Alex Reeve quietly surveyed the scene. Scratching the dark stubble that lined his chin, the detective thought back to some of the more gruesome murder sites he had investigated in the past. Several years back, he had examined the body of a pimp who had been repeatedly stabbed in the eye by an angry prostitute, and just last month, a teenage girl had poured a strong acid in her chemistry teacher’s coffee when he refused her sexual advances. Hell, even when he’d been in uniform, he’d actually seen a crack-head take a crowbar to his dealer to get a fix. Even after twenty-two years on the Chicago PD, Alex had never seen anything like this.
Before him were the remains of a man, mid-twenties, light blonde hair, heavyset. His light green eyes gazed lifelessly into the bedroom ceiling, where much of his blood appeared, splattered from the vicious assault. The man’s once white t-shirt was now ripped open, revealing the enormous fissure in his chest. The hole, which was centered roughly around the heart, stretched about six inches across and, upon close inspection, appeared to penetrate straight through. What was left of the torso had been slashed to ribbons with a very sharp instrument. His legs hung down from the edge of the bed he laid upon, as if he had been sitting during the attack.
“Do we have an ID on the body?” John, Alex’s partner of the last two years, had just arrived at the shabby apartment moments earlier. It had taken him a moment to regain his composure.
Pulling out the small flipbook from his breast pocket, Alex quickly recited the information he had gathered. “Andy Melancamp, age twenty four, moved to Chicago three months ago. Landlord said he was quiet, always up on the rent. Hadn’t heard a peep out of him before now.”
Alex closed the small paper pad and looked past the body, at what really bothered him. Leading away from that body was a set of bloody footprints which disappeared at the doorway out of the room. An elongated triangle pointed away from a dime sized point. High heels, he thought. The size of the prints implied that they belonged to a child.
“What do you make of that anyway?” John seemed just as bothered by this as Alex was. “I mean, was there a kid here? A little girl? Could some girl have done this?”
“No,” Alex replied. “No child could have done this. Look at the entry wound. It’s too sloppy. Do you see how messy it is around the edges?”
John forced a snicker at that. “Messy? Looks like a fuckin’ grenade went off in his chest.”
“My point is that whoever did this was strong enough to use some kind of tool to break clean through the chest plate and straight through to the other side. You ever heard of a little girl that could do something like that?”
Alex paused for a moment before continuing. “No, it’s obvious that some sort of blunt weapon was used to dig into the chest cavity. It’s too early to have any leads, but a cursory glance tells me that whoever did this was either seriously screwed up in the head, or had some serious issues with Mr. Melancamp here.”
“Or both,” John muttered under his breath. “Ok, but if a child wasn’t the killer, who was? And for that matter, how do you explain those little footprints? Doesn’t make any goddamn sense.”
“Look around.” Alex looked from the ceiling, to the footprints, and finally let his eyes rest on the destroyed remains of Andy Melancamp. “What about this makes any sense to you?”
When John held his silence, Alex spoke. “I’m gonna head down to HQ. When the forensics guys get here, make sure they get someone to check through his mail, e-mail, cell phone, all that. I wanna know if anyone has been threatening him lately. I’ll go see what I can dig up on this guy. I wanna see if he’s got a record that might explain something like this.”
“Alright, Alex. I’ll give you a call when we have something,” John replied obediently.
And with that, Alex turned and walked out of the room. Just outside, the uniformed officer who had discovered the body stood at post. Apparently, the neighbor next door had heard what she called a “tortured screaming” coming from the room and called 911. However, when the officer arrived to assess the situation and check in, all he found was the badly mutilated body of Andy Melancamp. The officer nodded silently at Alex as he walked by.
At that moment, something clicked for Alex. He turned to the officer, “Hey, was the front door open when you arrived on the scene?”
“Well, no,” the young officer replied. “I had to force it. The door was locked.”
“Okay, thanks. Keep at this post until further notice.”
The detective made his way through the filth-strewn apartment building and downstairs to the unmarked Crown Victoria that waited for him as he let his thoughts focus on his newest discovery. If the door had been locked, then the assailant had a key and had locked up on his way out. He sure as hell hadn’t jumped from the fourth story window. Did the victim know his killer?
He didn’t really want to waste his time at the scene. He had seen what he needed. Now he had to get downtown, where maybe he could find out more about the unfortunate Mr. Melancamp. Alex got into the car and sped off toward S. Michigan Avenue; Headquarters.
Alex sat in his cluttered office and thought back to what he had seen. We have one body with a massive hole in the chest and a set of child-like footprints. No weapon. No clear motive or witnesses. No one seen leaving the scene of the crime. Only way into the apartment locked.
He stared at his computer monitor. After spending an hour delving deeper into the life of the victim, Alex was no closer to finding a lead. Andy Melancamp had graduated from a nearby university in Indiana this past spring and had been working as a Software engineer for a firm downtown. Other than a few speeding tickets, he was clean. Nothing in the record indicated a violent past or any enemies.
Alex felt a light tickle in his breast pocket. He pulled out his cell and checked the name. John Walters. He answered his partners call unenthusiastically. “John, please tell me you have something.”
“Well we went through the phone, checked his mail, the usual stuff, but no dice. If someone was after him, they didn’t send him any warnings. Also, I found a house key on his person and the landlord said he had never noticed anyone coming and going on a regular basis. Nothing that would assume someone else had a key to the place.” John sounded fuzzy through his ancient Nextel phone. “Maybe this was just random. Some psycho kills an unlucky Joe and leaves some strange prints to throw us off. That sort of thing.”
“No, whoever did this knew the victim,” Alex said. “It’s too much. What about the cuts on the stomach? Pre- or post-mortem?”
“Oh yeah, the coroner says that the slashes were definitely made before the victim died.”
Alex knew he had something. John had a lot of potential, but he was still green in Alex's eyes. The kid had a lot to learn. “That’s what I mean, John. Whoever did this wanted to hurt the victim before killing him. He wanted him to suffer. The killer must have tortured the victim before finishing the job. I want you and the team to check the site with that in mind. Look for anything that might link a perp to the victim. Anything else for me?”
John paused. “Well, we had a look at the victim’s computer and there wasn’t much there.”
“Big surprise,” Alex interrupted.
“Right,” John continued. “But we did find one thing. Over the past three days, he visited a particular website about thirty times.”
“That’s not all that strange. What was on the website?”
John stumbled over his words. “Um… well we didn’t actually check the site, just his history.”
Alex sighed. “Ok, what was the site called? I’ll just check it here.”
Alex wrote down the name of the website and hung up the phone. www.please_come_see_us.com. He typed the address into the top bar and waited for the page to load. The screen lit up as a white page appeared. It was a very simple webpage. Across the banner was a black headline which read, PLEASE COME SEE US. Below the banner were two buttons. One which read, READ and another which said, EXIT. That was it.
Without hesitating, Alex clicked on the READ button. The screen shivered, and then from the top of the window, what looked like black ink ran down, over the white page, leaving several large areas of white, which continued to shrink until they formed the lines of what appeared to be a short poem. White words on a black background. Neat effect, Alex thought.
Slowly, he began to read the lines on the monitor...
Chelsea dearest, Chelsea dearest.
Please, oh please come and see us
And help us sleep securely at night.
We wish to see the girl who cried
When her loving mother died
And Daddy beat her with such delight.
And so during her final breath
Made a deal with Godfather Death
Granting him power to manifest.
And in three days from this time
When the ancient clock doth chime
Within our lives you’ll be our guest.
Darkness is where you’ll reside
And no matter where we may hide
You’ll still fill our hearts with dread.
Chelsea dearest, Chelsea dearest.
Please instill the fear of God within us
So we may sleep sound as we are dead.
Alex quickly read through the poem several times. Without realizing it, he even read it aloud. It didn’t make any sense. What the hell was that? He smashed up the small piece of paper with the web address written on it and shoved it into his jacket pocket.
After quickly closing the browser, Alex called his partner, but it went straight to voicemail, so he left a message. “John, its Alex. I just checked the website but it was just some weird poetry thing. Dead end. Let me know if you find anything else.”
Alex paced back and forth in his office while John sat on the cheap, plush couch which took up the south wall. Several days had passed since the murder of Andy Melancamp and nothing had come up. It was just past eleven p.m. and the tension was palpable. The two detectives were at wits end.
“Will you calm down Alex?” John finally said. “Wearing a groove into the floor isn’t going to help us.”
“This makes no sense John, and you know it.” Alex had to remind himself to lower his voice. The sheer absurdity of this case astounded him. “No prints. No DNA. Nothing at all left behind but a set of bloody footprints. Oh, that and a body with a hole in it that looks like a blind carpenter took a drill to the chest. Help me make sense of this, John. How can someone that sloppy just disappear without leaving so much as a stray hair?”
“Look Alex, I know this case is getting to you. I know how you feel, okay. But you need some sleep. You haven’t been home in two days. I know that sleeping on this damn couch can’t be helping your mood at all. Go home and see your daughter.”
“Rachel is seventeen; she can take care of herself. Anyways, I need to be hear when we catch a break.”
“Damnit, Alex. Look I hate to bring it to this, but if you don’t go get a good night’s sleep right now, I swear to God I will throw you in a squad car and take you home myself.”
Alex tried to come up with a rebuttal but knew he had lost when he had to stifle a yawn. He glared at his partner. “Fine. I’ll go,” was all he could muster. “Call me if anything comes up. Anything at all.”
Alex grabbed his jacket, slipped it on and walked out of his office. “Night Alex,” said John. Alex didn’t bother to respond to his partner’s courtesy. He hated to admit it, but he wasn’t thinking straight. Despite his reluctance to leave the station, Alex could use a good night sleep at home. He made his way down to the parking garage and searched for his navy sedan.
The cement parking structure was dark, and painted a dirty beige color. Stone support columns lined the center at roughly ten foot intervals. Few cars populated the building. After a few minutes of wandering tiredly, he found his car on the third level and cursed himself for forgetting again. As worn-out as he was, it was no surprise he was forgetting things. Alex was about four feet from his vehicle when he heard a noise from behind. “Hehe.” It sounded like a little girl’s laughter.
Alex swiftly turned and called out. “Hello?” Nothing. Silence and darkness.
Alex turned back around and made his way to the car. He got in, started the ignition, and began the long drive home.
Home was a two-story ranch house in the country about forty minutes outside Chicago. He had never wanted his family to live in the city, but living so far from his job had kept him away many nights. Alex allowed his attention to wander as he drove. Soon, the steady, monotonous stream of buildings was replaced by trees. Cars became fewer and farther between as he made his way further into rural Illinois. Alex looked down at the clock just in time to see the time read 12:00am.
“Hehe.” The sound came from behind Alex. He was sure he hadn’t imagined it. He looked up into the rearview mirror. In the backseat, he saw the dark outline of what was clearly a small girl. He couldn’t see her face behind the mid-length, blonde bangs. “Are you ready to play with me, Alex?”
Alex turned his head toward the back seat. Emptiness. Out in front, a large semi-truck wailed its horn and swerved to avoid Alex’s car. Spinning around, he turned back into his lane, slowed, and pulled over to the shoulder, leaping out of the car. He came to a stop about three feet from his vehicle. Trees lined his side of the highway.
“What in God’s name…” Alex looked toward his empty car and shivered in the cool night. What was that? Was he seeing things? Not a chance. No amount of sleep deprivation could have caused that.
He turned back to see a small dark figure staring at him from the edge of the trees. This time, Alex got a better look at the girl. She stood at about four feet even and wore a filthy, tattered blue dress. On her feet were small red heels. He still couldn’t make out her face behind the tangled mess of her golden locks.
The child took one step forward in her plastic play shoes and spoke in an unnaturally beautiful voice. “You called for me Alex. Now I want to play.”
Alex screamed when an unseen energy pushed him back into his car. The door buckled under the tremendous force. The girl stood there staring. She giggled again.
Alex forced himself to blink, but when he opened his eyes she was gone. After a short pause, Alex knew he had to run. Run or die. He spun on his heels and to his dread, the child now sat in the driver’s seat of his Crown Vic. Looking at her profile Alex saw the girl’s pitch black eyes. She stared down at the dashboard with a smile on her face as she broke into a slow, haunting melody. “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes,” She looked up at Alex, no longer singing. “We all fall down.”
The detective backed away and darted past the car, running down the road where he saw a house with a porch light on. There, Alex. Run. He ran with everything he had toward the house and didn’t dare to look back. The terrible song still echoed behind him. Alex wasn’t sure what to think. In his exhausted state, he wasn’t even sure of anything. His mind felt foggy and unreliable, but he still had instinct. Every instinct in his body screamed for him to run like hell. The house was so close, only a hundred feet off now.
The detective ran until his legs burned and finally he felt his feet reach the firm surface of the front porch. He dashed to the front door and tested the knob.
Locked. “Help me! Please open the door!” Alex wasn’t aware of the volume of his earsplitting cries. All he focused on was the interior of the house. Then, he thought he saw a flash of movement. Yes! A tall man in a long, black, bath robe was slowly walking toward the door.
In the darkness, Alex couldn’t make out the man’s face. The robe the stranger wore had a hood which created more shadow across his face. “Please open the door, sir. Please, hurry. Something’s out here.”
The voice that came from the other side of the door startled Alex. Even from outside, the voice was clear. It sounded almost mechanical, but very deep. “Dear boy, why do you run? She wants to play.” From where the man now stood, Alex could see that he had been mistaken, for the man actually wore a long cloak. The thing before him clearly had no intention of helping him.
“Oh my God,” Alex said out loud as he turned to run back down the porch. He was unsure of what to do. What the hell is this? Alex looked for someplace he could possibly hide. To his right, he saw an old garage. He hastily made for the structure.
The door was locked, but that wouldn’t stop him now. Alex easily kicked the old wooden door off its hinges. The molded old pine door crashed into the darkness of the garage.
He stepped in, found a light switch, and flipped it into the ON position.
Alex charged into the room, only to find that the horrifying child waited for him. Even without seeing her face, Alex felt her anger. She spoke differently this time, more harshly, like a child scolding a bad pet. “Why don’t you want to play, Alex?” And without taking a single step, the girl appeared before him and took a long slash across his torso with her fingernails. They were like daggers as they ripped into his flesh. Alex cried out in pain and fell to his knees. He barely felt the blood run down his front.
“You called me Alex. I thought you wanted to play.” Alex turned on his hands and knees and tried desperately to crawl away from the girl. But when he came full circle, he saw that the tall, dark figure from the house had joined them. Alex pulled himself up and stared at the being. The long black cloak covered it’s entire body. Long sleeves and a hood covered most of the man, except for his face. It was pale white and unmoving. Like someone had ripped the head from a mannequin and used it to make an ivory mask.
The horrible voice spoke. “My dear boy. She wanted to play. Chelsea Dearest, who made a deal with Death so that she could play forever.” Even when it spoke, its lips did not move.
The cloaked figure raised its right arm. Alex heard the girl laughing again. She started into another chorus of “Ring Around the Rosy,” and began to skip in a circle around both the detective and his tormentor.
“Now,” the cloaked figure said. “She wants to play with you.” Alex screamed out in terror as the figure thrust its hand straight through his chest. The last thing he heard was a little girl’s cry of delight.
Detective John Walters walked out of the garage and into the cool, fall morning. The leaves were just beginning to fall in a haze of red and orange. Around him, the lights from several squad cars and an ambulance blazed. The entire crew was quiet. The detective pulled out his phone and dialed a number. It rang twice before being answered.
“Chief Richards,” answered a stern voice.
“Chief, its Walters. I just checked out the scene and it’s definitely Alex Reeve. Same exact MO as the Melancamp murder.” He hesitated. “It’s a real mess in there.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, John. I know you two were partners. Alex Reeve was a good man.”
“Thank you, sir, he was.” John took a breath. “Listen, sir, if you don’t mind, I’m going to notify Alex’s daughter of his passing. I’m headed over to her place now.”
“Of course,” Chief Richards replied. “Please give Rachel my condolences as well.
John hung up the phone and took a moment to stare into the trees before him. In his left hand was the crumpled piece of paper he had found in Alex’s coat pocket. On it was written the same website which he had supplied to his former partner just days earlier. Later tonight, John would check this website out for himself. Was it possible that these murders had something to do with a web page? Tonight, I’ll get to the bottom of this. I’m going to see what’s going on with this thing myself. I’ll find out what happened to Alex if it’s the last thing I do.
Written by RaydiantWon