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"You want to know why I live out here?" Said the elderly man, as he leaned on his cane. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. And if you did, it'd scare the pants off you to know you ever met me. There's something wrong with my brain, boy. Something that shouldn't exist, that you shouldn't ever dig into. Now get outta here and leave me be!"
The man hobbled back into his cabin, slamming the old wooden door behind him, as Jacob crossed his arms. He wasn't going to let this old grouch stop him from figuring out why a man who graduated top of his class, with four years of college under his belt, would choose the life of a hermit away from all civilization.
Jacob got back in his car and drove off, thankfully finding the old dirt road again after fifteen minutes of driving. It took another hour to get back to town, where he started his research proper. He wasn't getting any answers from the old man, but maybe the people he knew would have some.
Upon checking the records of local deeds, he found that property had been bought by a one Craig Curtson, who had now lived there for ten years. However it turned out that name was an alias, as when Jacob searched the records there was nothing about someone by that name attending school or college there.
That couldn't be right, Jacob thought. This was his home town, according to the rumor. So he started his search by heading to the town's high school and meeting with the principal. The current principal however was unable to help, he'd only started working there a few years prior. Fortunately the old principal's name and information were still on record, and with a little pushing Jacob obtained the man's address.
It took a minute before the door was answered, and the man that opened the door looked on his last legs and possibly senile. "What do you want, kid?" He stared, as Jacob introduced himself and mentioned he had a few questions about one of his old students. The man scratched his chin before giving a sigh, "Fine, come in. Ain't been able to clean much lately so don't mind the mess"
The house was in the condition one would expect of a single resident in his 80's. Clothes and various objects strewn about, as bending over to pick them up was quite the task. Jacob sat on the clean half of the couch as the old man eased into a recliner. "So, who is it you wanna talk about?"
Jacob held up a picture of the elderly man from the cabin, mentioning how he couldn't find any records of his real name. The old man took the picture and looked at it for a full minute, before handing it back, "That's Weird Dan, I'd know that face anywhere. Even with the wrinkles. You tryin to publish his little story?"
Jacob nodded, putting the picture away and asking about that nickname. He'd heard it before, as part of the rumor, but typing "weird dan" into a search engine won't get you very far. "Folks started calling him that when he left town a few years back, after the accident. His real name was Daniel Walters, and I'm sure you've heard the good parts. He was an honor student, one of the best and brightest boys I ever saw walk the halls of my school. But trouble followed that boy like a bloodhound."
Jacob held up his hand to politely halt the man's story, taking out a notebook and pen to jot down the details. "See, it started around his freshman year. You know how kids can be, they see a really smart nerdy kid they have to hassle him. They hazed him pretty good. Oh sure, they got their detentions but it didn't stop em. They didn't quit until something made them. One day after they beat Daniel up, after they got sent home on suspension, they were attacked. Police were utterly baffled by the crime scene, said there was no sign whatsoever of entry yet someone had got in their houses and butchered those boys."
"Naturally they thought Daniel was somehow involved, made sense he might try some sort of revenge. But all they had was a motive, no evidence linking him at all. Daniel himself was mighty terrified, swearing he had nothing to do with it. He had an airtight alibi too. Kids kinda avoided him after that, I heard. Took a while before people trusted him again."
"Once his sophomore year started, everything had gone back to normal. Some kids even decided to try picking on Daniel again, but the worst was when the Halloween dance came around. I don't know all the details, but some cheerleader had set him up and embarrassed him pretty bad at the dance. He ran home upset, and the next morning they found that girl and her boyfriend murdered in their homes."
"Police tried to pin it on him again, after all he was the only one with any motive. But they couldn't find a lick of evidence, and several people could prove he was at his house that night all night after he left the dance. Everyone avoided him since then, until the last couple weeks of senior year. Some new kid that transfered in started picking on Daniel, harassing him and pulling pranks until he suddenly went missing. They found that boy in one of the old supply sheds, beaten and mangled."
"Daniel spent graduation week being interrogated, but his parents could prove he was home at the time of death given by the coroner. He still received his diploma on stage with everyone else, but I could see the boy was rattled. People that messed with him ended up dead, and I know he believes it's his fault. There just ain't any proof of it, it can't be true. That boy doesn't have a violent bone in him."
"I know some bad things happened when he was in college, but I don't remember anything more than headlines. Take what I told you and write your article, but don't you dare demonize that boy. He's been through too much, he doesn't need the press slandering him." Jacob put away his notebook and thanked the man for his information before leaving.
He had a name to go by now, so his first stop was the city library. On searching the name, he found numerous articles of the crimes. Every last known detail of the three incidents the principal mentioned, as well as three more that happened in college. Every incident seemed to start with somebody wronging Daniel before winding up dead. Police records always showed someone murdered the victim without any sign of entry or exit.
One thing stuck out though, as a possible clue to what was going on. Daniel had left most of his belongings with his parents before he moved, so Jacob wrote down the address and searched for it. He found the address was a typical suburban home, two stories with a well trimmed lawn. Jacob walked up to the house and knocked, before an elderly woman answered.
"Hello, and who might you be?" Jacob held up his ID, and she sighed, "I figured someone would take interest in my boy sooner or later. You better not be trying to hurt him." Jacob insisted he wasn't, that he was only after the truth, and with that the woman let him inside.
She led him to a small living room, sitting on a chair while Jacob sat on a couch. "So what is it you want to know, mister reporter?" Jacob pulled out his notebook from earlier, and asking the woman to tell him about Daniel before the incidents in high school and college.
"Well, there's not much you probably want to know. He was like any other boy, he played with toys and the others. He didn't have any problems until middle school. He started waking up with headaches, but the doctors just said it was a minor hormonal issue due to puberty. They just said to use Tylenol if it didn't go away."
"Eventually it did, and everything was normal again until high school started. I'm sure you already know about those headlines. Got enough yet?" Jacob closed his notebook, and asked if he could see Daniel's old room and his old things. The woman nodded, and stood, "Follow me."
She led him through the house, up to a room with a dust covered door. "This is his old room, I left his things here. Let me know if you need anything, I'll be downstairs." Jacob nodded and the woman left. The door hinges creaked as he opened them, and the room had all the signs of not being touched for ages. A thick layer of dust coated everything, with cobwebs filling the corners. Jacob searched through boxes, finding little more than old books and papers from school.
As he began to grow exhausted and sneezy from the air in the room, he found a worn looking notebook. On flipping through it he found writings and dates corresponding to the crimes. He glanced through them just briefly enough to realize they were important. Stuffing the notebook in his jacket Jacob closed the door and alerted Daniel's mother he was leaving, that he hadn't found anything.
Driving back to his hotel room, Jacob started reading through the notebook to find the following passages:
September 26, 6:15 am
I had the weirdest dream last night. It's already getting kind of hazy, but I remember somehow being in a bunch of different houses. I sneaked up on Chris and, started hacking away at him with some knife. I feel a little sick just remembering the images. Then I was in Tom's house, and did the same thing. Then Kyle's! I hate violence, but I guess my subconscious just needed to vent.
September 26, 3:45 pm
They're dead. They're actually dead. Killed exactly the same way I dreamed it. I think I'm going to be sick. Someone killed these guys, and made me watch. I don't even know how, but it's too similar to just be a coincidence.
October 29, 6:12 am
I had another dream. This one was even worse than before, I was in Stacy's house. This time I had a revolver, and walked up to them and blew her and Todd's brains out. I actually puked when I first woke up, and I can't think about the sight without heaving a little. I can only hope this isn't like last time.
October 29, 3:43 pm
This is like some weird nightmare. Stacy and Todd are dead. Police said they were both killed by gunshot to the head. Am I doing this somehow? I can't have been there, my parents would have heard me leave. And they said they don't know how anyone got in the house to begin with.
May 25, 6:20 am
This was the worst one yet, I can't even say all of what happened. I don't want to remember it. I just know that somehow I, if it is really me doing this, went to Andy's house and dragged him off to the school. At some point I had to beat him until he passed out. Then we were at that old tool shed on the edge of the school grounds, the one they haven't gotten around to tearing down. I murdered Andy in that shed, with knives and poles and gardening tools. I don't want to go to school today and find out this really happened.
May 25, 3:40 pm
It's real. I'm somehow causing people to die. I don't know if this is some psychic thing, or if it's some weird magic. All I know is it's killing people, and scaring me. I don't know if I can handle this. It's too horrible.
September 15, 6:20 am
It happened again. So much blood. I know they were just drunk and messing around, they didn't deserve to die. Not like this. Why is this happening to me?
April 9, 5:30 am
Another dream, this time I woke up with a splitting headache and sheets soaked in sweat. I don't know how many times he got hit. I couldn't even recognize his face at the end. Maybe they won't be able to identify him and tie it to me. Please, let this just end.
November 5, 5:48 am
I don't know where to turn. The psychologists would just lock me up, if they even bought my story. The cops would lock me up if they could use my testimony as evidence. But I'm not doing this intentionally! I don't want to kill anyone! Not like this. Not like Jenny and Chris.
October 30, 6:10 am
I tried to stay away from people, but no matter what I do I have to talk to them eventually. Talking leads to someone doing something mean and then, God help me. I don't want to be here anymore, I, I'm going to leave if this happens again.
==May 12, 6:43 am== I can't take this anymore. After graduation, I'm leaving. There's a property outside of town I can buy. Maybe if I go there and just avoid people for the rest of my life, nobody else will have to die because of me.
On the last page, Jacob found a final message written larger than the rest reading, "If anyone finds and reads this, stay away from me. Stay away if you value your life." Jacob sat the notebook down, looking rather rattled. Every incident that had been reported in the news, Daniel had dreamed about them at the same time they happened.
Jacob hesitated to call his boss, and give him the disturbing news. Despite his expectations, his boss demanded he get an interview with Daniel for the article. Jacob tried to protest, citing the danger, but his boss refused to accept it. Claiming it was a massive coincidence. Jacob agreed at last and hung up, swearing to himself about his boss' stupidity. Skepticism could only stretch so far, he thought.
Taking the notebook and his findings, Jacob drove out to Daniel's property once more. He knocked on the door, and waited as Daniel approached and opened it. "You again? I told you, go away and leave me alone. Are you just-" Jacob cut him off, holding up the notebook. Daniel took it, and looked through it before throwing it back in Jacob's face.
"You pushed. You just HAD to dig into this, didn't you? You just had to know about this, for your little article? Why can't you people leave well enough alone?! Get the hell off my property!" Daniel slammed the door in Jacob's face as he went back inside. Jacob continued to knock, but after half an hour of no answers he turned and left. As it was getting late, Jacob decided to call his boss back in the morning.
Saturday, August 10th, 2013. Holiday Inn, Amherst Massachusetts. Room 212. Victim found on bed, multiple stab wounds across the chest and abdomen. Gunshot wound to forehead. Blunt force trauma across arms and legs, multiple fractured bones. Cause of death, massive internal trauma and bleeding. Police believe it to be the return of the Midnight Butcher who had been in hiding since the last slaying in May of 2003. Only known suspect, Daniel Walters, found to be hiding in an abandoned cabin outside of town under the alias Craig Curtson. When police visited and found no answer, they forced entry only to find the suspect dead in the center room by self hanging. As no other suspects are known, the chief of police is closing this case. Evidence obtained from the belongings of the victim are believed to be proof that Daniel Walters was an unintentional serial killer, and his death marks the end of a bloody crime spree.