Murder in Paradise
Murder in Paradise
|Constructive criticism and in-depth critiques are welcome|
Just because I think everyone has to at least try a Paradise story.
Chicago, Illinois June 13th
The man walked into the corridor where the woman was fumbling with her keys, trying to get her back door open. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his silenced gun. Four shots were fired, the first hit the woman in the chest, the second in the head. The next two were again to the head. The man reached down, took her purse, and left.
“Homicide, Sixteenth and Eastvale, no witnesses, body found two hours ago, estimated time of death, three hours.” Christine, the coroner read off as she leaned over the body. She could have been beautiful, if she had tried to cover up the horror she had seen in her sixteen years at the police station, looking at death.
Lance Devonair waited for the other officers to file out of the morgue, and stepped forward. He was slightly different. His eyes had been able to pierce the Veil for three years now, and he was used to seeing dead Changed. This woman was changed, and her species was almost unrecognizable. Lance guessed weasel or ferret. Her coat was a shimmering grey with splashes of brown and red from her chest wound. He ran his hand over her tail, and marveled at its softness. He had never touched a Changed before.
“We suspect just an overzealous mugger. Her bag is missing, and her clothes are ripped at the pockets. Shot from behind, three times in the head, once in the chest.” Gordon Vance, the police chief briefed the squad.
One Day Later
“Another shooting, head and chest shots, multiple lacerations, and one particular thing, a single vertebra was removed from the base of the spine.” Hearing this from the chief, Lance visited the morgue to inspect the body. He was shocked by what he saw. The body of another Changed was lying on the operating table, its face a mash of blood and fur. The most disturbing thing was waiting below. His tail was missing.
“The killer Knew…” Lance murmured.
“What was that? You say something?” Christine, yelled across the lab.
As the days went by, a startling pattern emerged. Men and women were being killed. They were all, Lance saw, Changed. It was always the same killer. The tails were removed. The police made him top priority, and Lance volunteered to take the case. The police saw no motive, no rhyme or reason, and no patterns, but Lance did. The latest killing had yielded a witness, so there was a little to go on. Dark hair, blue eyes, fair skin, that could be anyone. Lance was walking to his local diner, and pondered the latest developments. The killer had become bolder as he evaded capture, even shooting in areas with people in them. Walking, he saw it was beginning to rain. He stepped into the diner, and walked up to the bar. He ordered his favorite and then looked back around the bar. There were three couples in the booths, a party of ten year olds and their parents at a table, and in the corner booth, a badger Changed man and his friend. Lance walked over to them when a man in an overcoat walked in. He fit the sketch close enough.
“Sirs, may I speak to you for a moment?” He murmured to them.
The Changed man’s eyes widened and he looked over at his friend.
“What the hell do you want?” The friend asked.
“I want to save both your lives. Please listen closely.” He turned to the Changed. “Sir, I would like you to put on as much clothing as possible.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? My spouse and I were just enjoying our lunch, and then you burst in here and start acting all prudish at us. Fuck off!”
Oops… “Sir, please remain calm… Sir, Ma’am, do you have a preference?” He spoke to the Changed.
His eyes widened further. “In other company… I go by my initials only… that enough for you?” Clearly he/she was really embarrassed.
“I’m so sorry ma’am, I didn’t know. Now please ma’am, cover up, or get under the table.”
“Bern, what the hell is going on here; you both know something I don’t and I don’t like that. Tell me what’s going on.”
The man in the overcoat looked over at these words, spoken rather loudly. He smirked, and then turned away.
“Please, sir, keep it quiet! Damn, he’s seen us!” He pulled out a can of pepper spray and handed it to the Changed woman. “I would like you to carry this with you at all times, in easy reach.”
He/she stared up into his eyes. She frowned. “Your eyes… What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“We’re safer in public…” Lance muttered, “Huh? Eyes? I can see you without concentrating, and I’ve been that way for three years. I’m alone in that respect. I figure that the longer you can see through the Veil, the more it wears off on you.”
“They’re very pretty.” Bern commented on his strangely colored eyes. The whites of his eyes were more a reflective gray, like silver, and his irises shifted from tawny to blue from within.
“Look mister, if you don’t stop harassing us, I’ll call the police.”
“My name’s Lance Devonair, I’m a detective for the police, I’m here to help you, and people in your position.” He said, whispering over Bern’s husband quickly. “For now, I advise you to remain in this building, and when you leave, I’ll accompany you to your house, if that’s alright with you sir-ma’am.” He corrected himself quickly.
“That’s fine with me, but why all this security? The Veil hasn’t been broken, why me?”
“The police are not aware of the situation, but due to my… abilities, I have noticed a disturbing trend. A string of murders has taken place where all the victims are,” he glanced over at the husband, “in your situation, as it were.”
“And you think I’m the next target.” Bern shivered.
“Not necessarily, but that man in the tan overcoat, over there, he knows something that the others don’t. I think he might be the killer, and he’s seen you. I would stay in public places for safety, and always stay in a group with other, non-Changed people.”
As they talked, their food vanished, and the other tables emptied. Only one other patron remained in the diner. The man in the coat smiled at Lance and his friends. They tried to get to the door, but he blocked it. He pulled out a silenced pistol. Lance took his automatic out of its holster. He cocked it and aimed at the man.
“Why do you protect them? They’re monsters, waiting for a moment to kill us all! We need to be proactive with these things! STAND ASIDE!”
“My name is Lance Devonair, with the Chicago Police Department. You are under arrest for attempted murder and aggravated assault. Lower the weapon and back away from the door.”
In an instant, three things happened. The man dived to the left, firing his gun at Bern, and leapt through the door into the road. Lance reacted and fired back, grazing the man in the side. Bern let out a cry and collapsed. Lance, hearing the sound, turned away from the door, where he had been about to follow the man, and ran back to Bern. Her husband gasped, cringed, then stared down at his wife.
“Damn it!” shouted Lance, starting after the man, and then turning back. He unclipped his radio and started yelling into it.
Strangely, everything seemed really quiet to Bern. Everything went dark around the edges, then swirled around into a black fog. It was cold…
When Bern awoke, he was lying in a clean white bed, in a clean white room, surrounded by mechanical and electrical equipment that buzzed and whirred. He tried to turn his head, but was dissuaded when a massive jolt of pain emanated from his chest. He whimpered, and the people seated around him turned away from their conversation with each other. The policeman from the restaurant was there, and Henry, his husband. A third man was there, a Changed giraffe. The policeman was staring at the giraffe’s head, but Henry was staring at his chest.
They all turned back to Bernice when he groaned. “Honey, how are you? Are you ok...? Why didn’t you… tell me?” “I… wanted to but,” here he stopped to rest his aching chest, “I didn’t know how to… to tell you, and how you would… react. I’m sorry.”
Henry turned back to the Changed, and asked what would happen next.
“Nothing changes; you continue to live your lives as though nothing has happened. Now that you Know, you’ll be in a better position to understand and help in matters concerning your wife. Now if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Sanders, I must attend to my other patients.” He got up and left. Henry looked back at Bernice, and started weeping silently. Lance got up and made for the door.
“Wait,” Bern whispered. He stopped, and turned back. He sat at his side, and looked into his eyes.
“Yes?” Lance whispered back. He looked like he was holding back tears himself.
“Thank you, so much for saving my life.” Bern stared into Lance’s strange eyes.
“I’m only helping others where I couldn’t help myself,” he choked out “Seeing you… just makes my job harder to bear. This brings back so many feelings.” Tears started falling down his face.
“If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine,” Bern pleaded.
“No, it’s time I got this out of my system. I’ve been a detective for… about eight years. I had a wife and a small girl. I loved them more than life, and told them so often.” He broke off to wipe his face. “My wife Changed first, the year I became a detective, my four year old girl Changed the next year. I Knew since my wife changed, but couldn’t see them then. Then, almost four years ago…” he sniffled and turned away for a moment. When he turned back, he seemed calmer.
“As a detective, I’ve made many enemies. Some of them were very powerful. I’ve received death threats before, and I’ve always survived. On actual Change day, August seventeenth, three years ago, I received another threat. Later that day, my wife and baby girl told me they were going to the store for a surprise for me. They got in the car parked out front and…” the tears were streaming freely down his face now, “… I heard the blast from across the house. I rushed out and saw the car on fire. Vivian and Laura were on fire, with the doors locked. They tried to get out, but the doors had warped shut. I tried to get them out, but nothing helped. I watched their fur burn off, then their skin, then everything else. The Veil burned off with them, and it left its mark on me.” He gestured vaguely toward his face, now damp with salty tears.
“Now, this case is about Changed being killed, and I feel like this is a way for me to pay Vivian back, or maybe get rid of some of the guilt by helping others escape the same thing. I don’t know. I need to see a psychologist who actually knows this kind of thing.”
Bern was moved by his story, and reached out. Touching his hand, he said simply, “I’m sorry.”
Drying his eyes, Lance nodded and walked out of the room, leaving Bern and Henry to the awkward conversation that was about to occur.
Almost a month since the last attack had left Bern in the hospital, and no headway had been made. Two more murders had been committed, and evidence showed that this was linked to another string of murders from about five or six years ago.
Lance felt like he was beating his head against a wall with this case. The department was breathing down his neck for results, and he had no leads other than the man lived in the area and preyed on Changed. A long time coming, he was starting to crack. He began drinking again, and soon he was back at a bar he hadn’t visited since before the car bomb.
Sitting at the bar, brooding into a beer, he heard a familiar voice calling his name. Turning, he saw Henry and Bern Sanders calling him over to their table. He hastily made his way to an empty seat and smiled jovially. “I heard about two more murders, no luck with catching the Tower Hill guy then?” Henry spoke over the blaring of the music.
“No luck on that front. How are you two? Feeling better, Bern?” Lance shook his hand, genuinely happy that he had recovered from his brush with death.
“Well enough to go to that convention in October, I guess. Do you want to come with us; I heard they’re letting people who Know into this one.”
A thought struck Lance full in the face. Considering the amount alcohol he had consumed recently, this actually hurt. “That’s it!” he stood up a little too fast, clutched the table in alarm, then fell back into his seat. At their looks of alarm and bewilderment, he elaborated “That’s where the Tower Hill Killer’ll be! At this convention! He’ll have guessed its true purpose, and started preparing!”
Lance frowned. “Where did THAT flash of inspiration come from?” Shaking his head, he set down his bottle, (empty,) and shook the couple’s hands vigorously before stepping back to the bartender. “I’m going to need another Plot’s for the road,” he said, pointing to the brand he wanted.
He started by perusing a very harrowing subject: the car bomb that killed his family. Reading over the details, he suddenly linked the method of the killer with several similar bombs. These were in turn linked to the Tower Hill Killer, as the papers had taken to calling him. He suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline: he was hunting the man who had killed Vivian and Laura. He learned about the wreckage of a small propane tank found under his car, along with some electronics, and a nine-volt battery, of all things. Soberly, he realized all the items needed for the bomb could be bought without any license or eye-batting.
Finally, he had a lead. A man had bought a propane tank and said threatening things to a man outside the store, but after that, he had disappeared again. Ironically, the interesting aspect of this case, the Changed victims, the killer who Knew, and his own personal connection to the case, made it impossible to bring this up with his superiors. It was impossible to warn these people publically, because that would reveal their secret. He had actually come up with the idea to ask Bern and Henry to help. Henry had become a border collie, and a woman, that year. (S)He was slightly less than thrilled, but at least understood his wife’s predicament a little better. They both agreed wholeheartedly to spread the word.
Another month or so passed, and finally it was time to go to the convention. Lance told the chief of police that he finally had gotten a lead. He wanted a squad ready at a moment’s notice, and would go in alone to flush the killer out. He packed an overnight bag and his pistol, and jumped in the car with Bernard and Harriet Sanders, as they gave their names to the police. After several hours of driving, they arrived.
The day arrived, and Lance briefed the convention’s security detail on the details he could reveal. He told them to look for a man with a bag, briefcase, or anything that could hold a bomb. He knew it was mainly hopeless, but he tried anyway. He went inside and mingled with the crowd for an hour or two. He smiled knowingly as he saw someone in a fursuit accompanied by an actual Changed. She looked at him and had the same smirk in her eyes, but lost it as soon as she saw him. He waved and gave her the thumbs up.
He saw an argument between some cat and a bunch of deer which was about to go sour. He was about to intervene when they broke up. Something huge and grey caught his eye, and he turned to see a large hammerhead shark suit. It looked incredibly cumbersome, so he walked over, saying, “That looks like it weighs a ton and a half! You want any help with that?”
The shark looked over and slowly shook his head. As he wandered off, he thought he heard the clang of metal on metal. Looking back, he saw nothing. Continuing, he heard one young beaver say to her friends, “Does anyone else smell gas?”
Later, he was close to the center of the main chamber, when he came across the tail of someone’s shark costume. He recognized it, and tried to lift it. He felt several metal somethings shift around inside it. Concern rapidly growing frantic, he tore open the costume to find the familiar logo of a brand of acetylene torch mixtures. Highly explosive, there were at least eight of them packed into the tail. Searching around, he found, glued to one of the canisters, a small blasting cap hooked up to a receiver and a button battery. Here, he truly became frightened. He had no experience with explosives, and here was one that could kill dozens. There was no time to call a bomb squad, so he would have to figure something out on his own. He pulled out his knife and held it to the two wires in the receiver. He flicked his knife between the red and green wires, contemplating which one was the right one to cut.
In a flash, he realized the stupidity of his choice, and simply pulled the battery out of the electronic. He then chiseled the glue off the blasting cap and pried the whole detonator ensemble away from the canister. He ripped the receiver from the blasting cap, ensuring that nothing would go off, then packed everything back into the tail and lifted it. He took it to the door guards, who called the police, then headed back inside. He still had some unfinished business to attend to.
Heading to the bathrooms on a hunch, he found the hammerhead costume stuffed into a trashcan. Dashing back outside, he looked around wildly for the man who had killed his family. He heard a shout, and turned to see the back of a man’s head as he ran from an upstairs balcony. Running up the stairs, he saw the tail end of him turning down a hallway. Dashing around the corner, he stopped dead as a bullet sang past him. A man standing at the end of the deserted hallway turned around to face him, and then pointed up to his left. “He went up there!”
As he ran, Lance heard shouting. More gunfire, more running. The man finally stopped running. Panting heavily, Lance dashed up the stairs and into the barrel of a .44. “You’re getting lazy, officer. Once upon a time, you would have tailed a, suspect through a swamp, crawled into air ducts, or run for miles.” He panted heavily. The gun remained steady, though. “I was a much younger man before my family was murdered.” “Ah yes… I had almost forgotten about that stunt I pulled back in the day. What were their names again? Vivian and… Laur-Ahhhh!”
In the midst of what promised to be a long winded and brutally revealing monologue, Lance pulled out his Taser and brought it up directly between the man’s legs. While not sporting in the least, it was effective. He crumpled to the ground and clutched his groin. The revolver lay forgotten in a corner.
“Asshole.” Lance spat at the man lying on the ground as he pulled out his handcuffs. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been given to you?”
Instead of answering, the man lashed out, tripping Lance up, and reached for the revolver. Leveling it at Lance’s head, he gloated one last time. “The more I run into you, the more I come to respect you, Mr. Devonair. However, I’m afraid this is your end. You’ll be with your monster family soon. Goodbye.”
He pulled the trigger.
A dull click emanated from the revolver. That simple noise ricocheted throughout the hallway, deafening its occupants with its impossibility. The two second window of incredulous inaction was all Lance needed to bring his Taser up and fire. The sparking darts buried themselves in the man’s chest. A gurgle came from the man’s throat as he sank for the second time in as many minutes. This time, he didn’t get back up. Cuffed and searched, he was heaved into the back of a cruiser within minutes. A small remote control was found in the man’s pocket, presumably to detonate the acetylene canisters hidden in his suit. As Lance was briefed and congratulated, he could only think of his family.
Lance Devonair, age 51, was found dead in his Morton Grove home yesterday evening after a search for the decorated officer behind the capture of the infamous Tower Hill Murderer. Preliminary tests indicate he had been dead for two days from an overdose of sleeping pills.
He was curled up among his bed sheets, a smile on his face, with a small note on his bedside table. It bestowed all his possessions to the Sanders family. It was signed not only with a signature, but also with a single, inked paw print.