Good story. I'll keep an eye out for the next installment.
|I stuck the key in the ignition and it turned over to a rough start. Shifting into reverse, I pulled a cigarette from a nearly empty pack of Camels. I lit up and made my way out of the parking garage into the icy streets of Wichita, Kansas. It had been a long day and I needed a drink.
'Another killing,' I was sickened, 'this guy disgusts me.'
It was the third identical murder in three weeks. The first was Irene Blair, a nineteen-year-old college student, found on the campus golf course by two students who were cutting through to get to the dorms. The second was Tina Harris, a twenty-six-year-old mother of two, found by a homeless man in Riverside Park. This time he chose Ava Campbell. At twenty-two, she was a disc jockey at the local classic rock station. She had been well on her way to becoming a local celebrity with her Ask Ava segment, where she would take callers to ask her advice on topics ranging from relationships to where to go for a decent meal in this god-forsaken city. She was found in the alley behind the radio station.
All three women, in life, had been beautiful. All three had brown hair and hazel eyes. All had their hearts removed from their chests, with flesh excised from the neck. This sick bastard had torn flesh from these poor girls with his teeth. A different symbol was carved into each woman's forehead. These cases made my stomach turn.
I turned on Waco Street, to see my father at his bookstore. He had been Wichita's most dedicated officer in his youth, and was promoted over the years to police chief. He spent thirty-two years on the force. When my mother passed away from cancer a few years back, he decided it was time to retire and spend his days in a beat up recliner in the corner of his new sanctuary, reading anything that held his interest.
My younger sister, Katie, and I had a running joke. We nicknamed our father “The Roughneck Librarian. He had a place for everything. The store was completely organized. He always told us that he had nothing better to do with his retirement than collect, catalog, sell, and read used books, and just so they didn't gather too much dust, he read a book a day. Sometimes two.
I pulled into the small, uneven parking lot, parked, and waded through ankle-deep snow to the door, which proudly proclaimed in thick white letters, HARRY'S USED BOOKS.
The store smelled like old books and stale cigar smoke. The shelves were lined with volumes on every subject imaginable. I found my father in his usual spot, reading a tattered paperback with one of my mother's quilts on his lap.
"Eli," he rasped, "I didn't even hear you come in." He pushed up his reading glasses with a calloused finger.
"Hey, Pop. How's things?"
"A nice young lady came in and bought fifteen books earlier. Other than that, you're the only other soul I've seen in here today." He sighed and took a sip of coffee.
"You have any books on symbology? I'm working on three cases right now and by the look of it they're serial. Each victim had a different symbol on her forehead. They seem very similar." I usually never spoke to anybody about cases, but my father had been a damn good cop in his day.
"Got a couple over on that shelf," he pointed at the shelves lining the far wall, "Arranged by the Dewey decimal system, but you knew that." He went back to reading.
A couple? More like an entire shelf. Pop loved collecting oddball books. For the next two hours, I searched through every book I could find about symbols and lost languages, comparing the contents to the crime scene photos in my briefcase. I studied Theban Script, Ogham, and many others. Finally, I came upon a book entitled "Runes and Their Meanings: Secrets of the Nordic Alphabet." In it, I found all three symbols. The first was called Nauthiz, which was inverted, meaning hunger. The second, Hagalaz, meant pain and suffering. The rune on Ava Campbell was Dagaz, which stood for a great awakening.
A chill ran up my spine. I closed the book and tucked it into my briefcase 'This guy is nuts,' I thought.
"Hey, Pop..." I walked around the corner of the bookshelf and saw that he had fallen asleep reading. I fetched one of his business cards from the nearby desk, wrote a note on the back to let him know I was borrowing the book, and marked his page for him, then covered him with the quilt. It wasn't the first time he had spent the night at the store. He seemed more comfortable here than at the house.
I locked the door and headed to the car. 'Now for that drink.'
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