|Posted on October 5, 2009 at 1:55 AM|
The New York night sky cackles and moans with an eerie menace, as fierce storm clouds sweep in from the coast. In downtown Harlem, in a narrow alley of old double-storey warehouses and broken-down public lots, several police officers stretch a reel of orange tape across the entrance to an abandoned drug-den. A cluster of police cars are parked awkwardly outside on the gravel road, and the frantic whispers of the men and crackled car radio messages distill the silence of their morbid surroundings. A black Chevrolet Monte Carlo low-rider cruises in from the rain, slowing as one of the police officers approaches it. The driver door clicks open, and out gets Senior-detective John Logan. Logan is 40-year old cop raised from the streets of Brooklyn, though his harsh upbringing and grisly line of work has made him look closer to 60. His hair and beard are silver all the way through, and a dark trench coat hangs over his broad shoulders. He draws two smokes from his coat pocket, lights them, and hands one to the approaching officer.
“Whatta ya got for me O’Reily?” Logan asks in his firm, but raspy, New York-Irish accent. “Not another drug deal gone bad I hope?”
“No,” replies the officer, taking a drag on the smoke. “This whole street’s been abandoned for about a year now; entire structure’s fallin’ apart. Even the crack-heads are snubin’ it these days.” The two men breathe out in unison, a cloud of white toxin painting the air above them. “Single homicide—white male, late 50’s—tortured and killed; pretty gruesome actually.”
“Hmm, I’ll bet,” Logan replies wearily. “What were the circumstances?”
“Er …” O’Reily glances down at his notepad. “Victim’s hands were bound behind his back, tied together with razor wire. Victim was then hung upside down by his ankles, and stuck in the belly with a 9 inch machete. Doctor’s come and gone – says it took him about 4 to 6 hours to bleed to death …”
“Charming,” replied Logan. “Any idea who the vic is … or was.”
“Yes, actually, his recently renewed driver’s license pins him as a Mr Ross Gordon. We ran it through the computer and apparently he’s some high-class lawyer living and working in east Manhattan.”
“Litigation. Get this, Mr Gordon works as a legal consultant for Starbucks.”
“You thinking that it’s a random killing?”
“That or a disgruntled employer."
“Or customer. New Yorkers are pretty serious about their coffee, John.”
“All right, let’s check it out.” The two men make their way up to the entrance of the building. Logan flashes his badge and the guarding officer hoists up the orange tape to let them through.
“Here,” O’Reily holds out an open blue jar, “put some of this on.” Logan smears some Vix Vapor Rub under his nostrils. Suddenly, another cop stumbles out of the crime scene, pushes Logan and O’Reily aside, stumbles into some nearby bushes and throws up. Logan takes another drag and climbs the three broken steps to the scenes entrance.
Inside the building, cops and forensics scuttle around like ants; dusting for prints, collecting hair and skin samples, taking pictures, and jotting down details. About 2 dozen uniforms spread out across the floor, whispering in groups of three, compiling the precincts precious case file. Logan wonders if the buildings aging floorboards can even support this many bodies. O’Reily enters the floor and continues on to the other side. Logan approaches the blood-soaked carcass dangling in the middle of the room. It seems like a surreal work of art, Logan ponders, almost twenty people in this room, and none of them seem to have noticed the horribly mutilated corpse in front of them; instead they gather around the skirting boards and whisper incoherently. The body of Ross Gordon dangles upside down, his face twisted in one horrible, final expression of pain, and an enormous knife wedged into his gut. Blood stains all the way down his clothes and across his face. Logan stands there for a while, examining the body and its surrounding environment. He then looks down at the floor below the victim and raises his left eyebrow.
“O’Reily!” he calls, still looking down. “These floorboards look pretty clean, considering a 200 pound man was drip-dried above them. Where’s all the blood?” O’Reily looks up and silence descends over the crime scene. The other officers gather around the body as Logan bends over. Placing his ear to the floor, he begins to tap the floorboards. He then draws a Swiss knife from his pocket and levers it into one of the splits. He bends it back, a suddenly the boards slide open. Logan pulls it off and places it to one side. O’Reily pushes to the head of the crowd, but says nothing. A few feet below the hole sits a small blue bucket, a quarter full of dried blood.
“That’s still not enough to account for his death. Where’s the rest of it. Here,” Logan clicks at a younger officer, “hand me that flashlight.” The officer quickly passes it to him. Logan flicks it on and hoists himself into the hole.
“Hang on Logan,” cries O’Reily. But he’s already in. Below the floorboards is about four feet off empty air, with hollow beams supporting the structure, and thick gouts of mud beneath them.
“This whole cities’ held together by smoke,” Logan whispers, but freezes as he glimpses the message painted on the flipside of the floorboards. “I think I found where the rest of the blood went.”
“Where,” O’Reily’s voice calls out from above.
“Our killers left us a message, and he didn’t use a spraycan”
“Hang on,” O’Reily jumps down into the mud with Logan. “Oh jeez,” he exclaims, seeing the floors decaying foundations. “This whole building’s ready to collapse.”
“Look,” Logan motions with his torch. O’Reily leans in.
“Winters,” O’Reily calls up to the hole in the floorboards. “Write this down: ‘I am the hunter, and you are my prey. You left the gate open little piggy’s, and now the wolves lie with the sheep. The greatest hunt for all is the hunt for man. Run, run, as fast as you can! I’m back!’ Signed ‘THE HUNTER’.”
“Looks like we got ourselves a good old-fashioned serial killer,” Logan breathes, lighting another smoke. “Call the precinct. Have them send Detective Rawls over.”
“What do you mean ‘old-fashioned’ John,” O’Reily replies.
“The Hunter is not a new kid on the block. He was responsible for numerous murders across New York during the 80’s, and left messages to prove it. The fact is we never caught him. We got close, but we never caught him. He just stopped, but now it looks like he’s back to finish ‘his work’ as he called.”
“That or a copy-cat.”
“Either way, get Rawls over here immediately.”
“Detective Rawls worked the original Hunter Killings as a junior detective. His incite will be invaluable.”
“Look O’Reily, I’m sorry to bring you into this. I had no idea this was a serial killer, let alone a veteran. It just looked so personal.”
“Don’t be, O’Reily,” Logan replied, dropping his cigarette into the thick mud below him, and stamping it out. “The Hunter may be a pro, but we’ve evolved too since the 80’s. Get Rawls, and have this building evacuated immediately … before it collapses and the Hunter scores a dozen more kills.”
Outside the building, several dozen yards away, a tall, muscular figure leans out from behind a brick wall. He licks his lips and strokes the sawed-off shotgun under his coat; grinning as he watches the little piggy’s scatter out of the building.