July 7, 2007, a Sunday. That was when everything started. Detective Johnathan Sinclair was assigned the case of a young woman who had committed suicide.
“Guess she wasn’t feeling very lucky today.”
John stood over the body, and observed the scene. “Tag ‘em and bag ‘em boys. This case is cut and dry.”
July 15, a Monday. John walked into the morgue where the coroner had inspected a second suicide. Another gunshot to the head.
He took the clipboard off of the table. “What do we have here? Seventeen year old male. Offed himself the same way my last suicide victim did. Was he related or something?”
The coroner faced him, “No, not at all.”
“A copycat then?”
“I doubt it. I had his parents come in to identify the body, and they asked what happened─”
“And you told them suicide, and they said, There’s no way my son would ever do that!” People call me immature. I think I’m hilarious. John almost laughed.
July 23, a Tuesday. The third suicide. It was a young woman, possibly in her early twenties. She’d killed herself the same way the others had.
July 31, a Wednesday. The fourth suicide was an eleven-year-old girl. Once again, the same cause of death.
August 8, a Thursday. Number five changed everything. The dead woman was the captain’s wife. John fell into his chair exhausted. “What the hell is going on here?”
He didn’t feel so hilarious anymore. His sudden serious attitude shocked even himself.
“Why are so many people committing suicide?”
No one answered, which was okay, because he was talking to himself. He didn’t need any interruptions.
August 16, a Friday. He stood over the lifeless body of a seventy-three year old man. The sixth body. His captain put his hand on John’s shoulder. “Go home and get some rest John.”
He felt enough guilt. He wasn’t going home. “No. This is my case, and I won’t rest until I figure out what's going on.”
“Go home John, that’s an order.”
John didn’t sleep for the next four nights. He’d begun to catch the pattern. “If I’m right, I have until sometime on Saturday. But other than that, I’ve got nothing.”
His wife sat down beside him at his desk; she’d been following the case with him from the beginning. “Coffee?”
“Thanks, this case is going to be the death of me. If I could just break this pattern…”
“If you could break the pattern, you’d be able to find out why these people are killing themselves. But do you think you’d be able to stop them? If someone really wants to die, then nothing can get in their way.”
He took a sip from the mug she’d handed him. The warm feel of the steaming liquid hitting his stomach was almost comforting.
“I have to try. I can’t just let things like this happen.”
The statement seemed to catch her off guard. She wasn’t yet accustomed to the new serious John. At first, she looked shocked at the idea that her irreverent husband could be such a devoted man. Then, as the shock faded it was replaced with deep admiration, respect and above all else, love.
“Then I guess I’ll let you get back to it.”
August 24, 2007, a Saturday. The body of a twenty-nine year old male was found in his apartment. Before John could enter the scene, his partner came from around the corner.
“Hey John, wait up a sec. I got a look at the body. It’s my wife’s kid cousin, man.”
“Shit.” John didn’t know what to say. “Does she know yet?”
“No, but I’m waiting for the go-ahead from the higher ups. They’re still working on the family notification.”
“Good luck with that. Sorry again.”
His partner shifted gears. “Oh, did you hear? Something was left behind by the victim on this one.”
“What?” John hurried into the crime scene careful not to knock anything, or anyone, out of place. When he entered the room, he froze in his tracks. It was true; something about this one was very different from the rest. On the wall above the victim, written in blood, was a large capital I.
The next week, John waited for a body to turn up. None did. After the letter on the wall, no one committed a suicide that fit his pattern. Everyone, including John, thought it was over. That is, until one year later.
July 7, a Monday. The suicides began again. Over the next seven weeks, seven more people died. Each week, it was on a different day. True to the pattern, on the seventh week, they found the letter L.
The pattern continued for five more years. And John continued to search. After so much time with no concrete leads, he began to question his abilities as a detective.
August 8, 2014, a Wednesday. “Sinclair! We’ve got another body for you.”
“What do we have this time?”
“Fifty-six year old male. Bullet to the brain, through the forehead, same as the others.”
“Throw the paperwork on the stack over there.” John motioned toward an overflowing box of papers.
It had been a long seven years. He measured his stress by the lines of white streaking through his long, black hair. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take, Captain.”
“Everyone is feeling it, son. My kids are still trying to get over their mother’s death.”
“It’s these damn letters. I can’t make heads or tails of them. I, L, N, A, C, R. They don’t spell anything significant. What are they supposed to be?”
“Maybe we’ll find out in two weeks. If your pattern holds true that is.”
“If you’re trying to be funny, Captain, you can stop right there. I’m going home.” This had stopped being funny to John a long time ago.
August 24, 2014. It was week seven. The day for the last pattern suicide of the year had arrived. John walked into the station ready to hear more bad news. So far, there was none. No emergency, no suicide. Nothing. It was the first feeling of peace he’d felt in over a month. Probably only temporary.
Noon, and still nothing. John had gotten into the routine of not eating on the pattern day. No point in wasting the lunch his wife had made him. Still, he had a feeling he couldn’t shake. It made him anxious.
The captain and a group of his co-workers were walking toward the exit.
“Hey, John. You wanna join us for lunch?”
“No, I’m fine. The wife packed one for me.”
The captain just shrugged his shoulders and left.
“Might as well see what I’ve got.” Inside was a note from his wife.
Made you an extra special lunch today! Hope you love it as much as I love you.
“Well, that sure was nice. Guess she figured I could use a lift today.”
He uncovered the rest of the note from under his thumb.
P.S. I have something spectacular to tell you when you get home from work! I know you’ll be just as happy as I am! Can’t wait, see you at home!
He sighed, “That woman. She sure knows how to put a smile on my face.”
John sat back in his chair, and looked at the ceiling. In it, he saw all the memories he’d shared with his wife. He saw every argument, every date night, and every departure for work. Then his thoughts turned toward the case once again. He realized that, for the past seven years, this case had become his life. The life he’d promised her, the woman of his dreams, had been consumed. He had made her take a back seat to his work, and she had quietly accepted it.
“She’s too good for me. I’ll have to make it up to her. But how?”
His glance shifted toward the stack of papers on the pattern suicides case. He sat in silence for many minutes, simply staring at them. After a deep breath, his decision was made.
“After today, I won’t have any more to do with this case.“
“You sure about that, son?”
“Captain! You’re back. I didn’t hear you come in.”
“You’re giving up?”
“Yes sir. I think it’s about time I pass on this cursed torch to someone else.”
“Have it your way, my boy.
John sat at his desk for the rest of the day waiting for the call to the crime scene. But it never came. He stayed later than usual waiting, but there was nothing. At nine o’clock, he let out a huge sigh of relief.
“It’s finally over.” And this was his last day on the case. But he still had a bad feeling.
As John walked out the door, the captain watched and whispered, “I wish that were so.”
John hurried home to tell his wife the good news. When he entered the driveway, he noticed all the lights visible from the street had been switched off.
“Maybe she went to bed early tonight.”
When he reached the front door, it was locked, but only the bottom lock.
“I guess she forgot the deadbolt,” he reassured himself. He entered the pitch-black house without the slightest hesitation.
“Honey, I’m home.” He spoke softly, but loud enough so that she would hear him. “Hon, you awake?”
He switched on his desk lamp. On the desk sat a small piece of scratch paper. And on the paper were dozens of combinations of the letters left at the six crime scenes, all of them in his wife’s handwriting.
The last combination was circled: INCLA_R.
He suddenly became frantic. “Hon! Did you do this?”
Now he yelled into the darkness. “Hey! Can you hear me or what?”
Panicked, he quickly walked to their bedroom. He stopped at the open doorway, and the all too familiar smell of gunpowder reached his nose.
He stared into the darkness. A single word managed to escape his mouth, “No.”
A solitary tear ripped itself from his left eye.
“No. No. NO! Please God, NO!”
He slowly moved his hand along the wall searching for the light switch. He closed his eyes before he heard the click of the light come on. He opened them quickly, and they had to adjust to the brightness, but it was clear that his fear had come true.
There it sat, gun in hand, the lifeless body of his beloved wife. And above her head, in blood, the letter S.
All he could do was scream. Agony, terror and rage dropped him to his knees. Above all else, was the sorrow. A devastating sorrow like he had never felt in his whole life.
Eleven o’clock. It began to rain. That night, detective Johnathan Sinclair lost the only thing that was important to him, and the baby she was carrying.
The captain approached him after the scene had been cleaned up.
“I’m sorry, John. I know what it’s like to lose your wife. It’s hard, especially in the case of suicide. If you need to talk….”
“This wasn’t suicide.”
“What do you mean?”
“She found the connection.” John was staring at his house from the front lawn. “S.I.N.C.L.A.I.R. The letters spell out my last name. I’m the connection. None of these were suicides. They were murders, and someone is sending me a challenge.”
“So, I can assume you won’t be dropping this case then?”
John was silent. He just walked away, leaving his badge on the ground where he stood.