A blink and a sudden gasp for air, Charles felt like drowning as he woke up. He recognized his bedroom and the panic receded, replaced with sadness. Vague memories of music and dim lights accompanied him as he struggled to get up from bed and prepare some coffee.
He noisily bumped against cupboards and table, it didn’t bother him, Sophie was working today and she usually woke up mere minutes after him. He turned the coffee machine on and rested his forehead on the window glass. The sudden cold made him realize the sun wasn’t up yet, only then did he notice the clock indicated Two in the morning.
“What’s happening to you, Charles?”
What an idiot.
“I’m sorry, I don’t feel too well.”
“You look like a ghost,” worried Sophie.
“I was so certain that it was time to get up…”
“You’ve been acting weird since yesterday evening. Call the office, take a day and sleep it off.”
“It’s fine, I’m not sick I assure you.”
“Please, just do as I say.”
Sophie wasn’t a hard woman, unless Charles’s health came in play. He didn’t argue, she was unyielding in that state. He left a message on the firm’s answering machine and left them to fend off for themselves. Back in bed he snuggled close to Sophie, leaving the coffee to cool off in the kitchen.
He could not sleep in spite of his fatigue, anger kept him awake. He kept turning around, hampered by a knot in his stomach, like a tumor. Like a tumor, it fed off Charles, hijacking his thoughts and strength. Unlike a tumor, this one gave back.
Between dream and reality, he removed the sheets and ended naked on his back. The room wasn’t pitch black as usual to accommodate Sophie’s sensitive sleep. He could make out the closet and the bedside table, certainly a smartphone that was still on, he closed his eyes again to get some rest. The inside of his eyelids turned gray and were soon shinier than the room itself.
Fear struck Charles when he understood his mistake, he was the one lighting up the place, his stomach was bloating to absurd proportions, its blueish shine would have blinded him if it wasn’t for the organs and flesh dimming it. He stroked his growing belly that dwarfed pregnant women, a perverted drive made him scratch off layers of skin.
No blood flowed, he ignored caution and started pulling out his own viscera, the light felt it and pushed to the surface. In a last ditch his belly imploded, drowning Charles and his surroundings. Far away, he heard a few notes being played.
A blink and a sudden gasp of air, Charles felt like drowning as he woke up. This time he was abundantly sweating and could barely move.
“We’re going to the doctor.”
Charles threatened to collapse any moment, Sophie dressed him up and brought him to the car, the freeway was empty at midnight, she ignored speed limits until she reached the hospital.
Charles was half-unconscious on arrival, only sensing that he was being lifted and deposited on a bed. His belly fluctuated between normal and overgrown. A syringe in the arm sent him into an artificial sleep.
Hyacinth wished he could ignore protocol and verbally assault these idiots.
“...Thank you for the quick response.”
Quick, my ass. Freddy scratched his neck with a pen,
“It’s on the way.”
“Long live the internet and instant answers, it only took us half of Sunday.”
In theory, the archives were on secured servers accessible for every french policeman round the country, you just had to ask permission. In practice, the departments kept their information stash – that also contained their failures – out of reach behind a wall of documentary proofs and insane bureaucracy.
If the inquirer had no specific region in mind, like Hyacinth, he could ask for national access, which was even worse by comparison. Freddy interrupted his daydreaming.
“Admittedly, you gave them reasons to be cautious.”
True, Hyacinth must have sounded like a madman, asking for cases of sudden deaths with inexplicable muscular lesions born from a repeated physical activity. No matter how he spun it, he felt stupid.
And then came the revelation, when secretaries and pencil-pushers got official statements regarding the case and understood why he asked for such absurdities. The door stood finally open.
“We’re alone to sort out one of the worst mess I’ve ever seen.”
Hyacinth rubbed his eyes, he had asked for help to navigate this digital maze, what he got instead was a reminder that confidentiality and discretion was advised.
“Let’s give it a try.”
“Do I have to? I’m paid to work with blood samples and finger prints, not this.”
“You can leave, but if you do I won’t give you any further information regarding the case.”
“No wonder you gained rank so fast, you’re a workaholic that uses blackmail to get help on top of it.”
“Have some respect for my grade.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
A password, a minute of loading and a new page appeared on the screen, the surprise box was open. First test : Possession. Witnesses that heard whispers from God, assuring them they were Jesus reincarnated, the devil or Cthulhu.
Thousands of such cases were on display, they had to narrow down their research. He added the keywords zombie and hypnosis. Still imprecise, the results were entertaining but pointless.
“Maybe punk rock or poisoning could do the trick, boss.”
Still inconclusive, Hyacinth saved a file about dog poisoning by way of dyes to read for later.
After dozens of fruitless attempts a tired Hyacinth left his seat and went for the bathroom. The mirror gazed right back at him, eyes red from the hours spent in front of the screen. That time was lost for good, they found no new lead.
Back to the computer room, Freddy’s face showed he was stuck too. He sat down and stretched his legs while aiming at Freddy with his pen. Bullseye, right on the nose.
“Do you think we’ll find something?”
“frankly, boss, I don’t.”
“What did we miss?”
Freddy shrugged and yawned. Hyacinth started typing keywords at random and hoping for a sudden inspiration that would lead him back on track. Garage, collective suicide, spectators. An endless flow of irrelevant files came up.
Masochism dictated to skim through them. Drug overdose in a locked car, an unstable cult leader throws himself off a cliff along with his followers, a teenager and his girlfriend die from cardiac arrest while he plays guitar. His heart missed a beat. A whistle brought Freddy to attention.
18 July 2015
[…] According to close friends and family members, the first victim, Jonas Lersky, planned to dedicate a song he wrote to his girlfriend, the second victim, Rachel Kroning. They were both last seen around 3 p.m. playing in Jonas’s room by his parents. They discovered the bodies around 8:30 p.m. Coroner analysis shows no trace of violence or substance abuse.
The fingers from the first victim were burnt out and presented signs of muscle tear, scraps of flesh stemming from them was found on the guitar strings, as if he ignored the pain and kept playing. The second victim’s bottom and back showed abnormal stiffness, were swelled and showed signs of muscle tear.
The hypothesis so far is that she sat on the floor and for reasons unknown held the exact position for several hours, not allowing her muscles to rest by altering position.
Presumed hour of death of the victim Jonas Lerski: 6 p.m.
Presumed hour of death of the victim Rachel Kroning: 8 p.m.
Freddy grabbed the keyboard
“There’s music involved in both cases.”
He typed concert and cross-checked with hypnosis, possession and spectator. Hyacinth put his hands behind his head and leaned against the chair, it was only a matter of time until his colleague found something.
“Holy... Listen to this: In September 2013, a kid, barely 11 years old and amateur violinist plays for his parents. The three of them are found dead. Now take a wild guess how.”
“Cardiac arrest, with a few muscle tears. And throw some burnt fingers in the mix.”
“Too easy. Wait, we haven’t tried with muscle tear and burn.”
Freddy hummed as he typed on the keyboard.
“2018, a singer gets the chance to record a song. The sound mixer, his assistants and the singer herself are found dead. And the song itself was apparently quite bad, what a sad way to leave a mark on earth.”
“You think this is funny? You’re sick.”
“Boss, think about it, the recording went on until the bodies were found.”
“No scream, no suffering, nothing that could hint on some violence. The track has been studied, it’s just a voice getting weaker and weaker until only silence is left.”
“I’m not even surprised anymore. What are you looking at?”
“The next one, February 2020.”
“We’re still no closer to understanding this mess.”
Similar cases, one common factor: music. Hyacinth mulled over it, the same wounds among the victims and the same scenarios with players and spectators repeated every time. How was a mystery, but he suspected a serial-killer.
“Good luck establishing a surveillance, boss, it happened in every corner, probably in foreign countries as well. Strasbourg, Paris, Ajaccio, we can’t keep an eye on every hobbyist musician.”
The coffee was getting cold, the clock on the wall was ticking and the two of them were dozing off.