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The television hummed quietly in the background, showing the latest documentary on the Discovery Channel. Sitting on the small couch was a silver-haired girl around the age of five, who marvelled at the brightly coloured birds that dived in and out of shot, in a display to their partners. She giggled softly to herself, holding her small plush rabbit toy in her arms, as though it was watching the show with her. "Uncle!" the girl laughed, looking away from the television to the kitchen behind her, "You're missing the show."
Placing his hand over the telephone receiver, the man the child addressed as "Uncle" called back to his niece. "I've just got to take this phone call Elise, then I'll come over and watch TV with you, just as soon as I'm done." His voice was deep and low and it sounded kind, coupled softly with the accent of his homeland; Russia.
Elise smiled sweetly before chirping back at him. "OK, I'll have to tell you all about it!" With that she turned back to watch the birds, as they continued in their dance.
The man was tall, with long blond hair that fell over one shoulder in a pony tail, sea blue eyes and snowy skin. Sighing happily, he removed his hand from the phone and continued to speak into it, softly.
"R, R, is that you, answer me!" I shouted in a panic I'd never felt before.
"I'm here, what's happened?" The man I referred to as R responded, his voice calm, as always.
"God, I... we... just got a call from Harrison's neighbours, reporting a break-in." My body shook, as I tried to continue. "I got over here as fast as I could; that bastard got him."
For a moment R didn't respond; a moment's silence before he spoke, as quietly as before. "Let me get Elise to sleep, then I'll be right over. Is that OK? I'll be half an hour, no more."
"It's two AM, why is your kid up at two AM?" I tried not to shout. "Just, please, be as quick as you can."
"I'll see you soon, boss." With that R hung up, leaving me in my silent panic.
It was half an hour before I saw the other car pull up at the crime scene. Trying to keep my composure, trying to act as I should, as the lead detective on the case, I marched briskly - breaking into a run just as I saw the driver's door open. Ever since I'd arrived at the home of my old boss, I'd found it almost impossible to hold it together. "Is she asleep?"
"It took a while, but she's out like a light. I had to record the show for her, to convince her to go to bed though." R chuckled, getting out of the car that was a little too small for his tall stature. "OK, where's the body?"
I knew he was trying to lighten the mood but it wasn't going to work, not tonight.
The notion of "him" now being a body, not a person, slowed me. With a sigh I replied, "In his bed... found just like the first body." I looked away, suddenly having to hold back tears.
"So, we have a cop killer on our hands now, not just a regular one." R mused, locking his car before heading towards the house. "Well, ex-cop, since the old dog finally retired."
"Stop talking like that R, he was your friend too!" I desperately wanted to shout but resisted as I watched R's expression change. "He trusted you..."
Looking back at me R sighed heavily before embracing me, holding my small frame tightly for just a moment; I really needed a hug. Only for a second, but it felt like a lifetime, and I had to stop myself from sobbing before R mumbled an apology.
The house was alive with cops, crawling over every room looking for clues; finger prints, drops of blood, strands of hair, anything we might be able to use. Slipping under the tape, past a collection of terrified looking neighbours, I led R inside and straight up to the bedroom. It was the second murder in the house in a single year, the first being Harrison's wife, Annabelle, and now Harrison himself. Harrison was a detective and had been for all his life. He was getting on in years and he'd been due to retire from the force a long time ago, but he stayed on to pay the medical bills that seemed to grow constantly, at a frightening rate. Annabelle had suffered three strokes before her death, the final one happening as she died. Harrison himself had a heart condition and the risk of a heart-attack increased the more stressed he became. After his wife's murder, his heart started to cause him more problems and he was finally forced out of action.
Turning up the stairs, to the first floor landing, R followed the red-stained carpet to the master bedroom. What we found instead was a sight we were both starting to grow used to; a body cannibalised by a savage madman.
Hanging my head, I watched while R walked over to the body to inspect the damage. The old man's expression had been contorted into a look of pure agony; his face was the only thing recognisable about him now. Just like all the other bodies, the chest had been broken open and the insides hollowed out by long needle-like teeth and claws. The majority of the flesh on one of his legs had been stripped back by shorter claws that kicked backwards, away from Harrison's head.
"We definitely have a serial killer on our hands now." R sighed, looking back at me. "I wonder why he picked Harrison, of all people?" Looking away from Harrison for a moment, R grimaced. "The angel strikes again."
I sighed, leaning on the doorframe, holding my arms to my chest. "I honestly don't know. All we had from the last body was Harrison's account; poor old guy went mad after seeing his wife die like that. Even if the killer wanted to cover his tracks and kill the witnesses, why not kill Harrison before he told us? The killer and Harrison were in the same room, after all." For a moment I paused. "I do wonder why every victim so far has had an obsession with that biblical being."
"Well, Joshua was clearly crazy, but I don't know why they all go on about 'the angel that's going to devour us all'. R mimicked Harrison's voice before responding to my other question. "Maybe the killer is very forgetful and killing Harrison just slipped his mind?"
I ignored R's misguided "joke." "So far, all the victims seem to have had that same odd obsession. I want a report on the body by lunch-time tomorrow, even if it's short, understood?"
Leaning back and away from the body R groaned before brushing his hair away from his face. It was rare to see the doctor without his glasses. Sometimes I even forgot what he looked like without them; devilish.
"Really? I don't think I can do it at such short notice."
"Please," I begged.
"Fine, it's not as though I have anything better to do." R stood up and frowned, though I knew he'd do it. In reality, R worked overtime most days, staying at work until late in the evening and starting early every morning. His working weeks were six days long and the majority of his spare time - what little there was of it - was taken up by sleeping. Since the town was small, he was the only person of his rank allowed to work on the bodies; the only pathologist for miles around. He relied on his neighbours to help him care for his niece but even so, I didn't know how he coped.
Following R, I turned my back on the body and slowly retraced my steps to the hall landing. The hum of conversation between the few officers on the scene blurred into a single background noise as I tried to work out my plan of action.
By the next morning, I was exhausted; the events of the night before had robbed me of sleep and the only thing keeping me going was strong coffee, and lots of it. I made my way slowly to my office - Harrison's old office - and flopped down into my chair before slowly pushing my files aside. My whole body hurt and my mind throbbed with half-formed thoughts; if I felt like this on four hours sleep, I dreaded to think how R was doing. That man's blood content must be mostly caffeine by now. Looking out through the floor to ceiling window, I watched my staff running around trying to get on top of this damned case; no one was thinking straight. Again my mind drifted back to R; a year back he was battling with social services to try and keep his niece. He didn't come in for weeks and even after that he was a sleepless wreck.
It was then, mid-thought, that I noticed the small blinking green light on my old answering machine, showing one new message. Intrigued, I reached out my hand, picked up a note-pad and pressed the replay button.
"You have, one, new message," droned the robotic voice on the other end of the phone. "Press one to listen to new messages. Press two f..." Before the machine could finish, I pressed the replay key.
"Hello Mister Harrison, sorry for calling you so late but... we found something." The voice was that of a woman I knew all too well. Kamon Dittmar, although the name on her passport was Lee Brown.
"Me and Adam, we've just arrived back in Thailand to spread Thakin's ashes... and..." I could tell from her voice that she'd been crying. "We found a message from our son, on the phone... he left us a suicide note... and..." I listened with bated breath as Adam, Kamon's husband, came over to comfort his wife. "He was so, so upset... "
The message paused for a moment as the bereaved parents tried to control themselves. Adam's voice began again, shaky over the sobbing.
"Harrison, we're sorry for bothering you so late but we've sent you a copy of the recording. We only pray this can help you find our son's killer." The call fell silent and ended with the buzz of static.
I sat back in Harrison's worn leather chair, shaken. New evidence had finally appeared, and I was buzzing.
Just then Daniel, one of our newer recruits, stepped into my office with papers in his arms. "Morning Sharon, not intruding on anything, am I?" he asked with a rather hesitant, voice. Daniel was a short, round man with fair skin and dull coloured eyes, set in a shapeless face. Every day he'd wear basically the same outfit; a coloured shirt with long sleeves, baggy around the wrists and too tight around the stomach; trousers held up with a thick black belt. Though to give him credit, he'd been dropping the pounds ever since he started his diet; I wondered who he was trying to impress.
"No, no, come in." I tried to contain my excitement. "The Dittmars... the Browns, are sending over a package from Thailand. It seems they've found something."
"The Browns?" Daniel asked with a slightly confused voice.
"Oh, you've never met them, have you? Lee Brown and Adam Brown are the parents of the first victim in this case." I paused, sighing as I remembered the poor young man's violated corpse.
"So, you mean the killer went after someone young? I thought he only attacked older people, like Detective Harrison." Since joining the force only two months back, Daniel hadn't really been involved with the case; instead his focus had been on keeping his head above the ever-rising pile of paperwork.
I knew that Daniel was in serious need of an update. "No, this guy doesn't just go after just the elderly. The first person who died was called Thakin Adam Dittmar - or Joshua Brown, which was the name he gave himself when he moved here. Joshua was a twenty-something year old, who was found dead in his apartment several months back. He and his family moved to the US from Thailand when Adam - Joshua's German father - got a job over here; Joshua was about five at the time. They moved into a shitty little town in Texas, where Joshua lived until he was about nineteen. He had a boyfriend called Lyet, an albino kid, who shot himself in the head when he was seventeen. When that happened, Joshua dropped out of school and moved here." I was about to go on but Daniel interrupted me.
"But... I thought the first victim of the angel killings was female."
"Angel killings? You've been talking to R, haven't you?" I groaned, somewhat annoyed at the way Daniel hung around R, like a puppy to a butcher with a surplus of steaks. Then, thinking more carefully about my metaphor, I decided I should reconsider describing R as a butcher, given his current profession. "No, Annabelle was the second victim, not the first."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that... wow, he was young... and there goes my theory."
"Not even been told the full details of the case and you've already got a theory. OK, so what was your idea?" I smiled, leaning my head to one side.
Hesitating, Daniel rubbed his arms, looking a little put down. "Well, from reading the reports in the papers and so on, I kind of thought that this killer went after old, vulnerable people; you know, people it would be easy for him to catch, or something." I could have sworn he was a shade pinker than a moment ago.
"Tomorrow, once we've got everything in order, I'll fill you in on what I know. I know you're new here, and things are a little up in the air at the moment." Standing up, I moved towards Daniel and placed a hand on his shoulder. We shared a smile for a moment before I suddenly realised... I was acting the exact same way Harrison used to!
"Um, Sharon." Daniel's ears were now a vivid shade of red.
Moving away, I shook my head. "Oh, erm, sorry, I was thinking," I lied, "Go and see if R's finished his report."
"But he's taking a nap in the staff room again."
"Just go check on him; shove a cup of coffee under his nose."
Daniel made a small grumble of protest, but turned and left my office, making his way back though the maze of desks to the relative quiet of the staff room. One of the veteran members of the force seemed to follow him, but I paid little attention. No one was sleeping well, everyone was edgy, I could feel it.
That evening was quiet but I still felt numb. It started with me calling a taxi for R, who was clearly in no fit state to walk across town to his home. Then I rolled into my car and drove in the opposite direction, towards my house, on the "nicer" side of town. I was lost in thought, working my way through the day, when my thoughts were interrupted by the sight of the Italian restaurant that Joshua Brown had worked in. Slowing to a stop, I paused outside, debating whether or not to go in; after all, I hadn't eaten since lunchtime.
The red neon light blinked dimly in the cloudy window, lighting up the words "Lu's Family Restaurant". I could see a few people inside, eating a mix of pasta, pizza and burger dishes, none of them bearing much of a link to their Italian origins. Getting out of my car, I wandered to the door and pushed it open; it made a small beeping nose as I walked in. Taking care to not disturb the quiet of the midnight diners, I headed over to the counter. My eyes were met by "Lu", a Mexican man who spoke not a word of that particular European language his restaurant menu was in-scrawled in. Propped up on the counter was the "staff vacancies" ad for the position that Joshua had left behind him, after his death.
"Takeout, same as usual, Phil," I said, using the shortened version of the owner's real name, instead of the one dotted on his name badge.
"Reckon you're any closer to finding our boy's killer?" he replied, after a nod and silence.
I shook my head, unwilling to tell him the latest news.
If I was in Harrison's place; if I was the one half frozen in the morgue now, instead of him, would the hole that was left be as big?
Slumping against the counter, I changed my order. "Get me a beer as well, Phil."
He nodded before leaving me to my thoughts.
By the following lunchtime, I was feeling a little better. The boys in the station were organising a whip-round to pay for Harrison's funeral and things felt a little more normal, though the mood was still somber. The alcohol had helped me sleep, more heavily than the night before, although a mild hangover wasn't lightening my mood. I pushed a crummy tuna sandwich around my plate, not feeling like eating anything much. I could only think about the murder. It ate into me, stopping me from getting enough sleep without the help of cheap liquor. But I couldn't say anything; I didn't want to be dropped from the case now.
"Sharon, a package has arrived for you." Looking up from my miserable lunch, I saw R standing in the doorway, looking as though he hadn't been to bed in weeks. His permanently tired eyes were red and sore. "It came to my lab first; seems to be a tape." R had this ability to somehow intercept the mailman every morning and get first dibs on all the important packages. I found it extremely irritating, even though he never did anything with the mail. He sometimes claimed he'd swabbed packages for prints but I doubted that and suspected he was just being nosey.
"Know what it is?"
"The Browns sent it over from Thailand. It's a message from Joshua, or at least that's what they said on the phone." Putting a hand out, I indicated I wanted the package. R didn't respond: typical.
"Ah, I see... so... where do you keep your tape recorder?" His eyes scanned the room as he began to rummage though the drawers of the cabinet by the door.
I sighed, pointing towards a tall metal case. "Top shelf, left hand side."
"Getting enough sleep?" He moved over to my desk and slumped down in the small, swivel chair opposite mine. Leaning forward, he removed the tape and placed it in the recorder, before examining the envelope and removing a number of pieces of paper from it. Fixing his glasses, he started to read.
"I could ask you the same thing," I respond with a yawn.
"I'll take that as a no, then." He smiled, engrossed in his reading.
I rolled my eyes before pressing the replay button on the recorder.
With a click, the unloved box of dusty metal parts started to speak. The audio was pretty old, and the voice was overlain with an electronic crackle. "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't called in so long, wish I could have phoned sooner... I hope you get this." The speaker, a young-sounding male, gave an uneasy laugh before sighing heavily. "Mum... Dad... please don't judge me for what I'm about to do... but... this is my suicide note..." His voice, Joshua's voice, started to break slightly. "I know you said it's not my fault but it is. I'm sorry I've been a disappointment to you both... Lyet's dead because I failed him... His name is tarnished because I was too scared to stand up for him, when he couldn't stand up for himself... I loved him as a partner and I know you both loved him as a son who was never your own... I can't live with the guilt and I can't live with the stress... Please forgive me for what I've done and for what I'm about to do... please don't mourn for me; I don't want to cause any more pain..."
There was a pause that seemed to be filled with nothing but static and then the sound of long drawn-out breathing. "I love you both... so much." With that, the call went dead and the recording trailed to a stop.
I sat for a moment, staring at the recorder before my eyes met the side of R's face.
R, who was now fiddling with the container the tape had come in, spoke first. "Hmm... how interesting." His words where followed by a stifled yawn.
"W-what?" I stumbled with my words, a little shaken by what I'd just heard.
Fixing his glasses, R looked back at me before reading one of the notes again. "Tell me, when did we deduce the body's death occurred?"
"What kind of question is that supposed to be?"
"Thought so, March 26th." A smile crept across his face.
"Y-yes? What about the date?"
"Do you remember the written note found in Joshua's home; the one where he talked about his angel taking him away, or some deranged nonsense like that?"
"How could I forget? But that's not my point. What's with your weird question?" I began to feel a mix of confusion and irritation, in equal measure.
"Well, if memory serves me right, he said he'd met his angel, saw him at night. Then in his letter didn't he say he was going to give his life to him, more precisely, let the angel devour him?" Not letting me answer this time, he continued. "This message was sent to Joshua's parents the night before Joshua died, not the night he died."
Pausing before taking the paper from R's hands I read the words to confirm his claim. "The 25th, God, you're right. There's no mention of angels in this note; here he seems... sane."
I looked at the rest of the papers that had come with the recorded message. One was a list of the dates, times and locations of the phone calls, while most of the others were images of Joshua when he was alive. One or two were solo shots and the rest were of Joshua and an albino boy with baggy clothing and long hair; he was the boy referred to as Lyet in the phone call. An image of Lyet lying dead in a pool of blood on the floor of his dirty motel room filled my mind, a bullet wound to the left side of his head.
R picked up the papers and sat back in his chair." It seems he was already planning to kill himself, even before this angel thing showed up." He placed the pieces of paper carefully, one by one, back onto the desk.
"I hate to admit it R, but you're right. So, do you think he asked this thing to kill him?"
"Possibly - say this person, or whatever it was, showed up just as Joshua was contemplating suicide, talked him out of whatever it was he was planning to do, by offering to do the deed for him. People in that state of mind can be very trusting; you could say gullible." Removing his glasses, R stood up from his chair. "I'll let you tell the others that events with the first murder have moved on."
"Will do." I smiled, feeling relieved that, at last, the case had new leads.
With a wave of his hand, R left the room, only glancing back once as he headed towards his office.
By seven-thirty I was ready to leave my desk. Since I had no family, partner or kids to go home to, I tended to work late. At least R had his niece waiting for him at home, and I knew Daniel had some drinking buddies he'd often hang out with after work. I had no one. Too work-obsessed to make any lasting connections outside of work, I was the definition of a loner. And Harrison's death had left a hole in my world.
Packing my files neatly away into my bag, I set everything back in its place on the desk before making my way to the door. My heart stopped.
"Hey, I'm sorry I haven't called in so long, wish I could have pho-" I spun back to my desk and slammed my hand down on the recorder, causing it to stutter. His voice, Joshua's tired and weak voice, hung in my mind; he'd given up on life.
I swallowed, worried that I might have broken the tape, before pressing the play button, strangely tempted to listen to the recording again. At first no noise apart from clicking, before a sudden whirring stung my ears. The tape rushed into fast forward, madly guttering and scrambling words before it suddenly stopped. Breathing sounds; the old box sounded as if it was breathing, heavily and weakly; "this is my suicide note... this is my suicide note... my suicide note... suicide note." The broken words cut me, made me rip the tape from the recorder and slam it onto my desk.
"I am not that kind of person!" I shouted and then caught myself; what in the world had gotten into me? Cursing, I picked up the tape recorder, removed the tape and placed it carefully back in its original container.
For a while, I just looked at the case. Joshua was so lonely; he'd left his friends and family behind him; did he even have anyone left? Hugging myself, holding both my arms tightly across my chest, I headed out of the office. I couldn't remember ever feeling so unsafe.
I feared I was becoming paranoid. Since last night, my body seemed to have been on auto-pilot, moving through life at a speed I couldn't control. It was only when Daniel had reminded me of our conversation that I finally snapped back into action; he needed to understand the case.
"So, what did you want to tell me?" Daniel asked, standing behind me as I fumbled with the lock to the archive room.
"What I should have shown you days ago." I pushed the last number into the lock, causing the door to open with a satisfying click. "Joshua's death seemed to be more planned than the others. Harrison and Annabelle's murders appear to be random; in any event, we hardly have anything to go on with them... Joshua is the key to this case. That's why I've brought you here today, so we can look at the files on Joshua's murder together." As I spoke, I indicated to Daniel to pick up the boxes that related to the case.
"So, who was this guy, Joshua, anyway?"
"Well, Joshua was a twenty-something year old male with Thai and German parents. Three years back he moved out here and cut his ties with a lot of people. We can presume that he was either bi or homosexual and that he spent the last night before his death with a male lover. This guy hardly left his apartment and he talked to no one, so we think he knew his killer." I moved across to the main desk that sat proud in the centre of the room.
Daniel did the same before starting to look though one of the evidence boxes he'd placed on the table. "He's in a photo with a... I think a guy, here?" He handed me a photo in a frame, showing Joshua in his teens, holding a very familiar-looking male close to him. Joshua's friend was a boy named Lyet Penheart; he had a rare condition that affected the pigment in his skin, hair and eyes, making him look totally white. He always wore baggy clothes, while Joshua usually wore more grungy-looking gear.
I shook my head. "Me and Harrison fell down the rabbit hole with that guy. That's Lyet, the kid that shot himself in the head after murdering his father."
"Doesn't look like much of a killer to me," Daniel sighed. "How old was he?"
"About seventeen." I shrugged, not really wanting to dwell on the details of that case just at the moment.
"Oh..." Daniel paused. "He was real young then."
"Don't worry, you'll get used to it Daniel, you just need to grow a thick skin."
Though I felt horrible saying it, it was true. Avoiding further conversation for a while, we continued looking through the files. My eyes scanned the papers before I noticed a misplaced folder. Knowing his amazing ability to lose things, I guessed that R was the culprit; filing was never his strong point! Removing the folder, I spread the contents carefully across the table.
I was surprised the papers weren't about Joshua's death; the first file contained the coroner's report on the Penheart father and son case. The file was thin, as the cause of death for both family members had been clear, especially with eyewitnesses to the first death. Following usual protocol, there was a small list stapled to the coroner's report, listing all the staff members who'd seen it. Harrison's name was at the bottom, dated only three months ago. I paused for a moment, confused. Harrison already knew how the teen had died, so why did he need to read up on it? Both of us had learned about the Penheart incident at the same time, after getting a name from Joshua's journal. There was no reason that I could think of, for him to look at the papers again and for him to then misfile them with Joshua's papers.
"Speak of the devil and he shall give you the case file," I mumbled under my breath.
Wondering what was of such great interest, I continued to read. The first body detailed was the father's, the priest of the town, M. Penheart. Flicking through the pages, my eyes fell on a photo of the middle-aged man's corpse. The coroner's notes made it clear that the time of death had been between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM; the location, his home address; and cause of death, a fatal gun-shot wound to the abdomen. The report was signed at the bottom by Dr. Rachel Amber, coroner.
Nothing was out of the ordinary, so I turned my attention to the next file; Lyet's file. Opening it up, I found a single sheet of paper, which read as follows:
"Body of the young male, Lyet Penheart, was removed from the Hikers' Retreat Motel, Texas, and transported to my lab at 10:37 PM; body stored securely for me to work on in the morning. A teenager named Joshua Brown has been sitting in the waiting room, demanding to see the body, although we have forbidden it for now." The first note was followed by several blank lines and then continued in the same handwriting, dated the next day. "A body was taken last night from the morgue. Several other bodies have been disturbed, but only the body of Lyet Penheart was found to be missing; will finish report when more is known." At the bottom of the report the coroner had signed her name, but next to it, in a slightly darker shade of blue, indicating a heavier hand, there was a second signature; Dr. Resnekov.
I froze, my face masked in confusion, as I tried to come to terms with the fact that the body had been stolen. Not only that, but had R worked on the case? There couldn't be too many Dr. Resnekovs working in the US, and then R I knew couldn't even tolerate the heat of this place, let alone Texas.
Why hadn't Harrison told me about this and why would anyone steal the corpse of some dead kid? Did Joshua do it or even R? It seemed so unlikely, I couldn't even begin to build a theory.
I glanced at Daniel who was engrossed in reading the material that had been found on Joshua's home computer; I was relieved that he hadn't noticed my reaction.
I continued searching through the papers, digging deeper into the evidence boxes that contained scraps from Joshua's life. It took a while but eventually, hidden away at the bottom of one of the boxes, I unearthed another file that I hadn't seen before.
On the front, a note recorded the date the item had arrived - this time only a few days ago - and who had received it - Dr. Resnekov. According to the note, the file had arrived with the recording sent over from Thailand. I could feel myself becoming angry at the damned doctor and at his failure to tell me about this new batch of evidence. If I confronted him, I knew he would simply tell me he'd forgotten, that it was an oversight. It infuriated me, but then again, what could I do?
Opening the file, I found it contained a number of psychiatric reports, all of them relating to Lyet. The reason why Joshua or his family owned these was beyond me; nor could I understand why information about the Lyet case should be mixed in with the evidence relating to Joshua's death. The reports dated back years ago, to around the time that Lyet was seven. Nothing instantly caught my attention but, to clear my thoughts, I started to read them aloud, thinking that Daniel might be interested.
"Lyet (Light) Penheart, age seven years and one month." The first line was set out in large, elegant handwriting that curled over the lines. A small photo of the young boy was stapled to the top left corner of the report for reference; he had white hair, cut short to his ears with a longer fringe, sunburnt white skin that looked sore, and light blue eyes, that seemed to drown with exhaustion. Lyet's expression was one I'd never seen on a face so young. "Patient complains of having violent night-terrors, some instances of sleep paralysis as a result of disturbed REM, and claims to experience hallucinations. Although the boy refuses to speak directly about the dreams, I have deduced from the occasional comments he makes, that they occur in a repeating sequence, becoming progressively darker. These repeating patterns take place over three to five days and happen roughly every one to two weeks. In the first set of dreams, the boy experiences himself walking through a town on a market day or possibly a festival. He finds himself making his way to an empty house, where he finds an object which he describes as a 'stone chrysalis'; this is where the dream ends. In the following dream, the boy sits with what he says is a 'living rock' and watches people walking around outside; the dreams progresses until the people around are few and far between, and those that remain seem to be in a state of panic or fear. Finally, in the last of the dreams, the boy awakens in the town square; the buildings and market stalls are all ablaze. He stands there, begging for help, but no one comes; he feels that he is frozen to the spot and is unable to wake up."
I glanced up at Daniel, who was staring at me with a look of repulsion on his face.
The next section of report was written on a different type of paper, in a larger-size font, and appeared to have been inserted at a later date. At the top of the attachment there was a note, which explained that the following text was a verbatim report of a discussion with the seven year old Lyet:
"I stand there for a bit, I don't want to move but I need to run. I'm scared." At this point the patient starts crying but is able to continue.
"These monster people come from behind buildings, they're horrible." Patient pauses.
"They have this person with them, like an angel with loads of wings; his skin is wet with something, it smells like the oil mummy has in the kitchen. They start shouting at him; he says things but I can't understand him." Patient pauses again and begins to shake.
"They stop his hands moving and one of them pulls out his wings. The angel man cries and cries and looks at me; it hurts him. They do bad things to him, they hurt him in bad ways with metal and knives and... and... I." Patient becomes very distressed and interview is paused for 15 minutes.
"Once they are done they make his neck red and the angel's pain goes away but they still don't stop. Even when he's stopped breathing they don't stop. Then I wake up and mummy comes in, asking why I'm sad and I try to tell her but she doesn't listen any more. I don't want the bad dreams any more."
I stopped and looked up at Daniel again; his expression was as disturbed as my own.
"He's seven... right?" Daniel asked, in no more than a soft whisper.
"Yes, that's what it says. Christ, if this is being reported through the eyes of an innocent child, I'd hate to think what the unedited version would look like." I paused, feeling Daniel wanted to respond.
"I don't know many adults who could stomach something like that. I don't think I could live through that, night after night."
Nodding, I prepared myself for the next section. "Recently, the boy has claimed that he's seen the angel from his dreams in real life. He is aware that only he can see it and feels that no one will believe him if he talks about it. Though the evidence is somewhat conflicting, my theory is that this hallucination is caused by an excess of dopamine in his brain synapsis, creating a condition similar to schizophrenia. I've never seen a case this severe in a child so young." At the bottom of the report, the physician had signed his name, Dr. R. Jameson.
Flicking through later reports, I found further details of failed medication leading to depression, followed by insomnia, which caused the boy to lose hour upon hour of sleep. It was also clear that the family struggled to pay the medical bills and that Dr. Jameson had eventually agreed to treat their youngest son "off the books", for free.
By the age of about fifteen, it seemed that Lyet's condition had begun to improve; his depressive episodes were less severe and he'd stopped reporting nightmares and visions. Then the records stopped. It appeared that Dr. Jameson's work with Lyet came to an abrupt end.
Additional file notes indicated that Lyet was subsequently referred to a number of other doctors and that, at a later stage, his mental state had once again collapsed and reverted back to that of his seven year old self. Reports mentioned Lyet self-harming, waking up screaming at night, even beginning to starve himself. The reports only stopped completely with Lyet's death, ten years after the first report been made.
I sighed deeply before lowering my head, seeing Daniel do the same. I didn't know what to say; what could I say?
Without thinking, I picked up the next bundle of evidence and flipped open a plastic wallet, removing a small stack of papers. Photos and drawings spilled onto the desk. My expression changed from sadness to confusion once again, as I noticed an image drawn in crayon. Although crude, I could make out two people; one was clearly Lyet, small with white hair and wearing a long jumper; the other was more difficult to decipher. The elongated form hovered next to Lyet, its skin a shade of light green with bulging eyes, half complete, yellow and black teeth, spikes of golden hair that hardly covered the form's skull. Black sticks poked out from its back, presumably its wings; both hands were held together and a red line was scratched across the thin neck. I moved the drawing to find another, more detailed this time, then another, and another. The images seemed to grow more detailed as the years passed, but some elements never changed. The creature always hovered behind Lyet, its head limp and held to one side, eyes swollen and gazing at the sky. Its scalp was bald, apart from a few strands of misplaced golden hair; skin bruised and purple, cut, rotting; arms twisted; deformed.
A feeling of dread began to surround me; it felt as though the silence in the room had started to sing, closing in on me. How had a child created this? Why was he so obsessed?
The silence was broken by Daniel, who looked up from the box he'd been rummaging through. I saw he was studying a small flask of pills that he held in his hand, reading the label in detail; "Odd?"
"What is it?" I asked, my mind still filled with the angel image.
"Does this handwriting look familiar to you?" Turning the bottle over in his hand, the pills rattling around inside, he presented it to me.
Taking the bottle, I examined the writing. The pills had been prescribed for Joshua.
I paused, taking in the chicken scratch. "... Is... is this R's handwriting?"
I was confused, shocked and shaken. How could it be? Quickly, I rummaged through the papers, looking for an assessment made on the body, a report written by R, before opening the file to a page that was handwritten by the doctor. Holding the bottle beside the document, I traced the individual letters; it was a perfect match.
"But why would Joshua have pills from Dr. Resnekov?" Daniel asked.
How, how could this be? I double-checked to make absolutely sure it was a match. From the way the letter A snaked with a long artificial tail, seeming always to be a capital, to the almost non-existent S, to his over-bold Z, it was a perfect match in every way. "I have no idea," was my reply.
Looking up at Daniel, I ran my fingers through my hair. "R... Dr. Resnekov, used to work as a hospital doctor, before he changed his career path, three or four years ago. These pills are dated to be only two years old."
Daniel began searching though the boxes for more containers, "... antidepressants... sleeping pills... even medical-grade marijuana. How does Joshua have all these?"
My mind jumped back to the moment of pain when we found Joshua's body, then Annabell's... then Harrison's.
"Sharon?" Daniel was staring at me, looking concerned. "Is something wrong?"
I tried to focus my dazed eyes on Daniel again, shook my head and smiled with all the composure I could muster. "No, I'm fine, I just need to sleep."
"I want you to write a detailed list of this medication, and I'm going to talk to R."
My mind was spinning with questions, as I headed out of the archive room and down the hallway to the morgue. By the time I arrived I felt in control of myself again and ready to confront R, although I suspected that my composure could very quickly turn into a torrent of angry abuse. I came to an abrupt halt at his office door; there, sitting in the tall swivel chair, head down and focused intently on her work, was a silver-haired girl around the age of five. She looked up from her coloured pens to her toy rabbit, absorbed in drawing what I assumed was a picture of her toy, on the large sheet of lined paper on the desk.
"Elise?" I caught myself too late to avoid disturbing her.
Her head snapped up and turned to face me, her pale violet eyes looking so much like her uncle's, though without the torment and misery I could often see in his. She didn't speak, just looked back at me while reaching out for her toy.
"I'm sorry for disturbing you; do you know where your uncle is?" Taken aback at seeing her there, I found myself smiling uneasily.
She simply shrugged, before looking back at her rabbit, seemingly gazing into its glass eyes for comfort. Although she was very lively around her uncle, Elise was naturally shy and rarely talked to anyone when she did visit the station. She only ever appeared to be happy around her uncle; I often wondered what had happened to her real parents.
I crept into the office trying not to disturb her any more than I'd already done. The room felt cold. Even in winter, R kept the air conditioning on its maximum setting. He hated anywhere that felt even remotely warm, and complained constantly about the temperature being too hot. At first I thought he just missed the coldnesses of his homeland, Russia, but even in the winter he'd keep his office as cold as possible, not even so much as touching the heater.
I turned around to see R standing in the doorway behind me, a small bottle containing a red liquid - probably cranberry juice - in one hand.
"Oh, hey... can we... talk?" I needed to confront him about Joshua's medication, but I also wanted to avoid upsetting Elise, so I kept my words casual.
R didn't respond immediately, he walked across the room to his niece and gave her the bottle of juice. Only then did he look at me. "Sure, what was it you wanted to rack my brains about?"
"Can we talk?"
Pausing for a moment, R scratched the base of his chin before letting out a sigh. "Fine, fine." He turned back to Elise and muttered something to her in his native tongue. Elise laughed and nodded in response, taking the juice from her uncle and starting to drink it as she went back to her drawing. The consistency of the juice seemed to be very thick.
For the first time, I could see what she was drawing. It was an image of her, with silver hair, coloured in grey; her Uncle, coloured in with an offensively bright yellow and a third person in pink, with similar hair to her own. I guessed the unknown third person must be a friend of Elise's, or possibly a partner R had never told me about.
"Do you want to go outside?" R asked.
With a nod, I headed outside, through the fire exit into the alley at the back of the building. R followed me and immediately took out a packet of cigarettes, lighting one before looking back to me. "Pleasantries aside R, I've found something belonging to you in the evidence room." My voice was cold and hard.
"Of mine? My, my, I seem to lose more and more things each day." He smiled, looking up at the clear summer sky. "Am I in trouble?"
Glaring at him, I took the bottle of pills from my pocket and forced it into his hand. "Were you supplying Joshua Brown with drugs?"
Raising an eyebrow and looking over his glasses, R studied the bottle closely, before chuckling. "I believe you would call it medication, rather than drugs. And yes, I did supply these, what's it to you?" The tone of his voice had changed.
"Oh, I don't know" - I began to shout - "how about the fact that you're working on this fucking case! How the hell did it slip your mind that you knew Joshua Brown before he died? What the fuck are you playing at?! Not only that, you've been putting things in the evidence room without my knowledge." I paused for a moment before continuing. "I trusted you to work with me on this case, to help me find out who killed all these people; don't you have any shame?"
Appearing completely unmoved by my outburst, R popped open the cap, examining the pills before carefully replacing the lid. "Sleeping pills help troubled people sleep, and a boy who blames himself for the death of others is a very troubled boy indeed." He smiled before looking directly at me. "You should consider taking them yourself. They might help your guilty mind to rest at night." Although he didn't say it, I knew he was referring to Harrison.
He'd gone too far. Unable to hold myself back, I punched him. His head jerked to one side, sending his glasses flying towards the floor, along with his cigarette. Though he wasn't knocked back, he was certainly stunned. "You bastard," I continued, "don't you dare think, for one second, that you're above me. You work for me, you worked for Harrison. If you don't start telling me the truth, perhaps I'll have to think about calling social services about your niece!"
Suddenly, I felt R's heavy hand grab my arm and push me back, against the wall. "Are you trying to threaten me?" His voice was flat, lacking emotion. "If you dare to think of touching so much as a hair on Elise's head, if you try to take her away from me, I promise you, I'll make your life hell!" Cigarette smoke was still thick on his breath, heating my skin.
"Assaulting an officer; threatening to harm me, is that what you're doing? Look, just tell me the truth and I won't do anything." I looked into his eyes; they seemed so cold.
R's grip went limp and he moved back. "If you want to know why he had those pills, I'll tell it to you." His voice became sickly sweet, once again. As he lent down to pick up his glasses, he continued to talk. "You see, I crossed paths with Joshua a while back, when I was training to be a pathologist. I was taking a walk one evening when I saw him standing on the edge of a bridge; all indications were that he was intending to jump. I walked over and talked him down; I don't think he'd have had the guts to do it anyway." He chuckled, as though he'd made a joke; as though he was reminiscing about some happy memory. "I took him back to my apartment; he said he didn't have anywhere to stay so I let him sleep on my sofa for a few days. I prescribed some medication to help him sleep - I didn't charge him. After he left, and it was just a few days he stayed with me, I continued to give him repeat prescriptions as the pills seemed to help."
R paused, taking in my expression before laughing. "You've got quite a swing on you, Sharon. Ever think of taking up boxing?"
I rubbed my arm, where he'd grabbed me. "What about the other files?" A voice inside me told me to move; a primal urge to get away; to go somewhere more public.
"I put them in there because I knew you wouldn't react well if you saw them, and I was right, just look at yourself." R smiled, before moving back towards me. "You need to rest, Sharon. Go home and get some sleep."
He handed the bottle of pills back to me, forcing them into my hand.
"There's enough here for two weeks; take one a night."
It frightened me how quickly R could change; he seemed to put on a mask. People trusted him... and so had I.
"I haven't done anything to prevent the successful outcome of this case, you can rely on me. Harrison trusted me; you should trust me too; I'm only here to help you."
For a moment, I just stood there, unable to speak. I had an overwhelming feeling that something was going on that was beyond my control. I swallowed hard, moving back to the open door, to the back of the station. "... I'm... I'm going to turn in early today. Tell Daniel to hold fire on his work until I get back."
R nodded with a smile, leaning against the wall and lighting up another cigarette. "Sleep well."
I turned slowly and walked away.
How does R always stay one step ahead of me? I should have been asleep but tormented dreams and an overworked mind stopped me for getting any rest. What else does R know and how far is he involved in this whole thing? Pouring myself a bourbon, I walked out onto my balcony, running through each of the questions, turning them over and over in my mind. I looked out at the lights of the town; the town that never rested. How many people here could I really trust? Harrison trusted R with his life, up until the very end, but I knew now that his trust was misplaced. Why was I the only one who could see R for who he truly was, or was I simply confused by a lack of sleep? I swirled my drink again, before emptying the glass.
Maybe I was being paranoid. He'd always been a perfectly nice guy and maybe, like me, he was just over-tired and I'd pushed him too far. My parents always said I had an over-active imagination. Slowly, my attention turned to the sleeping pills that were still in my pocket; were they evidence and, if so, of what? Why did I even have them?
I suddenly felt another wave of anger. Why hadn't I just shoved the damn pot of pills down that smug prick's throat? I went back into the kitchen to refill my glass and drank again, refilling the glass once more before picking up the bottle and walking back out into the chilled night air. What would I even do with the pills? What was R thinking; what was I thinking? I placed the glass and bottle onto the edge of the balcony, turning the pills over in my hand. For a second, I thought about throwing them down into the street below, when suddenly something caught my eye.
Looking up at me with vacant eyes was a white-haired boy; he looked to be around seventeen years of age, long white hair shrouding his face but his eyes piercing though the darkness. The taste of bile filled my mouth as I fell back from the balcony's edge. I grabbed my drink and staggered out of sight.
What in fuck's name was that? I wasn't that drunk; not yet!
I stared at my empty glass; the liquor had sprayed across the floor. Tossing the glass aside, I took another long drink, directly from the bottle. The silence grew into an audible noise in my head; my body began to shake. Suddenly, the silence was shattered by the sound of scratching, echoing from the soft wood of my front door.
My body froze as I sat shaking, looking at the pills in my hand, battling the temptation to finish the bottle. Noises grew from whispers to screams in my head; a feeling of dread or was this just another trick of my mind. I clamped my hands over my ears and started to mumble; "I can't help anyone; I can't even help myself..." My eyes traced the floor between my legs as panic washed over me.
Without thinking, I ran to the door, throwing it open to reveal... nothing. Running back onto the balcony, I looked down into the street; no one was there.
I was too tired for this. If I could just get to the bottom of this damn case, then maybe I could finally rest.
I couldn't believe what I was doing. I always follow the rules, and yet here I was, attempting to break into a pathologist's home. I had just one shot at this; all I needed to do was to get R's keys off him. Standing in the doorway of the staff room, I scanned the corridor, double checking that no one was about. Slowly, I made my way to R's coat, hanging in its usual place in the corner and put my hand in the pocket. I rummaged for what felt like a lifetime before finding a small set of keys, held together by a keyring - the kind you can pick up at any amusement park - containing a picture of Elise. Something was wrong with this whole thing, something was really wrong; it was too easy. I stood there with my heart pounding, breathless and scared half to death.
I knew R wouldn't be so silly as to keep his important files at work; he'd have them tucked away somewhere safe at home, and I knew he wasn't going to invite me over there anytime soon. The keys were now in my hand so it was just a matter of burning some rubber and getting across to his apartment as quickly as possible, before he realised they were missing.
Finding a parking space easily, I ran up the stairs to the front of R's apartment and unlocked the door; no one was about. The door opened silently, without so much as a creak as I let myself in. The main door opened into a small hallway with a living room to the left, leading through to a kitchen and dining room. To the right, there were two bedrooms and a bathroom. At the rear of the living room was another door leading to a small office.
Feeling as though this was somehow my destiny, I made my way silently to R's office. It was only when I reached the safe embrace of the office that I began to hunt for a lamp; something to give me just a little bit of light, without alerting anyone to my presence. A bit of dumb luck and my outstretched hand touched a switch; pale light flooded the room. The other hand I kept inside my coat, gripping my gun.
All I needed was one bit of evidence; just one thing to confirm my suspicions and bring the man down. My nerves were rattled as I looked about the room.
There was nothing that instantly caught my attention. R's home office was pretty innocent looking; a dark wooden desk with a lamp and some papers; some drawers for files and several bookcases that were overflowing with literature in a variety of different languages. There were also a few picture-frames on the desk, strangely all of them lying facedown. I walked over to the desk and picked up the frames one-by-one, looking carefully at each image. There was one that caught my attention; a group picture showing a slightly younger-looking R and two teenagers, one female and one male. Both of them had long blond hair, partially dyed red - a sign of teenage rebellion, no doubt. Although the image looked like a normal happy family snapshot, I couldn't help but notice that the boy looked thin and sick with tired-looking eyes; he was much thinner than the girl, who I presumed was his sibling. The next thing I noticed was the slight bump on the girl's stomach. I guessed she must have been pregnant, and I paused for a moment as the thought entered my mind that R had never told me who or where Elise's parents were. All three of them looked happy and comfortable with one another, like a real family; R didn't look drained as he usually did, and his smile looked unusually genuine.
Trying not to dwell on the image for too long, I replaced the picture facedown on the desk, before noticing an SD card, taped to a piece of paper. Scrawled across it, in thick black ink, were the words "the phone call". I decided to listen to it as I continued my search; carefully removed the SD card, and put it into my phone to replay the message.
The recording started instantly with heavy breathing from one voice and flustered words from the other.
"I'm recording, just please calm down, what's going on... Lyet...? Lyet, this isn't funny; I'm scared, what's going on?" I recognised the first voice instantly as Joshua's.
For a moment there was no response, only sobbing, then I heard a second voice that sounded fractured and broken. I knew it was Lyet: "Joshua... I don't want to die..."
"What are you talking about? No one's going to die. Where are you, I'll come and get you." Joshua shouted back, his voice rising in panic. I could hear sirens wailing in the background, getting closer.
"I am! I'll go to jail and I don't want to get hurt. I don't want to get hurt anymore..." Lyet sobbed. "I'm at the motel across town... The Hikers' Retreat..." He started crying more heavily. "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry... I just don't want to get hurt any more."
"Lyet, what's going on? You're not making any sense. I'm coming to get you, just hold tight and tell me what's happening." It was clear from his voice that Joshua was frightened beyond belief.
It took a moment before Lyet started talking again. "My dad, he's dead... I shot him dead... I... I didn't mean to I... I was so scared, I wasn't thinking and..." He continued sobbing, "... it's telling me to do it... it says the pain will go away..."
Joshua's response was slow and clear. "Who's telling you to do it?" I could hear the sound of his footsteps in the background.
"It's... the... it's the angel."
In an instant, Joshua's tone turned for one of shock to anger. "Lyet, that thing, it's not real, you know it isn't, it's just your...."
"It is real! I can feel its breath, its nails ... it's so clear." Lyet's voice sounded weak now, gasping, almost like a laugh.
"Lyet, please don't do it! We could build a life together. I'll take you away from here, we don't ever have to look back... please, Lyet don't..."
"It's telling me I have to... I... I want to. No one can hurt me if I die. I'm sorry... you don't need me... I'm just a waste of time..."
"Think about this Lyet, we'll be OK, we'll work this out. I promise, I'll take you away from here. I love you, please, don't," Joshua was pleading, desperately now.
"I don't want to be scared any more. I don't want to hurt anyone, anymore... I'm sorry... It says... I can be free... I love you too. I just... I want this..."
Suddenly an inhuman noise burst into my ear, followed by a single gunshot and then the audible thump of a body hitting the ground.
For a few seconds there was silence and then Joshua's voice again, screaming, "Lyet... Lyet! Answer me... Lyet..."
From the background noises, I could tell that Joshua had broken into a run, sprinting while still screaming into the phone, before putting it in his pocket, though never hanging up. His steps where heavy, his breath came in desperate gasps.
The recording continued and then I heard another fainter sound; a lighter breathing that sounded human - almost - but that was impossible; a dead body doesn't breath. The sounds changed slowly from gasps to gags, coughs then, back to silence as the recording cut out.
Unsure of what to think, I ejected the SD card and held my breath. Why was this in R's apartment; why did he have all this information? My eyes traced the room again and fell on an open cabinet. More sheets of paper; page after page obsessively covering every aspect of Lyet's life.
There were other names and other cases as well. Newspaper articles pinned up on the countless sheets of paper.
Lily Hatree, female, aged 8, hit by car while playing in street; body missing from morgue.
Stanley Holmes, male, aged 23, drug overdose; body missing from funeral home.
Alastair Phipps, male, age unknown; suicide (hanging); body vanishes from morgue.
Tom Stanmore, male, aged 12, accidental drowning; body missing from funeral home.
Andrew Perkins, male, aged 21, suicide (self-inflicted stab wound); body stolen from crematorium.
Shocked family report hearing screaming from casket before funeral.
Gravedigger quits job, claiming he almost buried a young girl alive.
My heart beat faster and faster and I began to feel cold sweat dripping down the back of my neck. What was going on; the dead don't just get up and walk about? The image of the albino came back into my mind, although I knew he wasn't real; he couldn't be. It must have been a trick of the light or someone who looked like him; just a strange coincidence. Continuing to search the office, I came across another folder of notes; medical ones this time, relating to Joshua Brown. I swallowed hard before opening the file, to see again some of the same chicken-scratch writing.
The file actually contained a compilation of notes, written by different doctors, giving reports on Joshua's health. From the time of Lyet's death, it was clear that his health had started to fail - one note said that he was simply withering away. Memos warned that he was in need of expert psychiatric help, while others spoke of the risk of self-harming, or worse. Why did R have these papers; why was he so interested in this case; and why was...?
My train of thought was interrupted as I noticed a tape-recorder sitting beside the lamp of R's desk. This thing looked old; a simple device to record one's voice and replay, if necessary, as a form of verbal note-taking.
Needing answers, I pulled the small black box towards me. Unsure of what to expect, I carefully pressed the "play" button.
"Log - Doctor Deceal Adalwin Resnekov. Update: It took the bait. After visiting Harrison this lunch time, I left the back door open for it to get in. The outcome couldn't have been better. Harrison's medication was taking effect on his heart at around ten in the evening and almost instantaneously it broke in and got its meal. I didn't really expect Harrison to scream as much as he did; for an old man he's got quite the set of lungs on him. At eleven forty-five, I managed to get a hold of it and brought it back to my apartment. I think Elise likes it. I should clean the thing up as I'm sure it's riddled with infection, but it's not biting." R's voice sounded so relaxed. "At two, Sharon phoned, as I expected she would. I wasn't really expecting the response to take so long but I'm not going to complain. No one suspects me, but then again, I'm not planning on staying around too much longer for them to find out. Ending recording; the time is at four twenty AM."
The recording cut out with a click, followed by a crash as I threw the damned box, smashing it against the wooden floor of the apartment.
"You bastard!" I screamed, damning R's name as I grabbed my phone to call the station for backup. Then I suddenly stopped and felt my heart jump as I realised something... R said he'd brought the "thing" that had ended Harrison's life, whatever it was, back to his apartment.
It was at that moment that I became aware of another noise; the sound of light, rasping breathing coming from somewhere behind me. At the same time, a foul smell seemed to trickle towards me from the doorway of the room.
Grabbing my gun, I took aim at whatever "it" was. I felt as though I might vomit, for the face that now looked back at me was one that I already knew. His expression was filled with hunger and wanting; white hair shrouded his face; I saw Lyet Penheart. His skin looked like stone and he emanated a cold heat. Sick skin, blue bulging veins, dead eyes, a starved body, he simply stood there, holding himself up against the door frame. "Joshua... I heard you." The creature gagged and stepped forward, its eyes seemed dizzy with pain.
I stood frozen to the spot, unable to move. I tried to form words, I opened my mouth, but no noise escaped my lips.
"Where did he go...? I could hear him..." it gasped, pleading in a voice that seemed to be filled with anguish. "He vanished... why did he vanish...?" Taking another step forward, the creature stumbled into the light. "Help me... please, help me..." Its pupils suddenly dilated as they homed in on me, body twitching as though it wasn't used to the skin it wore. Something seemed to change; as it stepped into the light the last vestiges of life fell from its form. The left side of its head was sunken in, blood stained its hair and dripped from the empty, infected wound that had been left by the bullet that killed... him. The lips were pushed back to reveal slowly extending, needle-like teeth that had been buried inside the gums until only moments ago. On both hands, nails formed long, white talons. With its next step forward, I understood why the creature was called an angel. From its back there hung two sets of limp, blue, ghost-like wings.
For a second, I didn't know how to react, as it staggered closer and closer. Then my fingers found my gun and I aimed at its head; point blank range: I pulled the trigger.
Careering backwards, the angel snarled for a second before its head lurched forward. I could see the hole in the wall behind the creature, with blood sprayed around it, but the thing didn't so much as flinch. Instinctively, I took aim and shot at it, again, and again, but the wounds healed as quickly as they formed. In a flash it lunged, moving with a speed I didn't know it was capable of. I dodged just in time, though one of the long claws caught my arm, leaving a long, deep gash. I cursed but had no time to dwell on the pain.
The thing vanished from my vision for just a second before reappearing on the far side of the apartment, blocking my exit route to the front door and freedom. Throwing myself forwards, I ran towards the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind me, locking it at the exact same second the creature slammed its body against the other side, clawing at the wood.
"Help me," it cried, sobbing and coughing out the words. "Help me... he said he'd make the hunger go away... help me..." The voice was muffled through the door but grew steadily louder, rising to a scream and garbled words between sobs of pain.
I clasped my hands over my mouth as I tried not to gag and vomit. I cried with the dreadful, shocking realisation that such a monster could be real. Pushing my back against the sink, I slumped to the floor with my gun pointed directly at the door. I tried my phone.
"Why won't you help me...?" The thing on the other side of the door gasped, somehow still sounding like the scared teen from the recording. "Please, help me."
Tears began to stream down my face as I realised I was truly helpless. My gun did nothing; I had no escape route; I couldn't even call for backup now. I couldn't let it get me, I didn't want to end up like Harrison.
With my whole body shaking, I tried desperately to think of a plan. I looked again at my gun; a single bullet remaining.
This was what true loneliness felt like.
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