The cold was so chilling as Janice Cooper stepped into the New York City streets, she was almost tempted to go back inside and spend the night in the airport. She was almost ready to just sleep on a bench inside the heat filled airport until summer rolled around again. At least then she'd be warm.
She shivered slightly, moving to adjust the wool scarf she was wearing so that it covered any exposed skin she may have been showing. She gripped her suitcase tightly as she walked to the edge of the busy streets, holding out a hand to flag down a cab.
A yellow cab came to an abrupt halt right in front of her and she wasted no time in heading around back, popping the trunk, placing her luggage inside and then circling around to the backseat where she hurried inside, huddling in the warmth of the heat that was blasting through the cab's vents.
"626 1st Avenue," Janice spoke up.
The driver grunted in acknowledgment and as the car pulled away from the curb and into the insane traffic New York was known for, Janice blew on her hands, hoping her warm breath would thaw them some.
She stared out the window as they passed. The mark of mankind was everywhere you looked in New York. The cars as the honked and their engines as they drove, the tall, impressive buildings of offices and homes. The shops—both for food and for clothing and many other things you didn't even know you needed.
As they headed to Janice's destination, she saw the Empire State Building, hovering proudly over the other buildings. She saw a lot of people—wrapped up head to toe to protect themselves from the cold—crossing the street, cameras in their hands. No doubt they were tourists.
New York City was much like France in the fact that they both seemed to have wide-eyed tourists visiting them every single day of the year, no matter how cold or how hot. And Janice knew very well New York City winters could get bitingly cold and their summers could get swelteringly hot.
After a while, they fought their way through the traffic and Janice instructed the driver to pull up next to yet another tall building surrounded by glass windows.
She paid him, got her things from the trunk and stood outside of the building for a long time, staring at it.
She hadn't been home in seven months. She'd had to fly out to Paris to solve the murder of a French baron undercover. She had worked as a maid for the baron's widowed wife and his stony-faced son. The perfect thing about being a maid was that rich people deemed you irrelevant. In those seven months that she stayed with the late baron's family, she had learned almost all of their secrets. The wife had been having an affair long before her husband had died—almost eight years—with her very attractive bodyguard. Her son had been aware of the affair and the baron had been aware of it, too, but chose not to leave his wife much to his son's disgust and disappointment.
It wasn't until the bodyguard had his first "accident" that Janice began to suspect the son. He seemed like a deeply angry man and according to the other maids, the argument he'd had with his father shortly before the man's murder was heated. Sometimes disgust and disappointment and frustration drove people to murder. Janice saw that happen often.
But when the son had ended up in a terrible boating "accident" everything clicked into place for Janice and, compiling all of her notes she solved the case. The son had killed his father, but only because his "mother" had requested it. The kicker of the story was, the mother wasn't really his mother at all—at least not biologically—she was his stepmother. The widow had indeed been having an affair with the bodyguard, but she'd also been sleeping with her stepson behind closed doors. When the baron found out, he'd had a heated argument with his son and his wife and was intent on divorcing her and disowning his son.
Unwilling to lose her life of luxury, she coerced his son into committing the worst of sins and when the sin was done, she expected to live happily ever after with her two lovers. Until, of course, the son found out that his stepmother was seeing her bodyguard, who he then attempted to kill. After he attempted to kill the bodyguard, the son was racked with guilt over having killed his father for a woman who clearly didn't love him. Fearing he would go to the police, the widow tried to kill her stepson, too. But Janice had been able to catch them in time. She hadn't been able to stop the boating accident, but she had been able to save the stepson's life.
They both had been put away for their crimes against the baron.
And now, to be back in New York after all this time in France....
It was strange.
Although English was Janice's native tongue, she hadn't spoken it in seven months. As the doorman of the swanky apartment complex opened the door for Janice, she was almost tempted to say "Merci" instead of "thank you."
It didn't take Janice long at all to make her way to the elevator inside the lobby and make her way to the eighth floor where her apartment was located. She walked down the spacious, well-decorated hall with light brown wooden floors and a long, trendy rug designed with little roses and stopped at the door that read 308. She fished her keys out of the pocket of her fitted jeans and shoved the key into the lock, twisting the door knob and pushing her way inside.
She walked into the apartment, shutting the door behind her and making sure to lock it. She had been a detective long enough to be sure to always lock all of her doors and windows. She walked down the narrow little hall that leads to the spacious apartment and, once she was standing in the living room, she looked around.
Being a high-profile freelance detective certainly had its perks, she thought to herself as she took in the room. Floor to ceiling windows that reached from one end of the wall all the way to the other end. White couches and a white armchair sat in front of a glass coffee table and a huge flat screen. The floors—made of white marble—shone brightly in the sunlight radiating through the windows. From the corner of her eye, she could make out her kitchen. The counters and the cupboards were made from some kind of French company that was impossible to get to in the US. She had only been able to obtain them because she had assisted in helping the man who ran the company find out who killed his ten-year-old daughter.
The apartment was exactly as it had been when she'd left. There was a gripping sense of comfort that came with being in a safe place after several months of sleuthing.
She tossed her keys onto the glass table, barely listening as they landed with a soft clanging sound, and began shuffling her bags to her bedroom.
When she was in her own bedroom, she took some time to really take it all in, like she had done with the living room. Her bedroom was like something you'd see on Pinterest or something that would come up if you Googled "gorgeous bedrooms." Her California king bed was decorated with white sheets and a white blanket—decked out in gold trimmings—covered those sheets. The headboard—made in Italy and designed in gold—was clearly created intricately. It was something that when you looked at it, you could tell it took whoever made it took a long time. Like the living room, there was a floor to ceiling window located at the left side of her bed. It stretched from one corner of the room, all the way to the other, but there was a door right in the middle, leading to a balcony that Janice often sat on when she was in the middle of a case that was puzzling her.
She reached over to the snowy colored nightstand and grabbed the remote, turning on the TV to CNN. She began opening her suitcase and unpacking her things, all the while reminding herself that she had to check her fridge and see what needed throwing away and what new things she needed to pick up from the grocery store.
The news was mostly as Janice expected. Murders, rapes, countries fighting over religions, anti-gay people showing up at gay rallies and causing scenes. To all of this, Janice just blew out a sigh and shook her head. In the last five years that she had been a freelance detective, she had seen so much. If only those people who preached hatred and oppressed others knew just how fragile human life could be. They surely wouldn't waste their lives on anger and oppression, they'd live every day to the fullest.
Finally done packing, Janice turned up the TV so she could still hear it when she went into the kitchen. She opened up the refrigerator and started chucking things out and into the garbage. After seven months, everything in here had spoiled. And unfortunately, so many years of sleuthing had made Janice incredibly shrewd when it came to people, so she couldn't leave money and ask a neighbor to keep her house and her fridge stocked for her.
As she threw out incredibly spoiled milk, Janice heard something from the CNN newscaster that interested her.
"And in breaking news, there has been a total of four more murders last night in Manhattan. You may all be familiar with the murders that have swept all across New York. From the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Brooklyn and even reaching as far as the outskirts of New Jersey. The story got its fame because of the brutal and odd way the victims were found—each of them found with their eyes removed and their throats drained of blood. The killer clearly has a type as each of his victims are single, attractive females. Because of this, people all over the world have begun referring to the victims as the "Maidens of Sorrow." This is most likely because of the photos of the girls' bodies that were leaked to the public a couple of weeks prior that showed these girls' mutilated eyes and the trail of blood that flowed on their cheeks, almost like a tear trace. We have one of our own reporters, John Carrie in Manhattan where he is supposed to be meeting with Commissioner Alistair who is overseeing the investigation. John, can you tell us what's going on over there."
By this time, Janice was already in her room, sitting on the bed with her heart in her throat as John stared at the screen for a few moments, mic in his hand as he waited for the first newscaster to finish speaking from the webcam.
"Yes, Toni, I'm here in Manhattan where the very first murder happened just a month ago in late September. Since then there has been a total of fifty-seven murders, making this killer one of the most notorious killers to have ever set foot in New York City.
"I'm here with Commissioner Alistair who has been in charge of the investigation per the mayor's request. I have to ask you, Commissioner, have you found any leads."
The Commissioner was in his mid-fifties. He was a thin man, but still healthy and had a full head of hair—although it was thinning just a little. He had hazel eyes and a neatly trimmed goatee that was peppered with gray.
"Our department has been working incredibly hard to catch the person responsible for killing these girls," answered the Commissioner as he avoided the question with grace. "Every single officer from New York to New Jersey is keeping an eye out for this predator."
"Wouldn't it be a good idea to call Janice Cooper?" John wondered, perking Janice's interest even further at the sound of her name. "She's just finished a case in Paris regarding the French baron, Enzo Leroux and sources report that she is set to return to the states today. Also, many of the very difficult murders all over the world have been solved by Miss. Cooper. Do you think you'll rope her into the case?"
Janice snorted as the chief's skin seemed to turn various colors and the veins in his neck a forehead protruded in a way that showed his great displeasure with that question.
Taking a deep breath, the Commissioner said, "Miss. Cooper is a very talented freelance detective. But our detectives can solve this themselves without aid from...outside sources."
"Many would disagree with you, Commissioner," said John, looking at the camera and then back at the stony-faced man in front of him. "In just a month's time, there have already been more than fifty murders. Are you aware there is a petition going around demanding that Miss. Cooper be put on the case?"
Commissioner Alistair frowned deeply, making him look older than he was and muttered, "That's all for today, John," before turning on his heel and all but storming inside of the police station.
"Well, there you have it," John said almost too cheerfully to the camera, holding his mic smugly. "It appears the police are no closer to cracking this case than they were a month ago. Despite the many accomplishments of the world-renown detective, Janice Cooper, they seem hesitant to bring her on the case, despite the many innocent lives being taken. For our department, it seems they'd rather be the big dog rather than let someone whose record of solving cases is like that of a real life, female Hercule Poirot steal the spotlight. I personally think that Janice Cooper should be put on the case. The list of "impossible-to-solve" cases that she has solved is as long as the Empire State Building is tall. Let us know your thoughts by following us on Twitter..."
Janice began to zone out, then as she let her mind wander to the case. Eyes removed, neck drained...
What the hell kind of murderer was this? Janice had heard of some pretty grisly murders, but this one took the cake. Draining blood? How had they done it? She needed to see those pictures of the girls' bodies. She needed to know if these girls' bodies looked like the body she had stumbled across all those years ago.
She turned and looked over at her Apple computer where it sat neatly at the center of her bed. She had some work to do...
About an hour later, Janice's sleek yet inconspicuous black car pulled into a busy grocery store lot. She struggled to find a parking space for a moment, then quickly zipped into the parking space of another vehicle that was backing out. She pulled the key from the ignition and moved to get out of the car quickly, heading for the front entrance of Whole Foods.
Trying to look up the bodies had been a bust. Janice had spent at least two hours straight searching forums and scrolling through different websites. The pictures had been removed by the police on all the sites. When it became clear that Janice would have to hack into the NYPD servers to find anything, Janice decided she should head to the store to pick up as much coffee and junk food she could find. Breaking into the NYPD might seem easy on all the television shows, but in reality, it was difficult. At least it was for Janice.
The automatic doors opened and Janice was greeted with signs urging her to buy Halloween candy for kids she didn't have. Grabbing a small shopping cart, Janice idly realized Halloween was only a week away. Lucky for her, she lived in an apartment on the eighth floor or she was sure she'd have to give out candy just to not feel like a total asshole.
Pushing the cart toward the aisle where the coffee was located, Janice first stocked up on her favorite brand, then moved on getting necessities like milk, bread, eggs, cheese, and bacon. She then found the junk food section and began throwing in chips, cookies, and candies. She was sure she would need all of them tonight.
Right as she was tossing in Hot Tamales, her cell-phone chirped, gaining her attention. Sighing, she reached into her back pocket and pulled out the latest iPhone model, squinting at the screen in confusion when she saw the number.
Hitting answer, Janice started off with, "I want to see the bodies."
"Miss. Cooper," came Commissioner Alistair's sarcastic voice, "it's always a pleasure."
"A case with over fifty bodies, all young girls, all with their eyes gouged out and their necks drained of blood." Janice looked over her shoulder as a couple of people passed her by, seemingly not interested in what she was saying at all. Still, Janice lowered her voice. "This one is too big for the police to handle and you know it. You'd be an idiot to not let me in on this one, Commissioner."
Commissioner Alistair sighed and Janice could imagine him running his hands down his face the way he did when she interfered with his other cases.
"Another body has shown up in SoHo. I'll text you the address. Be here in ten."
When he hung up and her phone chimed immediately after, letters and numbers showing up on her screen, Janice abandoned her shopping cart and ran for her car. She hadn't even been home a day and there was already a new case to solve.
There was no rest for the wicked.