The Prisoner

Prologue

I’ve learned something the past couple of months. The mind is powerful. Even now, with all the science, research, and psychology we don’t understand all of it’s capabilities. When you’re inside it, truly inside it as I am, you’ll find it can be beautiful. Filled with memories and everything you’ve ever felt or experienced. Notice that I’m not talking about the brain. Like most, I thought they were one and the same. The mind is contained within the brain physically, however, it is it’s own separate entity. Seemingly limitless, free of physical constraints. Over the course of a normal life a mind grows symbiotically  normal. Storing memories and creating dreams, as well as all those nostalgic associations we seem to spend so much time chasing. A smell, a taste, a sound. A certain way the sun shines on a given day that takes us back to a childhood afternoon, free and still invincible during summer vacation. It’s a hyper reality. 

When a trauma is suffered, as I’ve recently learned, the mind has a capacity to become corrupted. It can become a nightmarish landscape of phobias, rampant emotions, and sometimes under the most dire of traumas, schisms. I realize that I’m prattling on and on as I write this to you, but, maybe this will help you understand what you’re dealing with. It’s taken almost everything I have to get this to you. Exhaustion is setting in even with this brief letter. It’ll mean hell for me if he finds out I contacted you. It’s worth the risk. If you can catch up to him, kill him, even if it means killing the both of us. He won’t stop, I don’t think he can. He’s not human. He comes from a traumatized mind. He comes from me.

Sincerely,

Andrew Solomon AKA The Prisoner

Detective O’Brian

The letter arrived on my desk yesterday courtesy of an anonymous unmarked envelope left at one of the most gruesome homicide cases I’ve ever had to investigate. It was a God awful mess. Local drug dealers, vice had been tracking them for a while. What was left of them didn’t leave a whole lot to identify. There’ll be a lot of closed caskets after we’re done forensically. We only knew who they were by the symbol embossed on the drug packets. Weird thing is, the money was gone, the dealers were dead, but the drugs were still there. This wasn’t a turf hit. The letter, stuck into the top of a severed head on a table, was the only real lead we had. Blood covered and hastily written, as if under duress. That was all we had to go on. There was no evidence. Just the letter, and a name. Who was Andrew Solomon?

Whoever he was could barely be qualified on the same spectrum as human. I’ve been at murder scenes before, this though, this was a whole new level of blood and guts. Literally. I’ve never seen or smelled so much blood in my life. It hung in the air like a coppery mist. The walls, the floors, the ceilings looked like a Pollack painting of red and dark crimson. Each room in the house was a nightmare of violence. Each victim was gutted, hollowed out, and the cavity was filled with the packets of the poison they sold. The organs were left on the floor, or in a pile next to them. Their throats were slit almost all the way through. The savagery and strength required for this brutality was staggering. One of the dealers had managed to make it to the kitchen. I don’t know what made him so special. Perhaps he was the leader of the outfit. His head held the afforementioned letter. Pinned through the top with an icepick. His body was gutted like the rest, filled with packets. His tattooed arms were were left criss-crossed on the floor. X marks the spot. This was obvioulsy an intentional calling card example. When we found him the smell of rot, organs, and blood became too much for most of us. It clung to the inside of your nose and almost became a taste. Unlike most of the responding officers, I at least made it outside before losing breakfast on the bottle and trash strewn front yard of the dealer den. Spitting and sweating I remember looking up and seeing some of the neighbors gathering on their various dilapidated stoops and porches. Whispering and pointing at the house. One older black woman called out “They dead in there?” Still fighting nausea I could only nod my head. “Good, bout damn time”, she said dryly and went back inside her small house.

A search of every crime database got me nothing. A social media search gave us a list of everyone with a matching name, and every weird variation. You’d think it’d be hard to be untraceable in this day and age. You’d be wrong. As a homicide detective a quick search of my name, Jason Deschain, will show you my years of service, my precinct, and whatever “famous” cases I’ve been a part of. This Andrew guy was a ghost in the wind as far as we were concerned. I was currently running searches on similar crime scenes. Had any precincts received any letters like this? Was anyone else looking for an Andrew Solomon? So far, nothing had hit. We dubbed it the “monster killing” and that was as far as we’d gotten. Surely a crime this visceral couldn’t be an isolated incident. Unfortunately we’d probably see this again, hopefully Solomon would stick to criminals. Either way, I’ll find him. Either way, I’ll get to the bottom of this.

Detective O’Brian’s  Personal Log Entry March 1st 2008 

Simpsonville, South Carolina February 27th 2018

Ten years, it’s been ten years since that cursed letter started unweaving the threads of my life. Damn you Andrew Solomon. I’ve exhausted every lead, every relationship, even my career chasing you, you son of a bitch. I can’t let it go, let him go. He haunts me, a faceless monster capable of so much violence. I’ve chased him through several crime scenes in just as many states. Always criminals, always leaving the same letter. I’ve collected 25 such letters over the years. Even after the department let me go for having an “unhealthy fixation” on catching Solomon. The bastards just couldn’t see it. Maybe they just didn’t care too much. He did take out their most dangerous elements before fading into the wind. Murder is still murder, and the homocide detective in me refused to let it go. I’ll catch him or die trying. It’s all that matters now.

“Come back to bed.” She lays there, naked and beautiful. Too bad the best I could do for our one night was a cheap chain hotel. The linens were clean enough. The comforter only revealed a few questionable stains. I’m sure a blacklight would make this room look like a Jackson Pollack painting. She looks at me staring at the parking lot through the dirty window. I break from my pathetic inner monologue to look at her in the light from the bathroom. She has one leg out from under the sheet. Her foot arches as she playfully wiggles her toes at me. I can’t help but notice the scar near running from her thigh to her hip. A jagged imperfection on an otherwise awe inducing leg. What’s her name again?

“Kira, um, I’m sorry. Just got lost in thought. So, what do I owe you?” Judge me if you want, a man still gets lonely. It helps with the frustration. Clears my head sometimes. Other times, like tonight, it just makes me feel as pathetic as my fiancee said the last time we talked. Regardless, what’s done is done. I’m not even sure Kira’s her real name. I do know she seems to love her work.

“Way to make a girl feel loved,” she sighs sitting up and covering herself up to her neck. I think I hurt her feelings. Why am I such a dick? Even when I try, the best I can handle is half-assed and distracted. “It’s 50 for the hour, or you can try to make it up to me for 20 more,” she drops the blanket and my budget is forgotten in the one thing that brings a sense of solace. Before I’m lost in her, my last thought was of Solomon. Always Solomon.

The Hunter

Savannah, Georgia February 27th 2014

Tracked them here. Six inside. I can smell their sins. It makes me stronger. Not much of a fight. They don’t know I’m watching, that I’m coming. They don’t know they die tonight. Took the same tour every day for a week. Scoped the whole house. Two entrances, front and side. Decorative blinds cover the windows. Keeps the tourists from seeing inside. My advantage now. Wall around property with a powered gate. No easy escape. For them. This side street dies after the tours end. Far enough away from the closest historic square. No guns, only blades. Quiet. All mine. Tonight. They die. They all die. One more hour. Dark enough then. I will wait. Prepare.

The Prisoner

I am Andrew Solomon, the prisoner. I was a regular man once. I worked a blue collar job,had a family, paid my taxes. Now I’m this shell. His prisoner. Trapped in a prison he built just for me. Fully concious, fully aware and yet, my body isn’t mine anymore. After the event he started making his presence known. Uncontrollable anger and urges undercut with a voice similiar to mine. It was inside of me at least. When I could mange sleep I’d wake up in different parts of the house. Always more tired. Muscles sore and drenched in sweat. My days were a waking nightmare of guilt and grief. I couldn’t function anymore. Work or even a simple conversation were becoming more impossible. Little by little I shrank from the world. I know now this whole time he was waiting, biding time, and building the cage I now reside in. He built it with anger and sorrow. Constructed under my nose, and me to lost in myself to notice. He made himself more amd more present as I withdrew further and further. A subconcious power switch. My first startling revelation came when I noticed how fit and toned my body was becoming. While I slept, he was building the body he needed out of my broken one. I noticed I was sleeping more and more. Stuck in the same recurring nightmare of a destroyed life. Loss like I never thought capable and a depth of despair seemingly without a bottom. The absolute misery of the waking world was a paradise compared to the horrors that assaulted me in slumber.

 The house, full of ghosts, fell into disrepair. There was no life in it. The insurance paid it off. It was just a reminder of how wrong the world had become. Go to sleep in the living room wake up in the garage. At some point a home gym showed up. I watched the weights increase week to week. I could see my body changing, matching the progression of the increase in the weights. I didn’t care at the time. I was too hollow to care. The bastard learned some other tricks as well. Sleep became blank periods of time. A sort of black solace of nothing. It was like heroin. The sleep became all I wanted. Sweet, sweet nothing. No guilt, no pain. Seductive and pacifying. The son of a bitch had already judged me weak enough to overcome without much of a fight. This unspoken cohabitation went on this way even after the water and electricity were cut off due to lack of payment. Bereavement only carries you for so long, the world moves on, if you’re not ready to come back, it moves on without you. The last memory of work I had was of some executive in the HR office squirmingly apologizing for my loss and handing me a severance check. This was life. Seclusion, sleep, and whatever the hell this new “person” in me did in my increasing lapses.

It seemed like a weird coping mechanism at first. Something my body seemed to be doing to cope with everything. Sleep to quell the emotions, working out to exhaust the body, to produce more sleep. I didn’t fight it, I didn’t want to. So much pain, so much despair. I did notice that the house had begun to smell horrible when I was awake. Like sweet and sour sauce left in a summer sun. Thick and permeating, taking over the whole house. I spent so little time bothering to be awake I barely cared enough to look. “He” must have sensed my curiosity, the next time I let myself be roused from the darkness the smell was replaced by what could have only been bleach. A lot of it. I just figured the other guy got sick of the smell himself. So, it carried on this way for a while yet.

I awoke to screaming, was I screaming? It sounded like me. Must have been having a nightmare. I was in the garage, which I was used to. The gurgling sound at my feet, however, was new. I couldn’t really see in the dark of the room. When had he spray painted the windows black? Why were my hands so damn wet and sticky? What was that smell? Like rusty metal. I remember reaching for the light switch and hearing a version of my own voice shouting “No!” My arm instantly froze halway in the air. I couldn’t move it. With a creeping horror I realized my entire body was rigid and unmoving. Standing statue still in the near pitch blackness with my wet hands and the smell of iron in my nose, completely helpless. “What are you doing awake?” I was apparently asking myself. “This is my time. You need to go back to sleep.” Fat frickin chance of that, I thought. What the hell was happening? I’m paralyzed and arguing with myself. Full throttle off the deep end shit. “It’s not your turn! You weak little shit! It’s my time!” I yelled at myself again. Okay I thought, this is obviously some kind of mental break. Relax, breathe, and move your damn arm. With my eyes closed I breathed and counted to ten. Exerting what will I could muster I strained and felt a finger or two twitch. Almost instantly my arm and the rest of me seemed to be mine again. So, I reached out and hit the light switch.

Red, red everywhere. That’s the first thing that screamed into my eyes when the light snapped on. My hands were crusty with it. My shirt was painted, the floor was slick beneath my feet. The wall next to me was splashed generously. Following the crimson trail my eyes came to rest on a crumpled pile of filthy clothes encapsulating a pitiful body on my garage floor. “Oh shit!” I jumped back slamming against the shelf behind me and slipping in the pooled blood around my feet. I remember falling hard, hard enough to lose my breath. In the fall I kicked the filthy man and he rolled on his back. The force must have pushed what little air was left in hs defunct lungs. A small geyser of blood shot from his mouth and landed ungraciously on his face. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” It was literally all I could think to say at the time. What the hell was happening? Who was the dead guy? Why was he in my garage? Did I kill him? Holy shit! Did I kill him? More and more frantically asking myself questions I had no answers to.

“I killed him.”

My voice again. Not out loud, and far more angrier than I’ve ever spoken before. My breathing seemed to steady itself. I could feel my nerves stop screaming and my muscles relax. Involuntarily I began to pick myself up off the ground. ” I told you, it’s my time. I have to finish. Go back to sleep.” With that the most surreal feeling came over me. I can only liken it to being sucked up in a straw. I felt pressure pulling me from my limbs and stopping somewhere behind the eyes. I felt small and detached from everything. Untethered from the physical world. With no mouth to use I still tried to scream. My only words were thoughts. “Scream all you want. It’s my time.” He spoke with my mouth this time to drive the point home. “You watch though, it’s time for you to see what you’ve been running from. You wanted this, you birthed me. You’ve slept and let me grow stronger and stronger. Now I’m stronger than you. None of your pathetic weaknesses, except one.” With that he reached into my pants pocket and pulled out my cigarettes. He stuck one in the corner of my mouth and used my lighter to light it. I heard him drag deep and couldn’t feel it. During this display of, I suppose, strength my fear had been steadily growing. I couldn’t feel anything, I could only see through my eyes, everything else was his.

“Now let me tell you about our little friend here.” He followed this statement with a swift kick to the corpse’s body. “I watched him, everyday for a week, watched him hunt. He’s a kid toucher. He hangs out by the bus station less than a mile from here. He sleeps outside behind it, and all day he watches and waits.” Another kick to the corpse. “Some days he would wait all day, playing the downtrodden pan handler. Then one day a boy of about 12 came to the station. He was waiting for a bus to the mall. This human garbage locked on him. Circling like a buzzard. The kid had no idea. He went to the bathroom and this parasite followed him in.” Another kick. “By the time I got in there with them he had the kid cornered, rubbing his face and telling him to just relax. I coughed and the kid looked at me with the most scared eyes. They must have been the same eyes They had that night. I yelled at him to run, and he bolted.”

“You’re asking how did I know? I was walking by the bus station getting us some exercise and I could smell it. In the air, a stink of evil and corruption.A scent of wrongness and ill intent. I followed it’s trail and it led me to him. I didn’t know what he was, only that there was something wrong. So I came everyday, like I told you earlier. When I saw what scented him to me, I knew why. Why I was created, why you can’t be allowed to stop it, why you failed. You couldn’t smell the wrongness that night. You’re weak, weak like all the others. Milling about day to day like cattle, while the predators hunt and stalk among you. You should smelled them Andrew. They’d still be here if it wasn’t for you. They’d still be here if I had been there instead.”

“Now, it’s time for me to finish. An example must be made. They need to see that a stronger predator is here, a better predator.” I see him look around for the knife he dropped when I “interrupted” him. He rolls the corpse over and finds the knife stuck to his back, held like a glue with the blood. He wraps my hand around the handle and puts the hobo on his back again. ” His hands were tools of malice. How many victims were tainted with these hands? How many innocences ripped away?” With that he puts the hand on the concrete floor and kneels down. “Never again monster,” he whispers and starts to saw through the flesh at the wrist. Blood gouts and runs on the floor as the blade saws back and forth. Steady strokes make syrupy squelching noises as the knife gets closer and closer to the floor. He puts his hand against the end of the blade and with a downward push and a scrape seperates the hand from the recently deceased body. The grotesquery is repeated on the other arm. “If thine hand offends thee.” He jokes and laughs under his breath. “Now, for the coup de gracie.” Great, this interloping psychopath has a sense of humor. Thats slightly more disturbing. He cuts the makeshift shoelace belt from around the now dessicated corpse’s waist and pulls the threadbare and worn pants down to his knees. “There’s the source of your evil, wretch. So much pain caused for such a little thing. You were a pathetic predator. Weak and powerless, subject to the whims of a broken mind corrupted and controlled by this little piece of flesh.” With no further narration he grabs the shriveled and disease “source of corruption” and deftly slices through it, removing it from the body. “This is the message, this is the lesson for all would be predators of children. If you do what this lesser monster did, you’ll choke on your own sin.” He opens the vagrant’s mouth and stuffs his amputated flacid member into it. All I remember after that is screaming with no way to make a sound until blackness and nothingness took me.

The next time I awoke I was back in the living room. With a surge of remembrance and dread I looked at my hands. Clean, perfectly normal looking. My clothes had been changed and were free of any blood. Was that a nightmare? That couldn’t have been real.It was so vivid. Had I ever had such a realistic dream before? The feelings, the smell. Surely it had to have been a dream though, right? The garage! There’s no way that could look normal if what I witnessed was real. I bolted out the back door and ran through the side door of the garage. Doubt began to set in when I saw how dark it was inside despite it being full daylight. The windows were indeed painted black. Like before I flipped on the light switch and braced for the blood drenched scene to flood my eyes again. Except it wasn’t a blood drenched scene. The floor was a freshly painted concrete gray. The walls were brilliantly clean and white. A perfectly normal garage. Shelves in their place. Not even a cobweb here or there. Meticulously cleaned and fresh. The home gym was set up and ready for use. The damn place looked better than before we moved in all those years ago. That’s impossible I thought. There’s no way. “With a little paint and some can do attitude, you can accomplish anything pardner,” he whispered in my head with a light hearted chuckle. “Go look in the toolbox on the shelf,” he sounded almost jovial. “Go look, on your own or the hard way.” This time the voice was much sterner. I moved on lead filled legs to the toolbox. My toolbox, black and yellow, dinged and scratched from my years as a facilites technician. She used to be notes in it. Little reminders of how much she loved me. They’d put little drawings in it sometimes too. Crude beautiful pictures of a stick figure man and a stick figure child holding stick figure hands. With words like I Love Daddy or Daddy Takes Me To The Park written in exquisitely sloppy crayon. How dare he use their method. How dare he-“Open it, or I’ll open it for you.” His voice now low and threatening pulls me from my memories of before. With tears of sadness and anger I reach out and pop the two latches on the front of the box. Lifting the lid and looking inside I can see the knife still caked with crimson and an overturned Polaroid picture. “Turn it over!” He hisses in my head with an almost ecstatic impatience. With a trembling hand I pick up the the plastic square and just stare at the black backing. There’s a bloddy thumbprint painted on the bottom of the white border. Who doesn’t hold the bottom and shake it to make the picture appear faster? Steeling myself I slowly overturn it to see the image and instantly drop it and shrink away.

“Pick it up you wuss! I told you to look at it, not act like a woman seeing a mouse.” I can feel  him shift in my head, like a snake uncoiling. “Look at it, or I’ll make you look.” Another threat, another demand. It was getting tiring. He must have sensed my impatience and annoyance. He laughed, this time heartily. Echoing the peals of it through my mind. ” Do something pussy.” Then more laughter.

In a fit of defiant madness I remember grabbing the stained knife. “I’m not gonna be this! Some deranged homicidal lunatic.” I shouted at the empty garage. ” I don’t know what the hell is happening to me, but, I’m not gonna do this crazy shit! I’ll end it right here, right now! They’re gone anyway. I have zero reason to be here anymore. I’ll take you, whoever the hell you are, with me!” I placed the cold crusty blade against my wrist and paused. That was the end. That was the moment everything changed. That one pause, just long enough to work up the will to do something, left me open and vulnerable.

“Enough of this,” he said almost bored. That straw sucking sensation again. Quicker and more forceful than before ripped me from myself. Disembodied and floating behind my eyes once more. “Your time is done. I made something for you. Built it after the last little snafu. I gave you one more chance to just accept me amd leave me be, maybe even join in on my little crusade. God knows you should understand what must be done. But, you’re as pathetic now as you were then. Worse even, I’ve built a better body and imbued us with something better than almost everyone in the world has. I can actually sense real evil. I can root it out like a diseased truffle. Together we could find and kill the monsters before what was done to us can happen again. You though, you’d rather just quit or hide in sleep. You make me sick! So I have no choice, you won’t stop me. You can’t stop me. I’ve made you a cage. There’s no room for two of us in this body. There’s room in the mind though. Endless room in the mind. You’re gonna take up a tiny space. A space you can’t interfere in. Safe and locked away. You’re gonna watch everything I do until you understand. You’re gonna see everything until you can join me in our mission.”

In an instant he was standing before me. Looming over me. His strong hands shot out at lightning speed and wrenched my by the arms. Helpless against his ferocity and strength he threw me backwards. I felt bars slam into my back and head. Stunned and reeling I sank to my knees. The ground beneath me was black. The space we occupied, wherever the hell we were, was black. I lifted my head and the onlt thing visible was his outline. A deep crimson silhouette, the edges of it seemed to dance and shimmer. “Here’s the deal Andrew, I can’t let you do that again. The risk is too great. My mission is clear, my path set. Can’t have you running around trying to kill us or turning us into the fuzz lil buddy.” With each word the silhouette flashed brighter. “I’m gonna keep you here, safe and sound in the black nothingness you so seem to crave. It’s a cage, pardner, this is where you live now. Out of sight out of mind, or in your case locked in it.” With that he rasied his arms and a dim light illuminated what he had thrown me against. It was a cell, I had come to rest abruptly at the back of it. It was about the size of the garage. The only provision was a cot with a blanket and a pillow.The bars looked to be made of sinew and nerves hardened and unmoving. The door was open and he stood in the gap.

I scrambled to what I could only guess were my feet in this place and made a dash for the door. I’d go through him if I had to. He just laughed as if he heard my thought. When I had made it almost to the doorway he rushed forward, unnaturally fast, and grabbed me by the throat. I had zero chance of a reaction time. ” Now now Andrew, you should know better by now. I told you I’m stronger in every way. Let’s just get this over with.” He threw me like a ragdoll and I was once again thrown to the back of the cell. He walked out of the cell and turned to face me again. In a jovial tone he called out. “Close cell 1,” and then wrapped his red ringed hands around the bars. “Lights out pardner.” Instantly everything was thrown into darkness. A darkness almost incomprehensible to fully process. I felt along on my hands and knees until I found the cot. I crawled into the cot and curled up afraid and feeling sorry for myself. That was ten years ago.

Chapter 2

Detective O’Brian

March 12th 2014

Savannah. Sluggish in the off season. Without the hustle and bustle of noisy tourists eager to be seperated from their vacation savings it’s just like any old coastal town. The buildings seem dingier and the residents seem to be saving their happy faces for the warmer months. I got the idea to come here from a tip on the blog I created to help chase this monster. The subscriptions covered just enough to keep the chase up. I’m sure the tension relief method would be frowned upon, none of the girls had squealed yet though. I arrived on a Tuesday evening and had found a tavern empty enough of patrons to set up the laptop and see what local new sources had to say about the recent unpleasantness visited upon them.

In the dim light of the bar I leaned towards the screen and first updated the blog about my arrival in town. Almost instantly a notification popped up asking where in town I was. It was the same subscriber who’d given me the initial tip. I replied with the tavern name. The only server working came to the table and asked if I actually wanted anything. I ordered a Black and Tan without looking up and rolled my eyes at the snort she gave before walking to the bar. I didn’t realize we were supposed to be friends. I always was known for my people skills.

Another notification popped up and I had to chuckle at the screen name. KllrHntrFan was the clever moniker. Nice touch. The massage said simply, “Don’t leave. See you soon. Look for the roses.” That was it. What sort of noir bs had they been reading. Eh, seemed harmless enough and I’ve met and worked with subscribers before, most were kooky wit too much time and money on their hands, but, they’d all been harmless, if not a little foil hattish. Either way, I had sources to check and a glass now making it’s way towards me full of Irish goodness in the hands of the snorting waitress. I can entertain KllrHnterFan for at least a little while. The glass gets plunked on the wooden table without a word or a snort. I mumble a quick “Thank you.” It was answered by an even less enthusiastic “Welcome.” Good, rapport reestablished.

The local rags ran a story about a multiple homicide in one of the historic neighborhoods. No trace of the killer to be found, per usual. However, there was evidence left behind to implicate the victims were part of a human trafficking ring. Pictures and ledgers showing that the local port was used to smuggle women and children to and from the Carribean.  I smiled in spite of myself. The psycho at least never deviated. How many monsters had he exposed now? So many, in so many places. You’re better at destroying monsters than we ever were aren’t you Andrew? You murderous son of a bitch.

Murder isn’t justice though. The part of me that was still a detective believed that. Half my damn subscribers actually argued that he a necessary evil and if I ever caught up with him, to actually join him, or just interview him and let him go. Sometimes I actually entertained that idea. He’d stopped some gnarly shit wherever he’d landed. Would it be so bad to let him keep going? No, what if he inspired others? I’m not 100% sure he hadn’t. There had to at least been at least one, right? The rule of law had to stand. Without it there’d be chaos. Vigilantes only work in comic books. This was the real world. It couldn’t continue. Even if no one with a badge wanted to listen to me and connect the dots. I don’t think the cops or the feds wanted him to stop either. If he was killing the good people of this country they’d spare no expense to catch and stop him. But, they haven’t. I’m truly on a one man crusade. So, what’s my damage?

While navel gazing these deep points I hear the bell over the door ring. Looking up from my beer and contemplation I see the newest vistor to this sad empty bar. I lock eyes with a striking blonde with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Her classic beauty came right out of a noir story. Of all the gin joints in all the world type of shit. I measured her up and down. 5’7″ give or take with an athletic build. Wearing a knee length pea coat and a purple dress with a black lace pattern of roses embroidered from the waist up. Fishnet stockings encasing an exquisite pair of legs ending in a pair of black combat boots. A punk rock goddess if ever there was such a thing. My stomach fluttered as I remembered the message earlier. Look for the roses. Please God, let those be the roses. I don’t ask for much.

She looks back at me sitting at the old table with my computer open and quite likely drooling at this point. With a quick nod of her head she briskly walks over and sits across from me. With a silent prayer of thanks I close the laptop and attempt a suave introduction. “Hi there, I’m-“

“Patrick O’Brian. I’m Cassandra Morgan. Pleasure to meet you. You know me as KllrHntrFn. I’ve been following you for four years now. I’m pretty sure our guy was here!” The excitement danced across her face making those eyes sparkle. I was in love. Or whatever you call loneliness with a rush of instant lust and infatuation crashing together. She reaches across the table and grabs my wrist. “He was here! I just know it Detective. Can I call you Detective?” She smiles and never drops eye contact. Disarmingly gorgeous and enthusiastic, she could call me whatever the hell she wanted at that point. 

“Patrick is fine, uh, Cassandra is it?,” I stammer with all the machismo of a 12 year old kid.

“Just Cass. Cass works for me. So, do you want to go see the crime scene?”

“I’m not an officer anymore, I can’t gain access like I used to.” I explain with a trace of that bitterness that never fully allows itself to be swallowed.

“No Patrick, I know one of the cops who worked the initial call. He’s a subscriber too. The M.O. matched the scenes you’ve described on the site. He said if you actually came, he’d get us inside! You came so… let’s go!” She gets up from the table and pays for my drink at the bar and waves at me to get a move on.

Excitement welled up inside me. A legitimate crime scene tour! It had been years. Early on, even after being pushed out of the force, I could still get some sympathetic or naive uniform to let me in and poke around. After a while I must have deemed persona non grata and entry was always barred. I swear law enforcement was more on the lookout for me turning up than Solomon. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d broken into more than one crime scene over the years. I’d know immediately if it was him, even after a site had been processed. His style was distinct. I had ruled out 5 or 6 over the years as either a cheap knockoff or just violence that usually follows the monsters among us. Andrew was a distinct animal with a signature touch of carnage.

Shoving my laptop hastily into it’s case I got up and met Cass at the door. “Do you want me to follow you, car’s just up the road.” I opened the door for her and we walked into the chilly salty Savannah night.

“No we’ll take my car. It’ll be quicker and I know it sounds weird, but, I can’t wait to see his work firsthand.” She grabbed my hand and drug me toward a newish black BMW. The lights blinked and the interior lights came on as we approached the car. Girl’s got some dough, I thought to myslef. “Come on Pat, throw your stuff in the backseat and let’s roll.” With that she got in the driver’s side.

“Yeah, but, my clothes and stuff are in my car. I can’t just leave it all.” I feebly protest from the open passenger side door.

“This town is dead until April. Your stuff will be there. Let’s go! Get in.” Her eyes betray a hint of impatience, and her face scrunches up a little and that love, lust, whatever the hell you wanna call it deepens. With a resigned sigh I get in the passenger seat and we’re off with barely enough time to close the door. Into the night and towards the aftermath of another Andrew Solomon symphony of death.

Andrew Solomon/The Hunter

Savannah, Georgia February 27th 2014

He’s gotten better at this. More efficient. More imaginative. I don’t need to see the hotel bathroom mirror to know that I’m covered in his work from head to toe. My clothes and skin feel tight and my movements make either squishy or crackling sounds. Blood and snot and God knows what else has made me a living canvas of their “punishment”. How bad is it that I don’t even react anymore? This sight is as familiar now as the sun or the moon in the sky. The crazy bastard is resting for now, not asleep, just resting. He has learned me as well. He never fully goes away. After the first time I tried to go the cops, and the first time I tried to kill both of us. Always under the surface, waiting to take the driver’s seat. The only time I’m really me is for a few minutes after he cleanses the world or whatever the hell he calls it. I get about five minutes of full control while he catches his breath. Not long enough to do much but scrawl another note. Surely someone is looking for us. They have to be. There’s been close calls before, almost liberation.

The closest was a traffic stop in the upstate area of South Carolina. We were travelling between some podunk stretch of back road between Anderson and Greenwood. Someone forgot to tell the town it had died decades ago. A defunct rail line and some ramshackle houses were the only remnants of what was once I’m sure was a bustling little town. He had just taken care of a local meth dealer in Spartanburg who used his kids to transport his poison throughout the area. Thank God the kids weren’t home to see any of it. That one was rough. He begged and pleaded, he even offered us all the money and drugs he had in the house. He was hollowed out and his chest cavity was stuffed with the drugs that had taken the place of his children. A heart transplant I believe was the intended imagery. His eyes were replaced with rolled up wads of bills to show what blinded him. Anatomical poetry and so on.

The local deputy who pulled us over had no idea the monster he was approaching. “License and registration please sir.” He leaned into the window and looked us in the eyes. The reigns were passed to me, albeit tentatively. “Get rid of him quickly, don’t try anything cute.” My better half whispered. “Sure thing officer, one second.” I responded reaching for our wallet. I gave him the license of Ronald Summers. A fake made by a forger who thought making us a good one would spare him. He’s dead now. The officer took the ID and the forged registration and went back to his car to do the regular checks. “He’ll let us go with a ticket or a warning, calm down and let me handle this.” “I don’t hurt cops, don’t get your panties in a wad, we have places to go is all buddy boy.” I do so love our little talks. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel and watched the cop from the rearview mirror. After a few minutes he got out and came back to the window with his clipboard and our documents in hand.

” Do you know why I pulled you over today?”

“Not sure officer, were we-was I speeding?” Damn, mistake number one. I felt a warning flash of anger impatience pulse behind my eyes. I’d pay for that later.

“I know these little towns don’t mean a whole helluva lot to people passin’ through, but, we post speed limits for a reason. Yes, to answer your question, you were definitely speeding. The speed limits change a lot round here, I get that, but, you’ve got to at least try to acknowledge them. Aside from that, what’s this we you’re talking about? I only see one of you. Have you been drinking or other such activities today sir?”

Shit, shit, shit! “No officer, just tired from driving all day.” Please let that be enough.

“Uh huh, well, I’m gonna need you to step out of the car for me sir.” He backed away from the door with his hand on his holster, giving me enough to space to open the door and join him on the side of the road. “Alright sir, I’m gonna need you to spread your ams out and tilt your head back for me.” I did as instructed. “Good, now I’m gonna need you to touch the tip of your nose with the tip of your finger sir.” Easy breezy the task was done. Surely that sealed it and we could move on. “Good sir, now if you follow me to the rear of the vehicle.” What now? Our nerves started pinging, the “instruments” were stored in the trunk. We’d never been this close to caught before. I could feel him coiling like a spring inside me. Would he really hurt an innocent? “I told you I wouldn’t! Just keep it cool.” He hissed. I wasn’t sure though, he was wound so tight.

“Alright sir, what I want you to do for me is walk heel to toe to the front of your vehicle and come back.” Relief rolled over us and the heel toe boogie was completed with zero error. The officer handed us back the license and registration and wrote on his notebook for a minute. “I’m giving you a speeding ticket for going 55 in a 45. The instructions on paying it are on the ticket, or, you can ask for a court date to dispute it. Also, I suggest if you’re that tired find a hotel up the road and get some rest. You have a nice day now and slow down.” With that he handed us the ticket and turned back towards his car. Our knees went watery and we crawled along the length of the car and fell into the driver’s seat. I was instantly drawn back up and he came forward. He waved to the cop when he drove past us and then sat there.

Anger flashed and radiated through every inch of our body. “Stupid mistake, why did I think you’d handle it better? Useless little worm, you almost ruined everything with just a word! How did you even survive before me? Jesus, you’re a simpleton. Stay up there for now. Don’t speak, I’m getting us out of here.” With that he slammed the car into drive and we were on our way out of South Carolina and into the Peach State. He stopped only once, at some park called Hartwell on the border between both states. “No more travelling with the kit, we’ll just get a new one at each stop from now on.” With that he emptied the trunk and put everything in a backpack and we hiked around the perimeter of the lake with the park’s name. When he was comfortable no one could see us he hurled the backpack into the water where it disappeared from view, safely beneath the water. From that day on I was pretty much relegated to the cage.