A collection of horror, mystery, and science fiction tales, with contributions from fellow writers, James Darko and Dexter Lynch. If you wish to contribute, I'd be happy to showcase your writing. Just send me a message. The stories are free to read and always will be. Some are better than others (I'm speaking only for myself), but I can't give all my best ideas away for free, ha ha. Feel free to share any stories, but please be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
VULTURE (A Wes Archer Story)
second installment in the Wes Archer series)
Monday, October 22, 2012.
The smell of fried eggs and sizzling bacon caught Roger
Farinella’s nose. He rose from his bed and drifted downstairs to the kitchen,
his feet floating almost weightlessly off the ground like one of those old
Disney movies where the character smells pie cooling on a windowsill. Although
Roger was no Disney character and floating weightlessly is quite an
exaggeration, especially when you consider that Roger was pushing three-hundred
and fifty pounds.
In the kitchen, Margret “Marge” Farinella worked busily
over the hot stove, flipping the eggs and making sure the bacon didn’t get too
crispy in the oven below. There was fresh juice waiting for him on the table
beside his morning newspaper. But coffee was what Roger was really craving.
He grabbed his favorite coffee mug–it had The Beatles
printed on one side and a picture from the Abbey Road album printed on the
other–and poured a fresh cup from the steaming pot.
He sat, unfolding his paper and reading while he sipped
his coffee and tried not to drool over the wafting smell of the bacon. As he
reviewed his Daggett Corp stock options, he noticed that Francis was absent
from the table.
“Where’s that lazy, no-good son of mine?” Roger asked as
Marge set a fresh plate off eggs, bacon, and sausage in front of him.
“If he’s not parked in front of his laptop, he’s probably
parked in front of the television.”
“If it weren’t for us he wouldn’t even have that TV, that
laptop, or that Xbox. All I ask is that we eat breakfast and dinner together at
the table like a normal family. Is that too much to ask for? He’s not getting
off that easy, not today. I’m going to drag his lazy butt down here. He’ll live
without Xbox for ten minutes.”
When you think computer nerd, you don’t picture a
quarterback. You think of someone living in their mom’s basement, playing World
of Warcraft for forty-eight consecutive hours while funneling Cheetos into his
mouth. But Francis Farinella was tall and lean, and the damage of puberty had
eluded him. No pockmarks or acne breakouts.
“Boy,” Roger called from the doorway as Francis’ fingers
moved crazily across the controller, striking every button in rapid succession.
“It’s time for breakfast. Show me and your mother some respect and join us in
“Five minutes, dad,” Francis opposed. “I just need to
finish this level."
“I’ve had enough of this crap. All you do is sit around,
eat Twizzlers and play Grand Theft Auto 5.”
“I don’t eat that
many Twizzlers,” Francis got defensive, and then suddenly changed his
attitude. “But if you’re going shopping soon, we should stock up on more
Twizzlers. In case there’s a blizzard.”
“It’s October, Francis.”
“Or in case I get hungry.”
“Downstairs now before I yank that frigging cord out of
“Alright, alright, let me just save the game and I’ll
come down,” he caved. Then he added, “Oh, if it’s cool with you, I have a girl
coming over for dinner tonight.”
“A girl?” Roger smiled, his stern demeanor vanishing.
“What is it, like a date?”
“Yeah, I guess you can call it that,” Francis said,
blushing. “It’s just this girl from school. Her name’s Alicia. You’ll love her.
I can’t promise the same for mom.”
* * *
seven o’clock, the bell rang and Margret Farinella held the door open for a
slim blond in black spandex pants, running shoes, and a turquoise crop top. Her
twilight blue eyes reflected everything, and were so clear it was as if you
could gaze right into her very soul. But her impressive figure and expressive
blue eyes were not enough to woo Marge.
“Hello, Mrs. Farinella,” she smiled, trying to be
benevolent. “I’m Alicia Bates.”
“Mm hmm,” Marge grumbled through gritted teeth. “Come in
and make yourself at home. I’m sure you will.”
“I’m so glad you came,” Francis said, smiling like a dope
as he first approached Alicia. He directed her to the kitchen and trying to
play the role of the gentleman, pulled her chair out for her and pushed it in
when she took a seat.
Roger was already seated and nervously sipping his
brandy, which he drank every evening at dinner. He was pleased at the sight of
his son’s guest, but he knew his wife couldn’t say the same. And he knew this
wasn’t going to end well.
and Alicia were not old enough to drink, so Francis fetched an open bottle of
Pepsi and poured two glasses. At Marge’s request, he poured a third for her as
she did not drink alcohol either.
took four plates and served the first round of lasagna, along with a side of
salad, which the guy’s barely touched. Alicia seemed to be the only one
“This is delicious,” Alicia said, still trying to get on
Marge’s good side.
“Thank you,” Marge said, sipping her wine, seeing right
through Alicia’s attempt to get into her good graces. “Have you ever made
“This is the first time I’ve ever had lasagna I think.”
“But you do cook, right?”
“Oh yeah, I always make the mashed potatoes on
Thanksgiving. It’s so easy; you just melt some butter and mix the flakes from
the box in a pot with some milk.”
“No I mean do you really cook? Have you ever made pasta
before, or meatloaf, eggplant parmesan, tuna casserole?”
Roger and Francis both had that same reticent look on
their faces. They were both watching a car wreck in slow motion and neither man
was capable of warning the two drivers of the horrific collision that was about
Roger finished his brandy and poured another glass. He
was feeling a bit woozy, which was unusual for a man his size. But for a dinner
like this, he needed all the booze he could stomach.
“So I take it you don’t cook,” Marge sighed. “Do you
clean at least?”
“You mean like clean my plate after I’m done eating?”
Alicia took a sip of her Pepsi, which tasted flat and stale.
“No I mean sweep, mop, dust, vacuum, do laundry, make
your own bed, take out the trash.”
“Taking out the garbage is a man’s job, not a woman’s.”
“Is that so?” Marge said, her face getting redder. It was
then Francis noted his mom’s fingers were clenched, her nails digging into the
tablecloth. “So you don’t cook, you don’t clean, you don’t bake… do you sew?”
“My mom tried to show me how to once, but I could never
get the hang of it.”
“So what is it you do exactly?” Marge continued her
“This really is delicious, mom,” Francis interrupted,
trying to provide a distraction.
“I like jogging,” Alicia said. “And I love my phone apps.
I can’t live without them.”
The doorbell rang and both Roger and Francis couldn’t
help but sigh. Saved by the bell, they thought. “Who on earth could that be?”
“I’ll see who it is,” Roger said, excusing himself from
the table. He was getting dizzier and clutching at his left temple as he walked
from the kitchen. Francis was doing the same. His temples were throbbing and he
felt like he was on the verge of keeling over.
As Alicia helped herself to more lasagna, Marge leaned
over to Francis and whispered, “Get this girl out of my kitchen before I throw
acid in her face.”
“She’ll be gone soon,” Francis whispered back. “Do you
feel ok? I don’t feel so hot.”
“Now that you mention it, I do feel a little dizzy. I
think it’s just a headache from your new girlfriend here.”
the foyer came a bloodcurdling scream that made Alicia drop her plate of
lasagna. Her twilight eyes bulged as the deliveryman stepped out from the
shadows of the dimly lit foyer, his brown uniform glistening with blood.
Archer’s black Jeep Cherokee hugged the curbs of every sidewalk as he sped like
a maniac on the vacant back-roads of Carter City. Meticulously carved
Jack-’o-lanterns sat on the doorsteps of every house they glided past.
Halloween was right around the corner. And Wes knew better than anyone else
that a night like Halloween drags out all the crazies.
“Slow down,” Dale Craven chided. “You might get a
ticket.” Dale was in the shotgun seat, fussing over the daily crossword puzzle.
“Everyone’s a comedian,” Wes muttered under his breath.
He cut a sharp left onto Main Street without signaling,
almost clipping the side of a minivan in the process.
“That was a close one,” Dale sighed. “Hey, what’s a ten
letter word for madam?”
“Palindrome,” Archer replied after a moment of silent
“It fits,” Dale said as he scribbled the ten letters into
the empty letters boxes.
The Jeep is Archer’s private ride. The Carter City Police
Department offers a patrol car, but Wes prefers his own set of wheels.
“Did Morris say how many bodies?” Archer asked.
“Four,” Dale replied.
There were two officers posted outside the door when they
pulled up to the scene. Several more officers were camped around the lawn,
holding the reporters and curious neighbors at bay. One officer ordered the
crowd to step aside as they cleared a path for Archer and Craven.
an eight letter word for slaughterhouse?” Dale asked as they stepped beyond the
threshold of the doorway. Archer stepped carefully, mindful of the trail of
blood that extended from the foyer and into the kitchen, where the bodies of all
four victims were neatly arranged around the table as if nothing had ever
“This girl was the main target. Her eyes were plucked
straight from the sockets. I’ve seen this before. He’s claimed souls up and
down the east coast. But he’s never crossed over into Carter City before.”
“Who are you talking about?”
“They don’t know his real name. The media dubbed him The
Vulture because of his proclivity to prey on the weak and vulnerable. He rarely
targets men, but if he does he always has the height and weight advantage, or
at least the height. Looking at the husband in this case, I can’t say for sure
if he had the weight advantage. And he always takes the eyes of one victim,
“Why the eyes? Is it a trophy thing?”
“Could be. Or it could be something more profound. This
guy doesn’t seem like your standard CSI:
Miami serial killer. He doesn’t leave clues, he doesn’t play games. He
shows up, people die, and then he’s a ghost. If we don’t catch him, he’ll just
move on to another town, another state.”
“But you won’t let that happen?”
“Not if we can help it.”
a tape recorder from the breast pocket of his leather jacket, pressed the
record button, and started taking notes. “Adult male victim has multiple
contusions and abrasions. The trail of blood that follows the body indicates
the husband was killed in the foyer and then dragged into the kitchen and placed
around the table with the other victims.
female victim his multiple lacerations to the face and neck. It appears as if
one of the cuts nicked her jugular. She bled out fast, probably was the first
or second to die. Male teenage victim has multiple stab wounds to the face and
chest. Cause of death undetermined at the moment, but it’s likely that he bled
out or that one of the stabs punctured a vital organ.
female teenage victim was probably the last to die. Her hands were bound with
rope behind the chair to keep her restrained. Her eyes have been excised from
the sockets with a sharp object, most likely a scalpel. However, there doesn’t
seem to be another mark on her.”
got reports coming in that a flower truck was found abandoned less than five
miles from here. The driver, Paul Stein, was found stashed in the back. His
throat was sliced from ear-to-ear.” Dale finished speaking and waited for
forensics do their thing for now. If they turn up anything useful, they’ll
contact us. But I kindly doubt it. This is a man who covers his tracks. As for
the truck, at least we know part of our killer’s M.O. He likes to pose as
deliverymen. Find out what kind of truck it was and see what you can learn anything
from the company it came from. But first, find me a cup of coffee with a touch
of bourbon in it.”
* * *
Tuesday, October 23, 2012.
Archer arrived early at the station that morning to find
that Dale had already beaten him there.
“We got no evidence. No prints, no fibers, no hair or DNA
samples, no witnesses either. This guy showed up, cleaned house, and vanished
in the blink of an eye. And all the prints found inside the abandoned delivery
truck belonged to Paul Stein.”
Archer knew this already. He anticipated that forensics would find no tangible
evidence at the scene. This was not the work of a sloppy amateur or some
deranged, senseless lunatic. This was the calling card of a highly-organized
psychopath. A meticulous killer who takes pride in his craft.
about the truck?” Archer inquired.
UPS truck. The company was no help. They forwarded Stein’s record, it’s clean.
Other than that, nothing to report.”
the names of all the victims in order?”
First we have Roger Farinella, forty-two years old, a periodontist who made a
few wise investments in the stock market. Margret Farinella, forty-one years
old, hairdresser from Staten Island who moved to Carter City after her and
Roger were married. Francis Farinella, son, age seventeen, just eight months
shy from graduating high school. And Alicia Bates or the main target as you
called her. Seventeen years old, member of the cheerleader squad, dad owns a
small business and her mom is a nurse.”
the girl’s parents been notified?”
taken care of. So what’s our next move?”
a medical supply store, not too far from here. I want to check it out.
Coroner’s report said a scalpel was the likely murder weapon used in this case.
Let’s see what we can find there.”
* * *
Medical Supply Plus was ten minutes from the station and
Craven was polite enough to offer to drive. Actually, he just didn’t want to be
in a vehicle with a madman like Archer behind the wheel.
Jimmy Ross, the store’s owner, was happy to help.
Unfortunately his information wasn’t that useful.
“I haven’t sold a scalpel in months,” Jimmy assured them.
“But I can tell you that nobody buys anything from a store like this without a
proper medical ID or license. It just doesn’t happen.”
“Has anything ever been stolen?” Archer asked.
“I’ve been running this place for fifteen years and I
can’t recall a thing being stolen. I’ve never had to call the police once. In
fact, this is probably the first time the police have ever been inside here
“Is there anything else you might be able to tell us that
could help? Anything at all?”
“I can tell you that trying to trace the sale of one
particular scalpel would be like finding a needle in a haystack. But now that
you mention all this, I can remember a few months ago that Benchley Memorial
reported a bunch of surgical equipment stolen from their ER.”
“Benchley Memorial? Are you sure?”
“Positive. It’s just twenty minutes from here. You go
“I know where it is,” Archer cut him off. “Thanks for
your help, sir. Have a good afternoon.”
As they walked to Dale’s car, Archer told him the next
step. “You’re going to drop me back at the station so I can pick up my Jeep.
Then you’re going to drive out to Benchley and see what the staff knows.”
“And what are you going to be doing while I’m out there
busting my ass?” Craven wondered.
“I’m going to see somebody who might be able to help us
“Your snitch, Toad?”
“Not Toad. Ray Frye. He’s a friend of mine. He works down
at the morgue. I bet he can fill me in a few details he picked up that Pete
didn’t. Ray’s like me; he’s got good eyes when it comes to this sort of thing.”
“Whatever you say,” Craven rolled his eyes. “As long as I
don’t have to go with you. That dude gives me the creeps.”
* * *
Ray Frye is an old friend of Archer’s from his high
school days. As an adult, Archer thought his job was morbid until he learned
Ray was spending his days with dead people in the morgue. He was an assistant,
but often helped the coroner with his reports.
Archer swung by his apartment at two o’clock and found
“Tuesday’s are my day off,” Ray said, nodding for Wes to
enter. Archer wiped his boots and stepped inside. Ray offered him a beer, which
Archer gratefully accepted. “So what brings you here?” Ray asked as they clanked
their beers together, toasting nothing in particular.
“That’s one hell of a case. I can imagine you have your
“Your imagination is accurate. So what can you tell me?”
“I can tell you that the girl’s eyes were removed with
extreme surgical precision. In other words, the guy knew what he was doing. The
lids were sliced off, but he managed to remove the eyes without damaging the
orbital sockets or perforating the epidermis.”
“And this means?”
“A skilled and steady head did this. You’d have to
practically be a surgeon to pull something like that off.”
“So our killer could be a doctor or a surgeon?”
“Or a doctor in training, a premed student perhaps. Or
maybe it was somebody who flunked out of med school and is trying to prove a
“One hell of a way to prove your point.”
“Extreme always seems to get people’s attention, doesn’t
“I concur. Anything else you could tell me?”
“The toxicology reports have already been shipped to the
station, but if you don’t know this already, all four victims were drugged. Ambien
was found in their systems, it’s a common sleeping aid for insomniacs.”
“Drugged? The killer couldn’t have pulled that off
unless… unless he got inside the house hours before he killed them. How else,
right? I mean Ambien isn’t something you can inject.”
“No, but you can grind it up and put it in somebody’s
“That son of a bitch... he knew what they were going to
be drinking that night. He could’ve been watching them for days, weeks.”
“What are going to do, Wes?”
“I’m going to find him before he pegs his next victim.”
* * *
Archer and Craven rendezvoused back at the station and
Archer gave him the rundown on the Ambien and his theory that the killer might
be a doctor, or at least is under the impression that he is one. Then it was
“One month ago, a guy came in to Benchley Memorial with a
fake ID, trying to pass himself off as a new member of the staff. He used the
alias Patrick Bateman. None of the employees were able to give me a solid
description. Those that were there the night in question said he appeared
average, not a face you’d remember.”
“So all we have is an alias and a description of an
average white male with no face. We’ve nothing again.”
“I’ll give this fucker credit; he knows how to cover his
“He’s good. Too good. But even the best make mistakes.
He’ll slip up, and when he does we’ll be there to catch him.”
“You sound confident.”
“I’m not confident. I’m pissed off. This is my city and
I’m not going to let this sadistic freak turn it into his own personal
“You mean slay-ground,” Craven quipped and Archer rolled
“Very clever. Give yourself a pat on the back and a slap
on the face.”
“Hey, did you see the morning paper? William Dagget
croaked and his company’s stock is soaring. Most CEO’s die and their stocks go
down. Dagget dies and their stocks go up.”
“You’re surprised? People hated Dagget. He was running
that company into the ground.”
“I don’t even know what the company does,” Dale said and
“Oh,” Craven said, sipping his fourth coffee of the day.
“So you want to start running background checks on local doctors to see if your
little theory checks out?”
“Not just yet,” Archer shook his head. “Besides, I have a
feeling our guy is not a local. He’s never hit Carter City before until now.
That was his one mistake. Now he’s here and I’m not going to let him escape.”
“You sound obsessed.”
“Possession and obsession are very different things. When
I work I case like this, I become almost possessed. A new side of me begins to
show, a darker side. That’s what I rely on when dealing with scum like the
“I hope it pays off for us. In the meantime, what do you
want to do? Sit on our hands and wait for him to kill again?”
“We’ve got units cruising every neighborhood and
undercover cars trailing all UPS trucks twenty-four-seven. What else can we
“I don’t know, but that reminds me… Lieutenant Morris
wants to see you again.”
“Well, there’s nothing I can do about that,” Archer
sighed. “Time to face the music.”
“What’d you do now?” Craven asked.
“Nothing that I know of. But Morris will find something
to yell at me about.”
* * *
Many were squeamish in the presence of Lieutenant Mitch
Morris. But not Weston Archer. Wes was accustomed to Mitch’s grotesque
appearance and didn’t so much as bat an eye when looking at him. Morris had
received many scars in the line of duty, and he wore each scar like a badge of
“The people of Carter City are afraid,” Morris said in a
quiet, almost somber tone. “The governor is already talking about cancelling
Halloween so the kids will be safe. This is the last thing our city needs right
now. The last things our department needs too.”
“Aren’t you going to yell at me?” Archer asked, confused.
“You’ve been good lately. I can tell you’re not using.
You’ve passed all your drug tests with flying colors. It wouldn’t hurt if you lay
off the booze a little though. Internal Affairs is pleased with your work in
the Vanacore case. And so am I. That’s why I assigned you this case. Don’t let
this city down, Wes.”
“We won’t disappoint you, Mitch. Anything else?”
“Yes, I got a call from an old friend the other day. Your
father. He asked about you.”
“You’re pulling my leg.”
“Honest. He really did ask about you. You should visit
him, Wes. It wouldn’t hurt. He’s sixty-four years old. He’s a retired, lonely
old man who could use some company. I’m going to be that man one day. And that
thought scares the shit out of me. Visit him, Wes. For me.”
“I’ll think about it,” Archer sighed and got up to
Wednesday, October 24, 2012.
At eighteen years old, Leah Marshall was still a virgin,
even orally. Some laughed at her decision, but it was her choice. Leah didn’t
see the point in giving it up for some brainless jock or some superficial jerk
that didn’t love or appreciate her for who she really was.
Leah was a short sandy blond with cornflower blue eyes
that could make you melt like putty in her hands. There was a question as to why
she was still a virgin at her age when with a body and a face like that she
could have any man she desired. But for Leah, pride and dignity come before
lust and desire.
Leah’s father, Trevor Marshall still insisted on driving
her to school every day. He was her guardian angel. With her mother gone,
nothing was going to happen to his little girl. Not while he still had a breath
in his body.
Trevor had a naughty habit of oversleeping and it was
often Leah’s job to wake him up. In addition to that, she cleaned, cooked, did
laundry, and made a fresh pot of coffee every morning. Sometimes she wondered
if he was looking after her or if it was the other way around.
That morning was no different than any other. She filled
the coffee machine with grinds and water and set a medium flame on the stove to
fry up some eggs. She also poured to fresh glasses of OJ and woke her father up
so he could shower and get dressed for work.
At the table, Trevor alternated between his coffee and
orange juice as he browsed through the morning paper. He didn’t seem too
interested in the articles. The stock page was really what caught his eye.
Leah made a cheddar omelette and started cooking up a few
pancakes for herself. The doorbell rang and Leah turned, furrowed her brow.
“Expecting someone?” she asked, assuming had invited a
lady over without her permission, something they agreed to discuss after her
“Don’t look at me,” Trevor shrugged. “I didn’t invite
Leah peered out the kitchen window. From the angle, she
couldn’t quite see a face. But she could make out the uniform.
“It’s the postman.”
“What could he want? A tip? I take care of him every
“Maybe he needs you to sign for a package. Go see.”
Trevor stood up and it felt the blood rush to his head.
He was dizzy, wobbly on his feet. “Are you all right, dad?”
“Yes,” Trevor assured her. “I must’ve stood up too fast.
Let me see what this guy wants.”
* * *
“Tim Noodle is missing,” Dale Craven said as Wes drove to
the latest scene.
“Who the hell is Tim Noodle?"
“He’s a writer for the Carter City Chronicle. He’s also
one of the five largest shareholdersof
Dagget Corp. Guess who one of the other five was? Roger Farinella.”
“Are you suggesting this has something to do with Dagget
Corp or with William Dagget himself?”
no. That would be absurd. His son James identified the body at the morgue. The
funeral is Friday, no wake. Just a funeral service followed by his burial.”
thinking someone else is trying to acquire these shares. Maybe it’s the
Vulture. Or maybe someone is helping him.”
maybe someone is using his M.O. to throw us off.”
many maybes give me a fucking headache. Let’s just save the chitchat for the
the coroner was already on the scene when they arrived. And a gruesome scene it
was. The Vulture seemed to step it up a notch in terms of brutality.
was hunched over, hand over his mouth as he stared in disbelief at the raw,
skinless body that lay on the carpet in front of him. Poor Leah Marshall had
suffered the same horrible fate as Alicia Bates. Her eyes had been surgically
removed, but no other harm seemed to have come to her.
have you got for us, Pete?” Archer asked as Craven tried to regain his
girl is the same as the other. Her eyes have been carefully extracted with what
looks to be a scalpel or some other cutting tool. Yet other than that disturbing
fact, there doesn’t appear to be a scratch on her. I can’t say the same for
Marshall wasn’t heavily sedated like the other victims. The killer must’ve
misjudged Trevor’s size and gave him a weak dose of Ambien. Either that or
Trevor didn’t drink whatever it was that the killer had drugged.”
was on the table when you arrived?”
and orange juice.”
on their way to the lab. Now back to him. These deep lacerations here indicate he
woke up at one point and the killer must’ve slipped with his scalpel and cut
through the fat. Those deep impressions on the wrists indicate his hands were
bound at one point as well.”
was conscious while he was being skinned alive? How did nobody hear him
scream?” Archer seemed to have an answer for Dale’s question.
psychic, but if I had to take a swing I’d say the killer cut his tongue out.”
Archer removes a pair of latex gloves from his pocket and after slipping them
on, pried Trevor’s teeth apart with his fingers. “Just as I thought, his tongue
is hacked out.”
fuck,” Craven said in reference to the Vulture.
finished him off was a blow to the head,” Pete explained. “We found a vase with
bloodstains on it behind the sofa.”
Trevor have a wife?” Dale asked.
one of the officers informed Craven.
let you finish up here, Pete,” Wes nodded. “Call me when you have the full
report. And by the way, find out Leah Marshall’s eye color for me if you
do,” Pete said and went about his bloody business.
* * *
Weston Archer dismissed himself early that evening as he
had some errands to attend to. That’s what he called it; errands. He didn’t
want Craven or the other guys to know where he was really going.
“Dad,” Wes said as his father opened the front door.
“Son,” Adam Archer nodded his bald head. “Well, come in
if you’re coming in I guess. I got some coffee in a carafe. It was fresh two
days ago. Probably still warm.”
“I’ll pass,” Wes said as for the first time in six years
he stepped through the house he grew up in.
“So what brings you here?” his father asked as they
congregated in the living room. The TV was on full blast as Adam’s hearing was
starting to go. He didn’t even seem to hear the football announcers screaming
through the speakers. Wes grabbed the remote and turned the volume down so they
“Lieutenant Morris said you asked how I was doing.”
“Morris is full of crap. I never asked about you. He was
just trying to lure you here so we could patch things up like he tried to do
with his brother. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. I’ve got nothing
worthwhile to say to you. Not after what you did to Aaron.”
“Aaron was years ago. And he was a monster, dad. Aaron
“He was still your brother, my son. And you turned him in
for a promotion from narcotics to homicide. Congratulations, Weston. I hear
you’re working the Vulture case now. But you know who the real vulture is? You.
Now get lost. You’re dead to me. I lost you the same day I lost Aaron."
Thursday, October 25, 2012.
Before he checked in at the station, Archer swung by
Ray’s apartment to catch him before he went to work. He wanted to be as up to
date as possible on the Leah Marshall case.
“What are you doing here so early?” Ray asked, looking
startled. “I don’t have any beer.” He chucked nervously.
“I just came to talk,” Wes said from the other side of
“Hang on a sec,” Ray said, closing the door and opening
it a minute later in his robe.
“Thanks Hef,” Archer said as Ray held the door open for
him. “What’s the story on Leah and Trevor Marshall?”
“Pete says the orange juice was laced with Ambien. Not
enough to keep Trevor sedated, but enough to knock out Leah. And Pete said you
were asking about her eyes. Blue.”
“Just like Alicia Bates. Our killer seems to have a thing
for blonds with blue eyes. That narrows down our next victim at least.”
Ray chucked nervously again and scratched the back of his
hair compulsively. “Are you ok?” Wes asked. “You’re acting kind of flakey.”
“Me?” Ray shrugged, trying to sound cool. “I’m perfect.
You want some coffee. I have some in the kitchen.”
“Sure, pour me a cup.”
“You got it,” Ray said as he walked to the kitchen of his
apartment, about fifteen feet from the living room. Wes sat on the sofa and
noticed one of his boot laces was untied. As he leaned down, he spotted a
trickle of blood on the edge of Ray’s coffee table. Before he could even think
of the unthinkable, he saw it tucked underneath the sofa.
It was a scalpel, stained red. The blood was fresh, still
Call it in or
confront him about it? Wes pondered. Before he could make a final decision,
Ray returned with two steaming hot mugs and saw the bloody scalpel in Wes’
“Caught you red-handed,” Archer quipped.
“I can explain… it’s not at all what you’re thinking. I’m
no killer. I was just using it for practice.”
“Yeah, I want to be like Pete someday. And I also want to
impress him and show him what I know. So I’ve been performing autopsies on the
“You’ve been stealing cadavers?”
“Not exactly… I use animals. They’re always dead ones.
Possums found on the side of the road, birds that fly into my window. Before
you came in, I was dissecting a pigeon. I didn’t want you to find out and think
less of me.”
“I’ve heard of some weird shit but that takes the cake.
But still, I believe you. I don’t think you’re a killer, Ray. Just a weirdo
like me. And that’s a good thing.”
“I’ll take your word for it. So this is between us?”
“That goes without saying.”
“Good. I’ll see you after the next one. Oh, did you hear
“Nope. I try to avoid it. Fill me in.”
“William Dagget’s body was stolen from the morgue last
night. They think it was punk kids, but who knows? Maybe it’s your guy.”
“I’m getting so tired of the word maybe.”
* * *
“Trevor Marshall was another shareholder of Dagget Corp,”
Craven informed Archer when he arrived at the station. “Still unconvinced of my
“After what I saw this morning, I’ll believe anything.
Ever see a pigeon heart before?”
“Never mind. Ray Frye said the Marshall’s were drugged
with Ambien. Leah’s eyes were blue, same as Alicia. And she was a blond, same
as Alicia. We’ve got two dead shareholders, one missing shareholder. Who are the
other two majority shareholders?”
“James and Emily Dagget, William’s children.”
“Then they’re both next on the list. We have to warn
had officers trying to locate them all day. Emily didn’t show up for work and
James has been MIA for two days according to his girlfriend.”
Come on, Wes, Archer
thought silently. Channel your dark side.
If you were a serial killer, what would you do? Where and how would you stage
the grand finale?
“Find out everything you can about William Dagget. He was
a rich man. Rich men usually have a place to escape– a condo, a summerhouse,
anything. Any word on Tim Noodle?"
“Nothing. His family, friends haven’t seen him in days.
It doesn’t bode well for Mr. Noodle. And tailing the UPS trucks did nothing.
Our killer went another route. He disguised himself as a mailman. Cops found
the mail truck abandoned half a mile from the Marshall residence. The driver’s
throat was slashed to ribbons.”
“Christ…” Archer shook his head and trailed off briefly.
“Like I said, see what you can find out about William Dagget. Meanwhile, I’m
going to see the one man who’s been able to help us out of a jam before.”
“Toad?” Craven asked with disdain.
“Toad,” Archer repeated and nodded.
* * *
Wes entered through the back of the soup kitchen and saw
Toad unloaded boxes and filling trays of bread to serve along with the soup
“When did you start working here?”
“A few weeks ago. No money, but I can stay here for free
and it’s all you can eat. So what brings you here? I haven’t seen you since you
stopped using. How’s sobriety treating you?”
“Sobriety is seriously overrated.”
“So that’s why you’re here? I don’t have any heroin, but
I do have some good Kush. It’s my cousins' shit from California. One hit and
you’ll be seeing stars.”
“I’m not here for dope of any variety. I’m here for
“If it’s not one thing with you it’s another thing,” Toad
sighed. “So what do you want to know? I’ve got eyes and ears all over the
streets. If you’re looking for someone, something, I can probably help you find
“Does the name Alicia Bates mean anything to you?”
“Can’t say it does,” Toad shook his head.
“What about Leah Marshall?”
“Not ringing any bells.”
“How about James Dagget?”
“William Dagget’s son? Yeah, he used to be a preferred
“Used to be?”
“I haven’t seen him in years. Not since his pops booted
his ass to rehab.”
“Rehab? So James had some problems I take it.”
“James was a party animal. Cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy,
heroin. Every drug was his drug of choice. But all that partying finally caught
up to him and he got expelled from med school. That’s when his dad decided on
“Wait, wait, and back up a bit. Did you say James Dagget
was in med school?”
“Yeah, he was on his way to becoming a surgeon. Too bad
he fucked it up. But he still has daddy’s trust fund to fall back on. I can’t
say I feel too bad for him.”
“Thanks, Toad. You’ve been a lot of help.”
Emily Dagget had received several texts from her brother,
instructing her to pack her things and head out of town for a couple of days.
Emily was already distraught over the death of her father, and now the
disappearance of his body from the morgue was eating her up. James had left
copies of the keys for their father’s summerhouse in Newport. He suggested she
get away for a couple of days, clear her head and keep safe until the cops
Newport was 120 miles east from Carter City, just on the
outskirts. It’s a small town, but it’s more like a private resort for people
wealthy enough to afford property there year-round. William Dagget was one of
these wealthy individuals.
The house was purchased by Dagget in the heyday of his
corporation, and sat on a small hill overlooking the ocean.
Emily’s BMW pulled into the driveway around eight o’clock
that evening. She immediately recognized her brother’s yellow Lamborghini which
was parked next to her.
She unloaded two suitcases from the trunk, trotted up to
the door, and rang the bell. But nobody answered.
“James!” she yelled. “Open the door. It’s cold out here.”
Her hands were full so she kicked her heel against the front of the door to get
his attention. When that didn’t work, she dropped her luggage and fished
through her pockets for the keys James had left at her apartment.
She unlocked the door, dragging her bags inside and
quickly closing the door behind her. She took of her gloves and rubbed her
frigid hands together to try and build up some warmth. It wasn’t even winter
yet and Carter City was already beginning to feel the sting of the cold.
“James?” she shouted, walking about the house. “Are you
“In the kitchen,” a voice called.
As Emily stepped into the kitchen, her jaw dropped. If it
was capable of reaching far enough, it would’ve hit the floor.
A man–stiff and lifeless–was propped up in a chair at the
kitchen table. His salt and pepper hair and his thick frame–now even thicker as
the body had bloated and swelled considerably–vaguely resembled her fathers.
“What do you think?” James said as he stepped out from
the pantry. “Kind of looks like dad, doesn’t it? Almost fooled you, right? It
fooled the people at the morgue. Then again, you wouldn’t know that because you
never went. I identified dad’s body at the morgue.”
“Who is this?” Emily stuttered, weak on her feet. “What
are you talking about, James?”
“This is Tim Noodle. The man they found dead in dad’s car
from an apparent heart attack. The man that I positively identified at the morgue
as our beloved father. But you see the funeral was tomorrow and someone was
bound to notice that wasn’t William Dagget sitting in the casket. So I had to
borrow it for a while.”
“What did you do with dad’s real body?” Emily said,
slowly inching her out of the kitchen.
“Just because Tim Noodle is dead, doesn’t mean dad is
too. You see dad’s a wise businessman. He knew his company was failing because
of his imagine. So he “died” so that his corporation could live on. He knew the
stocks would soar after the news of his death. He also knows the majority
shareholders are going to reap the benefits. Tim Noodle was one of them. Roger
Farinella and Trevor Marshall make three. That leaves you and me. And with you
out of the picture, your shares will be free to acquire and that will make me
the majority shareholder. Well, technically dad will be, but I’ll be handling
all the work.”
“So you’re going to be dad’s puppet?”
“I’m nobody’s puppet. I am the Vulture, the scavenger of
pain and misery, the harvester of souls. And I’m about to add one more soul to
my collection. Your eyes aren’t really blue, more of an emerald green. But
they’ll do just fine.”
“Emily,” a woman’s voice called out from the front of the
house. “The door is wide open. Can you hear me? What is this girl thinking?”
The voice grew louder and both James and Emily realized at the same time the
girl had invited herself in. “Emily, are you here? Your car is out front. It’s
Julie. You told me to stop by and hang out.”
Julie–a girl in her mid-twenties with straight blond
hair, hypnotic blue eyes, and a slim, hourglass-shaped figure–appeared in the
doorway of the kitchen. She saw the body at the table, the look of frozen
terror in Emily’s eyes, the razor-sharp scalpel in James’ hand, and the
sinister grin that had taken over the lower half of his face.
“Things just got interesting,” James said.
* * *
Nine thirty P.M.
Dale Craven paced nervously around his desk, trying
Archer’s cell number for the fourteenth time. And for the fourteenth time, it
went straight to voicemail.
He was about to leave the station when Archer marched in,
boots stomping through the lobby as he moved to Craven’s desk.
“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling you for
“I’ve been busy.”
“Yeah, well so have I. You asked me to dig up info on
William Dagget and I did. The guy had a summerhouse in Newport, an hour and a
half from the city. I sent the local police to check it out. They stopped there
at eight thirty. No cars in the driveway, no one answered at the door. The
place was untouched. Now where have you been?”
“After I had a chat with Toad, I shot over to the
university to question various students and professors. Only one professor was
able to recall James Dagget. Dale… James was an aspiring surgeon. But he got
expelled. A combination of drugs and mental instability led to his expulsion.
Apparently James was practicing on the cadavers after hours. I think this is
“Should I have the local police scope out the house
“No, if James shows, I want to be there to catch him in
“Looks like we’re going on a road trip.”
* * *
Dagget’s summerhouse on the hills was vacant when
Archer’s Jeep pulled up in front. But even in the dark of night, he noted the
tire tracks instantly. “There were two cars parked here recently.”
“I don’t know how you do that.”
“Let’s not question it now. Let’s just focus on the
facts. Fact number one is we’re technically out of our jurisdiction. Fact
number two is we know there were people here recently. And we don’t know this
for a fact yet, but we have it on good authority that James Dagget is most
likely the Vulture. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like standing
around and waiting for a search warrant.”
“So what do you want to do?” Craven asked right before
Archer started to cave the door in with his boots. The knob snapped off the
door budged open. Archer drew his gun and Craven did likewise.
They did a quick sweep of the living room and move into
the kitchen, where the bodies of Tim Noodle and Emily Dagget efficiently
arranged at the white Formica table. Except Noodle’s corpse was so maimed and
mutilated it was impossible to identify on arrival. Emily’s body was virtually
unscathed, that is if you overlook the hollow sockets that her eyeballs once
“I think we just found William Dagget’s body,” Dale said.
“And we found his daughter. Just one more member and we
can have a family reunion.”
“We need to call this in.”
“I’ll let you do the honors… Hello. What is this?” Archer
was looking down when he saw it peeked out from under the Formica table. It was
a purse, and it didn’t belong to Emily Dagget. “Julie Starwood,” Archer said,
reading the girls ID. “Five foot two, one hundred and five pounds, blond hair,
“And missing from the scene,” Dale added. “Unless he
moved the body.”
“No, if James had killed Starwood here, he would’ve set
her body up around the table along with the others. Two sets of tire tracks… my
guess is he ditched his sisters car and took Starwood for a little ride.”
“I don’t know. But we don’t have a lot of time to figure
it out. Call in the local police and have them handle the crime scene. We’ve
got to get a move on. James Dagget can’t be that far from here.”
They drove far beyond their jurisdiction, put out an
all-points bulletin, made every cop and fed in a five hundred mile radius aware
of their suspect. But like their previous investigations, they yielded little
Wherever James Dagget was, he didn’t want to be found. As
for the girl, Archer figured if they didn’t find her within twenty four hours
they could call off the search.
Exhausted, they returned to the station around four in
the morning and went their separate ways.
Monday, October 29, 2012.
Four days later.
Wes Archer had given up hope when Dale Craven burst into
the station that morning with a gleam of hope in his eyes.
dental records don’t match Dagget’s. They match Tim Noodle’s dental records. A
late toxicology reports confirms that Noodle was poisoned with cyanide. It was
staged to look like a heart attack and his body was placed in Dagget’s car to
take William’s place, albeit temporarily.”
William Dagget is still alive?” Archer asked, slowly putting the pieces
together in his mind.
“We have to find William and I bet we’ll find his son.”
“We already have. He’s been using Tim Noodle’s ID and
credit cards. We tracked his movements to a resort in Vermont. The local cops
are picking him up as we speak. William Dagget will be back in Carter City and
behind bars before the sun goes down.”
“Excellent,” Wes said in classic Mr. Burns’ fashion. “Now
all we need is a full confession and a lead on James Dagget and we’ll have the
ball rolling again.”
Lieutenant Morris was not known for grace or speed. But
if you saw him rush to Archer’s desk that morning, you’d never guess he was a
few years away from retirement. “Wes! Come quick! In the interrogation room!”
“What’s going on?” Wes asked, perplexed.
“No time to explain. You’ll see it for yourself.” Mitch
practically grabbed Wes by the arm and dragged him like a child, guiding him to
Interrogation Room A. “Watch your step,” Mitch advised.
Archer nudged the door open and the metallic stink of
blood invaded his senses. The entire room was drenched in it. Officer Chris
Murphy had been hacked to pieces; his blood use to sprawl a message along the
wall like a finger painting. It read:
MEET ME AT MIDNIGHT – DEVIL’S NIGHT – WHERE IT ALL STARTED
“He’s calling you out,” Mitch said. “We found this
outside the room.” He held up a picture of pretty blond with a slim, hourglass
figure. The left side of her head was caked in dry blood, her wrists were
bound, and her mouth was taped. But she was still alive.
“What’s Devil’s Night?”
“October 30. That’s tomorrow night.”
“Unless he means midnight tonight?”
“It could be anything with this guy.”
“First, we’re going to clear out and show some respect to
Officer Murphy. Let the paramedics move his body out of here. Then I’m going to
figure out what James means by ‘Where it all started’, and I think I have a
* * *
James Dagget was a dark soul, but Archer was just as dark
and knew how to think in similar fashion. When Dagget wrote “where it all
started”, he didn’t mean the first murder he committed in Carter City. He
didn’t mean where he killed his first victim ever. He meant where it all
started for Archer.
Dagget knew he was being hunted and was keeping tabs on
Archer. He knew all about his past indiscretions. He knew about his drinking,
his addiction, his father, his brother.
at the abandoned marina that he had tracked his brother to, his boat tied off
to the rotting bulkhead. Aboard the boat, Wes found the bodies of six missing
people. They gave Aaron life in prison and gave Wes a promotion.
marina had been condemned by the board of safety due to properties
deteriorating condition and the owner skipped town to avoid hassle, leaving the
place abandoned. Some local fishermen still use the place when they need a spot
to tie off their boats for free.
showed up at ten o’clock that evening to see if Dagget would show that night or
the following. Craven and the other officers insisted on backing him up, but he
said it would only draw too much attention and then Dagget would never show.
was right. Him sitting alone in the dark, his gun drawn and loaded. James would
never see him coming. But a whole parade of officers he’d hear a mile away. No,
Wes knew this had to be settled one on one. It was the only way.
a cigarette and looked down at the water, saw that it was rippling. A
twelve-foot speed boat glided over the water towards the marina, zipping past
the bulkhead and to the main dock. A rope was tossed up and tied off to one of
the dock poles. In the darkness, a man stepped off the boat.
the gun,” James screamed. “I know you’re here and I know you’re armed. Drop the
gun or you’ll never see the girl again. She’s alive, but I didn’t bring her.”
walked forward, lowering his piece and sliding it across the dock planks.
Dagget snatched it and tossed the gun into the water with a heavy splash. “What
happened to Devil’s Night?”
it or not, I’m a bit impulsive. And I knew you’d show early just to wait for
me if you want, but let the girl go.”
heroic. Too bad there’s nobody around to hear your final words.”
Before you kill me, at least give me a reason. Why are so many innocent people
simple. My father’s company was failing and he saw a way to fix the problem and
cash in on the solution all at the same time. All we had to do was eliminate a
couple of shareholders, pull a quick swap with Tim Noodle’s body, and the rest
is history. And I got to collect my trophies along the way. It’s a pity what
happened to Emily. I loved her, I really did. But she was a shareholder too and
she had to go.”
you live with yourself?”
could ask you the same question,” James said as he drew his weapon of choice,
his scalpel. “How you sleep at night knowing your brother is rotting in a jail
cell that you put him in. We’re a lot alike, Wes.”
nothing alike. Now where is the girl?”
in the crawlspace of the summerhouse,” James laughed. “How do you like that?
She was there the whole time.”
now. I can only kill only person at a time. Right now I’m working on you.”
swung the scalpel and missed by mere inches. He swung again and Archer put up
his forearm to block. The blade sliced through his leather jacket and cut him
almost down to the bone.
fell back and one of the dock planks snapped to the splinters. The whole dock
was rotted out and one wrong step meant you might be taking a swim. James
polished the scalpel against his shirt and went in for the kill. He stepped
forward and one foot went straight through the decaying dock planks, trapping
reached down and slid his knife out of his boot. Wes carried it as backup. Most
cops carry an extra gun, he carries a knife. Some call it crazy, he calls it
for an eye, motherfucker!” Wes screamed as he plunged the blade deep into
Dagget’s eye. It pushed right past the socket and pierced the brain, a form of
unlicensed lobotomy so to speak.
radioed for a cleanup crew and told the Newport police where to find the girl.
Then he went down to the pub for a celebratory drink. He figured the stitches
in his arm could wait a few.
* * *
Wednesday, October 31, 2012.
Halloween went off without a hitch. Kids in costumes
begging for candy. Teens vandalizing property with eggs and shaving cream. But
thanks to Wes Archer and Dale Craven, punk teenagers were the only thing cops
had to worry about.
Casualties aside, Lieutenant Morris and the rest of the
department were pleased with the results. Wes had brought the Vulture to
justice, a serial killer that had eluded capture from the FBI and every major
police department across America. And he didn’t even want credit for it.
Julie Starwood had requested to meet her hero on several
occasions. On each occasion, she was denied by Archer himself. When asked by
Dale why he wouldn’t meet her, Wes simply replied, “Never meet your heroes.
They’ll always disappoint you.” When he said those words, he was only thinking
of his father, Adam.