Amouraq, Chapter 2

The simplistic beauty of the neighborhood was almost unnerving! The small, nineteen fifties style houses were all neatly painted and had beautifully manicured lawns. Trees with bushy, green leaves lined the sidewalk, but the streets were free from twigs or foliage. He saw a young child helping his mother unload groceries from her van, and he couldn’t imagine a more ideal place to grow up. He couldn’t believe that somewhere inside this picturesque piece of Americana an abhorrent massacrer was plotting vile chaos and utter demise! He almost wished the area had less of a homey charm to it because it tempted him to bask in the quaintness that it offered. It disgusted him to think of any criminal perverting the serenity of these roads, and to know that one of the most bloodthirsty people on the planet lurked in the shadows just incensed him more! The only plus side he could think of was that, of the very least, people would notice if something was out of place. Wherever the creep decided to hide, someone noticed! As he got closer to his destination, he felt more and more determined to find them and bring him or her to justice!

In a small living room, an elderly lady wearing a lacy shawl over a full length dress and an elegant bun sat on a cushy, antique chair while she crocheted a blanket. She glanced up when she saw a ritzy, black sedan pull up in front of her house, and when she noticed Stephen emerge from the vehicle, she set down her yarn and needle and somewhat hesitantly went to her front entrance. Before Stephen could even knock, she opened the door a crack and gruffly asked, “Who are you?”

Stephen felt a little taken aback by her abruptness, but he quickly recovered himself and showed her his badge. “Stephen Knight, FBI. Can we talk?” She studied him as if she were evaluating his story, and when she got a grasp of his authenticity, she opened the door wider and invited him inside.

Once he stepped inside, she closed the door and apologized, “I’m sorry about that. We can’t be too careful right now.”

“I understand,” Stephen responded. “I would prefer to see you air on the side of caution during these times! I’m assuming you’re Missus Lambert.”

“Call me Amelia.” She extended her hand, and Stephen shook it. “Please, have a seat.”

Stephen replied, “Thank you,” as he sat down on a couch in the corner of the room.

Before Amelia joined him, she took another look at him and decided something. “How do you take your tea?”

“Oh, I don’t need anything, thank you,” Stephen politely declined.

“Oh, yes you do,” Amelia stated firmly. “You haven’t slept well in days, you need the energy boost.” Stephen seemed surprised at her assessment, so she quickly explained, “I’m a mother of four and a grandmother of eight, it just comes naturally. So, do you take cream with your tea?”

Stephen answered, “Just sugar, thanks.”

As Amelia went into the adjoining kitchen, Stephen looked around at the various pieces of furniture and knick-knacks. Everything looked about as old as the house, so he couldn’t help but titter a little to see a cellphone charger in the wall! He heard Amelia used a single serve coffee maker, and he thought that perhaps Emily tried to help her update the place. He observed several pictures on the fireplace mantle, and one in particular really caught his eye. It had to be at least thirty years old based on the picture quality, and it showed a little girl making a funny face while wearing a witch’s costume. Based on her facial features, he thought that it had to be Emily. He chuckled slightly wondering if that little girl had any idea that she’d grow up and inherit the throne of Amouraq!

“How many lumps?” Amelia inquired.

“Huh?” Stephen pulled himself out of his momentary stupor and replied, “Oh, two lumps should be fine.”

As she stirred his tea, he noticed a silver frame on a round end table. It had a man with red hair and a toothy grin and a woman with dark hair draped over his shoulder giving him a kiss. Before he could guess who they were, Amelia appeared in the living room with a tray that had his tea on it, and she let him know, “That’s a picture of my daughter, Sylvie, and my son in law, Ronald, on their honeymoon. They’re Emily’s parents, they… They died fifteen years ago from a car crash.”

“I’m sorry to hear that!” Stephen empathized.

Amelia seemed saddened by the memory, and she said forlornly, “I do wish I didn’t have to bury my children, but, in a way, maybe it’s better they went out this way, you know, quickly, instead of the way the others are…”

Stephen grimaced at the thought. He ensured her, “Don’t worry, I won’t let that happen to Emily! I sent an agent from the Seattle office to watch over her while I flew here, and she’ll bring her home when she gets off work.” He glanced at an antique clock and wondered, “What time does she usually get here?”

“Usually, she gets home around three thirty, four o’ clock,” Amelia told him, “but today, I’m not sure. She handed in her resignation this morning. She wanted to teach them one more day to say goodbye, but she knows she can’t stay there. With a target on her head now, she couldn’t risk putting those kids in danger!”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t put it past them to harm children,” Stephen grimly remarked. “In some cases, innocent civilians were killed instantly if they got in this murderer’s way. One way or another, he or she gets them isolated so they can… Well, my guess is torture. I have no idea how they’re able to kill people in the way that they do, but it seems extremely painful. Whoever commits these atrocities must find isolated spots so no witnesses can hear the screaming. Do you have any idea where someone could do that around here?”

Amelia shook her head. “If the killer is Amouraqian, then they have methods that I can’t even begin to imagine! They could make it happen almost anywhere without anyone having the slightest clue about what’s going on! That’s how they’ve been getting away with it all this time! They made it almost impossible to find them!”

Stephen emphasized, “Almost. Nothing is completely impossible, and no matter what kind of skills this person possesses, they’re only human and humans leave traces of themselves wherever they go! No matter how good they are at recovering the evidence, no one is perfect! Sooner or later, we all make mistakes, and someone has picked up a clue about this person even if they don’t realize it yet! Somebody heard something, saw something, even smelled something, and I’m gonna find out what that is! Now think, has anything unusual occurred here recently? Any minute detail? No clue is too small!”

Amelia jogged her memory and tried really hard to recollect anything like what he described. “It was freezing this morning. It was kind of strange because normally it starts to warm up this time of year. And the fog looked thicker than normal. That’s all I can think of. Is that helpful?”

Stephen jotted this information down inside of his phone before he spoke up, “It could be. Sometimes the significance of a detail doesn’t present itself in an obvious way. It may say something about the killer’s profile. I’ll have to see if weather played a role in any of the previous cases.” He paused before he added, “This is kind of a long shot, but do you have any idea who may be behind it all?”

“If I knew anything for sure, I’d tell you,” Amelia responded.

“What if you knew something less sure?” Stephen challenged her. “Would you still tell me?”

Amelia stared at him in surprise for a moment, and then she divulged, “Well, there was something Ronnie said once that keeps popping up in my head lately. When he mentioned his distant relation to King Patrick, he really highlighted the fact that his ancestors got on the family tree legitimately. When I asked him what he meant by that, he explained that for centuries, people would court an heir just to get on that list of those who could inherit the crown. Ronnie’s forefather fell in love with a woman who happened to be on the list, he didn’t seek her out for any ulterior purposes. Not all of the heirs could make that claim. Some people took drastic measures to try to get on that list, including kidnapping and even rape! Not everyone on that list is noble!”

Stephen surmised, “So, you think someone on that list is responsible for all of this?”

“I don’t know.” Amelia shrugged. “Ever since all of this started, I just keep thinking about everything Ronnie and Emily told me about Amouraq, and that’s the biggest thing I know about the heirs. It would make sense to me that someone low on the list is trying to fight their way up to power. I suppose someone from another country could try to destabilize the Amouraqian government, but there must be hundreds of people with trace amounts of royal heritage, so could they really murder everyone? It’s possible, but it seems like it’d be easier to marry someone on the list or at least conceive a child in order for their family to move their way into the Ovelstrofe castle. People have been trying to taint the list for centuries, so I just thought maybe this is one of those times. Does that make any sense to you? My only experience with crime solving is watching Murder She Wrote.”

Stephen laughed a little at her last sentence, but the rest of what she said really got him thinking. He flashed back to seeing that list on that desk, but it didn’t occur to him to do an extensive background check on any of them. On the surface, nothing about the current heirs really jumped out at him, but now his mind was reeling about any detail that he might have missed. “You’re making a lot of sense. When we’re on the plane, I’ll have to look at…”

A ringtone chimed from a cellphone next to Amelia’s seat, and Amelia read the message that she received. “It’s Emily. She just wrapped up at the school, and she’ll be here soon.”

Connecting the subject that they were just discussing with Emily’s arrival gave Stephen a foreboding feeling. He knew she was in very capable hands with the Seattle agent, but all of a sudden, he got this overwhelming feeling that he should assist her. He bolted out of his seat and briskly remarked, “I’ll make sure of that!” as he sped out of the house.

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