The shrill sounds of the alarm bounced from the speakers off the walls in a torturous manner until Monique grabbed the nearest thing and threw it in the machine’s direction. She heard it click off and the room was plunged back into its profound silence. She sighed and fell back to her pillows. The hard coils of the springs bit at her back and the thin covers suddenly seemed ridiculous the longer she lay there. Monique sighed and threw off the sheets, groaning as her warm feet met the rough carpet.
The sound of hard plastic scraping against wood sounded from the nightstand to her right. She froze, eyes snapping open at the unfamiliar sound until it died away. She breathed out a sigh glancing at the table; her phone lit as it suddenly began to vibrate again. She rolled her eyes. Phone, she thought as she grabbed it and flipped it open, right.
“Hello?” She rubbed a hand over her eyes as she waited for the reply.
Silence greeted her on the other end of the line. She pulled the phone away from her ear and glanced at the screen, in large block letters it read: EDDIE. She sighed and put it against her ear again, “Eddie, did you find it?”
“What does a mind need that a sword does not,” a growling voice said on the other end.
“It is too early in the morning for this,” Monique snapped back.
“What does a mind need-“
“Books, you ass-hat, now did you find it or not?”
“So touchy. I think someone is not a morning person.” The growling voice suddenly turned high pitched and Monique could’ve sworn that she heard a smile in the tone. Neither improved her mood.
“Of course I found it, you think I’m so suicidal that I would call you without it?”
She simply grunted as she pushed herself off the bed and stumbled towards the bathroom. “When can I meet you?”
“Twenty minutes. Prostitute alley.”
“That’s not a real place.”
“It is if everyone knows where you’re talking about when you say it. Tootles.”
He was gone with a click. Monique shut her phone and threw it at the bed. She listened for a moment but didn’t hear it hit the floor; she shrugged and turned on the bathroom light. She glanced in the mirror but she already knew what she would see. Eyeliner that was smudged creating exaggerated circles around her blue eyes, her black hair would have escaped from it’s tail and hanging in knotted trails about her shoulders, and the long scar that ran from her right ear to chin would still be there, faded but there. She turned on the water and let the sound of the water hitting the porcelain sink fill the room. At least she thought it was porcelain, it was hard to tell at some motels.
She splashed the water on her face, forcing the grogginess from her mind and the chill soaked into her skin. She watched as the dried blood on her palms began to run through her fingers. She had almost forgotten about it. Almost forgotten about the woman she stumbled upon last night in that cold alley, the one she had been to late for. The last clue she had needed.
She wiped her hands clean and balled the towel on the floor, kicking it under the sink. At least it won’t be too noticeable, she thought shutting off the light to the bathroom. Monique snatched her clothes off from the floor, tugging on her shirt and pants as she frantically looked for her keys. She tucked her discarded phone into her pocket and threw off the sheets of the bed. No keys. She knelt to peer under the bed. Nothing. Her duffle only held her folded clothes. Her computer bag was stuffed with case files and photographs of victims. No keys in that madness.
Grabbing her old coffee cup from yesterday she went to take a drink. Something clinked at the bottom. She paused and peered inside. Her keys gleamed up at her. She snatched them out and slammed the cup down on the table. Monique wiped them with a dishtowel before snatching the key card off the counter. She opened the door and stepped out of the room as her foot brushed something cold. She looked down at her bare feet and growled, “Fucking shoes.” She walked back into the room, slamming the door behind her.
“I do hope you realize it is rude to keep a gentleman waiting.” Eddie said as he stood leaning against the alley wall. The alley was completely empty besides a passed out drunk at the opposite end.
Monique glared at him. “It’s one of those mornings,” she said keeping her voice low so Eddie had to lean towards her to hear. “Where is it?”
Eddie held up his hands, sly smirk already painting across his face. “So eager to be rid of me? It hurts me, it really does.”
“I don’t give a fuck if it tickles you pink, Greaser. I don’t have all day.”
Eddie looked down at his faded leather jacket and biker boots and stuck out his lip. “Pulling no punches today.”
“No coffee.” She scanned the street behind her for any lurkers, but no one was on these streets this early.
“I’ll make this quick then.” Eddie pulled out a long package from his jacket and handed it over. “Everything we agreed on is in it.”
Monique raised an eyebrow and passed him an envelope. “And everything I promised is in this.”
They exchanged the packages. Monique held out her hand, “And the picture.”
“Ah.” Eddie’s hand flew to his pants pocket. “Here you go. He lives down the street.“
Eddie smiled. “I wouldn’t deprive you of such good reading,” he said nodding to the package she held, “but he might have a warehouse on the edge of town. Been abandoned for some time.”
Monique smiled for the first time that morning. “What a pleasant surprise.”
“One of these days we should compare notes on vocabulary. The British connotation for ‘pleasant’ doesn’t seem to be the same as the American.”
“Huh.” Monique turned and began to walk back to her car.
“What,” Eddie called after her.
“Sometimes I think I figured you out and then you go and use ‘connotation’ correctly in a sentence…it is quiet baffling.”
Eddie’s chuckles followed her out of the alley but she was still smiling as she climbed into her car.
Monique stared at his picture. His brown hair was combed over and his green eyes sparkled in the flash of the camera. His smile was wide and joyful, or at least it appeared to be. The picture only showed his face nothing more. If she looked very hard at the edges she could faintly make out green as if it was taken among trees. But that didn’t matter.
She took a drink of her coffee and glanced out the window. The sun was nearly setting she still had some hours before she had to make her move. She looked back at the table that was littered with paper. Research. If you could call it that.
Eddie had done his job well. Police reports could only go so far as to getting in someone’s head and if the police were looking in the wrong direction they were no help at all. Pictures were better at story telling.
Monique picked up one of the photos. The boy had the same eyes and the same color hair but he wasn’t smiling. His eyes didn’t sparkle, as they should have at the age of five. He simply stared at whoever took the photo. This wasn’t the proof she needed but it was part of his story. This was where it all began. Age five. He was thirty-five now.
Monique looked back at the photo she had been given that morning a week ago. She flipped it over and read his name, “Christopher Landson.”
Christopher Landson, she repeated to herself again, the five year old who was molested by the older boy in his neighborhood. She began stacking the papers as she continued through the list.
The twelve year old who began torturing mice in his garage before he got ahold of the neighbor’s cat. She took out the victim’s case files from her computer bag.
The fifteen year old outcast that raped his high school crush on homecoming night and beat her into submission. She put Eddie’s research back into the package it came in, placing the package in her computer bag.
The eighteen year old who got a scholarship to a university, where three woman went missing during his time there and their bodies were never found. She put the files back in the bag.
The twenty five year old who met the girl of his dreams.
Monique sat down and sipped her coffee, she eyes still far off as the list continued to play through her mind.
The twenty seven year old who killed his wife and unborn child and dumped the body in an alley.
She glanced at the clock, it read 6:30.
And the man after who never stopped killing and raping his victims after he was done ‘playing’.
Monique finished her coffee in one final gulp. Pulling on her black trench coat she headed towards the safe. It opened with a click. She checked her gun; it was loaded, and shoved it in the pocket of her jeans. No that she would need it, but it was comforting all the same.
She took a deep breath as she grabbed her keys and glanced at her computer bag. One of the pictures peaked out. A woman with blonde hair and blue eyes smiled over at her. Monique knew her name. She had memorized all of their names. Jordan Markas. She had been one of the girls that disappeared when Christopher was in college. She couldn’t have been more then nineteen in the picture.
Monique felt her keys biting into her palm as her fist clenched around them. She took a deep breath and left the room as the night began to slowly awaken.
Monique sat on one of the beams of the roof in the warehouse. The dust swirled around her head as the wind blew through the gaps in the roof. She could hear the rats scurry below her but she paid them no mind. She simply waited. She had been waiting for hours.
She saw the headlights before she heard the car pull up to the warehouse door. She watched as the hanger doors of the warehouse were pushed open. That was the first time she saw him. Christopher Landson was dressed in a nice button down shirt and faded blue jeans but all Monique could think about was the picture of Jordan Markas back in her motel room. Christopher disappeared outside once again.
Monique heard him get back into his car and heard the car near the entrance until it was parked in the center of the warehouse. He got out of the car and walked quickly back to the door, he looked up and down the street before he quickly shut and locked it. Monique watched him walk around the room. His stride was quick and concise, he walked like a business man who was late to a meeting as he pulled an old stained mattress from another room and dug out a lantern from a desk that was a lot one of the rooms walls. Then he walked to the trunk of his car and opened it with a quick turn of his key. Monique smelled the perfume before she saw her.
Christopher took off his belt and reached in. Monique shifted where she sat. The case files said the girls had been bound by something around there wrists, they all had thought it was a type of rope. But a belt was easier to hide.
She watched as he dragged the unconscious girl from his trunk and threw her onto the mattress. She watched while he disappeared into another back room and came back with a tray of metal instruments she couldn’t make out from where she sat. She watched him position the girl on the mattress. He placed her in the center, brushing the hair from her face so roughly Monique feared the girl was already dead, and then she watched him begin to kiss her.
Monique silently landed on the floor of the warehouse, keeping her eyes of Christopher’s writhing back as she began to walk toward them. As she stepped into the light of the lantern Christopher turned to start unbuttoning his jeans, his eyes went wide when he saw her. A slow smile spread from his lips. “Like to watch?”
Monique ignored him. “Christopher Landson.”
Christopher grabbed one of the instruments on the tray and held it before him like a knife. Monique never broke his gaze. “You have been condemned to Hell by the council of Reapers-“
“The fuck,” Christopher began as Monique snatched the hand that held the instrument and gave a sharp twist. She heard the bones snap before he screamed and his knees buckled.
“Your soul will now flee to Hell to spend the rest of eternity paying for your sin against humanity. May the demons have mercy on your soul.”
Monique placed her free hand on his forehead. A green flash of light shone all around them, too bright for humans to look at but Monique’s eyes didn’t even water as she watched Christopher Landson’s soul disappear from his body. She let go of his wrist and let his body fall sideways. His eyes were still open and his lungs still breathed but he was no longer there. Monique sighed and rushed to the girl’s side. She put fingers to her throat and counted. The girl would live.
Monique took out her phone and flipped it open, dialing 9-1-1. She waited as the tone rang. “Hello ma’am,” Monique drawled in her best southern accent. “I just saw a light all up and flash over by the old mill. It’s probably those damn kids setin’ off fireworks again, but we don’t wanna brush fire now do we?”
“Over by the mill, miss?”
“Yes ma’am. I was drivin’ in from seein’ my sister and I just saw this big ol’ flash of green,” Monique barked a laugh. “Don’t those kids know July 4th was last month?”
The operator laughed with her. “I’ll have a unit check it out right away. Thank you ma’am.”
Monique hung up and glanced at the girl one last time. “Help is on the way,” she whispered before she rushed over to the hanger doors. She listed for a moment before sliding them open and ducking out of the warehouse.
She hurried down a side street and through an alley where she parked her car. As she fished out her keys from her pocket her phone buzzed. She dug that out as well and flipped it open. ‘Message’ it read in its block letters from 000.
Monique froze, keys still dangling in her grip as she read over the screen again. Taking a deep breath she opened the message, quick escape forgotten. It read:
ARCH REAPER SECOND CLASS
DESEASED THIS NIGHT
Monique re-read the message but she couldn’t understand it. It didn’t make sense and no way that she could spin it made it any better.
In the distance Monique heard a siren. Her head snapped up, suddenly aware of where she was again. She jumped in her car and roared the engine to life. She placed her phone in her car’s cup-holder and glanced at it every few seconds willing it to buzz again. Willing it to tell her it was a joke. Willing it to tell her what to do. Her phone stayed silent the whole way back to the motel.