It had already been a long night and it was only going to get longer. Death had a tendency to make time it’s plaything when it appeared, interchanging minutes and hours at it’s precarious whims. But it wasn’t weariness that stayed the detectives hand as he reached for the doorknob. No... It was this feeling that ran thick in his blood, this haunting feeling of standing at the edge of something unfathomable. What he just saw seemed the aftermath of something that had ramifications that shook the very fabric of the world and each aftershock onward would continue to weave that fabric into something...distorted. Something wrong.
But he wanted to understand, no, needed to understand what he had just seen and those answers lay on the other side of this door. At least he hoped. And it was that hope, a fool’s hope perhaps, that gave him the resolve to push open the door.
“Has he said anything yet, Hale?” The detective asked, finding his partner already out of the interrogation room.
It was a long, uncomfortable moment before the young detective shook his head, a haunted look in his eyes as he answered the older detective as he shut the door to the observation room. “No… he just sits there. He’s not responding to anything I say. He won’t even look at me.” Hale sighed heavily, “Did you find anything else at the scene?”
“Another body on the third floor, stabbed through the heart, looks like.”
“Let me guess, can’t get an ID.”
“Not even a hint. But we have a positive ID on the girl.”
“It’s her, isn’t it?” Hale cursed and shook his head when the detective nodded solemnly. “So much for finding her alive. Jesus...that brings the body count to what, eight? Nine?” The younger detective wiped the sweat from his brow, the weariness showing as he glanced back to the interrogation room window. He couldn’t seem to look away from the dark form behind the glass.
“If they’re all connected...yeah.”
“Hasn’t been one this bad since the occupation...at least then it made sense.” They both fell silent as they looked through one way mirrored pane. The man chained to the chair was barely visible, the shadows clinging to him like a lover’s embrace, threatening to encase him completely.
“He doesn’t seem like much, does he?” The younger detective commented softly, rolling the half filled coffee cup between his palms as he stared at the shadowed man. There was something different in his voice, a different sheen to his eyes. Whoever this man was, he managed to wordlessly shake his young partner to his core and though he tried to hide it, the fear was beginning to seep through. Fear had stolen its way into the man, a sort of respectful terror reserved for gods and devils.
“Vic, what the hell happened out there? I’ve never seen anything like it. Was it a bomb, a firefight? The dispatcher told the patrols that the caller said it sounded like a war was going on up there. And then when we get up on that roof, we have this creepy bastard just sitting there, soaking wet and holding her hand. Isn’t that a little messed up?” His partner’s words were jumbled together as he loosened his tie, a runnel of sweat running the side of his face. He had never seen the young man more anxious.
“Yeah, everything about this feels off.” Vic answered absently as he looked at his suspect. The man’s face was hidden from him, his head was bowed so low that the long dark fringes brushed the steel tabletop. Hale was right, he didn’t look like much, but much of him was hidden in the shadows. His shoulders were rippling with cords of hard muscle beneath his simple black shirt, suggesting considerable strength, but that wasn’t what caught the detective’s eye. As he watched him it happened again, a slight quiver that ran the length of the man.
“Before you go in there, you might want to look at some of these... the last one is probably the most screwed up thing about all this.” Hale muttered ominously as he held up a manila envelope, photos from the scene, Vic figured. Seeing that he was correct, he began thumbing through them, internally cringing as the carnage flipped past his eyes. He had seen much during his time on the force, many of which still haunt the dark corners of his mind, but this… this was different. The violence was impersonal , yet so very intimate. It was surgical and distant, yet the scene had been thick with a heavy sort of emotion, the nature of which he couldn’t claim to know.
When he came to the last one, his blood ran cold. A letter. Nothing good ever came from a letter found at a homicide. His hands began to shake as he started reading the flowing script and with each word the lump in his throat grew more painful, his eyes wider. If this was real and the handwriting belonged to who he thought it did, this case became much more complicated.
“Where was this found?”
“A coat was found near the entrance to the terrace, the letter was in the breast pocket.”
“You think we have this-” He glanced at the letter. “...’Derek’ chained to that chair?”
Hale shrugged, “Could be...You thinking Stockholm’s?”
“It’d be a first for me…maybe…I won’t know until I talk to him.” Vic answered just as quietly. Stuffing the photos back into the folder, he clapped Hale on the shoulder, “Why don’t you take a few, freshen up that coffee and then you can join me. Alright?”
“Yeah, yeah that’s a good idea...You want a cup? Black, right?”
“I’d appreciate it.”
“You got it.”
The man didn’t move as the latch clicked shut. The detective carefully laid the folder on the table and pulled the chair opposite the suspect. He sat down with a heavy sigh and formed his fingers into a steeple as he surveyed the man before him. “I’m Detective Victor Cromwell, lead detective on this case. The man from earlier was my partner, Detective Hale. I’m going to need to ask you a few questions, if that’s alright with you.”
There was no sign that the man heard anything he said. His head was still bowed and if it weren’t for the sound of his soft breathing, Cromwell wouldn’t have believed the man was anything other than a statue. He sat there waiting for the man to speak or look up for what seemed like an eternity.
Cromwell sighed heavily, “You’re not being accused of anything right now, son. It’s just that I have three bodies in an abandoned building in the Old District and a fire that we can’t contain. We might lose the entire District. And you were the only living person in the vicinity. As you can guess, I’m in need of some answers. So, work with me. Tell me what happened.”
A few more moments passed before the man finally raised his head. His dark hair fell over one of his eyes but parted to reveal the other. Just that single glimmering orb was enough to give the detective pause. The sterile light flashed in that penetrating stare the man fixed him with, lending it a predatory gleam set aside for stalkers of the night. His skin was the sheen of fresh snow kissed by a cold full moon, starkly contrasting his dark clothes and hair.
Just that look was enough for Cromwell to second guess every line of interrogation he was going to take.
“Then why the chains, Detective Cromwell?” The cold voice was scarcely louder than a whisper, but it contained so much intensity that it seemed to ring in his ears. The man’s voice, though quiet in itself, seemed to kill any ambient noise. Cromwell only heard his words and the way they resonated throughout his mind.
The detective recovered swiftly, “Merely a precaution, I promise you.”
“I think your partner would disagree with you. He seemed bent on pinning all of this on me.” The man replied softly with a scoff.
“I won’t lie to you. The circumstances that he found you in are pretty damning.” Cromwell pulled out a small pad and a pen, “Why wouldn’t you speak to Detective Hale?”
“Because I have limited time, and I won’t waste it on fools.”
“What makes me any different?” Cromwell asked as he clicked his pen. An involuntary shudder ran down his spine when those eerie eyes found his and the man didn’t miss it. But Cromwell didn’t see the satisfaction cross the suspect’s face like he thought it would. If anything, there was a momentary flash of disappointment.
“You...you seem to genuinely want to find the truth of what happened tonight, Victor Cromwell, not prescribe blame. You have empathy, Detective, and I can appreciate that. Even though you reassured me with a lie, your effort to put me at ease was real, so I can look past the deception. I believe I can trust you with what I need to say and when you hear it, you will judge my words impartially. Am I right?” Cromwell could hear the subtle plea underneath the cool veneer of his words. The intimidation was only a cover, a mask that he seemed well versed in using; but Cromwell could see the turmoil of emotion rage behind the man’s deceptively calm stare the longer it was fixed on him.
Even though he could see this, Cromwell still wasn’t expecting such an expression from the man and it was a moment before the detective could summon his voice, “I try to be as impartial as I can. But I need the truth.”
The withering stare Cromwell received made him fidget and avert his eyes to the folder. “What truths are you seeking, Detective? The truth can be a dangerous thing.”
“Dangerous for you to say?” Cromwell asked.
The man raised an eyebrow that disappeared into his fringes, “Dangerous for you to know. You’ll find no lies here, ask and you will receive the truth. What you do with it is meaningless to me…but you may regret asking me anything. You won’t like what I have to say.”
Cromwell shuddered, but tried to mask it with indifference, “You couldn’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before, I am afraid.”
“If that were true then why does it seem like you’ve just been through hell and had to claw your way out? I can see your fear, Detective Cromwell…you don’t have to hide it. Fear is a good thing… keeps you vigilant. If I had felt a bit more fear in the past then maybe I wouldn’t be here right now.” The man’s words dwindled to a whisper as he looked away.
“What should you have been more afraid of?” He asked quietly, not really looking forward to the answer.
The man glanced his way for a brief moment before sighing softly, “I underestimated my self-control, forgot what it was like to lose my grip on the fragile tether that held these…urges in check. They ended up destroying everything I had.”
“What do you mean by urges?” Cromwell inquired, an eyebrow raised in suspicion.
Abruptly, the man’s mouth pulled up into an insolent smirk, “Did you hear a confession in that, Detective? Well, you’ll just have to be patient a while longer.”
“This isn’t a game, son.”
“Oh, but it is, and we are both unwilling players.” While his tone was mocking, Cromwell could hear the mournful undercurrent in the words and when he looked up from his pad, could see the it echoed in the man’s eyes, surprising him again. Everything about the man seemed to mislead him.
After taking a moment to rearrange his line of questions, Cromwell cleared his throat, “Why is empathy so important to you, Mr…?
“You may call me Silas.”
“Silas? Anything more to that?”
“Ok, Silas then. Why empathy?” Cromwell muttered as he wrote the name, underlining it with a question mark. It had to be an alias of some sort, he figured.
Silas’s eerie eyes slid to him slowly, taken back. He clearly wasn’t expecting Cromwell to start there, the first crack sounding in his seemingly impenetrable reserve. Without a thought it seemed he replied, his words strained, “It was the only thing I had ever struggled with.”
“Not having any?”
Silas shook his head, his face unreadable, “No. I had too much.”
Cromwell frowned, not liking where this was heading, “Why would that be a problem?”
“In my line of work, I always thought it was a hindrance...until someone showed me that it was a strength, not a weakness.” His voice fell so low that Cromwell barely caught what he said.
“What was your line of work?”
Silas shrugged nonchalantly, “I cleaned up the government’s messes.”
Though he tried to cover it with a casual shrug, a dark look had stolen across Silas’s pale face, prompting Cromwell to prode, “What, you’re a janitor or something?”
Amusement shone in the young man’s eyes, “I guess in a manner I was.”
Cromwell folded his hands on top of the folder, “So whenever some politician stirred up some kind of controversy or something, you’re there with a mop and some honeyed words?”
The man smiled slightly as he tilted his head, “I really strike you as that type of person? The messes I took care of were of a more vicious nature.”
“And were these messes of yours, Mr. Silas?” Cromwell opened the folder and began laying out photos of the victims. Silas watched him coldly, his strange eyes becoming more distant with each photo. Finally, Cromwell laid the last one, the one he felt would affect him the most, right in front of him. Silas took one fleeting look at it before flinching, as if someone had raised their hand to strike him.
“Do you know these people?” The detective asked quietly. It was a long time before Silas was able to look back to the photos.
Silas’s eyes roved around the gruesome images as though hypnotized before he whispered, “They look so different in death… different than anyone else, but still the same somehow… I could have never predicted that it would come to this…there was no way to know… but I should have known… I was supposed to know…”
“What were you supposed to know?” Cromwell pressed, shaken slightly by the change in Silas’s tone.
Silas’s gaze fell on the picture in the middle, “They were mine to protect…all of them…but her…” His shoulders shifted, like he was going to touch the picture but the chains prevented him from moving an inch. His voice dropped to a hollow whisper. Cromwell could barely hear the words he was muttering, “She above all else…s-she was mine …”
His voice broke and he bowed his head until rested on the table. His shoulders heaved silently as Cromwell watched in surprise. Gone was his haughty, commanding air as a broken sorrow stole into the room, hanging over them like a chilly mist. The guilt in his voice when he spoke of the two others gave Cromwell pause but these silent broken sobs coupled with this shockingly naked vulnerability stunned him. For the first time Silas resembled something close to human.
“Who was she?”
It was a while before Silas looked up. When he did, his face was calm though his eyes were red-rimmed and wet. “She was the only one who could see me for what I could be and not what I am…she was the only one who pushed me to be more. But now…I…I don’t know what…I don’t know who I am without her. ”
“Who were you before her?”
Silas’s shining eyes darted to his, “Someone you would have never wanted to meet. Someone you would have never met unless karma decided otherwise…someone who would break free from these handcuffs and snap your neck without remorse. Regardless of how this situation may seem to you, you are not safe with me. No one is.”
Cromwell couldn’t help but be chilled by Silas’s low words. He had to look away from the unsettling gleam in those eyes before he asked, “Then why did you allow yourself to be captured? Am I right in assuming that’s what you did? Why are we even having this conversation?”
Silas leaned forward slightly, “Because there is a story that I must tell. Her story entangles all the others, including mine. And when it’s done you will have a choice. You probably already know the choice, perhaps even your decision. If that’s true, then you must know who she was, who I was before… help me decide who I am now before you put it to words, before you truly end it. When you do, Detective Cromwell, you will understand why we are having this conversation.”
“Then you have my full, undivided attention.” The door opened behind him and a steaming foam cup was placed by his side. Cromwell looked up at Hale, who was very studiously keeping his eyes on Cromwell. “Put a fresh pot on, Detective Hale. I’m going to be awhile.”