Thursday, August 28, 2014

Serial- Part 16

The outline of her captor grew fuzzy as her eyes filled with unshed tears. Her entire body trembled uncontrollably as he sneered at her. When the familiar sound of him igniting the flame of his handheld blowtorch filled the small room she could no longer project a fearless façade. A muffled scream penetrated her gag as her bladder voided, dribbling off the table in a stream to puddle on the floor.
            “Well, that’s just disgusting. I suppose you learned that in some sort of self defense class, yes? That’s only for a rapist, my pet. I assure you; I have no interest in that, whatsoever.”
His cruel laugh sent shivers up her spine. She could hear it fading as he left the room. For a brief, shining moment, she hoped he was too disgusted by her to continue whatever hateful plans he’d concocted. His footsteps receded up the stairs. Twelve steps in total, she’d come to learn. After the twelfth step, the door slammed. 
    Elated she took a breath and exhaled slowly. Seconds later, loud voices sounded overhead followed by canned laughter, a sitcom. Hearing his television click on had always meant he was finished with her for the night. Tears of anguish were replaced by tears of joy. She even relaxed enough to listen; a rerun of her favorite television program where the ditzy waitress, who lived across the hall, bantered with her super genius neighbors. When the show cut to commercial, he flipped channels. Just then, the horrifying shriek of a woman in distress ripped through the surround sound, making her jump. Just a horror movie, she told herself. She closed her eyes, trying to calm the jackhammer staccato of her heartbeat. Before her sense of calm could be restored, an icy sensation blasted every cell in her body. She tried to scream but could not. Her nose flooded with an odd smelling fluid that burned her eyes and inflamed her nostrils. Unable to breathe, her ears thudded with the sound of her own suffocation. Every cell in her body screamed out for oxygen but she could not clear the obstructing fluid. Woozy and blinded she prayed for death’s embrace. 
    Instead, she toppled to the floor and a tremendous force slammed into her chest. Sputtering and disoriented, another wave of icy-cold shock assaulted her. By the third time, she realized he was dumping freezing cold buckets of water over her. Before she could recover, he’d grabbed a handful of her sopping-wet hair and hauled her back onto the table. Face down this time; she feared not being able to see, even worse than being face-to-face with her torturer. The shackles bit into the tender flesh of her wrists and then her ankles.
            “Keep this moment in mind, the next time you decide to piss all over the place. I’m sure that bleach stung and I was kind enough to dilute it…this time. Next time, I won’t be so nice. Now, is there something you’d like to say to me?”
He ripped the duct tape from her mouth and she was certain her lips had gone with it. Using every shred of restraint in her body, she resisted the urge to scream or hurl insults. Instead, after coughing more of the bleach-water from her lungs, she gave him what he wanted.
            “Yes, I-I-I’m s-sorry and thank you for, uh, cleaning me up.”
            “That’s better, my pet.” He replied as he stuffed a clump of fabric into her mouth and applied new strips of duct tape. “You see; if someone had taught you manners before, you wouldn’t be in this predicament now. Instead, we’ve got a whole generation of mouthy, self-entitled, jackasses who think the world owes them something, just because their mommies and daddies told them they’re so stinking special. Seriously, you’re in your mid-twenties; you should have figured out that you’re no different than everyone else your age.”
He continued ranting about laziness and poor work ethic as he ignited the blowtorch again. She fought to keep silent, knowing anything she said or did would only make it worse. When the blade was hot enough to cauterize her flesh, she felt it searing along her spine to remove the “tenderloin”. In an act of kindness, her body shut down. She'd slipped into unconsciousness before he'd finished removing the choice cut of meat. 
**In honor of the holiday, the next installment of SERIAL will be Tuesday, September 2nd. Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend! See you in September**

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Serial- Part 15

            “Okay, Seth, when I hit the record button; you’ll be able to give your statement, on the record. I’m going to do the whole official sounding bit, first, but don’t be alarmed. Just tell us what you know about the deceased and that’s it. Okay?”
Seth nodded but part of him wondered if he ought to have a lawyer present. He’d heard horror stories about how everyday people get duped into confessing a crime they didn’t commit. He decided to word his statement very carefully to avoid any chance of having a random stranger’s death pinned on him, especially being a horror writer. Bill gave the signal and, after a deep breath, Seth spoke.
            “Okay, I briefly observed the victim for the first time, the other day. Let’s see…My first day gathering information for my next novel was Tuesday so it would have been Wednesday, the eighth. It was in that little coffee shop over on the corner of Main and Vine. I forget the name of it because I never go there. Well, I’d never been there before, I should say. It has a really funny name though.”
            “The Dark Side of the Spoon?” Bill interjected. “Is that it?”
            “Yeah, that’s it! I had gone in there to pick up some coffee to take to Kim and Angela. He was a jerk to everyone in line and believe me, it was a long line. If he acted like that every day, I’d bet he made a whole lot of enemies. It’s never a smart idea to piss people off before they’ve had their coffee.”
Bill hit stop on the recorder before allowing his laughter to escape.
            “While that’s quite true, I’m going to remove that last part. Just stick to the facts. If he got into a verbal confrontation, if someone threatened him, that’s factual and feel free to give us the low down but any personal observations open you up to attack so leave that out, okay?”
Seth completed his statement quickly and Bill replayed the recording to ensure everything was correct. Afterward, they used some of the station’s equipment to filter out the sound from Seth’s video at the restaurant. By the time they’d finished everything, it was closer to morning than bedtime. Bleary eyed and yawning, Seth shuffled to Bill’s vehicle. He envied Melanie, cuddled under the covers, undoubtedly with Malachi at the foot of the bed. It was a struggle to keep his eyes open while giving Bill directions to the house. More than anything, he wanted a good night’s sleep but, since he agreed to meet the reporter at 9AM, there was no way he’d get enough sleep. I’ll be better off staying up. Some extra-strong coffee and whatever is left of the cheesecake from dessert, and I should be able to get some work done.
            “I’m home. Did you miss me, my pet? Guess what… Aw, not in the mood for guessing games, huh? Fine, I’ll just tell you. Another body was found tonight. Since those bumbling fools are taking their sweet time finding my presents; I get to keep you around a little longer. Between you and me, I’m delighted. You’re absolutely decadent.”
Tears welled in the bound and gagged woman’s eyes before spilling over and trickling down her pale cheek.
            “Are those tears of joy, I see? No? Well, that’s downright rude. It seems you haven’t learned a thing. Rudeness is what landed you here in the first place. I’ve been too lenient. It’s time I teach you a lesson.”
Struggling against the binding cords, she squealed in agony. Her captor glared at her with sheer malice in his eyes. His favorite moment was rapidly approaching, that flash of terror when he raised the blade for her to see. He could feel his pulse quicken and his breathing grew erratic. When he could no longer stand the anticipation; his fingers curled around the stainless steel handle. Cool to the touch, the brushed finish was not as sleek as the blade but it felt perfect in his palm.
            “Hmm, what would be the most effective punishment? I could cut out your tongue but I’ve used that one on that little shit from the coffee shop. No, I don’t want to overlap and give the cops any similarities. What would you miss the most?”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Serial- Part 14

Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at Seth. He hadn’t intended to speak as loudly as he had but it was too late to take it back. When am I going to learn to keep my big mouth shut? The expression on their faces proved he had just uttered one of the stupidest remarks ever, when invited to a crime scene. Even Detective Crash had on his “official police business” face. He was no longer Seth’s new buddy, Bill.
            “You knew him, Seth?”
            “Well, kind of…I didn’t really know him; know him, if you know what I mean. I saw him at the coffee shop the other day. He was really rude to me…to everyone, really.
            “Maybe you should just stop talking now, Seth. I’ll get your official statement at the station.”
Seth’s stomach knotted into a pretzel as beads of sweat formed on his brow. The body was barely cold and he’d just offered the police a motive. Even Angela and Kim had cast sideways glances at him. Trying to look less conspicuous than he felt, Seth used his phone to key in notes about the crime scene. Anything was better than looking up at the accusatory faces of the officers. When there was nothing left to annotate, he slogged through the pages of spam in his email inbox. Moments later the gut-wrenching shriek of a woman carried on the breeze and, again, all eyes were on Seth. Nearly dropping his phone, he was thankful for the dark of night. His face would have matched a strawberry.
            “Sorry,” Seth muttered. “I have got to remember to change that damned ringtone!”
The text message was from Angela. Go down to my car. It’s unlocked. Pop the trunk and look inside the silver gift bag. There’s a flask. (it’s a thank you gift from a friend) TAKE A DRINK!!! You need one.
To offer the perfect excuse, Angela shouted over to Seth and asked him to retrieve her camera bag from the trunk of her car. Jumping at the chance, he was already ducking under the police tape before she’d finished her sentence. The others were too busy doing their jobs to notice his departure and Seth finally exhaled. Just as she’d said, there was an engraved flask wrapped inside several layers of decorative tissue paper. Not caring what was inside; he tipped the metal opening to his lips and let the liquid flow over his tongue and down his throat. Sadly, not hemlock….worse…it’s peach schnapps. Ugh! His phone vibrated inside his pocket and Seth was relieved he’d put the damned thing on silence. He’d expected a snide remark from either Angela or Kim but it was from his agent, Ethan Rosewood: Just checking in to see how the book is coming. Sighing, he put the phone back in his pocket and heaved Angela’s heavy camera bag from the trunk. At least if I get arrested I can call Ethan to post bail, thought Seth.
    After a couple of hours, Detective Crash gathered his things and walked over to the visibly nervous writer.
            “You ready to head back to the station?”
Seth nodded glumly and followed Bill to the car.
            “Relax; no one thinks you killed that guy. I’ll let you in on a little secret. We all get a kick out of torturing anyone new to the ranks. Rookies, trainees, and even authors eventually say something and we just pounce on it. But, seriously, if you do think you might know who this guy is; it will help. Besides, we need to make sure there’s no audio on that recording so let’s get to work.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Serial- Part 13

Back at their table, the Detective commended Seth on his quick thinking.
            “Not only did you help out my cousin; you’ve saved other restaurants from the same fate. I wonder how many other places he’s scammed.”
            “If you had been facing this direction you would have done the same thing, Bill. It’s no big deal. I just feel like he’s getting off easy.”
            “Nah, I don’t think he is. That reporter caught his name when the scumbag handed over his credit card to pay. Imagine that hitting the evening news and posted all over the internet. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. He won’t be able to buy a damn cup of coffee in this town.”
            “Yeah, I supposed you’re right. Um, can they really pull out the dialogue from my video? We were talking about some stuff at the morgue and it could mess up your investigation.”
            “Good point, Seth. Tell you what; let’s run this through at the station first just to be safe.  That way we can…hang on a sec. I’ve got to take this.”
The detective’s phone had been set to silent but it bounced across the table top demanding attention. Seth noticed the caller ID read Station.  
            “No, you did the right thing. I’m on my way. Folks, I’m sorry to eat and run. It seems they’ve found another body.” Bill announced as he flagged the waitress. “Melanie, it was my absolute pleasure to meet you. Would you I lose your good favor if I stole your husband and brought him along? I figured I could show him the crime scene and then we can stop over and get that recording cleared.”
            “I won’t mind as long as you make him promise not to give me any gory details, Bill, and if you’ll agree to drop him off at the house. I have to be at work in the morning and I don’t want to have to drive out to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not so pleasant when someone wakes me from a sound sleep.”
            “She’s not kidding. I have to stand at the opposite side of the room when her alarm goes off or I could lose a limb.”
Melanie scowled at her husband and waggled her finger at him. Her stern façade cracked within seconds as she burst into laughter. While Bill was gathering his things, Seth whispered in his wife’s ear, double-checking that she wouldn’t mind but Melanie’s reply had been genuine. She was relieved that her husband was gaining both knowledge and inspiration. He was always happier when he was writing. The two men escorted her to her vehicle before they set off for the crime scene. 
    By the time they arrived, Kim and Angela were already on the case. Seth waved to his friends as he followed Detective Crash past the police tape.
            “He’s with me,” Bill called out.
The officers nodded and went back to their duties. Angela’s flash temporarily blinded Seth but he managed to stumble over to say hello.
            “Look what the cat dragged in,” teased Kim. “Just when you thought you were out we sucked you back in, huh?”
            “You know you missed me, Kim. Couldn’t bear to carve up another corpse without me, could you? Actually, I didn’t expect to be here. I took my wife to that restaurant and we bumped into Bill. Can you believe that same jerk showed up and tried to get another free meal? Anyway, we were just finishing up dessert when he got the call so he asked me to come along for the ride.”
            “You know what’s really funny? I was going to call Angela and see if she wanted to go grab some dinner over there too. If we’d all gone at the same time that would have been hilarious.”
            “Aw, I wish you had…Mel would love to meet you two. Say, do you think I’d be in the way if I got a closer look?”
Kim smiled and motioned for Seth to follow closely. They stepped in directly behind Angela as she snapped her next photo. The flash illuminated the scene and the body.
            “Oh my God!” Seth gasped. “I know him.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Serial- Part 12

Seth looked up from his menu and smiled. He’d been spotted even in the middle of a packed dinner service.
            “Melanie, this is Detective Bill Crash. Bill, this is my wife, Melanie. If it wasn’t for Bill, I never would have heard of this place.”
            “Ma’am, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Bill replied as he took her hand in his. “Seth said he wanted to bring you here. My cousin will be thrilled to know it made such a good impression that he brought you back for dinner.”
            “Oh, this is your cousin’s restaurant? How lovely and, please, call me Melanie or Mel. Ma’am makes me feel older than I already am.”
            “Old? I was going to run you in for underage drinking.”
            “Seth, you didn’t warn me your friend was such a charmer,” Mel giggled. “Won’t you join us?”
Bill tried to decline, insisting he didn’t want to intrude but he quickly learned when Melanie gets an idea in her head she doesn’t let go. Before the detective could offer up a reasonable excuse, she had already flagged down the waitress for a third place setting.
            “I feel terrible intruding on your date night.” 
Melanie disregarded Bill’s concern with the wave of her hand and a round of drinks.
            “Besides, the place is packed and it will free up a table for someone else.”
 Bill smiled and thanked them for the company. Both Melanie and Seth listened with rapt attention as he captivated them with stories from the Gerald Rhymes case. Bill was careful to avoid discussing anything that might spoil Melanie’s appetite and he was in mid-sentence when Seth cut him off.
            “I can’t believe he’s back. He’s got some nerve.”
While Bill and Melanie craned their necks to see what had gotten Seth so upset, he reached for his cell phone.
            “Seth, put your cell phone away. That’s just rude.” Melanie whispered through clenched teeth.
            “I’m not using the phone, Mel. I’m taking video.”
            “Video? Of what?”
            “That same guy, over there in the blue striped tie, was here this afternoon and nearly got our waitress fired. I think he’s trying scam another free meal.”
By the time Melanie, Seth and Bill were mid-way through their dessert course, the same man pulled the same maneuver. Minutes after his entrée had been delivered; he opened his brief case and stuffed food into a plastic bag. Once his plate was empty he started his act, bellowing that his waitress was ignoring him and threatening to write a bad review.
            “We’ve got you this time you rat-bastard.”
Seth hit stop and charged across the dining room with Bill and Melanie in tow. Not only was the man exposed for his fraudulent behavior, several patron snapped photos and went to the restaurant’s defense via social media.
            “Hopefully, he’ll end up banned from more than a few restaurants now that people are wise to his tricks.” Bill said.
            “That’s too nice for the likes of him.”
Seth’s eyes burned with rage. He wanted that scheming piece of filth to suffer like one of the characters in his books.
            “Excuse me; I was wondering if you were telling the truth about having this guy on video? If so, we’d like to feature it on the evening news and on our website.”
Seth looked up and recognized the area's most popular news reporter, John Stevens. He paused, trying to remember if they’d discussed anything that would identify himself or the detective. As if sensing his dilemma, the reporter promised that they could remove all audio while he was present. Seth looked for approval from his dinner party and they both nodded in agreement.
            “Great! Here’s my card. Why don’t you stop by the station tomorrow and we’ll take care of everything.”
**Please return Monday, August 25th for the next installment of SERIAL**

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Serial- Part 11

Just like a regular nine-to-five worker, Seth packed up his things and walked out with Angela and Kim. With the autopsy mostly wrapped up, it seemed Seth’s involvement at the morgue would be drawing to a close. They’d spent the rest of their afternoon laughing and teasing each other about being the killer but the idea of having his story’s MDI as the killer was too appealing for Seth to let go. He couldn’t wait to get home and revise everything he’d written up to that point.
            “Thanks again for everything. I can’t thank you enough for letting me tag along. I’m going to dedicate my next book to you two and Detective Crash.”
            “Does that mean we get signed copies?”
            “You bet! In fact, once it’s published, I’ll not only write an inscription; I’ll even take you all to lunch and hand-deliver your copies.”
            “You know Kim and I are going to hold you to that promise, right? And I expect to be played by an Oscar winning actress in the movie version.”
As he drove home, sadness tugged at Seth’s heartstrings. He’d grown fond of his two “Angels of Death” and he wished he could find a legitimate reason to continue hanging out with them at the morgue. Just imagine how much more you could learn if you spent a few weeks there, instead of just a couple of days. He was still trying to determine whether it was the devil on his shoulder, the one who always found distractions when there was writing to be done, trying to convince him to spend more time with his new friends or if it was a genuinely good idea. Melanie will help me decide. She’s always been my voice of reason, my anchor. I should see if she’d like to meet them too, just not at the morgue. Poor Mel, she’d be sick for a month.
When he pulled into the garage, Melanie’s car wasn’t there. Checking his watch, Seth tried to quell the voice of panic whispering in his ear.
            “She should be home by now,” the voice hissed. “There’s another serial killer on the loose and Melanie isn’t here…she always calls when she’s running late.”
A horrifying shriek cut through the air and Seth nearly jumped out of his skin.
            “Damnit!” He shouted to the void. “I really need to change my ringtone.”
A text from Melanie, saying she was running late, scrolled across his screen. Laughing at his overactive imagination, Seth went inside, still gasping for breath. I scare myself more than I ever scare my readers. No longer panting like he’d just run a marathon, he called Melanie’s number and asked if she’d like to go out to dinner.
            “Seriously? Mr. Homebody wants to go out to a restaurant and it isn’t my birthday or our anniversary… Why, what did you do wrong?”
            “Gee, thanks. Forget it. I’ll order pizza instead.”
            “No, wait! I was just kidding. I’d love to go out to dinner with you.”
            “No you weren’t but that’s okay. We’ll go out anyway.”
Laughing, he hung up the phone and went inside to shower. Strangers looking in might find their dialogue disturbing, or mistake them for being cruel, but Seth and Melanie had always had a teasing, sarcastic, banter uniquely their own. Each playful jab was their secret way of saying I love you.
Seth was showered and dressed when Melanie pulled into the garage. Inside, he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her. Though he didn’t want to admit it; the voice of panic had sown havoc. His greatest fear was losing the one person who was, and would always be, his world. With great pride he escorted her to the very same café where he’d had lunch earlier.
            “You’re going to love this place. Bill, the detective I told you about, took us here for lunch and the food was phenomenal. Not to mention, the dessert menu was downright sinful.”
As the hostess showed them to their seat, Seth smiled at his wife’s reaction. Melanie was soaking in the very essence of the atmosphere: classy but not stuffy, distinctive art from local artists on the walls, and friendly staff. One glance at the menu sealed the deal; Melanie decided if the food was even half as good as it sounded she had a new favorite restaurant. Too busy deliberating between entrees; she hadn’t noticed they’d attracted someone’s attention.
            “Back so soon?”

Serial- Part 10

After leaving an exceptionally large tip to make up for Chloe’s bad day, the four went back to the morgue. Seth tried to mentally prepare himself for the hideous stench but the room itself wasn’t as bad as he’d expected. It was only when he drew closer to the corpse that the smell intensified. He was silently pleased that he’d managed to psyche himself out so that the smell was almost tolerable. Almost…
            “Okay.  Let’s get a closer look at this guy, in the light, and see if I missed anything last evening.”
Detective Crash leaned closer to examine the body as he pulled on a pair of gloves. His eyes scanned every millimeter as if mentally recording the appearance of each cell in the inner recesses of his mind. Occasionally he’d scribble something into his notepad but his eyes never left the mound of rotting flesh on Kim’s table.
            “So, Bill, I was asking Kim about the missing chunk out of his side, here. She said there is no way this could have been one of Gerald Rhymes’ victims because it is too, um, fresh. Are there often copy-cats of a high profile serial killer?”
            “Unfortunately, yes. Sometimes they do it to seek acclaim from their idol. Other times, they’re trying to throw cops off their trail by mimicking someone else’s style. Then, on very rare occasions, there is someone who has his or her own purposes for killing and it’s up to us to figure out why it resembles another killer’s style.”
Seth wrote as quickly as possible to jot every word verbatim. Again he cursed himself for not remembering to bring his laptop, or at least a tablet, because he had a whole slew of questions churning in his mind. Before he even finished writing, Seth hit the detective with another question.
            “But how would you figure that out? What kind of clues would point you in the right direction? What if the killer was deliberately faking you out?”  
An eerie silence made Seth look up and the other three were eyeing him curiously. Damn, that was a stupid thing to say. They’ve got a new body with no idea who killed him and I’m asking about how to fake out the police and medical examiners. Brilliant, Seth, just brilliant. Way to put yourself on the police’s radar.
            “Is there something you’re trying to tell me, Mr. Author?”
Seth could feel the blood draining from his face and his stomach lurched. He could almost feel the cold steel of handcuffs biting into the soft flesh of his wrists. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. Instead, he looked like a fish out of water; his mouth gaping open and clamping shut in rapid succession. 
            “Ha! Gotcha! Relax, I was just screwing with you. But, in all seriousness, you really ought to be careful and think before you speak. You know I enjoy your books, Seth, and I understand what you were trying to say but you have to watch the way you word things, if you catch my drift. Some people might misinterpret your meaning.”
            “Yeah, I didn’t think about that until after I said it. Pretty dumb, huh? Thanks, Bill…for understanding. I’ll be more careful from now on.”
Seth’s heart was pounding so heavy it felt like it was going to rip through his chest and flop onto the table. This is why I write. I can erase something if it sounds stupid. He was filled with the overwhelming urge to flee from the morgue and never set foot back inside it again but that would look even more conspicuous. Keeping his big mouth shut, Seth continued to fill the pages of his notebook as Kim and Detective Crash continued their appraisal.
    Ten minutes later, Bill’s phone rang, shattering the prevailing silence. A series of “hmms” and “uh-huhs” left Seth wondering what was being said and who was on the other line. Is his dry cleaning ready? Did they find another body? Is there a staff meeting? I wonder if he’ll tell us.
            “That’s a start, anyway. Thanks, Angelo, I’ll be there in ten.” Bill muttered before hitting end. “Okay, we were able to match the victim’s finger prints in our database so I need to get back to the station. Have a good one.”
            “Thanks again for lunch, Bill, and I’m sorry about earlier.”
            “Don’t give it a thought, buddy. I know you’re only trying to write a good story. Just do me a favor and be careful from now on, okay?  Ladies, as always, it has been a pleasure. Until next time.”
With the detective gone, Seth’s heart slowed to a natural rhythm but he did his best to keep to himself. No need to lodge another size-eleven foot into my big mouth again.
            “You’re awfully quiet. Plotting to slice us up now that the cops are gone?” Angela teased.
            “W-What? NO! I wouldn’t do that to you.  I mean, I’d never do something like that to anyone, ever.”
            “I don’t know. You’ve already proved you have the mind of a killer. How many characters have you brutally murdered?” Kim added with a wink to her cohort. “What if you’re just sizing us up?”
            “I saw that, Kim. I saw the wink. You two are incorrigible. To think I was worried that you considered me a suspect.”
            “Me? Wink? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. We weren’t worried. Besides, I’m deadly with a scalpel.”
            “Hmm, now that would make an interesting story…the Medicolegal Death Investigator was guilty all along and threw off the investigation because she knew what they were looking for.”