Two men were sitting in a small, square shaped room with large mirrors on one of the walls. Each one was facing the other over a small, metallic table. One dressed all in orange which matched his fiery red hair and pale skin, the other in grey coat and trousers and a red tie. One was completely at ease and smiling, the other tense and angry. Both were silent for some moments, then the man in the grey coat took a half empty pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, took one out and ignited it. The other man grinned.
“Smoke is gonna kill you one day if you don’t quit, you know.”
“Not before it kills you, Adrian. Worry about yourself.”
“Frank, it’s not smoke, it’s gas! Hydrogen cyanide as I read it somewhere. You should know better than that.”
He looked at Adrian ’s wide grin. Sick son of a bitch! How he wanted to punch him in the face, but there were security cameras. Frank exhaled the smoke and opened a large yellow envelope, inside were several photos showing the most grotesque murder scenes. He put them on the table, Adrian glanced at them, and his grin grew even wider as he looked up at Frank’s tired face again.
“Who’s doing this?” Frank asked sternly.
“Now that is a riddle, isn’t it?”
“I thought you worked alone.”
“And you thought right! But that’s only the beginning, true artists are always alone, but then, people begin to recognize their talents. That’s how it ever is dear Frank, my art is now being recognized, and it’s evolving.”
Adrian picked up one of the photos with fascination; the bloodied, mutilated corpse of a child in his playroom. He showed it to Frank.
“See this here? This is beautiful, look at the angels drawn with blood on the walls; it’s not as good as my drawings, but acceptable. But this is what intrigues me, the head has been cut off and placed on the pillow while the body is sitting apposite the head and is holding the CD player. Like the body is trying to put the head to sleep. Frank this is amazing, I’m seeing a new trend in my art, that’s why I said it’s evolving …”
“Cut the crap, to hell with your art! You bastard, what kind of a man is capable of such cruelty? It took me nearly one year to catch you, enough time for you to butcher eleven children. I’ll swear that I’ll get this monster much sooner than that.”
“Yes, and I really enjoyed our little game, and now I see that the game still continues, but with a different player: my disciple.”
“Who is behind this?”
“I know him.”
“Then it’s a man, and his name?”
“Ah, come on, I wouldn’t spoil the game for you! Besides, somebody has to put the children to sleep.”
“No more games asshole, we are running out of time.”
“No, I still have fourteen hours …”
“Who is he?”
“Maybe I’ll drop a hint. You know him too, well at least you’ve seen him but I’m not sure if you know him as much as I do”
“Wh … What do you mean? I’ve seen him?”
“Many times. More than you can imagine.”
“Did you teach him to do this?”
“Not at all. He was quite talented to begin with, he had the tendency, all it took was a little spark. I may have just inspired him. Now he is taking my art one step further.”
“Where have I seen him? When?”
“Ah, every now and then, sometimes here, sometimes there. But I believe that you saw him more frequently during the last few months, towards the conclusion of our game, but you never knew he was there. I, on the other hand, have seen him only a few times, and we never spoke, but that was more than enough for me to see him for what he was. We have very few things in common I believe, his mother never beat him nearly to death every night when he was a child, yet his upbringing must have, at some point, taken a wrong turn to make him into the man he is today. Mine was disastrous enough to change my psychology for good. I can, at certain times, leave my unique “imprint”, thanks to that. About him … only time will tell.”
“Where is he now?”
“I’m sure he is lurking around. But I’ll give you some clues; don’t want you to waste your time on a wild goose chase! Remember that bar you frequented? I would look around that place if I were you, your man might have left you some souvenirs!”
Frank was listening with horror, by now he knew Adrian well enough to know he wouldn’t reveal any more information than that. He stood up, looked at the cameras with disgust and walked towards the door, as he was shutting the door behind him he heard Adrian’s voice, “Try to get some sleep Frank, insomnia can kill you know!”
Frank was standing in front of the bar, he hadn’t gone there after he had arrested Adrian , but during the ten months of investigation, this place had become like his second home, when he worked day and night to find a trace that would help him find Adrian . A deranged man, a serial killer and pedophile, Adrian Gale took great pleasure in killing small children in their homes when their parents were out. He would watch their houses for many nights, waiting for the right moment, when he would go inside with his cleaver. He placed the bodies on the bed in a way that it appeared as if the children are sleeping, painted the walls with their blood, drawing angels and fairies and left a CD player in the room playing “twinkle, twinkle, little star”. Every time the parents came home and heard that song, they knew to their horror, what they would see in their children’s room.
Frank had become obsessed with Gale in the last few months, while the sight of the bloody murders had made him bedridden. He didn’t remember much about what had happened; he just knew that he was either in his office, the crime scenes, or at that bar trying to clear his head and think better. All the exhaustion had now caught up with him, coupled with the fact that recently he was prone to forgetting things. For example he had difficulty remembering where he was or what he’d been doing on certain days, which made his job much harder. But above all he was disappointed; the murders were not over, six more had died after Adrian ’s arrest. So there he was looking for clues that might be nearby.
He had already checked inside the bar; nothing unusual there. So he decided to walk through the narrow back alleys; not much to see except garbage and trash. But the Something caught his eye near the ground: a trace of dried blood that continued towards the end of the alley. Carefully, he followed the trail, something was written in blood on the dirty walls; twinkle, twinkle …
The lyrics ended near a garbage bin, there under the bloody image of an angel, a boy and a girl were lying on the ground, both six or five years old. The girl’s head was on the boys legs, and the boy’s hand was over her arm. Deep cuts could be seen on their bodies, their eyes were closed and their faces were frozen in a sweet smile. Frank could just gaze in terror at the sight, no matter how many times he had seen similar corpses, they still frightened him. Judging by the stench, the color of the bodies and the swarm of maggots feasting on them, he could tell that the time of death was between ten to twelve hours ago. He cursed, took a handkerchief over his nose and went closer; there in the flickering light of a street lamp, he saw something on the floor, it was a hip flask. It looked familiar; he picked it up and saw the name J. Green engraved on it. He suddenly remembered it belonged to Mr. Green, his apartment janitor, a silent, middle aged.
What was he doing here? Was he the murderer? Well, he had acted strangely of late, looking at him with a bizarre expression. But why would he do that? Mr. Green had no history of violence, certainly had no affiliation with Gale, and through all the years that he had been working there, everyone knew him to be an honest, if a little weird, man. Frank took out his cell phone to call the homicide unit, and decided to take a look at the janitor’s room.
Mr. Green was out. Frank looked around the corridor before opening the door of Mr. Green’s room. It was messy inside and he could see books here and there. He searched there for a while, all the time watching out of the small window to see if the janitor was coming back, and found nothing of interest, but only at first. It seemed that Green had been following the news of the murders very seriously; there were piles of newspapers on the table and some of the articles had been cut out and placed near each other. There was a diary on one shelf and Frank decided to check it; there were normal accounts of everyday life of the man, but the last few pages were a bit vague and written rather hastily. Two children were mentioned and that he had seen them “go to sleep” in a back alley, he seemed to be afraid. On the last page was written “He’s at it again. I don’t know who to trust or what to do anymore. I’m afraid he’ll come for me!”
It was strange, he knew something about the murders and the murderer, but what was his game in the matter? Frank noticed a box under the very shelf, inside were some items, some of which he knew belonged to the dead children, and among them he found his old watch which he had lost a few weeks ago but didn’t know where. Green had found it, or had he stolen it?
His phone rang; it was Peterson, a fellow detective. Adrian Gale was executed, but before that, he had sent a message for Frank. It was “I thought to give you one last present: another clue. Who is the last person you see every night before going to bed?”
Frank was perching on his bed, four days had passed and there had been two incidents: first, there had been another murder. No clue or evidence was found at any of the crime scenes, so he knew that the murderer was very clever and also familiar with the methods of investigation used by the police. Second, Mr. Green was dead! It was suicide; he had hung himself in his room, two days after the last murder, and nobody knew why. It was bad for Frank, he was convinced that Green might have something to do with those deaths, and had been watching the janitor. Adrian ’s message also pointed to Green, as he was usually the last person Frank saw every night when he returned home. But his death had now made the nightmarish riddle all the more complicated.
Frank stood up, scratched his head and went to bathroom to splash some cold water over his face. Suddenly it all came to him. All those times when his memory was blank, the expertness observed in the crimes, Adrian ’s “imprint”, the last person he saw before going to bed …
Slowly, Frank looked up … and saw his own face in the mirror …
Nigel Elfleda was born in 6th of February 1985. He lives in Perth, Western Australia and is currently studying post graduate Creative Writing at Curtin University of Technology. His genre of choice is Horror, but he also writes Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Supernatural or Psychological Thrillers and Sci-Fi Horror.
More information about him along with some other stories can be found at: