Nick stopped his Denali outside the house. The house was in sat in a neighborhood in valley, at the edge of the desert. It sat apart from the neighbors since it was on the largest plot at the end of the road. Behind it there was only dark desert, and in the distance, the stream of headlights of a highway.
A police car and Greg’s Denali sat in front of the house, but there were no lights on inside. And there was no sign of Greg or the officer.
“This is all wrong,” Nick said. “Why aren’t there any lights? Why isn’t the uni out front?”
Catherine grabbed her cell phone from a cup holder, dialed, and put it on speaker.
“Dispatch,” a woman answered on the other end.
“This is C.S.I. supervisor Willows. We’re at 3123 Roper, and an officer and C.S.I. Sander’s vehicles are here, but we don’t see any indication they are. Did C.S.I. Sanders actually report he’d arrived on scene earlier tonight? It would have been around twenty-two hundred and thirty hours.”
“Negative,” she answered. “I’m show the dispatch went out at twenty-two hundred and twenty-six hours and you responded to it. You told us you were assigning it to C.S.I. Sanders but he never checked in that he’d arrived on scene.”
Catherine looked down at the dash clock. It was now a quarter to five.
Nick commented, “That was over four hours ago. Dispatch, where does C.S.I. Sanders or the officer’s GPS showing them at?”
“One moment.” There was a short pause. “I’m showing both are at 3123 Roper.”
“Well, their phones are anyway,” Catherine said, “What was your last report from this location?”
There was a pause. “Last report was no need for medics.”
“When was that?”
“Twenty-two hundred and twenty-four hours.”
“Did that officer report he’d arrived at the location? Were there any problems?”
“What’s the problem?” they heard another woman in the background ask.
“C.S.I. Willows is asking about a scene, ma’am. C.S.I. Willows, there was no report of problems. He reported he’d arrived at… He arrived at the location at twenty-two hundred and twenty-three hours. That’s only one minute. Would the officer have been likely to secure the area that quickly, C.S.I. Willows?”
She looked at the large, two story house.
“Two stories, a basement, who knows what’s out back…” Nick shook his head. “No. No way. Not even running.”
“This call was a possible 10-27-1,” they heard the supervisor say. “Multiple shots reported. He was there in ten minutes and medics were another ten minutes out. Find the call. I want to hear him report he’s arrived and then cancel the medics.”
They heard a recording in the background. The officer called in to report he’d arrived. Within a minute, a voice cancelled the medics. The second voice was a young voice trying to sound deep, but nowhere near the officer’s tenor voice.
All four on the conversation said at once, “That was not the officer.”
“Backup. Now,” the supervisor ordered.
“We’re dispatching backup to your location,” the dispatcher said. “Four units will be at your location in five minutes.”
“Send medics too,” Nick ordered.
“Dispatching two. First will arrive in ten minutes.”
Catherine hung up, staring at her phone.
“We have to wait for backup.”
“Catherine,” Nick said, his tone telling her there was no way he was waiting for backup.
She put her phone on the dash, unfastened the strap on her hip holster, and got out. Nick got out, doing the same. The two drew their weapons, moving toward the door. They stood on either side of the door; both noticing it wasn’t closed all the way. Nick tapped on it and the door silently swung open. They stared at the blood pooled on the floor. Nick looked up at her.
There was no way she was going to wait now. If Greg had seen that, there was a chance he would have gone in despite knowing it was against protocol. She stepped inside, skirting the blood as best she could. Nick was right behind her.
“Greg?” Catherine called out.
To their left, through a large doorway, they heard a floorboard creak.
“Greg? Answer me if that’s you.” Catherine lifted her gun, flipped the safety, but didn’t cock it yet.
Another board creaked. Nick cocked his gun.
“If someone is in the house, answer us. Now.”
Gunfire exploded from the dark and the two bolted into the nearest room, standing on either side of the door with guns drawn. The shooting stopped.
“Police are on their way!” Nick called out. “Put down your weapon and—”
The shooting started again and this time the bullets penetrated the wall. They dropped to the floor, pushing against the baseboards to avoid being shot. The shooting stopped. They waited until they heard the backdoor slam shut.
Both sprang to their feet and ran out of the room as six police officers burst through the front door. The C.S.I. swung around to aim at the police, who aimed back at them, until both groups realized they were on the same side.
“We heard gunfire when we got here. Are you two okay?” an officer asked.
“Yeah. Someone went out the back,” Catherine told them.
Two ran through the house hoping to catch whoever had run.
“So this was a crime scene?” one of the women asked.
“It still is,” Catherine answered. “C.S.I. Sanders and an officer are supposed to be here. We have to find them. Search down here, but don’t touch anything. I’ll head upstairs. And be careful of evidence, guys.”
The officers and Nick left. Catherine started up the stairs.
With his flashlight held over his pistol, Nick crept down steps into the basement. His flashlight kept finding ‘Emily’ painted on the walls with what appeared to be blood. His mind didn’t care about that right now; it was focused on his missing friend. The focused beam swung where he aimed it, revealing little parts of the basement. He was expecting someone to jump out around every corner and it made his heart thump in his throat. His flashlight came across a cupboard with a broom stuck in the handles to hold the doors closed. Nick slowly made his way across the room to the cupboard and with the flashlight hand reached out to knock the broom away. He stepped back, waiting to see if anything or anyone jumped out. When nothing happened, he reached out for the door handle.
On the first floor, an officer came into the kitchen. Blood was splattered across the wall and ceiling, and had pooled at the bottom of the bullet riddled pantry door. On the walls and cupboards, the name ‘Emily’ was written in blood. Scrawled across the refrigerator was a poem or phrase about Emily.
The officer reached out and tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She pulled again, and then noticed a slide lock had been slid across to lock the door. She reached up to push the lock back…
Catherine cautiously cleared the rooms on the top floor. She paused at the first two writings of ‘Emily,’ and then ignored them. She had to find Greg, evidence would come later.
She entered the first bedroom and was surrounded by the images of a girl caught between a child and teenager. Her trained eyes were drawn to a bloodstain on the floor and then the open closet door. A swatch of blonde hair lay between the door and bloodstain. She guessed someone had been pulled from the closet by his or her hair.
Slowly she moved to the next bedroom. A boy’s room. There was blood spatter over everything and a large bloodstain near the door. Whoever had been killed here had been left for a while. There was no closet in this bedroom.
She moved on to the next bedroom: a teenager girl’s room judging from the jewelry and makeup on the dresser. Catherine moved to the closet and pulled the door open. On the floor were a bloodstain and a pair of bloody handcuffs. She noticed two voids in the patch of blood. Had the killer sat on his teenage victim while he killed her? Judging from the castoff spatter, Catherine guessed the answer was yes.
She moved on to the last bedroom. There was a large bloodstain in the middle of the bed and one on the floor, both with voids where a body had lain. Dad had most likely been killed in bed but the killer took his time killing, and most likely raping, mom. Catherine moved to the door of the closet and pulled it open. The large walk in closet had been rifled through, but there was no blood. Had the killer been looking for something or was there a struggle? She moved to the bathroom, using her flashlight to illuminate the dark room. There was no blood in here and nothing looked disturbed.
Catherine turned and went back into the hall. She walked into the last room in the hall, the family bathroom. There was a large pool of congealing blood in the center of the floor. Who had died here? She saw a Smartphone against the wall and walked to it. It looked like Greg’s, but it wasn’t powered on so she couldn’t verify that.
She turned and paused when her flashlight found a phrase written in blood across the wide mirror: ‘when you first see EMILY, you will fear her, when EMILY comes once more, you will breathe no more.’ Who was Emily? Was she one of the women that lived here?
In the mirror, Catherine noticed a blood smear across the floor leading into the hall. She followed the smear to double doors of a closet at the end of the hall. The doors had been showered with bullets and the carpet in front of the doors was soaked with blood. A cut electrical cord had been wrapped around the doors to securely lock them. Catherine slowly approached the closet, reaching for the cord. She suddenly pulled her hand back and fished a glove from her pocket. With gloves on, she reached out again…
Nick threw open the door of the cupboard and jumped back when the corpse of a dog fell out onto the floor at his feet. Inside the cupboard was a dead cat.
“Who the hell shoots a cat?” Nick asked the basement.
The officer slipped the latch and swung the door open. She stared at a man and LVPD officer lying in blood. Moving around the edge of the pantry, trying to stay out of the blood, she checked for a pulse on both. When she found none, she stood up, leaning back against the shelves to collect herself.
She lifted her radio off her shoulder to her lips. “Dispatch, we need a coroner. Multiple deceased.”
Catherine unwound the electrical cord and slowly pulled the doors open. She stared at the lifeless eyes staring back at her, and her heart nearly broke. A naked pre-teen lay on the top, her petite body ravaged by her attacker. The teenager and mother were in no better shape. Dumped in the opposite corner was the father with his seven-year-old son. The smell of blood was pungent – in the back of her mind, Catherine knew the entire rug was going to have to pull out of this house. There was no spot cleaning that could get rid of the smell in here.
Her eyes stopped on a wrist sandwiched between the two bottom bodies. With shaking hands, she pulled a small Maglight from her vest pocket and shined it on the watch. It was leather and the watch face was metal. At first glance, it appeared to be just a nice man’s watch, but the light revealed the Tasmanian Devil etched into the face. The watch that was the pride and joy of—
“Greg!” Catherine dropped to her knees, pushing the bodies aside.
She didn’t give a damn about evidence. She just had to get to Greg. He was at the bottom, his battered body pushed into a small space at the back of the closet. Every inch of his body was bruised, swollen, covered in blood. Broken sections in his skull had made the skin stretch in odd angles.
Catherine tore off her glove and reached for his wrist.
Catherine whispered as she pressed her fingers into his skin, “Please, please.” The skin was cool and clammy; however, relief didn’t come until she felt a vein push against her fingers, even if it was weak.
She turned and screamed down the hall, “GET ME THOSE MEDICS NOW!”