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Crime Drama Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Another dead girl. I tried to warn them. Fuckin’ idiots. When I noticed the ping on my phone, just minutes ago, I didn’t want to look at it. I knew it wouldn’t be good news. It wasn’t. The breaking news clip read, Another woman found stabbed to death on the north side. Possible ties to the One Percent Slasher. Well no shit. I threw my phone down on the kitchen table in disgust. I told them. I told all of them. So here I sit, no badge, no gun. Captain Stein was forced to put me on paid suspension, not that he was complaining about it. I saw that one coming. He said it came straight from the top, Mayor Sevens’ office. The Mayor has been trying to get rid of me since I started investigating him a few months ago. Captain Stein said I was an idiot for going down that path. He thought I was crazy. Maybe he’s right, but someone needs to find out how the Mayor has so much knowledge of this killer. Knowledge not even I or our forensic scientists have. My whole department thinks I’m insane. I must have struck a nerve with someone though, if the Mayor is going after me for some bullshit excessive force accusation from five years ago. Seems convenient that this is coming up now. I may be on leave, but there’s no way I’m gonna stop investigating this case. 

Two days later I got a 6 a.m. phone call from my best friend on the force, Lieutenant Allen Carpenter. Allen and I were classmates at the academy and have worked together on dozens of cases through the years. He’s the only person on the force who has taken me even remotely serious about my suspicions of Mayor Stevens. 

“It’s early, Allen. Didn’t you know people like to sleep in when on suspension?”

“Sergeant Hardin Stone, I’m pretty sure you haven't slept in since college. Let me guess, you’ve been up for at least an hour?”

“Actually, I’m working on about two hours of sleep. Was up until 1 a.m. working on this case. Then I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I’m working again.”

“I didn’t think cops on suspension were allowed to work on cases.”

“They’re not, but fuck it. They’ll never solve it without me. I’m the only one willing to look into possibilities that no one else will even consider.”

“True, but I think that is exactly why you’re on suspension. You don’t exactly have tact while accusing our very popular, duly elected public servant of being a serial killer who murders rich women.”

“Tact isn’t my thing. Never will be. What’s up?”

Allen waited a few seconds to respond to me. I could tell he was debating even making this phone call. “I think you should meet me at the diner,” he said with reluctance in his voice.

“Why? What have you found?”

“Just be there in an hour.” 

As I hung up, I knew this was something big. Allen didn’t believe in making a big deal out of things that shouldn’t be, and he was not one for theatrical drama, so I was sure this was going to be worth my time. 

I pounded the rest of my third cup of coffee and sped out the door. 30 minutes later, I found myself at the Primrose Diner. It was an old fashioned, 50’s-style roadside diner, just off of highway 37. It was far enough outside the city that Allen and I could meet and not be noticed. We’ve had many cups of joe and slices of hot cherry pie a la mode over the years, while discussing various murder cases. I had a feeling this one was going to top them all.

The bell rang as I walked through the front door and instantly the smells of roasting java beans, greasy eggs and bacon smacked me in my face. I could feel my arteries clogging on the spot. There was a long, quartz counter with 20 or so pleather bar chairs. The diner was about half full, as to be expected on a Wednesday morning. If I were to come at this time on a Saturday or Sunday, there would be a line wrapped around the building. I’ve found the weekday crowd to be much more tolerable. 

Behind the counter was Kermit, a squat, balding man with a decently trimmed beard.  I have no idea if that is his real name or a nickname, but it’s what he goes by. He had worked here for years and always gave Allen and me a free slice of pie with our order. His dad had been a cop, so he always told us how much he appreciated us. A good man for sure.

“Hey, Hardin! How’s it going today? He’s over there.” With that he extended his fat left arm to point to my usual table, where Allen was already sitting. 

“Thanks, Kermit!” I walked past five four-top booths to get to the table where Allen was sitting.

“I thought you said to be here in an hour. It’s only been 30 minutes.”

“You know how much I love Kermit’s pies,” he said with a forced laugh. 

“Pie at 6:30 a.m.? I sat down, poured my fourth cup of coffee of the morning from the pot Kermit had already left on our table, and stared straight at Allen. “Ok, your weirdness has piqued my interest. What do you got?” 

Allen seemed like he couldn’t believe what he was about to tell me. 

“Hardin, I think you’re right. I think your crazy ass is right.”

“About the Mayor?”

“Yes, about the fucking Mayor. What else would get me this worked up?”

“Well it took you long enough! I’ve been on this for months. Lost just about every friend on the force I got because of it, except maybe you.”

“Well, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I was just about to leave your ass on that crazy island you’ve made for yourself, but…”

“But, what? You clearly found something. What is it?”

“Hardin, what do all 14 of these murders have in common?”

“You mean besides the taunting notes from the killer? Well, the victims are all well-to-do women, their throats have been cut ear to ear and their hair has been cut off, probably with the same knife, after they were already dead”

“Right. The hair. What is the killer doing with the hair?”

“We don’t know. We haven’t found the hair. The killer takes it with him.”

“Exactly. But what the hell is he doing with it?”

“Sewing a toupee. Weaving a basket. Making a furry costume. Who knows?”

“Hardin, have you heard of the Mayor’s Growing Hearts initiative?”

“Well, yeah. Everybody has. It’s that giant vegetable garden in the center of town. Volunteers grow the food and use it to feed the homeless.”

“Exactly. Have you ever read the documentation the Mayor’s office released to the press?”

“Of course not. Get to the point.”

“Well I have a screenshot of one of the paragraph’s in my phone right here. You want to read this out loud?”

I took Allen’s phone and began reciting, “The Growing Hearts garden will flourish, thanks to the expertise of five local master gardeners, who designed the garden’s layout and gave recommendations for fertilization. The garden will be fertilized mostly by all natural compost, containing fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, grass clippings, and donated hair clippings.” I read that last part slowly, not believing what was in front of me. “You gotta be shitting me.”

“I shit you not, my friend. Now, this obviously isn’t enough to take him down, but it’s quite a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I think.”

Allen sat there staring into space. I was building up my courage.

“I have no choice. I have to break into his house.”

Allen’s head immediately spun to me while his jaw popped open. “What? Are you fucking insane?”

“There’s nowhere else I’ll be able to find any evidence to link him to it. I have to find out when he won’t be home, and get into his house and start digging around. The answers are all there. Look, it shouldn’t be that hard. He doesn’t have a family. He lives alone. He’s always out doing campaign dinners and whatnot. I just need to find out his public schedule and go then. There won’t be any security at his house if he’s not there. Not much anyway.”

“You’re on your own for this one, Hardin. The Mayor may not have a family, but I do. I’m not risking losing my job, or worse, for your dumb ass.”

“I didn’t ask you to. You’ve done enough. I’ll take it from here. Thanks, buddy!” I raced out of the diner and back to my house to start making plans for this stupid thing I was going to do. Maybe I am crazy. But I’m going to nail that son of a bitch if it kills me. And who knows, it just might. 

I spent the next few days and nights going over and over in my head, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to search the house. It was a Monday morning and I was about to make some waffles, when my phone pinged. This time the headline read: Victim number 15. Mayor Stevens to give a press conference at 5 p.m., just two hours before what should be his biggest campaign speech of the election. This was it! Tonight is my chance. The Mayor will be gone, campaigning at a $300 per plate dinner with the Teachers’ Union. 

The phone rang and I knew it would be Allen. “Hello?”

“I assume you’ve already heard about number 15?”

“Yes. I’m going in tonight. Right when he’s giving his little speech to the teachers””

“I don’t suppose there’s any way to talk you out of this.”

“Nope, I’m going.”

“Ok, Hardin. I can’t stop you. Just be careful.”

My heart was racing as I hung up. This is my chance to nail this bastard. He’s been getting away with this for way too long. He’s cocky and I guarantee he’s made a mistake. I just have to find it. 

The hours ticked by and it was finally time to be on my way. I listened to the press conference during the drive to his home. I had been driving past the house a few times during the last couple days, just to get the lay of the land. I knew there was a security camera attached to the garage and a doorbell camera on the front porch. It was quite a modest home for the most powerful politician in the city. Probably a 2000 square foot ranch, with merlot shudders and a blue spruce in the front yard.  Surprisingly light security, but he had always championed himself as the “People's Mayor,” living modestly among the common folk. Douchebag. 

I parked two blocks down the road, in a Kroger parking lot, and waited an hour or so for it to get dark. I knew I could approach the home from a side alley that ran alongside the next door neighbor’s house. Then I could simply hop the back fence and try to jimmy my way into a back window. Of course there's a good chance every window is alarmed, so all this may be for not, but I have to try.  

It was go-time. I left my phone in the car, so I wouldn’t be distracted. I was glad it was a cold night, so I could wear heavier clothes for more cover. I had on dark jeans, a navy blue Columbia jacket and a New York Yankees hat. I don’t even like the Yankees, but the hat helped me keep my face hidden, in case there are some looky–loo neighbors. I walked down the Mayor’s street, keeping my head down and eyes and ears open. I was aware of the entirety of my surroundings. 

I finally reached the side alley, next door to my mark. I quickly, but casually ducked down the alley and walked until I was out of sight. Then over two fences and I found myself in the backyard of where I wanted to be. Now the fun starts. 

There were three back windows to choose from. All three had the blinds pulled, so I couldn’t see which rooms they led to. When in doubt, pick the middle one. It’s as good a guess as any. I crouch-walked up to the window and looked around one more time to make sure no one could see me. I figured I’d try the obvious first. So I placed my gloved hands on the window and pushed in and up. It budged! By the grace of God, this window wasn’t locked. I pushed it all the way up and pushed the blinds out of the way as I hopped up and into the house. There were no beeps or alarms going off. Could I be so lucky that the alarm wasn’t set as well? This appeared to be the case. This was great! Or was it? Nothing is this easy. It made me leery, but there was no alarm, so I decided to continue on. This guy is either stupid or incredibly arrogant. 

The window I entered belonged to the bathroom. This room seemed to be clear, so I kept going. I slowly walked from room to room, using a mini flashlight to see, careful not to shine it through a window for a neighbor to be curious about. The bedroom, living room, office and kitchen were all clear. I couldn’t find anything at all to link this guy to these murders. There was no laptop, desktop, phone or note for me to look through. This was it. I hit a dead end. Fuck.

There was still a hallway closet to check, which could be a good hiding spot for a killer to store his tools, so all hope wasn’t lost yet. I walked to the closet door and opened it. It wasn’t a closet. There were steps leading down. This was a basement! My spider senses were on red alert. My cop instincts were screaming at me that I was about to find something of value. The hair on my neck and arms were standing straight up. 

I turned on the light and walked down the steps. It looked like a fully finished basement with a couch, huge 70 inch tv and a fully stocked bar. Quite the man cave indeed. I walked around, searching every inch of the room. I stumbled upon a closet and opened it up. There was nothing in there except a black trash bag. I opened it, looked inside and pulled out a wig of long blond hair. IIn an instant I threw the wig and fell backwards. It wasn’t a wig at all. It was hair, tied with twine and covered in dried blood. I grabbed the trash bag and emptied it to the floor. Several more hair bundles fell out. 

“Pretty bold of you, Sergeant Stone,” a voice rang out from behind me. I turned to see Mayor Stevens in a midnight blue suit pointing a revolver at me. “Surprised? I have a silent alarm that alerts me when some dirtbag breaks into my home.”

“Oh I’m the dirtbag? I’m not a serial killer. You were supposed to be at a campaign dinner.”

“Didn’t you know? It got canceled when word got out they found a 16th body.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you doing this? Isn’t it enough to have the power of politics behind you?”

“This is for the little people. The poor. The overlooked. No one gives a shit about them. The top one percent have everything while standing on the backs of the poor. It’s shameful and it’s time they get what’s coming to them.”

“Then why just women?”

“That’s a personal reason.”

“So, you’ve been rejected by women, so you kill innocent people. You’re a real fucking hero.”

“Innocence is in the eye of the beholder. You should’ve just stayed on suspension. If you wouldn’t have made your way down here, I would’ve just had you arrested. Now I have to kill you. Goodbye.”

I quickly reached down to pull the spare gun from my ankle holster, but it was too late. I heard a crack, saw a flash and fell backwards.  My pain sensors clearly hadn’t reacted yet. I looked down to see where I was bleeding from. I couldn’t find anything. 

I looked up to see a wide eyed One Percent Killer mayor with his eyes and mouth wide open. Then a stream of blood trickling down his mouth. He fell straight to the ground with a crackling thud. Behind where he was standing was Allen, gun in hand, arm still extended from the shot he just fired.

“Thought you might need some help. Once I heard he canceled his dinner I raced straight here. I’ll go call for back-up. You collect yourself. You think it was bad before? Now the real shit show begins.”

I looked up in disbelief. Somehow all I could muster to say was, “I could really use some cherry pie a la mode right about now.”

August 10, 2023 01:46

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4 comments

Jeannette Miller
16:39 Aug 14, 2023

Tim, I LOVE this story! Couldn't keep the smile from my face as I read each line :) I tend to sprinkle food into most of my stories so all the food mentioned in this was a delight. The pacing is excellent, the tone was perfection as I could picture this guy and his mannerisms as I read, and the story evolved with just the right amount info and suspense. I was hoping Allen was going to be there at some point so that was cool. The premise is really good. I could totally see some whack job like that collecting hair and murdering the 1% righ...

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Tim Rathz
18:16 Aug 14, 2023

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my story and offer positive feedback! :)

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Gregg Punger
22:19 Aug 17, 2023

Really good story. It read like a classic detective novel and is perfect for the prompt. Great descriptions and dialogue.

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Tim Rathz
01:29 Aug 18, 2023

Thank you for reading my story and for the positive feedback! I really do appreciate it! I'm truly glad you enjoyed it.

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