Surprisingly enough, there was a small mirror on the wall in the Incident Room. It gave me a nice view of the white board with pictures of the victims, postmortem reports and photos of the crime scenes. Sadly for me, there was no helpful list of suspects.
Four murders in, it was obvious that the police was grasping at straws.
Like the proverbial fly on the wall, I watched as Michael walked into the room together with an older, heavy built man with reclining hairline and the face of a sad bulldog.
“C’mon, Malak. You’re too good a cop to keep working Vice- and Missing Person cases. I need you on this one.”
I could tell that Michael was tense from the line of his shoulders. “Both Harris and Boyle are seasoned and skilled detectives, sir. They’ve handled serial killings before-”
“They don’t have your talent. Look, Mike.” The man leaned against one of the desks, crossing his arms in front of him. “We have nothing that connects the victims. It looks like he’s picking them at random. We have nothing that will tell us where and when he’ll kill again. All we can do is wait until he slaughters the next one and hope that he screws up and leave us some DNA or something. It’s a real shitty situation.”
I knew Michael would accept even before he nodded. He wasn’t a man who could remain on the sideline when he could make a difference in a case like this. “Alright, Captain Callahan. I’ll do it.”
“Good man.” Callahan clamped a hand on Michael’s shoulder. “I’ll have Harrison and Boyd fill you in on the details on the way to the crime scene. It’s been locked down so you can breathe in the atmosphere, or whatever it is you do, before the science guys process it.”
“Where?” Michael’s voice was dark and hollow as if he already was facing the horror of the slaughter.
“St. Absalom on Dower Street.”
Like a spider in the center of its web I could feel that faint vibration that told me that there was a mirror somewhere inside the church of St. Absalom.
Callahan had left the Incident Room, and I watched Michael staring at the white board and the photos of the victims, the post mortem reports. The look on his face was one I had only seen on Louie; a grief so old it went all the way back to when Cain raised the rock and struck it against his little brother’s head.
Not much had changed since then when it came to murder. No matter if you caught the guilty or not, his victims would still be dead. And the look on Michael’s face told me that he knew that no legal system in the world could fix that.
I WAS OPENING THE PORTAL in St. Absolom and passing through it, when I suddenly heard a loud crack, almost as if it was my skull that was breaking. It felt like a really strong jolt of static electricity, or like accidentally biting on tinfoil – not painful exactly, just very unpleasant. I broke through the plane clumsily, stumbling out of the mirror, and caught a glimpse of myself in the now shattered glass.
I reached out, touching the cracks, feeling the slight vibration in them. Someone, or rather something, had passed through them at the same time as me, and from how my teeth still tingled and every bone in my body felt as if it had been filled with jelly, it had been something powerful.
Turning from the mirror and taking in my surroundings, I realized that I wasn’t in the sacristy. Instead I was standing in a small dusty room with naked floorboards and rafters in a star-shape above my head. Whatever has changed plane at the same time as me, it had thrown me off course and I had ended up in some forgotten part of the bell-tower.
I touched the broken mirror again, letting my fingertips follow one of the cracks, trying to sense something of the being who had caused it to break. But I sensed nothing, and I let my hand drop.
With no whole mirror available, I preferred to rely on my own two feet to carry me down a curving flight of stairs. I was really beginning to hate the high-heels. “The next time I end up having to save a sexy detective from demons, I’m wearing comfy hush puppies”, I muttered under my breath.
The stairs ended in a closed door. I tried it gingerly and was surprised when I found it unlocked. Either my fellow mirror-traveler had unlocked it as a parting gift, or the church frowned upon locked doors nowadays. I stepped out into what looked like a grand hallway and was met by the sound of voices coming from somewhere nearby.
The marble floor gave me an excuse to kick off the sandals. I continued on bare feet, padding down the hallway as it opened up into the church itself. Even before I could see the carnage I could feel the stench of the blood, thick as soup, saturating the air. I stopped, hidden in the shadows of an archway, and stared at the mess.
The Angel of Death had turned the church in to a carnal house.
His victim, a middle-aged woman with dark hair had been strung up above the altar. An inverted crucifix. An offering to the bloodthirsty, vindictive God of the Old Testament.
From my hiding place, I watched a man built like a brick-wall with skin so dark it looked almost black in the light falling in through the church’s Gothic windows, give Michael a quick tour of the murder-scene.
“It’s the same MO as the last three murders. We’ve managed to keep most of the details out of the press so far. Helps to sort the nut-cases from the proper nuts, if you know what I mean.”
Michael nodded. It was standard operational procedure in a case like this.
“Okay…” The man hesitated, clearly not sure what was going to happen next, but obviously as curious as I was. “So…”
“I’ll be alright on my own, Harrison”, Michael said.
“Right. I’ll go and grab a cup of coffee. You want anything?”
“No thanks.” Michael had already turned back to the macabre scene.
I watched Harrison leave the church, ducking under the yellow and black tape that crisscrossed the entrance, before I stepped out of my hiding place. Michael stood with his back towards me, absorbed by the gruesome scene, and on my bare feet I was as silent as a ghost.
Standing in front of the altar like that, looking up at the defiled cross, he could have been a priest. A devote praying at the feet of some violent god.
“Who are you?” He whispered softly. “Why did you do this?”
I could sense that fair aura of his growing stronger as he breathed in the blood-soaked atmosphere, absorbing the essence of both the killer and the victim. No wonder he preferred vice and missing persons cases, I thought, moving up to him.
“So, this was done by the Angel of Death?”
The sudden sound of my voice made him jump and spin around. “Jesus!” He barked. “Where the hell did you come from?!”
“There’s a mirror in a small room in the tower”, I said, taking another couple of steps towards the defiled altar. “And one in the sacristy too. I didn’t know he strung his victims up like that”, I mumbled, taking in the horrendous scene. The murderer had opened the woman’s guts and gravity had done the rest. Her entrails looked almost like tangled rope spilling down and over the altar. Almost.
Michael gave me a look. If he had expected me to faint or throw up he was in for a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, this was horrendous. But I had seen worse. Hell, I had done worse. “This is a crime-scene”, he said a little pointedly. “As in ‘not to be contaminated’-”
“Save your sermon, Detective Malak”, I interrupted him. “I don’t leave DNA, fingerprints or footprints.”
I flashed him a grin. “Isn’t it.”
He sighed. “You still haven’t explained why you’re here.”
“I told you. I want to find the Angel of Death too.”
“Why?” Michael asked with a frown.
“Because no one should be allowed to do this to people who’s only fault it is that they happened to be half-breeds.” The words were out of my mouth before I had even a chance to think them over. And to my surprise I realized that I meant them. I wasn’t a fan of the influence-peddlers roaming the world still trying to play ‘Soul Monopoly’. But no one should have to die watching their own guts just because they happened to have a breath of Heaven or Hell inside of them.
Michael turned to me. “Half-breeds? Are you saying that all the victims were either angels or demons? That’s the connection?”
“Well, this one’s angelic”, I said, gesturing at the crucified woman. “I need to see the others to know if they belonged to those who rise or those who fall.” I could see the questions churning in those amber-colored eyes of his and turned away, answering them with one of my own: “What can you tell me about the killer?”
Michael shifted his gaze back to the gruesome scene. “His mind is in a disarray. It’s like he’s following instructions that he himself doesn’t fully comprehend.”
“Maybe he doesn’t.” I walked up to the altar, meeting the dark-haired woman’s fractured eyes. They looked like marbles surrounded by blood. Was that how I looked to the mortals who was unlucky enough to see my true visage? I shuddered and turned away, meeting Michael’s gaze again.
“Are you okay?” He asked, his voice full of concern.
I nodded and forced a smile. “I’m peachy. So, what do we do next?” From the look he gave me I could tell that neither the smile nor my light tone had fooled him.
“I want to take you to the morgue.”
I smiled again, and this time it was a lot more genuine. “Aw, Detective, you sure know how to show a girl a good time.”
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