September 17, 2:00 PM
He was watching her drink her coffee. She drank it slowly, sip by sip. It was too hot. He could tell. He could see the steam billowing from the cup and the little wince she made when she took the first sip. She dipped her head to read the book she had balanced on the table and her red hair fell in tendrils across it. She didn’t know he was watching her. He thought, maybe, for a moment, she had noticed him. She had looked up and stared right at him. But, her eyes were glazed, the dull unfocused look of someone deep in thought.
Whatever she was seeing it wasn’t him. He was unseen. Always watching and waiting. He knew no fear and he reveled in his secrecy. No one could touch him. He was the Watcher. The Seer. The One Who Waits.
He was jarred back from his thoughts but the abrasive voice of the waitress. “Freshen you up, honey?” she asked with her too wide grin.
“No, no,” he mumbled his concentration destroyed, “I’ll pay.” He dug in his pocket and produced a few dollars and some change and laid them on the table. No tip. The waitress’ smile cracked for a second and then she scooped the money onto her tray. She nodded curtly and left.
He was filled with a fury for her fake smile and the pert way she had pushed his money onto her tray–like she was afraid to touch it–like she was too good. They always thought they were too good. Better than him. His eyes turned toward the table where the girl still sat, her book now propped on her knee. She was different. She understood him. He could tell by watching.
He reluctantly picked up his coat and paperback novel, it’s edges dog-eared. They didn’t like it when you brought in outside books. The cold waitress was eyeing him. Her round black eyes like the eyes of an animal. He smiled. He was the Watcher. He was in control. He smiled at her and nodded. He would see her again on her way out tonight.
September 18, 11:00 AM
Summer was the worst time of year in Detective Mark Coleman’s opinion. It wasn’t bad enough that he had to spend his day, mostly standing, at a crime scene on hot pavement with the sun beating him on the back of the neck like a bat. He also had to put up with the reporters. There they were like buzzards circling road kill, their eager faces pushed forward across the police tape, cameras at the ready.
“No pictures,” he would yell, or sometimes “No comment,” depending on the circumstance. He liked his job. He really did. He had signed up to protect and serve and he still meant it. But days like this with a sticky shirt and a gaggle of come-sees leaning over his police tape, were enough to drive a man to distraction.
“Hey! Officer Cole-man,” a young man with PRESS displayed boldly on his chest called, “Got any leads yet?” The young reporter chewed his gum loudly between words and leaned on the tape to the point that Coleman thought it would snap.
“Lay off that tape!” he yelled and motioned for the lookie-loos to move back. Like a herd of sheep they back away only to seep forward after a minute of two. He ignored their calls. No leads. No leads. Even after all these months.
No leads and no clues and only the moon for a witness.
Pop. A camera flashed and Coleman turned his head instinctively toward the light and sound. He thought of demanding the roll of film from the grinning idiot behind the 35mm, but another officer was already on it, stepping over the police line and grabbing the guy’s arm.
“Clear off,” the anonymous blue officer bellowed, “There will be a press conference at City Hall this afternoon.” The press murmured about freedom of speech and their rights, but milled away–one of two gazing longingly over the police tape. “Damn press,” the blue officer said–Coleman saw that his name was Murphy.
“Yeah,” Coleman agreed, “They just make a tough job harder.”
Murphy nodded toward the crime scene. “So, do you think it was. . .?” He looked eager and a little reluctant to question the Detective. Coleman noticed how very young Murphy was–only a little more than twenty probably. He still had that bright look about him. A fine spray of freckles peppered the bridge of his nose.
Coleman nodded. “I think so,” he answered, “but we won’t know for sure until we get this in the lab.”
“I thought there wasn’t any. . .I mean, that’s what I heard. No blood, no DNA?” Murphy asked.
“That’s true,” Coleman said, “So that’s one thing that will narrow it down. If there’s no genetic evidence, then it’s probably him. The MO is the same. Or maybe there will be something, they usually get sloppy toward the end.”
Murphy cocked his head, “You think we’ll have him soon then.”
Coleman shrugged, “Could be. This is his second this month. It was one every six months, then three. It’s been over a year now. We usually have them after they speed up like this–this is his end-game. He’s self-destructing. Maybe he’ll leave something. Maybe he wants to get caught.”
Murphy looked back at the little pool of press still milling in the shadows. “Yeah, could be,” Coleman said, “He could be over there or near here right now with his eye on us. We’ll catch him.”
Murphy looked comforted and his acceptance of Coleman’s words gave the Detective some comfort as well. Maybe they would catch him or maybe he would fade away like some of the others did. He wished he knew. He wished he could look into the future and know how it would be, how it would end.
A flash of red caught his attention. He looked up. There was a girl standing not far from the tabloid reporters. She had a yellow notepad and was taking notes with a ballpoint pen. She stopped and shook the pen like the ink wasn’t flowing and looked up right into his stare. He looked away. Her eyes had been gray. Gray as the sky on this hot day. Gray as the storm that was approaching.
The sky rumbled. The men inside the police barrier sped up their work. Time was always their enemy. Time, so merciless, like a pending downpour or a
madman’s itch, never stopped.
September 18, 11:00 AM
He had sat on the bench across from the coffee shop all morning watching the police and their scurrying. He saw the girl too. There she was, head ducked down, writing in her notebook. What did she write? He had seen her before following his work. That was how he had first noticed her. Her bright hair a beacon in the sea of reporters and onlookers. She was as drawn to him, he thought, as he was to her. He reached into the crumpled bag beside him on the bench and cast some bread crumbs to the birds that had gathered
expectantly. He liked the birds. No one noticed them. They were always here in the city, everywhere, watching, but unseen. Often, he would look up, after or during his work, and notice one of them, watching.
They were, he thought, his confederates. They oversaw his work, documenting it in their small dark eyes. Their eyes were without judgement. They reflected all and said nothing at all. The girl’s eyes were dark.
Sometimes he thought they were brown and other times blue. They changed colors with the day. She was an enigma to him. There had been others, he had hoped for, before. But, it was always the same in the end. They all failed him. They didn’t understand and were undeserving. But, he still held out hope. This one, he thought, would understand. She would embrace his true self. Not the self everyone thought they knew.
They saw him everyday. His neighbors, the people where he worked. They reckoned him small. A small plain thing, like a mouse, scurrying, like themselves, from task to task. It made him want to laugh, sometimes, at their stupidity. At their innocence. That they could only see the surface of things when he saw things to their very core. They saw a small, pale man in rumpled clothes. Maybe they thought he was shy, nervous even–but he was attuned. Like a hawk, like a wolf. He was on the edge of things waiting. He liked to help people.
He always carried in the groceries for the tottery old lady that lived next door to his apartment. Her house smelled of cats and the talcum powder that she applied liberally to her face. He’d carry her groceries up the stairs and decline her offer of tea or lemonade. Everyone who saw him pass, groceries in one arm and the old woman’s paper thin hand on his other, thought how kind, how quiet he was. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.
They saw him as a sheep, like themselves, when all along he was imaging how the old woman would look lying on the floor, blood pooling around her. That’s the way he saw them all, his gentle neighbors.
He saw their deaths when he met them at their community mailboxes. He saw them lying still, the light leaving their eyes, ‘til they were as dull and empty as they thought him to be. He took a sip of his coffee. It had grown cold. He reached
into the bag and tossed out more crumbs and he watched the girl watching the men in blue.
September 18, 12:30 PM
Coleman watched the body being carried away and the first rain drops began to fall. He could hear them plopping against the plastic body bag as it passed near him. Forensics would be here for hours–rain or no rain. They had set up a plastic tarp over the crime-scene as the sky began to cloud earlier.
Coleman stepped back under the edge of the plastic. It crinkled with the impact of the rain and rivulets ran streaming off the edges. The reporters were gone now. Nature had managed what fifty men could not do. They were running to their cars and to nearby shops and restaurants, cameras cradled against their bodies, notepads and laptops shielded under jackets.
Coleman leaned against the metal support pole and watched the rain fall. He
knew he should go inside the nearby Bookstore/Cafe now and talk with the victim’s co-workers, but instead he stood under the plastic and listened to the hot rain hitting the pavement.
Just now, the victim was just that, a victim–anonymous to him as a person, just a name on a license. Jackie Collier. A girl. A waitress. He didn’t know her favorite color or the way she took her coffee. But, once he stepped inside the cafe he would know all that. He would know what time she liked to take her breaks, that she had a crush on the cashier, that she kept a bottle of clear nailpolish behind the counter in case of runs. All the horribly small and personal things that a stranger should never know would be his. And, whether he found the bastard that killed her or not he would always remember that she liked strawberry ice cream best and that she always wore yellow butterfly clips in her hair on Sundays.
Coleman stepped out into the rain and started to drop the cigarette he couldn’t remember lighting. This was a crime scene now. Every cigarette butt and chewed piece of gum had potential meaning. So, instead, he curled the now dying butt into the palm of his hand. He had calluses now, he could barely feel it.
He put his hand on the door of the cafe and pulled. The door, glass and wood, had The Book End painted in gold and silver script. A green striped awning sheltered the door and a little bell tinkled to announce his entrance. The staff stood huddled behind the counter, murmuring in low whispers and sobs.
“The cafe is closed,” a young man said quietly pointing at the hand-written sign taped to the door.
Coleman pulled out his badge, “I am sorry,” he said, “Could I speak to you all for a few minutes?” The staff, two waitresses in dark aprons, the young man who had spoken, and an older woman with a pencil stuck in her silver hair moved toward him. He could feel their need to talk. To make Jackie a real person to him. To widen the loss of her to everyone they
September 18, 12:30 PM
The Hunter watched the Detective enter the coffee shop. He could always recognize his own kind–another hunter, another person accustomed to watching and waiting. The uniform didn’t matter. They were easy enough to spot with or without it. There was something in the way they moved, the perfectly still way they could sometimes stand.
Of course, not every police officer or soldier was a hunter, but this one was. The Hunter watched the door close and faintly heard the tinkle of bells. Rain delay. No matter. There was so much to do. So much to plan.
The Hunter liked to ponder the strange twists that fate and nature tossed his way. The rain today would slow the investigation. It might wash away some clues or some bit of sloppiness left behind. Just as easily, fate and coincidence could turn against you. An old woman hears a sound and looks out the window in time to see a stranger pass. A child tosses a ball over a fence and retrieving it, hears a noise or sees a strange car. Any multitude of possibilities existed that could bring salvation or destruction–a fallen coin, a dropped cigarette, a single drop of blood. The Hunter watched the rain fall and casting a final look at the cafe, he turned toward home. There would be other days. The game had been elevated. Now he was not alone.
September 18, 1:00 PM
The coffee shop employees stood, as if on an island, bunched together against the rushing torrents of their grief. The young man who had told the Detective the store was closed broke away from the group and extended his hand.
“Steve,” he said, “We’d be glad to help. . .anything you want to know.”
The Detective nodded. “I’d like to see a copy of her schedule. Did it change from week to week or was it the same?” he pulled out his notebook and a pen. He had found that the note-taking seemed to put people at ease. Even if he was just writing nonsense words, the act of writing something made them feel as if they were helping.
“She has a locker in back,” a young woman with dish-blonde hair and red-rimmed eyes volunteered.
He nodded, “I’ll need to take a look at that. Did any of you notice anyone suspicious hanging around? Did she have any problems with customers?”
The blonde girl shook her head, “Everyone liked Jackie,” she sobbed, “Who would want to hurt her?”
The older woman in the black apron cleared her throat, “There is that strange
man, the little one that sits in the corner reading those ratty old books. . .”
The Detective looked at her, “Did he have a disagreement with your friend?”
The woman shook her head, “No, nothing really, I just don’t like the look of him.” She hesitated, “He stares.” The Detective had come to rely on instinct–his own and others.
A stare held too long, a nervous twitch during an interrogation, eyes that couldn’t quite meet your own.
“Do you have a name?” he asked, “Or a description?” She shook her head, “He’s in here all the time lately, but he pays cash. That’s strange, in itself,” she continued, “Most people pay with credit cards these days, even if it’s just a cafй latte and a bagel. I can describe him, though. And, he comes in here enough. I could give you a call if he comes in.”
The Detective nodded while the blonde girl sobbed quietly on the edge of his vision.
“That’d be fine,” Coleman said. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his business cards. They were wet from the rain and the edge of one was crumpled. He laid them on the counter. “In case any of you think of something, anything, that you want to tell me.” The older woman reached forward for a card and slipped it into the breast pocket of her sweater. She nodded.
Coleman looked at the blonde girl. She was holding back
her tears now, but a piece of hair was plastered to her wet cheek. “Do you want to show me her locker?” he asked. She nodded mutely. Her things. Jackie’s things. Coleman followed the girl behind the counter. Behind him her heard the door’s lock being turned with a snick.
September 18, 2:00 PM
The rain was fine. Just fine. A strike of luck even. It would cleanse everything he thought. Wipe away anything he might have left. He had time to regret it now. Sloppy, so sloppy. He let his anger get the best of him sometime. That was no way to be. He was the one in control. He didn’t like to let himself slip and it was happening more and more often. They taunted him, that was true. Always watching him with their dull eyes.
Even when they were dead, especially then, they watched him. What did they see? Not what he was. They were all just like his neighbors and those fools he worked with every day. He pared his nails and watched the coffee shop door from his car.
Beside him was the crumpled brown bag of bread crumbs. Rain. Even the birds were driven by it. He was like the rain. Yes. He was a force of nature, undeniable, unstoppable. He turned on the windshield wipers. Their rhythmic swishing calmed him.
What was he doing in there? That Detective. He had been in there an hour, maybe two hours. The rain made time fade. Swish. Swish. He turned on the headlights and started the car. It was just the rain. It made him nervous. He never knew when it was coming
or when it would stop. He liked things to be predictable. They usually were. He was the Seer. He knew. He knew.
September 18, 2:15 PM
The girl had run under the cafe’s awning for shelter, but found the door locked. She pecked on the door tentatively seeing movement inside. A young man with a sad face opened the door.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “There’s been, I mean,” he pointed to the paper sign taped to the door, “We’re closed today. I’m sorry.”
The girl smiled. “It’s okay, really. I just got caught in the rain and I was hoping I could use your phone. I walked and I thought I could call a taxi.” She smiled again, “All this rain.” The young man took a breath and pushed open the door. The girl was pretty. Her hair was the color of strawberry wine, he thought.
“Sure,” he said, “I’ll get the phone for you.” The girl followed him inside and the door closed behind them. Outside the rain grew harder. A car passed, lingering for a minute in front of the awning. The older woman looked up from the counter. Gray car. Gray rain. She wrote one word on her order pad, “Gray”.
September 18, 2:30 PM
Coleman heard the front door open and the low buzz of conversation. A girl’s laugh rang out as high and bright as tinsel. Then, the door closed again and the little bell tinkled flatly. Coleman turned back to the locker. Nothing unusual. The normal trappings of a girl’s life—a pale sweatshirt, a pair of faded jeans folded end over end, Diet Coke unopened, lip gloss, a Glamour magazine with crumpled edges.
Coleman closed the locker door. There was a magnet with a cat’s face on the front of the locker and a piece of tape with the word, “JACKIE” written in fluorescent pink marker. The other waitress was standing behind him. He could hear her breathing and the hiccuping of her trying to hold back tears.
“Do you need to take anything?,” she asked, “For the investigation?” She waited, then said, “She has a sister in Topeka, I thought I could send her, that she might,” she wiped her hand hard against her eyes.
Coleman nodded. “There’s no evidence of any break-in. I’m sure it will be fine.” Coleman removed his hand from the locker door and its coolness followed him. The jade eyes of the cat stared back at him. Better to look at those eyes than the girl behind him. “I may stop by
again in a few days,” he said, “to ask you some more questions. Until then, if you see anything or remember anything, please call and ask for Detective Coleman.” He pulled another card out of his breast pocket. The girl took the card in her wet hand and stared at it. Coleman walked past her into the cafe.
The air conditioning had been turned up full blast and all the windows had fogged. The young cashier was standing by the counter and the older woman was sitting at a table facing the window drinking from a steaming cup.
She looked up and lifted her cup. “Need something?” she asked. Coleman shook his head. “Suit yourself,” she said. He moved toward the door and the older woman ripped a piece of paper out of her notepad. She held it out to him looking over her glasses. “Probably nothing,” she said, “But I saw a car, going slow, right by the window. Probably nothing.” Coleman read the paper, “Gray. Cavalier. 1990s. NV7.” “I couldn’t get the rest of the license,” she said, “Rain, you know.”
Coleman nodded, “I’ll check this out.” “Margie’s off the phone now,” he heard the young man say behind him and a red-haired girl melted out of the corner.
“Thanks,” she said moving toward the outstretched phone. “I’ll make it quick.” Coleman watched her cross the floor to the counter. She leaned against the polished wood and dialed the phone. “American Cab,” she asked, and wrote down a number. She dialed again and gave the address for the cafe. “I can wait under the awning, if you want.” She said to the young man. He shook his head.
“No, it’s fine,” he said, “I’ll make you a latte.” He looked up and found Coleman staring at him, “She’s a regular customer.”
“Sure am,” she said, “I’m in here most days.” The girl smiled and leaned against the counter.
Coleman took one step forward without realizing it. “Did you see anything odd in the last few days?” The girl closed her eyes and leaned back again.
said, “No. Nothing different.” The older woman eyed her sharply. The girl opened her eyes suddenly and the blue of them startled Coleman. “Well, there is that weird little guy.” She looked at the older woman. “He’s in here a lot, but, hey, so am I, so I guess that’s no crime.”
Coleman looked at the older woman. “Same guy?”
The woman nodded, “Short, balding, with a face like a bird.”
The girl nodded and looked directly into Coleman’s eyes, “He always seems nervous, and, something, I don’t know, well, tight, I guess. Wound. Not angry, but not calm.” She shrugged. “What do I know?” “You were at the investigation earlier,” Coleman said, “Taking
notes.” She nodded. “Oh God, I hope I didn’t make a nuisance of myself the way all those reporters did!” She smiled and Coleman was dazzled, “I’m a psychology student. I’m making a study of deviant behavior. Specifically serial murderers. I thought with the previous, I mean, this could be another.” She looked down suddenly shy, “I didn’t mean to jump to assumptions. You’re the expert after all.”
“Well,” Coleman said and then stopped himself. He had been on the verge of telling her that this was the same case as the others that this was a serial murder. He crossed the room and handed the girl his card. Her fingers touched his electrically and for a minute he forgot what he was going to say. “If you think of anything,” he said.
She nodded, “Yes, of course.”
Coleman turned and opened the door. The rain had slowed. The door closed behind him and the little bell tinkled. “What the Hell?” Coleman said to himself, “What am I—a school boy?” He shook his head as he walked to his car. The rain was hot on his face and the key was slow to turn in the lock. The door opened and Coleman sat down. She was beautiful.
September 18, 3:00 PM
The girl stood by the door and watching the Detective make his way to his car. He ran, almost, between the raindrops, but he still ended up getting soaked. She shook her head and looked down at the card in her hand.
“Coleman,” she read and a little shiver of excitement crept up her spine. She put the card in her purse.
Behind her, the young clerk said, “You can come sit down. Have another coffee if you want—on the house?”
She shook her head. “Thanks,” she said, “I don’t want to be any more trouble.” She turned the door knob and the little bells tinkled. The old woman looked up just in time to see the door close. The girl leaned against the glass door, so that the awning shielded her completely from the rain. She could see the distinctive yellow of the cab rounding the corner ahead. The ran started up again. Hard. And, a little gust of water blew in hitting
her on the face and arms. She gasped.
A surprise. You never knew. Did you. She looked up at the awning and smiled. A little betrayal, but, then, life was full of them. She stepped out into the rain, shielding her
notebook under the denim jacket. The cab pulled up to the curb and she opened the door.
“Some weather, eh?,” asked the driver. He had a baseball cap on that was so faded that the logo could no longer be read.
“Where to?” he asked. She gave him the street and the numbers and the cab moved into the rain. The young clerk stood at the door and watched the cab disappear into the grey.
“She’ll be in here tomorrow,” said the old woman without looking up. “Who?” the young man said unconvincingly. He moved to the counter and began wiping it down. After a while, he whistled off-tune. The old woman smiled and picked up her coffee cup.
September 18, 5:00 PM
The window of his apartment was streaked with rain. He could see nothing now—only dark shapes on the street. Nothing distinct—they could be anything. He picked up the remote and his television, an old number that stood in a wooden cabinet on the floor, fizzed to life.
Static. Faces. Nothing. All faces reminded him of his failure. Blank. Blank. Nothing at all. He looked back at the dark outside his window. Not now. No. He wouldn’t make a mistake again. He wouldn’t let himself be distracted. He clicked off the t.v. and sat down on
There was a knock at his door—soft. The landlady, maybe, to ask him if he wanted a piece of cake or one of his neighbor’s children selling something. The knock again. He didn’t move. No distractions.
Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, but soon. He’d know. It was in the air, in the rain, all around him. “Soon,” the air hummed in his ear with the air-conditioning unit. “Soon,” murmured the refridgerator like a lover.
“Soon, soon,” he found himself whispering. He didn’t smile. He didn’t move. “Soon,” he whispered again in a voice that his neighbor’s would not have recognized, “Soon.”
September 18, 5:30 PM
The cab stopped out side of the brown-stone building and the girl got out handing the driver some bills through the window. “Thanks,” he said seeing an extra five in the mix. The girl nodded and started up the stairs. She fumbled with the key in the door and stepped into the doorway.
Behind her, the cab pulled away from the curb. The hallway was dim and smelled of lemons and age. Her shoes squelched weakly against the wooden floor. A door opened behind her and then closed. The didn’t look back, just moved forward to the stair. The sixth stair aways creaks, she thought. Creak. And, she was on the second floor. She could hear
the patter of footsteps on the landing below her. She reached her door and put the key in the lock. It turned slowly, the grinding of an old lock, and then opened. She didn’t bother to click on the light. She knew where everything was. She let the door close behind her and went to the refrigerator.
She stood by the window
looking out and peeling an orange. Below her dark shapes moved on the street. A car passed slowly. A man ran in the rain seeking shelter under an awning. A siren and then another. She put a piece of orange in her mouth. So much rain. But, it will be sunny tomorrow. She reached for the remote on the window sill and clicked on the t.v.
“Sunny for the rest of the week. . .more rain expected for the weekend. . .more updates
on. . ” She clicked it off again. She watched the rain. She had the funny feeling sometimes that it watched
September 18, 10:30 PM
Coleman sat on his sofa and clicked the remote. Restless. More rain. A fire on Bryant Street. Another accident. Another death. A local team was in the State Finals for some sport or the other. The rain was hitting hard against his window now. Outside he could hear someone in the hallway humming.
Downstairs someone had turned out an appliance. He could hear the low buzzing hum, of, what was that, a blender?
These walls were too thin. He had to think about finding himself a place with thicker walls—a door slammed down the hall. He added fewer neighbors and thicker walls to his check list. He flipped the t.v. off and lay down on the sofa in the dark. The rain continued low and steady. Coleman yawned. Another siren. More running. A woman yelled something and a child responded. Soon Coleman’s snores added themselves to the rhythm of the building.
September 18, 11:00 PM
The Hunter stood outside and watched the rain fall. He wasn’t afraid of the rain or the dark. They were a part of life like himself. Life, death, rain, dark. It was all the same. He lifted his face and felt the cold of it.
The moon, pale and slender as a bow shined through the rain. He could feel it all falling into place and a horrible sadness consumed him. A small whimper escaped him. He stared at the moon and cried. The rain fell and the night hid everything.
September 19, 5:58 AM
The weather man had been right for once, thought the old woman as she punched in the code to open the Book End’s door. It was sunny today. The sun was a bit shy, but it would be out in force in a few hours. She checked her watch 6:00 AM. Early. But, not too early for the first customers.
Sure enough she heard a car door shut as she turned on the lights in the cafe. Jimmy was already here. She could smell coffee and warmed milk and the distinct tang of cinnamon in the air.
“Want something to drink?” the boy called from the back room.
“Make it black,” the old woman said. She entered her code into the register just as the little bell on the door rang. It was Cafe Latte with extra expresso. He worked at the bank. He always signed his credit card receipts with a blue pen with the bank’s logo.
“Cafe Latte,” he said, “With an extra shot, and,. . .give me one of those cinnamon scones. God, they smell great!”
The old woman nodded. “$6.70,” she said and he handed her his credit card. He pulled out the blue pen.
“Some weather we’re having,” he said. She nodded.
He looked around for Jackie. This one doesn’t read the papers, the older woman thought. She turned and began making the cafe latte. The man started to hum.
September 19, 7:40 AM
He was pleased to see the sun shining when he looked out his window. He bought a paper on his way to work and checked the weather for the week. A day of sun, two days of rain, then sun again. He checked his pocket for change and when he found some spare quarters, he stopped at the bakery for day old bagels. He thought he would tear them into strips on his lunch break and maybe feed them to the birds.
Or, maybe he would stop by the cafй for some coffee. The girl could be there. Maybe she would be. She was there most every day in the afternoon after classes dismissed. He would be there waiting like always when she came through the door with bells with her arms full of notebooks and a pen tucked in her red hair. Then, maybe, in a day or two, he would talk to her.
He followed her home one day. It was weeks ago. She lived alone in an
apartment with a flat brown stone face. Maybe he would wait for her there. He wanted to tell her things, to let her know his secrets. She would understand. She would look at him and know his deepest fears.
flipped the change in his pocket and it made a noise not unlike that little door bell. Sun, then rain, then sun.
Yes, that was the way of it.
September 19, 4:40 PM
The girl sat on a bench across from the cafй writing in her notebook. Every now and again she stopped and chewed on the end of her pen thoughtfully.
Coleman driving by the cafe on his way home he saw her, a quick flash of red, and slowed his car and then pulled it into one of the parallel slots. He rolled down his window and watched her write. Something about her compelled him.
She looked up and he thought she saw him, but then she looked passed his car to the store behind him. He opened the car door and almost walked up to her. But, at the last moment he turned into the cafe. The old woman raised her eyebrows at him behind the
“Black,” he said reaching for his wallet.
She waved her hand. “No charge,” she said. She looked over his shoulder and out the window at the girl and smiled. Coleman took his coffee and winced at the first
steaming sip. “Don’t burn yourself,” the woman called as he opened the door.
He nodded and heard the bell ring right before he turned the door handle. The girl was on the opposite side of the door.
“Excuse me,” she said and squeezed passed him. She looked back at him from the counter. “Black,” she said, “With a shot of something—surprise me.” The old woman handed her a cup with steam rising from it’s surface. The girl took a sip and smiled, “Caramel,” she said. She turned and moved toward the door and Coleman found himself holding it open for her. She moved past him with a smell of cinnamon and something like smoke. “Thanks,” she said.
Then she stepped out into the street. Coleman let the door fall behind him and followed her.
September 19, 4:40 PM
The Hunter studied the Detective. He felt his confusion and desire and understood. There was something wild in the air today. Something more than the settling earth after a rainstorm. There was something feral and undeniable. The Hunter settled into himself and smiled. Time was spinning so quickly now—like a mudslide or a
tornado—unstoppable. He didn’t know exactly how things would play out, but he had some idea.
He liked surprises. Life was full of them. Experience was what kept you alive though. And, he knew that the Detective was a hazard. He might be distracted by the girl, but he was also paying attention to her and that was bad.
Still, he liked the challenge of it. He liked the feel that he was both the predator and the prey. It was, he thought, a sweet sensation to think how quickly everything, even himself, could end. The Hunter smiled and let himself go still. He curled into himself like a cat and savored the future like creme.
September 19, 5:10 PM
Coleman followed the girl into the street. She slowed as if she sensed him, and then sped up. When he rounded the corner, she was stopped waiting for him. “What do you want?” she asked in a sweet high voice.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said. He realized horribly that they were standing just outside the alley-way where Jackie had been killed. The girl must’ve realized it at the same time. She stepped forward suddenly like a cat hearing a loud noise.
“Could we talk?” Coleman asked. She nodded and looked toward the coffee shop. “Not there,” Coleman said. “There’s a restaurant just down the block.” The girl looked at her watch. “It stays open all night,” Coleman added.
He could see she was considering and held his breath unsure why this mattered so much so suddenly to him. She nodded. “Alright, for a while.” Coleman stepped past her and walked down the sidewalk. After a second he heard her boots behind him crunching softly on the fallen leaves. When they reached the diner, he held the door open for her and she walked past him. Her hair brushed against his hand held high on the door a shock of something like electricity went through him.
She slid into a booth looking out on the street and waited for him to sit. A waitress in a blue and white uniform came over holding a metallic coffee decanter.
“Just coffee,” he said heading her off.
The girl nodded. The waitress came back with two white chine cups and poured their coffee. Coleman looked down at the cup while she poured. There was a chip, badly stained on its rim. The waitress turned and left on soundless shoes.
The lights hummed on the street. Coleman could hear the girl breathing. He cleared his throat. She looked up and smiled. And, he smiled back. And, for a long time, they just sat there watching each other. Finally, he took a sip of coffee and winced.
“You were right,” he said, “We should have gone to the cafe.”
The girl took a sip. “It’s not so bad,” she said. “A little strong.” Steam curled around her fingers. Outside a car honked and someone yelled. Coleman and the girl drank their coffee and the world went on around them.
September 19, 7:30 PM
The girl wasn’t at the cafe. He didn’t like it. And, that old woman was watching him again. He could feel her eyes on the back on his head. He got up and paid at the register. Since that waitress was gone, no one bothered him anymore. Just that old woman and her staring.
He turned and smiled at her as he left, but she didn’t smile back. For some reason she made him feel nervous. Why? Why? What was she. Nothing. Just an old woman. Like his neighbors. What did she know? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Still, still. It made him feel
small. He walked down the street past the alley. He hurried past it. He didn’t want to look. It was if IT had happened long ago. It seemed so long ago and far away. Like it had been someone else with her in that alley.
It was someone else. Someone who didn’t feel so small. He clutched his hands together. A car passed too quickly with squealing tires. A woman with a carriage yelled for the driver to slow down. He turned his head and there she was. The girl. His girl. Right there, in the window, with that Detective.
They were drinking coffee. He could see her lips move and then she smiled. His smile. He felt cold. He felt suddenly very cold. He turned back around and headed toward the cafe.
This time, he stopped in front of the alley. It didn’t feel alien to him. It felt like home. He felt like he was going home or perhaps he was home already. He clenched his hands together. He could feel the power in them. Suddenly, everything made more sense. Everything was as it should be. He laughed and the woman with the carriage stopped.
She looked at him and then looked away and pushed the carriage faster. She knew. She knew what he was. He was a Predator. A Wolf. Something to be feared. He closed his eyes and listed to the sounds around him and he knew how close everything was. Like a heart beat or a sigh. It had begun.
September 19, 9:30 PM
The girl left the coffee shop alone. The Detective had offered to walk her to her apartment and she knew he had trailed her a few blocks to make sure she was safe. She smiled. Safe. In this city? She’d told him not to get too attached. She was leaving town soon. She didn’t like to stay any place too long. It was a product of her childhood. She liked to move around. New faces, new sights.
She smelled the air and she knew that it would rain tonight despite the weatherman’s predictions. She almost felt sorry that she couldn’t stay.
It was one of her fits of “might have beens.” She liked Detective Coleman and he liked her. He seemed truer, more real than most people she had met and on some fundamental level, he understood her.
She walked and swung her tote bag. She loved it. It was canvas, but sturdy and it had the picture of two kittens on it with yarn etched in sequins. She liked backpacks too, but somehow this was freer. It was her mood lately. More freewheeling.
She smiled and sniffed the air. She had planned to stay a couple of weeks more, although she had already packed her few belongings in the army sized duffle that she always used. But, what the hell? She could throw caution to the wind and leave tonight. Light out on the full moon in her little grey Volvo with the beat-up left fender.
No one would miss her. Detective Coleman, maybe, but then he didn’t even have her full
name and he’d forget her quick enough. Just another pretty girl.
She stopped. Time had gotten away with her. She’d let her thoughts ramble and here she was almost at her apartment. Only four blocks away. The sky rumbled. Maybe the rain was coming quicker than she thought. Well, that was fine, she wouldn’t melt, would she?
She turned down the narrow alley between McCormick and Strayer. It was fronted by a Pizza Place that sometimes stayed open late and a couple of dusty bookstores that catered to students’ used books. She’d used it plenty of times. Nothing much bothered her. She’d never seen more than a stray cat lurking behind a garbage can.
She stepped into the alley and was about halfway to the other side when she heard the footsteps behind her. She could seen the lights from the main street and here the sound of a siren, and then a car slamming on its breaks. She fought the primal impedious to run and turned her hand reaching into her bag. In this light, his eyes almost gleamed like an animal’s caught in headlights. “It’s you,” she said.
September 19, 9:30 PM
He had watched the coffee shop until the Girl and the Detective left. The Detective had followed her a few blocks and turned toward home, lighting the last cigarette of the night, as he often did. He had considered following him, the Detective, just to see if he would notice. But, he’d heard the rumble of the rain and turned after the Girl.
He hadn’t planned this. He knew. It was meant to be different. But, here it was the Girl and the rain and the beat of his heart. He followed her and when she turned into the alley, a route she didn’t take home often, he knew this was it. This was the moment.
What would she say? Would she deny him? He hoped, still hoped, that he had been right all along. That she was the One. The One that would finally understand.
Would she scream like all the others, plead maybe, what would her last breath taste like in his mouth? He followed her and pulled the knife out of his coat pocket. It wasn’t a big knife really, he thought. But it was useful, honest, like a good friend it had never betrayed him.
About halfway through the alley, she
turned. With the light from the street behind her playing against her red hair, she looked like an angel. But, there was something wrong. She didn’t run or scream.
She was smiling. He stepped forward and his last thought, before he saw the black-bladed knife slash down at him was, “She does understand.”
September 20, 6:40 AM
The call came in on morning dispatch while Coleman was drinking his first cup of coffee. He had stopped by the cafe, but the girl wasn’t there.
He’d scared her off. He knew he’d come on too strong. He drank the coffee and winced. God, it was bitter this morning. He turned his car toward the crime scene and was met
with the usual scene. Reporters, already gathered like flies around the yellow line, blue light flashing, coroner’s office huddled to the side talking to another Detective.
He flashed his badge at a blue uniform and stepped over the yellow tape.
“You’d think people know better than to be short-cutting through alleys with a killer on
the loose, eh, Detective?” the gum-chewing reporter said as he passed.
“Keep them behind the line,” he said to the uniformed officer. He knew the coroner’s assistant, Jimmy Manx.
“What’ve we got?” he asked the white coated man. Jimmy looked up, “Guy got himself mugged. Slit throat. Right before the rainstorm.” he said.
Coleman looked down at the body. The man was small, rumpled, nondescript. Yet, he looked oddly familiar. They’d probably passed on the street a hundred times. This wasn’t that big of a neighborhood. “No wallet, Med-alert bracelet, name tag?” Coleman asked. Jimmy nodded,
“Nope. We get these all the time. Who knows, someone may claim him—wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever.”
Coleman looked down at the man again. Just what he needed. Another robbery-murder to write up with a serial killer on the loose. He fought the urge to light a cigarette. “Looks like it may rain again. We better hustle,” said Jimmy. Coleman nodded.
September 20, 11:00 PM
The girl sat at the bar with her back to the room. She reached for the dirty glass of beer as soon as it was set in front of her and blew at the foam. Her hair, long and red, was pulled back with a black scrunchie. She wore too-tight jeans fraying at the knees and a sleeveless Skynard t-shirt that had been cut off above her navel. She swivelled around in the chair and her eyes raked across the room nonchalantly.
A man sat eyeing her at a corner table. He wore fatigues and fiddled at the table’s worn wood surface with a pocket knife. She let her eyes slide over him and then she turned back to the bar. He was nothing. He would approach her and be turned away.
But, there was someone far more interesting in the corner. He was small, nervous, a black
and white image in this place of too much color. He wore an expression of surprise and kept rubbing his knuckles. His eyes had the look of shock and horror she had come to associate with the first kill.
She was on her way further South and hoped to be there by the end of the week. There was someone she had been keeping an eye on for some time and she sensed that his end-game was close. Still, you could never tell for sure and this would be a nice diversion—perhaps for the night—maybe longer.
She sipped her beer and frowned. It was already warm. She tapped the edge of the bar with her finger and when she saw the little man head for the door. He looked around behind him with the eye’s of a mouse and then hurried to his car.
The girl smiled and inside something half-sleeping turned. The night air was cold on her face and the music faded to a dim throbbing as the door shut behind her. The night was bright and she looked up to see her own face.
Hunter’s Moon. She smiled and felt the Hunter behind her teeth. The other would wait at least for the night.