Chapter Seven: Hanging on Hope
“I thought I told you to stay in the cave until I came for you.” Luka said as he ran up to the reporter.
“I heard screaming and got worried.” She said as she looked up into his face.
Luka sighed. “I haven’t seen the hunter yet.”
“Do you think the man is still after us?” She asked as the detective took hold of her arm to steady her as they walked.
“I have this feeling something got him.”
“You mean, someone.” She said as she looked up at him again.
“We’ll see.” He said with a nod.
It didn’t take them long to find the man’s body and the dream catcher.
“The Sapphire Dreamer.” She whispered.
“Look at this.” Luka said as he pointed to something on the ground.
“What is that?” She asked as she looked at the ground. “Mushrooms.” She said as her eyebrows furrowed.
“This many of them, I think there’s something under the soil.” He said as he moved the dirt with his foot.
“You mean, like a corpse?” She asked as she looked around. “Or several.” She said as she saw the number of mushrooms in the area.
“I think our masked friend led us to where the man buried his victims.” Luka said with a shake of his head.
“Wow.” She whispered. “This will make a great story.”
He sighed as he rolled his eyes. Of course, that’s all she can think of the story.
“How many do you think he buried here?” She asked as she looked at him.
He looked at her and noticed the sadness in her eyes. Maybe she’s not as heartless as he had thought.
“I will have to call it in; we can’t do this ourselves.” He said as he pulled out his phone and called his partner.
Ariel looked around her with a sigh. To think, if not for Detective Gunnar and The Sapphire Dreamer, she would be among the dead here, today.
She shivered at the thought and blocked her emotions. She has gotten used to that; it makes her a better reporter if she doesn’t care who she hurts to get a story.
It’s what keeps her awake at night.
Luka stared down at the hole they had dug. At least fifteen people buried in this hole and Ariel had almost become one of them.
He shook his head.
The man had taken a break from “hunting” when it had gotten hot, five years ago; after too many people had come up missing from the area. Then three years ago, he had started up again, hunting fewer victims, hoping to keep the heat down.
“Luka.” Abraham said as he joined his partner over the hole.
Luka looked at his partner. “Ariel was almost one of these victims.”
“Yeah, it seems the girl has a knack for trouble.” Abraham said as he shook his head.
“It’s good that her boss was looking out for her.” Luka mumbled.
“It’s good you got here when you did.” Abraham said with a nod. “So, I guess you didn’t see The Sapphire Dreamer?”
Luka shook his head. “I was on the other side of the woods. Over there looking for the hunter.”
Abraham nodded. “Just funny that he was so close to you…”
“Do you think I let him do this?” Luka asked, shocked.
“Nah.” Abraham said with a grin as he slapped his partner on the shoulder. “I find it odd that you hadn’t seen him, while he hunted this man down with his own bow.”
“Yeah, I found that odd too.” Luka said with a nod. “But my thoughts were more on keeping Ariel from getting herself killed by the madman.”
“Understandable. Even with those scars, she’s still a beautiful woman.”
Luka grunted as he walked away from his partner.
Abraham laughed as he ran to catch up with him. “I take it you haven’t noticed…”
“No, I noticed. I also noticed that Miss Lawson is the same age Darcey would be if…” He stopped talking and shook his head.
Abraham frowned. Yeah, he had noticed that too.
Ariel woke in the hospital yet again. Wow, she has never been to the hospital so many times in her life, let alone her career.
“That’s it, I suspend you from doing any more investigative reporting, for three years.” Trenton said with an annoyed growl as he walked into her room.
“Hello to you too, Trent.” Ariel said with a slight laugh.
“I knew you would need backup.” He grumbled.
“Thank you for that.” She said with a nod.
“Yeah, yeah. Didn’t do much good…”
“It saved my life.” She said, interrupting him. “And got me a marvelous story.”
“It better be, since you risked your life for it.” Trenton said as he stood beside her bed.
“Am I suspended?” She asked as she eyed her boss.
Trenton sighed. “No, but you’re not going anywhere without back up again.”
“I’m an investigative reporter, Trent, not an officer of the law. We don’t have backup.” She said with a soft laugh as she shook her head.
“Then take your cop with you.”
“You mean Detective Gunnar?” She asked as she looked at him, stunned.
He’s not my cop.
“Yeah, he seems to like you.”
She laughed softly. “I don’t think so. Who could like me…”? She stopped talking as she touched the scars on her face.
Trenton touched her hand. “You’re still pretty.” He assured her with a smile. “You can barely see the scars…”
“Thanks, Trent. But I know that’s a lie. I see the looks on people’s faces, and the fear in children’s eyes…”
“Don’t listen to strangers, Ariel. Listen to your friends.” He said with a smile.
She laughed softly. Detective Gunnar may be an acquaintance who has saved her life, but he wasn’t a friend. Was he?
“Nice to see you awake, Miss Lawson.” Luka said with a smile as he entered her hospital room.
“Ah, you must be Detective Gunnar.” Trenton said as he turned to the detective. “Trenton Kody.” He said as he held his hand out.
“Ariel’s boss.” Luka said with a nod as he shook the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you. Thanks for calling me in.”
“Sounds like you guys had a fun time out there.” Trenton said with a laugh.
“Yeah, fun time.” Ariel grumbled.
“I hear The Sapphire Dreamer struck again.” Trenton said as he looked at the detective.
“Yeah, I regret that I was on the other side of the woods, wasn’t able to capture him.” Luka said with a nod.
“I’m glad you weren’t able to capture him.” Ariel mumbled softly.
Both men turned to her.
She looked up at them. “That’s twice now the masked man has saved my life.”
“I saved your life too.” Luka said with a frown.
“Is this a competition? Let’s see who can save Ariel’s life the most?” She asked as she eyed him.
He grinned at her, and her heart fluttered.
She cleared her throat. “Well, you must admit, if The Sapphire Dreamer hadn’t been there, who knows what would have happened to us.” She said as she watched him, her left eyebrow raised.
He smirked. “I would hope that I would have been able to take care of us. I am a detective, after all.” He said as he watched her.
“Right.” She said with a nod. “A detective who lost his gun; then shoved me into a hole.”
He stared at her for a moment, then laughed. “It was for your protection. And to keep you out of my hair.” He said with another heart fluttering grin.
She laughed softly, then groaned. “Speaking of which, did you find your gun?”
He nodded. “A police dog found it in the area where I had tackled you.”
“Good.” She said with a yawn. She would love to talk more with him, but the drugs in her IV were kicking in, and she could barely hold her eyes open.
“I think we should let her rest.” Trenton said with a smile. “I will see you at work in two weeks, do you hear me?” He said as he watched her face.
“Yeah, yeah. Two weeks, I heard you.” She said drowsily.
“And if the doctor says longer, I will find out…”
“Will you go already?” She grumbled as she cuddled under the blanket.
He laughed as he said his goodbyes and left the room.
She sighed as she relaxed into the bed.
“I guess I’ll go too.” Luka said as he headed for the door.
“Wait.” She said as she looked at him. “I never thanked you for saving my life.”
He looked at her with a smile. “It was nothing.”
She grunted as she hit the button for the bed to lay back. “Tell that to my body. I feel like I fell out of an airplane.”
He chuckled. “Get some sleep. I will see you later.”
“Yeah, goodnight.” She said with another yawn.
Luka quietly left her room and closed the door. If he hadn’t gotten there when he had, that arrow would have pierced something vital, and he would look at her in the morgue right now.
He sighed as he left the hospital.
Corbin Miles smiled down at his latest victim. The man dangled from the balcony; his body had stopped twitching a few minutes ago. He liked to watch his handiwork for a while after it was complete.
He is such an artist.
He backed away from the balcony and turned to head back into the man’s condo; when something caught his eye, he looked up to find a man standing on the other side of the glass door. He stared at the masked man in shock. No, it couldn’t be. He isn’t real…
The glass door opened, and the masked man stepped out onto the balcony.
“Up to your old tricks again, I see.” The masked man said.
“Who the hell are you?” Corbin asked as he stared at the masked man.
“Your worst nightmare.” The man in the mask said with a growl.
“That’s corny.” Corbin said with a laugh.
The masked man moved so fast; it startled Corbin to find him standing in front of him, his red eyes blazing.
“And you’re a lowlife piece of shit.” The masked man said as he glared into the man’s eyes.
Corbin shrieked at the sight of the man’s red eyes. “What are you?”
“I’m the Dreamer, don’t you read?” The masked man said with a grin.
“Stay away from me.” Corbin whined as he tried to get around the man.
“You aren’t going anywhere this time. You have eluded the law too many times. The law can’t be your savior now.”
The masked man moved so fast, Corbin didn’t see him grab the extra rope he kept tied to his belt. The masked man placed the rope around his neck with such speed, Corbin had no time to react. He could only scream as the man pushed him over the balcony rails and tied the rope to the railing.
The masked man pinned his sapphire dream catcher to the rope, then stood there for a moment to make sure the man was dead before he turned and left the condo.
“The first guy is Drew Houston, the latest victim of The Balcony Strangler.” Abraham said as he looked over the balcony at the two dangling men.
“And the other man is Corbin Miles. We think he’s The Balcony Strangler.” Luka said as he looked at the captain.
“And how do we know this?” Davis asked as he watched them.
“He pinned this to the rope.” Luka said as he held up an evidence bag with a dream catcher in it.
“That damn man keeps beating us to the perps.” Davis grumbled.
“Yes, sir.” Luka said with a nod.
“And how the hell does he know where to find them?” Davis asked as he took the bag from Luka.
“Not sure, sir. But there have been a few times I have been grateful for that.” Luka said as he watched his captain.
Davis nodded, knowing his detective was talking about the young investigative reporter.
“That doesn’t mean we let him kill.”
“No, sir.” Luka said with a shake of his head.
“All right, let’s get their bodies up and to the morgue.” Davis said as he turned and headed into the condo.
“You heard him, boys.” Abraham said as he pointed his finger in the air and swirled his hand in a circle.
“If you don’t need me, I will go check on Ariel.” Luka said as he headed into the condo.
“I knew you had a sweet spot for the reporter.” Abraham said with a laugh.
“She has a knack for getting herself into trouble; this is her first time alone since she had left the hospital two weeks ago. Her parents left this morning…”
“Yeah, yeah. Go check on the girl, I’ve got you covered.” Abraham said as he waved him off.