Saul stood over her, considering her for a moment. Not so high and mighty now. He saw the large wound in her neck, which had finally stopped gushing blood. A large crimson puddle had enveloped her entire body, like a shadow. Who would have thought she would have bled so much? Saul was surprised; Terry didn’t bleed as much, though he had stabbed her so many times in the stomach that the blade had broken off.
“When you see Jesus, tell him I said hi” He said to Angela. “Maybe he will forgive you for being such a whore” He laughed heartily, gripping the blade which was now soaked red. With his experienced hands, he slashed her throat just in case she was playing possum like Terry had. The pigs almost caught him last time, if not for the unerring knowledge of the human body. ‘If you cut the windpipe, the bastards would have to piss an S.O.S just to get any attention’ his father had once told him, many summers ago when he was just at the tender age of twelve. Saul senior,, who was soon taken away on a spousal abuse charge after his wife had finally had enough of being knocked around every Friday. Afterwards, he was sent to live with his Grandfather who was no different to Saul Senior, although his wife was not the one to be abused.
The alleyway was quiet as always; Saul was always efficient in his murders. This time he learnt to slash their throats first, as to avoid any unwanted attention. However, at this hour only the drunken vagrants and the speed freaks roamed and they never said a word when a dollar bill was hung in front of their desperate faces. Good old New York City; the rise of Mayor Kinney had been a blessing in disguise.
Taking one last look, Saul smiled as he clapped his hands in a job-well-done gesture. The clapping was oddly muted by his latex gloves, which were still soaked from the execution. He took them off; taking care to place those in a small plastic bag he kept balled up in his pocket. Step one; do not leave anything to incriminate yourself at a crime scene. It was one of the many useful anecdotes his Grandfather spewed day in day out.
The walls that ran parallel to Saul seemed taller than usual; he looked up as his stomach turned uncomfortably. He knew then it was time to leave. A faint glimmer of a red light shone ahead, as he left the alleyway and discarded of the plastic bag in an open sewer duct. As he walked among the shadows, he was unseen by the sleazy business men and elderly perverts who were entering an XXX shop over the road. He saw their manic eyes dart nervously as they stepped into their paradise. He recognised that look; he was the same when he first saw Angela.
Saul took a cab home, admiring the dystopian streets in their shattered glory. Many homes were boarded up, as many owners could not stand the degradation any longer. These had now become the nests for junkies who had many ‘Liquid Snake’ cocktails. Liquid Snake was a liquefied version of Crystal Meth that had been developed some years ago. Saul had not indulged; drugs clouded his judgement and made him sloppy. He needed a clear mind when he set out on these night excursions, otherwise he would end up that limey Blaine Sutton, who was stupid enough to get caught.
The taxi driver was a middle aged black man, who piously muttered the Lords name when Saul entered the cab. He had asked for the money up front; which was clever considering the current situation. With the junkies’ errant behaviour, he didn’t want to be driving them to their next score if they were just going to bail before payment.
They were both silent for the ride; Saul had much to think about and this pious fucker was probably kissing Jesus’ ass every Sunday night after jerking off to a dirty magazine. It wouldn’t have surprised him; even with the cross hanging in lieu of a tree shaped air freshener, they were all in the same shithole for one reason or another.
“Jesus fucking Christ” yelled the driver, as he swerved onto the pavement. He stalled, craning his neck out of his window; a young man; not much older than nineteen had ran out into the road. Saul observed him with contempt, from his shirtless attire, to the numerous potholes which had turned black with infection that glared from his arms. “You fucking dumb or what, ya goddamn junkie!” the driver continued, as he put the car into the gear and drove off.
Saul kept his gaze on the junkie, who had something shiny in his left hand. He was smiling, revealing several missing teeth as he raised the shiny instrument in his hand. The driver, perhaps being in this situation before, stamped on the accelerator as the car shot forwards at an unholy speed. Several gunshots raced after them; they all missed except for one that had shattered the back window. The driver hammered the steering wheel his large, rough hands in anger. “For fucks sake again!” Then he spoke to Saul directly. “Y’know how much it costs to replace a goddamn window screen?”
Saul remained quiet. He wished to return to his apartment, even if he had to put up with this asshole. “I couldn’t care less you fucking monkey” he thought bitterly. “A lot more than you paid me to drive your skinny white ass down this neighbourhood. What? You pushing as well? You don’t look like no junkie to me”
Saul, to his surprise, laughed. “You cuss a lot for a man of the Lord”.
The driver then said nothing. Saul, perhaps ignoring the urge to thrust his concealed knife into the back of the man’s skull, found he was coated in shards of broken glass. Carefully, he brushed them off his shoulders, onto the mess on the cab floor, which itself was littered with coffee cups and candy wrappers. Under the driver’s seat, he saw a box of unopened Blacks cigarettes. The urge to smoke had routinely burned inside of him, but he never smoked on the streets. The only people who smoked on the streets were dealers and no one wanted to be greeted by a shaking, twitching burn out asking for chiva, Charlie or whatever the slang was. It didn’t matter; he would smoke when he got home.
Twenty minutes later, he had left the cab and entered the apartment block where his room resided. The hallway inside was almost a catacomb, with the usual offensive graffiti proclaiming who was fucking who and call so-and-so for sex. He only had to walk up one flight of stairs to see his front door; magnificently black and untouched by crude sketches. The number ‘23’ hung in white which made it a beacon against the decrepit walls which boxed in Saul like a rat. Maybe he was, but he was a rat amongst rats. His only neighbour on this floor was a dealer who had locked himself in his room, which according to rumours was because of a drug deal that had been botched and had left him $50,000 dollars in the red. Saul had heard several loud cries from his room at all hours; to dull the pain the dealer had become one of his own; a user. But, as Saul walked in at a quarter of four in the morning, he found that the dealers door had been kicked down and the ensuing apartment was in ruins. Got what you fucking deserved didn’t you? Banging on the walls at all fucking hours... I’d have had you if they didn’t. Saul grinned maliciously, as he unlocked the door of his own apartment and stepped in.
Ignoring the pile of unwashed knives on his kitchen counter, Saul collapsed onto his sofa amidst a collection of empty take-out dinner cartons and old newspaper clippings. He rarely stayed in his apartment unless he was hungry or he needed sleeping. This morning, he needed the latter. He found a half empty carton of cigarettes on the floor and took out one of them. He lit it with a lighter he had kept in his back pocket and thought about Angela. He only killed once a fortnight, but the thrill had begun to decrease. He was usually excited about tearing into their flesh and the smell of blood on his hands, but it had now begun to bore him. Maybe it was lack of police interest; they were mainly concerned with the rape cases, as to pacify the increasingly concerned public. The police force had lost its bite over the years, as Mayor Kinney had cut back on the funding so could buy a bigger mansion in Beverly Hills. The number of policemen had dropped, leaving Private Investigators with agendas of their own to lead the way. This was well and good for Saul, but he needed the thrill of being chased; that he may get caught. A reckless idea had crossed his mind, but it seemed to entice him also. He would kill again, but not next fortnight, but the next night. Give the fucking pigs something to worry about.
Stubbing out his cigarette, Saul stood up and grabbed the knife from his coat pocket. The blood had dried now; it would be a harder job to clean. Before he did however, he carved a straight line into the wall. There were seventeen lines on the wall, for the seventeen victims he claimed.
At the time same time Saul entered his apartment, Private Investigator James Sloane had entered his. It was another long day for him’ days that seemed to get even longer as the year progressed. Today, he had to help the mighty New York Police Force bust a low level dealer on the one day of the week he was armed. Serving in the ‘Great’ War of ’77, this posed little problem for him, though the other officers were less lucky. Ten had broken into his apartment and only six had left with little injuries; the remaining four had left in body bags. Guns were cheaper and easier to find under Mayor Kinney’s new laws; which no one seemed to care, as even the left wing were being sedated by the availability of alcohol and hard drugs.
James did not know of those who were killed in the ensuing attack; most were barely out of high school as the force had been severely damaged by the decreased minimum wage and the high rise in crime. Those with common sense had moved to Manhattan or Chicago, but those who had no choice like James, had to remain. Claire was still living in the downtown district; poverty among other things had kept her there. Among other things, like the comatose father who lived in her second bedroom; the room they both used to sleep in.
These memories flooded back to him with haste; mostly he thought of the dead face of Officer Warren. His milk white eyes made him look younger than his actual age: seventeen. He had only just dropped out of education. What a way to go on his first day on the job.
James almost collapsed onto the sofa. A second hand, cigarette burnt two-seater he discovered when he first moved in. All the items, like the fridge with the burnt out freezer; the television that was still in black and white were already waiting for him when he first put down a lease on Renton House. A single window, layered with grease and its fair share of cracks from the junkies incessant barrages (apparently a dealer had lived here before him) overlooked the dilapidated street beyond. Looking out at the beggars (young and old) turned his stomach but he had put nothing on the window to hide the view. He was always too tired when he returned from work.
He was still dressed in his work attire (a large light-brown overcoat, a white shirt missing several buttons and stone-washed jeans still dotted with blood; a consequence of shooting the dealer in the throat) when he retrieved a bottle of whiskey from his broken fridge. A perfect medicine he thought. anything to dull the pain at least for a few hours. At morning he knew he would be bombarded with another suicide mission. Every night he prayed, no he begged that he would not have to see another corpse. Back when this mess started, but now he was cynical enough not to care. It still ripped him apart inside when he saw Officer Warren; how the bullet hole below his left eye still leaked blood into his tangled blonde faux-hawk. He had looked at the face of death many times, but when that face belonged to the young, it made him feel much older than his mere twenty nine years old.
Unscrewing the cap off the bottle, he downed half instantly; he felt the whiskey burn and cascade into his throat flooding his insides with the familiar numbing he was accustomed to. He imbibed almost every night now as it was the only way her could sleep without the disruption of dreams. Dreams that relived the worst moments of his life; divorcing Claire, seeing his estranged father after eleven years of non communication and the countless faces of the young deputies he saw lying in their own blood.
He could not take the dreams anymore; either they went or he did. Before he drowned himself in the oblivion of drink, he contemplated holding his gun (an H&K Glock Seventeen; standard issue) to his forehead and pulling the trigger. The last time he tried this, his phone bleeped and he was asked to assist in the arrest of Guy Plant; a rapist who was HIV positive. James thought better of blowing his brains out; Guy was a sadistic piece of shit that infected most of uptown with his disease. That night, he had tracked him down and shot him perfectly in the head. The same bullet he was going to end his life with ended up giving a criminal the worst headache of his life.
With his vision blurred, James finished the bottle and threw it out of sight. A small clinking noise showed him the bottle had not smashed; he didn’t need more shattered glass as his own bedroom was bad enough. He used to drink in there, but decided against it when he would inadvertently throw up his diet of burnt chicken and watered down alcohol. With little time to be house proud, he simply left his bedroom in the maelstrom it was. But tonight was different; he had drunk enough Jack Daniels to gain a tolerance. So as his mind began to spin, he drifted into a difficult, empty sleep. It was going to be a long day tomorrow.
Several hours later, James awoke to the monotonous sound of the telephone. It rang constantly, as James stood up; his head pounding a bruise. As his vision solidified, he picked up the black telephone and jammed it against his ear. The same, depressed voice greeted him as it did every morning.
“Private Investigator James Sloane?” the voice seemed more dour than usual.
“Yeah, what ya want Bill?” His mouth was achingly dry, as his greeting flummoxed William ‘Mike’ Nesbitt. He should have been used to it by now; he said the same words everyday.
“Chief Nesbitt” he said, but no anger crept into his tone.
“We have a stiff down by the XXX shop on Drayton Street. Young female, apparently bludgeoned to death. We have officers down there now clearing the onlookers. Is this something you interested in?”
James laughed darkly. “Yeah, I was waiting for a homicide. Makes me shit rainbows ‘cause I am so happy about it”
“Are you going down or what? Last weeks case has got half the force shitting in their pants”
“That’s cause you sent kids into a drugs den” Some saliva formed in the sahara of his mouth. He spat it onto the floor, just missing the whiskey bottle.
“Are you going or what?” Bill began to sound annoyed now. Deciding he needed the money (he had no choice) he accepted.
“Remember, Drayton Street. Follow the tape”
They hung up simultaneously. A small ache formed at the front of his head, as he knew there and then it was only going to get worse.
As the clock struck Twelve, James had reached Drayton Street. Even in midday, the XXX shop opposite was alight with its seedy red glow. A man, perhaps seeing the police, slammed the door shut and became a mere shadow behind the dulled windows. James noticed he was wearing smart suit. Another government official with a taste for bestiality or maybe that fucked up pregnant porn.
Three police officers were stood by the alleyway across the road. One was taking picture furiously, as his glasses slipped down his long nose. The other two greeted James with the same sour expression. He couldn’t blame their pessimism; no one wanted this job except for the money. The taller of the two, identified as Heath, was a crew-cut ex-army jock who imposed with his strong build. He was a complete asshole and proud of it. The shorter was Collins, a college dropout who was wiry with a mass of curly chocolate hair that was greasy against his sallow skin. Welcome to the party he thought bitterly.
“Officers” James began. They nodded solemnly in return. “What we got then?” Maybe they could shed more light on the poor bastard.
Collins spoke first “We have identified her as Angela Ford. Young female; early twenties; Caucasian; dark brown shoulder length hair. She displays signs of being beaten physically and there are numerous knife wounds across the throat and abdomen”
Heath clicked his teeth apprehensively. “But we can’t do shit. They stopped the fucking forensics”
James froze. “What?”
“That asshole Kinney pulled the funding. He gave no reason; maybe it’s those mafia fucks who he’s kissing up to”
The Mafia. Of course. There were rumours he had some help in getting office; just like Kennedy.
“No one said anything of course” Heath continued, clenching his fists. James saw a flicker of fear in Collins’ eyes. “They wouldn’t dare. Not with what happened to Sherm”
Cliff Sherman; the Mayors aide who disagreed with his actions and was disposed of. Rumours said he was living in a shack in Guam. Others say he was skinned alive by Kinney’s associates. The latter wouldn’t have surprised him; particularly after his outburst on the Campaign Show.
This time Collins spoke up. “Which is why we have Carter taking the photos. Least then we have something to go on”.
He almost smiled, as Heath clapped him on the shoulder. It was a father and son moment; though the corpse in the background was a mood killer.
“Let’s see the body then” James said. The same dread flooded his stomach. No matter how many bodies he saw, it still sickened him. It was never this bad back in the day.
The two officers stood aside, leading to the narrow alleyway where the young victim lay. As he observed her body, James felt closed in; the walls seemed taller than they did when he first approached. At night, they must have gone on forever. Angela lay in a pool of dark crimson; graceful even in death. Judging from her overalls, she must have been employed at the luxurious Barton Hotel.
“She was leaving work” He began. Collins had dug out a notebook and was scribbling furiously. James pointed to the crest on her chest. “That’s the insignia of the Barton Hotel” He turned to Heath who was looking over his shoulder. “What was she doing down here in this area? Particularly at night?”
Heath shrugged half-heartedly. “Maybe she fancied herself some Asian porn?” he nodded to the XXX shop. The suited man was still creeping by the window.
“No... not at night. She obviously comes from one of the least-affected areas. She has no business down here.”
Collins was writing so fast, his hand was a blur upon his notebook. James looked at the XXX shop as an idea crossed his mind.
“Do you think anyone from that shop would have seen anything?” He asked Heath.
Heath shrugged again. A favourite habit of his. “I doubt it. Even if they did, I doubt they’d come forward. No one ever admits they go into that place”.
“It couldn’t hurt to have a word with the owner” James raised his hands in a what-the-hell gesture. “Collins, you and Carter see what else you can dig up about this stiff”. He turned back to Heath. “Let’s go”.
They stole away, as the suited man in the shop stepped into the catacombs of the aisles of taboo pornography.