Short Story Saturday: His Princess

Short Story Saturday: His Princess - Photo by Jeanie de Klerk on Unsplash
Photo by Jeanie de Klerk on Unsplash

Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled His Princess. Strap in as it is perhaps the longest story I’ve written on the blog thus far. Please enjoy. I am currently listed at #16 on feedspot’s Top 20 Short Story Blog page. Please check it out. Also, if you haven’t already checked out my FAQ on my upcoming book, Magic Once Removed, please check that out as well. Thanks again!

People were surprised by my sudden retirement and distraught over my subsequent behavior. Most blamed mental illness but I assure you that I am not afflicted with any such malady. Rather, I am cursed with knowing the truth. Perhaps a discussion of my last case is warranted to help enlighten how a hardened police detective became a blubbering mess sitting alone in a cheap hotel. This may be my last chance as this is one of the few moments of lucidity I have experienced since the accursed event.

A series of murders had left us baffled. Six victims, all men, were mutilated to the point they no longer looked like corpses as they did amorphous clumps of flesh completely drained of blood. They looked more like battlefield casualties as opposed to murder victims. We initially thought these attacks might have originated from a wild animal such as a lion or bear but our medical examiners determined the wounds most likely came from some kind of weapon, likely a knife or other sharp instrument such as a pike or spear as what few intact wounds they could find indicated that the victims were stabbed.

They admitted they were not aware of any sort of knife or even chainsaw that could leave those unfortunate souls in that state. As far as they knew, the only thing that could turn a human being into hamburger were incredibly high powered rifles such as fifty millimeters or other guns that are essentially mounted cannons, though as mentioned earlier, this was not consistent with their findings. At the same time, they knew of nothing else that could match the ferocity and strength necessary to decimate a human being because unlike what it may seem due to movies, liquifying a human’s bones and organs into a sickening pulp is far easier said than done at least by an individual with a knife.

The best theory posited was the victims were shot with several harpoon guns but the medical examiner admitted right away that his hypothesis was flawed as he was unaware of any harpoon gun in existence had that kind of power. There is also the inherent and obvious limitation of those weapons which is each shot must be taken one at a time and analysis of the bodies indicated that the men must have been stabbed several hundred times within a minute. Unless several men lined and fired their harpoons simultaneously and managed to do so with incredible accuracy so that no shots overlapped and were not only able to do this once but six times, it was incredibly unlikely.

Moreover, no harpoons or harpoon guns were ever found at the scenes of the crime. For that matter, neither were any casings or shells. There were no powders, no burn marks, no broken handles, or even footprints. There was very little to work with as the killer left no clues and the murder sites were clean of any evidence when we arrived.

This was beginning to look like a professional job of some sort and I along with my fellow officers started to suspect that victims were involved in drugs and had messed with the wrong cartel. The murders were so hyper-violent that it seemed like someone was trying to send a message. Yet, we could not link the crimes to any known gangs we had in the area or around the state.

It was a reasonable assumption but further investigation suggested otherwise. The six men could not have been any more different. They were of various ages and races. None of them shared the same career and true if one were to stretch the imagination, a couple were part of the same general income bracket, but that was hardly enough to form a pattern. Only one of them had any sort of criminal record. None of them had a history of drugs. Except for the sadistic nature of the killings, evidence suggested that the murders were six isolated incidences rather than a single killer, which might suggest that these heinous crimes were indeed done by a professional and a really good one at that except he made a glaring flaw that a hitman was unlikely to make.

Unknown blood was found mixed with the victims. We ran it through our database and found no matches but still unless this hypothetical professional deliberately planted the blood to throw us off, all of this suggested that our killer was incredibly good at staging and cleaning up crime scenes that it looked like the work of six separate murderers but at the same time was so sloppy he allowed his blood to be mixed with there’s. It didn’t add up and this information did little to help the case. Short of testing everyone in the state, which we were sure violated some constitutional amendment, there was little we could do anyway.

A thing of some note was found at one of the crime scenes, I think the third murder, though its significance was not readily apparent. It was a small plastic toy that I would learn from one of the younger officers depicted a character from a children’s’ show entitled Bubblegum Princess Luna. Specifically, it was the titular character’s closest ally and possible lover. I watched only one episode but that was enough for me to assess that it was the typical banal children’s cartoon. It depicted a space princess who traveled the world rescuing the good aliens from the bad. I found it completely uninteresting but then again, I am hardly in the target demographic. My son was unable to provide any insight into its appeal as he was still at an age where he couldn’t comprehend anything more from the show than a series of pretty pictures.

Naturally, we assumed that the victim was carrying it for his child and that it was perhaps a recent purchase until we discovered that not only was the man childless, what was left of his hand provided enough that we determined that his prints did not match the ones on the toy. We had no records of those prints anywhere in our database. At this point, I was desperate for any sort of clue so I started listening to anyone who claimed to have information or could otherwise assist no matter how crazy they seemed. I certainly knew I might have been making a mistake. I just did not quite realize how right I truly was. The dominos started to fall that fateful morning.

“There’s a man here to see you,” the desk sergeant said as I entered the station.

“Who is it?” I asked. She silently waved me toward her with a pair of wrinkly, crimson-tipped. When I got to her desk, she motioned with her head toward the most flamboyantly dressed man sitting on a nearby bench. His suit’s garish crimson bowtie, cummerbund, and cape seared my eyes. The sergeant beckoned to lean forward.

“That nut job asked for you specifically. He says he has information related to one of your cases. We tried to send him home, really we did, but he insisted on waiting. I told him it would be a while because you were home with your wife and son. He said he was surprised, I mean, with the media hounding you and everything but I let him know that the captain is very keen on giving his detectives a day off to reduce stress. Told him to wait ‘til tomorrow, but he insisted on waiting. Didn’t really bother anybody but it was really unnerving to have him sitting there-”

“Thanks, Carol,” I interrupted. She scowled and muttered something to the effect that I was “rude” but the orange-haired matron otherwise allowed me to pass without saying another word.

The man rose as I walked toward him. “Are you the lead detective?” he asked. He handed me a card.

“Indeed I am.” I introduced myself. “Are you a magician?”

“Charles Truman,” he said, overly enunciating his name as True Main even though the card ‘Truman’. He removed his top hat and offered me his white-gloved right hand. We shook.

“I am a Paranormal Investigator. I admit that I am a little overdressed but I find part of my job is a good presentation.”

“If you say so. Do you have some information for me?”

He nodded. “Indeed I do. Shall discuss this further in your office?”

I concurred that was a good idea and led the way. We sat on opposite sides of the cramped space. His hat rested in his lap. I pushed aside several pictures of my infant son and my wife along with mountains of reports to get a better look at the man’s face.

“Just to confirm, you are here to discuss the serial murders with the six mutilated bodies, correct?”

“Why else would I be here?”

“You’d be surprised how much I have stacked on my plate. The amount of backlog I have could fill the library of congress. I suppose only one’s made national news, though. So what kind of information can a paranormal investigator hope to provide? Psychic help?”

The man laughed dismissively. “Really, detective, do you believe in that codswallop?”

It took me a second to comprehend what he said. “Not particularly, no, but I am a little surprised to hear you say that as a so-called ‘Paranormal Investigator’.”

“Just because I recognize that ‘there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’ does not mean I believe everything.”

“You do realize the character who said that was likely a lunatic.”

“There are several interpretations of the character Hamlet. I don’t find one any more valid than another.”

I smirked. “We’re digressing. I’m sure you aren’t here to discuss the intricacies of Shakespeare, so why are you really here?”

His face became stern and he leaned forward. “You won’t find the murderer until you open your mind to all possibilities.”

I reciprocated his motion. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“The killer is not of this world. It is a monster beyond our comprehension. My partner Melissa and I have been tracking the thing for several years now and these recent murders are just a small part of a much larger set of atrocities that have taken place across the globe.”

“Are you talking about aliens?”

“More like creatures from another realm or dimension. Something that exists but our human minds cannot understand. From what we have discovered, it is an entity that can change its shape. Something that takes on a human form so he, she, or it can hide from us in plain view.”

I sighed and leaned back into my chair. “Thank you very much, Mr. Truman. I will keep that in mind as the investigation moves forward. We will let you know if we have any further questions to ask.”

“I sense sarcasm.”

“I can see those paranormal studies of yours are being put to good use.”

“What would it take for you to believe?”

“Proof would be nice.”

He stood up and placed his hat on his head in one smooth motion. He paced aimlessly, making slight but over-enthused gestures as he spoke. “You don’t understand. Melissa and I are so close to uncovering the truth. We’ve tracked it from all over, from Central America to Africa, from China to France, we’ve been everywhere this thing has been, following its trail. We know what it is and we have the knowledge to destroy it. We cannot do it alone, though, I’m afraid, so we need your help. If we combine our expertise with the resources of the police, we can beat this thing.”

“That’s assuming, of course, that your ridiculous theory is correct.”

He swung his arm violently. His hand hit his chair which sent it flying out the open door into the hallway. Charles’s hat tumbled off his head and floated to the floor. A sea of eyes looked toward us upon hearing the outburst though Mr. Truman did not seem to notice. “Think about it!” he screamed. “Think about how they were killed?”

I asked him to calm down. Instead, the man leaned forward and slammed his elbows against my desk. Officers in the next room were able to hear its vibrations. “What else could have made those wounds? No human is strong enough to do that to another human being. No animal is that strong, for that matter. That thing is the only explanation. What other could there be? An assault rifle that fires knives? A ridiculous idea to say the least!”

He stood upright again, calmly adjusted his bowtie, picked up his hat from the floor, and placed it atop his head. “And it is pronounced ‘True Main’, not Truman.”

I adjusted my black tie. “Well, Mr. Truman,” I made sure to pronounce his name “Truman” not “True Main”, “I’d advise you to pick up the chair that you ungraciously threw outside and after you’ve done that, apologize. Then I might overlook your little outburst.”

The man slammed his hands against my desk and ignored my attempt at civility. “This is not about petty things like decorum! It’s much bigger than that! Why can’t you understand?”

A knock on my door frame stopped me from replying to that flippant statement with some sort of assault. I would like to think verbal but admittedly with my temper and his clear lack of respect, I cannot guarantee that I would have restricted my actions to merely pointing out that I was a currently questioning the “gentleman’s” intelligence and sanity as that is the only way anyone would think that it was more likely that the victims were murdered by an inter-dimensional creature as opposed to a really powerful weapon

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t want to interrupt but I thought you’d want to hear this.”

“It’s fine, Officer Roberts. What is it?”

“A couple of teenagers found a body in a shallow pond in the city of Evergreen just off the highway. It’s been mutilated in the same way as the other six. Carol has the nearest address and the approximate location. Rex said he’ll meet you at the scene.”

I thanked the young officer for your help.

“Let me go with you,” Charles insisted. “I can help.”

“No, you stay here. Officer Roberts, make sure this man stays at the precinct. We still have some things to discuss. I also don’t want him to get any funny ideas that he’s now part of this investigation.”

“Yes, sir!” the young officer affirmed.

“You’re making a mistake,” Charles warned.

“Wouldn’t be the first.”

I typed the address Carol gave me into my phone and though she told me the pond’s approximate location, it wasn’t difficult to figure where the body was located. Through the trees, I could see the tail end of a flock of media vultures that had already gathered. As I neared I saw that my fellow officers especially the young ones were struggling to keep order. Their rope barrier did little to keep the hyenas at bay.

After pushing the mass of reporters aside, letting them know what I thought of them in an expletive-laden rant, I finally managed to get to the crime scene. Awaiting me was a familiar-looking broad-shouldered man with brown, curly-hair wearing his trademark tan suit. We greeted each other cordially and he handed me a cup of coffee. “I was picking you up one when I received the call. It’s a little cold, I’m afraid.”

I took a sip. “No problem, Rex. It’s still good. Thanks.”

He nodded then led me to the body, or should I say, a mass of flesh lying on the edge of that shallow pond surrounded by water hemlock.

“Are they the ones who found the body?” I pointed to a pair of teenagers on the other side of the river. Both sat with their heads against their knees. An officer I didn’t recognize was accompanying them as he made a few vain attempts to console.

“Yeah,” Rex confirmed. “They were skateboarding and decided to take a little detour to take a look around the pond. Toby, the one in the hat, found the body first while Paul, the blond guy, was the one who made the call.”

He paused for a second and scratched his chin. “Not gonna lie, they ain’t doing great. Physically they’re fine but mentally, I don’t think they are going to get over this anytime soon. Let’s just say we got them to stop convulsing just a few minutes ago. We cleaned up the vomit before you arrived.”

“I’ll talk to them after we’re done here. Have you taken a look at the scene?”

Rex knelt next to the corpse and pointed at the notable clues. “Yeah, same as the rest. Mutilated beyond all recognition. Punctured completely through. Not a weapon in sight. You can see a large amount of dried blood gathered along the river’s edge. The body obviously wasn’t moved very far. We won’t be able to determine a gender until we get the stiff in for examination.”

“Hey, take a look at this.” I pointed at the victim’s garb. The perforations made it difficult to completely ascertain but it appeared the individual had worn a black button-up suit, a red scarf, and most significantly, a flowing blue cape. Nearby a blue top hat floated amongst some nearby reeds.

“It’s odd. She dresses similarly to someone I just met who goes by the name Charles Truman though he insists on being called True Main. Get this, Rex, he actually told me that he and his partner were-” A chill went down my spine. “Wait, no. It can’t be?” I muttered.

“It can’t be what and why did you stop?” Rex asked.

Before I could answer, we heard a raucous commotion from behind. A man in a suit was elbowing his way through the sea of reporters though he paused periodically to pose for the cell phone cameras and to make a couple of statements for the reporters that had tape recorders pointed in his direction. He then shouted, “Out of my way! Charles Truman, Paranormal Detective, is here to investigate the crime!”

I shouted back. “How the hell did you get here?”

“Officer Roberts proved simple to evade. I’m afraid the poor man isn’t too bright and it’s easy to follow someone as long as you know how.” He stopped at the rope and leaned on his toes to look over the shoulder of the officer standing in front of him.

“I can help you!” he shouted.

Before I could protest, I noticed that his eyes were looking past me. They started to grow wide and he looked as though his blood had been drained. There was only one possible reason. I shambled toward him with great haste, nearly tripping over my feet.

“Melissa?”

“Get him out of here!” I demanded as I started to sprint.

Charles panicked. He tried to hop over the barrier only to find himself in the arms of the nearest large officer though he still struggled to hold Truman even though he outweighed him by at least a hundred pounds of pure muscle.

“Let me in! I must see her! Let me see her!” Charles cried.

Tears welled in his eyes. I stood next to him as he fell to his knees. He grabbed my ankles and let out an anguished scream.

The jackals in the media lapped this all up. Each captured these images with their cell phones and other such devices with sick grins plastered upon their faces.

I lifted Charles to his feet. He nodded in appreciation and though obviously still distraught, managed to recover enough to move. We pushed our way through the ghouls who lacked the decency to turn their cameras elsewhere. He had calmed quite a bit when we arrived at his vehicle. His justifiable weeping had slowed to a mere trickle. He placed his hands on the top of the driver’s side door as he looked away. We were alone. The other officers had successfully prevented the misery vampires from following.

“I told her that we weren’t ready to confront the creature,” he said. “I thought she understood. She promised she wouldn’t do anything reckless.”

I reached my hand out to pat him on the shoulder. He slapped it away and looked me in the eyes.

“Do you believe me now?”

I hesitated for a moment. “No. I believe that a sick person is behind this but I don’t believe it’s a creature from another dimension. He’s only a monster in the metaphorical sense.”

I breathed a heavy sigh before continuing. “Don’t worry, though. We’ll find the bastard who did this to her. I guarantee.”

Charles shook his head. “You will not because you do not even know what you are looking for or what to do when you find it! I would tell you but you refuse to listen even when you have goddamn evidence in front of your eyes! Melissa and I are the only ones that could stop the creature.”

He paused for a second. “Were the only ones that could stop the creature. Now it’s up to me.”

“No, Charles, it’s up to me and the rest of the department.”

He wiped his eyes and growled. “No, it is up to me. Mark my words. I stop that creature. I will destroy it. I will avenge her death.”

I let out another long sigh and shook my head. “As an officer of the law, I’d like to advise you not to do anything foolish. I also need to inform you at this point you are a person of interest and I hope you don’t have any plans of leaving town.”

“What? How am I a person of interest? I have dozens of witnesses who will attest that I was at the police station all night! I was with you when you received word of her death! You cannot possibly suspect me!”

“Until we get the autopsy, we have to be open to all possibilities. As much as it kills me to say it, for all we know, you killed her a day ago and waited in the station as part of an elaborate ruse.”

“How dare you even suggest that I would do such a thing to my only true love in the world?” He once again burst into tears. “I never even had the chance to tell her how I felt.”

I let him weep for a few minutes before I handed him my card.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“As a fellow human being, allow me to say I am sorry for your loss.  You have my deepest sympathies. Please call if you have any information regarding the case, or, if you just need someone to talk to.”

“Thanks,” he said as he hastily shoved the card into his pocket. “Of all the people in the world I could call, you’ll definitely be the first.” He got into his car and hastily sped off.

I returned the crime scene after reminding the press that my feelings for them hadn’t changed in the last few minutes in my own colorful way. Rex and I had a quick discussion over what had happened with Charles before we returned to our examination of the crime scene.

It did not bear any fruit. No meaningful clues were discovered. Our conversation with the two young men led nowhere. We returned to the precinct one victim richer and with as many leads as I had when I arrived at the office that morning, which is to say not a single one.

Nothing linked Charles to the crime nor did I think anything would. I was more or less just going through the motions. When I called to inform him that he was no longer a person of interest, he was less than enthused as he believed he should have never been considered one in the first place, which was a valid opinion.

We were headed nowhere. My partner and I had spent several nights discussing this case, with each other, with fellow officers, with forensic specialists, with all manners of experts but were unable to find any sorts of leads. The extremely violent nature of the crimes would lend one to believe that finding the perpetrator would be relatively simple but somehow whoever was doing this was able to do so without providing any clues at all. It was as if the murderer was both hysterically manic yet at the same time calm and precise.

As suggested earlier, officers don’t have time to focus on a single case but the high profile nature did make it our priority. We never particularly like it when something like this happens because it means pushing other cases that are just as important, just not as well known, to the bottom of the stack. Thus, when a solution seemingly falls into our lap, especially with a difficult and excruciatingly perplexing one such as this, we tend to snap at it like a starving dog being offered a steak. Such an event occurred when Rex and I sat in my office late at night. We were in the middle of discussing how to proceed with the case when my phone suddenly rang.

“You must get here right away!” she screamed.

“Lady, please calm down. What’s going on?” Her anguished shrieks and sobs made her difficult to understand.

“He killed them. He killed all those people and it’s my fault. It’s all my fault.”

“Who killed them? How is it your fault? What’s going on?”

“I’m over by the tire yard.” She was nearly incoherent but she managed to stammer out the address. “Please hurry!”

I wrote it down and handed it to Rex. He nodded and started the process getting everything ready so that the two of could descend onto the crime scene after the call with the necessary backup.

“We’ll be there as soon as we can,” I assured the woman. “In the meantime, get out of there if you can or at least hide. Your safety should be your only concern right now.”

“Thank you, but don’t worry. He wouldn’t hurt me. I’m his princess. I just don’t want him to hurt others anymore.”

I paused for a moment as the metaphorical gears in my head turned to try and make sense of her strange comment.

“Hello? Are you still there?”

“Of course, sorry, I apologize. Ma’am, do you know the alleged?”

I was met with a short period of silence. “I can explain when you get here.”

“Ma’am, are you there? Ma’am? Ma’am!” She hung up the phone before I could insist that she provide further details.

With seemingly no time to spare, Rex and I hurried out the precinct. We traveled as quickly as possible to the locale with a cavalcade of police cars in tow. The environment seemed to change when we arrived. It was as if the air became thick and tangible. I could feel an almost literal tension.

A fire in the middle of the tire yard signaled where we needed to go. We were attracted to it almost literally like moths to a flame. We did not even think to question why the fire was there or who could have made it. Instead, we silently drew our weapons and headed to where we expected to find a horrific scene.

We were not disappointed. In front of a burning barrel stood a man hovering over a dismembered corpse. Tall, large, and muscular, he held a bloody knife in his right hand. At a glance one could tell he was mentally challenged, no insult intended. His entire body was covered in blood, from the top of his curly brown hair to the bottoms of his white tennis shoes. Most of it was on his t-shirt and blue jeans. Though obscured, the text on his shirt indicated that it was from the show, Princess Luna.

Behind him stood a woman, strikingly beautiful with long flowing blonde hair styled into several braids with ruby red lips. She wore a blue gown and slippers which I noted was an unusual thing to wear at a tire yard late at night. Her attire was familiar but I could not place where I had seen it last until, from the recesses of my mind, I was able to conjure an image. She dressed very similarly to the titular character Princess Luna.

“Drop the weapon!” I commanded. The man complied. It took some coaxing as he seemed a bit bewildered by our presence and what he should do under these circumstances, but he was not at all belligerent. In fact, I chastised one of our officers who initially treated the man roughly. He had kicked the man on the back of his legs to force him to his knees and his arms were violently pulled behind his back. Even though the suspect did not obey every order immediately, it was due to ignorance and a lack of understanding.

“He thought I was a princess,” the woman sobbed.

“I would do anything for my princess,” the man concurred as he was cuffed.

The woman introduced herself as Mary Weathers and told us that the man was Lars Tahoe. They had met at a gym. Lars had fixated on her because of her superficial similarity to Princess Luna. It seemed like a harmless obsession, more childlike than malicious, so she often humored him and even engaged in long conversations when the two would inevitably meet.

One topic of conversation that frequently came up was that of her exes. She’d complain how badly they treated her. Mary even admitted that perhaps she exaggerated some of the details and made them seem more monstrous than they truly were. She also said she did not expect her comments to be taken literally even by someone with Lars’s obvious mental maladies. She told us that he killed them all in a misguided attempt to protect her.

“So even Melissa Wilson was an ex?” I asked.

“Detective, in today’s day and age, you shouldn’t still be surprised by such things or be so judgmental,” she coyly replied. I suppose she had a point. We recorded the young woman’s testimony and took the young man to the station for questioning. According to her, Lars had at some point stolen her phone and used her contact list as well as social media to track the victims down. The young woman claimed she was oblivious to his actions until that night.

Mary was still in a “stunned stupor” or at least that is how she described it when she relayed an extraordinary set of coincidences. She happened to see her ex-boyfriend Gunther from across the street as she walked home from The Waterfall Bar a few blocks away. The two were still on amicable terms, at least according to her, so she saw no reason not to walk over to him across the street to have a conversation and perhaps reminisce on old times.

To her utter shock, she noticed from a distance Lars who appeared to be stalking Gunther from the shadows. Her female intuition warned her that something bad was about to happen but she felt compelled to investigate. Her curiosity got the better of her. She followed the two men into an abandoned alley. Gunther was oblivious to Lars, it seemed, and had only gone there to make a call with his cell phone. Before he could dial, the large man stabbed him several times with a large knife. With the dirty deed completed, Lars dragged the corpse to the tire yard hoping to dispose of him there.

Lars did not notice Mary’s presence or the fact that she was following the pair of men until they were in the middle of the tire yard. The demented look on his face suddenly turned serene as he smiled and said a cordial hello to his “princess” as if nothing was amiss. Horrified, the young woman begged him to tell her why he murdered Gunther especially so violently and in cold blood. He told it was to protect her from her “evil exes”.

Mary expressed remorse that she was quite lax when it came to security forgetting to protect her phone with a password and that she had meant to delete her old contacts but, even though the memories were now held a tinge of regret, they were still pleasant and she did not wish to forget people who were once so important in her life.

The story was suspicious, to say the least. It was difficult to see Lars conduct such an elaborate scheme with his mental condition. Plus, there were a lot of coincidences that were not explained and too many questions were unanswered.

At least, that is what I thought. Most of my fellow officers disagreed. Since the man had mental issues, or as one officer inelegantly put it, “just he was insane”, that was all the explanation they required. When our medical examiners determined his blood matched the unknown blood found at the crime scenes, it seemed the case was closed. Further, after obtaining a search warrant, which was as easy as it could be to get as we had more than enough to justify one, we searched Lars’s home and found a stack of clothes stained with coagulated blood. These garments contained the DNA of several of our victims and Lars Tahoe, the alleged killer himself. To compound the amount of incriminating evidence we had against the man, the fingerprints on the toy matched Lars’s as well.

After a highly publicized trial that lasted several months, which may seem long but is actually quite rapid considering the current state of the American justice system, Lars Tahoe was found guilty of all eight murders and was sentenced to life in prison. Finding him at the scene of the crime, the DNA evidence, Mary’s testimony combined with her looks and charm that doubtlessly won over the jury, and the man’s lack of mental acuity meant that the verdict was never in question.

My fellow officers celebrated the ruling because, if nothing else, it meant the end of an exasperating and tedious case. I, in sharp contrast, remained unsatisfied.

“What’s bothering you, pal?” Rex asked shortly after the trial’s conclusion.

“You know what’s bothering me, Rex.”

“Are we really going to have that discussion again?”

“You know, I called Charles Truman. He told me he had never heard of Mary Weathers and Melissa had told him all about her other ex-boyfriends no matter how much he asked her not to. Charles also told me, albeit in a very clumsy fashion, that Melissa did not like other women.”

“Sure, but that doesn’t mean Melissa told him everything about her past. Perhaps Charles doesn’t approve of that lifestyle and she knew it.”

“Maybe, I’d have to ask him, I suppose, but then again, I also called the families of the other seven victims. Not only do each of them claim that their respective family member had never dated anyone named Mary Weathers, they told me that they had never even heard the name before. Were they all lying?”

“Maybe their relationship with Mary was secret.”

“Why would you keep it a secret? How even?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t really investigated it nor do I intend to. The murderer’s been found, tried, and sentenced so as far as I’m concerned, the case is closed. I’ve stopped worrying about it and if that’s the only thing that’s bothering you, I’d suggest you stop worrying too.”

“It’s not just that. Lars was found with a bloody knife in his hand but could he have really inflicted those kinds of wounds with just a knife? Think about how much strength that must have taken.”

“His gym mates said he could bench over 300 pounds and squat over 600. That’s pretty damn strong.”

“Dr. Jenkins told us that to would have taken over 16,000 pounds of force to cause that kind of damage to the human body. No man can generate that with just a knife no matter how strong they are.”

Rex sipped his coffee. “Frankly, I think old Doc Henry there is beginning to lose his mind.”

“His gym mates also told us even though he was slow, he was incredibly kind. They said that Lars is not the kind to anger or ever use violence against someone else.”

Rex laughed dismissively. “People always say that when they find out their friend is a killer. It helps alleviate the guilt.”

“They also claim that in conflicts he’s always the one who backs down even if he vastly outmuscles the other guy. One guy told me this story of this nerd who got him to back down quoting some video game or something. He’s also the most honest person they know. One time he accidentally dropped some weights and broke the handlebar. It was late at night and he was alone. Since he couldn’t inform a trainer, he was worried someone else would be blamed. He slept in one of the chairs so that in the morning he could confess when a trainer arrived. Leaving a note did not even cross his mind.”

“You forget that in his deluded head he was protecting Mary or as he called her “his princess”. A lot of men who seem meek rise to the occasion when they are protecting someone they love or in Lars’s case, someone he worshipped for stupid and insane reasons.”

“There is a difference between protection and slaughter. There was anger and vitriol to those killings. Doesn’t it seem odd that he would be so angry toward men and a single woman that didn’t seem to be doing anything malicious at the time? Stabbing them once? Sure, fine, I could see that but hundreds of times?”

Rex sneered. “Since when do the motivations of the insane need to be evaluated? By definition, they do crazy things because they’re nuts. Besides, Mary told us she exaggerated those stories. A nut job like Lars believed her every word. His anger was probably due to them ‘hurting’ his princess.”

“It just doesn’t seem to fit his character, crazy or not.”

“What about the DNA evidence? His blood was found at the crime scenes. The victims’ blood were found on his clothes. What could account for that? Wait, don’t tell me you believe his story?”

Lars had said from the beginning and had maintained that he was innocent of the crimes. He did not go so far as to accuse her but he did claim that his blood was found at the crime scenes and on his clothes mixed with the victims’ blood because Mary had called him that night as she did the last seven times to help her move a dead body, even if it was at most only a few feet as long as it was far enough so that blood got all over his clothes. Afterward, she cut him which caused him to bleed all over the scene of the crime. She told him that his “pure” blood negated the tainted. A similar ritual was done on his favorite cartoon but with water.

He would do anything for the woman and told the jury that Mary told him that the individual killed was “bad” and “deserved it” which helped alleviate the guilt. He also said that Mary had told him not to wash or get rid of his clothes and to keep them in his closet though he had no idea why she told him to do this. The clothes eventually smelled quite rancid, though he didn’t use that word. After a while, though, he got used to it.

“I admit it sounds far-fetched but he has been remarkably consistent. Besides, do you think his story is believable?”

“Of course not.”

“Exactly, so why would he continue to repeat it unless it was the truth?”

“Do I have to keep telling you because he’s insane?”

“Normally crazy people work within some sort of logic. We may not understand it but it’s there. It is often, as you implied, irrational but logic is there.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I don’t think Lars is lying. As ridiculous as the story seems, it must be the truth.”

“So you think a three hundred pound behemoth wouldn’t be able to commit the murders, but a woman who weighs about a hundred pounds soaking wet is the more likely culprit. Ah, yeah, I can see that. That makes perfect sense.”

I leaned back in my chair. “I’m not saying that either. All I’m saying is that there are a lot of holes in her story and there is a lot that still needs to be investigated. We need a lot more than DNA evidence to know what happened.”

“Forensic analysts across the nation, hell, across the globe would disagree.”

Just as the argument was about to reach its apex, a young officer ran into the room. He knocked hastily on my door frame.

“Come in, Roberts, it’s fine.”

“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt the conversation but I just got a call from the Evergreen Correctional Facility. Lars Tahoe has been murdered!”

“What?” Rex growled. “How?”

“According to his cellmate, sorry I forget the name, he was looking out the window when all of a sudden his head exploded.”

“What? His head exploded?”

“Er, not really, it’s just what his cellmate thought at first. In reality, Lars was stabbed in the head! His cellmate claims he has no idea who did it though.”

“It was probably the cellmate,” Rex sighed. “It seems like such an obvious lie.”

“You’re probably right, sir. I mean, get this, the cell is located on the fifth floor. There’s no way somebody climbed up there and stabbed him through the window.”

“How did the cellmate get a knife, though?” I asked. “It’s a maximum-security prison.”

“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” Rex countered.

The young man paused for a second. “One thing sticks out, though.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You know how those eight bodies were all stabbed through the head?”

“Amongst other places, yes,” Rex concurred. “Wait, you’re not telling us that-”

“Same kind of wound, the same amount of force, and likely, the same weapon was used.”

Rex and I stared silently.

“Don’t worry, sirs, we’ve got guys bringing the cellmate down here so we can take him in for questioning. I’m sure we’ll be able to get to the bottom of this.” He dashed out the door before we could ask him anything more.

“Looks like we have a long night ahead of us,” I sighed.

Rex and I were headed out the door when suddenly, Marimba music played from my pocket. Both of us paused as I reached in, pulled out my phone, and glanced at the caller ID.

“It’s Truman,” I said as I answered.

“I’ll meet you outside,” Rex said as he walked out the door.

“Now’s not a good time, Charles.”

“I’ve tracked it down. I’m going to destroy it.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“The creature. I know where it lurks and I know what must be done. I’ve figured it out. I’m at the forest of the Snoquaximish National Park if you wish to assist, detective.”

“Truman! Truman! Don’t do anything rash! Truman!” He hung up the phone. I tried calling back several times. The man refused to answer.

“Shit,” I muttered. I made several attempts to call but received no answer.

Things were pretty crazy at the station but Charles seemed to be getting himself into something imminently dangerous with his reckless behavior. For a moment I thought about letting Rex know what I was doing, but things were pretty hectic at the station and I didn’t want to distract him or anyone else from finding out what happened to Lars Tahoe. I dashed out of my office, scrambled out the door of the precinct unnoticed due to the commotion, and got into my car.

I arrived at the Snoquaximish National Park just after midnight. The parking lot was empty save for a lone sedan that belonged to Charles Truman. The night seemed to become darker though I dismissed this notion as it should have been impossible considering the hour. Still, the atmosphere was indeed unsettling and the air itself seemed to change. It was as if it became thick and tangible. It was almost as if I could feel a literal tension.

As I raced into the woods, the sounds of animals suddenly ceased. I expected a cacophony of nocturnal creatures or at the very least the rustling from the animals from whatever home I disturbed but instead, there was nothing. It was as if sound itself had disappeared. I could not even hear my feet as they raced below.

Tree branches seemed to move, toward me like little arms and fingers. They acted not as if they were trying to grab me. Instead, they seemed as though they needed comfort and protection from something that gripped their metaphorical hearts with fear if such things are even possible.

I sprinted in with only one thing on my mind, finding Charles Truman. Had I been in a more rational and less panicked state, the shock of what happened to Lars and the suddenness of Charles’s call certainly served as a distraction of sorts, I would have acquired tools or at least requested the services of specialists that would have helped track the phone’s signal before venturing into the woods.

Such assistance turned out to be unnecessary. My nose was enough. A familiar copper smell wafted through the air. I followed the scent until I reached a crimson trail. It was blood. To whom it belonged, I was not sure though I had a good idea. Perhaps, if only for a moment, I wanted to play the fool while knowing the truth. My mind raced with a multitude of thoughts and anxieties and my feet moved mindlessly, so much so that I nearly tripped. Both feet connected hard. I caught myself on the branches of a couple of nearby trees.

I felt something. My hands nearly slipped from the leaves and branches.  When my feet finally settled under me, I took a look at my hands. They were wet and sticky and covered with a red viscous liquid. I looked around. Though it was dark, my eyes were able to witness everything as if it had been daytime.

Blood was everywhere. It decorated the tree, their leaves, the dirt floor, and the rocks. My shoes and pants were also covered with that scarlet bilious fluid. Slowly I realized what my feet had hit.

I didn’t want to look. My head refused to move. Somehow I believed that somehow by not looking reality would cease to exist or at least change. One can only deny the truth for so long. Somehow I found the strength turn my head.

At my feet lied a dismembered corpse wearing the remnants of a torn-up suit. His body was like the others, stabbed beyond recognition. There were more holes than flesh. It was Charles Truman.

Next to him was a brown satchel, his signature top-hat full of holes and blood, and a pile of dust. His bag contained a large pile of dust but a sudden gust of wind blew all the grains of sands away before I had to chance to properly scrutinize them. What it was and what it was going to be used for will forever remain a mystery to me.

My ears perked. I heard what seemed to be a woman’s sobs. My head darted back and forth to locate the noise. After I listened well enough to at least hazard a guess, I walked apprehensively in the direction of the noise.

Within a few steps, I was managed to see a figure in the distance. At first, it was nothing more than a blob but as I continued to walk toward the individual, the person grew more recognizable. It was piecemeal. First, I recognized the shoes, then the dress. The style of her outfit was first recognizable then the color. Her flaxen hair came into view and then too were her braids.

She looked away from me. The young woman stood close to the victim, at most a few paces away, but her mind seemed to be in a completely different land. She seemed oblivious to my footsteps. I approached cautiously, fearful that any sudden movement would send her into a panic. Carefully, I reached out and placed my hand against her shoulder.

“Mary, is that you?”

It was then I realized she was not crying.

She was laughing.

“Oh, detective, did you come here expecting to be the hero?”

Mary turned around. The expression on her face made my stomach churn. It was not just the fact it was a sick grin that expressed no remorse or empathy, no fear or regret. There was no humanity at all.

No, that was not what made me sick. Over a decade and a half on the police force inured me to sociopaths. That was certainly not what made me feel nauseous.

It was her smile. Mary’s smile was completely impossible for a human to make.

Her lips extended from temple to temple. A translucent fluid dripped from the rows of teeth that resembled fangs that were on full display from her agape mouth.

I instinctively move backward and my body quaked. My hands trembled as they reflexively moved toward my firearm. I drew my gun and pointed it at the creature.

“Oh, detective,” it said. Its voice now reverberated such that it wobbled and echoed. It was as if she were joined by a chorus and the voices were put through a filter. “Do you really think your human weapons can harm me?”

The creature sauntered past me undauntedly and walked over to Charles’s corpse. As it hovered over him, it pointed at his satchel and then at him. “If his little ‘magic dusk’ couldn’t stop me, what makes you think bullets would fare any better?”

My arms shook violently. “What are you?” I demanded.

“A princess.”

“Bullshit!”

It started to pace around me in a circle. The grin never left its face. “Humanity has many names for me. Devil, angel, Satan, God. At least that’s what I’m called in your native tongue. There are so many languages and so many names for me it is impossible to list them all. I call myself Cha’aa Horan. I work for one named D’honnen. Am I his daughter, his sister, his lover? Who knows? What I am, who I am, my true nature, it is all a mystery even to me.”

Somehow, even in those now vacuous eyes, I could tell she was toying with me and knew more than she was letting on.

“Why are you here?” I rasped.

“Boredom. I don’t get to traipse around on earth very often but when I do I like to goof around. Unlike my master who’s a real stick in the mud, you know the kind, completely inflexible with a singular focus. I, on the other hand, much prefer to play. Killing those people? Mere recreation. Manipulating Lars? Easy to do and just as fun. It’s also a good way to throw off suspicion.”

“So those killed people you killed were merely random victims. You only called them your exes to manipulate Lars. He didn’t grab your cell phone, he didn’t track anyone down, he didn’t hurt anyone. Everything was your doing. It was all your plan. Everything Lars said was the truth!”

The creature performed a mock clap. “Bravo, detective. The taxpayers would be thrilled to learn they have an intellectual like you on the force.”

“Why did you frame Lars?”

“I thought it would be fun. Then I realized it would be more fun just to kill him so I did. I didn’t want to make my presence known but not because I was afraid. I just wanted the challenge.”

“You, monster!”

The creature paused in front of me and shook its index finger in the air.  “Be careful with the name-calling, detective. You’re liable to hurt someone’s feelings.”

It looked toward the sky. “D’honnen has big plans for this planet.” It turned toward me and stared with vacant eyes. “I could tell you but why bother? You would not understand. No human could hope to comprehend. Don’t worry, though. It will all be revealed soon enough, as will my role in all of this.”

I unloaded my pistol and after one clip was emptied, I reloaded hastily and continued the assault. I continued until I was out of ammunition. Though I was nearly out of my wits, years of training, and muscle memory kicked in. Every shot managed to find its target. The creature’s garment had several holes that revealed pulsating skin as black as the night sky. Otherwise, to my chagrin and deep consternation, it was completely unaffected by my bullets.

“Are you done?” it asked.

My lips quivered but I could not answer.

“I’ll answer for you. You are done.”

Smoke emerged as its clothing dissipated. Its arms elongated and its hands grew large and webbed. Four more arms joined as they emerged from its sides. At the ends of its hands protruded large, long,  and razor-sharp claws that made large holes as they penetrated the dirt floor. The ground trembled with every step. Its movement was reminiscent of a black widow spider. Its human flesh slowly metamorphosized into pustulous, lizard-like scales that were mostly black but also had some putrid brown spots on the head and chest. Its fangs grew larger and more pronounced. Its mouth refused to close.

I did not realize that I had fallen to my back and that my elbows were on the ground. The creature slithered next to me. It leaned forward and placed its head, still the shape of a woman’s but only just barely, next to my ear.

“I’m only keeping you alive because I don’t feel like killing you now,” it whispered. “I will change my mind someday, whether it is later today, tomorrow, or ten or twenty years from now, I haven’t decided. Time has no meaning for me. I have marked you but it’s not all bad.” I heard a laugh that I think came from the creature but seemed to be coming from my own skull. “I will make sure you will not die by anyone else’s hands.”

I passed out.

When I regained consciousness, the monster had disappeared. I was alone with the remains of Charles Truman.

People, especially fellow officers, told me it was a hallucination derived from stress and a mental breakdown after learning of Lars’s death, discovering Charles’s body, and having received a text from Rex of Mary’s sudden disappearance and having it all happen at once. Impossible, as I maintain that I received the text after the aforementioned events.

That is not to say, though, that I did not initially believe them. I did as they suggested and dismissed it all the product of an overactive imagination.

This all changed when my life was saved by a cursed miracle.

During my final case, Rex and I tracked a couple of men to an abandoned warehouse. We split up in pursuit. Being exceedingly careless, I walked into a room without carefully checking to ensure it was clear or calling my partner over for assistance. One of the men we were trying to find and apprehend got the drop on me. I was suddenly facing the barrel of a pistol. There was no time to reach for my weapon. The end was near.

The air itself seemed to change. It was as if it became thick and tangible. I could feel a literal tension.

As I closed my eyes and said a prayer and the man squeezed the trigger, a black blur moved past me. It encompassed the gunman before I had a chance to blink. The man screeched and bellowed inside the cloud until his insides exploded from the black mist and decorated the walls as well as my clothes.

Almost as quickly as it arrived, it was gone. I was left alone with a mutilated corpse.

Perhaps I should have been relieved but instead, my psyche shattered. It meant that all of it happened. The creature was real and I was at its mercy.

My work suffered. A detective that does nothing but shudder in the corner is worthless. Seldom was that statement merely metaphorical. They tried to get me psychological help but I refused. I knew the truth. What I had witnessed was real. A psychiatrist would not have been able to help me. I suffer from no mental maladies but fear and despair.

I lost my job and my family soon after as my ability to be a husband and a father was about on part with my detective prowess at that point. Not forever, she said when she left, it was only temporary. Only until I get the help I so desperately need.

It is better this way. My wife does not need to be saddled like I am with the true nature of our world.

When I believed I was at my lowest point, I snuck a revolver into a hotel room. I filled every chamber but one with a bullet and proceeded to play a sick game of reverse Russian Roulette.

An odd feeling washed over me. The environment seemed to change. The air became thick and almost tangible. I could almost feel the tension.

It was natural to assume it was just my subconscious attempting to talk me out of what I had planned. Ignoring the sensation, I spun the chamber and pulled the trigger.

Click.

Initially, I laughed it off. For once in my life, I was “lucky”. I spun the chamber again and pulled the trigger.

Click.

Empty again. It was unbelievable. It happened again despite the one-in-thirty six odds. I shrugged and spun once more. Third time’s the charm I figured. I pulled the trigger again.

Click.

Empty once again. I spun the chamber repeatedly and pulled the trigger each time without thinking.

Click. Click. Click.

Finally, I had enough. I wanted to kill myself, not play a game. Damn the rules. I filled every chamber and pulled the trigger.

The gun jammed. I tossed the gun away and wept.

It was then I realized that the presence I felt earlier was not my subconscious telling me not to commit suicide. Rather, it was the creature making sure I did not die before it killed me itself.

I wanted to learn more about D’honnen and his mistress Cha’aa Horan as I yearned for a solution to my curse. Instead, I found nothing but anguish and despair. The Snoquaximish legends explained everything, the creature’s plan, its nature, and its true name The Creature with No Eyes and Many Fangs, and what the creature has in store for us all.

I’ve tried to rid myself of this forbidden knowledge but have found myself unable to. My cruelly benevolent benefactor saves me from even self-harm so I am unable to do something like, say, hit myself over the head with a crowbar to inflict brain damage so that I might forget. It is waiting for the day it decides to kill me and send me to her master. It is the fate that awaits all of us. All I can do is pray to deaf ears in a cruel, merciless world.

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here Magic Once Removed will be available soon, so please check out the FAQ. Thank you for reading my story.

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