Chapter One: Where is Zara?
A middle-aged man stops his tarnish truck in front of a house. He sighs and takes the crumpled note out of his pocket in which the address is scribbled. He looks around to see the other houses that are built in a distance to one another, “It got to be this house,” He mumbles to himself before he switches off the heater and steps out his truck before slamming the door behind him. He shivers as the cold gust of wind prickles his skin. He adjusts his coat and walks over the fresh thin layer of snow. He steps onto the porch and glances at the note once again. 302 Avalon Street, it says. After confirming that he was at the right house, he rings the bell a few times. He sighs as the cold seems like penetrating through the thick layer of clothes he was wearing. When nobody answers the door, the already cold and now irritated man once again rings the bell. Still, the man didn’t get an answer. “Hello!” he calls out. He looks around the house but nobody was in sight. Everybody must be enjoying the warmth in such cold weather and here he was waiting for someone to answer the door. He shakes his head, “This is Jack from Belmore Handyman. You called for a carpenter?” He asks loudly – waiting for someone to answer. He tsk and decides to try one more time before he leaves. He rings the bell before knocking at the door, but to his surprise, the door was already ajar and it further opens as he knocks. “Maybe they called me to repair this door,” The carpenter mutters to himself.
“Hello, is anybody home?” He calls out but no one responds. Jack inspects the doorknob to see that it isn’t faulty – it was just left open. He opens the door further just to be welcomed by the strong pungent smell with a hint of sickening sweetness. Jack almost gags as he put his hand to cover his nose, “Hello, is anybody there?” He asks as he steps inside the house. Thick curtains were drawn close causing the house to fall into darkness. As Jack walk further into the house – cautiously watching his every step, he feels like a thousand bugs were crawling on his skin. The smell was getting stronger by each step he takes. Jack doesn’t have a doubt – he knows that something is wrong. He looks around to see if there is someone in the house. He was left startled when he sees a man sitting on the couch with a blanket drawn over him, “Sir?” He calls out the man, but the man doesn’t respond. Jack walks nearer to him to calls the man out again and again, but he doesn’t respond. He gulps as he stands behind the man and nervously put his hand on his shoulder just for the man’s head to fall on his own lap. Jack’s heart stops beating for the moment as he let out loud, ear-piercing and fearful scream.
Somewhere in SoHo, New York – Natalie Ramsey circles her finger over the edge of the coffee cup. The bitter-sweet smelled steam feels comforting on her hand on such a cold day. She sighs and looks at the personable man in his mid-thirties, sitting right in front of her quietly sipping his coffee, “So, you are going to leave just like that?” She questions him in a soft tone after a long pause. Melvin Lamont glances at the young lady sitting in front of her and nods his head, “Yes,” He didn’t want to further explain why he was leaving after all so, he just kept it short.
So, it is true – he really is leaving. Natalie’s eyes fill with tears – she couldn’t believe that after all this time he was quitting. She gulped the lump she felt in her throat and downcast her eyes, “And what about my sister?” She couldn’t lift her head up while she asks about her lost sister.
Melvin glances around the busy coffee shop. He doesn’t know how to explain this to her – he doesn’t have any solid reason. What she is thinking is correct – he is giving up. He has been looking for the girl he loved the most for the past eight years, but he still hasn’t found her. No one knows where Zara Ramsey disappeared suddenly in the broad daylight. She left for work one day but never came back home. Since then, Melvin has been looking for his fiancée day and night for the past twelve years, but it is like she vanished from the face of the world. She left each and every belonging of her behind. There was nothing left behind to trace her. Few years after her disappearance everyone around him gave up, but he didn’t and that gave Zara’s younger sister, Natalie, a hope that one day she will be able to reunite with her sister, but this hope of hers shatters as the only person that was looking for her till now is giving up as well.
“So, do you believe others as well? Do you really think that she is dead?” Natalie asks him.
Melvin doesn’t want to say it loud to Natalie, but it is one of the possibilities. But deep down Melvin strongly believes that that’s not the case – or maybe that’s what he likes to believe. Melvin tried for past eight years to find her with the help of his friend – he pulled every string he could to find anything about Zara, but in the end, he failed. It has been more than a decade now and he doesn’t believe that he can do anything now. Natalie read through his silence and shed a single tear of distress. She sniffs, “Do – do you think that – the silent slayer – do you think he – he got – got her?” She was even scared to say that. The silent slayer has been the talk of the town for years. He has so many victims that now she was afraid if her sister was one of them.
“No,” Melvin replies. He shakes his head and leans back at the chair, “The Silent Slayer only targets families – he has never killed any individual.” He answers her. For the past ten years, The Silent Slayer has brutally killed twelve families. Natalie sighs and nods – that is true. When the silent slayer strikes – he ends up killing the whole family. He doesn’t care about children or elderlies. He might be one of the most brutal serial killers of the recent era.
Natalie downcast her gaze to the cup of coffee resting in front of her – it doesn’t look as tempting as it looked before now that Melvin has himself confirmed that he is leaving. She gulps the lump she feels in her throat, “I – I never thought you would give up on Zara.” Natalie says. When Melvin doesn’t reply she lifts her head to look at the man, who looks compassioned, sitting in front of her, “I thought finding my sister was your one and the only motive – but maybe I was wrong.” She adds as she looks straight into his weary eyes. She sighs and stands up, “Well, I wish you the best of luck for wherever you go and whatever you do. You might have given up on my sister, but I haven’t – I will keep looking for her.” Her voice holds promises while tears fall from her eyes.
Melvin deeply cares for Natalie – she is like a family to him. Seeing her like this was perturbing for him. He slowly stands on his feet as well, “Natalie, I am –” Melvin tries to speak – his voice soft and pitied. Natalie closes her eyes briefly and slowly shakes her head, “Don’t be sorry,” She speaks and gestures her hand out – asking him not to say anything when he clearly wants to say something. “You don’t have to feel sorry for me. I will be okay.” Natalie curls her lips into a forced smile, “You take care of yourself and try to write or call me once in a while. Call me selfish, but I am disappointed that you are leaving like this, but that doesn’t mean that I will stop caring for you.” Natalie speaks her mind before she leaves.
As much as Melvin wanted to follow her out – he desisted by a phone call. He heaves as he sees Natalie walking on the pavement before she vanishes among the horde of people on the busy road of New York. He glances towards his cellphone screen to see that it was, Eric, his great friend – who has also been helping him find something about Zara until now. He answers the call, “Yes?” He speaks faintly. He could hear the panic in his friend’s silence, “What happened?” He questions him again. Eric heaves, “Melvin, he is back.” Eric doesn’t have to say more. Melvin knows exactly whom his friend is talking about. Melvin’s hair stands on end, he believed correct – The Silent Slayer was just on a break. The Slayer Silent or what some other calls him – Grim Reaper, has been brutally killing innocent families for the past ten years. His friend, Eric has been part of investigating the serial killing for the past five years. For the past three years, Silent Slayer hasn’t killed anyone. It has been a war of words lately – some said that he died. Other said he got bored of killings while he believed that he was on a break and he was right. Eric continues speaking, “There is something else you need to know. Where are you right now? Are you busy, because you need to come down?” He asks his friend.
The tension at the chief of the detective’s office was breaking into the ambiance. A thick cloud of deafening silence was surrounding them. No one was saying anything, but still, there was so much being said. The state of panic can be felt among all, but somehow they all are dealing it with such alerting calmness – maybe because it is something they all deal with then and now. The Chief, Wilson Yale silently looking out of the window while he could feel Eric and Melvin’s eyes on him. “He is not done yet – I don’t believe so,” Chief Yale breaks the silence. Eric frowns at the chief’s words while Melvin stays silent and doesn’t give any sort of expression – maybe because he knows what The Chief is talking about. Wilson Yale turns around to look at Melvin who is standing with his hands behind his back and eyes on his superior, “That’s what you said to me two years ago, Lamont.” The Chief recalls. Melvin clearly remembers saying this when they were having dinner almost two and a half years ago.
Chief Yale chuckles drily, “I was so sure that he will not kill innocent people anymore, because since the past two decades – The Silent Slayer has never ceased to kill for such long period.” He walks in the middle of the room as sighs, “He killed a six-year-old boy this time along with his other family members,” He says and walks back to his chair – right across Melvin and Eric. Melvin sighs and puts his intertwined fingers on the desk between them, “I apologize for sounding so inconsiderate but what am I here for exactly?” He questions the Chief.
Yale glances at Eric before he continues, “We found something at the crime scene – something that might be related to you,” The Chief answers. Melvin knitted his eyebrows bewilderedly, “How can there be anything related to me?” He questions – this time looking at his friend.
Chief Yale opens the upper left drawer. He glances at Melvin who has eyes on Chief moves now, before taking out three photographs out of the drawer, “Someone left a message for you,” The Chief mentions. Melvin knits his eyebrows as Chief put the photographs in the front of the desk. Melvin glances at them and with his finger draws them closer.
They were the photographs of a pale white wall with ′SAVE ME, MELVIN′ written on it. The letters were boldly written with what seems like a red lipstick. Melvin breaks out in cold sweats. The Chief fixes his gaze on now thunderbolt Melvin. The Chief sighs, “We found this written on the wall of the kid’s bedroom.” He answers the question that Melvin couldn’t dare to ask. Melvin could feel his throat closing up as he shuffles through the pictures – each picture was taken from a different angle. He quietly inspects the pictures and he could see that whoever wrote it down on the wall was probably hiding from the killer since it was written at what looks like a corner of the room. “Uh – it was written on the wall beside the kid’s cupboard. Probably someone was trying to hide.” The Chief tells him. Melvin doesn’t utter a word. He just silently inspects the pictures while Chief wordless studies his reaction.
Blink – blink – blink – blink, Melvin is having a hard time processing it. He finally breaks the silence, “How can you be so sure that this message was left for me?”
Eric glances at the Chief before answering him, “We are not sure that it was left for you, but we suspect it could be for you.” Eric pauses and heaves, “With everything going on with Zara’s disappearance we thought –”
“That it is Zara who left this message for me.” Melvin completes his friend and turns his head to look at him, “You suspect that The Silent Slayer has her.” Melvin adds. Eric tightens lips, “We are not implying that. We just want you to stay till we figure out why this message was left behind.” He answers.
Melvin returns to work after meeting Eric and Chief Yale. He walks straight to his office with the photograph still tightly clenching in his hand. Deep down there is a fire burning the toughness of his spirit – he couldn’t think straight. There are so many questions in his head that he can’t manage to shake off. What if it is Zara? What if he really got her? How was she? He walks passes his secretary even when she calls out his name. She follows him in his office, “Mr. Lamont, Mr. Harold called again. He would like to meet you. This is the third time he called. What should I say to him if he calls again?” Margret, his assistant asks him. He abruptly stops and turns around to look at her. Margret notices how her bosses face screams discomfort and agitation, also he seems a little out of breathing – she doesn’t remember when was the last time she saw her like this. She tilts her head, “Mr. Lamont, are you alright?” She asks him.
Melvin curls his lips in a small smile and nods, “Yes, I am alright.” He tightens his lips, “Uh – just a little headache. Can – can you please call Mr. Harold and apologize to him on my behalf – I don’t think I will be able to take his case.” He asks her. Margret furrows his brows, “Mr. Lamont, are you sure about that?” She hesitates. Melvin sighs and rubs her eyes, “Yes, Ms. Rogers. I am sure. Uh – I am pretty occupied till I leave, so I don’t think that I will be able to take his case.” Melvin nods and loosens his tie around his neck as he walks towards his desk and put the picture on it, “Also, I studied it and I believe that his chances of getting shares from a company that is registered under his son’s name are little to none. The lawsuit he is trying to proceed is vapid.” He adds on. Margret emits her thoughts, “But, didn’t your father personally ask you to take this case?” She questions.
Melvin turns to look at his assistant and smiles, “My father is not a lawyer. He doesn’t know how things work. He asked me to help his friend and I will have to pass up as a lawyer. There is nothing legal I can do to help Mr. Harold.” He replies to her. Margret chuckles – Melvin never fails to impress when it comes to ethics. She nods her head, “Alright, I will let him know but if your father calls – I will pass the call to you,” She surrenders her hand in the air kiddingly. Melvin chuckles, “I will take care of it. You don’t have to worry.” He assures her before she walks out of his office.
After Margret walks out – he glances at the photographs lying on the desk. His mood turns glumly again. No matter how much he doesn’t want to believe that this message was left for him by Zara – the curiosity was slowly eating him up – forcing him to believe what he doesn’t want to believe.
Later that night, Eric visits Melvin to his office – he knows that he would be in his office this late. His speculations were proved correct when he saw his friend sitting in his office in the dark through the glassed-walls surrounding his office. He sighs and walks in the office without seeking Melvin’s permission. Melvin, who was resting on a black leather couch with his hands behind his head and his eyes closed, heaves when he heard someone entering the office. He knows exactly who it is, “Don’t you have a home to go?” He asks Eric who chuckles, but refuses to answer and sits on the couch across him. “How can I go home when I know that my friend is grieving all by himself?” He asks. Melvin opens his eyes and gazes at his friend wordlessly. He took a deep breath and sits straight while resting his elbows on his wide apart knees. He bows his head, “Do you really think that he has Zara?” He asks his friend.
Eric knew that he will ask him this question, but yet he is unprepared to answer. He sighs and decides to be honest, “Yes, there is a possibility, but there are also chances that this move was played by the killer himself to distract us. Zara’s disappearance made a big new eight years ago. The Silent Slayer seems to be a very clever criminal. There is a chance that he is keeping an eye on us – he might know that you are looking for her.” Eric explains.
Melvin tries to gulp down the unsettling feeling, “But, there are chances that it was written by Zara.” He speaks. Eric nods, “Yes, it is true.” He tells his friend. “There is a chance that this killer is someone you personally know or is somehow connected to you and that is why he confined her, your help may lead us to the killer and Zara.” He adds.
Melvin stays silent. He thinks about every person that might want to hurt him or who is capable of harming him – he has few in mind, but he hardly doubts that they could be serial killers. But, then again who knows what’s beneath the surface. He lifts his gaze to look at his friend, “What is the next step?” He asks him.
Eric blows his cheeks out and leaned against the couch, “The next step might be the hardest one,” He replies.
Melvin furrows his brows, “Why is that?” He questions.
“Do you remember The Silent Slayers first victim family, The Baxter?” He tries to remind Melvin. “Ah – yes, I remember. They made the news ten years ago. What about them?” He asks.
“The Baxter’s youngest daughter, Isla Baxter has been the only survivor of The Silent Slayer. He never leaves any of his victims alive, but somehow that young girl escaped. I remember I was a rookie then. I saw her sitting in the middle of the road, terrified and badly tortured.” Eric visibly shivers, “The condition she was in – man, it still shakes me. That poor girl went through so much. We tried to question her, but she wouldn’t answer and screams whenever someone tries to touch her or even tries to come closer to her. It was so hard to interrogate that girl – she was a mess.” Eric tells Melvin. “We have to question her again. She is the only eye-witness that survived. She knows what no one else knows. We need her help to further investigate this case.” He adds on.
“Where is she now?” Melvin asks.
“Her Aunt and Uncle took her in after the incident. What we have been told is that she lived with them till she was twenty years old and moved out to live on her own five years ago. She changed her name to Ava Baxter and now she works as a bartender also she is enrolled as a dance student in one of the dancing schools in Chicago.” He answers.
“Why is it hard to question her?”
“She always gets severe panic attacks when she is asked about it. She would start screaming and crying. We tried to question her a couple of times in the past ten years, but each time we returned without any information. Also, we were told that she started abusing drugs at a very young age. She is a troubled woman.” He answers him.