NT Franklin writes after his real job hoping one day to have it be his real job. He writes cozy mystery short stories, nostalgia short stories, and Flash Fiction. He has been published in Page & Spine, Scarlet Leaf Review, Fiction on the Web, Madswirl, Postcard Shorts, 404 Words, 101 Words, Freedom Fiction, Burrst, Entropy, Alsina Publishing, Fifty-word stories, among others. When not reading or writing short stories, you might find him fishing or solving crossword puzzles.
The midsummer moon did not penetrate the darkness of the alley. Bob studied her, too-short skirt, too-tight top, do-me heels, bleached-blond hair he doubted was real. She lay on the ground, momentarily stunned, face up, her hands folded on her stomach and fingers interlaced. He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them, bent over, sliced her throat from jugular to jugular and watched as the blood covered her green sequined top.
He took three deep breaths with his eyes closed while he stood over the dead hooker. His heartbeat slowed back to 60 beats per minute. Once the tension was released, he opened his eyes. And then he felt remorse. This was the fourth person he’d killed. Choosing a throw-away person made it too easy. I have to get these impulses under control.
Sirens pierced the night announcing the arrival of a patrol car. Two cops got out and walked past the crowd.
“Always gawkers,” the grey-haired cop said to the rookie. “Want to look but don’t want to see.”
Walking up to the woman lying in the alley, the rookie said, “Jesus, another one.”
“Better call it in. Have Sarge wake up Homicide. They’re not going to get much sleep tonight. Whose case are these killings, Thompson and Willis?”
“Yeah, Thompson and Willis,” the rookie answered.
“And take down some names. One of the gawkers knows who called 911.”
After working the thinning crowd, the rookie said, “No one wants to get involved. She looks peaceful all laid out like that.”
“Yeah, real peaceful with her throat slit. What is this, the third one this summer?”
“Fourth,” the rookie answered.
“How’d you do with names?”
“Oh, I got names from some, but I doubt they’re real,” the rookie replied.
“Fake names but still there are hanger-oners. What’s up with people these days? I wonder what’s keeping the detectives?”
“I see blue lights bouncing off the buildings on the street. They won’t be long,” the rookie said.
Raised gold shields parted and dispersed what was left of the crowd. “Detectives Thompson and Willis,” announced the shorter of the two haggard-looking detectives.
“Sorry to get you out of bed, detectives,” the rookie said.
“Part of the job. What do we have?” asked Willis.
“Dead hooker, sliced open, posed like the others,” replied the rookie.
“CSI is on the way. Keep the civilians back. Meat wagon’s been called,” said Willis.
The crowd was dispersed as the medical examiner’s van left. “I guess watching the CSI team isn’t very exciting to the crowd,” said the rookie. “They have the scene under control and they’ll be here a while. Maybe we should get back in the squad car and keep the streets safe.”
A gruesome murder every two weeks in July and August had put the city on edge.
“Boy, the whole department is tense,” said Thompson as the two detectives entered the building. “Nobody wants to make eye contact.”
“Chief wants to see you two,” the Desk Sergeant said to the detectives as they walked into the bullpen.
“He’s not going to like the fact that we don’t have leads,” Willis told Thompson. “CSI damn near vacuumed the alley and skinned the vic and still found nothing.”
The two exchanged glances and silently headed for the stairs. The walk up the stairs went too fast. It always did.
A bit of a smile was traded between the detectives sitting in the outer office. While only a temporary delay, it was a delay none the less. The smiles were wiped off as they were escorted into the Chief’s office.
“Let’s have the latest,” the Chief ordered.
Thompson nodded at Willis. “No leads, Chief,” Willis said. “Still no witnesses and CSI turned up nothing at this scene either. I sent them to recheck the evidence from all four murders; I told them to look for a connection. We’ve kept the Tasering of the vics out of the media.”
“Find something. You’re detectives. Out.”
“That went well,” Thompson said once they were out of earshot. “He kinda looks like an emperor sitting behind that big desk. I swear, one day we’ll walk in and two women will be fanning him with palm fronds.”
Willis laughed. “And another will be feeding him dates.”
Back sitting at his desk, Thompson asked, “A dealer, a user, a bum, and now a hooker, think there’s a drug connection?”
“Don’t know. Maybe he’ll make a mistake next time.”
“We have a week if he keeps his schedule,” Thompson said.
The night was warm and sticky. Bob grew tired of tossing in bed and finally got up. The aspirins and glass of water stared back at him from the kitchen table. No good. He put his head in his hands. Aspirin won’t work. He knew it. I have to get these impulses under control. He closed his eyes but the tension wouldn’t go away. He grabbed his coat and headed out into the night. Later that night, he would sleep.
Blue lights from their undercover car bounced off the old buildings so close they cramped the sidewalk.
Willis was in no hurry to get out of the car; he knew the victim would not mind. He sauntered up to Thompson intently bending over the victim. “What’s it this time?”
“Crap. I had twenty on a hooker. What did you have?”
“Fifty on a drug dealer. Who had bum?”
“I know Norbert in robbery did, must be others besides him. Hell, that’s Norbert’s second win. Let’s clear out and let the CSI boys do their job,” Willis said.
The eerie silence in the bullpen that typically followed a murder was broken by the boisterous voice of a big man. “Done typing up that report boys?”
“Hey Norbert, here to collect your share?” asked Willis, looking up from his desk.
“Yup. Big payout. No one picked hooker the time before so the pot grew. What do you have on the case?” Norbert asked.
“Big zero,” Thompson answered.
“CSI find anything?” Norbert asked.
“Not at the other scenes, still analyzing this one, but my guess is they’ll come up empty.”
Norbert perched on the edge of Willis’ desk. “Okay, you got zilch, but what do you think?”
“Thompson here thinks it’s drug related. Me, I don’t think so. I’m on a wacko who just flipped out. Knives are a guy thing. We figure it might be a little guy because of the Taser used to subdue the victims. You can tell he poses them before he kills them by the blood movement,” Willis said
“So you got nothing,” Norbert said.
“Just the Chief on our ass,” Thompson replied.
“Get your ass off my desk and go stop some robberies and leave us alone to do real police work.” Willis cracked a toothy grin and Norbert mock saluted him.
Thompson shook his head once Norbert left the bullpen. “Poor guy. His wife left him, took the kids and ran off with, what, the kids’ gym teacher?”
“Yeah, the guy was her tennis instructor the summer before. I heard Norbert urged her to take the lessons, thought it would be good for her. The last day of school, everyone cleared out. Sarge told me Norbert came home to an empty house. Destroyed him,” Willis said.
The radio in the undercover car crackled. “Christ, another hooker murdered. We’re a block away. Park in the convenience store parking lot here,” Willis told Thompson.
“He’s moved his pattern up by a week,” Thompson said. “The killer may be getting more unstable. Not good. Chief already put a call into the FBI, what with this serial killer scaring the city—hey, look who’s coming out of the store. Geeze, he looks like crap.”
“It’s 2 AM, everyone looks like crap. You checked a mirror tonight?” Willis rolled down his window. “Norbert, you buy a six-pack here and they’re robbing you. What, out protecting the city from shoplifters at 2 AM?”
“Nah, couldn’t sleep. You?”
“Had a call on a dead hooker, posed and sliced. Heading down the alley right now. That’s all we know.”
“Well, get to it, boys. Keep the city safe.” With a mock salute, robbery detective Bob Norbert was off, his mood improving by the minute. I have to get these impulses under control.