground when she came out of nowhere and threw him off me… She’d just helped me up when he jumped her from behind and stabbed her in the back… she just stared at me and told me to run…”

     As she spoke two of my fellow deputies appeared on the scene.

    Grabbing his shoulder radio Parkes barked, “Suspect sited near lake attacking a female detective, all boots on the ground converge on that area and engage. Patrol cars are to surround the park and form a perimeter, pursue anyone seen fleeing from the area.” Then turning to the new arrivals he ordered, “Take her to safety and call for a medical assistance and more back up. Rhodes you’re with me!”

     Weapons drawn we raced towards the lake. I could hear the sounds of a struggle up ahead, which suddenly stopped, sending a chill down my spine. Had Nadine already finished the guy?

     Still rushing forward we burst out of the trees and the sight that greeted us was more than a little unnerving. Both Nadine and the Cannibal Killer were on the ground, several feet from each other. The latter was rolling around clutching his head and like he was having convulsions. Whereas Nadine, was simply lying on the ground unmoving, eyes wide as if she were staring into the pits of Hell itself…

“The Cannibal Killer” – Part III: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes June 18th, 2016

     For the record, I’ve always admired Uncle Nate but after tonight my respect for him has gone through the roof. When I got his e-mail last night telling me he was on the way to help deal with the monster who’s been terrorizing our town, I was relieved. But when he showed up… no, wait. I need to take a few steps back. I’ve got to tell this story right.

      Besides telling me he was on the way, the e-mail listed a time and place for us to meet tonight. It’s an out of the way pub here in town called “Draughts“, which is where we normally get together. It’s a nice little place run by a father and son who, like me, are part of Nate’s extended family. Big Frank and Frank Jr. are good people and they know just about everyone here in town. They also know what you like to drink, so when I walked in a glass of my favorite brew appeared on the bar before I finished settling my ass down on the stool.

Bar scene

      I started to pull out my wallet and Big Frank shook his head, “Nate’s already got you covered tonight,” he told me with a knowing smile and wandered off to take care of some other patrons.

      Glancing around the room I saw a number of familiar faces and a couple of others I didn’t, like the pretty blonde down at the end of the bar. I knew she wasn’t from around here, a face like that everyone would know and remember, but by the same token I could also tell she wasn’t a ‘working’ girl either. For one thing she seemed absorbed in reading her Kindle, for another no one was hitting on her. A few of the guys I went to high school were looking her way and shaking their heads. Clearly they’d been shot down and were still trying to figure her out, but I had other things on my mind. Like where was Nate?

      After about thirty minutes there was still no sign of Nate anywhere. So I pulled out my phone and dialed the number I had for him, but after four rings it went to voicemail. Looking over at Big Frank who was talking to the blonde at the end of the bar, I caught his eye and gestured to him. After sharing a laugh with the girl, he came over and asked, “Need a refill?”

     Shaking my head I replied, “Nah, I’m good right now. You told me earlier Nate’s covering my drinks, so that means you’ve seen him. Do you know where he is? He was supposed to meet me here I’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of him.”

      “That’s what you think,” he replied mysteriously.

     For a moment I started to get annoyed and then I remembered, Nate can take many forms and might be keeping a low profile for reasons of his own. Immediately, I scanned the room again for anything unusual.

     One or two people had left, and a young couple had appeared and were enjoying a quiet drink in one corner, but otherwise everything seemed the same. Then I started to take in the smaller details like was there any kind of hazy film in the air, or a “Red Mouse” (he loves to use those to spy on people or place), but there was nothing. Not even a black dog hanging around underneath the pool table, which he used one time which helped me and the team bust some drug dealers. But there was no joy in Mudville, once more it seemed I’d struck out.

     Shaking my head, I turned back to talk to Frank only to find the pretty blonde from the end of the bar was now on the other side of the bar slipping the flash drive I’d brought for Nate into not a Kindle but a tablet.

     I stared at her for a second and was about to protest when my eyes caught my reflection in the mirror of the bar behind her. I could see myself perfectly, but even though she was right in front of me there was no sign of blondie. Blinking I shook my head and muttered aloud, “Na…”

     “-Dine,” he cut in without taking his/her eyes off the screen. In the mirror’s reflection I could see he was flipping through the pages I’d scanned of the case at an incredible pace. It was like watching the character Quicksilver, from Marvel comics, going through a volume of “War and Peace”.

       After my initial surprise passed I leaned in closer and hissed, “I know you’re busy reading those files I scanned for you, but we might want to relocate to another area where there’s not a mirror where everyone CANNOT see your reflection in!”

      That got Nate. He/she… aw hell I’m going to call Nate her for the rest of this entry. It just makes things easier.

    Nadine’s eyes finally locked with mine and she muttered, “I thought we had that mirror replaced…” and quickly got out from behind the bar. We paused to retrieve her jacket and bag from the end of the bar. As we passed my old buddies shooting pool, I saw the looks of disbelief they were shooting me. I hung back briefly and leaned in to tell them, “Turns out she digs guys who wear uniforms.”

get-romantic-make-out

     As they shook their heads I followed Nadine to a secluded booth in the corner. But as I did, I found myself checking ‘her’ out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Now I’d known for years that my ‘uncle’ could change form, but what I was seeing before me was beyond words. The way her hair fell, how she walked, every little gesture… I could swear I was in the company of a real woman.

    After we got settled in, she finished looking over the files and her face took on a troubled expression much like the ones I’d seen at work. “Now you know why I called you in,” I told her breaking the silence..

     She nodded. “Yeah, this one’s a real bastard.” Looking up at me she continued, “I think you’re right about the military training. I don’t know if he actually served or if the guy has been part of a para-military group, but he definitely knows what he’s doing.”

     “We’ve been thinking the same thing, much as everyone hates to admit it,” I told her. “The idea that someone we might know has been doing all this is just…”

     “Sickening,” she finished, “I know. I’ve been down this road before. When I was a kid, before I ‘changed’ we had a psycho running loose back in Pointer. Turned out to be someone we all knew and thought the world of… but that’s another story. From what I’ve seen in your files, this guy likes to abduct his victims and keep them alive for a few days before he’s done with them. Tell me, is there anyone missing right now that you know of?”

     “Not at the moment, which is why Terri tried acting as a decoy,” I explained. “We were hoping to lure him out. Our boss had people positioned all over the park, yet he still got to her and KNEW who she was!”

    “Which is why he tried killing her right there on the spot instead of kidnapping her,” Nadine nodded. “And yet he still got past everyone… which makes me think he’s a local. He must’ve known ways in and out of there to get away.”

     “We’re not that big a force,” I pointed out, “And things got chaotic when we saw how bad Terri had been hurt…” then stopped as she shook her head.

     “Plus, someone was burning rubber leaving the area, which threw you all off.”

     I nodded, “Turned out to be someone who’d heard her screams and instead of coming to help her, they took off while phoning it in. They had no idea we were already on the scene.”

     My face must’ve betrayed something because Nadine reached over and gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll get this guy and put a stop to him once and for all, I promise.”

     I smiled back at her. “I know you will.”

     “WE will!” she corrected me and stood up. “Shall we get started? He’s out there and I came all this way looking my best just for him.”

     Standing up I followed her out of the bar and didn’t say anything until we were outside and out of earshot. “Do you really think your ‘disguise’ is going to lure him out?”

     “He has one type of girl he’s been going after. Blonde, young, good-looking, and with a lot of self-confidence.”

woman

     I paused in mid-step. “Okay… we knew about the first three but what about that last part?”

   Turning she replied, “A cheerleader, a local actress, two ‘working’ girls, all of them exude confidence and self-assurance. And so did your partner Terri.”

     It suddenly dawned on me, “So you’re thinking our boy has a thing against women who remind him of someone in particular. Who may be alive or already dead for all we know. And if she’s dead, he might have even done it himself, but once wasn’t enough.”

     “Exactly,” Nadine agreed and gestured, “Now let’s start with the park. He’s struck there a few times including the other night. If nothing happens I’ll spread myself out by mist or bat to see where else someone might be lurking. You keep your distance while I take the lead.”

     “And how am I going to know if you find the bastard?”

    She smiled and held up a closed hand. After a few seconds she opened it and there was a red mouse looking up at me expectantly. “Take him, he’s our link.”

     As I held out my hand, she transferred the critter into it and that’s when I noticed she was missing a finger. Then I remembered, she couldn’t make more of herself than there actually was. Her mass never changed when shape-shifting, so all she had a limited amount to work with.

     She must’ve noticed the look on my face for a moment later a new finger grew.

     As I put her little companion in my chest pocket, I gave her a questioning look.

    “I took a little off the waist and thighs,” she told me.

   Smiling I nodded and I let her lead the way. Of course I remembered to keep a good distance between us like she’d said. After all, we wanted our prey to come after her. And if he did, boy would he be in for a rude awakening. Nadine could handle herself and twenty of him even on a bad day. Still, we had to be careful. Even the best laid plans could go wrong.

park2

     She reached the park without incident which made me suspect if anything was going to happen, it would be in there. As it turned out I was right.

     For she got no more than forty feet in before a figure leapt out of the shadows…

TO BE CONTINUED…

“The Cannibal Killer” – Part II: Nathan’s Private E-Journal June 17th, 2016

*Note to self: I’m not the only one living in this big old house!* 

      I really need to pay attention to what’s going on around me when I’m on my computer, because I never know who’s going to come by and start reading over my shoulder.  Today, it was practically EVERYBODY!  Sigh…

     Now let me set the scene for you all.  Ever since I started writing I got into the habit of using two monitors at once, so I can have something I’m researching on one screen, while I’m writing on the other.  Tonight, I was reading an e-mail from my “nephew” Michael Rhodes about a case he’s involved with on one screen, while looking over the newspaper accounts on the other.

    I was so absorbed in what I was reading that I never heard Penny, Lisa, or Marisa come into the room.  In fact I only realized they were there after I suddenly leaned back  and felt my head bump into Marisa’s chest (not that she minded).

    After realizing I had an audience I quickly looked around the room to make sure one person in particular had not seen what I had been reading.

     As if reading my thoughts Penny said, “Isabella’s downstairs with Richard.”

    Immediately I breathed a sigh of relief and then scowled at the intruders.  “And what brings all three of you into my study?  For all you know, I could’ve been working on a new bestseller… or surfing the internet for porn.”

     “Which was why we came in,” Marisa answered simply. pointed out.

   “If you were searching for porn we felt it was important to know what turns you on and what doesn’t,”  Lisa added helpfully.

  “I just came in to see if you wanted something to drink,” was Penny’s contribution to the proceedings.  But she looked troubled.

    Standing up I started to ask Marisa and Lisa to leave us, but Penny cut in sharply saying, “NO!  They need to hear this!”

    I don’t know who was more surprised by her tone, our companions or me.  In either case, both girls sat down while I drew closer to Penny who I noticed was shaking slightly.  As she looked at me I gave her a reassuring smile and said quietly, “Start whenever you’re ready.”

   She gave me a little smile but instead of talking she wandered over to one of the windows in my study and stared out into the night.

     After several moments she said, “All the victims of that psycho you were reading up on were women.”

       It was more a statement than a question, still I replied, “Yes, they were.”

    She nodded, then asked, “Did you girls know prostitutes are the most likely to be victims of violence or even murdered?”

      Lisa looked uncomfortable, but Marisa actually answered.  “Yes, I did a report on violence against women for a class.  Got a good grade on it, plus a lecture from the teacher for touching on a ‘sensitive’ subject.”

     “Was the instructor male?” Penny asked.

     “Yeah, he was.”

     Penny turned.  “And what did you say?”

    “I reminded him that he’d asked us to pick a social issue that needed addressing and that I’d felt that violence against women was one I felt strongly about.  Then he asked why I’d focused on prostitutes and I told him that many of them had wound up in that situation because they’d been victimized already and needed more protection not less.  After that things got a little heated, and he wound up lowering my grade to a C.”

    I made a mental note to myself to ask Marisa the name of her instructor, but only later.  But right now I wanted to keep my focus on what Penny had to say.

    She gave Marisa a fleeting smile of gratitude, but then her expression turned serious again.  “You’re right, we… they do.  And sometimes we found it with guys who wanted to ‘protect’ us and help us out.  Only they could be just as bad, or worse than some of our clients.”

     “Like Tony?” Lisa murmured, breaking her silence.

     Penny shot her a look, but it quickly softened.  “Yeah, like my old employer.  But he only got mean when one of us tried to leave.  As long as we were under his roof, we WERE protected.  Which was why I felt safer being in a brothel than I did out on the street.  Anyone got too rough with us they’d be sorry…  But the only way any of us left his employ was when he felt they weren’t worth keeping around anymore.  Or he’d grown tired of them.”

    “Richard must’ve been very special for you to risk all that you did to get away,” I remarked, thinking aloud.

     That earned me a smile.  “He was… and not just because he got me a knocked up.  I could’ve easily gotten an abortion, but I wanted my baby and him.  And I would’ve lost both if it hadn’t been for you and Lisa.”

     “It was mostly Nathan,” my favorite goddaughter pointed out.

    “You were there for us too,” Penny replied softly, and then turned back to me.  “But the point I’m trying to make is that girls in my trade, we lived our lives knowing something bad could and would happen to us.  But the girls in those articles… they were just like these two,” here she gestured at Lisa and Marisa who were looking a little pale right about then.  “They weren’t hooking, they were just women who had families and friends who loved them.  One or two of them had children… they weren’t looking for trouble but it found them and it cost them.  But not before they suffered.”

     Glancing back at the article that was still on my screen, my eyes went straight to the part where it described some of what had been done to the girl before she died and murmured, “I know…”

     Penny caught the tone in my voice and said, “I know this Michael guy has already asked you to help stop this guy, but now I’m asking you as well.  Use your abilities to stop this guy, don’t let another girl suffer at his hands.”

     “Oh I intend to,” I assured her and began to use my shape-shifting skills.

     Normally, I don’t let anyone see one of my transformations, unless I’m turning into mist.  But most of the time I’m usually changing into something more “bestial”.  However this wasn’t one of those occasions.  First my waist pulled in while my hips expanded slightly.  At the same time the hair on my arms vanished while the skin took on a smoother look.  As my hair lengthened, my chest expanded, while my jawline softened and my nose took on a more aquiline shape.

   Once I was done, I gazed expectantly at my audience and said, “Well?  Do I make a tempting target?”

      Lisa, who I noticed was looking a little flushed, was the first to answer, “A little too tempting.”

     “Too male fantasy?” I asked.

     “Too Hollywood,” answered Marisa. who was also eyeing me curiously.

    “But it’s a good start,” Penny smiled and turned to the girls.  “Why don’t you two get some clothes and make-up for our girl here.  Then we’ll give her some tips to get the proper effect.”

     As soon as the girls left, Penny looked at me and said, “You know, if you hadn’t changed form, one of them would’ve offered to act as bait.”

     I nodded, “I was also afraid you might as well.”

     “I was,” she admitted and then threw her arms around me saying, “Thank you.”

    As I returned the gesture, I silently prayed for all our sakes (including Michael and Terri’s) that I would be enough to be the maniac’s next target.

A Note From the Authors…

We’re in the middle of moving from one apartment to another, so there will be a slight delay before the next installment of the current storyline.  We apologize and hope to get things back on track really soon.  In the meantime here’s some of what we’ve been facing…

Crazy weather…

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Home repairs…

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Tried moving things all at once…

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Okay, okay… none of that happened.

It’s been more like this…

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Still, it takes some time to move everything from one place to another because we’ve mainly got the weekends available.  But we’ll be done soon and things will settle down again and the posts will be more regular once more.

Thanks for all your patience and support.  Updates will be coming soon we promise… along with the release date for the long-promised anthology.  So stay tuned.