Saturday: November 30, 2024
2:03 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Bo rolled onto his back, reaching for his phone as it vibrated on the nightstand. His free arm, trapped beneath Elijah for the last three hours, was numb and he could feel the pins and needles tingly effect in his hand. He cleared his throat, checking Gwen’s name on the caller ID before sliding his thumb across the bottom of the screen. He pressed his phone to his ear, closing his eyes.
“Austen,” he greeted quietly.
“There’s been a homicide at the hotel in town,” Gwen said. The knife of guilt and fear that had been lodged in Bo’s stomach since the twenty-fifth twisted itself deeper into his being. “I wasn’t sure if… if you wanted to go to that or not. I don’t think it relates to you.”
Bo swallowed. “Right. Umm, I’ll be there soon. I need to change and check on the kids. Then I’ll be there.”
“All right, Bo. Misty and I won’t touch anything until you get here,” Gwen promised.
“Thanks.” Bo ended the call, his hand dropping to his chest like dead weight. His fingers tightened around his phone. A hotel didn’t leave many options if it was his stalker, but the fact that they had found the body so early in the morning let him know exactly who the copycat was imitating.
2:15 AM; CLINSTONE, DOUBLE MANOR HOTEL, ROOM 205
Bo drew in a deep breath before ducking under the yellow crime scene tape on the hotel room door. Stepping into the room, he felt entirely… violated. Haunting piano music filled the room, soft little notes played in minor chords, each one echoing in order to create the darkest sound possible. A sick feeling sat like a heavy ball in Bo’s stomach.
He swallowed roughly, his fingers tightening around his camera as he leaned the lens back against his shoulder. Gwen and Misty stood near the bed in the hotel room. While Gwen was taking pictures of the body, Misty was photographing the floor. Bo, of course, knew this was because the bed had been moved over several inches and the victim’s blood had been used to fill the depressions in the carpet where the legs of the bed usually dug into the carpet.
Bo forced himself to walk toward the bed. The victim, a woman, lay naked on the bed, a deep Y-shape cut into her chest and abdomen. The cut had been stitched up the way Bo or Gwen would do it after an autopsy had been performed.
Gwen lifted her gaze to his face. “What do you make of it?” she questioned.
Bo cleared his throat, looking down as he turned on his camera. “She was autopsied. If I had to guess, something’s missing,” he said quietly. Her heart, if we’re being specific.
“What about the music?”
“It guarantees that someone finds the corpse sooner than later,” Bo suggested. And it gives people nightmares, but who’s counting that one? “It makes sure the killer gets attention for the kill shortly after it occurs.” Again, he cleared his throat. “But that’s just an assumption.” I never got the chance to ask Ammut why she did it for sure. Dallas slit her throat and hanged her from a tree before I could ask.
“So the killer needs immediate attention,” Misty said from the floor. She looked up from her camera, her blue eyes shifting up to Bo’s face. “Why?”
“A lot of reasons, I suppose,” Bo murmured. He lifted his camera, taking a picture of the woman’s face. She looked eerily like Kathy, a ‘cute’ little homage to the fact that Ammut had nearly cut open and killed Kathy. Bo knew, however, that it wasn’t Kathy. The woman before him had a small birthmark beneath her left eye.
“Instant gratification of their work. Background noise to a display they consider a work of art,” Bo said. “Or, you know, just to be an annoying piece of shit who should already be behind bars. Take your pick.” Gwen and Misty exchanged a look of concern that Bo didn’t catch.
“Why stitch the cut back up?” Gwen asked.
Bo shrugged. He hadn’t been able to ask that of Ammut, either. “It’s possible that it adds to the art-like feeling of a killing display like this. It depends on if the killer sees themself as an artist or a killer.”
“Is there a difference for killers?” Misty asked.
Bo nodded slowly, afraid that any quick movements would make him throw up. “Of course. The Surgeon? Andrew Bates? He didn’t see himself as a killer. He just saw himself as a man that needed to rebuild his family. Stan Gunn? Dollhouse? He saw himself as an artist. He didn’t consider it killing. He wanted to be one of the great artists, not one of the great serial killers.” He cleared his throat. “Steven knew he was a killer. He didn’t like it. He wanted to stop it, but he knew,” the blonde said quietly, doing everything in his control to stop the shaking of his voice.
“Charles, the Puppet Master? He knew what he was doing. He knew it was murder, but it wasn’t at his hands, so he didn’t give a shit. Julia was under his control and didn’t even remember doing it by the time we asked about it. Every day for her was just one big blur of loving her Master. That was all there was to it.
“White Rose knew it was killing. He also didn’t care. He just wanted to find out what it felt like to kill another person, and when the first one didn’t live up to his expectations, he kept going. Acid Bath was… an accident gone very, very wrong. Ghost was…” Bo swallowed. “Ghost was a sick motherfucker, to say the least,” he said. “And this one,” he whispered, his voice breaking. “And, this one, I don’t know,” he finished.
“Bo… should you be here?” Gwen asked, laying a hand between his shoulders.
“I’m fine,” he breathed. “Tired, but I’m okay,” he promised.
Gwen frowned. “Are you sure?” He nodded. “Okay,” she said softly. She patted his back before she went back to taking pictures. Bo took a step back as his phone dinged in his back pocket. He flinched as the music in the room increased slightly in volume. One hand still wrapped around his camera, he reached back and grabbed his phone.
He unlocked his phone and opened up the email. The header was a single word: Ammut.
A picture loaded on his screen. A man stood in a mirror, a camera in one hand, a human heart in the other. The camera covered his face, his hands covered in purple gloves. Bo closed his eyes for a moment before hesitantly forcing them back open. If nothing else, the mock imitation of Ammut’s original pictures let Bo know that his stalker was definitely a male.
Bo shoved his phone back into his pocket and walked into the bathroom. He shut the door, standing in front of the full-length mirror on the back of the door. His eyes scanned everything he could see in the mirror. He nodded slightly, squatting down to pull open the cabinet beneath the sink. “Gotcha,” he whispered.
He snapped several pictures of the glass box inside of the cabinet before removing it. If he knew anything about Ammut, and he did, it was that the box in his hand was actually two separate boxes. The smaller box held the victim’s cell phone. The bigger box, the one he could see, held both the phone box and right around a pint of the victim’s blood.
He set the box on the counter and, in a manner most would consider dangerous, stepped up onto the lip of the tub. His camera in one hand, he pressed his free hand to the wall as he threw one foot up onto the counter. He leaned up slightly, reaching up to pry open the air vent on the wall. He dropped the grate to the rug by the bathtub and lifted his camera, snapping several pictures of the Bluetooth speaker in the vent. He grabbed it and carefully jumped down from the bathtub’s edge.
He switched off the speaker, cutting off the music.
“What happened? Who did that?” Gwen asked from the other room.
“That was me! Sorry!” Bo apologized. He stared back at the little glass box, one corner of his mouth scrunched up. He couldn’t help but wonder where the note for him was. In the box, or in the corpse?
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