It was raining, like it always had for the last year. Ten years of near constant drought had become a year of near constant rain. Everyone was tired of it already. A couple storms a month is fine, but rain five to six days a week is little much. The scientists thought they had created a weather machine, they got it to rain, but they haven’t been able to stop it or control it. Scientists are always getting ahead of themselves and blaming it on everything other than their own failing. The man sat on the bench watching and listening to everyone just as he had done every day for the last five years. No one paid him any attention, he blended in with the world and no one could tell him apart from anyone else. He was basic, a chameleon so to speak, indifferent to the world and those in it. But his indifference was his curiosity so he studied the world, tried to understand it and tried to figure out why he was so different.
Everyone was on their way home from work, well most everyone that is; some were going in for night shifts or out to the bars to drown out the rain. The man never cared for alcohol; he drank occasionally but only a few and never enough to even get a buzz. He thought getting drunk was stupid; it wasn’t fun at all, just a waste of time and good money. And money was hard to come by these days and was all the more a scarce commodity as it ever was. He didn’t understand why people would so willingly waste it on something so trivial, so limited and so short lived.
The man spent a good five hours that day studying the world, taking notes and trying to make sense of what he had seen and heard. He rarely could make sense of the world; it confused him more than a person wearing sandals in winter confused the world. He always thought of himself as outside the world too. He was him and everyone and everything else was the world. It had always been that way for him and it would forever remain so. He was not so base as to assimilate and file himself in with the rest. He was different, he was special, he was him.
A young couple was walking down the street under a single umbrella. Young love at its finest. The man was barely under the umbrella and half soaked so his girlfriend could stay completely dry from the rain.
“Where do you want to eat tonight honey?” Stan asked his girlfriend. They continued walking and weren’t sure where they were going; it was an impromptu date without a time or place in mind.
“I don’t know,” Lacey answered, “how about that diner we always say we are going to eat at?”
“Which one?” Stan asked, “The one on Twelfth Street?”
“No, no, the one on the corner of Sachs and Dry.” Lacey said.
“Oh yeah, that one, I always forget about it.” Stan replied, “What’s it called again?”
“The Diner.” Lacey answered.
“Really? That’s such a nondescript name.” Stan said.
“Yeah, but it’s supposed to be the best diner in town.” Lacey replied.
“Okay, let’s go then.” Stan said. They turned around because they had passed the intersection about a mile ago. They didn’t mind, it was almost like a romantic night walk with the rain falling. The rain wasn’t falling too intensely, it was actually quite soothing and they found themselves walking a little more slowly to the rhythm of the rain. Their walk was almost a dance to the natural music of the world. More than a few people glared at them as they went by; most people were severely depressed and angry. They hated anything that even resembled happiness, but the young couple paid them no attention, oblivious to anything but each other.
They finally reached The Diner and went inside; it was empty because it was getting late. And though it was supposed to be the best place in town to eat hardly anyone ate there. It made them feel exclusive, like they were there by invitation only. It was a seat yourself place too, so they found a pleasant booth in the back where they could be private and sat down to wait for menus and a host. They didn’t have to wait long before a young woman came from behind the bar with their menus and waters.
“Hi! How are you this evening?” The waitress asked.
“We’re doing just fine,” Stan replied, “we were just out on the town and decided to come here to eat instead of just talking about coming here.”
“Well I’m glad you came in, we have the best food in town.” The waitress said.
“So we’ve heard.” Stan said.
“What can I get you two to drink?” The waitress asked.
“Just the waters.” Stan answered.
“All right, and what can I get you to eat?” The waitress asked.
“Well we haven’t really had a chance to look at any menus.” Stan replied.
“You don’t need the menus,” The waitress said, “all we have are desserts.”
“Just desserts?” Stan was flabbergasted.
“Just desserts.” The waitress replied with a smile.
Stan and Lacey looked at each with suspicious eyes. What kind of place that called itself a diner only served dessert? This was the strangest thing they had ever heard. But they went along with it, after all how bad could desserts be? Stan and Lacey shared ordered a chocolate cheesecake to share. Since this diner only had desserts they were always made fresh so they had to wait for the cheesecake to be made. They didn’t mind though, they were happy to spend time together.
“Oh my god, it’s so good.” Lacey said as the cheesecake finally arrived.
“Indeed it does.” Stan said astounded, “I don’t think we’ll be able to finish it tonight.”
“Probably not, we’ll need a to-go box.” Lacey agreed.
“So what have got here?” Lieutenant Shield asked.
“Looks like a young couple was murdered.” Officer Jack said.
“I can see that.” Lieutenant Shield said, “They are missing their stomachs, that doesn’t happen by accident.”
“Of course. We are still trying to figure out exactly how they were killed and why.” Officer Jack replied, “As far as anyone knows they were recently engaged and quite happy.”
“Happiness can be a crime anymore.” Lt. Shield said solemnly.
“That it can.” Jack agreed, “They were at The Diner for dinner last night and that’s the last time they were seen.”
“The Diner? For Dinner?” Lt. Shield couldn’t believe it, “Who goes to The Diner for dinner? Everyone knows they only serve dessert.”
“Not these two according the waitress, “Jack went on, “they had never eaten there before and couldn’t believe all they sold were desserts. You could almost say they got just desserts.”
Lt. Shield shook his head, murder was nothing to joke about. He sighed, “Officer Jack, just get this figured out so we can get out of here.” It was a rare sunny day and the Lieutenant didn’t want to spend it all at a crime scene, especially these odd ones whose stomachs were removed. Who takes someone’s stomach?
The man was learning again. How could so many people feel so bad and yet still a few always be happy. How could anyone find happiness in this decrepit world? The world a shambles, everything was broken. Everything. The people, the economy, the cars, the government, the buildings…all of it was broken, except him. He was special, he was outside the world. He found crime scenes quite intriguing as well, especially the weird ones. He tried to figure them out before the cops did. Almost anyone with a brain could figure out crimes before the cops; they gave up too soon and too often.
It was a sunny day yet the man wore a pea coat, sunglasses and an ivy cap. Even though he wasn’t dressed like everyone else, he still blended in. Just the way he liked it. He could move and learn unnoticed. He had wanted to look at the crime scene of the young couple, but he had learned about it too late and it was cleaned up before he got there, but he managed to get a hold of the reports and make copies before the cops noticed they were gone. Now he was studying them to figure out why they were murdered.
“The only thing out of the ordinary here was their happiness.” The man said to himself, “They even got along with everyone and even though everyone hated their happiness they were such a help to everyone no one wanted to bring any harm to them. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He decided this was going to be a tough crime to figure out. He was sure the cops would give up after a couple days. Well not him, he was going to mull it over for a long time and figure it out. There was obviously some missing piece of crucial information. But for now, the man would go back home and get some rest, he hadn’t slept well the night before; he never did before these strange murders.
“This brings the kill count up to 12 now,” the female newscaster stated, “and the police still don’t have any suspects in the murders. People are afraid to even go to and from work let alone spend a night out on the town or go to the bars. The stores are selling out of alcohol and the people are getting restless. So far the police refuse to say anything on the matter other than the lack of suspects.”
Dear Dank County Police Department,
I know you have no suspects for my crimes and you never will. I’m too good to be caught; I’m too good to leave any traces behind. You will never find me. You can’t even find all my work. The news says I’ve completed twelve works of art. They are wrong. I’ve completed fifty. You’ll find a few more at Lake Stanley. Four of them are there. Beautiful like all the rest. I’ll leave the rest for you to find. But remember, I’m watching you. I’m the shadow under your feet, the whisper under your breath, the air in your lungs. I’m nothing more than a wisp of smoke in the wind, untraceable and perfect.
The man woke up groggy. He noticed he was unclothed again but couldn’t remember ever taking his clothes off before bed. This didn’t happen often and he couldn’t say how it happened. He always assumed he must have woken and gotten undressed and not remembered doing it. It was just another curious matter to look into at another time. Now was time for coffee and to look over the police reports some more. He had the files for all the crime scenes for the stomachless victims. They were odd cases, with no connection he could see.
The man walked to the kitchen and brewed his coffee. He was a coffee purist, he ground his own beans and only brewed it the hottest distilled water and drank it black. That was the way coffee was supposed to be drunk. The man also made some scrambled eggs and toast. After his breakfast and coffee was done he sat down at the kitchen table to eat and read the reports again, and again, and again.
He sure that one day he would figure it out and find the connection and the motive. Right now he couldn’t find anything new in the reports. The only similarity he had found was the way the victims were murdered. The man sighed and went to the window and opened the blinds. Rain, again. Damn the rain he thought, everything is tainted by the rain. Water is supposed to support and cleanse, but this rain was just shy of acid. This rain washed away all the good and all the happiness from the world. The only good part about the rain was that it stopped any natural disasters from happening. Another mystery to look into. Something clicked in the man’s brain and he dropped his coffee and the mug shattered and the coffee scalded his feet.
“What have you found out about the letter?” Lieutenant Shield demanded.
“We’re still working on it sir.” Said an officer.
“Well work faster damn it!” Lt. Shield said, “We need to figure out if that letter is real or not, has anyone checked out Lake Stanley yet?”
“Officer Jack is there now.” Another officer replied.
“Good, I want this sorted out and I want this man caught, NOW!” Lt. Shield yelled.
Lieutenant Shield went into his office and slammed the door. He was glad he didn’t have any windows or they may have shattered with the force of the slam. Lt. Shield sat down at his desk and put his face in his hands. He was having a hard time understanding this case and now it had become more personal with the added taunting of the letter. If it turned out to be real they were dealing with not just a killer but a monster. “And a damned good one.” Shield muttered under his breath.
Shield’s phone began to ring, “Tell me some good news.” He answered.
“I’m afraid not, we found the four bodies at the lake.” Officer Jack said.
“DAMN IT!” Lt. Shield yelled and slammed the phone back onto the cradle. How could four people be killed at the most popular lake in the area and no one had found the bodies? How could anyone be so ruthless and so daring as to actually contact the police and tell them they were wrong? Shield vowed then he would find this monster or die trying.
Lieutenant Shield walked into the precinct and everyone was watching him intently as he walked to his office. He knew it couldn’t be good, no one ever gave him a passing glance in the morning. Lt. Shield was suddenly very anxious about opening the door to his office; he didn’t want to know what was on the other side. He knew whatever it was was enough to spook the whole precinct and that spooked him. But he opened his office and saw a tape recorder on his desk with a tape inside and note attached. The note said to listen to the tape promptly. He played the tape and heard the voice of the murderer.
“I saw you found the bodies at Lake Stanley, good. That’s four more works of art I’ll get credit for. But can you find the rest? I won’t give you any more help than I already have. You know my M.O. and you know they’re all me. What more do you need? Do you need me to hold your hands like a mother walking her children across the street? Perhaps you need me to change your diapers as well. I know you’ll never find me, but it will be fun watching you try. Watching you struggle like fly trying to escape from flypaper. Good luck, you need it.”
Lieutenant Shield was furious. How could anybody be so crass and self-centered? He was the sole reason there was almost no crime in this city anymore. It was him. He was the best detective this city had ever had and now he was being mocked? By a killer? Oh no, now this was personal and he would find this man if it was the last thing he ever did.
The worst part of this case was the murderer was communicating with the police department yet no one knew who he was. No one could identify the man by his writing or his voice and there was never any DNA at the crime scenes. How could a man be so invisible to the system? It beyond comprehension, it was impossible. It just couldn’t be. Lt. Shield just wanted to slam his against a wall because this case was so impossible, but he would solve it. He had to.
Thirty Years Later
The man realized he had gotten away with it. He hadn’t been caught and it was amazing. No one would ever know it was him. He had by now completed over two hundred works of art and no one could ever figure out these cases. It was true what they said, victory is sweet. He thought this as he bit into the most succulent chocolate covered strawberry he had ever tasted. Yes, victory was indeed sweet. The man was old now and his deathbed, the strawberry was the last thing he ever ate and the last thought he had was how he had made that Lieutenant go crazy and it put a smile on his face as he passed away.