“Why is it that you think you’re afraid?” A taller, leanly built man leaned against his desk in a room only lit by the windows.
Anderson exhaled, sitting in a chair only 4 feet away from the man “I think…” He wasn’t able to quite put a word to it. Why was he afraid? Was he afraid at all? “I don’t actually know. I just, see them. I can’t sleep, I can’t think…” Anderson looked up at the man, he leaned back in the chair, his fingers locked together in his lap “I can barely do my job.”
The man folded his arms “You put yourself in the killer's shoes, but you don’t have any problem bringing yourself back to reality. Perhaps there is something mental, going on?”
Anderson shook his head, he leaned forward “I’m not crazy.”
“That is not what I implied. I only suggest you might be developing an anxiety or, paranoia.” He walked around the desk and sat down in the office chair, clicking a pen and opening a notebook, he asked a simple question “When did it begin, Michael?”
Chapter 1: Bay Leaves
The room was quiet, it was dark and humid. The smell of coagulated blood and strung gore wafted through the cracks of windows and doors. The sounds of sirens blared in the distance as neighbors stood outside, the first sign was the flies that crept against the glass trying to find any way out of the quiet home.
The smell was strong once the door was opened, it was rotted and foul as it filled Anderson and Hanes’s lungs. “Jesus…” Hanes covered his nose and mouth “This shit is getting-”
“Creative?” Anderson’s face was plastered with a look of disgust as he tried to ignore the overbearing smell tied to the gruesome scene.
“Something like that- How long has she been dead?” Hanes looked to one of the officers.
“Hard to fully say but the neighbors said the smell started about 2 days ago.”
Anderson approached the body, he stared at her ribcage which was spread open and poked out from her like an open gate “...She’s been dead longer than just 2 days. Give or take a week, more like.” He looked at Hanes, his brows furrowed up and his lips curled in.
“So, what are we looking for?” Hanes kept his distance from the body.
“Someone with experience working with animals. A butcher or- Farmer. Someone who knows how animal bodies work but not exactly, human bodies.” Anderson’s fingers locked, he could feel what happened. He could feel the struggle the woman held, he could feel the anxiety. But on the other hand, he could feel the regret and almost necessity the killer expressed. Anderson exhaled “He didn’t want to kill her. He had to.”
Hanes raised a brow “He had to?” Hanes approached the body, he was much more blind to the workings of killers than Anderson.
“There’s a third party. Someone ordered him to do this.” Hanes looked between the woman and Anderson.
“So , he mutilated her, because he didn’t want to kill her.” Hanes’s tone was flat.
“He was honoring her.” The two stared at the body for a moment, it was the best way to put it. The flowers that bloomed from the lack of organs, the position she was left in, even down to where she was placed in the home. Put on display on the coffee table, surrounded by her own memories in frames.
“All except one organ was taken.” Cali folded her arms.
Hanes rubbed his chin “Her heart.” Cali nodded
“Before it was just, kidneys, spleen, liver.. Sometimes a stomach but now he’s taking everything.” Hanes looked to Anderson. He stared at the body, now clear from the flowers.
He peered into the empty cavern that took stead in her torso. Why would he be so desperate to collect everything? What reason did he have to scoop her clean of her insides? “Our pattern was thrown off, before we found them outside with something missing, but everything? He’s getting confident.” Cali exclaimed.
Anderson pried his eyes from the woman “He’s tired.” Anderson rubbed his eyelids and furrowed his brows “He’s tired of taking. Of being ordered around.”
Cali raised her brow and cocked her head to the side “Being ordered around- what is he on about?” She looked to Hanes, who had nothing to say but a shrug.
“We think there’s a third party, someone else making the calls.”
Cali furrowed her brows and crinkled the bridge of her nose “So, we’re starting from scratch.”
“No- No, our original leads are still leads. The profile still stands, someone who…” Hanes looked to Anderson, motioning him to explain further who it was exactly they were looking for.
“Who has experience working with animals, but not people. They don’t have many friends, they keep to themself at work.”
Hanes cut him off before he could continue “We thought maybe, a butcher. Or- a hunter.” Anderson squinted and slowly turned his head, Hanes put his hand on Anderson’s shoulder “It would be likely that they might work in those fields right?”
Cali looked between the two with raised brows “...I don’t know why you’re telling me this but sure. I would say it’s a good chance that they work with animals. They sure treated her like one.”
Hanes smiled and nodded “So we start there.”
Searching for something without knowing exactly what you’re looking for is difficult. Like looking for a rock in a river, Anderson found himself returning to the crime scene. Each time he would just stare, trying to piece things together. Who was it that had such a hold on him to make him take so much? And why was it only now that he was getting tired of taking? It had been a whole year of scattered deaths. And only now is he getting antsy.
Anderson stood crouched by the coffee table where they had found the woman. His hands gloved and his face scrunched and screwed up in thought thinking of any similarities. There was nothing. Anything they thought they had, it was all smoke and mirrors. And it was in this continuous and almost spaced out thought that Anderson realized the pattern was only the confined area everything was taking place in.
This body, was the only one throwing them off. Before the bodies were disposed of in wooded areas, despite being propped up with animal remains. This wasn’t the work of the same person, this was someone new. Anderson opened his eyes and stood up, there were two killers. One was patient, only took what he needed. The other was more worried about meeting a criteria. They were looking for Two, hunters.
“...So there’s two. How is that possible, what was different about this one? It used the same method of harvesting the..Organs, and same cause of death.” Hanes leaned back in his seat, his hands folded neatly against his stomach.
“What wasn’t different about this one?” Anderson stared at Hanes as if he was an idiot, truly, what wasn’t different about this one? Different setting, different presentation..
“Just because this one was indoors doesn’t mean there’s two.” Anderson exhaled and folded his arms “You just, have a feeling? I need more than that to-”
“You’ve done more with less information.” Anderson cut Hanes off, much to his surprise.
Hanes cleared his throat and scratched his cheek “If there is two killers, we still have no leads on who either of them are.” Hanes stared at Anderson as he exhaled impatiently. The silence spoke volumes, Anderson had nothing to say. “Though, we have a list of every butcher in the area. I doubt our guy- guys would make more than a thirty minute drive in any direction from the aerial code.” Hanes set down a few pieces of paper “Take Cali with you this time.” Anderson grabbed the papers, his silence remaining long after he left Hanes’s office. Hanes let out a long sigh and turned his attention to the window.
It had been quiet. No new calls, no new murders. Quiet, it was something Anderson felt uneasy with. The quiet when he laid there in bed, in his home which was dark in the night. The only sound was the wind against trees, there were no frogs, no crickets. Quiet. However, closing his eyes to sleep was nothing more than all for naught, all he could see behind his eyelids were the scenes of people mutilated and strung up for awe.
He couldn’t help but stare at the ceiling, thinking of the woman. Her ribs splayed open as if it was a cage letting birds free. No matter how much he tossed and turned to get comfortable, he could feel the cold eyes against his back.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, which trailed to his arms, his legs. Suddenly, he felt dread. He felt paralyzed at the summit of fear and anxiety. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe. As he forced himself to turn over, he was met with those cold lifeless eyes. The colour long since being dulled and empty. He let out a shriek and yelled as he fell out of his bed. This hadn’t happened before, this wasn’t normal. He could see through the eyes of the killers, easily able to remind himself who he was, but now? Now he was seeing bodies in his bed.
He stayed there on the floor for a moment, propped up by his elbow. He struggled to breathe, his lungs wheezing to get anything in or out. After an eternity of minutes, he sat up. Staring at his empty bed, staring at the ruffled blanket and the sheet that had pulled from the corner. The bed was empty, no imprint of a person, no signs of entry or evasion. It was just him in the home, alone, in the dark. He exhaled all the air he had been saving.
“I’m just, not feeling well.” Anderson spoke to Hanes through his cracked door.
“Well, we have another one.” Hanes scratched his face “If you’re not too sick, we need you. It’s, worse.” Anderson opened his door a little more, he was a mess.
His hair was matted to his forehead, he looked as if he had a sheen and his eyes were dark “Worse?” He furrowed his brows “How worse?”
Hanes exhaled, a look of concern coming over him as he stared at Anderson “Hard to explain, hard to- illustrate.” He folded his arms close to his chest. His face was uneasy and unsure of how Anderson would react or feel.
Anderson let out a sigh “Give me 15 minutes.” With that said, he closed the door with Hanes still on his porch.
The drive there was quiet, only broken by Hanes asking why Anderson felt so ill. He had no real answer when he asked the many times, just that he caught something.
Quiet, fresh, the smell had not rotted into the metallic and rancid fume of decaying flesh. There wasn't dead age eating away at the most delicate layers of skin, the blood was still red and slick. "It seems, we have a pattern." Hanes looked at Anderson, his face lined with disgust.
"It seems we do."
His knees were snapped backwards, the skin on his arms peeled back in sections, mimicking the pattern of feathers on a dove's wing. His face was pulled back, torn, and contorted to resemble a beak. The two stood there, almost in a silent shock now fully letting it sink in, the sound of sirens grounding them in this reality. Staring at the body more closely did nothing to ease Anderson’s mind, every bone in the body had been broken, every organ rearranged except for the Heart. The heart was gone and replaced with a tied bundle of bay leaves, blue greek valerians, and meadow saffrons. Being close to the still lively flowers, he could smell the faint floral and sweetness mixed with the coppery and metallic head of blood.
“They mean something.” Anderson grumbled
“The bouquet?” Cali was pulling out any foreign objects out from the body, now forced to lay flat on a metal table.
“In the Victorian days women used flowers to send messages to each other, even in war they began using it as a secret language.” Anderson approached the table where the flowers and leaves laid splayed out in a neat row.
“Maybe it was just like the last one, just, flowers for the sake of flowers.” Cali set a small tray down on the table were the flowers and shards of glass laid.
“I doubt this person wouldn’t go through the trouble.” Anderson raised his brows as he stared at Cali, who raised her hands in defense.
“Yeah okay, I’ll humor you. What would they all mean?”
Anderson went quiet, what did they mean? He hadn’t dove into that world yet and hadn’t thought to do any research on the drive here.
“You have no idea do you.” He exhaled Cali rolled her eyes “Well, when you’ve done your homework give me a call. We both know I’ll be here…Alone. All night.”
She often was the last one to leave, many found it commendable how dedicated she was to getting every possible piece of the puzzle down, anything that looked useful. But in all reality, she had nothing better to do. She lived in an apartment, per her own choice, but she didn’t do much outside of work. In fact, she was consumed by her work. At home she would do research, look into tabloids, she kept up with everything behind the scenes. It was just how she was, she called it dedicated, others would have called it “Workaholic.” Anderson chuckled as he left.
Cali huffed with a smile “Couldn’t imagine.”
Anderson sat at his desk, the only light in the house was the lamp to the left of his computer. He was slouched over, his elbows resting on the edge of the surface and his hand clasped over his mouth as he went through site after site. Most were advertising books on the subject or redirected to cooking recipes, but finally after a ways down he found one that gave him what he was looking for. As he scrolled through, it wasn’t hard to find the messages.
He stared at the meaning of the Bay Leaf, his heart beat ever so slightly faster as he could feel his lungs lose their air and the struggle to breathe began.
I change but in death.
He stared at those words, the honoring this person gave to their victims, it was to change them. Anderson rubbed his face and let out a deep breath, as his eyes closed flashes of ripped up muscle and contorted skin grazed his thoughts.
He snapped open his eyes, only to find himself sitting in front of a creature, black feathers and a boney and exposed jaw threatening to open and snap against his head as it stared at him. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe. He watched as it huffed, the smell of rotting meat wafting against his face each time it emptied it’s lungs. The room began to fill with dark liquid, it was thick and clung to him like glue. As he felt the fluid seep into his eyes and nose, as he felt it fill his insides unwillingly… He woke up, at his desk. The house now lit with gray casted sun. Anderson exhaled as he leaned back into his seat. Something wasn’t right.