Detective James Lee's life takes a turn down the unexpected when a murder is staged in the manner of a serial killer he had never managed to catch almost 13 years ago. Is it a copycat killing or has his nemesis returned to mock him once again?
Even with the rain and the countless cups of coffee, the smell was still sickening when I arrived on the scene. The fire crews, paramedics and police on the scene were milling about, talking in hushed tones or shouting orders at each other but everyone was avoiding the huge evidence tent in the middle of the main route into the city. Getting here late was an inevitability, traffic was backed up all the way to the next town and probably beyond.
I showed my badge to the officer at the door and with an exchange of nods he pulled back the canvas sheet and I slipped inside. Michaels was inside and as soon as he saw me he raised a finger to the breathing mask he was wearing and pointed me over to a pile of them in a sealed box. I got the message and slipped one on before breathing.
"Talk to me Michaels. What's happening and what's with the masks?" I said, voice muffled behind the mask.
Michaels leaned against the wrecked car that inhabited the evidence tent and the grimace was evident even behind the mask.
"It's not pretty James, not pretty at all. Our man staged it to look like a car accident."
"Our man? So it's him?"
"Yeah, it's him. His signs are all over it. That's why the mask. You thought the smell was bad? You don't want this stuff in your mouth, believe me."
I looked into the front passenger seat of the wrecked car and felt bile rising in my throat but I kept it down. The inside of the car was plastered with vomit and the driver's abdomen was torn open, a shard of the dashboard having ripped it apart, the entrails hanging out like bloody ribbons, stomach juices and excrement pooling in the footwell.
"Christ. You sure, Michaels?"
"Sure as sure can be." Michaels said, pushing me gently aside. I still maintained he was too young for the job, people his age didn't need to see so much death. He was only 23, boyish good looks, though a little shy. A sweet kid really, the sort you'd expect to visit his grandmother every weekend and treat his girl right, and you wouldn't be wrong. I was amazed that he could stare at things like this everyday and not lose his soul in the process.
"James, you see here, this shard of dashboard?" He indicated with a rubber-gloved hand.
"Well, cars don't work like that, just look at the car, the shape of the impact zone. There is no way this could have happened as a result of the crash. It was done afterwards, deliberately, to provide an excuse for the disembowelling. Also, the vomit isn't all the victims. It looks like the killer tampered with the air bags, taping on a packet of vomit to the outer surface. When the crash occurred, the victim was hit in the face, rupturing it."
"Okay," I said, turning away from the scene. "I think I've heard enough. This is different from his usual MO. What makes you think this isn't some second-rate copycat or a random coincidence?"
"Because he left a message for you."
I turned back and saw Michaels leaning into the car and pressing play on the tape player. A disturbing voice began to speak.