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In Plain Sight
Mystery with an aspect of fantasy. The books that inspired me when I wrote this are Cirque du Freak and Skulduggery Pleasant.
I gave Odilia a hug, only reaching her waist, and she squeezed me back strongly. She had come over to study for our science test together.“Bye, seeya at school tomorrow,” I said as I showed her to the door.
“Bye, Eden. Thanks for letting me come over. Most people don’t like me in their house,” she gave me a huge lopsided smile.
“I can’t imagine why,” I replied sweetly before shutting the door. As soon as she was gone, I went to my room and collapsed on my bed. I loved Odilia, but at the end of the day I just needed some time to myself. Odilia was a big, bald, one-eyed, clumsy cyclops. She was bullied awfully at school, and because I stuck up for her once, she was now attached to me. Cyclops are extremely loyal. It was hard to get away from her at all.
My phone rang. It was Stone, my brother. “Hi Stone,” I said as I picked up the phone.
“Eden! What’s up?” his words were slurred. I groaned.
“Are you drunk again?”
“What do you want?”
“I just want to say I love youuu.”
“Yeah, whatever.” I hung up the phone and brought a shaky hand through my greasy blond hair. Stone was the only person I had left, and of course, he was always getting drunk. What an idiot.
I showered and put on some pajamas, then took out my case journal. I dreamed of being a detective because I wanted to solve my mother’s murder 6 months prior. I was sure I could solve the case. I owed it to her.
It was a suspected suicide, but I knew she hadn’t killed herself. I had been the one to find her, collapsed on the kitchen floor with a slit throat. A single tear ran down my cheek as I replayed the memory. Stop crying, I scolded myself. Be strong.
Dad wasn’t strong. Nor was Stone. I was the strongest person in this family. I was the one holding us together. My father had been absent for at least two days. God only knows where he was. Stone just handled it by getting drunk. I scoffed. Knowing how little sleep I was likely to get, I put on some music and read a book instead.
Dad was home the next morning. I slept until ten o’clock, effectively missing the bus to school. “Look who’s home,” I jeered when I saw my father sitting in a chair downstairs with a coffee mug in his hands.
“You should be at school,” he said in his deep, stern voice.
“Yeah and who’s going to enforce that?”
“Me. Right now.”
I snorted. “On the off chance you stop by to see your fifteen year old daughter?”
Rolling my eyes, I grabbed a donut for myself and collapsed in a chair across from him. I studied him. He was wearing navy blue sweatpants with a whitish yellow polo shirt that had a tear in the armpit. I don’t know if he’d changed clothes at all since Mom’s death. He stank like hell. “You should shower,” I said a little more softly. He said nothing, continuing to stare at the cup in his hands, as if wondering how it got there. “Dad?” My voice cracked and I cringed. In an attempt to cover it up, I loudly shouted his name again.
He looked at me.“Eden? What’s wrong? There’s no reason to yell.”
“You should shower,” I whispered.
“Of course. I was planning on it,” He was all professional again. “Call Stone to bring you to school. I’ll be home tonight.”
Stone arrived less than half an hour later. As usual, he was wearing jeans and a polo shirt, contrasting my comfortable shorts and a sweatshirt. He came in and dropped off some groceries for me. I muttered a thanks. He couldn’t have made much money. He jumped from job to job. I think right now he worked at Walmart, but I wasn’t sure. He had planned to go to college and study law before Mom died. But then he had realized I needed him and stayed. I was sure he would take off as soon as I was eighteen though.
We drove through the neighborhood in Stone’s treasured pickup, but he was going a different way than usual. “Stone, this is not the way to school,” I told him.
“Yes, it is. There’s just something I want to show you first.” He elbowed me in the ribs. “Why so serious, Ed?” I didn’t respond.
Soon we came to an old deserted road. He stopped in the middle. “Ready?” He cackled. Then he impetuously floored the gas and we sped down the road, Stone yelling and laughing all the way.
“Stop! Stop, Stone!” I screamed. Finally he stopped the car and glared at me.
“You’re no fun, Eden. You barely even smile anymore.”
“That’s not true,” I protested.
“Yes, it is. I was trying to help you relax and have some fun for once. Would you rather walk to school?” I didn’t. The rest of the ride was silent. At one point I turned on the radio and he clicked it instantly back off. When he pulled up to the school I hesitated.
“I don’t want to go to school. Can I just hang out at your house? Dad won’t know the difference. I’m sorry I ruined your fun time. It’s been hard to relax since Mom’s death. I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders,” I said, putting on my saddest face. He narrowed his eyes at me for a few seconds, then grinned.
“Of course, of course! I have to go to work though so I won’t be home,” he said.
Stone’s house, as usual, was a mess. Empty beer bottles were strewn across the living room floor and dishes piled up in the sink. I held my nose and went straight to the spare room I always stayed in when I slept over. But with nothing to do, I soon wandered to Stone’s room, one door over, to raid his bookshelf. Most of them were old fantasies with ripped pages and stained covers from when he was a teenager. One book stood out though. It was obviously new and had a bright red cover. Everything To Know About Vampires, the title read. I frowned. I hadn’t known Stone was interested in vampires. He must’ve bought it when he was drunk. I picked it out and took it back to the spare room to read.
After reading the first chapter, I was already bored of it. Vampires were very rare and the ones that did exist were working for the government or in captivity. Giving up on reading it, I flipped through the pages instead. I stopped when I saw one page had a bookmark in it. Quickly reading through it, I paled. The subtitle of the page was How To Know If You’re a Vampire and What To Do If You Are.
I immediately rushed to his fridge to check for any blood, the widely known sign of vampirism. There was plenty of beer, but no blood. I relaxed slightly. This was typical paranoid Stone behavior. Once he got something in his head, he couldn’t get it out. I decided to call him just to ask about it and was on my way back to my room when I noticed a small blue cooler by Stone’s bedroom doorway that I hadn’t noticed earlier.
I prepared myself for the worst and walked slowly towards it. Kneeling down next to it, I started to open the lid, but stopped halfway when my eyes landed on the red stains on the top of the cooler. I sucked in a breath. Stone was a vampire. I didn’t even finish checking the cooler - I didn’t need to.
I sat down hard on the ground and put my head in my hands. Stone was the one person I had left. This couldn't be happening. My brother couldn’t be a murderer. Tears welled in my eyes. Fighting hard to keep them from spilling over, I grit my teeth and punched the wall. The wall was a lot harder than I had expected. “Owww!” I groaned, but it gave me the push I needed to collect myself. I rushed to grab my backpack and call an uber to bring me home. Everyone knew vampires didn’t distinguish between their prey.
When the uber arrived, I was already standing outside, unable to stay in that house a second longer. The driver honked their horn and I ran to the door. “Shouldn’t you be at school?” he demanded in a stern voice, as soon as I had opened the passenger side door.
“Uh..I was feeling sick,” I replied sweetly. “4340 Acorn Dr. please.” He grunted. The rest of the drive was silent.
Fortunately, my dad wasn’t home when I arrived. Massaging the knot in my stomach, I paced back and forth in our living room, debating whether I should turn Stone in or not. I decided I would talk to him first, for a confirmation, before I called the police.
He called around 4:30. Dad still wasn’t home and I was out on a walk, trying to think about other things. The overwhelming Texas heat was leaving sweat dripping down my forehead.
“Hey Ed, where are you?” was the first thing he said.
“I went home.”
“Why?” he asked, sensing the accusing tone of my voice.
I looked around briefly, then whispered, “I know what you are.”
There was a pause, then a rummaging sound. “What are you talking about?” he asked carefully.
Now that I was on an abandoned sidewalk and was sure no one was around I answered, “You’re a vampire.”
Then a chuckle,“Okay, you got me. I was at a bar and someone slipped me something in my drink. The next day I woke up and was so thirsty. I drank water but nothing satisfied me. And when I cut myself later that night, I had an overwhelming urge to drink the blood. It’s disgusting, I know. But it’s not my fault.”
“Are you actually laughing about this? What is wrong with you?” then quieter, “Have you killed anyone?”
He sighed.“I’m coming over now. You haven’t told anyone, have you? We’ll talk about it when I get there. Is Dad home?” he asked.
“I haven’t told anyone and Dad’s not home,” I said, “but if you try to drink my blood I will kill you.”
When Stone arrived, I had a pocket knife in my pocket. I gestured for him to sit on the couch, but I stayed standing. He eyed me and grinned.
“You think I’m going to kill you?”
“Vampires are unpredictable.”
“I’m not insane. I can choose who I drink from. In fact, that’s the only pro of the whole ordeal.”
“There are no pros to being a vampire.”
“It makes me money,” he replied.
I blinked. “What?”
“I have to kill anyway. So this way I can get paid for something I would have to do either way. It’s a win-win.”
My jaw dropped. “You’re a hit man and a vampire?!”
“Vampire first. Then I became a hit man.”
I sat down hard. “Oh my gosh,” I whispered.
“It’s not as bad as you think. It’s the reason you have food to eat.”
“I’m gonna be sick.”
Suddenly I was furious. I stood up swiftly, knocking my chair backwards. “How could you! How could you even kill someone? After our mom was killed herself!”
He stood up furiously. “Mom committed suicide! Now get that through your head! If I don’t kill, then I die. Would you rather that?”
He studied me, then collapsed down in his chair. “I don’t like what I do. But I don’t have a choice.”
“Yes you do. You could turn yourself in,” I insisted.
“And be the government’s slave?”
“That’s better than murder!”
“I’m not turning myself in!” he snapped, louder than I’d ever heard him yell before.
“Fine, then I’ll do it for you,” I announced.
He raised his eyebrows. “No you won’t,” he said quietly.
“I will. You’ll see!”
“No, you won’t,” he whispered before getting up and walking himself to the door. “Call me if you want to talk.”
When Stone was gone, I crumpled in tears. My family was falling apart. I rocked back and forth with my head resting on my knees. Then I brought my head up and slammed it down on my knees repeatedly, cursing and crying, until I ran out of energy.
I sat there in a ball for about thirty minutes, sobbing loudly. Suddenly I felt a soft tap on my arm. My head jerked up and I gasped.
“Tell me what happened here, Presley.” Detective Gatlin shifted uncomfortably, as did his partner, Ash. Neither of them wanted to look at the young girl on the table in front of them. The mortician took a deep breath. He was looking particularly shaky and pale.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ve been feeling quite sick lately,” he said awkwardly.
“Clearly. You think you can do your job?” Ash snapped.
“Ye-yes detective,” Presley stuttered. “So, as you can see, her throat was slit. Other than that, there appears to be no sign of turture or injury anywhere else. It almost looks like a suicide, or a hit man job.”
“What else do you know about the victim?” Gatlin asked, scrutinizing the body.
“Her name is Eden Hatchley. She is 15 years old and in perfect shape. Her father, Daniel Hatchley and her brother Stone Hatchley, outlive her. Her mother, Linda Hatchley, died six months ago.”
“Interesting.” Gatlin appeared lost in thought. “There may be a connection between her mother’s death and hers. Um, thanks, Presley. We’ll be off now.” They walked out into the hallway together. Gatlin, being the senior detective by a year and a half, took the lead. “Let’s check out the crime scene.” He checked his watch. “Then we can look at the files from her mother’s death.”
When they arrived at Eden’s house, there were three police cars already there. They ducked under the caution tape and entered through the front door. “Okay, this is where the killer comes in.” Gatlin turned to his left where a pool of blood next to a chair stained the floor. “And this is where Eden is.”
“It doesn’t look like there was much of a struggle that went on. Nothing is upturned, except for that chair all the way across the room. Maybe Eden was sitting in it when the murderer came in, or the murderer knocked it over after he killed her,” Ash speculated.
“Or that happened before the murderer even arrived. According to police, no one heard a scream, so either she was restrained, or she was caught by surprise and killed before she could even open her mouth,” Gatlin added. They did a quick search of the rest of the house, but found nothing else of interest, so they left the forensics team to do their work.
“So how do we get to the file room again?” Gatlin asked, spinning slowly in a circle. Even though he had been a detective for longer, he was new to the Houston police station.
Ash sighed and led the way, “You ask this every time.”
“I guess I just try to block out the boring parts of the job.”
“That’s why everyone always forgets your name.”
“Hey!” Gatlin put a hand to his chest, as if offended. They got to the big room of files and Gatlin used his keys to open the door. They started at different ends of the room and scanned for Hatchley.
“Got it,” Ash announced as she pulled out a file. “Linda Hatchley.” Gatlin snatched it from her and started to read it aloud.
“Died six months ago. Case closed as a suicide. Slit throat,” he looked up and raised his eyebrows at Ash, “Suspiciously similar to Eden’s murder, don’t you think?”
“So...we got someone who knows the Hatchleys. But if this is personal, there should be more than just a slit throat. She hasn’t been beaten at all, which is common when the murderer knows the victim,” she said.
“Yes, if they’re irate. But what if they just need to get them out of the way? Let’s talk to what's left of her family and see if they have any idea who would want them dead. We also have to consider the possibility that someone within the family is responsible.”
The phone rang. Stone awoke and looked at the time on his gold wrist watch. 6:00 AM, it read. It was way too early. Rolling over and putting a pillow over his head, Stone tried his best to ignore it. But when it rang a second time, he cursed and went to pick up the phone.
“Who is it?” he demanded, irritably.
“Mr. Stone Hatchley, this is the police,” a stern voice said from the other end. All the blood drained from Stone’s face. Eden really had turned him in. But the officer continued talking. “I’m sorry to report that your sister, Eden, was found dead this morning by a neighbor. Your father is unaccounted for.”
Stone’s ears began to ring. His vision went blurry. He dropped the phone as his legs collapsed. “Hello? Mr Stone? Are you still there?” the officer droned on, but Stone couldn’t hear him anymore. All he could hear was his heartbeat pounding in his ears.
He let out a strangled scream. It felt as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest. He recalled his last conversation with his little sister, the last one he would ever have. He remembered when they used to play together in their basement. She couldn’t be gone. She was the only person he had left. She was so good, so pure, so innocent. She couldn’t die.
Flashbacks to when his mother died filled his mind. “NO!” he sobbed. It was happening all over again. But this time he was all alone. Suddenly a wave of anger overtook him. Cursing and yelling, he stood up and stomped into the living room. Seizing a vase, he flung it at the wall. It was all his fault. He hadn’t been there for her. Stone threw everything he could get his hands on. He upturned a table, then moved on to ripping apart the couch. He punched the wall, making a fist-sized hole in it, barely feeling the pain. He then grabbed a glass, and crushed it in his bare hands.
Finally, when he had no energy left, Stone crumpled onto the ground, and curled up into a ball, crying. The pain from the cuts on his hands hit him all of a sudden and he tried to scream again, but he had lost his voice.
Stone woke up to a horrible pain in both his hands. He sat up and took in the mess of the room. He hated himself so much at that moment. It was his fault Eden was dead. He felt as if there was nothing good left in this world now that Eden had gone. He had felt grief-stricken before, when his mother died, but it had never gotten this bad, because he had had Eden to go through it with.
Summoning all his willpower, Stone eventually lifted himself off of the ground and stumbled to the kitchen sink to wash off his hands. He flinched as the cool water stung his cuts. Examining them, he noticed his right hand’s knuckles were badly bruised and both hands had deep cuts with small shards of glass poking out. He should see a doctor.
In the end, he just wrapped them up with some bandages he found in a first aid kit under his bed. He had no tears left, yet he wanted to cry so badly. Instead he just sat at the end of his bed, and zoned out, trying not to think about anything.
But soon he realized that wasn’t working and he went to his fridge for a beer.
Stone sat in the interrogation room, trying to hide the fact that he had been drinking. He doubted he was doing a very good job of it. His father was next to him, calm and composed. Stone was disgusted at him.
“Do you know anyone who has something against Eden or your family in general?” The tall brunette female detective Stone had nicknamed Bear asked.
Stone’s father spoke, “Not that I’m aware of. Do you-” He was interrupted by Stone.
“Like you would know! When was the last time you had a conversation with her? Not since Mom died! You don’t know anything about Eden anymore! Where were you when she was killed, huh? You were supposed to be there! You’re her father, for God’s sake! Well, congratulations, you are the worst father to ever step foot on this earth. I’d rather be an orphan,” Stone exploded.
Stone’s father stared at him. He looked heartbroken. One of the detectives cleared his throat. Stone tore his eyes away from his father. It was the intimidating short redhead, nicknamed Fox, that had cleared his throat. He looked Stone right in the eyes, never once breaking eye contact. Stone looked away, embarrassed. Bear wrote something in a notebook.
“Can you both tell me what you were doing on Monday?” she asked.
His father sniffed. “I was gone all day. Job hunting.”
Stone looked at him, incredulous. “Job hunting?” he snorted. “That’s what you’ve been doing every day for the past six months, while I bring your daughter food? Yeah, right.”
“I was,” his father replied, smiling thinly at the detectives. Stone snorted again.
“You brought Eden food, Stone?” Fox prompted.
He licked his lips. “Yes.”
“What’s your profession?”
“I, um, I work at the grocery store.”
“Target’s not a grocery store, Stone.”
“I meant Super Target.”
“Okay. Which super target?”
“The one on um, 2nd Street.”
“2nd Street? Okay, we’ll check that out, if you don’t mind.” Stone licked his lips again, as he felt the detective’s eyes on him again. “So what were you doing Monday?”
Stone composed himself and looked straight into Fox’s beady eyes. “I picked up Eden for school at around 11:00.”
“Doesn’t school start at 8:00?” This time it was Bear who spoke.
“Yes, but my father here was supposed to take her. So I was bringing her in late. So yeah, I dropped her off then and picked her up at 3:00.”
“Okay. And what did you do from 11:00 until 3:00?”
“I was working.”
“At Super Target?” Fox asked.
“Where else?” Stone snapped.
“Hmmm,” was all he said. “Have either of you noticed any odd behavior from Eden lately?”
“No,” Stone answered hurriedly.
“Okay...” was all the man said. “You guys are free to go. We might have follow-up questions later.” Stone was the first out of his seat. He was almost at the door when he heard, “Wait.”
Stone slowly turned around. “Yes?”
“What happened to your hands?”
Stone cursed under his breath. He had done such a good job hiding the bandages up until now. “I cut them.”
“You cut them? How?”
“I was...I broke a glass.”
Fox smirked. “Right. Okay, bye.”
As soon as they got into the hallway, his father pinned him to the wall with one hand and pointed an accusing finger in his face. “Do you want to get me arrested?” he roared.
“I wouldn’t mind,” Stone responded.
“Do you even care? Do you even care that your sister is dead? What about your mom? Huh?” Then he broke down crying. Stone sidestepped him and took one last glance at the interview room, where Fox was looking at them through the small window. The detective smiled and waved. Stone let himself out.
As soon as Stone got home, he called Super Target for a job.
Stone sat in the car, drumming his fingers on the wheel. When Odelia finally came out of her house to take the trash out, he jumped at his chance. Coming up behind her, he put a single hand on her shoulder. She jumped, then turned, towering over him. Narrowing her red puffy eyes, she looked him up and down, trying to remember where she recognized him. Suddenly it clicked and her eyes widened.
“I need a favor,” Stone said meekly.“I want to solve Eden’s murder.”
“Aren’t the police doing that?” Her voice was scratchy, like she’d been crying.
“Yes. I just want to help them out a bit.”
“Well, what do you need me for?”
“I have a plan.”
Odelia glanced at Stone, fear in her eyes. They were standing outside the police station, in a patch of trees. It was pitch black and the station was closed, but there was sure to be guards posted inside, as well as alarms. Seeing Odelia’s uncertainty, Stone edged her toward the station. “Do it for Eden,” he prompted her and suddenly she stood up straighter.
“For Eden,” she chorused. “You sure there won’t be guards?”
“And no alarms?”
“No but on the off chance there is, just keep going as fast as you can.”
“Okay, okay.” She started to stretch like a runner.
“And don’t forget - I had nothing to do with this.”
“Nothing at all.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“Nope,” she looked down at the rifle in her hands. “Are you sure I need this? I don’t want to shoot anyone.”
“Yes. It’s just a precaution. Okay, are you ready? Go!” Stone yelled. Odelia ran straight for the doors, while Stone crept to the back entrance, keeping to the shadows. Once he heard the alarms, he waited a beat, then slipped in.
He was in a long hallway that he recognized. Before leaving the station the day before, he had “gotten lost” in the building, exploring many of the hallways and rooms. He took the next left towards the main waiting area. There were four guards gathered around a huge figure lying on the ground and a man at the front desk, but he was engrossed in the phone call he was making. Stone cursed in his head. Odelia had been caught already. Police sirens wailed outside and it took all four men to haul Odelia out to the car.
Taking his chance when their backs were turned, Stone crept across the waiting area and made it to the other end. Now he just had to find the file room! It was only a couple more turns before he made it and let himself in. Peeling off his itchy black mask, he hurriedly looked for what he needed. Going to a computer, he typed in US serial killers, putting the filter for the past two years, and got 2,865 results. Within that search he narrowed it down more with slit throats. Only 33 of the murders had been killed by a slit throat. Scanning through those, he noticed 28 of them had happened in Washington!
Clicking on one, he read through the case. His brain picked up random snippets of information. 44 year old man. Slit throat. Found at home. But most importantly, murderer’s DNA identified as the Washington killer.
Suddenly Stone heard footsteps coming down the hall. Refreshing the screen, he quickly searched for a place to hide. He didn’t have enough time to escape through the window, as had been his plan. Finally he found a file cabinet right in front of a narrow dark corner. Squeezing behind it, he pressed up against the wall and made a futile attempt to slow his speeding heart.
The door opened. “...he just said he thought he heard something in here and wanted us to check it out.” Two officers came in. “Should the lights be on?” The same high voice asked. “You were the last one in here. Did you turn the lights off, Frank?”
“I thought I did. But now that you mention I’m not so sure...I don’t hear anything though. Let’s get out of here, Ross.” Frank sounded worried.
“You scared?” Ross taunted him.
“Of course not. I just, um, I want to check on that cyclops girl. We’re missing all the fun.”
“I guess you’re right, but let’s just do a quick scan first.” They fanned out and checked through all the rows of cabinets. At one point Ross’s back was only a foot away from the cabinet I was behind and I was sure he would hear my heart beating in my chest. But he didn’t and I said a quick prayer of thanks before getting the hell out of there.
“Both of them are viable suspects, and they’re both lying,” Gatlin announced first thing the next morning.
“Okayyyy,” Ash said. She fixed her black blazer as she walked briskly through the station.
“Did you hear about the break-in last night?” Gatlin hurried to catch up, his stubby legs doing twice the work as Ash’s long ones.
He glared at her. “Why would someone do that?”
“I don’t know, maybe she was crazy.”
“I want to talk to her.” They had made it to the chief’s office by now.
“Why?” Ash asked, confused. “What does that have to do with our case?”
“Just follow me. I know what I’m doing.” Gatlin strolled into the chief’s office and cleared his throat. Chief Krem arched an eyebrow at him over the file in his hands, lounging in his chair with his feet on the desk.
“Do you need something?” he asked in the demeaning way he always did. Gatlin prickled and stood up straighter.
“Yes, actually. I want to speak to the girl who broke into the police station last night,” he said professionally.
“Is that your case?”
“Then you cannot speak to her.”
“Well you see, I think my case might be connected to the break-in.”
“It’s not.” Krem stood up and ran a hand through his dark gray hair. “Now please get out of my office unless you have anything of interest to report.”
Gatlin seethed. “I’ll show you-” he started but Ash was already dragging him out the door. He saw Krem chuckle at the sight. “Get off me!” he shoved Ash off of him.
She narrowed her eyes. “I was trying to help.”
“I will kill Krem,” he muttered angrily. Ash raised her eyebrows.
“I have wanted to do the same thing for a long time. So has almost everyone in this building,” she hissed. “But that’s not the point. The point is, I keep myself under control. Let’s just go talk to the Hatchleys again. Maybe we missed something.”
“I don’t want to talk to them yet.”
“Then what do you want to do?”
“I want to talk to the girl who broke into the police station.”
“We can’t! Anyways, other detectives have already talked to her,” Ash contended.
“Maybe they missed something. I have found in my time as a detective that the things most people miss are the things in plain sight.”
Stone was sprawled on his couch with a beer, thinking about the Washington killer. He had spent hours scouring the internet for anything about the serial killer. All he had found was that the killer had claimed twenty-eight known victims to a slit throat, all in Washington, then stopped suddenly almost a year ago. He was presumably dead. Stone jumped when he heard a knock on the door. He rolled off the couch and stumbled to the door. “What do you want?” he demanded even before he saw who it was. “Odelia? What are you doing here?”
She easily brushed past him into the house. “Ew. It’s disgusting in here.”
Stone jumped in front of her again. “What are you doing here? You’re going to get me in trouble!”
“You said there wouldn’t be alarms or guards,” Odelia pouted.
“Listen, I'm sorry. I didn’t know. How did you get away from the police anyway?”
“It was pretty easy. I waited until I was left alone and then broke the lock and left.”
“Wait a minute - how did you even know where I lived?”
“We dropped Eden off here once…” she went to the couch and lay down. “I’m gonna take a nap. G’night,” and then she was asleep, leaving Stone standing there, stunned.
Gatlin waited impatiently, keeping watch, while Ash rifled through the files on Krem’s desk. They had waited until he went on lunch break to come in. “Found it!” She exclaimed. “Interrogation room 14.”
They walked briskly through the halls, until they made it to room 14 to find the door wide open. Rushing in, Gatlin examined the tipped over chair and broken handcuffs on the ground. Ash groaned.
Gatlin laughed aloud and began to move out to the deserted hallway, following the trail of knocked down posters to the door. Ash trailed behind, still embarrassed at how she had slipped up earlier.
Turns out tracking a cyclops was exceptionally easy. They were extremely clumsy creatures. They had walked more than two blocks until the trail turned cold. “What next?” Ash asked. Rather than reply, Gatlin walked up to the house closest to where they were standing and rapped on the door. Ash rolled her eyes and followed. A woman holding a baby answered.
“Have you seen a cyclops passing by recently?” Gatlin asked.
“Yes, I actually did! She went into that house,” she pointed at a small yellow house two down. “Why are you asking?”
“Do you know who lives there?” Gatlin asked.
“Yes…” the woman said slowly. Ash flashed her badge and her eyes widened. “Yes. I don’t know his name but he is in his twenties. Sometimes there is a teenage girl who stays with him too. The other day she was there actually...I thought it odd she wasn’t in school.”
“What day?” Gatlin snapped.
“Well, I think it was three days ago, so...Monday.” Ash paled.
“What time was this and what was she doing?”
“It was like...one or two? Becky here,” she gestured to her baby, “was taking a nap. The girl was getting into a car that came by to pick her up.”
Gatlin and Ash ran toward the yellow house without a second’s hesitation.
Stone tried everything to get Odelia awake, but only succeeded when he poured water on her. Then he basically dragged her into the spare room and locked the door, just in time to hear a bang on the door. He froze. No, no, no, no, no.
After taking a moment to compose himself, he went to open the door. It was, as he feared, the pair of detectives. Fox smiled thinly. “Stone! We have much to talk about.” Then they pushed their way inside, knocking Stone back.
“Wow, wow, wow! What is going on? What are you doing in my house?”
“We had some feedback about a cyclops coming here? Oh also a young girl on Monday, when you said your sister was at school,” Fox looked triumphant.
“Cyclops? I don’t know any cyclops. And I can explain about my sister. Please take a seat.” The detectives fell right into his trap. Well it wasn’t really a trap, just an extemporaneous plan.“I’ll make you some tea. Sorry about the mess. I wasn’t expecting two detectives to be here!” He said this as loud as he could, hoping Odelia was awake and smart enough to understand, although he was working against the tendency of cyclops.
Preparing the tea, he now let one cup slip to the ground and crash loudly. “Oops, sorry! Ha, I’m so clumsy. I suppose it’s because I’m not used to having two detectives in my living room!”
“You already said that,” Bear said firmly. “Come sit down. We don’t need tea.”
“Okay!” Stone said, wiping his sweaty palms on his pants. Sitting down on the couch across from them, he tried his very best not to fidget.
“So...you’re a drinker?” Fox asked, scanning the room full of empty beer cans.
“Well...yes. I’m very messy,” Stone was suddenly very interested in the carpet. He realized he never paid much attention to the unique design of it before.
“About your sister?” the detective prompted. Bear suddenly got up and walked past Stone into the kitchen.
“Hey! Where are you going?” Stone stood up from where he sat.
It was Fox who answered him. “She’s just going to do a quick search of your house. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. You have to have a permit for that!”
“Says who?” Fox demanded. Bear turned around and looked at Fox, surprised, but he nodded at her and realized he was bluffing.
“Says...isn’t that a law?” Stone was confused. He had to admit he didn’t follow his government very much.
“Is it? Now, please Mr. Hatchely, focus on me. Why was your sister not at school at one in the afternoon and who was picking her up?”
Stone’s eyes snapped back to Fox. “Picking her up? I don’t know anything about that. Who told you that?”
“We talked to your very nice neighbor. Now if you want to help us, please just tell me the truth.”
“Well...she was over here because I was going to drop her off at school but she really didn’t want to go. When I got back she wasn’t here.”
“And why did you lie?”
“I...well I didn’t want to get in trouble.”
“Well...if the last place she was seen was my house, that automatically makes me suspicious, right?”
Fox studied him, making Stone fidget with a fraying cushion on the couch he was sitting on. “Gatlin!” Bear suddenly screamed from the other room. Oh, so that was his name. Stone preferred Fox. But at that moment he was focusing on the more important thing. “I found her!”
Gatlin went running toward Bear’s voice. Stone’s heart sped in his chest. In a panic, he fled from the house, jumping in his car and heading for the backroads he knew so well. He heard yelling behind him, followed by a gunshot, but it missed and by the time the detectives were in their car, Stone was long gone.
Gatlin cursed. There was no way they could catch up with Stone now. Kicking the curb, he reported the red truck on his walkie talkie, then headed in to talk with the cyclops.
She was in tears when he arrived. Ash was sitting across from her. Groaning, Gatlin sat down next to Ash. “I’m gonna do a quick scan of the house to see if there’s anything else he’s hiding. You ask her some questions.”
Ash nodded, so Gatlin began his search. Starting in the kitchen and living room, he found little more than dirty laundry, empty beer cans, and old trash. Moving on to the hallway, he started in the bathroom. It was more of the same mess as the rest of the house, and he was about to move on, when he noticed a blood stain in the bottom of the shower. Frowning, he looked closer. It was small enough that it easily could’ve simply been a cut, but it also could be important.
Then he moved on to the spare room, where he noticed ruffled sheets where the cyclops had been asleep. He also noticed a facedown red book laying open on the floor with the title, Everything To Know About Vampires. Picking it up, he saw the page that it had been opened to read, How To Know If You’re a Vampire and What To Do If You Are. Gatlin arched an eyebrow. That was certainly an interesting revelation.
Bringing the book with him, Gatlin quickly scanned the final room, Stone’s bedroom. The first thing he noticed was the blue cooler by the door. In it was, as Gatlin had predicted, bottles of blood. Bottling any leftovers was a common behavior for vampires, because without a constant supply, they could go on insane killing sprees. The rest of the bedroom was more of a mess, like the rest of the house. He picked up Stone’s phone from his bedside table and brought it with him.
He then returned to the living room where Ash was trying desperately to get information out of the hysterical cyclops. The police Gatlin had called were just arriving. Sitting next to Ash, Gatlin raised his eyebrows at her. “Have you got anything?”
“Nothing. She won’t stop crying.”
“Shut up!” Gatlin roared. She went silent. “What is your name?”
“O-Odelia,” she looked terrified.
“What are you doing here?”
“Taking, uh, a nap.”
“Why here? How do you know Stone?”
“I met him, um,...I mean, Stone? Who’s Stone?”
“I think the gig is up, Odelia. We know you know Stone. How?”
“Well, I was Eden’s best friend.”
“Oh? Why did you break into the police station?”
“Because...Stone asked me to.”
“Tell me what you found,” Ash insisted the second they got in the car.
“Well, Stone’s a vampire,” Gatlin began.
“What?” Ash gasped. “Are you sure?”
“Positive. There were vials of blood in his room.”
“That must have been why Eden left in such a hurry. We just need to figure out who picked her up. I would like to look at both her and Stone’s phone records.”
“Okay. Back to the station then.”
“No. It’s been a long day. Let’s regroup tomorrow.”
Ash looked at her wrist watch. “It’s only three.”
“I know what time it is,” Gatlin snapped. “I’m tired.”
“Okay, fine. Drop me off at the station so I can get my car.”
Stone drove around for hours, eventually finding his way to the road he had taken Eden to school on. Parking behind a tree in the field to the left, he crashed there for the night. Apparently, he was a fugitive now. First thing the next morning, he would get out of the state.
The morning came and Stone set out. He drove an hour with no incidents, until he ran out of gas. He had been trying to find a gas station for the past half hour, but he thought going onto the main road was too risky. Now he was stuck in the middle of nowhere with a rundown car.
A car didn’t come down the road until more than two hours later. Jumping up and down with excitement, Stone held up his thumb, and thankfully, the car stopped. In it was a young man. “Is everything alright?” he asked.
“My car broke down. Can I get a ride?”
“Yes, yes. Where are you heading?”
“Wow, that’s quite a ways away! I can’t get you that far, but I can get you to the next town so you can make a call.”
“Thank you very much.” Stone climbed in just as his stomach growled loudly. The knife he always carried with him in his pocket suddenly felt very heavy.
When Gatlin came into work the next day, he was in an especially good mood. “Ash! How are you today?” was the first thing he said.
“Um, I’m good. What happened to you?” she asked uncertainly.
“Oh, nothing. I just feel like we’re coming up on a breakthrough in this case.”
“Okay. I had time to kill last night, so I got the cell phone records with help from the tech guy. Let me show you them.” Ash led him to her computer and pulled up the records. “Okay, at 10:35 AM, Eden called Stone’s number, presumably to come pick her up. Then at 2:06 PM she called an unknown number, followed by Stone again at 4:23.” She pulled up Stone’s records now. “Stone’s records correspond with Eden’s, but he also had multiple calls in the days before her death to another unknown number.”
“Okay, good work! Let’s start with the one Eden called right before she left Stone’s house.”
Ash dialed the number on Eden’s phone and a man picked up. “Hello, Uber?” Groaning, Ash hung up.
“Okay. We settled that mystery.”
“Yes. At least it’s not something much more sinister. ”
“Okay. This is Stone’s now.” Ash swapped Eden’s phone for Stone’s and dialed the number. The woman picked up almost immediately.
“I know, I know. I’m late on the payment. Stop by on Sunday and I will get the money to you. Sorry about the wait. Please don’t be mad.”
“Payment for what?” Gatlin asked cooly.
“Wait a minute...You’re not Stone! Who are you?” she demanded.
“I’m with the police. I’d like to-” Gatlin couldn’t finish before she hung up the phone. “Well...what does that sound like to you?”
“Stone’s a hit man,” Ash said quietly. It was not rare for vampires to become hitmen. They needed some way to quench their incessant thirst.
“Quite right. Give this phone number to Chief Krem. Then I want to talk to Eden’s father. There are still some loose ends there.”
Arriving at the nearest town the driver had originally planned, Stone got out of the beat-up jeep and used some of the man’s pocket change to pay for his gas. Stone felt horrible about what he had done, but he had known that he was going to have to kill eventually, so his driver had been the most convenient option. Plus, he was used to it by now.
Feeling confident, Stone also went into the gas station to get himself a quick snack, putting on the driver’s thick jacket that was in the back of the car to hide his bloodstained shirt. He snatched a bag of chips and a bottle of water and paid at the counter. As he waited to get his change, the tv behind the counter caught his eye.
Father of three found with slit throat in Houston, Texas, the subtitles read. Stone’s jaw dropped. So it was the Washington killer. He quickly paid the cashier and got out of there. On the road once again, Stone tried to focus only on where he was going, but his mind kept going back to the headline he had seen. He was running away from his sister’s death, and leaving her best friend with the police. He turned on the music to clear his head, but that only made it worse.
Five minutes later, Stone found himself making a sloppy u-turn and heading back to Houston. He would simply rescue Odelia for Eden’s sake, then leave once again. When he found a river by the side of the road, he waited for the coast to be clear, then dumped the driver’s body into it. He headed back into town and camped out in his original hiding spot, waiting for the night to make his move.
Meanwhile, Gatlin and Ash arrived at Mr. Hatchley’s house. The first thing they noticed was a For Sale sign in the front yard. It took him almost a minute to answer the door. He had a towel around his waist, and it was clear he had just gotten out of the shower.
“I apologize for the interruption, Mr. Hatchely. We would just like to ask you a few more questions,” Gatlin started.
“Of course. Come on in. Excuse my appearance, I was not expecting you,” Mr. Hatchely replied, equally as diplomatic.
The house was clean, as if not very lived in. Mr. Hatchely showed them to their seats and offered to make them some tea.
“No thank you. We just want a brief word if you don’t mind,” Gatlin said.
“No problem,” he sat down in a chair across from them. “What would you like to know?”
“I see you’re selling the house.”
“I can no longer live in the same house that both my wife and daughter died in,” he said bitterly.
“I understand. So, we’ve already established that you weren’t job hunting on the day of Eden’s death. Where were you actually?”
Mr. Hatchely’s careful mask fell. “I told you what I was doing already, so if you are just here to tell me you don’t believe me then get out,” he snapped.
“Mr. Hatchley. You are only making it worse for yourself by lying. We know you did not kill your daughter, but we need to know the truth if we want to get justice for her,” Ash said. “So please, just tell us where you were.”
Mr. Hatchley grit his teeth. “I was at the bar, okay? I was gambling! That’s why I have to get rid of this stupid house! Are you happy?”
Ash smiled thinly. “Very. Thanks for the help.”
“You gambled away everything?” Gatlin asked.
“That’s what I just said. Is there something else you need or will you be off now?”
“We’ll be off,” Gatlin replied. “We can show ourselves to the door. Have a good day.” When they had left the room, he added to Ash, “I feel for him. First his wife dies, then his daughter. I can only imagine how hard that is.”
“Yeah, he’s a real b*stard though. Let’s get out of here.”
When the pair of detectives arrived back at the station, Chief Krem immediately sought them out. “Look who finally showed up, ” he said smugly.
“What’s the problem?” Ash replied.
“Well - surprise, surprise - I have a new case for you. Another body turned up with, you guessed it, a slit throat. Get on it immediately. Stay late tonight if you have to,” he handed them a file before strolling back to his office, whistling all the way.
Ash and Gatlin hurriedly crowded around Ash’s desk, flipping through the file. “He was found in his living room...48 years old...three kids...slit throat...no other evidence,” Ash read, “Come on! This doesn’t fit at all. This guy is killing completely randomly! And no other evidence?”
“He must be really smart,” Gatlin speculated.
“Yeah, you’re right. Why don’t you go check out the crime scene? I’ll stay and read up on the file more.”
Stone was getting deja vu from sitting in his car, watching Odelia’s house. Finally, he went up and circled around back, easily finding Odelia’s window. He saw her lying in bed, and rapped lightly on the window. But she didn’t hear so he rapped harder. This time, Odelia finally woke up and looked around for a minute before she saw Stone by the window. Hurrying over, she opened it and beckoned him in.
“What are you doing here?”
“Coming to rescue you, obviously.”
“Well...I got a car out front. We can get out of here. I’ll drop you off somewhere where the police won’t find you. Otherwise, you’re going to go to jail.”
Odelia’s eyes widened. “Yes, but what about my parents?” she whined.
“You won’t be able to see them if you’re in jail.” Odelia started to cry. “Shhhh, it’s okay,” Stone urged her. “Stop crying, please.” But it was too late. She was wailing now. Stone tried pitifully to put a hand over her mouth, but to no avail. Soon he heard a door slamming down the hall, and tried his best to drag Odelia to the window. But she was way too big and Stone gave up and left her. He had just gotten the window open when Odelia’s cyclops father burst into the room.
“Odelia, baby, what’s the matter?” Then he saw Stone, bellowed, and charged right at him, knocking Stone to the ground and taking the breath out of his lungs. Gasping and clutching his ribs, Stone tried to crawl away, but the angry cyclops brought something down hard on his head, and Stone passed out.
Stone sat in the interrogation room, furious at himself for being so stupid. The back of his head was sore and he thought he had broken a rib. What had compelled him to put his life in danger for a dumb cyclops, he didn’t know. He was handcuffed to the table. He estimated he’d been sitting here for almost an hour.
Finally, someone came in. It was Bear. He was expecting Gatlin to come in right behind her, but he never did. “Where’s your friend?” he asked.
“He’s not here. What’s it to you?”
“Nothing. What’s your name?”
She sat down and studied him for a long moment. “It’s Ash. So you’re a vampire? And a hit man? Interesting.”
“Oh so you figured it out? Congratulations! Will I be sent to a government captivity camp now?”
“I need to talk to you first.”
“Tell me what you were doing at Odelia’s house.”
“I was rescuing her.”
“But why?” she asked, confused.
“Believe it or not, I’m not actually a horrible person.”
“You’re a vampire and a hit man.”
“I kill because I have no other choice. I wasn’t gonna leave my dead little sister’s best friend in jail because of my failed plan.”
Ash raised an eyebrow. “Your plan?”
“Oh yeah! You don’t know. Yes, my plan. While Odelia was running around the police station like an idiot, I snuck down to the file room to get some information,” Stone announced triumphantly.
“What kind of information?”
“Well I did find out who murdered my sister.”
“And who’s that?”
“The Washington killer.”
Ash was silent for a long moment. Then she whispered to herself, “The Washington killer. Everyone thought he was dead. I’ll ask Gatlin about that. He should know something, he recently moved fro-” she didn’t finish her sentence. Instead she blanched and jumped out of her seat, pacing back and forth.
“Um...you okay?” Stone asked.
“Shut up, I’m thinking.” Ten minutes later, she finally stopped pacing and sat down. She was shaking. The room was silent. Then she jumped up suddenly and ran to the door.
“Wait! Ash!” Stone yelled. He put on his nicest face. “Don’t leave me here. I can help you.”
“No. You’re not coming,” she said.
“But-but you might need backup!”
“Listen, Ash, please. I need to do this. It’s the only way for me to make it up to Eden. I owe it to her. I want to help.”
She looked sympathetic for only a second before saying simply, “No,” and turning to leave. Stone’s mind raced as he tried desperately to think of some reason she might need him.
She was already halfway out the door when he blurted out, “Have you ever killed anyone?”
She turned slightly. “What kind of question is that? No, I've never killed anyone.”
“Yeah, I know. What’s your point?”
“Would you be able to kill your own partner? If you were put in that situation? That could very well happen. Would you hesitate? I wouldn’t.”
Ash parked the car a block away from the house so that Gatlin wouldn’t see them coming. Then she took the handcuffs off of Stone, but refused to give him a weapon.
“But what if I need to defend myself!” he protested.
“You should’ve thought about that before you asked me to take you.” She led him around the back of the house. She listened at the door for a couple seconds, then turned back to Stone. “I’ll go in first. You stay out here unless I call for you.”
The door was locked, but Ash expertly kicked it in. She then creeped down the hall, holding her gun out in front of her. Pausing at the foot of the stairway, she heard music blasting upstairs. Following the sounds, she made it to the top of the stairs without making a creak, then continued to follow the sound into an eerie-looking room at the end of the hall. The door was open a slit. Moving towards it, she steeled herself, then in one smooth motion, kicked open the door and prepared to pull the trigger. But the small bedroom was empty.
Stone waited outside obediently for a solid minute. Then he shrugged and headed in. First stop was the kitchen, where he picked out a knife. He was about to leave and try to find Ash, when he noticed that the fridge was angled oddly. It was further forward than normal. Going over to examine it, he was shocked to find a closed door behind it.
Stone used all of his strength to move the fridge enough to fit behind it. Once he was behind it, he gathered all his courage to open the door. Immediately he heard the sound of someone weeping. It smelled musty and metallic. He recognized it as the smell of blood.
Clenching his teeth, Stone headed down the stairs. It got lighter and colder the further he got down. Soon he was shivering. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he saw what looked like a regular basement. There was a freezer, a tv, and a stack of boxes in the corner. But right in the middle of the stone floor, was a pole, and tied to the pool was a middle aged woman, with a gag in her mouth. Gatlin was nowhere in sight. Stone mouthed to the woman, where is he?, and she answered by nodding, which he took as the all clear. Running up to her, Stone hurriedly used his knife to cut the ropes around her wrists. She then tore the gag away from her mouth. She was shaking from fear.
“It’s okay. You’re okay now,” Stone reassured her, then gave her a hug, as she seemed unable to talk.
There was a short laugh behind him. Stone turned to see Gatlin holding a gun at him. He froze with fear. He searched the ground for his knife, but couldn’t find it. He felt something cold touch his hand, and Stone realized what it was just in time to stop himself from reacting.
“Stone Hatchley. How interesting. How’d you figure it out?”
In an effort to keep him talking Stone said, “Deductive reasoning. My question is, how could you kill my sister, an innocent young girl?”
Gatlin laughed again, a crazy laugh. He was nothing like the detective he had seen in the interrogation room. “I think you know a little something about killing, Stone. I’m really no different than you.”
“You’re wrong. I don’t enjoy killing. It’s a job,” but Stone wasn’t so sure anymore.
“It’s still killing,” Gatlin said. “I’m no worse than you! In fact I started out just like you,” he seemed as if he needed reassurance. All of a sudden, his eyes glazed over and he stared at something Stone couldn’t see. Gatlin’s gun lowered slightly. Immediately jumping on his chance, Stone took one step and brought the knife in his hand to Gatlin’s throat. Gatlin froze.
“Drop the gun,” Stone instructed him. Gatlin obeyed. Stone looked right into his eyes. He was going to kill him just like he had killed his sister. But Gatlin’s eyes didn’t look evil and crazy, as he had imagined them. They just looked lost and despondent. He looked like Stone felt every time he had to kill someone. He heard Ash rush down the stairs behind him and then saw her freeze. Stone stared at her, confused. All this time he was sure getting revenge was going to somehow fix his sister’s death. But here he was, with the ability to kill her murderer, and he hesitated.
Ash nodded at him, giving him permission to do what he needed to do. Stone pressed the knife harder against Gatlin’s neck and drew blood. But in a flash, Stone saw the faces of every person he had ever killed. He shook his head, and dropped the knife slightly. There were tears in his eyes.
He looked at Ash. “Handcuff him,” he said. Ash looked as if she understood. Stone didn’t take his eyes off of her as she took out her handcuffs and began to come closer. But all of a sudden, Gatlin had twisted his hand away and stabbed the knife into Stone. Ash screamed. Stone looked down at the knife protruding from his chest, shocked. He barely heard the gunshot that came next, nor did he see Gatlin fall on the ground.
Ash rushed to Stone’s side. “Stone? Stone!” she cried. He looked at her, puzzled. Ash wiped the tears out of her eyes. “Stone, we did it. We beat him,” she told him, putting on a strained smile.“We did it,” she whispered again.