Seth’s head was spinning wildly. Never in his wildest dreams would he have considered Kim to be a serial killer. He watched her work in silence while his writer’s mind concocted one horrible scheme after another. She was the one who figured out that code on ole Tongue-less Trevor, after all, his memory reminded him. She could be using her knowledge to set people up. Just when he’d nearly convinced himself that Kim was the killer, his heart spoke. You can’t seriously believe Kim, of all people, would do this to someone. She sure as hell wouldn’t harm Angela. They’re friends. The more he thought about it, the less Kim seemed likely to be the killer. It’s probably Agent Dictator, Seth decided.
Kim’s hands trembled as she knelt beside the mound of mutilated pieces of human wreckage. Her heart ached as she feared finding pieces of her friend yet she felt guilty that she’d hoped those the parts belonged to strangers. As it became evident that Angela was not included within the pile, the guilt increased. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath before speaking.
“Looks like we have the remains from two separate people here but neither appear to be Angela. I know what her hands and feet look like and these aren’t it. We might be able to use the tattoos that haven’t been destroyed to help us indentify the victims though.”
The FBI agents had separated into their own group while the local police huddled together to figure out their next plan of attack. Both teams were anxious to point their collective fingers at the other, if the media arrived on the scene. Meanwhile, Seth was getting antsy. The tension had become so thick and oppressive that he wanted to leave but Bill said he needed to be present. I don’t understand why I need to be here. I’m not law enforcement of any kind and I have no connection to these victims, Seth thought to himself. Unless, what if Agent Dick is trying to find a way to pin this crap on me? He was too busy trying to figure out the agent’s motive to notice someone was trying to get his attention.
“Hey, you! You, in the navy blue shirt, could you give me a hand?”
The officer paused for a moment to see if he’d get a response; when none came, the request was shouted, loud and clear.
“YO! YOU IN THE NAVY BLUE SHIRT!”
Seth was startled from his silent reverie. He looked around to see if anyone else was wearing a navy shirt.”
“Yes, you,” the officer bellowed. “Would you come here and give me a hand already?”
“Sorry about that … I guess I zoned out for a minute,” Seth replied. “What do you need me to do?”
“Grab the other end of this and help me lift it onto the cart here.”
Seth leaned over but he remembered something Bill had told him the day they’d met, ‘always wear gloves’. He stood up, held up his index finger in the universal signal for ‘just a minute’, and then went in search of some gloves. Kim waved him over and retrieved a fresh pair of gloves from the box inside her kit.
“You’re a quick learner,” she whispered to Seth. “Be careful … I heard from one of the investigators that you are a person of interest in this case.”
Seth’s heart skipped a beat and his lungs constricted. How could they think I had anything to do with this? He wanted to scream at them and proclaim his innocence but that would look even worse so he took the gloves and returned to assist with the heavy lifting. Once he was no longer needed he sat on the curb and waited.
Just when Seth started to relax, a dark shadow hovered over him, blocking out the sun. He looked up at the towering figure of Agent Dictator. For the first time, he wished he hadn’t opened his big mouth and called out Agent Dictator in front of a room full of people.
“So, I hear you’ve been observing for the past few weeks to help with a book you’re writing,” the agent sneered. “That’s interesting. I’d like to see that.”
Seth stood, projecting an air of confidence even though he was terrified. He held out his hand and shook with the agent.
“I’m honored,” Seth gushed. “I had no idea you were a fan. If you’d like, I’d be more than happy to autograph a copy for you when it’s published.”
“Cut the crap, smartass. Just know this … If you have anything to do with these killings, I will catch you and I won’t quit until you’ve taken a ride on Old Sparky. You’ll fry like bacon on a griddle. Got it?”
For several minutes Seth stood there with his jaw hanging open. He’d never expected an FBI agent to speak to him like that. Agent Dictator snorted and turned to walk away.
“Wait! Look, I know we got off on the wrong foot but I am more than willing to cooperate in any and every way. I had nothing to do with these crimes. Feel free to search me, my house, my wife … anything. I am not a killer. I’m just a writer.”
“Watch your back, Mr. Just-a-writer.”
Kim watched the interaction with detached fascination. She’d never seen Agent Dictator lose his cool, and never with someone he’d deemed to be a suspect. She waited until the raging agent had gone inside before check in on her friend.
“What was that all about?”
“I don’t know what game he’s playing but this is ridiculous,” Seth grumbled. “First you … then me.”
“Uh, what? What about me?” Kim demanded.
“Bill told me Agent Dick said you’re a suspect.”
“Well, that’s funny since Agent Dick directly told me Bill was a suspect. Looks like he’s trying to pit us against each other. He’s such an ass!”
Kim’s fury simmered just below the surface but she was careful not to let anyone else observe it. She was beginning to think no one could be trusted anymore.
When they’d finally wrapped things up at the station, Bill drove Kim and Seth back to the morgue. They rode in silence, each fearing they were trapped in a car with the killer. Seth sped home, anxious to hold his wife close but also to warn her that they might be questioned soon. He pulled into the garage, happy to see Melanie’s car parked in her spot. Already feeling the stress release him from its dreaded grip, he burst through the door and called out to her.
“I’m home! Mel? Babe? HELLO?”
Malachi came trotting into the room, tail wagging. The pup was so excited to see his human that he jumped up and nearly knocked Seth over. He reached out and caught himself on the kitchen counter.
“Whoa, boy! I’m happy to see you too. Believe me, after the day I had, I could use some cuddle time with you and Mommy.”
He took a few minutes to give Malachi belly rubs and scratches behind the ears before using the edge of the counter to pull himself up; that’s when he noticed the note.
I’m not sure what time I’ll be home. One of your friends from the morgue stopped by and asked me to offer a woman’s insight into a thesis they’re working on about serial killers. There’s leftover lasagna in the fridge if you get hungry. I’m so excited to be involved! See ya soon.
Seth’s entire body trembled. Oh God! The murderer took her. She didn’t even leave the sick twist’s name. How am I going to rescue her? Frightened and defeated, he sank down onto the floor with her note still clenched in his hand and buried his face in Malachi’s fur.