I've told you I am writing a new series. The first book is called "Twisted", and it is a far cry different than the Slaughter Series. If you like Dean Koontz or Stephen King, this will be right up your alley. If not, but you're a fan of mine and will consider it anyway, read on.
I thought I would include the first few chapters to get your feet wet. Enjoy. But be warned, the opening scene is rather graphic.
Chapter 1: Break of Dawn
Over and over she watched the knife plunge into her victim. Clutching the shaft of the blade in one latex glove-covered hand, her satisfaction and pure pleasure in the deed only intensified with every thrust. The crimson-covered instrument of death was nothing more than a simple meat carving knife from a cheap set found in the aisle of a local department store. The kind meant to outfit the beginning apartments of college students out on their own for the first time. In the small town of Norman, Oklahoma, the utensils were about as common on the shelves of local stores as were the students that roamed these streets. That was by design. If you were going to kill someone, don’t use anything that could leave a forensic trail that might point back to you.
Again and again, the knife drove deep into her victim. She could stop now. Though breathing, the girl was already dead. Though her victim’s heart still pumped blood through her veins, most of it was spilling out of her in throbbing gushes of red. But why stop now? The delirious siren song of murder was too great to be ignored.
In and out, the knife pierced the skin of the young woman; a petite blonde who, until just a few moments before, probably had her whole life planned out. From the mint green scrubs the dying girl was wearing, the killer was sure the soon-to-be-deceased had been going to OU for something in the medical field. She smiled at her victim, reversed her blade, and swung upward from a low angle instead, jamming the long blade in between the poor girl’s legs.
Popped your cherry, didn’t I? she thought to herself with glee.
From the start of the attack, the young woman had been overcome by the shock of the blade being rapidly and repeatedly shoved into her. The victim could only gasp, twitch, recoil, and make a feeble attempt to stop the knife from entering her. But with the lengthy blade penetrating deep into her woman parts, the poor young lady at last found the strength to scream. The girl opened her mouth, drew in a mighty breath, and instead released a bloody gurgle that sprayed outward in a morbid mist. Her scream had been blocked. It was virtually impossible to scream when a thirteen-inch blade was jammed through your mouth and out the back of your neck.
Oh, so much pleasure to feel the blade glance off the spine of her dying victim. It was a rush to the senses. It was the most soul-filling high one could imagine. It was truly, and factually, orgasmic in nature. The killer felt herself climax in response, staggering back from her murdered target, wavering on rubbery legs, releasing the blade to remain lodged through the girl’s scream hole. She watched the victim crumple to the ground, now just another corpse to add to her list. Wide-eyed, absorbing the vision of the knife impaled through the young woman’s mouth a few feet away, she slumped against the wall of the dark alley and rode the waves of euphoria that crashed into her senses. Sex was never like this; could never be like this. These were the moments she lived for. These were the moments she killed for. They carried her forward in life like a series of connect-the-dots; one murder filling her with energy like a battery recharging, just to propel her on to the next taking of life.
As she leaned against the pitted brick wall for support, she clenched her knees together in a weakened effort to keep her own juices from leaking everywhere. She wore added padding to protect herself from this, of course, but her response was involuntary. She gulped in oxygen and let the emotions and adrenaline run their course. As they pulsated in her, deep within her, she savored each electrical jolt like morsels of a once-in-a-lifetime meal, as if she might never get another chance at this pleasure again. In her pastime of choice, one never knew when the latest kill would be the last. Every second must be relished, clung to, carefully packaged up as a coveted memory for a later delicious indulgence.
Finally, and regretfully, at last the pleasure pulses in her groin subsided into the background. Spent and empty, she shuffled over to the body. Out of curiosity, she bent down and plucked a laminated photo ID the victim had attached to her scrub top with a little silver clip. The killer held it up to her face and twisted it around slowly, allowing dim, yellow-casted light from a faraway streetlamp to yield just enough illumination for her to see the image and lettering more clearly. She could dimly make out a name stenciled in black across the surface. Dawn, it said. The poor girl’s name had been Dawn.
Ironic, she thought to herself. That’s my name.
Dawn’s eyes snapped open, gripping the sheets in both hands, and she screamed. It was a short burst of terror only, as she instantly recognized that she was not standing in a darkened alleyway over a fresh corpse, but rather stretched out in her own bed with thin, yellow sheets plastered to her sweating form. They were back. The nightmares had sprung into existence like ethereal creatures to torment her once more, their long silence abated. She lay there gasping and panting, fear and revulsion driving through her like the dagger that had just slain the woman in her dreams.
These images had haunted her sleep before. For nearly five years, she would have a murderous nightmare about once per month. Every page-turn of the calendar meant a fresh, new tormenting night was right around the corner. Sometimes, they were more intense. Sometimes, she didn’t even wake from her sleep. She just mulled them over like a distant memory, fading the longer she was awake. Sometimes, the intensity was enough to jar her awake and reduce the rest of the night to channel surfing on the couch, unwilling to even attempt sleep again lest the images reappear.
Out of desperation, Dawn sought clinical help. The doctor prescribed medication to take before sleeping. They had experimented with several meds over time until finally, she had not had a nightmare for the last eight months. She had been lulled into thinking this current round of drugs was actually working, grateful that whatever the doctor had given her was somehow warding off her inner monster like a string of garlic about the neck.
But now they were back again more sinister than ever. Before, it had been like she was looking through a madman’s eyes, watching him perform his heinous acts. Always in a different place. Always a different victim. Always a different manner of murder. This newest kill was no different in those regards. But this time, it was exponentially far worse. This time, she had been the killer. This time she wasn’t just riding along and observing someone else take a life, like a movie on the screen of her mind. This time she was the evil that stalked her victim. This time there was greater realism. This time there were emotions. She had felt unabashed joy and fulfillment as she had thrust the blade into her victim.
Timidly, she reached a hand under the sheets and felt her groin. Her climax of perverted sexual pleasure had been real. She could feel the wetness with her fingers. Dawn curled up in her soaked sheets and cried. With her eyes open, she wept, fearful that the gruesome images might return if she closed them again. She was frightened, terrified of her own twisted mind, her being shattered like thin glass. Dawn was as broken as she could be.
Chapter 2: The Rook and the Witness
Isaiah Black’s eyes snapped open in the darkness of his bedroom, ripped from some dream. The world he had been immersed in behind closed eyelids escaped him the moment his waking eyes tried to penetrate the chilling cold of his room. Isaiah slept best when his bedroom was set to meat locker temperatures. The box fan in the corner helped further by circulating air and providing a rushing hum to lull him to sleep. He didn’t want to be up yet. He wanted to roll back over and try to find that dream again. Whatever it had been, had been good. Very good. The rock-hard muscle between his legs spoke of sexual arousal. Aggravated at this interruption, he sighed and looked around.
A glance at the window revealed the deep black of night beyond the drawn mini blinds. No hint of dawn peeked into his room yet. Whatever time it was, it wasn’t close to the 6 a.m. alarm he had set on his phone. Yet his phone was bellowing at him from across the room, demanding he slip free from his blankets, stomp barefoot to the dresser, and shut it off. Perhaps he had mistakenly set the wrong time?
No, he realized, it wasn’t his alarm going off. Someone was calling. Whoever had decided to wake him in the middle of the night must have a good reason. Everyone who knew him knew that he needed his sleep. Especially tonight. Tomorrow was going to be a big day for him.
Throwing off the blankets, he darted from the comfort of his bed toward the opposite side of the room. For years he had needed to place his phone strategically away from his bed lest he inadvertently keep hitting the snooze, resulting in being late for work. Employers hated people who were habitually late. In the case of the Norman Police Department, it was grounds for termination. Isaiah loved being a cop. Even more than he loved his sleep. Getting fired for hugging his pillow too much was simply not an option. So, he set his alarm to blare the sound of a klaxon and placed it across the room. This, however, wasn’t the sound of a pending air raid ripping him from sleep. This was the sound of an ancient telephone. Since that sound had been selectively paired to a certain set of numbers, he knew it was work that was disrupting his slumber.
His bare toes collided with a pair of cowboy boots left in the middle of his apartment floor, sending needles of agony through his foot, causing him to suck air through clenched teeth. He swore at his stupidity. He swore at the misery. He wanted to swear at the person on the other end of the phone. Instead, despite the discomfort that made him tighten his jaws and hop the rest of the way to the dresser, he forced himself to answer in calm, even tones. “Officer Black.”
There was a slight snicker on the other end. Then, “Still hasn’t sunk in yet, has it? You’re not an officer anymore. You’re a detective, remember? I seem to recall it being a big deal to you when you got the promotion. You were all grins and giggles.”
Isaiah rubbed his eyes and tried to sound wide awake. “Force of habit, sir. And only schoolgirls giggle.” He recognized the voice on the other end as belonging to his new supervisor, Lieutenant Gromley. He pulled the phone away from his ear long enough to glance at the screen, focusing on the time showing on the display. 4:02 a.m. Pressing it back to his face, he continued. “Is this some sort of hazing ritual for new detectives, calling them this early in the morning?”
Lieutenant Gromley started his reply with a mockingly innocent tone, but it quickly turned more serious. “Detective, departmental guidelines expressly prohibit hazing of any kind. And even if we were going to do that, it’ll have to wait. Time to earn your pay. You and Deeks just got assigned a case. Girl got murdered in an alley. Not exactly the best one to get your feet wet with, but out of all of us, your partner has the most experience. Just follow his lead. He had twenty-five years on the job in New York City, eighteen of it as a homicide detective before he moved here. This sits right in his wheelhouse. Trust him. But, Detective, Norman only sees a murder every three years. We don’t get bodies dropping around here very often. It’s usually petty stuff. Don’t screw this up and get in his way.”
The news of a murder in the usually quiet college town had him wide awake now. Any semblance of casualness was gone from Isaiah’s voice. “Got it, sir. Text me the address and I’ll head straight over.”
“Sent that first before I called,” the lieutenant assured. “And, Detective?”
Isaiah blinked in the darkness, adrenaline humming through him as the weight of what he was about to undertake pressed in. Embarrassingly, his voice cracked when he answered. “Yes, sir?”
If his boss heard it, the man didn’t let on when he continued. “Make sure to wear your new clothes. Show up in your old patrolman’s uniform out of habit and there will be hazing. Departmental guidelines or not.” The phone went dead.
Isaiah stood in his underwear, the darkness and cold closed around him like the weight of this first assignment. He had fantasized about this moment, honestly believing it would be years before he ever saw a murder case. He was a rookie detective after all. He was supposed to be brought up under the wings of those who had been down this road before him. He was supposed to gradually be introduced to the world of crime-solving, assigned burglary, and larceny cases to start. He wasn’t supposed to be handed a murder case on his very first day. He shook his head. That unknown girl in the alley wasn’t supposed to be dead either. The reality was, there were no supposed to's in the world of murder. It was vicious. It was wrong. Isaiah’s job was to figure out who did it, build a case against the criminal, and pass them down the assembly line of the justice system. He was a cog in the wheel of a judicial machine. He was also the voice of the one being harmed. In this case, the one who had been harmed no longer had a voice. She was dead and Isaiah had a job to do: find the killer and make them answer for their crimes.
He made his way to the closet of his small apartment and flipped on the light inside. With speed and determination, he put on his new uniform for the first time. The clothing of his trade was nothing like what was portrayed in the police shows on TV. He didn’t wear a suit. He wore tan slacks and a blue polo with the Norman PD logo above his heart. He clipped his new badge to the front of his belt and strapped on his service issue Glock to his left-hand side. His old uniform was professional and instantly identifiable to any that looked. It screamed: “cop.” The well-equipped gun belt adorned with handcuffs, radio, baton, extra mags, along with the bulky bullet-proof vest demanded authority and intimidated those that saw it. Listen up, it said, pay attention.
The attire of a detective in this sleepy little town said anything but. It was casual and relaxed. Except for the gun and badge, he could have passed for a DMV worker about to give a driver’s test to a teenager. Before today, he couldn’t wait to put on this new uniform and shed the bulk and weight of a patrolman’s garb. As he looked at himself in the mirror of his tiny bathroom, he suddenly felt out of place. Knowing that he was about to wade neck-deep into a murder investigation, he felt like an impostor. Like a poser. Like a kid playing dress-up.
He shook the thought away. He had earned this position through hard work and the support of his supervisors and peers. They believed in him. He needed to believe in himself. That dead girl in the alley needed him to be on top of his game. She didn’t need a newbie detective second-guessing his abilities.
He grabbed his keys from his dresser. Unlike those Hollywood movies where detectives drove unmarked cars home every evening, Norman PD had a much smaller budget. They drove into work, met up with their partner if assigned one for the case in question, and signed out an SUV if they needed to go anywhere. They signed it back in when they clocked out for the day. But this wasn’t going to be a typical workday. He would take his own pickup to the crime scene and log the mileage for reimbursement later.
Climbing into his truck, he checked the time on his phone. Six minutes. It had taken him six minutes to dress and load into the cab. It had felt like an eternity. He noticed his hands were shaking when he went to adjust the air conditioning. “Stop it.” He ordered himself out loud. “You got this.”
Isaiah pulled out of the apartment complex and headed out for his first day as a detective. Everyone remembers their first big case; he had been told. In Norman, where they didn’t even have a homicide wing because of the lack of violent crime, murder was as big as it got. He had no idea what was in store for him, but he was sure he would be remembering it for a long time to come. Don’t screw it up, his boss had told him. Rely on the experience of your partner, he had been instructed. He repeated that to himself as he pulled away.
As the nearby black and white police cruisers lit up the murder scene in strobing blue and white light, Detective Gage Deeks took a long drag from his small cigarillo-like vape and waited for the rookie to show his clean-shaven face. Deeks always had a love/hate relationship with new detectives. They didn’t know jack. Some of them came into their new jobs thinking they did, but they were always wrong. He loved that. He hated that.
He liked the fact that their lack of knowledge made it easy for them to be shaped and molded into his vision of an investigator. He liked how he was able to get away with bending a few rules and crossing a few lines. Rookies seldom challenged the authority of a veteran, allowing Deeks to do as he pleased to get the job done.
They also tended to get in his way a lot. Therein lay the hatred part of being partnered with a rookie. With an established veteran detective as a partner, it was easy to divide and conquer when solving a case. Each would go their separate ways to do their own sleuthing and meet later to discuss their findings. It allowed Deeks a lot of alone time. Being alone was how he preferred to do things. There was a lot of freedom to fit in extracurricular activities in his day. Besides, with his unnatural ability to figure out who the perps were and why they did what they did, he hadn’t met a case he couldn’t wrap up in twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Of course, he always let them take far longer than that. Best not to show off how superhuman you really were. Best to fly under the radar and enjoy all that extra free time. It wasn’t like the victims were going to get any deader than they already were.
With a rookie detective being assigned to him, however, that alone time wasn’t possible. They needed constant coaching and mentoring. They needed to be shown how to do everything; needed to be talked through everything. They needed to be showered with attention. It was tedious, time-consuming, and an assault on his mental health. For the love of everything, just pretending to be nice to someone for ten hours a day made him want to put his gun in his mouth and end it all.
The more he thought about it while toking on his electronic cigarette, waiting for the rook to show up, the more he was convinced it was a hate/hate relationship. He would get rid of this one quickly, he decided. Not too quickly. He needed to have a little fun with the guy first. After all, the rook was clueless. Best to take advantage of it while he could.
Deeks looked around at the scene. Back in New York, the place would be crawling with reporters shouting questions across the crime scene tape. Civilians would be gathered in groups, quietly discussing what was going on, holding out cellphones in front of their faces, eagerly recording the whole thing to be uploaded to social media. Some would even be live streaming it and telling all their followers what was going on. Here in the lazy town of Norman, Oklahoma, where the average speed limit was twenty-five miles per hour and the average crime involved a college student engaged in a drunken misdemeanor, things were much simpler. Things were much quieter. Deeks liked that. He silently wondered why he hadn’t pulled the trigger and made the move sooner.
Oh, that’s right, money. Like most big decisions in life, it was about the money.
He had joined the NYPD right out of high school, already knowing back then about his unnatural abilities to figure out those things that most people tried to keep secret. Because of those talents, joining the police department seemed the logical thing to do. His abilities were quickly recognized by his supervisors and he advanced at the fastest pace allowed by policy. The second he was eligible, he took the detective’s exam and was hand-selected to work homicide. It was a match made in heaven and it didn’t take him long to make a name for himself. He solved more murders and closed more cases than any other detective in NYPD history.
He didn’t close every case, of course. Not all of them. It would be weird for someone to close every case.
At one point, a reporter caught wind of his success and came calling. She wanted to write a book loosely based on Deeks’ life. She hounded him for weeks, promising that she had connections to several publishing houses in Manhattan. They could make a lot of money, she assured. The allure of fat paychecks was tempting, but to Deeks, nothing was more alluring than the prospect of being left alone, flying under the radar, quietly doing the thing he loved most. In the end, he told her in the most aggressive way possible to shove off, making sure that she would stop her pursuit. But, for the first time, it made him evaluate his career.
He concluded that he had run his course in New York. He had no desire for advancement like upper management had been hounding him to do. He decided to cash it in and move. He took his fat twenty-five-year pension and moved to Norman. There, he found an opening on their small police force. The maximum age for being hired was forty-five. He beat that with two years to spare. He was required to join as a uniformed officer, despite his experience, and maintain that position for a minimum of a year. As soon as he hit that date, the brass practically begged him to make the move to detective. Since Norman PD had no mandatory requirement for retirement, he could ride an easy job for as long as he was able, effectively making two paychecks while still doing everything he loved to do at a slower and more relaxed pace. Plus, since Norman had never had anyone on their force with his level of experience, they gave him a wide berth and let him be. At least until now.
In truth, he had only been serving in the position of a detective for three months longer than the rook he was waiting for. Still, he knew the new guy was aware of Deeks’ experience and would likely be fawning all over him the moment he stepped up to shake Deeks’ hand. It was predictable. Pathetic of course, but he would have to endure it for at least this first little bit.
Management was anxious to have all of Deeks’ experience poured into a fresh young head of mush. It would hopefully set them up for the future. Since they had no actual homicide department and had to sometimes lean on the more experienced personnel of nearby Oklahoma City when one occurred, this would allow them to stand on their own two feet when more serious crimes presented themselves. Deeks was going to have to put up with that for a while. He would satisfy his superiors, give them what they were looking for, and he would have a little fun humiliating the rook doing so. As soon as he was able, Deeks would shed the guy like an old layer of dead skin.
Isaiah Black had seen a few things as a beat cop of four years. No matter the city or locale, no one sees the vile underbelly of society like a uniformed officer. They’re the first ones on scene when a call goes out to 911. They get a firsthand view of the debris left behind when humanity collapses and shows its more brutal nature, or when something goes horribly wrong and tragedy reigns. He had seen the aftermath of a truck devouring a motorcycle and its two riders at high speed. He had seen a beaten woman, naked, after having just been raped by a guy high on meth. He had witnessed the carnage of a bar fight which had escalated from thrown punches, to chairs and bottles being used as improvised weapons, to a scattergun loaded with buckshot when the brawl spilled into the parking lot. All of it over an argument about an OU Sooners’ football game. He had comforted a grieving mother over the loss of a child to a horrific accident. He thought he had seen it all. He was wrong. He had never seen anything like what presented itself in that alley.
Isaiah couldn’t help but clench one latex glove-covered fist and press it to his lips, turning his head to look away for a moment as bile threatened to erupt at his revulsion. Almost every square inch of the dead woman was covered in her own blood. She had been stabbed to death with more entry wounds than he could count. One of them right between the legs. It made him wince at the thought. It was a horrendous thing to behold. The final thrust of the blade had been driven through her open mouth. The long knife still poked upwards from her frozen scream like a mountain climber’s flag on the peak of some great summit. Thanks to her short hair, he could see that it had been driven with such force that he could make out the tip of the blade protruding from the back of her neck.
Around the body were many blood-soaked footprints with no discernible tread pattern. The handle of the blade was matted in a bloody handprint. Another set of crimson prints covered her ID where the killer had held it up to examine. There was even blood splatter from arterial spray speckling the pitted and chipped brick on the nearby walls. It was a mess, a grotesque mess. He wanted to hurl from the reality of it. He choked it back. He couldn’t lose it. Not with Deeks, the man who was supposed to be his mentor during his transition into this new role, standing a few feet away with arms crossed, watching Isaiah’s every move with probing dark eyes.
From the peripheral, Isaiah saw the man shift, switching from crossed arms to hands on hips before speaking, his heavy New York accent reverberating in the narrow alley. “Come on, Rook. I’m still waiting. Tell me what you see.”
Isaiah gratefully turned away from the corpse to look at Deeks. “Killer was a male. It would take strength to shove the blade all the way through her neck like that. Plus, it was a murder of opportunity,” he said, swallowing hard to keep from puking. “Someone was looking to kill. Probably for a long time. She happened to wander into his path one day. He stalked her, planned it out, and then killed her for fun.”
Deeks blinked in response, a blank expression washing over his face for a second. Shaking his head, he corrected Isaiah. “Dead wrong. Crime of passion. Someone hated her. It was planned out, yes, but this was done by someone who knew her well.” He pointed at the ground. “You see all these footprints? See the handprint on the handle? When forensics comes back, we’ll learn that the killer wore gloves and shoe covers. Probably medical gloves and those slip-on booties they use in operating rooms. Since our vic is wearing scrubs, I’ll bet you anything that it was someone she either worked with or went to school with.”
Isaiah looked down at the girl. “I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense.”
Deeks shook his head again with smug condescension. “Course it does, Rook. But that’s why I’m the vet and you’re the rook. Don’t worry about it, kid. I’ll raise you right. We’ll get you eating solid food soon enough.”
Anger rippled through Isaiah and he stood, squaring himself off against his new partner. “Three times,” he shot at Deeks.
His partner cocked his head to one side. “Three what?”
Isaiah took a step towards his mentor and repeated himself. “Three times. You called me ‘rook’ three times in the last five minutes. I haven’t been a rookie for four years. Since then, I’ve received more commendations than officers with twice the service time. You’re looking at the only person to ever ace the detective’s exam. I got here because I earned it. Just like you. Now, I get that you’re some kind of super-sleuth from the NYPD, and I look forward to learning a lot from you, but don’t demean me again.”
Deeks’ hands went together, cracking his gloved knuckles as he closed the distance between them. Isaiah recognized the bullying tactic for what it was: pure intimidation. It was nothing but physical bluster from a man used to throwing his weight around. Isaiah knew the veteran detective wouldn’t have the brass to throw a punch at his partner in the middle of a crime scene. A host of uniformed officers were gathered twenty feet away and watching. All of them were men he had known for a long time. Deeks wasn’t stupid enough to bring this to blows right then. Isaiah smiled and let him approach.
If possible, Deeks’ noticeable accent got even thicker. “I aced it too, pal. Plus, I aced the one back in New York where it’s twice as long and twice as hard. I’ve lost track of the number of commendations I have. More importantly, I’ve closed three hundred and sixty-three homicides before coming here. How many have you solved? Oh, wait. Zero. So, you little snot, I’ll call you anything I want to. If you don’t like it, you can go cry to the boss and have yourself removed from the investigation. Of course, that’ll mean filing your career away in a drawer somewhere. But it’s your call. So… Whatcha’ gonna do…, Rook?”
Isaiah wanted to deck him. He wanted to turn the arrogant know-it-all into a second bloody heap stretched out in this alley. If there was a weakness in Isaiah, it was the overwhelming desire to put a bully in his place. From the first grade, he had developed a reputation for taking up for the little guy. He had always been big enough and strong enough to be a bully himself. When one showed up and tried to make life hard for someone smaller and weaker, Isaiah tended to take them head-on and teach them a thing or two. He was less responsive when confronted directly by one. Taking a stand for himself but trying to avoid a physical response if possible; choosing restraint before giving someone a beatdown. This was somehow different.
Isaiah had developed a strong disdain for the man as soon as he encountered Deeks waiting for him at the crime scene tape. There was just something that set his teeth on edge with the guy. The cocky attitude. That over the top New Yorker accent. His perfect haircut. Isaiah had wanted to punch the man almost immediately. Who did this guy think he was?
After the third slight at calling him a rookie, Isaiah had decided that he wasn’t going to take it, no matter the reputed myth and lore about the man’s accomplishments. Isaiah had earned this position and he wasn’t going to be treated like a red-headed stepchild by some idiot Yankee.
While the man could use a serious beatdown, Isaiah chose a different tactic. Humiliation. “You know, I find it curious. How could someone with your near-mythic reputation miss such an obvious clue?” He pointed back at the body. “Tell me what you see, vet?
For the first time, uncertainty flickered in Deeks’ eyes. He pushed his way past Isaiah, to stand over the victim. His eyes searched the body, looking for some missed detail.
Isaiah gave him a minute to doubt himself before addressing his senior partner again. “The ID badge,” he pointed out.
Deeks’ eyes turned to the laminated card, slight confusion still painted on his face. “What about it? It gives her name and tells us she is a student in the OU pre-med program. Obviously, it gives us a direction on where to start asking questions.”
Isaiah nodded. “Beyond that, it tells us the intent of the killer.”
Deeks stood and crossed his arms again. “Ok, Rook. What does that ID card tell us about our murderer?”
Isaiah Black smiled. “The perp picked it up to read it. He had to read the card to know the name. If he already knew the vic like you suggested, if this really was a crime of passion by someone close, wouldn’t he have already known her name?”
Then Deeks did something entirely unexpected. He smiled. Satisfaction crossed his face. “I change my mind about you, Rook. I think we’re gonna get along just fine.”
It was Isaiah’s turn to be confused.
He hid in the shadows of a bush and watched the scene unfold across the street. The police patrol vehicles gathered at the entrance to the alley of the murder scene, illuminating the surrounding area in hypnotic blue flashes. The murder had happened in an area in northeast Norman, where the old town business district butted up against aging neighborhoods. He had been sneaking back home, trying to avoid the random cop car and the inevitable curfew charge he would get if he were caught. After all, he was only fifteen.
Mom was still sleeping off her vodka and pills a few blocks away. He knew he would never be missed. So, he had slipped out of the house to hang with some friends. On his way back he passed the alley. What he saw made him freeze in horror. The light was dim in the shadows of the two old shops, but his eyes had adjusted to the failing light enough that he could see what was going on. Someone was stabbing someone else. A lot. Tommy could see the killer stabbing away with a long knife in a frenzy of motion. Even from across the street, he could hear the blade make a stomach-turning snick with every quick thrust. Tommy wanted to scream. Tommy wanted to run flat out in any direction. Instead, he found himself unable to turn away from the grisly scene.
Finally, he found enough motivation to step back into the folds of a bush at the edge of the sidewalk. He pressed into its arms and held his breath, praying to escape the notice of the killer across the street. He did it just in time. He had barely ducked into the branches when the killer gave one final jab, pushing the knife clean through the other person’s skull, before looking around.
Tommy stayed put as the murderer leaned against one wall for a while, too scared to move, his bladder screaming that it should be emptied. And soon. He needed to pee. It was something that had always occurred with him even as a child. If he played hide and seek, he would feel the urge to pee while hidden. If he were sneaking around and trying not to be caught doing something, he would do it with a pain in his side, his bladder urging him to just whip it out and go right then. All he could do as he watched the shadowed form in the alley slumped against one wall, was clench up and wait for it to all be over.
Eventually, the killer strolled down the alley like nothing ever happened, even whistling as he went. As the darkened form evaporated into the night, Tommy could still hear that fading eerie whistle echoing through the alley. After it was gone Tommy still waited, too frightened to leave, his knees still locked together with his bladder shouting its demands.
He should run over to try and help her; he had thought at the time. But he didn’t. He should scream for help at the top of his lungs, he had told himself. But he didn’t. He just stood cowering in the bush like the petrified fifteen-year-old kid that he was.
Over time, the fear subsided. Eventually, he reasoned out a course of action that could help isolate himself as a witness, and still try to report what had happened. From his pocket, he pulled a burner phone. They didn’t make enough money for his mother to buy him a cell. The truth was different, of course. His single mother needed as much money as she could get to feed her habit of sleeping pills and booze. So, Tommy had taken the odd job here and there and purchased a cheap, pay-as-you-go burner phone; like the kind you saw in movies where spies wanted to remain untraceable but still communicate. It would come in handy now.
Tommy called 911. He made his voice as deep as he could to imitate an adult. He told them that some kids were setting off fireworks in the alley. He gave the operator a cross street and hung up the phone. He turned it off then. He would toss it in the trash the first opportunity he could. They would never trace it back to him. He would never get tagged with a curfew violation and mom would never know.
Still, he waited. Curiosity replaced fear. He had wanted to see what the cops would do when they discovered a dead body in the alley instead of some kids popping off illegal fireworks. He didn’t have long to wait either. Two police-marked SUVs with flashing lights showed up, whipping into the alley quickly to surprise anyone hiding within. The first one slammed on the brakes immediately as the headlights hit the corpse.
Cops poured out of the doors, talking into radios, sweeping the alley with bright flashlights and readied guns. He watched for a few more minutes, deciding to hang out a bit longer to see as much of the show as he could before slinking back to his home. His voyeuristic curiosity had caused him to be trapped. In just a few minutes, it seemed like every cop car owned by the city had arrived. Close behind were a firetruck, an ambulance, and a sedan with the words ‘Medical Examiner’ stenciled on the door. Suddenly, that need to pee showed up again. He almost considered turning into the bush and just letting loose. He was fearful of being caught, however. Someone would surely see movement or hear him blasting away with a stream of urine.
Eventually, two more vehicles showed up. The two occupants were male and dressed in the same outfits: khaki pants and polo shirts. They walked around and looked. They talked. At one point, Tommy thought they might start punching the crap out of one another right there next to the body. It was a weird thing to see two cops arguing over a corpse instead of trying to find the killer. Then, they seemed to make up over something discovered on the body. After a few more minutes of talking, both men left in their vehicles. One went one way. The other headed off in the opposite direction.
Still, Tommy had to wait. He watched as more cops took pictures and put out little yellow markers all over the alley. The body was hauled off by the ambulance. With it, most of the cops left too. Two SUVs remained behind. Guards, he reasoned. The last two cops were there to maintain the crime scene until they learned everything they could from it. With only two SUVs blocking the entrance, and with the officers securely encased inside them and waiting, Tommy finally found the opportunity to slip away.
He got off the main street as quickly as he could, ducking into a neighborhood with less-traveled avenues. Cottonwoods towered overhead, but he could see the dim light of dawn creeping into the warm June morning. Still plenty of time before his mother slapped her alarm for the third time and dragged herself up to get ready for work. She helped open the store at a small thrift shop where she worked as an assistant manager. Before she left, she would tiptoe into his room and tell him she was leaving. She would kiss him on the forehead, the minty aroma of toothpaste barely covering the smell of vodka she often laced her coffee with. Plenty of time remained before that all happened. Enough time to pee.
The houses along here were all older models, looking like long coffins decorated with peeling paint and missing shingles. They lined up closely against one another with long driveways separating each. He picked one at random and trotted down the canyon-like drive. This one contained no car, just a single plastic dumpster-style trashcan with two wheels. He didn’t hesitate. He walked straight up next to the dumpster, his back turned to the street, unzipped, and started whizzing all over the side. He closed his eyes, blissfully enjoying the relief as his bladder emptied itself.
He could hear nothing, save the sound of urine splattering against the plastic wall of the trash can and trickling across the pock-marked and broken concrete. It drowned out the occasional tweeting of early morning birds out to catch their breakfast. There was no warning when two hands clamped his head in a steel-like grip and spun his skull with a violent twist. He heard his neck break like the splitting of wood; felt his spine tear and snap with the pain of a thousand needles all stabbing him at once. Then, nothing.
There was no more pain. He saw himself falling as the shadowed ground rushed up to meet him, but he felt nothing at all. There was no sensation of falling, either. There was no pain and shock as his head collided with the urine-soaked driveway. His eyes registered what he was seeing. His ears connected the sound of his head slapping against the wet concrete with the vision of impact, but his body’s nerve endings were disconnected from it all. He couldn’t even detect himself breathing. There was only vision and sound. Birds chirping. Footsteps walking away. Whistling.
The person that killed him was whistling a happy little tune as they lightly stepped down the driveway. The same eerie tune that the killer in the alley had whistled. The killer had somehow found him. Then slowly, gradually, in a fading manner, there was nothing at all. It just kind of all slipped away, with the far-away whistling the last thing Tommy ever heard.
Chapter 3: Whistle While You Work
The thin receptionist with the orange-framed glasses looked up from her computer screen and called out over the counter. “Miss Harris, the doctor will see you now. You remember where her office is, right?”
Dawn grabbed her small purse and nodded. “Unfortunately. Very familiar. Do you mind if I bring my friend in?”
The receptionist smiled. “I’m going to tell you yes for now, but Dr. Grant may change that at some point during your time and ask for privacy.”
Dawn wanted to smile politely. She couldn’t. She wanted to at least feign an upbeat attitude, yet it was not in her to do so. She was troubled. Weary and troubled. Counseling and pharmaceuticals had not relieved her of the nightmares. Dawn would visit with the psychiatrist again. Maybe the woman would be able to come up with another solution that had not been tried yet, but she wasn’t hopeful. Dawn could only see one other option available to her. Most would run from the choice, but Dawn wasn’t sure what other recourse she had. She had become desperate. She would do anything to finally end the madness.
Her friend, Gracie, stood with her and followed silently behind. Dawn made her way through the lobby door and down the familiar hallway of offices that tunneled deeper into the medical complex. While Dawn had asked her friend to come, and Gracie readily jumped on board for moral support, she could tell her friend was at a loss for words. Dawn had battled her morbid and vile dreams for a long time. She could tell that Gracie was unsure of what could be said to make any of this better. Her friend remained quiet with worried eyes. Both women silently wove their way through the maze of hallways and doctors’ offices until they arrived at the correct one. Dawn did not knock but headed right in.
The room was warm and set up like a living room or den. There was a high-backed leather chair reserved for Dr. Grant to conduct her interviews. There was a long couch used by her patients with a long coffee table in between. There were two other less comfortable chairs in case the session included more than one person, and the room was lit with lamps to provide a more relaxing mood. There was a large painting of horses galloping across a plain above the couch, and Dr. Grant’s diploma from Stanford was displayed a few feet away on another wall. Behind the high-backed chair with its blue, fuzzy throw pillow were two closed doors. One, she knew, led to a small powder room. The other led to Dr. Grant’s office space. From experience, she knew that the psychiatrist was in her office preparing for the session. The kind woman would come through the office door any moment now. She had been notified by an electronic chime when the outer door had been opened.
Dawn knew her place and sat at one end of the couch, casting a sad eye to the small camera mounted in one corner of the ceiling. It recorded every session. She could not help but wonder what she must look like on all her previous recordings. A stark-raving wackadoodle, Dawn was sure.
She was surprised when Gracie didn’t take one of the other chairs, but instead sat next to her on the couch. She was here for her friend, Gracie silently communicated with her hazel colored glances. Dawn deposited her purse on the floor next to her feet, then reached over and latched onto her friend's hand. Gracie smiled and gave a gentle squeeze in reply.
After a long moment, Dawn softly cleared her throat and thanked her friend once more for coming all the while staring deep into the carpet. After a second, she looked at Gracie and stated, “I don’t know how much more of this I can do.”
Gracie nodded. “I know. But that’s why I’m here with you. This doctor is going to figure this out today. I’m going to make sure of it. If she doesn’t do something to finally help you resolve this, I’m going to beat her with that giant, fancy, framed diploma.”
The office door opened and in walked Doctor Elizabeth Grant. The lady was tall, nearly six feet in height. She stood even taller than that thanks to the three-inch heels she was wearing. She was well-figured and wore a stately gray pantsuit with thin lapels and a triple-strand of pearls around her neck. She had shoulder-length auburn hair and dark blue eyes that seemed to carry a twinkle whenever she smiled, which was a lot. The woman was always smiling. Her flawless olive complexion led Dawn to the conclusion that there was some African American in there somewhere.
Dr. Grant smiled at them both, then focused on Dawn. “Well, you’ve only been here a minute, and we haven’t had a chance to discuss anything just yet, but I can see we have problems.” Dawn merely nodded her reply and tried to avoid eye contact. “Then I guess I better finally figure this out. I sure don’t want your friend to beat me with my diploma.”
Dawn shot her eyes at Gracie whose cheeks lit up in crimson. The young woman stammered, searching for a reply, but the good doctor merely held up a hand to silence her. “It’s ok,” she said with that twinkle in her eyes. “I get it. You’re a loyal friend who cares about Dawn. That’s a good thing. And no, I wasn’t listening at the door. The camera in the ceiling,” she pointed behind her, “records everything. There’s a microphone too.”
Dr. Grant took her seat, setting a file folder and notepad on the coffee table. She leaned forward, placing her elbows on her knees, and looked deep into Dawn’s eyes. Dawn could not help but feel like she was getting a mind probe; that her deepest secrets were being revealed right then without having to say a word.
Gracie apparently wished to dispense with all pleasantries and get right to the point. She jumped in before the doctor and patient had a chance to begin. “This one was bad. Real bad. Like, she’s been good for several months, then all at once, last night, it was suddenly back and worse than ever.”
Dr. Grant nodded at Gracie and turned back to Dawn. “Tell me exactly what was in the dream. Tell me every detail you can remember. Tell me how it made you feel. Hold back no emotions you felt during the dream. Explain how this one was different than any of the others.” Dawn did. Slowly at first, then more quickly as she began to relive the moments in her mind. Dr. Grant’s smile vanished, replaced with one of empathy and concern. She took no notes despite the pad of paper close by. She just listened as Dawn unloaded on her. By the middle of her tale, Dawn was sobbing, pausing only as Gracie handed her a box of tissues from an end table so that she could wipe her eyes and blow her nose.
Dr. Grant took it all in, then retrieved the file folder and leaned back, opening it on her knees and consulting the contents. Dawn knew it was a record of sessions and drugs that had been tried. Finally, she spoke. “When this began, I was convinced that this was about some deeper issues that you either could not recall or did not want to talk about. Still, you told me that if you could just get a good night’s sleep, you would be eternally grateful. We tried. This last drug seemed to have fit the bill. But now, suddenly, without warning, the dreams have returned. In all the past dreams, you have described the experience as watching someone else commit these murders. This time, you were the one committing these deeds. Your emotions were quite vivid, and I have to tell you, they emulate a deeply psychotic personality.”
At this, Dawn could feel Gracie stir on the couch and she shot her friend a look. Dawn expected to see revulsion in her friend. What she saw was anger. Gracie was pissed. Dawn could tell her dedicated friend was about to catapult herself from the couch and let the psychiatrist know what a quack she was. Before she could do so, the doctor continued, holding up a hand to Gracie to suggest patience. She continued. “I am not suggesting that you are psychotic in any way. What I am suggesting is that studies have shown that serial killers and the like often express a kind of… sexual fulfillment… in conducting these acts. Now I can easily explain your ability to empathize with those feelings in your dream state due to the world of TV shows and binge-worthy series on the various streaming websites. You have conditioned yourself due to those influences. That’s how a disturbed serial killer should feel, so your subconscious instructed your dreams that this was how you should feel too.”
The doctor adjusted herself in her chair and thought about it a second. “I’m still going with my original theory that something deep inside you is broken. You experienced something in your past, some sort of trauma, and you’re either unwilling to talk with me about it, or your subconscious has buried it from your memory as an act of self-defense. Then, as you are sleeping, this event manifests itself as a morbid dream. It bubbles up inside you and plays this mental movie out as a side effect of trying to cover up that trauma. So, I’m going to ask you one more time, and you need to be honest with me now more than ever, or this is only going to get worse. And if it does get worse, I may have no choice but to recommend you be treated in a facility.”
Dawn shifted in her seat. “You mean I might be committed to a mental institution.” Dr. Grant nodded.
Gracie practically exploded on the couch. “You’re not putting her in a crazy house. I’ve known Dawn for a long time. She’s not nuts. She’s not a lunatic fantasizing about burying people under her house and eating their liver. She has bad dreams. We all do. Hers are just… They’re just more vivid.”
Dr. Grant didn’t seem to be fazed by the outburst. She did not demand she be removed from the room. She simply offered a polite smile and nodded to Gracie. Turning to Dawn, she said, “That’s the kind of friend we all need. You’re lucky.”
Dawn said nothing. She could feel the blank expression on her face. Inside, though, she was a writhing mass of emotions. This was exactly what she thought might be the only recourse that was left to her: Incarceration in a loony bin. This was what had been her fear when coming on this emergency visit. This was what she had been thinking about ever since she woke up this morning and made a call for an immediate appointment. It would be best, Dawn concluded. Locking her away was the only logical step left to her.
Dr. Grant continued. “So, I’ll ask again. Is there anything, any trauma in your past, no matter how personal or insignificant that you wish to tell me about? I know you brought your friend in, but this might be a good time for her to step outside if there is anything you can think of.”
Dawn turned to her friend and squeezed Gracie’s hand. “I don’t want her to leave.” She turned back to the doctor and prepared herself for the worst. “I can honestly think of nothing traumatic in my past. I had good parents that treated me with love. I have never been raped or kidnapped, or anything like that. I haven’t even been in a car wreck. I can honestly think of nothing. Nothing at all.” She knew what would come next. She was going to be committed to some institution and locked away in a padded cell. She would be denied scissors and made to eat with a rubber spork so she couldn’t hurt herself. She was going to be injected with all sorts of calming narcotics and rendered a drooling shell of a human being. Her life was over. Still, if it saved her from the nightmares, she didn’t care. She just wanted it to all be over. God, just let it end.
Dr. Grant folded her arms, her eyes still twinkling and a slight smile gently curving her lips. “I don’t believe you,” she said. There was a soft gasp from Gracie, but Dawn kept her eyes on the doctor, knowing the proclamation that would come next; knowing the diagnosis she was about to render. Dawn Harris, you are a stark-raving-nutbag and I am having you committed. Sit here while we wait for the padded truck. Try to run and the security guard I have secretly waiting in my office will step out and tase you until you soak your maxi-pad with urine. What came next surprised her. “Have you ever been hypnotized?”
Dawn stammered, “I… Well… No. Never.” She was stunned by the question because it meant that the good doctor had not given up on finding a solution to the problem. A real solution that could lead to recovery and a sane mind. A solution that could lead to peaceful slumber, instead of resigning her patient to a straight-jacket and a bottle of colorful pills. She was suggesting that Dawn be hypnotized in order to excavate the real issues buried in her subconscious; the hidden issue that was triggering these nightmares.
Dr. Grant nodded with her smiling eyes. “Well, I don’t have a lot of experience with this, so I want to consult with a colleague. He has extensive experience with hypnotherapy. I am sure he would be willing to step in and give a hand. In the meantime, I am going to prescribe another medication. I have held off until now because I would consider it a last resort. The drug will severely depress all cognitive activity in the brain. It will last well into mid-morning, and when you wake up, you will find yourself groggy, unable to remember things, and confused. It may take you a while to get going. Additionally, if you have lingering effects throughout the day, I may need to prescribe a stimulant to sort of kick-start normal brain activity. It’s not my preferred choice, but I can promise it will keep you from dreaming. Additionally, you will need to explain to your boss about the medication. You could end up being late to work some days. You work at OU medical, don’t you?”
Dawn found herself breathing normally again; her apprehension had been slowly melting away as Dr. Grant spoke. Dawn could see hope again on the horizon like a pulsating lighthouse guiding her to the shore. “Yes,” she admitted. “I am a receptionist for Pediatrics. OU is good with things like this. If you can give me a doctor's note, I am sure they would be willing to work with me.”
A few minutes later, Dawn had the note in her hand and a refreshed attitude in her heart. Dr. Grant had said that as soon as she could work out a time with her colleague, she would be calling to set up an appointment. Dawn and Gracie headed out the door. On entering this building and maneuvering through the hallways, Dawn had felt like she was headed to the gallows. Walking out, she felt like she had been granted a pardon by the Governor.
Doctor Elizabeth Grant watched her patient and the woman’s friend leave. Elizabeth could tell through their conversation, Dawn was frightened. It was easy to see why. The poor girl was certain she was going to be committed. Elizabeth smiled to herself. Not yet, she mused. We aren’t done with you quite yet. She jotted a few notes into the woman’s file. Satisfied with her comments, she closed the manila folder and stood. Heading back into her office, she began to whistle. It was a happy little tune. Something from her childhood. An old Disney film. It was from Snow White. Whistle While You Work, was the title. She had always liked the movie. She even had a copy of it in every medium now. VHS, Betamax, DVD, Blu-ray, and even as a purchased item on a streaming service. She was sure there was a self-diagnosis there for feeling so drawn to the movie. She often found herself whistling away in her office or walking down the aisles of a grocery store. Whistling while doing some mundane task was often a trait associated with males. Elizabeth broke that trend often, it seemed.
She walked into her office whistling the tune, hearing the words in her head as she did. Just whistle while you work, and cheerfully together we can tidy up the place, so hum a merry tune, it won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace…