Detective Christopher Grady approached the lock on the gate of a wrought black-iron fence. He looked up at the sharpened spikes that topped it, then to the side as it ran unbroken around the entire property. He’d try his luck with the gate in front of him rather than ending up being found in the morning, skewered on top of some remote bend in the property that didn’t allow unwelcome visitors. Grady pulled a flashlight out of his suit coat and fumbled with it while the soft rain made everything slick and his feet wet.
With the flashlight firmly between his teeth, he fiddled with the lock and a few pieces of long thin forged steel. His clothes were soaked through by the time the lock clicked softly and granted him passage. His feet slapped the ground as he stashed his flashlight and plodded his way up the driveway to the porch. By the moonlight he could find his way that far, but it was all shadows and dark, lonely corners beyond. Grady’s plodding became a stealthy stride as he closed his eyes and he concentrated. ‘Nothing here’, he thought to himself. ‘He must not be here.’ But following his gut, the Detective kept going, crossing the unnaturally dark porch to the front door.
The door knob turned on the first try, and Grady walked right in. There was no time for civility when you’re tracking down a serial killer. No knocking, no questions, no killing. Those were his rules, and he was remarkably good at the game he played of finding wanted criminals. Of course, he had an advantage. A one up on all of the other detectives. He stopped and stood still, concentrating and opening his mind again, pushing out and feeling for a person. His mind couldn’t find another, but he pressed further, reaching farther. Every other clue had led him to this house, specifically tonight. There must be something he was missing.
The serial killer dubbed “Blood-Letting Insane Noose Killer” was the longest case he’d ever worked. When you can place yourself in another person’s mind, see what they see, feel what they feel, and think what they think, even murder cases become a lot easier. But his gift was of no avail on this one. He had to rely on old fashioned police work and shoe leather. Judging by the growing wet spot on the ball of his left foot, he figured he’d spent enough shoe leather. Grady hated the name that his department had given the killer. It was supposed to give the media something to chew on to keep them off of their backs for a while, but even a clever acronym like “B.L.I.N.K.” was wearing thin and they needed a break in the case soon. Plus the name was very accurate. Every victim had been found completely drained of blood with a broken neck consistent with a hanging.
Grady returned to his own body and opened his eyes again. He was adjusted enough to the dark now to see the outlines of rotting wooden floor and old furniture long since lost to time and mold. Nothing had been covered or sealed when this antique two story house was abandoned. Owners up and left and never spoke a word about the house or why they were moving. Overnight they just left town. That spooked plenty of people by itself, but the occasional lights coming from the windows is what really did it. They’d had people inspect it top to bottom, in the middle of the day of course, and they found nothing. They erected a tall, strong fence planted in concrete around it to keep everything out. The gate was locked, the building condemned, and everyone moved on with their lives.
Problem is that one day someone noticed that the spikes on top of the fence near the gate, previously just decorative, had been filed into sharp, shiny points that were keen enough to turn an unlucky bird into a kebab before it even knew what hit it. People started to take notice as more and more points were sharpened as weeks went by. Then finally the killings started. There’d been 6 so far, every one the same. And no one had the nerve to check the most suspicious place in town. The rotting house with the unbroken fence.
Grady didn’t chance using his flashlight, but moved around slowly. Listening, feeling, touching, smelling, urging the fabric of the world around him to give him something he could use. Unfortunately it did. At the back of the main room, the one he entered from the front door, there were huge toadstools of exotic fungi growing out of the fireplace and surrounding it. They led down the stairs into the cellar, getting thicker and thicker as they went. Grady tried one more time to feel for another person, but got nothing, so he soldiered on down into the darkness.
It was pitch black now, or at least it should have been. Just as he had reached the bottom of the steps and was reaching into his jacket for his flashlight, Grady saw a lantern light at the other end of the room, some 40 feet away. It was dim and didn’t reveal anything other than an empty wall. But there was no one nearby to have lit it. Grady froze. With his eyes still open, he searched with his mind, pushing out into the darkness, and to his surprise he found someone. Entering their head, he was overcome with fear, with dread. He was now standing on a stool, rough rope around his neck, but alive. ‘This must be the victim’ he thought, ‘so I’m not too late to save him’. Grady searched the mind’s thoughts but couldn’t find anything. Not even an identity, name, address, or family. Nothing. Only complete and consuming fear, some occasional words like “Help” or “Save Me” but always half hearted, drowned out by all encompassing dread. Grady was overwhelmed himself and he started to shake. This was new. He’d never be in a victim’s mind that was so destroyed by their ordeal, and for the first time in a long time, he started to fear for his own safety.
Grady let go, entering his own mind and composing himself. He turned to look up the stairs but they had gone. Now there was only darkness, a heavy pitch black that pressed down on him like a weight. He felt with his foot for a few feet past where the stairs should have been, but there was nothing. Only fungus and rot that invaded his shoes and his nose. He couldn’t even see the door anymore. He was alone is a sea of night with only the lantern to guide him. He tried his flashlight but it wouldn’t turn on.
‘Well, only one way to go now’ thought the Detective, feigning bravery as he began his slow march towards the lantern. This was weird, bordering on supernatural, and Grady was deeply disturbed, but with nowhere else to go and the next victim in his reach, he forced his nausea back and inched forward. Maybe he’d find a window to go out, and he could come back and explain this to himself in the morning. For some reason it was easy not to think about it and just keep moving forward. His feet squished through deepening fungus that was more rancid with every step. When he was within ten feet of the edge of the light, he found the man on the stool. He was shaking so hard it was a wonder he hadn’t fallen off yet. It could have been fright, or could have been because he was naked in the cold, wet, dark basement.
Grady tried to help him down but the man shook his head side to side. His mouth was covered but he pointed with his frantic, dying eyes to his left, past the aura of light that the lantern cast. Grady steeled himself and crept towards it. He skirted the edge of the light, silent as the grave, to keep his presence hidden as long as possible. When he was close enough to see the wall he’d finally got his first glance of the killer. He wished he hadn’t.