Bard Bowman is working as a police investigator, his job and his kids are all he cares about, but one day a glorious stranger arrives, in the middle of a rather terrible murder investigation....

Action / Romance
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Lookin' for murder? look no further....

The street was rather dark, this part of the city had never been gifted with new streetlights and the old ones were hardly worth mentioning. The parking lot outside of the small convenience store had just two lights and one of them had been shot out years earlier. The remaining one gave as much light as a handheld flashlight with a bad battery. The only car there was almost as old as the streetlights, a Toyota of unknown origin, it had been fixed so much there wasn’t anything left of the original car. The woman who owned it was making her way towards the car, she carried two heavy bags and held the car keys between her teeth. She was a small person, scrawny and clad in cheap clothing, her hair was tied up in a knot and her face nervous and a bit grey. She worked herself half to death to make a living for herself and her three year old daughter and despair was a feeling she was more than used to by now. She stopped by the car, a chill had just run down her spine and she dropped the bags. This neighbourhood was one of the worst, people got murdered almost every day and attacks were as common as rats. She didn’t have her handbag with her, shit. The mace was in that, she turned around, put her back against the car, eyes trying to penetrate the darkness.

She held her breath, someone had been staring at her, she was well used to that feeling. She had worked as a stripper for a year and she knew how it felt when guys looked at you in that particular creepy manner. Her heart was beating fast, the parking lot was full of shadows and she made a move. She unlocked the car and threw the bags into the backseat. Did barely turn as she did it, there was someone out there, or else they could call her a cow. She listened, nothing. Just silence but the feeling remained, someone was staring at her still, do not panic! Her inner voice was trembling and she knew that she didn’t stand a chance if that someone out there had a gun. She was about to throw herself into the car and close the doors when she suddenly felt that the sensation disappeared, suddenly there was nothing there, as if whoever it was had vanished in thin air. She had always been sensitive, that had saved her skin more than once and as she drove out of the parking lot she just knew that fate had intervened and saved her, but God alone knew from what.


The sound of the phone was as always like a harbinger of doom, and the end of a much needed nap. Some day he was gonna grasp his piece and blow the thing to smithereens but not until he was sure he still had a job afterwards. The lights on his alarm clock glowed faintly in the dark, 2:34 in the morning, oh fucking brilliant. He had slept for what, two hours? He lifted the phone and pressed the button. “Bowman”

He already knew who he would hear at the other end, his instincts after fifteen years as a cop were never wrong. “It is me, Stella, they have found another one”

He groaned, just what he didn’t need now. He closed his eyes. “Right, it is number five isn’t it? Where?”

Stella sounded tired but he knew she probably was working overtime again, heck, she was always working overtime, that lazy ass of a husband of hers never contributed with anything but nagging and false accusations of her screwing the entire police station. Why she hadn’t kicked him to the curb years ago was a mystery. “Yes, it is the same M.O and I will send you the address right now”

He sighed. “Thanks, I will be there soon”

He hung up and rolled out of the bed, yawning and feeling as if he hadn’t slept at all. He stared at the phone, an address ticked in and he made a grimace. Right, not exactly a posh area to say the least, more like a slum and very dangerous after dark. He got up, threw on some clothes and found his badge and gun, there was still some coffee left in the kettle and he tossed it back. Number five, when was this gonna stop? He had never come across a case like this and he knew that nobody else had seen something like it. The entire police squad were waving around like a bunch of blindfolded kids looking for a piñata and he had a hollow aching feeling in his gut. This was the type of case which most probably never would be solved, whoever was behind it was just too good.

He drove fast but not too fast, the streets were almost empty but that also meant that some of the drivers out there could be rather reckless and he didn’t take any chances, he wasn’t some kid with a fresh licence anymore. He had seen first hand what a car crash could do to a human being and he didn’t want to end up as yet another number in the grim statistics of dead and injured. The lights from the squad cars told him where to park, they were all there and he took a deep breath and walked towards the taped off area, he already knew what he would see, more or less. Fernando nodded his head at him and smiled, the man looked as if he needed two months of paid vacation at a health resort for he looked as if he was about to drop dead any moment. Bard had always believed that the next smoke the man lit up would be his very last. He nodded back. “You look like a corpse Fernando, ever considered quitting?”

Fernando just grinned, it was a sort of constant war between them, a way to soften up the tense atmosphere. “Follow me, this one is interesting”

Bard had to grin, interesting, he knew that this meant something akin to “hope you haven’t eaten anything lately” There were officers running around everywhere, sealing off the area, looking for any sort of evidence. Bard already knew that this one never left anything, it was futile. The victim was a male, Caucasian of origin, wearing ordinary clothes and he did look like an ordinary family man, not someone who ought to spend time in a neighbourhood like this. Leonard was busy taking photos and someone had found some lamps so the scene was illuminated like a fourth of July parade. Bard swallowed, there were subtle differences between the murders but no doubt about the identity of the killer. Albert smiled as he was taking notes, he was one year away from retiring and Bard had always liked the old cop. He had the right instincts and lots of experience the others could just dream of ever achieving. “Let me introduce you to John J Carpenter. Fifty one years of age, living in the suburbs with wife Anna and two kids. “

Bard tried not to look at the body, it still made his guts twist. “His wallet is still here?”

Albert nodded. “Just like the others yes, nothing is stolen at all, he has just been…murdered”

Bard made a grimace. “Murdered, the civilized way of telling the world he has been transformed into meat confetti”

Albert shrugged. “I have seen it worse remember?”

Bard found that hard to believe, he closed his eyes for a second and tried to pull himself together. Leonard was dictating for one of the female officers, trying to sound as if he was part of some episode of CSI. “The victim has been attached to the wall with great force, his neck appears to have been broken and his chest and stomach area cut into shreds with some very sharp instrument”

Bard turned around again, it was one of the things which intrigued them the most. All the victims had been found like that, suspended above the ground, four of five impaled upon something which helped keeping them suspended, and one had been impaled and then thrown onto a wall. The damage to the chest and stomach area was done after the impalement, in three of the previous cases the victim had been alive as its body was shredded. The broken neck came at the end, almost as some sort of act of mercy. The odd thing was that there were no sign of the culprit using ropes or any sort of mechanical aid to hoist the victims up. One of the previous ones had been a giant of a man, weighing in at least two hundred and eighty pounds. And yet he had been found impaled upon an old pipe with his feet four feet off the ground.

Albert sighed. “This one is hanging from a bracket of some sort, it could have been where a fire ladder used to be attached”

Bard walked closer, the stench of blood was strong and even though he was used to it he never stopped feeling a wee bit nauseous. After all, this had been a living breathing person, someone who had felt and loved and just lived. So far none of the victims had anything in common and they had been found all over the city. “Yes, that is an attachment of some sort, just solid enough to take the weight. “

The wall was made from solid brick, the back wall of an abandoned warehouse and the narrow gap between the buildings did reek of cat urine and rot. There was a small convenience store not far from there, on the other side of a badly lit parking lot. He wondered how much force you would need to throw an adult person up against a wall like that, so hard the body got stuck on that bracket. Albert sighed and scratched his short grey hair. “I am starting to think that we ought to send out a warning to all the precincts, asking them to look out for an eight foot green giant with a nasty temper”

Bard had to chuckle. “I don’t think the hulk would have been this controlled if he had existed. These murders, they are almost…industrialized”

Albert frowned. “I beg your pardon?”

Bard tried to smile. “Oh you see what I mean? The culprit isn’t some newcomer to the world of serial killers, his M.O is well established, there is no sign of hesitation and I am telling you, he has done it before, it doesn’t feel as if this is something which is done for pleasure at all, it feels as if this one is simply doing a job, a duty almost”

Albert nodded. “Yep, I have thought the same thing, and that is frightening for those who believe they are on a mission are the most dangerous ones.”

Bard just sighed. “Amen to that, but what mission? These poor people have naught in common damn it, it is like they are just randomly chosen and that doesn’t fit at all. Serial killers usually have at least some sort of trait they look for”

Albert nodded. “Like that dude five years ago? He only kidnapped women with D cup’s and red hair”

Bard nodded, who could forget that deranged lunatic? Well, he was rotting away in a cell now and would never see another boob for as long as he was alive. This killer had so far killed four men and a woman and nothing was fitting the normal profile, not even the time span between the murders. Bard heard the sound of the hearse and clapped Albert on his shoulder. “Judith is here, I hope she can tell us something”

The coroner was an attractive woman in her late 40’s, she was known to be as sharp as her scalpels and the dark blue eyes could make even the most rowdy of guys back off. Bard bowed his head politely. “Mrs Temple”

She nodded back and her assistant Brandon helped her unload the stretcher. “Mr Bowman”

Bard had the greatest respect for Judith for she was the one who actually solved the cases, without her expertise they would just run around in circles like headless chickens most of the time. She stared at the body and waved her hand at the officers standing nearby. “You, help Brandon here pull him down. Goddamn bricks, we cannot bring the entire wall with us, not even the bracket before he is down”

Bard watched in silence as they removed the body and then unscrewed the bracket with some difficulty. It was rusted and one of the officers had to get a crowbar to pry it loose. Judith stared at the dead man’s back. “Just like the others, a little further up and the impact would have been immediately fatal, a little further down and he would have slid off. Goddamn it, this one is good. It is like hitting a basketball hoop from the opposite end of the court with a ball filled with sand and never missing, hitting it again and again and again”

Bard felt that uncanny feeling again. “How is it possible?”

Judith shrugged. “Are you asking me to be honest?”

Bard nodded. “Of course”

She stared straight at him. “I have no fucking idea, and that is the absolute truth”

She turned around and they started loading the corpse into the hearse, she would perform a very detailed autopsy the moment they returned to the headquarters and Bard already knew that there wasn’t anything he could do. As head of this unit he had to get back and try to organize the investigation, not that there was that much to investigate. The only thing which sort of stood out was the place where the murder had happened, this man was in the wrong place, a family man had nothing to do in this shady part of the city. He turned to Leonard. “Len, what sort of job did he have?”

Leonard was the most ambitious of the younger detectives and he always sought to increase his importance and influence. Too bad he didn’t really had what was needed, yet. He needed another decade, then he would perhaps become a skilled investigator. “From what I have found so far he was working as an accountant”

Bard had to scoff. An accountant, now that was a job which had to be a thrill to wake up to every morning. He would have gone insane after just a week of that sort of activity, moving numbers all day long. “Right guys, make sure that everything is documented thoroughly, in case we do catch this thing someday. “

He walked back to the car, five victims. He had a feeling that it wouldn’t stop there, and so far they hadn’t found a single clue as to who had committed these crimes. Whoever it was, the culprit was both strong, brutally so, and fast. Everything seemed to have been perfectly planned ahead of the action itself and there had never been any mistakes made. It was actually rather terrifying. He drove back to the HQ in silence, his mind reeling though. The dead dude had looked absolutely horrified, they all had.

Elisa met him by his office, she was smiling but her eyes were hard and the lines on her face told him she was angry and maybe even scared. “Number five. When are we going to catch this thing?”

Bard took a deep breath. “When he leaves some clue behind, anything. Right now we haven’t got anything to work with, at all!”

Elisa opened the door and Bard stared at the wall, images of all the victims were staring at him, soon an image of John J Carpenter would stare at him too, in silent accusation. “So, where does he fit into the picture, the new victim I mean?”

Bard sat down, the leather chair did creak and the sound was almost comforting, something he was used too. It helped him focus. “He doesn’t, and that is the only thing they have in common”

Elisa stared at the line of names and pictures. “Do you want me to go over it all again”

He nodded. “Yes, read it out loud, maybe there is something in there, something I have missed.”

Elisa nodded, she was a computer expert and also a skilled artist. They often used her to make sketches of victims or criminals. She stared at the first victim. “Sean Rogan, age 32, married with three kids, construction worker. Found dead outside of his house on the 25th of February, his wife had spoken to him just ten minutes before. She is still in shock.”

She moved on to number two. “Elliot Springer, age 61, divorced and no kids, worked as a janitor at the local school. Well liked, a sweet man. Was found at his home by the house owner on the 15th of April. Had been dead for at least a week.”

Bard remembered that one, oh the smell in the apartment. The newbies had been puking all over the lawn. She went onto number three. “Sarah Combs, 27 years of age, social worker. Had an extra job as a cashier at a local market during the weekends. Found in the park not far from her home by a jogger on the 4th of May.”

Bard remembered that the poor woman had been impaled upon a dead branch, it had been a very grotesque sight but he had made one observation though. It had seemed as if the culprit wanted the body found fast, before too many stumbled by it and got traumatized. Why he got that idea he didn’t know, but he did.

Elisa cocked her head. “Number four, Brian Forbes Whitham. Age 44, lawyer with his own practice, reasonably successful, married to Elisabeth, one kid named Jasper and a dog named Dingo. He was found in his office and he had been seen alive less than fifteen minutes before his secretary found him hanging there like some sort of grotesque art installation. He was a huge man, almost obese and quite tall too He was found on the 9th of June”

Bard closed his eyes. “The killer is trying to send a message, he isn’t spending time with his victims, isn’t relishing in the act. It is done quickly, he doesn’t take souvenirs, he just does it and is gone. It is…puzzling”

Elisa nodded. “It is indeed, no typical serial killer for sure.”

Bard turned around from the row of images. “There is no consistency anywhere, Elliot was black and Sarah was half Mexican on her mother’s side. The time between the murders does warry, the time of the day too. Some like the first one was murdered in broad daylight. I just don’t get it”

Elisa made a grimace. “The first thought which strikes me is that this isn’t a serial killer at all, but something else”

Bard frowned. “Then what? Do explain”

She shrugged. “Albert says he think this one has a mission right? Well, maybe that is the thing we ought to focus upon? Serial killers do take some sort of pleasure from murdering, it makes them feel good, empowered. This one….it doesn’t feel that way. It is too clinical, too cold. It is executions Bard, grotesque ones”

Bard leaned back. “Yes, you are right. There is no emotions involved. But if he does it for some reason, then what reason? They have nothing in common at all! We have checked, none of the victims have known each other, they have probably never met. They are from all layers of social life and … I just don’t know where to start Elisa, I have never encountered anything like this”

Elisa sat down on the desk, her long black hair was shining. “Listen, we all agree that this is someone who must have done it before right? I will start to check with the police in the bigger cities, with the national data bases, with everyone I know everywhere. If he has done this somewhere else we will know, soon”

Bard pushed his hair out of his eyes, damn, he needed a haircut again, he was looking like some savage. “Good, before we know it we’ll have the feds running all over the place”

Elisa sighed. “That is true yes, but what else to do? We cannot handle this Bard, just…we cannot! It is beyond us. Five murders Bard, the Red D murderer managed three before we put him away. This one won’t stop, I just know it”

Bard mumbled. “I agree, he won’t.”

Elisa looked down. “Now, I am gonna return to my office and start working, I will let you know as soon as I get some answers. Meanwhile I bet Mr Carpenter’s family needs some attention, and Thor wants a word with you as well. I suggest you go see him first”

Bard nodded, their chief was a man he respected a lot, but he could be rather rough around the edges and he never hesitated to tell people his true opinion on different matters. That gave results but it did also give him enemies. That he had managed to become chief investigator was in the eyes of some a real miracle while others claimed that it was well deserved. Now he was in charge of this precinct and he held them all on a tight leash. Bard got up and headed towards Mr Montgomery’s office, his assistant had a desk just outside of the door and Bard managed to smile politely at the small man who at the moment seemed busy making obscene drawings on a notepad. “So, what is your task today Alfrid? Practicing anatomical drawings?”

Alfrid hadn’t heard him coming and dropped the pen, the face had always reminded Bard of that of a fat toad and the guy didn’t exactly help himself for he looked just like something they had pulled out of a garbage heap. Bard knew that Monty would have preferred to have Alfrid transferred to the unit responsible for handing out parking tickets but unfortunately Alfrid’s mother was Monty’s wife’s sister. Alfrid was the biggest ass kisser in the entire police force and he was sucking up to everyone above him and being unbearably arrogant towards the ones who he regarded as of lower importance. Nobody liked him and he was the victim of countless more or less innocent practical jokes. Bard himself had once glued his chair to the floor so he had to sit there bent forwards at a very odd angle the entire day until the janitor had time to come and fix it. Elisa was dead tired of the badly concealed hints Alfrid made almost every day, in his eyes she ought to go out on a date with him and Elisa had told Bard she’d rather date Jack the ripper. So she had filled laxative in Alfrid’s cup and the guy spent an entire shift crapping.

Alfrid tried to smile, he had bad teeth and even worse skin and Bard cringed when he saw him. “Oh hello Mr Bowman, Mr Montgomery is waiting”

Bard just walked right by him, the door was open and he gave it a polite knock before he entered the rather large office. Thor “Monty” Montgomery sat in an armchair by the window and he did look worried, he turned his head around and made a grimace. “Bard, what can you tell me of this one?”

Bard sat down, he and Mr Montgomery were good friends also outside of the job and he respected the veteran. “Not much, at least not yet. Elisa will start looking for similar cases elsewhere, it is obvious that this guy has done it before. He is just so bloody efficient.”

Thor nodded and his eyes got distant. He was a very attractive large man in his late fifties and he had a full beard and thick wavy hair which had begun to turn grey. “Yes, I have looked at the case files. Who is taking care of the family?”

Bard sighed. “Leonard and Duke, they know what to say, and what questions to ask”

Thor nodded. “They do, but do go see his family, I need someone skilled on this, Leonard is way too eager to excel and Duke is a bloody coward. He is so afraid of offending anyone he is unable to even fart!”

Bard had to grin. “Yes, if I ever hear him swear I bet I will pass out. He is seemliness incarnate.”

Thor looked a bit tense. “Bard, these cases are making me worried, we aren’t used to murders like this here, and we have only had one serial killer to deal with. I know you have seen some shit before, but do come to me if things get too hard, you hear me?”

Bard looked down. “Sure thing chief”

Thor looked a bit more at ease. “So, how are the kids doing these days, it has been a long time since I saw them.”

Bard had to grin. “Oh, they are doing fine, well, as fine as one can expect. Bain is busy playing soccer most of the time and Sigrid is going to participate in a choir competition in two weeks, she is so eager she cannot wait. “

Thor cocked his head. “And Tilda?”

Bard had to swallow. “She is better, much better. She still has nightmares but…you know, children are resilient, and Jean is taking good care of them. They barely do mention Sophia anymore”

Thor looked out of the window again, the rain outside made the buildings and streets look grey, and flat. “Good, that is very…good. And you, how about you?”

Bard sighed. “I think of her every day Thor, and I wonder what I could have done, what I did wrong, if I could have prevented it, something!”

The stocky dark man looked at Bard again. “And I can tell you for the thousandth time that no, there was nothing you could have done. Sophia was ill Bard. So ill not even her doctor understood the severity of the situation. That she chose to end her own life in spite of having three wonderful children and a caring and loving husband tell me just how bad it was. Bard, she was insane!”

He took a deep breath, his chest hurt as it always did when she was mentioned, but he had gotten used to it. Two years had gone since his wife’s sudden suicide and it had been two years in which he had lived as if in a sort of cocoon. “Yet I still cannot help but wonder, had I come home from work a little earlier that day….”

Thor cocked his head. “Then you would have been the one to find her laying on the floor with her head blown open, not Tilda. It would have been better yes, but you couldn’t have stopped her Bard, nobody could. And you know that”

He had to nod. “Yes, I know that, now.”

Thor folded his arms over his chest. “So I suggest you go out there now, visit Mr Carpenter’s family and use what you have learned. She hid her condition from you all didn’t she? Go see if Mr Carpenter was hiding something from his wife, there has to be a reason why he was targeted”

Bard nodded. “Yes, you are right.”

Thor got up from the chair with some difficulty, an old injury sometimes bothered him and he was no longer fit for patrol duty of any kind. “Go see if Judith has something new for us, then go interview Mrs Carpenter.”

Bard got up too and tried to smile. “Will do”

He hurried downstairs towards the basement where the domain of the coroner spread dread and fear into the heart of everyone. It didn’t matter how sterile and clean and tidy those rooms where, they still reminded everybody of the sad fact that everyone sooner or later has to die and Bard had never liked it down there. Judith had just finished the initial autopsy, she was quick but she was also very thorough and nothing did slip by her. She smiled at him and slid her gloves off, threw them into a closed container. “Good, just on time. I am done with the first preliminary exam of the body and there is little news I am afraid. No fingerprints, no blood, nothing under his fingernails, or rather, no skin cells”

Bard tensed up. “No skin cells but something else?”

She nodded. “Yes, for the first time! I did find something but it could be something completely irrelevant.”

She held out a small plastic bag, there was something in it and he held it up towards the light. “Hair?”

Judith nodded. “Yes, a small piece of one hair. No root, so no DNA, but it can perhaps tell us something still”

She went over to a microscope and he handed her the bag again. “Nothing else? No bruises of any kind?”

She shook her head. “Nope, nothing except the obvious injuries. The bracket did pierce his body pretty easily, I cannot imagine how much force the culprit must have used. He would have bled out within minutes even without the torn chest and stomach”

Bard almost groaned. “And the instrument used for the cutting? Nothing new?”

She just nodded. “Nothing, same as the four other times, extremely sharp and leaves no trace evidence at all, it has gone through bone and flesh like a hot knife through butter”

She placed the hair under the microscope and immediately she frowned. “What the….”

Bard leaned closer. “What?”

She fidgeted with the microscope, enhanced the magnification. “Bard, I have never seen hair like this, ever”

She sat there, obviously looking at the piece of hair from every angle. “It is wrong, it is just….not normal”

Bard frowned. “What do you mean not normal?”

She sighed and pushed her chair out of the way. “Look for yourself, be my guest”

She gestured towards the microscope and he took her place, looked into the instrument and saw a brown line across the screen. “I see a hair?”

She sighed. “No you don’t. It is a hair and yet not a hair, hair is made from keratin, the same as our skin and fingernails. This is some other substance and the hair is not round but octagonal in shape. “

Bard straightened his back. “Uh, could it be some sort of synthetic material, made to look like hair?”

She nodded. “Bingo, that has to be it, but what material? It looks normal until you start looking at it really close!”

Bard tilted his head. “A very expensive wig perhaps?”

Judith sighed. “Maybe, I will send the images to some friends of mine, they are perhaps able to identify it.”

Bard smiled. “Do that, I have to go and ask Mrs Carpenter some questions, I hope she isn’t too hysterical”

Judith just returned to the microscope. “Do that, I will call you if I find something new”

Bard had gotten the address from Stella and drove there thinking that it was way too long since he had visited the kids. His former mother in law was taking care of them for he just didn’t have the time to do that, and for the first year after Sopthia’s suicide he hadn’t been all that stable himself. The doubt and guilt had been gnawing at his heart the whole time and that Jean had stepped in had been a gift from heaven. They loved her and she was a very wise woman who knew that they needed, all of them. Bard was grateful beyond words for what she had done for them all and the fact that they all were returning to normal was thanks to her and her alone. He wondered if Mr Carpenter’s wife would struggle now, the way he had struggled. He hoped not.

The home was a neat one, not overly large with a well maintained façade and a nice lawn in front of it. It didn’t speak of poverty nor riches and the car parked in the driveway was an ordinary sedan, the type thousands of families use. He saw that Leonard and Duke had to be inside still, together with some other officers and the precinct reverend. Bard gathered his courage and walked up to the door, one of the officers had seen him and showed him the way into the livingroom where a crying woman sat in a couch surrounded by what had to be her daughter and perhaps some friends. Duke sent him a pale smile “She is quite upset”

Bard felt a need to roll his eyes. Upset? No shit Sherlock, half ways hysterical was the word he would have preferred. Bard took a deep breath. “Mrs Carpenter? I am Bard Bowman, I am the leader of the dayshift within this precinct. I can assure you that we will do all that is in our power to catch whoever did this to your husband”

The words rung hollow in his ears, he had said them too many times before, and lied. The woman was rather large, not overly fat but overweight to a degree and her face was round and yet pretty in its own way. Now it was red and her eyes swollen and she was shaking all over. “Why, why my John, he was just a sweet man, he never harmed anyone!”

Bard saw that Leonard nodded at him, discretely. “We have asked the standard questions, she has no idea why he was near that place, he should have been at his office”

Bard frowned, he sat down in front of the sobbing woman. Her daughter appeared to be in her mid twenties and he remembered that there ought to be one more child there. “You have two children?”

Mrs Carpenter just sobbed even louder and her daughter answered. “I have a brother. Steve, but he is at college. He is on his way home though, will get here tomorrow”

Bard smiled. “Good, you need to stand together now. But I do need to ask some more questions, I am sorry but it is standard procedure”

Mrs Carpenter just sniffed. “Go ahead, I have already answered questions for hours it seems so why not”

Her voice was trembling and Bard felt sorry for her, the home looked like a very cosy place with lots of charm and also warmth. He just knew that this had been a very happy home until that horrible phone call had turned this family’s life upside down. He opened a notepad and found a pen. “Mrs Carpenter, when was the last time you saw your husband?”

She closed her eyes. “I have already answered that, but alright, at five in the evening. He had gotten home from work and we had dinner when he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten some very important papers. He had to go and get them but he waited until I went to bed. He didn’t want to ruin our evening together, he was so thoughtful!”

She sobbed again and tore into a box of tissues, almost with desperation. Bard made a note of it, he would compare it with those of the others to see if there were any discrepancies. “Did you notice that he was missing?”

She shook her head. “No, I was fast asleep when the phone rang this morning, I have problems with my sleep so I use pills. I just assumed that he had decided to sleep at his office, he sometimes does that if there is much to do, he doesn’t want to bring his work with him, claims that it will ruin the joys of home for him”

Bard turned to the daughter. “And you young lady, did you notice anything out of the ordinary?”

The girl shook her head. “My name is Sandra by the way, and no, I didn’t notice anything odd or special about dad no. He was just as he usually is, a bit distracted but that is completely normal.”

Bard frowned. “It is?”

She nodded. “Yes, you see, dad thinks that he is going to be the next great novelist, he is writing on his spare time and he thinks about the plot all the time”

Bard raised and eyebrow. “A novelist, that is interesting. What sort of a novel?”

Sandra smiled through her tears. “Romance, not the sleazy kind but old fashioned very clean entertainment. I have read some of it, and it is good”

Bard nodded, romance novel, written by an accountant. Now that was a book he would have loved to see on the bestseller list. It would mean that pigs suddenly were given the ability to fly. He didn’t say that though. “Does your father have any friends? Does he hang out with any buddies?”

Sandra shook her head. “Nope, he is just very boring, his work and his hobby is his entire life, and us of course. He has always been a very supportive dad. “

Mrs Carpenter intervened. “My John was the best husband a woman can ever ask for, just ask anybody around here. He was perfect!”

Bard frowned. Nobody is perfect, everybody has flaws and what where Mr Carpenter’s flaws? But he didn’t press on, he just smiled. “Mrs Carpenter, it says here that your husband drives a blue sedan, a Toyota?”

She nodded. “Yes, it is old though, but it is faithful.”

Bard smiled. “Those car’s usually are yes, they can keep running for decades”

He took a quick look at his notes, the car had been found just a block away from the murder site, locked and unharmed and nothing had seemed to be out of the ordinary. They had towed it and it was waiting to be checked for fingerprints and other possible pieces of evidence in the police garage.

He stared at the surroundings, nothing there seemed off so if there was some clue it wasn’t to be found in this house. He turned to Leonard. “Have you sent anyone to Mr Carpenter’s office yet?”

Leonard cringed. “Should I have done that?”

Bard petted him on his shoulder. “No, it is alright. I need the address for his office and keys if you have them, and by the way, does any of you own a wig, dark brown?”

The people assembled just stared at him, confused. Mrs Carpenter shook her head. “No, nobody here uses wigs. He has a code lock, the code is his birthday, backwards. And the address is Uptonstreet park number 12, second floor”

Bard bowed his head. “Excellent, thank you for your time Ma’am. I am so sorry for your loss, John seems to have been a true gem of a man”

She sobbed again, ripping a tissue apart. “He was, oh God he was!”

Bard walked out of the door in a brisk pace, he felt as if he needed air, lots of air. This always did him in, he hated it, these visits, asking grieving shocked people such questions about their beloved ones. It felt inhuman at times, just wrong. But it was needed and he stopped by the car and waited for one of the officers to join him. The one who came sauntering towards him was Fred Bark, a short and sinewy fellow with dark blonde hair and a goatee. He was a patrol officer and well known for having a sharp tongue and an even sharper eye. That was welcome now. Fred leaned against the car and sent Bard a tired glance. “I can never get used to this man, it gets at me every time!”

Bard nodded. “Yeah, me too. Hop inn, we have to get to that office before rush hour sets in”

Bard was quiet in the car, an accountant. A construction worker, a social worker, a janitor, a lawyer. As different as it was possible to get, the job wasn’t the thing which these people had in common, that was for damn sure. He was driving into the parking lot in front of the huge office building when the phone rang and he set it on hands free” Yes?”

He heard Elisa’s voice, she was out of breath, like she had been running. “He has done it before, I have been in touch with a detective from Detroit, seven years ago, six murders over eight months. The feds are coming, this one jumps state borders.”

Bard felt his mouth go dry. “Damn, holy shit. I was afraid of that, now what?”

Elisa was almost panting. “Yeah, I have sent out a warning to all the police head quarters I know of, if he has been somewhere else too we will know. There is a federal agent coming over and he will arrive tomorrow. I am to pick him up at the airport, and by the way, they are sending some expert too, a professor in psychology and human behaviour patterns”

Bard groaned, just what they didn’t need, a profiler, some guy with his head up in the clouds and no real understanding of how the harsh realities of life affected ordinary people. “Oh, wonderful. A shrink!”

Elisa sounded a bit calmer. “ He is also an anthropology expert, quite famous. Bard, I bet he can help”

Bard sighed and saw that Fred too felt less than enthusiastic about this. A stranger was never welcome within such a tightly woven unit, but they couldn’t turn the guy down. “Right, who is this expert then?”

Elisa was sounding more enthusiastic now. “His name is Thran Oropherson, he is a professor at Mirkwood university”

Bard frowned, the name sounded familiar and Fred nodded. “A very famous place, lots of clever heads there”

Bard groaned. “Alright then, let me know when you find out when we can expect this shrink of ours”

Elisa answered. “Consider it done”

Bard hung up and stared at the brick wall in front of the car. Perfect, a FBI agent and now a darn profiler too, it was getting better and better. This day was promising to say the least.

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