Detective Tina Monroe saw the rose sitting on the dead woman’s chest. The musky scent of the killer’s cologne fermented the air. It seemed morbid, but Tina admired how the killer painted the prostitute’s body with her own blood. The delicate rose that he laid between her bare boobs was the finishing touch.
Tina could tell that the killer used a switchblade to carve into the prostitute’s torso. They were clean and precise incisions.
“So what are we looking at?” Police Chief Danny White asked Tina. He kneeled over the dead woman with a lit cigarette penetrating his lips.
“We’re looking at a dead prostitute. I just found out that me and her share the same name,” Tina stated. She turned her head, glancing down at her police chief, causing her silver earrings to dangle against her neck.
“Whoever this guy is, he loves roses.” The police chief chuckled. He examined the prostitute’s body before slowly rising back to his feet. The big man stroked his silver goatee before placing his hard, Arctic steel eyes on Tina. The chief could see suppressed anxiety on Tina’s pale and delicately pretty face. He knew her thoughts since this was the third woman she discovered that shared her name.
Tina tried to hide her fear. She fixed her lips to say something, but her superior interrupted with his words of comfort.
“Don’t worry, darling. I know this is unnerving, but it probably means nothing,” Chief Danny’s rugged voice had an unsuspecting essence of tranquility.
“How can it mean nothing?” Tina took a deep breath behind her question while placing her hands on her hips. Her hand accidentally bumped into her gun holster, which remained locked around her curvaceous waistline. “This is the third woman we’ve found, slaughtered. And she shares my name just like the other two women. Someone is trying to send a message. They’re killing women who share my name so they can torture me first,” Tina stated her theory. She felt concerned for the safety of her husband and her 4-year-old son. Tracking down a killer was bad enough. What do you do if a killer is tracking you? Tina asked herself that question. It was a question she tried to avoid.
Chief Danny shook his head while releasing a rumbling sigh. “Don’t worry. We’re going to find the killer and my men will protect you and your family.” Chief Danny wanted to be a comfort to Tina.
Tina’s mind would not find peace until she captured the killer. She needed to see him in a prison jumpsuit wearing wrist and ankle chains. This would put her mind at ease. Tina shifted through her thoughts, trying to figure out if she pissed off anyone during her years as a cop. She even thought about her past flames. Tina only had a few ex-boyfriends, but that didn’t stop her from wondering if any of them wanted her dead. These mysterious deaths of the women who shared Tina’s name began when Tina reluctantly indulged her mother in a seance.
A seance is an attempt to communicate with the dead. Tina and her mother, Nora, found a ouija board app on Google Play. Tina’s mother downloaded it. A few nights ago, she talked Tina into joining her in a seance and using the digital ouija board to see if they could communicate with a dead loved one. The dead loved one was Tina’s dad. Tina got drunk and wild with her mom that night. The mother and daughter lit up the night like two drunken party girls.
Tina and her mom didn’t see the danger in playing with a ouija board app. They just played with the Devil’s toy while sharing a bottle of Crown Royal. Tina missed her father, Peter. He died when she was 21 years old. Her last memory of him involved holding his hand during his last hours in the hospital. To stop herself from crying about her father’s death, Tina thought about the happier moments she shared with her father. She thought about when he taught her how to drive, and how he kept making her laugh by doing an impersonation of Tony Montana from the gangster movie Scarface, which was Tina’s favorite film.
Every memory of her father seemed vivid. Tina would always see herself at the local fair, sitting on her father’s shoulders again, holding a pillow of cotton candy on a stick. Tina felt like her 6-year-old self, coasting her fingers through her dad’s thin snow-white hair. She could see the ends of her long white spring dress cascading over her father’s broad shoulders. The smell of popcorn and hotdogs serenaded the air.
Tina never lost the memories of going to the local fair with her dad. Those memories were never distant. They helped Tina forget about her father’s sickness and his death. Would an unhappy daughter engage her mother in a seance so that she could bring back her father? Would she get drunk with her mother to hide her depression? In Tina’s case, yes.
Tina thought her mother’s ouija board app would help her reconnect with her father, but what she got was a series of murders. A killer was sending Tina a message by murdering prostitutes who shared her name. A game of death haunted Tina, and she didn’t know how the game would end.
Tina laid in the bed beside her husband. Tossing and turning for hours made Tina long for the sunrise so she could escape her restlessness. She turned over on her husband, putting her delicate fingers through his dreadlocks. Tina wanted to kiss her husband, but she didn’t want to wake him.
She decided to kiss him. While kissing her husband, Jamal, she tried to figure out a way to cure her insomnia. Tina knew that kissing on her husband’s lips and waking him up wouldn’t help her sleep, but it felt good at the moment.
Jamal groaned and smiled a little when he felt his wife’s lips tickle his face. He knew his wife couldn’t sleep again. This was her pattern. After 6 years of marriage, Jamal became accustomed to his wife’s make love if you can’t go to sleep strategy. Jamal also knew that his wife loved touching him in bed.
“I’m sorry, baby. I know you were sleeping,” Tina whispered guiltily with her lips lingering over her husband’s bearded face.
“It’s okay, Sugar Plum. I know you’re having a hard time sleeping,” Jamal whispered up to his wife. He lifted his large and sturdy hand, casting a soft touch against Tina’s face. His smile morphed into a full-blown grin when Tina kissed the palm of his hand.
Tina loved it when her husband would call her Sugar Plum. She knew Jamal could sense her troubled spirit.
Lovemaking wouldn’t completely eradicate Tina’s anxiety. With her lips locked to her husband’s handsome face, she eased her way on top of him, sliding her fingers down his bare muscular chest. Tina loved how the heavenly moonlight coming through the bedroom window revealed the tattoo of a Siberian tiger’s maw on her husband’s chest. She also loved how the moonlight accentuated her husband’s flawless Nubian black skin.
Tina straddled her husband. She leaned down to give him a more sumptuous kiss while resting her prominent cleavage on his tattooed chest. Her ocean-blue satin negligee draped over her husband’s tall body. Tina was on an island of ecstasy, spreading her thighs farther apart and allowing her husband’s manhood to bloom further within her vagina.
Nothing could go wrong now. Once Tina felt penetration, she couldn’t turn back. Maybe falling into an erotic embrace with her husband might help her sleep afterward. Tina faced some guilt for feeling like a woman who was treating her husband like a sex toy. The guilt nagged Tina, and she tried to put it on the back burner.
Tina wanted nothing to interrupt the intimate moment with her husband.
After ten long minutes of pleasure, something happened. Tina had her hand resting on her husband’s chest. Her lips melted with her husband’s kiss. When Tina’s fingers breezed across what felt like a gaping bullet hole in her husband’s chest, her lips froze.
First came a gasp, then a loss of breath. Tina disconnected the kiss with her husband. Her eyes zeroed in on the hole in Jamal’s chest. There was blood on her fingertips.
“Baby, there’s a hole in your chest!” Tina released a breathless shriek. She leaped up, flicking on the bedroom light while still sitting on her husband’s abdomen.
“What’s wrong?” Jamal asked. He sat up in the bed, watching as his wife frantically rubbed her fingers across his chest. There was no bullet wound. Jamal flinched when he felt his wife’s glossy fingernails pinch the skin around his nipple. “Ouch! Baby, that hurts!” Jamal grabbed his wife’s wrist, gently taking her slender hand away from his chest.
“I’m sorry, I thought there was a—” Tina stopped herself, not wanting her husband to think that she had lost her mind. She examined her husband’s chest again with the help of the bedroom lamp’s artificial light and saw nothing but smooth skin and the edge of a tiger tattoo.
“You thought there was what?” Jamal wanted his wife to finish her sentence. He had to know what disturbed her to the point of losing her breath. “Come on, you can tell me anything. I know you’re stressed out about a few things.” Jamal caressed his wife’s cheekbone with the back of his fingers.
“You know I’m stressed out about a few things? Is it that obvious?” Tina felt embarrassed while gazing into her husband’s chestnut brown eyes. She told herself that she would never bring the problems from her job back home. “I’ve been trying to hide my troubles from you. Being a nightclub security guard is stressful enough. You don't need to have a crazy wife too.” A giggle escaped from Tina. She thought about how her husband had to deal with the stress of being an African-American man. Tina thought about how her family treated Jamal when she first introduced him as a boyfriend. Tina never forgot how her mother read an article that talked about the problems that interracial couples face. Her mother read the article off her phone right in front of her and Jamal. Tina’s mother even had the nerve to bring up Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, and the troubles they faced.
Tina's mother made Jamal feel uncomfortable at the dinner table because of the exotically beautiful melanin in his skin. For the first time, Tina saw the insidiousness of racism in her family. Tina’s father was more accepting of her new boyfriend. At least that’s how Tina perceived it.
“This is going to sound crazy, but I thought I felt a bullet hole in your chest,” Tina’s words eased from between her lips. She brought her full lips close to her husband’s face again. On the inside, she wanted to kick herself for telling her husband what she imagined.
“You felt a bullet hole in my chest? Goddamn, I told you not to smoke that weed. It'll make you crazy,” Jamal said jokingly, causing Tina to crack up.
Tina muffled her laugh with both her hands, not wanting to wake their son in the next room. “Yeah, you’re right, baby. Your wife is one crazy bitch,” Tina whispered in her husband’s face through her laughter. She leaned forward to kiss her husband but stopped midway when she heard distant whimpering. “You hear that?” Tina pulled back while scooping her long lava red curls behind her ears.
Jamal leaned forward when he heard a child crying softly. “Is that Omar crying?”
A wave of panic followed behind Jamal’s question. He bolted out of bed and so did his wife when they both realized that it was their son crying.
“Omar! What’s a matter, sweetheart?” Tina rushed into her child’s bedroom to see the little boy curled up into a ball while sitting on the floor in a corner, away from his bedroom window. “Baby, what happened?” Tina almost lost it when she saw her child in an extremely distressed state. Omar had his blondish, curly afro buried in his little palms. He used his knees to hide his divinely adorable face, which was drenched in sweat.
The child saw someone or something. Omar woke up suddenly to see a shadowy, hooded man standing outside his window. The man waved at Omar. The child’s breath became trapped in his throat when he realized that the man had to be on the roof to peer into his bedroom window. Omar couldn’t scream. Only soft whimpering escaped his throat.
Jamal felt his heart sinking when he saw his little boy curled up in the corner of his room. The father reached down to scoop the child into his arms, but his wife beat him to the punch.
“What’s wrong, my Little Prince? You all right?” Jamal put his fingers through his son’s afro. He watched as Omar shook his head, letting his father know he was not all right.
“I saw him,” Omar spoke those few words to his mother and father. The little boy buried his face into his mother’s shoulder after wrapping his bare, pint-sized arms around his mother’s neck.
“You saw who, baby?” Tina asked through a half-whisper after kissing the side of her son’s face. She cradled her son’s body securely in her arms, trying to stop him from trembling. Tina looked around at her husband with an unnerved haze in her eyes. Her mind immediately directed her thoughts toward the serial killer and the three dead prostitutes. Did he find my house? Is he coming for my family? Those thoughts hijacked Tina’s mind. Tina held her son’s face against her cheek, doing her best to comfort him. When she turned around, she noticed a small wet spot soaking through her son’s bedsheet. Her anxiety went into overdrive when she discovered that something disturbed her little boy so bad that he wet his bed.
“I saw a man in a black robe standing outside my window. He waved at me,” Omar whispered into his mother’s ear after gathering himself. Soon after the child told his mom what he saw, a loud crash, followed by a thud, radiated from the master bedroom.
“Shit!” Tina surrendered to her panic. Without thinking, she ran toward the doorway, slamming her son’s bedroom door and locking it.
“Tina, what’s going on?” Jamal couldn’t believe what was happening.
“He’s in the house! The killer!” Tina shouted. She needed her gun, but she always kept her gun locked away in her car. There was nothing Tina could do now. She stood beside her husband while holding her son, in shock over the fact that someone was attempting to knock down her son's bedroom door.
It didn’t take long for a burly man in a black robe to knock the door off its hinges.
“Jamal!! Honey don’t! He’ll kill you!” Tina screamed at her husband when he sprung into action, defending his wife and son. Jamal tackled the robed man. He threw a few punches into the man’s torso, but the intruder remained on his feet, unmoved.
Tina watched as the robed man waved his hand across her husband’s face, causing him to fall into a deep sleep. Jamal collapsed to the floor like a tall building with no foundation.
“What did you do to my husband?!” Tina roared at the robed man.
“Your husband will be okay,” A soothing and familiar deep voice emerged from beneath the man’s black hood.
Tina recognized the voice. “Dad?” She uttered, trying to see the man’s face.
“Your mother is the killer,” The robed man spoke again. “She killed the three women who shared your name. She also killed an innocent black man. Your mother’s racism drove her into insanity. She hated your husband so much that she shot an innocent black man to death. She wanted to murder your husband and you, but she took her murderous impulses elsewhere. It gave your mother pleasure to kill women who shared your name and to kill a black man. Your mother still loves you, so she couldn’t bring herself to kill you and your husband,” The robed man spoke gently.
Tina edged closer toward the man while still cradling her son. When she reached up attempting to remove the man’s hood, that’s when her world changed.
Before Tina could comprehend what happened, she found herself back at the crime scene, standing over the prostitute’s body.
“So what are we looking at?” Tina heard Chief Danny’s question. She turned to see her boss kneeling over the prostitute again. Tina couldn’t speak. She wasn’t sure if she was losing her mind or if some mysterious entity was playing tricks on her. Tina looked down to see the same red rose sitting between the prostitute’s breasts.
The memories of holding her son while standing in his bedroom were still fresh. She still had the memories of kissing her husband in bed. She remembered the man in the black robe breaking into her house. Was he real or was it a dream? Pieces came together when Tina pulled out her phone to see a text from her mother. The message said (Hi Honey, I’m sorry about getting you drunk that night. I’m at your house right now, sitting at the dining room table with your beautiful husband. Jamal loves the bouquet of roses I gave him for Father’s Day. He told me that my grandbaby is upstairs sleeping. Omar looks so much like his daddy. I just wanted to let you know that I’m at your house. So hurry home, because I have a delightful surprise waiting for you.) Tina knew she had to get home immediately after reading her mother’s text. All she could think about was making it home in time so she could protect her husband and her baby. A voice inside her head told her she might not like her mother’s delightful surprise. The man in the black robe told Tina that her mother was a racist murderer. Tina had to find out the truth. She needed to know if her mother was the killer, or did the Devil play a trick on her?