Penance

Blood was spilt. The once white room was now covered in dry coagulated blood, it was everywhere, leaving dark red traces making it look fake as if it wasn’t real but rather dried out paint. The bedroom and bathroom were both covered in it; it even reached parts of the ceiling.
Jack stared in shock at the dried out blood, it was mind blowing that one person could go to this length just to harm another. He, together with a forensic team, was looking at the strangest crime scene he had ever seen. Pieces most likely of human flesh were scattered through the bathroom, the body was cut into so many pieces it didn’t even resemble anything remotely human. The person who committed this atrocity had taken his time making sure every single piece of tissue was cut many times over. One thing was still missing however, bones. The tissue everywhere could well be an animal of some kind or it could be human, the lab will have to confirm that.
Looking at the small pieces of flesh scattered throughout the place it looked like the person used a very small and very sharp knife, meaning the person was or enjoying himself or being very methodical in his cutting, the layout of the scene showed it was the former rather than the latter.
The smell was what alerted the neighbors and led to them calling the police in the first place. When a team was sent they said the stench was so bad they didn’t waste any time and got a team to raid the house for probable cause. When they arrived and opened the door the first thing that assailed them was the smell once again. Even before the horrific trail of blood it was the smell. It smelled like something that was left to dry and rot for days and there was something else. Something acidic was in the air.
Jack walked out of the room and methodically looked through the house, there was something else here, something else causing the acidic smell. The smell led him up the stairs where a narrow corridor led to three more rooms. Jack slowly walked through the corridor and opened the first door to his left, he already noticed the smell was coming from the room in front of him, but instead of rushing forward he slowly and deliberately opened every door in between and took a good look inside of the other two rooms. Only after he made sure they were empty, and that there was nothing unusual about them, did he continue onto the room at the end of the corridor.
He opened the brown wooden door slowly. The smell was definitely coming from this room; he quickly scanned the room and took note of the police officer standing just in front of him, his back turned. The room was well kept a thick red carpet lay on the ground and black and red colors covered the walls, the only window was firmly sealed shut with large pieces of wood that was covered with parchment or canvas of some sort. Jack walked forward and stared at what the officer was looking at. He froze. A big pot placed on a small gas cooker was cooking; it was this that gave off the acidic smell.
He stared into the red colored water boiling in the pot; it was stirring gently and from time to time something white could be seen breaking the surface of the water. Jack muttered a curse and ran downstairs.
“I need a metal or something to grab with quickly” he cried to anyone in the room.
No one answered, and instead of waiting for an answer he ran into the kitchen and grabbed a pair of tongs. He ran back up the stairs into the smelly room. There he quickly used the tongs to pick out what he already knew would be there. It was white and its discovery meant that one question at least was answered. The one of where the bones were. Jack pulled out an incredible amount of bones out of the pot most of which were heavily damaged; the acidic smell was the acid in the pot, which was slowly melting the bones down. But the fact that the pot was on a gas cooker that was turned on meant that whoever the culprit was, he was close by and maybe even likely to return. He immediately communicated this to the officers in charge and after a quick briefing; guards were set up to search for suspicious individuals in the vicinity.
Jack left the scene of the crime and went back to the station; it was now a question of a lot of paperwork and waiting for the crime lab results. He didn’t delude himself that the officers at the site of the crime would find anything, the chance was minimal but it was good to cover all bases. He didn’t have any time to even sit and go through the paperwork though because as soon as he arrived he received a phone call.
Irritated he picked up the phone “yes this is detective Jack Howser”
“Hello Jack, I won’t introduce myself but I am the person you’re looking for” The voice was deep and somehow familiar.
“What do you mean?” he asked trying to sound nonchalant.
“Don’t be stupid, you know exactly what I mean. Let me correct you though, you think you caught my place just before I was coming back home or you’re thinking that I left it temporarily, let me clarify: I was waiting for you to show up”.
Jack was a little taken aback, but he wasn’t going to let it show. Jack immediately signaled one of his colleagues to check where the call was coming from. “Listen, how do I know you aren’t just makin’ all this up? We get like a 100 crack up calls a day, you are no different”
“you want proof?”
“Of course I want proof”
There was a silence that was suddenly broken by a sharp cold rustling. As though someone was clearing their throat, but it sounded unnatural, like a sound effect. “Today you went into the house and saw the blood, you walked up the stairs passed three rooms and in the third room you found a gas cooker with a pot on it. Do you need me to tell you what was in the pot? Or do you believe me now?”
Jack was slightly shocked, this was a first. No one in their right mind would commit such a murder and would take the time to find who the detective in charge was and then specifically call him. “Eh… Yes, I believe you” Jack mumbled “what is it that you want from me?”
“Oh this is going to be a little study for you. A journey of your makin’ as it were” the voice trailed off and he could almost feel it smiling.
One of the police officers signaled, they had traced the call.
Jack put his hand over the horn and looked at the officer. “It’s coming from somewhere in the station” said the officer
“What? Then find out who is making this call, and where from!” replied Jack irritated. This wasn’t making any sense, just like the whole case wasn’t. It must be some kind of trick, a guy from the department pulling a fast one.
He went back to the phone and said in an aggravated voice “I’ve just about had it with you. So either you tell me what it is you want, or this conversation is over”
The voice on the other side of the line laughed a cold cynical laugh. “Let me guess, you just found out that the call is being made from within your own precinct, am I right? I’ll take your silence to mean exactly that. No, this is not a prank it is very real and its only just beginning. I’ll speak to you soon… Jack” with this the person had hung up.
For the life of him Jack could not figure out the point of the call. Not that it mattered, it was impossible to find out whom the voice belonged to but they could lock down the building which they quickly did and after a painstaking process of going through every phone and trying to figure out which one was used, all of which revealed absolutely nothing, Jack gave up. He had wasted most of the day, and he got absolutely nowhere.
It was pass lunchtime and instead of going to eat with his colleagues he decided to go back to the house the murder had taken place in, to see if he had missed something.
It was a large white house, number 5 on apple street, maybe the street name and number had a special meaning he didn’t yet understand. He wrote the details down although he knew they were already written somewhere at the station, but to write it himself helped his memory. There were still police officers stationed everywhere and the evidence collecting crew were yet to finish their work. Eventually when no new details came up Jack left the house and went back to the station, the clock was ticking and he felt more and more lost, he couldn’t think straight and something kept bugging him. Maybe it was this time of the year, he always felt this way when Halloween was approaching. There was something in the air that made the crazies come out. Although he never really seen any increase in crime overall during Halloween, it was more of a feeling rather than anything else. He always felt uncomfortable when it was Halloween, as far back as he could remember, it was always a strange time of the year.
He was back at his desk and looked over the information he got from the street and name and some hunch made him look up connections with Halloween. Eventually he found something when he searched Halloween customs. Apples were apparently associated with female deities, immortality and resurrection. Cutting an apple through its equator would reveal a five pointed pentagon (house number) on each hemisphere. There was a long list of traditions associated with Halloween and after going through several of them he got tired and left it at that. One story though was quite interesting it involved the Jack-O-Lantern. It told of an Irishman named Jack who tricked the devil to climb up an apple tree (the street). When he did he carved a cross in it thus trapping the devil up the tree. He would only let the devil free if he promised not to take his soul, to which the devil reluctantly agreed. When Jack died he couldn’t get into Heaven and the devil did not take Jack’s soul. After years of roaming the planes between Heaven and Hell without the ability to see where he was going the devil took pity on Jack and gave him an ember from Hell that would never burn out. Jack carved out one of his turnips and put the ember in. So he roamed the earth for a resting place.
The house number and the street name both made references to Halloween it was likely that the killer specifically used it for that reason. So what would be the next target? Would there be a next target? Whatever information he had it wasn’t enough and the call the killer made was very strange indeed. Especially the comment about Jack himself the whole journey in the making was giving him Goosebumps.
Ralph the coroner called him a little later to let him know that the bones they had found were part of the right arm and that there were nowhere near enough bones to make up a whole individual. The primary DNA data also came back and there were no matches to the DNA yet but one thing was sure there was only one DNA print in the crime scene. All the blood belonged to the same individual. The bones did too. When he had first entered the house he assumed it was a sight of several murders. If all that blood belonged to one person then that person was surely dead, and missing an arm.
Paul stared at his watch and realized it was already 5pm, time to go home and put the case behind him. He packed his things and went home, he forgot to eat and it seemed like a strange and surreal day. He reached his home at 1441 Orb Street, and quickly got in. He defrosted a readymade meal and sat down to eat it in front of the television. It was at 6.00pm that he had realized he had forgotten to get candy for the kids trick or treating through the night. He quickly got up and drove to the closest convenience store to get some treats. Once done he went back home, on the way the smaller kids were already outside going from house to house asking for candy. His house was the least decorated on the block and there wasn’t even a single Jack-O-lantern in his front yard.
As soon as he had reached his home his phone rang. It was a hectic day and he was as irritated as could be when he picked up the phone. “Yes? What is it? And make it snappy!”
“Hello Jack. Ready for the second round?” It was the person that called the station. There was no way in hell he could have found his phone number, his number was unlisted.
“How did you get my number?”
“Let’s not dabble with irrelevant details; did you check your mail yet?”
“No…”
“I suggest you open it and have a good look” with that the phone went dead.
Jack got the mail out of his letterbox and had a look. One thing stood out an envelope with dark red writing on it. He took the envelope and opened it. In it wrapped in a cloth was a small finger. The finger seemed unnaturally small like it belonged to a dwarf; it was then that the realization hit him. The finger didn’t belong to a dwarf it belonged to a child.
Jack quickly got on the phone and called the precinct, in 10 minutes his home was crawling with cops and it would take several hours before he had a result that meant something. Normally he would have to wait for the finger to be analyzed but his friends and colleagues pulled an all nighter and a few hours later much to everyone’s surprise they had a result. The only reason they got a match on the finger so quickly was the fact that they already had the DNA in their database. The DNA was the same as what was found in the house on Apple Street. The finger did belong to a child and there was one other piece of information that he should know. The finger was severed when the child was still alive. From what else they could tell the finger was severed not more than several hours ago. This case now officially made no sense. How could the blood at the house – and he was assured it was adult blood that they found as was the arm – belong to an adult and the finger he received belong to a child match?!
A quick explanation was given that possibly someone manipulated the sample so that the DNA markers used overlapped, but it wasn’t very likely. Then again it did seem like it was an inside job.
Jack’s phones were now tapped and his house was under surveillance. If, no not if. When the mystery person would call again they would be ready. Jack sat down on the sofa in his living room and tried to clear his thoughts. His thoughts kept going back to the child, he had to be dead now… or at least treated for the finger. His thoughts kept turning around and around, until a few rounds of trick or treaters later came another dreaded phone call.
“Hello Jack, have you figured it out yet?”
“Figured what out?” asked a weary and tired Jack
“Oh, Jack are you playing games with me? Figured out who it is that is calling you and whose DNA it is you have” asked the voice innocently enough, although Jack somehow knew there was nothing innocent about this person.
“I am working on it, but it would save me a lot of trouble if you could tell me”
“Oh Jack, haven’t you learned anything yet? What is the point of me calling you if you are just going to be a spoil sport about it?”
“Jack! Jack!” Came an urgent cry from his headset “The bastard is in your house! I don’t know how he’s doing it but he is calling from inside your own home, we have officers covering all exits you give us a signal and we will barge in and get him!”
“JACK” came a shout echoing through the phone line.
“What?!” answered Jack angrily
“Did you forget about me?” asked the voice
“How could I? What do you want from me?” he asked again
“I want to continue playing our game”
It was too much; the whole day was too much and he needed a break. “What the hell is it that you want?” he muttered tired
“Oh, I would have thought you would be more frightened if someone, most likely a suspected killer would call you from your own home”
This was enough to shut Jack up. He could think of nothing to say. He had enough and gave the officers a sign to move in. After a quick search through the house they found nothing. It was what he expected in the first place, criminals nowadays knew how to use the system to their advantage. He must have been some hacker or something, making it look as if he was in the house.
The rest of the night passed without any incidents and when the next day finally appeared the night before seemed hazy, like a dream, but soon enough he was right in between it once again. After a briefing about the case and an update on the findings most of which he had already known, he was back at his desk. The DNA results yielded nothing and the people upstairs were now setting up a scheme to swab all police employees for DNA thinking about an inside job. How else, could someone find intricate details about the investigation so quickly know who was assigned to the investigation in the first place? Secondly how did they find Jacks phone number and home address so quickly unless they were working at the police station? So DNA from all detectives, police officers and other employees was collected which gave the lab enough work for weeks, but considering the urgency it was moved straight up the ladder and results started coming in from as early as next morning. Next to DNA they also took prints from everyone. Jack as lead detective wasn’t counting on anything crucial arriving from the data though he trusted the data would arrive eventually.
That afternoon he received a phone call not to his desk phone but to his cell phone. He picked up and at this point he was almost expecting it.
“Hi Jack, are you ready to play round 3?” said an all too familiar voice
“What is it this time you sicko?”
“Temper temper, Jacky boy. In a manner of minutes you should receive a package guess what will be in it” the line went dead.
Just as the line cut a delivery boy put a large package on his desk, it was delivered by a standard company and no details were available on the sender. The package contained 9 fingers. Again the fingers were cut when the child was still alive this though there was some good news. There was a fingerprint. The lab ran it as quickly as they could and funnily enough found a match within minutes of running the search. It belonged to someone from the department, specifically to Jack. Jack was called into the interrogation room and was questioned quite heavily for hours. From head detective he became the main suspect in a flip of a coin.
It was hours now, he was put in a holding cell and although he was given the benefit of the doubt he still had no answers and no idea how his fingerprint got there. He was trying to figure it all out but there wasn’t much point, all he knew was that the killer was steps ahead of him and he was trying to catch up.
A guard opened Jacks cell and without too many words took him back to the interrogation room. Jack sat down and a few moments later Detective Charles came into the room. He was new, the previous interrogation was conducted by Detective Prosper, and it was weird to now have a different officer give the interrogation. That usually meant that something has happened to change things.
Instead of waiting for a question Jack asked ‘What happened?’
Detective Charles looked at Jack and said ‘listen I will be honest with you if you will be with me. Alright?’
Jack nodded
‘Then let’s begin. Why did we find your fingerprint in the package?’
‘For the millionth time, I don’t know. It’s a set-up this weird guy has been setting me up from the get go. You know that, you have been to all the briefings and there is nothing else I can tell you about it. All I know is that this guy thinks this is some kind of sick game between me and him and for some reason he thinks this the last game we will play. So most likely he will pin this whole thing on me and that’s all I got’
‘How about this then, what do you think this guy is after?’
‘Revenge. Plain and simple’
‘You don’t find it a little too elaborate for just a simple revenge scheme?’
‘Maybe, but I’m not in the guy’s head. I think he will do everything to rattle me and turn my world upside down and from what I can see he has managed it quite nicely’
‘Ok, I believe you and that’s why I will give you a recent development we had with the hope that you as the head detective in the case will be able to give me some advice’
‘I’ll do what I can. But before that when will I be released?’
‘I’m sorry Jack I don’t know. You haven’t asked for a lawyer which I guess you did because most of us are your friends, but there is no way they will let you go without a new lead. You are the only connection and now the only suspect’ Paul Charles looked slightly ill at ease which Jack was glad to see. But he knew the system well enough and if he actually had wanted to be released immediately he would have gotten his lawyer as soon as he was arrested. ‘Here is where we are at now… we have identified all the fingers and they all belong to the same child. That child has DNA that matches you’
Jack stared open-mouthed and flabbergasted. This guy must be some kind of DNA expert there was no other way around it. ‘He must be an expert in DNA or something’ said Jack finally
‘The lab tried some non-conventional techniques to figure out if other DNA sequences were homologous’ Paul quickly corrected himself when he saw Jack’s uncomprehending look ‘or I should say were the same as the DNA they got off you and the answer is it is a perfect match. They assured me that nothing is a perfect match but this one was. There is no doubt in their mind that the fingers belong to you as does the fingerprint. Now the fingerprint I can still fit into the story because it wouldn’t be too difficult to arrange for it. I mean he could have gotten it from somewhere and used that imprint to frame you. The fingers though are a very different story, they were cut off when you were a child and maybe kept somehow that nobody would notice together with an incredible amount of blood or something like that… I don’t know. Feel free to jump in at any time’
Jack just stared, there was nothing he could think of that could help this case. All he had were questions and not a lot of answers. After a short silence he said ‘All I can tell you is that for some reason he has made me his enemy. The child he is killing or killed already is supposed to be me. I can’t give you more than that, other than the fact that I was never tormented or lost any limbs when I was a child so it could not have come from me. Maybe it’s one of our own lab workers?’
‘We already looked at that, and all the results were controlled by 3 different technicians and all came to the same conclusion. The DNA is identical, there is no doubt’
‘Then I’m sorry to say that there is nothing I can add to that. Maybe if I was at my desk he would have called me to give us something else to go on, but since I’m in here that won’t work either’
‘Sorry Jack. I’m sure they will let you out shortly, for now though they will still keep you here. I will put in a good word and try to get you out’ with that Paul left and Jack was led back to his holding cell.
Jack sat in his holding cell pondering his fate, maybe he made a mistake not getting an attorney as soon as he became a suspect, but that was too late now. An attorney wouldn’t really have helped now anyway and if he would have gotten one he wouldn’t know that the DNA was the same. All of it, the blood, the fingers everything was his somehow. He couldn’t really figure it out it had to be a trick there had to be something else to it. Something he didn’t think of.
The lights started flickering and suddenly the cell and hallway were all covered in a veil of darkness. Jack couldn’t see anything, all light was turned off and he was now in a dark room alone. The room was eerily silent, nothing appeared to be happening. Normally there should have been a person around already to check up on him. The silence was unnatural, and illogical.
The silence was broken by a rustling sound that came from the corner of his cell. The rustling sound grew in volume and intensity until he could hear nothing other than the noise. Just when he was about to block the noise by covering his ears with his hands it stopped. ‘Someone, please help me’ he screamed.
‘No one will help you here Jack’ the voice was the voice he had heard before on the phone. It belonged to the killer.
‘How did you get in here?!’ Jack asked, he was becoming increasingly frightened. It seemed as though nothing could protect him from this person, the voice was close to him and somehow this person got into a cell and organized a blackout.
‘Oh Jack you still don’t know?’ With that a light turned on and shone out in front of him. The cell wall was gone and instead the light shone on a person that stood in front of him. That person looked like himself. ‘Hi Jack’ although the voice was slightly different, the rest was an exact replicate of himself.
Jack tried to look unperturbed and failed. ‘Who the hell are you?’
‘I’m you jack my boy’ with that the person slowly started changing his voice to match his. ‘See?!’
‘This can’t be’ Jack was shaking his head in disbelief.
‘Oh but it can. It’s Halloween’
‘Who did you kill?’ Jack asked
‘Oh you know the answer to that too’ with that another projector lit up and a child appeared. The child was wearing a red long sleeved shirt and a red cap hat. He was missing his right arm and right leg. It was only after looking closely that he noticed that the shirt wasn’t red but rather white. It was stained red by blood. ‘Have you recognized him already Jack?’ asked the guy that looked like Jack.
Jack looked closer but the kid looked just like any other normal kid. It was then that the person removed the cap. Jack recognized him instantaneously. It was himself; he was maybe 9 or 10 years old. It was too much, there were too many things going on he couldn’t understand.
‘Oh Jack. You know nothing do you. You sad pathetic excuse for a man, every year it becomes easier to mess with your head. I don’t know if it’s because you are becoming dumber or because at long last I’m actually getting to you’
Jack had no energy left he understood nothing. Apparently magic, time travel or whatever it was, were all normal. ‘What do you want from me?’ he asked
‘Oh Jack, if I would have known it would be this easy I would have done this a long time ago. But there is no time left Halloween is coming to an end’ with that the lights were off once again and Jack stood alone in the dark again.
‘Oh don’t forget Jack’ came a voice echoing in the dark, a voice that sounded like his own ‘here is your little light to guide your way’ A pumpkin head appeared in his hands, it was emitting an ember like light through its eyes and mouth. ‘See you next year… Jack’
© 22/04/2014

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