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~ Fragments of Fate And Fire ~ by Spiced Wine Mature
This will be a collection of fics, commissioned art, and gapfillers to flesh out events within my Dark Prince/Magnificat...
A Love Unspoken by cheekybeak General Audiences
A prequel to “Fire Dancing Upon Our Souls.” On a ship at Pelegir a newly stricken Legolas battles with the sea-longing...
Shadows and Cages by Narya Teen
In Gondolin, Fanari and Aredhel spend an evening by the fire. A gift ficlet for Spiced Wine for Legendarium Ladies April.
Melpomaen the Elfling by Glorfindel Explicit
Melpomaen is a reborn elfling. He has two fathers because Saruman cursed one of them to fall pregnant to the next elf they...
I'll be Yours if You'll be Mine by NelyafinweFeanorion Teen
Modern setting AU. Maedhros/Fingon. Maedhros owns a bookstore. Fingon is in grad school. Expect appearances from varied members...
Even the Birds Are Chained to the Sky by cheekybeak Teen
The story of Legolas, Elrohir and Maewen in Valinor. A Silvan child runs free and safe in Valinor but how free is he? A mother...
The Light Wraps You by Narya General Audiences
A moment between Celebrimbor and Orodreth after the news of Finrod's death. Written as a birthday gift for Gabriel – it's...

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Narya
04/22/18 10:25 pm
Yes, the world felt all clean and fresh today - we had a bit of a storm last night but not as dramatic as I was hoping!
Spiced Wine
04/22/18 09:51 am
We had two storms, late evening and about 1.15, really energetic, incredible lightning! It’s nice this morning though!
Narya
04/21/18 10:08 pm
Beautiful weather again today :) although thunderstorms forecast soon - I am waiting up for it, I love a good storm. How is everyone's weekend so far?
Narya
04/20/18 10:35 pm
Happy Friday :) it's been a gorgeous day here.
Spiced Wine
04/20/18 09:51 am
Happy Friday, everyone :)
Gabriel
04/20/18 12:47 am
Thank you Nelya, thank you Spiced. :)
Spiced Wine
04/19/18 08:22 pm
I’m glad you’ve had a lovely day, Gabriel :)
NelyafinweFeanorion
04/19/18 05:47 pm
Happy birthday Gabriel!
Gabriel
04/19/18 01:04 pm
Thank you so much Narya. I've had a lovely quiet day spending time with family. :)
Spiced Wine
04/18/18 10:08 pm
What a gorgeous day today! Like a taste of summer! I love sitting working with the door open!
Shout Archive


Beast by Nuredhel

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Chapter two: One plus one equals two….

 

Bard was supporting his head on his hands, staring down at his desk as if it was about to give the ultimate answer to life and death and everything. His head hurt and he knew that it only would get worse. He was about to return to his apartment for the night and had to think about the day’s events.

He and the constable had found Mr Carpenters office with relative ease and they had entered and found an office which looked more like a commercial from some company selling office equipment than someone’s work place. Everything looked as if it was bought yesterday and there wasn’t a single grain of dust to be seen anywhere. Bard already knew that Mr Carpenter had to have been close to suffering from some form of mental disease for nobody he knew of kept their office that tidy.

Fred made a grimace. “Oh crap, I hate this type of guy”

 

Bard frowned. “What do you mean?”

 

Fred made a gesture as if to embrace the entire room. “The too tidy type, they usually have something to hide”

 

Bard turned around. “Are you serious?”

 

Fred lifted some papers from the desk. “Oh I am, see? These papers here are placed by date, by date! Who the fuck does that? I am telling you Mr Bowman, this dude has skeletons in his closet, huge ones”

 

Bard took a deep breath” Then let us check those so called closets, but I doubt that we will find anything worth working with here.”

 

They went over the office swiftly but carefully, everything seemed to be in perfect order and nothing seemed to be incriminating. Mr Carpenter hadn’t worked with anything which involved money so it wasn’t very likely that he had done anything illegal while at work. He had simply had a job so boring it would have reduced others to tears, and he had done it with spotless precision. Mr Carpenter had to be the most boring individual Bard had ever come across if this truly was his whole life. He didn’t even appear to like sports, what man didn’t like sports?!

 

Bard felt tempted to tear the office apart and just check every little nook and cranny but he couldn’t. Fred was looking at the scene in front of them with narrow eyes and Bard allowed him to just stare, Fred was well known for being able to sniff out things which were out of place like a bloodhound. The shorter man frowned, then he turned to a small table in the corner. It was just a table, the type which is placed in thousands of offices everywhere and a chair was placed next to it to provide visitors with a place to sit. The table was almost empty and only two thick files filled with papers regarding some laws about money transactions laid upon it. But Bard did see what Fred had reacted to, a small ashtray was also placed there and Fred stared at him and nodded. “Mr Carpenter didn’t smoke, and I cannot see why a man like him would allow visitors to smoke in his office”

 

Bard felt his mouth go dry, it was that feeling, the feeling of being onto something, it was like none other. Fred lifted the ashtray, it was made from ceramics but it was definitely mass produced, not some artwork done by the kids or something like that. It was dark brown, anonymous in every manner except….Fred turned it upside down, on the underside they both saw something small, taped to the bottom. Bard held his breath as Fred released it, it was a memory stick, very small and dark brown just like the ashtray. Fred held it up like a trophy, there was triumph within his eyes. “I told you so, skeletons!”

 

Bard felt his heart speed up. “I will let Elisa look at it, but what sort of things can an accountant really be hiding? He is so far one of the least interesting people I have ever come across”

 

Fred almost sneered. “Still water runs deep Mr Bowman, mark my words. I once heard of this old lady who lived in this cosy little cottage just outside of the town where I grew up. Sweetest old woman you can imagine, baked the best cupcakes ever and everybody loved her. When she died they discovered that she had been a Nazi during the war and that she had worked in a concentration camp, sending hundreds if not thousands to their deaths. The truth is always hidden”

 

Bard felt a chill running down his spine, the truth…How often hadn’t he prayed for that to be revealed to him, to be granted a chance to understand, to see what it was that had driven Sophia to such a terrible end. He had never been able to fully get a grasp on it, she had seemed so normal, so happy. Just like she normally did. Yes, she had suffered some dark moments but he had been there damn it, every day he had been there with her. He ought to have seen something, something which could have warned him that it was more than just a simple depression. He had seen naught and that continued to nag him, and he was sure it would until his dying day. There wouldn’t be a single day in which he wasn’t reminded of the things he still didn’t know.

 

He and Fred left the office and told the one in charge of the building that it was to be closed up until further notice. Then Fred returned to the headquarters while Bard visited the scene of the murder once more. Now everything was gone, just some tape was left and a few dark spots on the ground, a swarm of flies did take to the air as he got closer and he could smell it now. The stench of death was unlike anything else. The back alley was dark and very uninviting even in daylight, what in heck’s name had drawn such a man into this place? Drugs? That was possible of course but Mr Carpenter hadn’t seemed to be the type to use drugs, such things always left you sloppy and made you do mistakes. More so, it did cost lots of money and even though the Carpenters hadn’t seemed to be very poor they weren’t rich either. Their budget couldn’t possibly sustain drug abuse. He would have to get someone to take a look at their finances, maybe that was where the dog lay buried.

 

He dropped by Judith on his way to the office, she was in the phone with someone and she seemed to be upset. She was gesticulating and her voice had a hard edge to it, Bard didn’t know if he liked that. It took something rather grand to bring her out of balance thus. She ended the conversation and tossed the phone into a small casket shaped box on the desk, she did have some humour after all. She pulled some loose strands of hair out of her face and made an ugly grimace. “Mr Bowman, just the man I was waiting for. I sent some photos of the hair we found to some colleagues.”

 

Bard appreciated that she said “we” when in fact she had found it. “And?”

 

She crossed her arms across her chest, with her lab coat on that made her look very determined. “They couldn’t identify it, at all. I am gonna send a sample of it over to the main laboratory upstate, they have a gas chromatograph, it ought to solve the puzzle”

 

Bard made a grimace. “Just don’t send the whole thing please”

 

Judith smiled. “No worries Mr Bowman, I only need some micrograms”

 

Bard walked up to the office, it was getting late and he wondered where this day had gone. His stomach did grumble and he remembered that he hadn’t eaten for many hours. Elisa was still there and she sat behind her computer and were busy sending emails. She looked up and smiled, the soft dark brown eyes and the round face did reveal her native origin and her last name, Snowshoe, did also speak of it. Elisa never let anything rock her calm attitude and Bard did appreciate her steady faith in their efforts. He picked the memory stick out of its plastic container. “Here, we found this at Mr Carpenter’s office, it was hidden.”

 

Interest sparked in her eyes and she grasped it and found a small laptop which looked rather special, she started it and plugged the memory stick into its USB entrance. “I won’t use my ordinary computer for this, if this contains some sort of protection I would prefer to have my hard drive un-fried and free of viruses.”

 

She found a separate keyboard and started typing and suddenly Bard saw that the small screen was being filled with odd symbols. Elisa did swear, but she did sound impressed. “This is encrypted, balls! Whoever has done this is a pro!”

 

Bard frowned, he did not understand computers that well, their inner secrets were to him like the backside of the moon. He knew it was there but he had no desire to seek it out. “How do you know?”

 

She was staring at the screen. “Because this is a third degree encryption, goddamn it, it is the type governments uses to protect state secrets”

 

Bard felt a strange heavy feeling gather within his gut. “Could Mr Carpenter…”

 

Elisa shook her head. “Be some sort of spy or state agent? I doubt it, it is possible to get these sorts of programs but they are not cheap, unless you buy them off the black market and then you cannot be too sure about the quality. You risk losing all your data.”

 

She worked on, the symbols did change a tiny bit “Horse-ass! This is high class shit”

 

Bard felt nervous energy building up inside. “Can you break the encryption?”

 

Elisa looked as if she was about to tear her hair out in sheer frustration. “Yes, but it will take hours, see this here?”

 

She pointed at some of the symbols. “ It is a sort of booby trap, if you try to get past the encryption with the wrong key it will dissolve all the data into meaningless mumbo jumbo, everything will be lost”

 

Bard moaned. “Please don’t do that, tell me you have the key?”

 

Elisa grinned. “I don’t but I know someone I bet does, he is a hacker and the best I know. I will ask him for help.”

 

Bard sighed and felt that the excitement did die down a bit. “Can you tell me anything at all?”

 

Elisa nodded and pointed at some rows of symbols. “Those there usually mean numbers, and the rows down here are pictures, JPG’s I think.”

 

Bard frowned. “Pictures?”

 

Elisa shrugged. “Yes, could be anything really, so don’t make hasty conclusions.”

Bard took a deep breath. “Right, have you heard anything about the murders seven years ago?”

 

She nodded and spun her chair around, opened a tab on her office computer. “I have, like I said, six murders over eight months.”

 

He sat down, feeling a bit shaky again. “And?”

 

Elisa grinned. “You are impatient or what? Okay, the dead are all men, ranging from the age of twenty two to sixty nine and there were no pattern this time neither. They were found all through the city, the M.O the same. Impaled upon something solid, guts torn out. Pretty gruesome and very efficient too”

 

Bard stared at the screen, he saw images flashing by, six faces and he wondered where this wild goose chase would lead them. “Nothing out of the ordinary?”

 

Elisa had to grin. “Damn right, exactly the same M.O as our cases here. Nothing left, not a clue. One was found hanging from the wall of a feed silo, his co-worker had driven past it just a few minutes before and he had seen naught. And nobody had heard anything, not in any of the cases. That strikes me as the most odd thing, none of the victims did scream”

 

Bard felt chilled again, it was truly odd, and it was creepy too. “The agent who is coming, what do you know of him?”

 

Elisa switched to another tab. “Not much, he is relatively new but that can be a good thing, he isn’t locked into his own routines yet. He was best in his class at the academy and he has served two years in the army previously”

 

Bard tilted his head. “In the army? What part of the army?”

 

Elisa was using the mouse with lightning speed. “The ranger corpse, apparently he was wounded in battle and had to find something else to do”

 

Bard felt a surge of respect, a former ranger, then this was a real fighter and not some weekend warrior who believed that his gun and his badge made him bad ass. “What is his name?”

 

Elisa pointed at the screen. “Faramir Brown”

 

Bard stared at a picture of a rather handsome man with a face which looked rather young and the guy did look calm and sensitive. That was good, he didn’t want some trigger happy gun nut in his unit and absolutely not protecting his back in action. Elisa smiled. “He seems like a good guy, we could have gotten someone worse”

 

Bard cringed, eight years earlier they had faced a row of identity thefts, when some high end politician got her id stolen the feds sent an agent to supervise them and it turned out to be the most horrible person Bard had ever come across. The guy had been extremely stern and didn’t allow any sort of attempts at breaking protocol and if you said even the smallest thing which could be interpreted as criticism you’d better brace yourself, for a shit storm of accusations were heading your way. Curumo Larsen had been a good old piece of dry wood and a man of the old school and Bard had been afraid that the old fart would order everyone spanked for not working hard enough. Elisa swore they had dug the guy up from some bog and removed the stake through his chest before putting him to work. The sad thing was that his assistant was worse, a creepy grey faced dude with an odd lack of eyebrows and a sleazy behaviour which made him absolutely hated by everyone. He had been especially fond of Judith with her blond hair and elegant features and she swore she was close to pouring formaldehyde into his tea just to get rid of him. He made Alfrid seem like a prime specimen of honest and proper manliness.

 

Bard had to laugh “ At least they didn’t send count Dracula back”

 

Everybody had called Mr Larsen that, not so he heard it of course, but it had become a standing joke there that if they misbehaved the feds would send him back to haunt them. Elisa stretched and yawned. “It will be a long night Bard, I can feel it. I have a shit load of stuff which has to be done”

 

Bard stared at her. “Elisa, there are other people within the unit who can do some of the work, you are aware of that right?”

 

She snorted. “Who? Leonard? He is so eager to get promoted he works way too fast and misses important clues even if they are right in front of him. And Duke? He is so freakin’ shy he spends a week gathering the courage to ask to be excused because he needs to use the bathroom. Nope, it is me and you and Albert, and Fernando, if he survives the night”

 

Bard giggled. “Oh he’ll outlive us all, he is smoking so much he is like cured ham by now, he’ll last forever.”

 

Bard returned to his office to gather some of his stuff, he went through his emails and found nothing new except the annual reminder from the officer responsible for their gun training. He needed to get his certification renewed and he cringed and sighed. He hated it, hated having to carry a gun with him. He had used to carry a rather hefty 45 calibre Smith and Wesson revolver but now he had switched it for a 9 mm Beretta. It didn’t look nor feel as intimidating. He should find some time to fire off the required shots soon, just to get it over with. It was a formality but it had to be done. Some years ago the station had employed an officer who was cross eyed and the guy was a serious danger to everything around him except the target which he never hit even once.

 

Then he went to his apartment, it was small and rather boring but he only used it to sleep in. The house he had lived in with Sophia and the kids had been sold, he couldn’t stay there anymore. He had tried for the sake of the kids but it held too many memories and it had wrought havoc upon his nerves to walk the rooms in which he had been genuinely happy. He had never understood why Sophia had chosen him, she had been a genuine beauty with a heart too large for her fragile body and he had worshipped her. Bard had always known that he was drawn both to females and males and it had given him much heartache over the years and lot of doubt too but with her he had been complete. The house had been sold rather fast in spite of its history and the money had been very welcome but they didn’t bring Sophia back and Jean had brought the kids to her place on the very outskirts of the city. It had been a farm once, now it was surrounded by villas and some mansions. Jean had been offered a fortune for it but she refused to sell. The place was locally known as Rivendell for a small creek used to run through it and the property still had a huge barn with stables and corrals. The kids loved it there and Bard was glad there was a good school nearby. The schools within the city were not good the way he saw it, the teachers didn’t really see the students, they just stood there like machines giving the same lecture over and over again and those who didn’t fit into the little box called normality faced problems right away.

 

Bard had a couch, a table and a tv set, the kitchen was the very simple type and his bedroom had just one bed and a closet filled with cheap shirts and pants. He didn’t need much more, his salary went to Jean and the kids. Jean was a tough lady, she had gotten Sophia when she was eighteen and being  a single mom back then had been hellish but Jean had pulled through, and managed rather well too. Bard was eternally grateful for that woman and her strength.

He ordered some take away from the local fast food shop and then he sat to watch a movie, he had seen it before so he just sat there, not paying attention until he got too tired and took aim at the bed. He was asleep within minutes after he laid down and this night he didn’t even dream, which was unusual. Normally his sleep was interrupted by dreams of the past, of the good days when he and Sophia had lived such a good life. He would remember her carrying the kids, the excitement and the fear he had felt when each of them was born, the pride and the elation when everything went right. Those were the good dreams, the bad ones he couldn’t even bare to think about, Tilda had nightmares but she wasn’t the only one…

 

He woke up early, feeling slightly dizzy and thirsty, he jumped in the shower and then he opened the fridge to find that he was almost out of practically everything, he rarely remembered to shop for groceries and that meant that breakfast would consist of just a glass of milk and some microwave oatmeal, with water. He would have to get some more substantial food later, Jean always complained about his appearance whenever they met. When Sophia had been alive he had been on the border of becoming a wee bit overweight but now he was reduced to what she referred to as skin and bones. Maybe she was right, he ought to take better care of himself but it was hard, he just didn’t feel as if there was any point in it. He found some clean clothes and headed back to the headquarters again, wondering what this day would bring. He was met in the door by Fernando who was standing there looking like an old fashioned tobacco commercial, Bard had to shake his head. “You know that smoke signals went out of use more than a hundred years ago?”

 

Fernando just grinned, his teeth were suspiciously white and everybody were arguing if whether or not the man had artificial teeth. “You are very funny Mr Bowman”

 

Bard didn’t really think it was that funny at all, Fernando ought to carry a biohazard sign for the amount of smoke he managed to produce each day had to rival even the amount an average coal powered electricity plant spewed out. He almost ran up the stairs and saw that Elisa was by her desk as always, she hardly ever left the office and she was the department’s eyes and ears out in the great cyber world. He headed over and she saw him, smiled and moved her chair aside. “Hello Bard, you are inn early?”

 

Bard nodded. “Woke up early, it is not usual for me I know”

 

Elisa nodded and her face revealed that she was disappointed for some reason. “I am sorry Bard, my friend haven’t managed to crack the encryption on that memory stick yet. All we do know is that it is full, about one GB of data. And it contains a lot of files, some small but also some huge ones, he thinks it may be small videos.”

 

Bard nodded. “Right, but he can get through the encryption eventually?”

 

She nodded. “He swore he would and I do trust that he can manage yes. I don’t think he will fail, he is stubborn and very skilled”

 

Bard nodded and knew that hacking was illegal but sometimes you have to crack eggs to make an omelette. Better to have someone on the inside of that very elusive society than trying to solve such puzzles alone. He took a deep breath. “Has the agent arrived yet?”

 

Elisa nodded. “Yep, I picked him up at the airport an hour ago, he is already out here with Leonard and Albert, taking a look at the different murder scenes. I liked him, I truly did. He seemed to be one very dedicated to his job without being a cocky s.o.b.”

 

Bard smiled and sat down, he felt old all of a sudden but it was just silly. He wasn’t old, he was in his prime and he ought to have been full of energy and what Sophia had described as pep. Something had indeed happened to him after she died, he felt like an extinguished candle, just ashes left. The job and the kids was what kept him from falling apart completely. “I am glad to hear that, so, have you heard anything new?”

 

Elisa suddenly looked insecure, her eyes did flicker from side to side and she bit her lower lip. “Uh, yes, take a look at this”

 

She activated her screen and an email appeared. It was from a police investigator in Salt lake city and files were attached. Bard blinked. “Don’t tell me that…”

 

Elisa nodded. “Oh yes, five years ago, four murders within the span of exactly one month, august. All unsolved, all the exactly same method as here and Detroit”

 

Bard felt faint, he was glad he was sitting down. “Oh God, this one is on a killing spree”

 

Elisa nodded slowly. “I am afraid to open my mail now, afraid of what I will see. God alone knows for how long this has been going on…”

 

Bard closed his eyes, no police department has the resources to continue chasing someone for years when the murders have stopped,  the case files would be stored of course but it would be reduced to yet another row of cold cases. This killer was smart, terribly so. He had stopped just before the feds would have been called, just before the full resources of the police had been gathered to bring him down.  Bard swallowed. “Creepy bastard!”

 

Elisa nodded slowly. “Amen to that. But why? Why is he doing it? What makes him chose his victims?”

 

Bard tilted his head. “Something tells me that the moment we figure that out we can solve this, or at least get a better picture of who he is”

 

Elisa was a bit pale. “What if he has done this in small places too? Places where they don’t use the same methods as we do, small police stations barely used to handle murder at all?”

 

Bard stared at the screen. “I bet he has, oh Lord I am sure he has”

 

Why he said that he didn’t know, it just dropped out of him. Elisa took a deep breath and was about to say something when they heard a roar from Mr Montgomery’s office, it sounded like a mixture of both wrath and shock and Bard stared at Elisa who stared back wide eyed. “What in the name of….”

 

Thor tore the door open and shouted. “Everybody, switch on the TV, right bloody now!!”

 

Bard ran over and switched the thing on and they immediately saw why the chief was so upset. It was a face they all knew too bloody well and behind her they saw that back alley where Mr Carpenter had found his sad end. Bard almost growled. “Oh fuck, fucking fantastic! Wonderful! How the fuck has that woman managed to find out about this?!”

 

Elisa just hissed and Thor let out another roar. “If someone in here has had a slip of the tongue I will personally tear it out, do you hear?!”

 

Bard stared at the face of the most hated reporter in the entire city, the police force absolutely loathed the woman for she had no respect for the law, for the unwritten rules they all lived by. She would haunt the families of the deceased and ask them the most inappropriate questions imaginable and she gave a flying fuck about the investigations. Bard moaned lowly. “Oh this time she has done it”

 

The lady on the screen was dark of hair and rather plump with small dark eyes and she wore a hat which was completely ridiculous. Someone in the department had once called the woman “hogzilla” and the word had stuck. She had a tongue so poisonous it would have made a black mamba blush with jealousy and she didn’t care that much about the truth. The main goal of her was to catch the attention of the public and that she did do, in excess. The woman smiled, pointing back towards the still sealed off alley. “And here is the place where the poor citizen met his gruesome fate as one of now five victims of a most terrible serial killer. The question which lingers is, what is the police really doing? Who is the next to die so horribly? Is anybody safe?”

 

She stared straight into the camera and grinned, Bard had seen a huge lizard in the zoo which had exactly the same expression within its eyes, sheer animalistic hunger. “This is Lobelia Sackville for the Daily news”

 

Thor swore, so bad Elisa ducked and some of the other officers there cringed visibly. “And now the cat is out of the sack, shit! Prepare for a hailstorm of epic proportions”

 

Bard swallowed. He wished that he could have removed that woman from this country, sent her to Antarctica or something but that would be just cruel, some poor leopard seal may try to eat her and die from indigestion. Thor leaned against the door frame, he looked tired. “Elisa, Bard, over here, now!”

 

He turned around and they followed him, he shut the door to the office with a bang. “I don’t think I need to tell you what this truly means?”

 

Elisa nodded. “Not a word right?”

 

Thor closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose. “Right, I have no fucking clue about who her informant is but when I find out, oh his or hers ass is mine!”

 

Bard cringed and knew that Thor would be all over that poor person like an angel of vengeance. Being sacked from the job was the least of that person’s worries. Thor turned to Bard. “She will go after you in special since you are head of the investigators assigned to this case, can you handle it? I don’t want any incidents, of any kind”

 

Bard sighed. “I know, I will…be civilized.”

 

Thor stared at him, the dark eyes were both hard and soft at the same time. “I know Bard, if she gets too nasty let me know. I can pull some strings, certain people do owe me some huge fucking favours, it shouldn’t be too hard to have her assigned to some other city, for a while”

 

Bard tried to smile, he remembered that Lobelia had been tormenting him for weeks after Sophia…No, he didn’t want to think of it. That woman was like a bloody vulture, she thrived on death and misery. Elisa smiled, a sinister grin. “I can make her life miserable? I am sure I can do some damage, of course untraceable damage”

 

Thor smiled, a somewhat sardonic smile. “Elisa dear, that is tempting but no, we are the law, we ought to follow its teachings. Just remember that there is such a thing as karma, and I will the first one to laugh when it strikes her down”

 

Elisa growled. “If it ever does, the devil takes care of his own”

 

Bard had to sit down for a while, he told some of the officers there to take a look at the Carpenter family’s finances just in case, then he looked at the files they had received and he soon developed a headache. Fifteen murdered people and yet nobody had anything in common? What sort of serial killer was this?

 

He sat there until Fernando entered the office, he sat down next to Bard and made a grimace. “Know what? It is all over the news, a new serial killer, who murders random people. They have already given him a name”

 

Bard moaned and wished that he could have gone straight to the nearest bar and gotten royally drunk. “What?”

 

Fernando shrugged. “The shrike, after that little bird you know, who impales its victims on sharp thorns, Lanius Collurio something”

 

Bard frowned. “What the heck Fernando, Lanius..whatever. You remember this sort of shit?”

Fernando shrugged again. “Yes, I have a unique brain”

 

Bard just mumbled. “More like smoke  preserved”

 

Fernando pretended that he didn’t hear, he just smiled and Bard leaned back against the backrest of his chair. He felt scared, when people learned of such cases panic could be the  result and he had seen it before. People lost all ability to think rationally and just acted like a bunch of morons. Three years earlier two kids had gone missing and as a result everybody started keeping their kids at home, the schools were closed for two weeks and some were hysterical. A couple of people on the sex offender list had been badly beaten and some people had gotten together and demanded that everybody who was on the list were either deported or chemically castrated.  The kids were found a month after, tragically it had been an accident. They had been playing by the river and fallen into the opening of a huge pipe used when there was flooding of the streets, it had been abandoned and forgotten years ago and was sealed off like a cement tomb. They had died within a couple of days due to dehydration and it had been an awful discovery but it showed just how fast people thought the worst and started shouting wolf wolf when they didn’t even have any evidence that there had been a crime committed.

 

Bard tried to make a real list of the victims, just so it would be easier to visualize the crimes and it was hard, he kept getting distracted and he saw that Elisa was busy with something too. Some were over at the Carpenter’s again to ask even more questions and Fred had been ordered to interrogate Mr Carpenter’s colleagues. Bard didn’t envy the poor dude, if they were anything like Mr Carpenter that had to be downright boring. Bard was trying to read through the files when he heard Thor’s voice. “Bard, the profiler is here, I think I will leave him to you, you know this case by now”

 

Bard looked up, Thor stood by his desk and behind him stood what Bard for a moment only could describe as an angel. The man was so handsome the only word which fitted him was beautiful. He had rather long light blond hair gathered in a loose pony tail and the bluest eyes Bard had ever seen. He looked like a model, too perfect to be human. Bard felt his mouth go dry, he felt like a savage compared to this specimen. The man wore good clothes, expensive but not overly so, yet he did carry himself with a sort of self-assuredness which told Bard that the guy was well used to wealth and that he also was used to being respected. His age was impossible to guess, but he looked fit and strong and God, he was tall. Bard had to stare for a few seconds, the man was taller than himself, not by much but he did look as if he sort of dominated the entire room just by standing there.

 

Bard swallowed, how could anyone look that gorgeous? It wasn’t fair. He managed to smile and got up, not really knowing what to say. “Mr Oropherson, this is Bard Bowman, leader of our investigators.”

 

The tall blonde reached out and Bard had to take his hand, hoped he didn’t look like a complete moron. “I am very pleased to meet you Mr Bowman.”

 

The voice was deep and soft and sent shivers down Bard’s spine, pleasant ones. He hadn’t reacted thus to another male for…for longer than he could remember. “Uh, pleased to meet you too, please, call me Bard”

 

The profiler smiled, the smile was the loveliest thing Bard had ever seen. “And I am Thran, actually it is Thranduil but that is a mouthful now isn’t it?”

 

Bard nodded, his mind was reeling, what to say? He felt like a schoolboy who has developed a sudden and lethal crush on the teacher. Thran did have a thick English accent but at the same time there was something else there too, something Bard couldn’t identify. “Ah, yes, please, find a chair, I will fill you in on the events.”

 

Thor returned to the office and Bard felt as if he had been abandoned somehow, how was he to handle this? He had sort of imagined the profiler to be some old guy with glasses and a smell of mothballs, not this drop dread gorgeous man who made even some of the straight guys in the room turn their heads. “So, I don’t know how much you have heard of this case? What have they told you?”

 

Thran shrugged, the dark jacket he wore fit perfectly and revealed that he had wide shoulders and long arms. And those hands. God! Those were hands a piano player would kill for, strong and elegant and Bard had to stare at some of the more grizzly images on his screen to keep his thoughts on the straight and narrow. “I have been told that this is a serial killer, that he has eleven murders behind him at least and that he probably has been at it for years”

 

Bard cringed. “Uh, fifteen that is confirmed at least. We suspect more”

 

The icy blue eyes revealed both shock and intrigue. “Really?”

 

Bard nodded, tried not to look at that angelic face. “Our computer expert got a mail just hours ago, confirming four new ones, or rather, four we didn’t know of until then”

 

Thran leaned back into the chair, crossed the long legs and Bard did notice that his shoes were very expensive. They were discreet just like the rest of the outfit but high quality and Bard realized that this was a person who knew quality but at the same time didn’t want to flaunt it. “That is interesting, this many murders and yet he has remained unknown until now! Usually a killer like this becomes famous rather fast!”

 

Bard nodded. “Yes, but he hasn’t stayed in one place, he obviously skips from one state to the other, never murders so many that the really serious alarms are set off. It is…creepy”

 

Thran appeared to be thinking hard. “You have been a police officer for how long?”

 

Bard swallowed. “Fifteen years, I was an ordinary patrol officer but I sort of climbed”

 

Thran just nodded. “You have experience then, and that is valuable. What does your instinct tell you about this one?”

 

Bard tried to stay calm. “He won’t quit, but he isn’t doing it for the ordinary reasons. He isn’t after fame, and he doesn’t leave any clues. The murders are more like executions of some sort, gruesome ones but still”

 

Thran nodded again, his eyes distant and Bard wondered how on earth a person with such blonde hair could have dark eyebrows? It looked strange, pretty yes but unnatural. “I think you all have come to the conclusion that the victims are being punished”

 

Bard made a grimace. “Yes, but for what? They have absolutely nothing in common, we have searched through their lives and practically torn them apart and we have found nothing! They were ordinary citizens, normal people”

 

Thran closed his eyes, seemed to be almost asleep for a few moments. “You have to look deeper, there has to be something there”

 

Bard nodded. “We found a memory stick in the office of the latest victim, Elisa is working on it but it has some hefty encryptions”

 

Thran tensed up and for a moment there was something in his eyes which reminded Bard of a wolf. “Good, there is the key to this, I am sure of it. A murderer like that never does it for pleasure or enjoyment. It doesn’t even have to be anything personal. But he is following a sort of calling, he is on a mission”

 

Bard sighed. “I have read about such people, they usually claim that God is giving them the orders to kill”

 

Thran smiled again. “Yes and what intrigues me with this one is that he hasn’t tried to justify his work, most do. They leave notes or bible verses and it is like they know it is wrong but they still cannot help it and often it is as if they want to be caught, to be punished. This one doesn’t. “

 

Bard looked down. “And that makes him so much more dangerous right?”

 

Thran nodded. “Yes, tell me more about the victims, take your time and use your own words”

 

Bard frowned but opened the files again, started telling the blond about each and every one of them. He knew them by now, as if they were old friends. Thran just sat there, listening. Bard didn’t doubt that this man was good at his job, he had the sort of personality and charisma that made people trust him and open up. Bard was about to start going through the four new ones when Fernando raced through the door, he looked shocked. “Everybody, Stella at dispatch just got a call from 911. A dead person has been found, we have another one”

 

Bard just stared and Elisa got up. “Are you bloody sure? It cannot be just some random death?”

 

Fernando shook his head, he had a peculiar expression upon his face. “Nope, same M.O. Guys, it is a priest!”

 

Bard swallowed hard and Elisa moaned. “Oh shit, now people are really gonna tilt, where and who?”

 

Fernando was still looking as if he was sucking on something incredibly sour. “The orphanage down by St Christopher’s cathedral, fader Seamus. It is a bloody mess down there so we’d better get going, before that awful woman catches a whiff of this”

 

Bard got up, feeling frantic, a priest, what was next? Thran got up too. “May I tag along? I may learn something important by watching his handy work”

 

Bard nodded. “Be my guest, but I do hope you haven’t eaten anything for a while, this one…is messy”

 

Thran just smiled, a sort of melancholic smile. “Don’t worry, I can handle it”

 

Bard grasped his badge and gun and rushed down the stairs, Thran was right behind him and Bard did see a very nice and rather classy Mercedes parked outside, it wasn’t hard to figure out who it belonged to. Bard took one look at the worn out cruiser he used and cringed, that car had seen its fair share of both belligerent criminals and puke. One dude had pissed all over the back seat, just in spite. He hesitated and Thran smiled. “I can drive, my car is fast”

 

Bard took a deep sigh of relief, the idea of that lovely clean suit in his dirty stained seats would have made just about any professional dry cleaner cross themselves and pass out. The car was luxurious but not overly so, yet Bard sensed that Thran could have afforded something much more spectacular. When they reached the street Bard did realize yet another fact about their guest, he did drive like someone trained for it, like a cop or a race driver. He was using the gears with expert precision and Bard was intrigued by that. Most who bought an expensive car didn’t want one with stick shift. Thran was almost dancing with the traffic, using the massive engine for all it was worth and Bard was shocked to see that the pretty blond was grinning the whole time. Thran turned his head for a short moment. “I don’t get to really drive that often, but now I have a police officer riding shotgun so I can really let her stretch her legs”

 

Bard frowned. “Her?”

 

Thran nodded. “Listen how the engine is purring? Of course this car is a she, just look at those lines”

 

Bard had to grin, but he wondered about the preferences of the other man. Thran was just…he was too bloody pretty to be straight, or was he? Bard hadn’t noticed a wedding ring and he suddenly felt terribly aware of the fact that he still wore his. He hadn’t removed it, it had felt…wrong to do it. Thran smiled even wider and passed some taxis. “My father owned a raceway, not a large one but I was allowed to go there and play. Sometimes that was the only real freedom I had”

 

Bard didn’t know whether or not it would be seen as being too bold but he gathered his courage. “Your father must have been loaded then?”

 

Thran nodded. “Oh yes, dad was English, most of the family was and he owned several factories and he had a knack for making money even when others lost everything. My mother was from Finland, that is where my accent comes from. She never stopped using her native tongue”

 

Bard had to blink. “Finland?”

 

Thran grinned widely. “Yes, land of a thousand lakes, actually there are more lakes than anybody is aware of. I have only been there a few times, lovely country”

 

Bard didn’t know what to say. “So, why are you here in the states?”

 

Thran sighed, changed lanes and slowed down for a red light. “I ran off, simple as that. I couldn’t stand being in the same country as the old fart and I wanted to create my own destiny, not be ordered around like some bloody puppet”

 

Bard cringed. “So you and your father doesn’t see eye to eye?”

 

Thran shrugged. “No, we didn’t. He passed away four years ago. I inherited the entire business and I sold it all, and got a good price too. So yes, I am loaded but I don’t take it for granted, I have seen what wealth can do to people”

 

Bard swallowed. “I understand. Are you all alone or do you have some family left?”

 

Thran turned onto a narrow street, he seemed to follow the GPS and Bard knew that this route in fact was a very fast one. “I have a son, Legolas, he is twelve and my only living family. Mom died ten years ago of cancer and dad didn’t have any siblings”

 

Bard frowned. “Uh, I am being impolite now but your son’s mother?”

 

Thran laughed. “Oh her, the moment I heard of dad’s death I went to the lawyers with the divorce papers. It was never a real marriage, just a façade. Dad didn’t …approve of my way of life”

 

Bard felt his mouth go dry, maybe…No, he couldn’t even think in that direction. He didn’t stand a chance now did he, this was a classy elegant and sophisticated person who probably could choose lovers the way others chose underwear. A worn out cop like himself would be a fool to even fantasize about such things. “Oh, I am sorry, ah…?”

 

Thran sighed and they saw the spires of the cathedral up ahead now. “My dad insisted upon me getting married and producing an heir, and so I did, even if I am gay. She knew and she signed a contract where everything was explained. I paid her well to pose as my wife and when we split apart she lost all rights to our son.”

 

Bard had to swallow. “Uh, that is a bit shocking to say the least”

 

Thran turned onto the parking lot in front of the orphanage, some squad cars where already there, plus two ambulances. “Yes, but she knew what she was heading into. She had many years of luxury and she went and got married again almost immediately, to someone she actually loved. Our relationship was a business, nothing more. Dad would never have allowed me to inherit his business if I had lived the way I wanted. But now I am free of him and I have never looked back”

 

Bard saw that some men wearing black stood outside of the main entrance, some kids were held back by some nuns and it was indeed a bloody mess. Bard heard screaming and he and Thran jumped out of the car, many stared at Thran with huge eyes, he didn’t exactly fit into the picture. Bard saw that Leonard was there, and next to him stood the FBI agent. He looked tense and Bard just hoped that the crime scene wasn’t contaminated in any way. He suspected that these people were able to do just about anything on the not to do list. Leonard saw them and waved his hand, some officers were trying to shoo the nuns and the kids away and Bard saw that Albert drove into the parking lot. He almost ran to them and Bard let out a sigh of relief. “Listen up, this is a crime scene. You are all to leave the perimeter until further notice”

 

Albert did have a voice like a foghorn and he did know how to use it, the crowd scattered and Albert turned to the priests, Bard saw that three of them wore the collar and two were probably just working there. He stared at the men. “One of you will have to show us the entire mess, the rest of you follow the nuns”

 

One of the men stepped forth, he did look slightly green but controlled and he tried to smile. “I am fader Connor, I can show you the way”

 

 

Bard saw that Leonard almost stepped in one place out of sheer zeal and he made a grimace, that man would never get further than his present position. He just aimed for a promotion instead of thinking of the cases he was working on. Faramir had been silent but he made a gesture towards Bard. “We haven’t met, Leonard has said so much about you”

 

Bard took his hand and shook it. “Not all terrible I hope”

 

Faramir shook his head “No, not at all. Quite a mess you are in here, I have never heard of anything like this”

 

Bard tried to smile. “Neither have we, believe me!”

 

Thran stepped forth and he too shook the agents hand, he seemed to know Faramir from before and Bard felt a surge of something which only could be described as light jealousy. He just blinked and tried to supress it. Fader Connor showed them the way into the orphanage, it was a huge building which had been erected somewhere in the late eighteen hundreds and it was both awe inspiring and a bit sinister at the same time. Bard had never liked that style of architecture, it did remind him of countless ghost stories his older sister had enjoyed sharing with him when he was a kid, scaring him shitless.

 

Fader Connor almost ran along the corridors. “We discovered it when we were gathering for the first prayer of the day, it is here, in the chapel”

 

Bard groaned inward, a chapel This killer didn’t care about the sanctity of such places, good to know. He probably lacked even an ounce of respect for religion. The chapel was not a large one, just two rows of chairs with an open space between them and an altar and above it the crucifix would have hung but now something else hung there. The huge cross with an exquisitely carved likeness of the saviour had been thrown to the ground and fader Seamus hung in its place. Arms out to the side, pinned to the wall with some pieces of metal Bard couldn’t immediately identify. The dead priest looked grotesque, a huge pool of blood had formed underneath the body and it was exactly the same thing as before with a few minor changes. Fader Seamus had gotten his eyes torn out, and someone had written a huge A on his forehead, with his own blood. The torso hung upon a thick iron spike which had held the cross before and Bard wondered yet again how it was possible? Fader Seamus feet hung more than fifteen feet above the ground.

 

Faramir looked at the body and he seemed to be completely calm, Leonard on the other hand had turned ashen grey and was heading for the exit. Bard had to snigger, Leonard really had a weak stomach. “The pieces of metal holding his hands, are those candle poles?”

 

Fader Connor nodded. “Yes, the chandeliers here are of the old type, we use real candles in them and those metal poles are used to light the candles and to extinguish them too.”

 

Bard saw that some of the technicians had arrived, he gave them their orders and soon the room was filled with activity. Photos were taken and measurements taken. Someone was dusting the crucifix for fingerprints. Bard saw that Thran was staring at the body with narrow eyes, he appeared to be thinking hard yet again. Fader Connor was shivering, and he appeared to be in a state of light shock. “Did you find the body?”

 

Fader Connor shook his head. “No, that was sister Margaret. She was going to the chapel a few minutes before the rest of us to turn up the heat. It is very cold here now and some of the kids are a bit fragile, we have had an epidemic of colds and we don’t like to take any chances. The poor thing is in shock, the paramedics are working on her as we speak.”

 

Bard tried to think. “The entrances, are they locked in any way? Do you have surveillance?”

 

Fader Connor looked a bit apologetic. “The doors are locked yes, they are closed between midnight and eight o clock. When it comes to surveillance, uh, I am sad to say that the camera’s you see doesn’t work, the parish doesn’t have much money and maintaining such a system is costly. We have prioritized the children, we never believed that…Oh who could possibly expect….”

 

Bard groaned to himself and Faramir shook his head. “No video’s then. When exactly was the body found?”

 

 

 

Fader Connor tried to smile. “Exactly ten minutes before ten, Sister Margaret is being taken to the hospital as we speak, she collapsed. This…this cannot be the work of a human being, this has to be….a demon of some sort”

 

Bard was almost going to agreed, how the heck did the killer hoist a man like Fader Seamus up like that? The fader hadn’t been small, he was what others may describe as “fluffy” and Bard felt a sudden surge of nausea. A priest, someone who had dedicated their lives to helping and serving others. This killer was indeed a most terrible person. Faramir cleared his throat. “I do see two things which causes me concern”

 

Bard frowned. “Oh, only two?!”

 

Thran nodded. “I see them too, I think we have to revisit some of our former assumptions”

 

Bard turned around, the technicians were trying to figure out a way to remove the body from the wall, without tearing it apart. He didn’t envy them. They would need a forklift, or a couple of tall ladders and good luck fitting something like that into this room, the doors were not that large at all. “Really?”

 

Thran pointed at the dead body. “He has been marked, this time the killer has in fact left a message, one very clear one. He does use references after all”

 

Bard did look like a living question mark and Faramir sighed, “The A on his forehead. In the old days, and among puritans in special, people accused of adultery were marked with a red A stitched onto their clothing. It was a mark of shame”

 

Thran continued. “And the eyes, I think it is in the bible somewhere, if your hand tempts you to do evil things cut it off and if your eyes tempts you tear them out or something like that, oh you catch my drift yes?”

 

Bard nodded, adultery? A priest? Well, nothing did really surprise him anymore. He saw that the technicians had found some collapse-able ladders and now they were trying to remove the dead man from the wall with respect. Bard wondered why, the fader couldn’t feel anything now and what mattered was to get the body to autopsy as fast as possible. He sighed and saw that Leonard returned to them, green and shaky. Had he been puking? Bard would laugh if he had. Thran smiled. “I once followed a few police officers during their work for a week, one of them told me the most peculiar thing”

 

Bard swallowed hard, the soft deep voice sort of pulled him back to reality, he could listen to Thran talking forever. “Really?”

 

Thran nodded. “Yes, one of them had been in the force for thirty years and he said that he never had seen a small woman or a small man pass out by the sight of blood. Large burly guys on the other hand? They fell like timber to a chainsaw, just boom and goodnight”

 

Bard had to grin, Thran had managed to lift his spirit again. Faramir was making notes. “The A and the eyes, we have to look into that, could it be that Fader Seamus has done something…uh…you know, wrong, in his past?”

 

Fader Connor did in fact cross himself. “Fader Seamus?!! Excuse me, but are you mad? He was….he was the most dedicated and gentle man on this earth. Yes, he did have his flaws as we mortal all do, but nothing of that kind?!”

 

Fader Connor did sound rather hysterical and Bard realized that the mere accusation was enough to make this man of the cloth almost explode. Bard had heard a lot about things going on behind closed doors within monasteries and churches and he no longer had his childhood faith. Too many scandals had been uncovered and he didn’t trust that these holy men and women were all innocent. He had to suspect everyone, it was his job. Thran smiled and the priest sort of relaxed again, that smile was almost hypnotic. “Fader,  what has happened to Fader Seamus is a terrible tragedy, but it will be even more tragic if the children are to suffer because of this. I trust that none of them have been inside of this room after…it happened?”

 

Fader Connor shook his head. “No, they were stopped in the hallway, none of them have seen…the body, but they know something is terribly wrong. They all adored Fader Seamus, he was so good with the kids. “

 

Thran kept smiling. “Then I will give you my advice as a psychiatrist, do not try to wave it off as if nothing is wrong. Tell them the truth, you can of course keep quiet about the most grizzly of the details but don’t try to hide the fact that someone has murdered Fader Seamus. If you try to cover this up they will make assumptions on their own and believe me, when children make assumptions a small feather will turn into a flock of hens really quick.”

 

Fader Connor swallowed visibly, his adam’s apple moved up and down. “Uh, of course.”

 

Bard frowned. “You have worked with children?”

 

Thran nodded and stared at the technicians who were placing the body on a stretcher, someone were taking photos of the pool of blood underneath the metal hook. “Yes, quite often. It is a part of the job and one I do enjoy”

 

Bard felt a glimpse of hope, Tilda had been seeing a therapist for the last year and yet she had these nightmares, perhaps…. “You are a professor in psychology? And anthropology?”

 

Thran smiled and nodded and moved out of the way so the body could be transported out of the room. Someone had thrown a body bag over it, but Bard could smell it, and he was bloody darn sure everybody else could too. Nobody who saw this could mistake it for anything else than a dead body. “Yes, the workings of the human mind has always fascinated me, even as a child. And the cultural circumstances do affect the way people think and react to certain things. A native from some isolated tribe would react completely differently to the loss of say a dear one than a person from our part of the world, shielded and spoiled as most are.”

 

Faramir grinned. “Oh I remember that case you helped us with, the guy with repressed memories. It was by God the most disturbing thing I have ever seen”

 

Thran shrugged. “Yes, that person was terribly disturbed on all levels. A good thing I managed to crack his shell”

 

Bard frowned and was about to ask if he could hear more about that later on when a horrible sound cut through the hallway and the entire building. It was a scream, a high pitched wail so sharp it cut their ears and Bard rushed into the hallway just in time to see a terrifying sight. The hallway ended in a rather steep flight of stairs, narrow and rather dark and down the stairs someone came running, a tiny figure clad in white who screamed again and again. Bard’s heart almost stopped, it was a child and Fader Connor let out a loud gasp. “Ludmilla?!”

 

The child was indeed a girl, sweet and very small with a doll like appearance and her eyes were wide open but what made Bard realize that something had happened was the fact that the child’s nightgown was covered with blood. Fresh blood, so fresh the cold air in the hallway made it steam. Thran swore and Faramir let out a groan, the kid was shivering all over and Fader Connor looked as if he was about to burst into tears. “She is autistic, cannot be left alone even for a moment. She sometimes runs away to hide in the attic, must have slipped by Sister Agnes during the breakfast. Oh sweet Jesus, what has happened to her?”

 

Bard felt a surge of energy, of sheer terror. He looked at Faramir. “Follow me, Leonard, Albert, take my six”

 

Thran followed too, Bard would have preferred if he hadn’t. Faramir had pulled his gun forth and Bard did the same, the staircase was covered with droplets of blood and the track was easy to follow. The staircase ended in a door which had to lead into an attic of some sort of Bard felt his heart thunder in his heart. He wasn’t wearing any sort of protection and they should have waited for the swat team but this was happening now! He heard the kid wailing still, awful ghastly noises and he did remember having heard sounds like those before… Dear lord how he remembered…

 

He kicked the door open and saw a huge open room, ran through the opening and stopped, felt something warm dripping onto his shoulders and looked up. He almost screamed but he didn’t. The wall over the door, it was rather large and tall and he had just run underneath the body of a nun. Bard swore, he felt as if his legs were about to give in, as if there wasn’t enough air to breathe. The body was still twitching, it looked grotesque and he just knew it. This nun had been killed while they were downstairs, investigating the murder of the priest.

 

He is here! The feeling was overwhelming, made him crouch down, hold the gun out while he panted. Faramir was breathing hard too, eyes wide open. Albert was whispering something and there wasn’t a sound coming from Thran. Bard turned around slowly, stared up at the body hanging on the wall. She was just impaled, not crucified. No torn out eyes but someone had written something on the wall underneath the shivering legs. She couldn’t have been dead for more than a minute and a half or even less. The girl had seen it happen, she had to have seen it happen, oh God poor kid!

 

His inner voice was hysterical, he forced himself to calm down, to think. The word was almost glowing as some faint light streamed down from a ceiling window. Peccatorum in perpetuum, what in hells name did that mean? Albert was screaming for reinforcements but the room was empty, there was nobody there and where had the culprit gone? There was no door except this one, no windows except from that tiny one in the ceiling and that was at least four meters up. Maybe this was a demon after all, Bard felt drained, without energy. A murder had happened with them all present, the audacity of this killer was unsurpassed. Faramir was reading the words, his lips moved and Thran looked like a thundercloud. “Sinners for eternity”

 

Bard swallowed, he had felt something when he entered the room, a presence. He was sure of it, someone had been staring at him. It sent cold shivers down his spine. But where had the culprit been staring from?  Albert was pale. “The son of a bitch murdered her while we were downstairs, in all my years I have never….”

 

Thran looked shocked, but he was in control of himself. “He is unafraid, cares naught about anything but his mission. This is a show of strength, a challenge.”

 

Bard felt himself shiver. “He was here, he was bloody HERE!”

 

Faramir was walking around the room, slowly. “He must have slipped out the door before we ran up the stairs, after the kid left!”

 

Leonard was staring at the corpse, he was even paler than before and Bard started to fear that he might pass out. “Len, get downstairs, show the technicians the way or something”

 

Leonard just gulped and ran out, careful to avoid the blood on the floor. Fader Connor came up the stairs, he was pale as a ghost. “Ludmilla has been taken care of by the paramedics, sweet mother of Christ, is…”

 

Bard nodded. “Yes, another victim, killed as we were downstairs. Can you identify her?”

 

Fader Connor entered the room, looked up and let out a shriek, he almost tumbled back, eyes wide and face contorted with shock and grief. “That is sister Agnes”

 

Bard frowned. “The one responsible for Ludmilla? She looks fairly young?”

 

Fader Connor nodded. “Yes, she is…she is only twenty nine, has been one of the sisters for two years. A sweet wonderful woman, oh God why?!”

 

Fader Connor burst into tears and they all stood there, not knowing what to do or say, how do you offer comfort to someone usually doing the comforting? Faramir stared at Bard. “There is no signs of any activity in the room, no tracks of any kind. Just an empty cardboard box in the corner, probably the kids hiding place. And then the text, something tells me that the killer knew something, either that or he just hates nuns and priests”

 

Bard mumbled. “Let’s hope it is the latter.”

 

The rest of the team entered, cameras started rolling, pictures were taken, measurements made. Bard felt shaken still and he felt his heart racing. Faramir shook his head. “Listen, we are useless here, we are only in the way. I say we go and get something to eat, I am starving and you Mr Bowman look as if you really need to sit down for a while”

 

Thran nodded, his brow furrowed. “Yes, Bard, when did you eat last?”

 

Bard tried to smile, his face felt stiff. It was too much, it was simply too much, the memories this awakened…. “Uh, I had some oatmeal this morning, was going to buy some food in the cantina but then all hell broke loose and …well”

 

Thran sighed. “You are gonna work yourself into an early grave man, come on, let your team do their work. I bet your coroner has to go over these bodies and then we can see if the paramedics have managed to get something out of the kid. “

 

Fader Connor sniffled. “Ludmilla is a mute, she has never spoken a word in her entire life”

 

Bard sighed. “She must have seen the killer, isn’t that just ironic? An eye witness, the first one ever and she cannot talk? Bloody fucking perfect!”

 

Fader Connor cringed and Bard made a sheepish grimace. “Pardon Fader, it… it just is…too much”

 

Fader Connor bowed his head. “Amen to that.”

 

Thran almost dragged him out of the door by his elbow and Faramir followed. Albert smiled and petted Bard on his shoulder. “Let these guys find some nice place to eat, you need it. If that brain of yours is gonna work it needs fuel”

 

Bard nodded like a dimwit, he felt as if in a trance, the blood, the smell of it, it had smelled just like Sophia’s, it was the same damn nightmare all over again, why couldn’t he bloody forget?!. “Sure, alright”

 

They made it down the stairs and by now the parking lot was overfilled with cars, Leonard was standing there gesticulating wildly, he did look like a freaking windmill. He was trying to explain the situation to the leader of the SWAT team someone had called and Bard saw that almost the entire police force had descended upon the site like a murder of crows. Fred was there, and Fernando too. They were sealing off the entire building and there were scores of photographers on the other side of the parking lot, the flashes from the countless cameras felt like a thunder storm. Bard sort of cringed, it felt as if he was being fired upon, his nerves were really on the outside of his skin now. Faramir suddenly walked in front of him, as a sort of human shield and Thran took his right flank. It felt better, much better. They made it across the parking lot and were aiming for Thran’s Mercedes when a shrill voice could be heard over the ruckus. Bard groaned, Lobelia Fucking Sackville, she was there!

 

“Mr Bowman, Mr Bowman, any comments on the latest murders? Is it true that also a nun has been killed, with the police in the building? Wouldn’t you say that this is a clear example of the incompetence of the city’s police force? How can you possibly protect the public when such things are allowed to happen?”

 

Bard felt a surge of panic, he wanted to get out of there, desperately. He wasn’t in the mood to talk to that goddamn leech right now, didn’t know what to say or do. Faramir sort of stayed in front of him. “The police are doing all that they can and you Ma’am are disturbing the investigation. This is of now an investigation supervised by the Federal bureau of investigation, if you have further questions then please go ahead and call our main office. I am sure they will be glad to be of service. Good day Ma’am”

 

Faramir had seemed like a very nice person, he had even seemed to be of the jolly type but now his voice was ice cold and his eyes hard as flint. The ranger was visible now, and Bard knew that Faramir probably had killed, possibly many times. That voice could have frozen the great lakes solid and it made Lobelia take a step backwards, she suddenly looked as if she wasn’t as self confident as before, she hesitated and Faramir almost shoved Bard into the backseat of the car before he shut the door right in front of the still gaping woman. Thran started the engine and as soon as Faramir had gotten in they took off. Bard took a deep breath, then another one. He still felt like he was trying to swim with huge weights attached to his feet. Thran didn’t turn his head, he was concentrating on the traffic. “How do you feel?”

 

Bard swallowed, he had thought that he could handle just about anything but that…the kid, screaming, running down the stairs…he saw it again, Tilda, sitting underneath the kitchen table, shivering, eyes wide open and yet unseeing, the strange mewling sounds she had made. It had brought it all back and he was trying to calm himself but he just couldn’t. “I…I will be fine, it….it brought back some old memories, unpleasant ones”

 

Faramir nodded. “No shit, I will call Thor and explain the situation, you need the rest of the day off, and you need a change of clothes before you go anywhere. What is your address?”

 

Bard told him and took a look at his jacket, it had blood drops all over it, the blood of sister Agnes. “Fuck, the car seat, there will be stains, I am so sorry, I wasn’t thinking”

 

Thran just made a vague gesture. “Don’t worry about it Bard, it is alright. The seats can be cleaned, it is no big deal.”

 

Bard had that empty feeling again, like his guts had disappeared, he just saw that kid, the bloody nightgown. She had seen it, she had seen it all. Had the killer known that there was a kid hiding there? If he had then he was truly a monster, a beast. Faramir did call Thor and Bard didn’t listen in on the conversation, he just concentrated upon breathing. Faramir hung up and turned around. “You are showing symptoms of post traumatic stress, I hope you are aware of that? I saw guys acting just like you after battle, some did fall apart completely. The adrenaline was all that had kept them going. “

 

Bard tried to sit up straight, to look calm. “I am alright, like I said I just need some food and some rest”

 

Thran pulled into the small parking lot in front of the apartment building where Bard lived. “Here we are, I will follow you up, I don’t think you ought to be alone. I know shock when I see it”

 

Bard wanted to say something rude, but he knew that the profiler was right. He could handle the murders, without problems. The kid on the other hand, no fucking way. It was as if he still heard Tilda screaming, heard Sigrid cry. His own therapist had been working with him for months but he hadn’t gotten anywhere at all. They walked up the stairs, the elevator was broken yet again and the building did tell everybody with eyes that the inhabitants weren’t wealthy. This was just a place to sleep and rest, not a place to really live. Bard stumbled out of the door and walked down the corridor, it was silent, most people were at work but he could hear the radio from the apartment next to his own. Mrs Jackoni always listened to the radio, at a volume usually reserved for rock concerts. She was almost deaf, ninety eight years of age and as tough as old boots. That woman refused to move to a retirement home, she was still fully capable of taking care of herself and Bard did admire her, even though the noise could get annoying at times. He stopped by his door and found the keys, was about to put it into the lock when he did notice something out of the ordinary. A small piece of paper had been placed in the door crack, just underneath the handle.

 

Bard frowned, it was the size of a business card and it looked like just ordinary stiff paper, the type everybody uses. Thran saw his expression and tensed up. “Bard?”

 

Bard wetted his lips, he didn’t know anyone who would leave a message for him like this, no-one. He reached out, almost hesitantly, it was just a piece of paper and yet he felt as if he was about to touch a snake or something else which potentially could harm him. The paper was naked on one side, just a shiny white surface. Then he flipped it around. He frowned. Written upon it was a row of numbers and it had to have been written using a computer for the font was very elegant and looked like handwriting but it wasn’t. Bard did read 1.2.3.5.8.13.21 and 34 before he did notice that signature under the long row of numbers, S it said with elegance and he felt a sudden surge of anger, and fear. He had to grasp onto the door. Thran grasped the note, stared at it. “It is the Fibonacci numbers, each one is the sum of the two previous ones, S? What does this mean?”

 

Bard tried to breathe, tried to remain in control of himself. He was panting. “They have called the killer the Shrike, he was here Thran. He left this for me. Oh God, he knows where I live!”

 

Thran did look shocked for a few seconds, then his expression changed to something akin to rock hard determination. “That does it Bard, you are not returning to this apartment until this is over, I have rented a hotel room, there is more than enough room for two. You are staying with me!”

 

For some reason Bard didn’t find that reassuring at all.

 

 

 

 

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