Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 34

“It happened during a lacrosse game,” a reporter relayed to her viewers. The camera zoomed on to a goal post on a high school sports field where a sign hung with letters clearly written in blood! “As you can see, it says ‘Prepare for the end! Become a Fay or get ready to die!’ A group of Fay Folks interrupted a match with loud chants and tasers, and after firing at the players, they hung their banner, mocked the crowd, and ran off. Two players were injured but are expected to make a full recovery. Channel Three has obtained a cellphone video of the incident, and we’ll play it for you now.”

The footage showed someone in the bleachers filming the people playing, and the person behind the camera, who sounded like an elderly woman, remarked, “I don’t understand, did our side do something good?”

And elderly man’s voice responded, “Use your logic filter, Misha! Do the players look happy right now?”

“I don’t know, Sandor! They always look like that!” Misha snapped.

“Oh, I’m so glad we drove all the way from DC to argue about our grandson losing his game!” Sandor grumped.

I tittered as they bickered, but Wade grumbled, “Fricken bohunks!”

Sandra inquired, “What’s a bohunk?”

Before I could answer, Misha and Sandor’s spat trailed off as hostile, anti-human yelling sounded from across the field. I watched in shock as a group of Fays started going after the people near the goal post. A couple had tasers that they arbitrarily fired, and some just aggressively chased students away from the area. These ruffians stood guard as more Fay Folks brought in the sign, and after they climbed up and placed the sign where everyone could see it, they taunted the terrified onlookers as they exited the area. The reporter concluded her segment, “Police are still investigating the incident, and we’ll keep you updated with developments as we uncover them. Back to you at the news desk.”

Wade started ranting about the eastern Europeans who filmed the event, so I went outside to discuss this with Sandra. “That has to be our guy! That’s exactly the kind of rhetoric he uses!”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Sandra agreed. “Get ready to head out! If any DNA on the scene matches our killer’s profile, we’ll need to document the incident.”

“Maybe we should start heading there now! We know that our suspect was behind this, so..” I almost darted inside to get my keys and purse, but then something occurred to me. “Wait, usually when the killer puts out a message like that, he displays it over a body.. The news didn’t mention anything about finding someone dead on that field!”

Sandra thought about the point I just raised, and then she noted, “It doesn’t look like the killer was even there. It’s too warm for sweaters, so we would have noticed if anyone in the crowd wore a hoodie. But, why would the guy send Fays out to do that if it didn’t follow a murder?”

I theorized, “Maybe there is a body, but it’s somewhere remote. Maybe he sent his henchmen to a place where more people can see what he has to say. I’m guessing his usual attacks weren’t enough this time, he wants more attention to his message now!”

“You think this is more than just him acting out ’cause we locked up his main sidekick?” Sandra questioned.

“Unfortunately, yes,” I replied grimly. “I mean, this kind of escalation could have partly come from Dahlia’s lack of presence around him, maybe she talked him into toning it down this whole time, I dunno, but maybe Dahlia was right- maybe the end really is near!”

Sandra didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and I could only imagine that she needed to take some time to contemplate such a dark possibility. Frankly, after I uttered those words, I had to take a while to fully absorb it. If our murderer really did find a way to make it happen, then we didn’t have much longer! It became imperative for us to put a halt to his doomsday mission, which was a troublesome task for us since we didn’t have a concrete sense of their identity! I believed that Aidan orchestrated the whole thing, but I certainly didn’t have enough to arrest him on. Just as I pondered on what more I could do to gather more clues from him, Sandra interrupted my train of thought, “I hear us both saying a lot of maybes, we really need to find something solid to-.” We both received a text message from the forensics team, which prompted Sandra to assert, “Well, maybe now we can quit saying maybe so much!”

The forensic analysts on the scene found some sweat droplets on the threatening banner, but they didn’t find much else. We didn’t know whose blood the killer used to make that sign, and we certainly didn’t find any bodies in the vicinity. The most noteworthy discovery from that scene was the lack of footprints from the Fay Folks. It takes a lot of complicated spell work to remove a person’s footprints, so we could definitively judge that the magian who performed that magic on them did so hours in advance. The police investigating the premises did observe a forest within walking distance of the high school, and they assured us that they’d comb through it to see if they left any evidence in that area. I really hoped that I wouldn’t have to make a third trip in the same day, but we didn’t have a lot of reason to stick around much longer, so Sandra and I went home.

I didn’t get any sleep that night. I kept expecting to get a call about discovering a body somewhere in the woods, but sunrise came and I didn’t get summoned to any other crime scenes, so I spent the rest of my morning trying to figure out what I could do to identify the killer, and I came up with a few possible scenarios to do so, but all of my ideas flew out the window when I saw how strange the sky looked. It had an eerie glow to it, and the air felt a little more electric than usual. As I drove to the station, I couldn’t help but worry that we were already too late to save the planet from the apocalypse!

Sandra appeared to have been thinking along the same lines as me. As soon as she saw me in my cubicle, she immediately greeted me with, “It’s already happening!”

I know exactly what she had been referring to, and I didn’t want to disagree with her. At the same time, I couldn’t let her panic about the situation either. She could have started a chain reaction, and the last thing we needed was mass hysteria! I had to come up with something to enable some hope in her, and I came up with, “It’s not over yet! We still have time to prevent the end from coming!” My own words gave me a renewed sense of optimism, and it sharpened my focus on finding a way to emerge victoriously.

Sandra peered at my activity on the computer and queried, “What are you doing? Oh, you’re studying maps, I guess that was a stupid question. I see you’ve pinpointed the forest entrance closest to the high school. What do those dots represent?”

“That’s the bathroom where we found Giada, and that’s where the fisherman saw the killer dump Reed at.” I indicated to the dots as I spoke about them.

“What’s that icon mean?” Sandra pointed to as square shape that she saw on the map.

I let her know, “That’s Brigid’s Garden. Unfortunately, I live right by the triangle! Figures!”

Sandra puzzled, “Triangle?”

“I triangulated the area of known activity of our killer in the forest,” I explained. “I wanted to narrow down where we have to look for the latest victim. I really doubt anyone would donate that much blood for his sign willingly!”

“I don’t think they could survive after losing that much blood!” Sandra concurred with my opinion. “We’re definitely not doing a search and rescue here! We’re-.”

Chief Mazarine stepped into the cubicle area and shouted, “Who has time to train on Monday?” No one showed any interest except for Sandra, who waved her hand enthusiastically. Chief Mazarine addressed her, “Not you! You’re not done training your current protégé.” Sandra put her hand down in a glum defeat. “Anyone else? Come on, someone has to!” One person finally volunteered, and Chief Mazarine requested, “Thank you, Detective Chepi! Come to my office to get their details.”

As my colleague followed Chief Mazarine out of the area, I asked Sandra, “So, we don’t pair people up based on personality type?”

Sandra answered, “I know it seems random, but for anyone who wants to take on a leadership position, they have to see you work with any personality type. I always volunteer ’cause I’m hoping to become chief after he retires.”

“You’d be a good one!” I complimented her, which obviously elated her, and then I admitted, “We work so well together that I always thought we got paired together on purpose!”

“We just got lucky! Not all training sessions end in friendship!” She smiled warmly at me, and after I grinned right back, she added, “But don’t think that’s gonna grant you any special favors when that time comes!”

I smirked at her quip, but before we could broach the subject any further, I steered our conversation back to our original topic, “Let’s make sure we can have that problem in the future! There’s a body waiting to get found out there, I just know it!”

Sandra stated, “Alright, let’s head out!”

As we walked through the woods, I hadn’t forgotten about Aidan’s possible role in all this. I half expected to see him roaming around in the area, and I could picture him coming up with a plausible story for his presence here right before we came across a corpse! I began to second guess that theory though because that would have made it too easy for me to put him back on the suspect list. Life rarely handed things over so easily, so I knew I’d need to actively seek out the evidence I needed for myself. I needed to see him in person to really measure his response, and if he really was the mastermind behind this apocalypse, then I reasoned that a date night might delay it further. I pulled out my cellphone, and keeping a weary eye on the forest while contacting him, I expressed my desire to spend more time with him. To my delight, he accepted my offer! He wanted to know where I wanted to go, and I had to think about it for a while. I wanted to find a place quiet enough for us to chat but also elegant enough for me to look my absolute best! I hoped that a little sex appeal would loosen his tongue a bit…

“What are you doing?” Sandra tried to peer over my shoulder to read what I had on my screen.

“Nothing!” I hid my cellphone from her, but I suddenly had an epiphany about my scheme. It felt so good to stop lying to Travis about his bicycle, and I ended up gaining a new friend out of that occurrence. Sandra already considered me a friend, so I didn’t want to keep lying to her! Besides, we may not have had much longer left, and I thought that she should know who I suspected and how I planned to get the information, especially if something happened to me that prevented me from completing my pursuit. If I didn’t finish it, someone else would have to! I knew it would feel nice to rid myself of this burden of hiding an important thing from her. Plus, if I ever wanted the ideal place to confess to her, in the middle of the woods with no one else around fit that mold perfectly! I took a deep breath, but before I could reveal the truth to her, Sandra saw something on the path ahead of her that made her gasp…

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 33

One good thing came out of that day- Sandra got too distracted to hound me about my relationship with Aidan! While I found Dahlia’s testimony interesting, I couldn’t see how it got us any closer to catching the killer. Oh sure, we learned a little more about his methodology, especially when it came to how he recruited Fay Folks to his side, but her refusal to name him put us right back to square one. We still had no idea who this murderer was, at least from a legal standpoint. I still believed that Aidan fit the role, and I refused to keep enduring this torment of not knowing dangling over my head! I didn’t want to keep repeating the cycle of finding new evidence, worrying it would reveal he did it, and then finding out our clues wouldn’t lead us to anyone least of all him. I certainly didn’t relish having a man who captured my heart go to prison for a heinous crime spree, but I also didn’t want this go on long enough for me to fall in love with him only to have us get torn apart in such a brutal fashion! Plus, innocent people were dying, and it struck me that I didn’t think about that first! The inward debate I had on whether or not I had a good soul tortured me enough, but I hated the possibility of having such strong feelings for an infinitely evil person too, so I left work with the fierce determination that I would unearth the answers I needed from him right away!

At least, I intended to do that anyway! I kept a full head of steam throughout the way home, but as soon as I arrived there, Travis popped out in front of me and repeated for the millionth time, “Where’s my bike?”

With the fury that consumed me at that moment, I couldn’t help but feel touchy by this constant nuisance! Following my immediate instinct of not wanting to deal with it anymore, I snapped, “You wanna know the truth? We did find your bike, but you can’t get it back! A hooker stole it so a murderer could make a sign about the doom of humanity! There! Happy now?”

“If you don’t know, you don’t have to make crap up!” Travis walked away in a huff.

“What did you just say?” From her nearby truck, Travis’s mom came barreling towards me with an irate confusion blazing in her eyes. “Why are you shouting about hookers to my son?”

I hadn’t considered rousing the wrath of a mama bear when I responded in the way that I had, and as she came towards me fully charged, I got completely intimidated in a matter of seconds! I backed away slowly and, as calmly as I could, I explained, “I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have shouted, but I told your son the truth about his bike! A prostitute took it so a serial killer could tear it apart and use it to hold up a threatening message. I know it sounds strange, and I haven’t the faintest idea as to why they used Travis’s bike out of all things, but I’m being honest here! I’m so sorry!”

She appeared to have been mollified when she heard all that, and I felt an incredible wave of relief wash over me. Not just because she no longer wished to harm me, but I got a huge sense of alleviation to relieve myself of the burden of constantly having to lie! It didn’t solve all or even most of my problems, but it gave me one less thing to worry about! I can’t say that Travis’s mother felt the same way though! She seemed a little disconcerted, and after she took a minute to absorb it, she finally reacted, “So, it’s gone now, huh?”

“Well, you could get it back after we solve the case and convict the guy,” I relayed to her, “but I’m not sure if you’d want it back after…”

“No thanks!” Travis’s mom declined as she took out her wand and lit a cigarette. “I didn’t take my husband back after he touched a hooker, so I ain’t taking that thing back either!”

Her comment peaked my interest. “Your husband slept with a hooker?”

She leaned against my car as she took another drag. “Yeah. Happened when Travis was a baby. I came home one day, and there they were buck naked in my living room!”

“What’d you do next?” I curiously asked her as I joined her on the hood of my car.

“I took out my wand and blasted them out of the house!” she answered in a very matter-of-fact tone. “Then I put a spell on the house so he couldn’t come back in. He kept coming to the park though, and he kept hovering as close as he could! Even after he died too!” She saw my expression of puzzlement, so she clarified for me, “He turned into a Fay.”

With all of the mayhem the Fay Folks caused for my case, it hadn’t occurred to me that they had families out there. I couldn’t imagine how they must have felt to have a relative die in that way, and while some may have been comforted with their ability to still speak with them, I figured some wouldn’t have any desire to anymore. They committed a lot of great offenses to get to that state, so I imagined that their families would feel conflicted about having them still around! And after going through the betrayal of infidelity myself, I knew that having her ex return in that way must have been very painful! I sympathized with her, “I’m sorry! That must have been really hard!”

She let me know, “I didn’t give a damn what happened to him once he left! Of course I didn’t like him always being around, but it really bothered me to have him hang around my child! I didn’t want Travis to pick up on any of that shit that made him turn into a Fay! He’s a good boy, I don’t want him to follow in the same footsteps! Thank the heavens for Mister Okelani’s lawsuit or else he might never have gone away!” She could tell I was about to query about that last part, so she elaborated, “He was in the neighbor’s yard, the one next to the woods right there, when Mister Okelani’s chihuahua attacked him, and-.”

“Wait, was your husband a blue Fay that made such a big deal about his injury that the police had to get involved?” I probed.

“Yes… How did you know?” She gazed at me in surprise.

I revealed, “I was the officer that responded to that call!”

Travis’s mother laughed at that coincidence. “Damn, it is a small world! Well, anyway, Mister Okelani’s dog got real sick from biting him, something about swallowing undead blood, so Mister Okelani sued him. Thankfully, the bastard paid this place off before that suit, so Travis and I still had somewhere to go!”

“You’re lucky!” I remarked. “Well, all things considered anyways. My husband cheated on me with a prostitute too, and he stole all our money to pay for it! He even took the money to pay off our mortgage, so the bank took our house and I had to come here.”

“So, a hooker took your ex too, huh? That’s too bad! At least you didn’t lose anything that can’t get replaced! I dunno when I’ll ever be able to replace that bike!” She finished her cigarette and then regarded me, “Speaking of my kid, I better go feed him. Thanks for treating us like human beings! Most cops don’t care!” She gave me a grateful smile before heading inside her house. It really struck me that she had that sentiment, especially since the Fay Folks echoed a similar attitude. It made me wonder why the killer chose, out of all people to pick on, her to victimize. I could have seen the logic if she represented the type of person that caused him to bring on the apocalypse, but I would’ve thought seeing a kindhearted person like her would have been reason enough to cease his depraved mission! I didn’t understand how he could see the best of humanity and still justify this action! I knew I wouldn’t discover the rationale of it that night, so I shook it out of my mind and went inside the house.

Despite the grim topics of our conversation, I felt pretty good about myself afterwards. It was nice to make a new friend that I could relate to, though embarrassingly enough, I hadn’t learned her name yet! I enjoyed talking to someone who understood the pain I went through with Ben, and I might have spent the rest of the night savoring that gratification if it weren’t for the unpleasantness that the suspect in my case put them through! It mystified me why he would hurt a single mother barely scraping by like that! I considered the fact that she had a connection to a Fay, but he didn’t have access to the property. He did have access to ladies of the night though, and I began to speculate on who the one she busted him with might have been…

Without even realizing it, I had crawled onto my bed (my only option to navigate through my room since I stored so much of my stuff from the old house in there), and I had begun texting Aidan all about my day! Apparently, he had asked how it went, and I had given him a lengthy reply! I had to scroll through our conversation to make sure I hadn’t revealed any classified details about my case, especially since I didn’t want my unofficial suspect to know how much I knew, and luckily, I hadn’t divulged anything too precarious! I scolded myself for not exercising enough caution, and I vowed to behave more carefully going forward! With my focus renewed like that, I decided to use this opportunity to wrangle the truth out of him!

Easier said than done! I had the right intentions, but I lacked the concentration! Wade was in the living room (which my room shared a wall with) shouting at the television as if he were watching a sports game, but he just had the news on! He got so distracted by his outbursts that he failed to see my mom sneak some leftover dinner to me. Aidan started telling me about his day, and I couldn’t think of a way to tie in my murder case with his story about his latest heist, especially not with all of the noise around me and the food in front of me, so I responded to him with follow up questions to what he told me. I’m sure it must have felt liberating for him to be open with me about this subject, and it delighted me to think I made him happy in that way! I texted him that I thought he was wasting his talents in faux sales and suggested that he join the force as an undercover officer…

That prompted to me return to my original objective. I knew his reaction to my advice would be very telling on just how immersed he got in the criminal world. If all he did was hustle bad guys out of their money, then becoming an officer that pretty much did the same thing should have intrigued him. If he made up some excuse to not do it, I thought that I could assume that meant he didn’t want to give up his criminal ways. If he didn’t opt to do the right thing, I planned on pressing him and pressing him until he gave me the honest answer as to why he wouldn’t do it, which excited me! I felt like I had gotten so close to learning what I needed to solve my case, and my anticipation ran through the roof! A part of me hoped that he would say yes so that I could begin to accept his innocence and let myself develop more potent emotions for him, so it really disappointed me when he expressed his need to mull it over. He really loved sales, and he didn’t know what would become of his business if he left. I had to counter that, I had to find out his true motive for not moving forward with this! I got so close to finally gathering the evidence that I needed…

Then, my phone started ringing! I anguished in a surge of disappointment and hoped that the caller didn’t need something that would take me away from all of this progress I was making. Sandra had been the one to contact me, and I crossed my fingers that all she wanted was to gossip about my love life again! With a slight trepidation, I accepted her call, “Hello?”

“Are you watching the news?” Sandra queried.

“Uh…” I glanced over to the wall adjoining the living where I could hear Wade’s program blaring. “…I’m listening to it. Why?”

As if on cue, Wade exclaimed, “Dang ol’ bohunks! Defacing public property! You know it has to be one of them jackasses doin’ it!”

I sincerely doubted that Sandra would bother me for a random, possibly eastern European vandal, so I strolled over to the living room to get the full picture. I knew exactly why she had brought this to my attention as soon as I saw what the news crew captured…

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 32

I had a new appreciation for my body after removing that disguise! Though that sense of relief didn’t last long! The longer it took to get to Dahlia’s questioning, the more anxious I grew. I had this fear gnawing at the pit of my stomach that she would end up naming Aidan as the serial killer that she worked for, and I just couldn’t bear to see the hurt in his eyes as we accused him of murder! As the time grew closer, my nerves grew to their maximum height, and all I wanted was for that feeling to go away. I realized that the only way that would have been for me to obtain definitive proof one way or the other, so whether or not he turned guilty, I needed to find out the truth! With that in mind, I had renewed vigor as we headed out.

Sandra and I were informed that Dahlia would stay in a mental health institution for evaluation, and as we got into the car, Sandra remarked, “I’ve never interviewed anyone from one of these facilities! It feels kinda strange!”

“You’ve never had any suspects go insane before?” I asked as we buckled our seatbelts.

“Oh sure, I’ve had some crazy ones,” Sandra answered as she started the vehicle, “but usually they got some medication and served their time just fine. I had one guy deemed not fit to withstand trial, but we could already prove he did the crime we accused him of. All we can prove with Dahlia is that she sold heroine, and she probably won’t even do hard time for that if she’s institutionalized.”

As we drove towards our destination, I reminded her, “Don’t forget, we have a witness this time. She can claim another coincidence if she wants, but once Giada identifies her as the killer’s accomplice, she’ll get the punishment she deserves.”

Sandra somewhat bitterly responded, “Yeah, if we can find her! She’s not at her last known address, and we’ve been looking all over town for her. No one has seen her, and if we can’t locate her before Dahlia goes to trial, we can kiss this case goodbye!”

“I’m sure she’ll turn up once she finds out her drug dealer is in custody!” I wouldn’t accept defeat on this case! My entire future rested on whether or not I could trust Aidan, and I absolutely had to find out before it was too late! I didn’t want the case to go cold and then I marry Aidan, have kids with him, and then discover he had been guilty all along! Besides, if I couldn’t close this investigation, I felt sure that Chief Mazarine would demote me back to petty crimes, and I worked too hard to return to that again! I determinedly asserted to Sandra, “She’s probably in hiding so that the killer doesn’t get her for assisting us. I’d probably do the same if I were in her shoes! But I’d also hang around Anaknock so I could get my life back after this is all over. She’s around here somewhere, and I’m positive she’ll show up before Dahlia goes to trial!”

“I just hope the jury takes her seriously,” Sandra commented. “A drug addicted Fay isn’t too reliable of a witness to most juries!”

I refused to concur with that assumption. “We’ll have more evidence than just her word! Especially once we get the truth out of Dahlia!”

Sandra pointed out, “That’s assuming she’s sane enough to provide testimony for us.”

“She’s faking it,” I stated firmly. “She didn’t start acting unstable ’til we saw the other officers. Don’t you see, this was their plan all along! The main suspect and she obviously hatched this plot in case she got caught so that no one would take her word seriously. We can’t let their ploy stop us from doing our job! We gotta treat this like any other interrogation!”

“You’re right!” Sandra acknowledged. “We can’t go in there planning on failing! Let’s make it happen!” We gave each other a high five and started focusing all our energy on different techniques to win this.

We arrived at an antiquated building surrounded by iron bars and ivy, and if it weren’t for the sign outside indicating that it was a hospital, I would have thought that I had come to the mansion of an old, rich person! It didn’t begin to appear like a medical facility until we got to the back of the building where we saw uniformed staff escorting people into an automatic door. As we walked inside, we noticed a small patio area with a few chairs where patients were sitting and chatting. Sandra then observed, “They sure made this place look like home!”

Trying not to sound too condescending, I brought up, “It is home for some people.” I then added, “I can see why Dahlia would prefer this place to prison, but I hope she doesn’t get too comfortable here!”

We approached the front desk, and the receptionist paged the people who could show us to where they where holding our witness. A doctor led us down a sterile hallway, and we found her in a solitary room with softly cushioned walls and nothing else.. She wore a straight jacket as she rocked back and fourth while staring vacantly towards the room adjacent to hers. The doctor informed us, “If she becomes too agitated, we’ll have to put an end to your interview. Also, we have a couple of orderlies standing by in case things get out of hand.”

“How much trouble could a Fay without use of her arms give us?” I inquired.

“You’d be surprised!” the doctor replied. “We’ll be watching your conversation in the observation room. Just call us if you need anything!”

Once he left, Sandra consoled herself, “An observation room? It’s not that different than our station! We’re gonna be fine!”

I ignored the creepiness of the situation and boldly expressed, “If she thinks this’ll intimidate us, she’s dead wrong!” Not even pausing to take a deep breath or do anything I’d normally do to calm myself before I question someone, I barged into the room!

Sandra and I sat down in front of her, and Dahlia looked at me in astonishment. “You’re not a Fay?”

“No, I’m not. I’m almost as big of a liar as you,” I kidded her, but really, my allegation had an ounce of truth to it!

“I’m not faking my mental illness!” Dahlia reacted in offense. “How dare you suggest that! Isn’t there laws against these kinds of accusations?”

I smugly told her, “I said you were a liar, I never suggested you were faking your mental illness- you did!”

Dahlia made a face as though I had just slapped it, and then she pouted, “I’m glad you’re not a Fay! You don’t deserve to be one!”

“You consider it an honor to be a Fay?” I queried.

“Not in this society, but this society won’t last long!” Dahlia retorted. The end is near, and you’ll all be dead soon! Meanwhile, I’ll stay on Earth and live like a queen!”

I probed, “Is that what he promised you? You help him kill people, and you’ll get to live in paradise? You actually believe that?”

She explained, “It’s true though! Once the Ploutonion gets destroyed, the planet will become the gateway to the afterlife, and only the Fay Folks can survive that! They can’t take our life force since we’re technically not really alive!”

“That can’t be true though!” I differed with her. “If It were, then no human could enter the Ploutonion!”

“The Ploutonion is just the gateway, you idiot!” Dahlia spat. “It protects the Fate Particle, but once it gets released from its enclosure, it’ll have infinite room to spread! No human stands a chance against it!”

I exclaimed, “So, you’re working for some kind of martyr, huh? He’s selflessly gonna sacrifice his life so that murderers like you can stay out of Hell a little while longer, is that it?”

She argued, “I’m not a murderer! Turning someone into a Fay helps them live through the apocalypse!”

“What about Reed Radley?” I contended. “He didn’t turn into a Fay, he just died! You don’t consider that murder?”

“I don’t know what went wrong there!” She hung her head ruefully. “He was just as sleazy as the rest of them, I don’t know why the Fates didn’t send him back. Well, obviously he must have went to Hell, and in that case, he deserved what he got!”

I refuted that claim, “Reed Radley’s sins didn’t define him! He had more than one side to him and helped a lot of people. I can prove that! He went to Heaven and obviously the Fates aren’t as judgmental as that loser you devoted your life to worshiping!”

Dahlia bellowed, “He’s not a loser! He’s using his powers to do the world a huge service! There’s so much suffering out there because of people’s selfish and evil ways, and he’s helping us live in peace and harmony! He’s destined for greatness, not like you! You’re just gonna perish like the rest of the lousy humans on Earth!”

“Last time we spoke, you admitted you didn’t want to help us ’cause you were afraid of him killing you and dying before you had a chance to make up for all the misdeeds that you did as a human, and now you act like you’re proud to serve him. You can’t have it both ways!” Before she could deny anything, I relayed to her, “Don’t try to play innocent now! If conversation wasn’t enough, we have a witness who could place you at the scene of their death! You’re not getting out of jail this time! If you wanna get into Heaven, you only have one last chance! Tell us who this hero of the apocalypse is!”

“I did my part already,” she regarded me hollowly. “There’s not much time left. The seal of the Fates has already begun to wear away, so you have about a week, two at the most. If I give you his name, then the Fays would only continue to suffer for years and years. If I reveal my master, then they’ll never be free! They only have to put up with it for a little bit more, so if I can’t help him other than to protect his identity, then so be it!”

Sandra and I glanced at each other in exasperation, and we silently communicated that there wasn’t a lot of point in continuing this conversation. As we got up, I concluded our talk with, “Have it your way! I guess I’ll see you in Hell!”

This appeared to have incensed Dahlia. She growled and suddenly lunged at me! Her mouth landed just inches away from my skin, and if Sandra hadn’t been ready with her wand, she would have gotten me! A couple of orderlies rushed in and injected her with a tranquilizer, and the doctor ran in and asked me, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” I answered him honestly. Somehow, her attacking me wasn’t the most disturbing thing that happened that day! “You guys were recording that, right?”

“I’ll have a copy sent you,” the doctor obliged.

I thanked him as we left the room. When we returned to the hallway, Sandra gazed out the window of an empty room and wondered, “Do you really think we’re on the brink of the apocalypse?”

I looked out the window and noticed the sky had an orange and gray tint to it. I would have normally attributed it to the sunset, but Dahlia’s story had me a little spooked! I shook off that precarious notion and expressed to Sandra, “I think she believes that, and the killer may or may not believe it too. Regardless of the case, he’s dangerous and we need to stop him!”

Sandra nodded, and we resumed exiting the building. “Maybe the killer will slow down without his faithful lackey by his side!”

As we headed to the car, I agreed, “Yeah, maybe!” Before I got into the vehicle, I caught another glimpse of the twilight again, and I got this feeling that Dahlia had told us the truth…

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 31

I read out loud, “I don’t sell pills. You wanna try some brown sugar? I promise it’s better than your pills!” I shook my head and commented, “Wow, what an up-sell! No wonder Aidan likes to hire these people!” I instantly regretted letting that slip out. Not only did I call a former suspect by their first name, which would raise anyone’s eyebrows, but I forgot that he admitted to tricking bad guys into buying non-existent black market items. I’m sure his employees help him in that expedition, and I really hoped no one asked any follow up questions on the subject! His scheme bordered the line of legality, and I didn’t want to call attention to his secret not to mention my own! Fortunately, they didn’t have time to do that! The drug dealer texted us again with a message of impatience, so I had to reply back quickly. I spoke out loud as I typed, “Sure, I’ll give it a try. Where can I find you?” I turned to Sandra and asked, “Does that sound realistic enough?”

She answered, “Sure. You made yourself sound desperate to get a fix, and calling it brown sugar makes it sound cute and harmless, so this person probably would buy it.”

“Meet me in the alley behind Petunia’s Pet Palace at noon. Come alone. Yup, they bought it alright!” When I realized where she wanted to meet, I exclaimed, “Wait, that’s where Ben works! I can’t go there! That idiot will probably try to cozy up to me again, which would totally blow my cover!”

“We could send an undercover officer there,” Sandra suggested.

I mulled that idea over. “Yeah, it’s probably better if we don’t go. What if the dealer turns out to be… someone we already interviewed. They’d recognize us as law enforcement and wouldn’t show up.” I privately worried that Aidan could have been the drug dealer, and if he saw me there, he definitely wouldn’t go through with the transaction! Plus, I wanted to limit the amount of people who saw us interact in case they detected something more than acquaintanceship between us. I know that Giada mentioned not wanting to buy from humans, but if he shared the same anti-human sentiments as her, she could have made an exception. I also wondered if he had previously altered his looks to appear as her preference, and that thought gave me an idea…

When we finished, I gazed into the mirror and uttered, “Wow! I sure hope this isn’t permanent!” It startled me to see myself with darker hair and trashy clothes, but it really boggled my mind to see my skin purple! I couldn’t help but stare and stare at my disguise. It looked very realistic, and that made me hope that we didn’t do too good of a job!

“I swear it’ll come out! See!” Sandra pointed her wand at a patch of my skin on my arm, and my flesh in that area returned to its normal color. I trusted Sandra, but after staring at my new reflection, I really needed that confirmation! As she made it purple again, she remarked, “You know, none of the people we’ve seen turn into Fays reacted like this. I would’ve freaked out about my visage becoming so drastically different, but their first instinct is to run! So strange!”

“I guess they’re mentally prepared to become Fays,” I conversed. “I dunno if they always knew that it would happen or if it just occurred to them as they were getting killed, but at some point, they figured out that they would end up like this.” My statement made me think of what my mom once said about her fate, and it saddened me to consider how many times my mother studied herself in the mirror and imagined what her body would morph into after her demise. I gazed at my current image, and it occurred to me that I didn’t have to imagine what would happen to me! I had romantic feelings for a man I believed was a serial killer, and as much as I held onto that belief, my amorous instincts towards Aidan were growing, not shrinking. I also had the guilt of lying to Travis about his bicycle and lying to my coworkers about my relationship with a possible murderer. I always figured I’d get into Heaven, but with these facts in front of me, I no longer felt sure. It made me numb to think about, but right then, I didn’t feel like such a good person, and I thought maybe I was staring into a window of my future!

Sandra interrupted my train of thought by asking, “Ready to go?”

I tore myself away from the mirror and stated firmly, “Let’s get out of here!” I didn’t know what my final destination would become, but I vowed to keep doing the best I could to do the right thing while I was still on this earth!

I walked down the street close to our meeting place, and I noticed a lot of people were glaring at me. A few passerby’s even hissed some insults in my direction, which really stung since I hadn’t done anything to them! I couldn’t believe how harshly I got treated when all I did was walk by them, and it hurt to receive so much animosity just for my appearance! This really made me garner a lot of sympathy for the Fay Folks! Oh sure, a lot of them didn’t treat us nicely, but the humans by me hadn’t seen any misbehavior from and already made severe judgments about my character! I wanted to remedy the situation and bring some fairness for the Fays, and I had no idea where to begin. That prompted me to remember that Aidan offered them jobs and a ray of friendship, and I almost deemed him to be an amazing human being for this, but then I recalled the fact that he could have been the one behind all of these untimely deaths. If he did do all of these heinous acts, then his Good Samaritan attitude didn’t originate from a pure heart! The killer in my case used the Fay Folks as pawns for his wickedness, so if Aidan did perpetrate all of this, then his kindness wouldn’t have been genuine. After this experience though, I couldn’t blame the Fays for trusting him and helping him with malevolence against our society.

When I saw the pet store where Ben worked, I peeked inside the window out of curiosity. I saw him setting up a display right by the glass, and I immediately dashed into the alley hoping he didn’t see me. As I walked towards the innermost part of the alleyway, a door burst open, and to my dismay, it was Ben! I tried to walk past him and ignore him, but he stepped in front of me and made it impossible to do so. I hid my face as much as I could and prayed he didn’t recognize me. Apparently he didn’t because he needled me, “Hey, cutie! What’s your price?” It disgusted me to hear a man say that to anyone, but it infuriated me to hear my soon-to-be ex solicit a woman like that when we weren’t even divorced yet! He tried so hard to get back together with me, and yet he continued to do what caused me to leave in the first place! I wanted to scream at him, but I didn’t want him to hear my voice, which I now wished we had taken the extra minute to disguise. I had to get past him speedily, I didn’t want to be late for my rendez-vous and risk losing the opportunity to nab that drug dealer that helped my suspect, so I only saw one option available. I punched him in the groin and walked past him as he nursed his injury. Since he technically sexually harassed me, I had a legal right to do it. I’s not something I would do under normal circumstances, but it did feel good to hear him groan in agony!

My joy of that small victory didn’t last long! I saw a familiar face that made my blood turn cold! No, it wasn’t Aidan, thank goodness! I hid my face so that she wouldn’t recognize me, but then a score of doubts ran through my mind. I wondered if I had actually saw who I thought I saw, especially since I thought she got sent to jail! As soon as I heard her voice, it removed all doubt. Dahlia questioned, “You here about the brown sugar?”

Originally, I had a whole set of dialogue planned out for when I met the drug dealer, but I certainly couldn’t speak to her right now! Most suspects would recognize the detective who sent them to jail, but I didn’t think she’d forget me catching her in the middle of an affair with my husband! I didn’t want her to run because we needed to prove she was the actual drug dealer and not just a contact person, and although we caught her helping the killer before, we obviously needed a more concrete reason to keep her behind bars! I simply answered her by holding up a wad of cash, and I hoped that she would move forward with the transaction without having to communicate with me.

Luckily, she swiftly scooped the money from my fingers, and I kept my palm out to proceed with the purchase. I worried that she might take the money and bail out, but fortunately, she didn’t leave! She kindly encouraged me, “I know you’re used to pills, but I promise you’ll enjoy this way more! And keep my number for the next you-.”

“Oh, I’ll never forget your number!” As she placed the baggie onto my hand, I grabbed her wrist and drew out my wand! She gasped when she recognized me, and I told her, “You’re under arrest!”

“They let Fays into the detective bureau?” she inquired.

As I cuffed her, I sardonically replied, “It’s a little late for you to be thinking about new career options!”

She smirked at my quip, but as a police officer began to take her away, her face instantly shifted into a pronounced frown. “You’re gonna regret this! You don’t know how unsafe you just made this planet!”

“You have the right to remain silent, I suggest you use it,” I advised her.

“You’ll all pay!” she shouted as the officer dragged her towards the street where his police car waited for them. “Go ahead and put me in prison! You’re only hurting yourselves!”

I watched as she maniacally laughed while the policeman put her into his squad car. Her behavior really astounded me! It wasn’t unusual for a criminal to act out during an arrest, but it intrigued me since the last time that I spoke to her, she had a very cold and calculating demeanor. If I would have known I’d see her again, I would have expected to get more of the same from her. I never would have imagined her going mad! Seeing her cackling like a lunatic really threw me off!

Sandra joined me and let me know, “The judge gave her a trial date and someone anonymously bailed her out.”

“Who could have afforded to-?” Before I could even finish my sentence, I immediately knew a likely possibility of a person who could have afforded to do that- Aidan! I couldn’t think of anyone else who had the funds to pull off a feat like that, and he had a history of empathy for the Fay Folks. I couldn’t imagine anyone else with that level of affluence having the motive to do something like that, and my stomach twisted in knots upon that realization! How could a man with such lovable qualities also commit such awful atrocities against the human race? I wanted to collapse right then and there, but only one thing prevented me from doing that…

“Hey! How come you never wore that costume when we were together?” Ben probed.

I wanted to channel all of my upset into responding to that jerk, but Sandra grabbed my arm and escorted me away before I could do anything. “Focus now! The key to victory is in our custody, so let’s go solve this thing before we miss happy hour!” As we headed back to our vehicle, I really wished that I could share her optimism!

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 30

Early the next morning, I popped some food into the microwave and grabbed some coffee in the break room. The cubicles behind me were quiet, most people hadn’t arrived yet, so I took the opportunity of this calm atmosphere to try and clear my head. The more I learned about the serial killer in my case, the more I believed that Aidan had masterminded the whole thing. At the same time, the more I learned about Aidan, the more romantically drawn I grew to him. That didn’t bode well for my character, and I wondered if my attraction to a potential murderer made me a horrible person. I didn’t know how else the two set of facts could co-exist! I thought I had a morally strong soul, but now I wasn’t so sure! I always went into our dates with the intention of stopping any evil he might commit, but I always let the experience relishing in the good times we shared rather than getting any clues that could help my investigation. I considered the the possibility that my subconscious purposely sabotaged my covert operation because of my growing feelings for him, and I inwardly debated on whether or not I should cease my efforts in investigating him off the clock. My instincts froze whenever I thought that, and that made me doubt myself even more. I mean, what kind of person doesn’t want to break the heart of a relentless criminal?

All of a sudden, a familiar voice’s presence made me jump! “Are those tater tots?” Sandra queried.

“It’s tater tot casserole, actually,” I corrected her. “My mom saved me some of their dinner from last night, and I needed to eat it before Wade spotted it and ate it himself. I figured it’s similar enough to hash browns, so why not eat it for breakfast?”

“Why not cook it at home thought?” Sandra inquired.

I replied, “Wade doesn’t want me eating any of their food. If I lived in a normal house, I could sneak it before he wakes up, but all those damn cats would give me away. They don’t beg for food, they demand it!” Sandra chuckled, and then I could see the gears in her mind spinning. I took an educated guess that she would attempt to glean more information about my relationship with Aidan, so I thwarted her plans by asking her, “What made you come in so early?”

As my food finished cooking, she explained, “Forensics promised to have some results from that cellphone at the start of their shift, and I wanted to take a look at some of my other unsolved cases before this one took over our day again.” She paused and then commented, “Ooh, that smells good!”

“Grab a fork, have some!” I invited. She retrieved a plastic utensil out of the community bin and joined me. As we ate, I remarked, “I forgot that other detectives have multiple cases going on at once! A couple weeks ago, all I got was petty crimes that I solved in, like, five minutes, and suddenly I’m waist deep in homicides! Gosh, so much of my life has changed since then, you’d think it happened a decade ago!”

“It is funny how all this began ’cause of a missing bicycle!” Sandra noted. I nodded, but before I could continue on the subject, Sandra brought up, “So, you didn’t have dinner at home, huh? Does that mean you spent the night with a certain someone?”

I knew sooner or later I’d have to talk to her about my date last night, but I still dreaded the prospect of going over it with her. I really didn’t want any of my colleagues to find out about my scheme until I finished it, and even though I felt sure she wanted to hear more about the salacious details of my love life, but I decided to give her minimal details and hoped that would suffice for now, “You think we slept together? He had five kids over at his place, how would we be able to without little ears hearing us?”

Sandra told me, “Listen, I had two kids in a small apartment, and if my husband and I didn’t find a way to do it, we wouldn’t have had baby number three! We also wouldn’t have become grandparents! We had no idea she was bringing boys into the house! Look, my point is you can still get laid with people around! You just gotta move fast and keep the volume down.”

“Oh, a quiet and quick romp, so romantic!” I said sarcastically.

“Hey, it’s better than going without!” Sandra defended her advice.

I reasoned with her, “I don’t need to do that right now! It wasn’t that long ago I had a husband that I could get that from! Of course, we hadn’t done it in a while, but still, I’m not at the point of desperation yet. Besides, I want my first time with him to be special! I don’t wanna worry about every little noise waking up a kid who may or may not know about the birds and the bees yet! And I definitely don’t want any interruptions! Doing it right is worth the wait!”

She shook her head and expressed her surprise on my viewpoint, “I don’t know how you could wait! I couldn’t resist it if I had a guy like that around! Actually, I didn’t wait with Alan! We did the math, we’re pretty sure our oldest child was conceived after our first date!”

“Well, it’s not like I didn’t want to, but…” I blushed furiously upon saying that, and I couldn’t speak from that point forward. I hadn’t meant to divulge that much honesty about the matter, and truthfully, I did long for him in that way. His studly good looks and well sculpted body flooded me with desire, but I also grew fearful at the prospect. If he really did the heinous acts I suspected him of, how could I make love to him? I felt guilty enough for not solving this case sooner and helping him get away with more murders, so I didn’t want to give him the pleasure of pleasuring the detective who was supposed to be working on putting him bars too! If he did turn out guilty over these allegations, then he definitely didn’t deserve to have an arousing experience like that! It didn’t feel right to get him off in either meaning of that phrase! However, if I kept up my ruse, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep my hands to myself…

“Am I interrupting anything?” a forensic analyst walked in and stared at us curiously.

I responded, “God, I hope so!”

She chose not to query about that statement and let us know, “We’re ready to let you know some of our findings on that cellphone.”

I got up to join her in the lab, but Sandra requested, “Wait!” She gobbled up the last bites of the casserole and mentioned to me, “I gotta get the recipe for this from your mom!”

In the forensics laboratory, the analyst led us to her station where the cellphone still laid broken inside of a tray. “I’m assuming you didn’t drag us over here just to tell us you couldn’t fix it,” I regarded the analyst.

“Quite correct!” the forensic analyst acknowledged. “Whatever spell the killer used had a permanent effect, but we didn’t give up there! We were able to decipher a serial number on the device, and we traced it to the factory where ti was made. The factory helped us track down what store they distributed it to, and that store matched their inventory list to their purchase history.”

“Oh, you got a name from the purchase history?” Sandra surmised.

The forensic analyst informed us, “Well, we got a name of the original buyer, but that consumer had since sold the device to someone else. Luckily, the selling app she used had a record of their transaction, and finally, we were able to confirm the last owner of the phone, Giada Midori.”

Sandra and I both breathed a sigh of relief after receiving this piece of evidence! We were both tired of running around in circles trying to learn something about the murderer that would help us get an arrest, and we assumed that this cellphone had something on it that would link us to our suspect or else he wouldn’t have gone through such great lengths to retrieve it. I prayed that the analyst didn’t reveal anything that would bring Aidan into the case again! Obviously, I didn’t think that notion would last forever, but I just didn’t feel ready to face that heartbreak yet! I had no idea if I’d ever be fully prepared to deal with that, but I had hoped that I would have more time to accept the truth rather than finding it out so abruptly like I did with my mom cheating on my dad or with Ben cheating on me with multiple hookers! For once, I wanted to get let down gently! I somewhat hesitantly asked her, “Were you able to learn anything else from it?”

“Yes,” the forensic analyst confirmed. “We went through Miss Midori’s contact information that we had on file, and we were able to pinpoint her network provider. Apparently, she had rigged the phone so that she could switch it to a cheaper company than the one the device was built for. Anyways, her provider gave us her usage history.” She turned her computer screen to face us and stepped aside to clear our view. “Feel free to take a look.”

“Thank you,” I made sure to mention before I took over her computer. I scrolled through the data as Sandra watched over my shoulders, and I stated, “She must have gotten a new cellphone ’cause this shows she made several text messages from this number last night!”

Sandra denoted, “Looks like she listed everyone by their street name. I wonder what her dealer went by!”

I spotted something on the log and pointed to it. “Found ’em! She just listed them as ‘Drug Dealer.’ Hmm, not very creative!”

“But it sure helps us out!” Sandra studied their conversation and concluded, “The last time she spoke to them was right before the attack.”

“Good!” I reacted approvingly. “I’m glad she was smart enough to leave this person alone! They’d probably attack her again for helping us.” I inquired to the forensic analyst, “Can you tell us anything about this number?”

She hopped back onto her computer and entered it into her database. When the results came back, she reported, “It’s a prepaid cellphone, sorry.”

Sandra lamented, “The killer probably had the dealer’s phone destroyed too so that we’d never find it, especially after he figured out that someone had found Giada’s phone, which could link us to him.”

“Maybe, but maybe not!” I offered an alternative theory, “If the killer had destroyed the dealer’s phone, then he wouldn’t have bothered to track Jasmine down. I mean, we can run all of her contacts through the system and see if one matches someone who fits the killer’s profile, but if he never had direct contact with Giada, then the only logical reason he’d have for destroying the phone would be that we could use it to find the drug dealer, and if we found the drug dealer, we could find him!”

“Wouldn’t it have been easier to destroy the drug dealer’s cellphone though?” Sandra differed. “The phone isn’t registered to anyone, so if the phone didn’t exist anymore, then we couldn’t identify the dealer. The killer must have had another motive to go after Giada.”

I countered with, “Possibly. It certainly would have made more sense for the killer to do that, but maybe they had to have that number active for some reason. We could contact that number and find out. If the line isn’t active anymore, we’d find out right away, but if the line is still active, then maybe we could lure the drug dealer somewhere and nail them! It’s worth a shot!”

Sandra contemplated my argument and then concurred, “You’re right! Let’s try it!”

“We have a program that simulates text messaging if you want to use it.” The forensic analyst pulled it up for us.

“Thanks!” I repeated to her. I typed a message about my willingness to do anything to get some pills, and my heart pounded as I pushed send. When the message went through, I announced, “It got sent! The number is still active! Now let’s just hope the dealer takes the bait!” The three of us watched as dots in a chat bubble indicated that the drug dealer was typing something, and when we saw them reply, our anticipation mounted so high that we practically lost our breath! We got quite the shock when we read their response…

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 29

After a minute, Aidan finally spoke, “Okay, well, as a police officer, you must have seen people get out of jail even though they were a hundred percent guilty. And you probably know people who belong in prison but got out on some loophole, am I right?” I nodded without outwardly noting the irony that I felt that way about him. He went on, “Doesn’t it drive you crazy?”

“I’m proud to work for our justice system, but obviously, it’s far from perfect,” I agreed with him before adding, “But, what does this have to do with your missing work files?”

“I just needed you to understand why I do it before I tell you what I do.” He took a deep inhale, exhaled out all of his nervous energy, and then rapidly admitted, “I don’t get most of my money from selling people’s random stuff. I get most of it from screwing over criminals who deserve it.”

It seemed like he conveyed a great deal of honesty, but I didn’t really buy his claim. I felt so sure that he had fabricated that story to cover up what he actually did, so I decided to press him further, “What do you mean? Do you run some kind of hedge fund scam or…?”

He explained, “No, nothing like that. I just find these people who try to buy these illegal things, pretend like I’m selling it to them, and then disappear with their money. Like, I act like I’m trying to get rid of a boat I stole, or I’ll fake like I’m selling organs on the black market. Once I hook them, I make it all vanish, and there’s nothing they can do about it!”

“I don’t buy it!” I told him bluntly. “If you were really hustling that many people, you’d constantly be looking over shoulders waiting for an attack! They may not go to the police, but they can still go after you! You’d have so many hits out on you! But when I’m with you, you don’t act like anyone is hunting you down!”

“They don’t know it’s me doing it,” Aidan informed me. “Are you kidding? I would’ve been dead a long time ago if I didn’t wear a disguise!”

That last part intrigued me. “You wear a disguise? Like a fat suit, maybe?”

I was so sure he’d confess to my theory about the killer altering his appearance with that kind of ruse, but instead, he differed, “Oh no, usually I make myself look like a frail, old man. It adds to people’s trust of me, no one suspects a sweet, old person of possibly conning them. Actually, it lures them in more ’cause they think they found an easy target!” He chuckled slightly at the thought.

His story made some sense, but I still didn’t understand one thing. “If all this is true, then why do you have so much unaccounted for time at your business?”

“Oh, I don’t keep most of what I earn from doing this,” he let me know. “I put it back into the business and write it off as a cash sale. It’s not technically a lie! It was a sale, and cash was involved…”

“So, that’s it?” I reacted incredulously. “That’s the big secret you were too afraid to tell me? That you’re a modern day Robin Hood?”

He gazed at me in surprise. “You’re not mad?”

I assured him, “No, I’m not mad about that.” I didn’t fib by saying that. I didn’t care about his swindling operation, I was more worried about the fact that he kept the role he played in the murder hidden still! But, to be fair to him, I didn’t delve into anything he did outside the scope of his work files. I did my best to stifle my feelings of bitter defeat of me extracting the proof of guilt I needed to bring him back onto the suspects list and attempted to maintain my cover of trusting him completely. “Why would I get mad about that?”

“Well, you’re a cop, and I just revealed to committing a crime…” He flushed as he expressed that to me.

“Eh, sort of!” I shrugged while still privately stewing about my loss. “If I didn’t know you personally, I still probably wouldn’t do much about it. We can’t enforce an illegal contract.”

Aidan’s face lit up after he heard this. “So, this doesn’t change anything between us?”

I couldn’t ignore my suspicions of him, but I didn’t want my scheme to falter either. If I wanted to discover the actions he took relating to my string of homicides, I needed to continue this charade. “Nope! Doesn’t change a thing!”

“Oh, Shannon! I’m so-!” He cut himself off when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. “Oh no! Harper’s in the air vents! Harper! Harper! Get out of there!” He pointed his wand at the vent he caught sight of her in, but his spell didn’t have an effect. “Where did you go? Harper? Harper?”

As he got up to find her, I contemplated my whole situation with him. I agreed to some sort of a commitment with him if he gave me the reality of his missing work files, but I hadn’t really expected to actually do it! I thought I could convince him to confess that he was the killer or he paid someone to do it, something along those lines, but instead he admitted to some petty stuff that I didn’t care about! Well, I sort of did, I didn’t like the idea of dating someone who did sneaky things like that, but it bothered me more to think I set myself up to start seriously seeing a man who may have done some horribly despicable things! I wondered how people would judge me when they found out I kissed the lips of a person capable of such evil atrocities, and I wondered if I made a terrible mistake in this venture…

All of a sudden, I caught a glimpse of him trying to coax his niece out of the piping, and I found myself smiling! I couldn’t pretend like his beguiling good looks didn’t have an effect on me, but I knew my attraction to him ran deeper than that! I wouldn’t get hypnotized by him if he didn’t have the personality to back it up! When I looked at him, I couldn’t see a criminal, I just saw a virtuous, thoughtful, fun loving guy, and it astonished me that a man of his caliber wanted me so badly! He fit the profile of my murderer so much, but no matter how much I feared his role in this dastardly act, I couldn’t shake how deeply I desired him!

Right in the middle of this thought, I felt something furry move down my back! Thinking I had some kind of wild animal on top of me, I darted out of my seat immediately trying to get it off! Just when I drew out my wand to fend it off, I saw a person in a rat mascot costume standing behind where I had just been sitting! I no long had the sensations of something crawling on me anymore, so it dawned on me pretty quickly what really happened. “Oh, sorry! You scared me!”

“My bad, baby!” A distinctively male voice came out of the costume. He put his arm around me and flirtatiously asked, “What chu doin’ tonight?”

“My boyfriend!” I retorted. I remembered using that same line in high school when pervy, older men hit on me at my first job at a grocery store, but I rarely got hit on like that after I married Ben. Usually, the wedding ring warded off guys like this, but now that I no longer had a reason to wear that band, that line returned as my go-to in this kind of scenario. I mean, I had Aidan, and I did tell him I’d become his if he told the truth, but we didn’t put any specific labels on our relationship yet. I’m sure he would have backed me up in this debacle though, and it’s not like I needed a man to defend myself, but these relentless horn dogs backed off faster with another male around! I couldn’t see Aidan in my periphery, so I resigned to the idea that I’d have to deal with this dude on my own. “He’ll come back any second now, so…”

This jerk didn’t seem ruffled by my claim. “Forget about him! I have a spot in the back we can go to; I promise I’ll make it worth your while!”

That comment would have nauseated me if anyone had said it to me, but coming from a freak in a giant mouse costume really sent me over the edge! “Get your arm off me right now!”

He didn’t obey my command. “What’s a matter? Afraid you might like it?” I rolled my eyes and pointed my wand at the arm he had around me. The spot I directed my magic to burst into flames, and while the rat worked on putting out the fire, I walked away from him shuddering at the thought of what just happened!

Aidan came rushing over to me and apologized, “I’m so sorry! I was in the middle of helping the workers get Harper out of the air vents or else I would’ve helped you. Looks like you didn’t need my help, but just so you know, I wanted to!”

“Oh, I know you would’ve helped if you could have!” Right after I mentioned that, a thought occurred to me. “How many people watched me get hit on by that creepy monster?”

“Don’t worry, I think they were paying too much attention to my niece to have seen much of that. I actually didn’t see much, but I heard a lot of that conversation.” His eyes sparkled as he relayed to me, “I heard you call me your boyfriend.” I inwardly cringed at that. I really didn’t want to claim him officially until I could remove any doubt from my mind that he had anything to do with those murders! “Are you sure you’re ready for this? I mean, I know it’s a little fast, especially for you since you just left your husband…”

I hadn’t expected him to give me an out again! He gave me chances to back out of our first date, and despite the temptation to bail, I kept going. That time felt different though. A date doesn’t have to imply anything serious, but if I took this step today, it could seriously compromise my efforts in investigating him. I felt it prudent to tell him that we could continue seeing each other but we needed to slow things down, and I fully prepared myself to do just that, but when my gaze met his, my heart melted! I didn’t see a potential suspect, I saw this amazing person who I could make incredibly happy with just one gesture! Before any logic could intervene, I blurted out, “A promise is a promise! I’m all yours!”

He smiled broadly, and then he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss. I forgot about everything else because I was in paradise at that moment! But it really only lasted a minute. A balding man in a dress shirt, who I could only assume managed this place, came waddling over to us and confronted me, “Did you just attack one of my employees? All he did was hit on you a little, for crying out loud! How could you-?” I flashed my badge to him, and his tone changed entirely, “In that case, he’s fired!”

“Literally!” Aidan joked. The manager nervously tittered and then waddled away as fast as he could.

“Uncle Aidan, I’m hungry!” one of this nephews wailed.

He reassured him that dinner should get served soon, which it did pretty promptly after that! Despite any trouble the kids may have caused them, the staff acted super friendly towards us from that point forward! The manager even comped our meal! As I ate with Aidan and his family, I had a pretty good time, but as the evening went on, I had a feeling of remorse that constantly chewed me out. Once again, I succumbed to my emotions and had a blast instead of staying focused on gathering evidence. I also began to dread the following day and speculated what we would learn about the case, hoping that we found nothing else linked to Aidan. I just really hoped that I didn’t become the girlfriend of a serial killer!

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 28

Once again, I expected the worst. I thought he would confess to a horrible crime and then ask for my help in getting him cleared. I also believed that he could have used this chance to blackmail me into doing some illicit deed, and if that had been the case, I felt fully prepared to confess my technically illegal surveillance. I hadn’t considered him figuring out my plot before, but now that I had, it seemed like exactly the type of thing a sociopath would do! I was already going over how I’d word my admission to my department in my head as he began to explain what he wanted, “My sister’s father in law went to the hospital, so she asked me to watch the kids while they went to visit him. I can’t handle them all by myself right now, so would you mind coming with me when I take them out to dinner tonight? I know an arcade with five kids isn’t a great second date, but…”

My body flooded with relief upon hearing this! I prepared myself for much darker demand, and with all of the precarious scenarios that ran through my head, doing this seemed like a piece of cake! “That’s not a problem! I’ll do it!”

“You’re a saint!” I could tell he wanted to kiss me, but he stopped himself as he glanced at the two-way mirror behind my back. Instead, he gave me a little tap on my hand and told me, “I’ll text you the address. Meet me there around six?”

“Sure!” I grinned at him, and when he smiled back, I could have swooned! As I watched him leave, I pushed my suspicions about his criminal nature aside as I savored the affection I just received from him and imagined all I had coming to me later!

With a smirk, Sandra joked, “And Chief Mazarine worried about me acting like a school girl!”

As I pulled out my wand to turn the surveillance equipment back on, I gently chided her, “You shouldn’t have done that!”

“What? He was a friend of Jasmine, he had a right to know how she died!” she justified as the listening devices turned back on. I gave her a hard stare, and she awkwardly shrugged, “Alright, so maybe I just wanted to-.”

“Detective Nason! In my office, maintenant!” Chief Mazarine pointed out the door, and Sandra sheepishly left the room. I figured that he would chew her out for going off the record like that, and I almost felt bad for her. She tried to do something nice for me, and her stunt did score me another date with Aidan, but she could have gone about it in a different way. I walked back to my cubicle and came to the conclusion that her desire to get a confirmation of our relationship oversaw her sound judgment, and I hoped her curiosity on the matter would subside a little after this!

After I read an email from forensics saying that they didn’t recover anything from the cellphone but would continue searching as they repaired it, I decided to type up my report on the new evidence before I headed out. As I gazed at my notes about the killer in my serial murder case, I got reminded of how much his profile matched Aidan. Suddenly, it seemed foolish to go on another date with him! Once again, he picked the location too! I did feel a bit better knowing a bunch of kids would surround us, so he couldn’t do much with so many witnesses around. Plus, I’d get to drive myself this time, so I thought this rendez-vous offered less dangerous potential consequences. I really needed to find out the information he kept hidden from me, so I settled on the notion of continuing with the evening as planned but added the firm resolution of snagging what I needed to know from him!

Sandra came out of Chief Mazarine’s office pretty shortly after she went in. Apparently, he got the impression she went off the record so she could hit on him, which gave us both a good laugh. Before she could attempt to gather more details from me though, I had her look over my report so I could dash out. I did feel a little guilty for keeping a secret from a friend, but I assured myself she’d understand why once I uncovered the truth from him.

I drove to the address he texted me, and before I went in, I brought out my wand to doll myself up a bit. I know it may have appeared a little silly to dress my finest to go to some kiddie place, and he did already see me not that long ago, but I needed to do everything I could to get what I wanted from him! And yes, I realize that has a double entendre to it. A part of me wanted more than just kisses from him, and I had no idea how I’d accomplish that in front of his nieces and nephews, but as I saw him waiting for me at an empty table, it was all I could think about! I tried to keep my investigation at the forefront of my mind, but as I walked in, I didn’t know which side of myself would become the victor here!

I thought the expression on his face displayed an impatience for waiting, but as I got closer to Aidan, I could tell he had gotten irritated by all of the children running around. Based on his previous description of his sister’s kids, I could pick them out from the crowd pretty easily! I previously assumed he exaggerated on their behavior, but as I watched their rambunctious antics, I saw that I stood corrected! I totally understood why he wanted some help for the night now! As soon as he noticed my arrival, he beamed and then joyfully greeted, “Hey! You didn’t run away the moment you saw the reality of the situation!”

“A promise is a promise!” I giggled at his quip as I sat next to him, and he gratefully gave me a kiss.

“Ew!” the two youngest reacted in repulsion.

Aidan directed them, “Go play!” After they ran off, he turned his attention back to me. “How did the rest of your day go?”

I shrugged. “It was pretty uneventful. Do they serve food here? I’m starving!”

“They just have pizza I think.” He handed a small menus over to me, and then he amended his statement, “Oh, they have a salad bar too.” He spotted one of his nephews playing with the food in that area, so he scolded him, “Hey, get out of there! That’s not a toy!”

“I’ll probably skip the salad bar.” I made a face just thinking about all of the other kids that dipped their hands in there!

He said with a grin, “I don’t blame you!” We shared a laugh, and then he began searching around the restaurant slash arcade area. “Is there a waitress or-.” One of the workers came over to our table, and he pleasantly regarded her, “Oh, hi! Can we get a large pizza for the table?” He asked me, “what kind do you like?”

I answered, “Pepperoni is my favorite, but whatever you guys want is fine.”

“One large pepperoni, please,” he politely requested.

“Um, okay, I can do that, but I actually came over to ask if that was your kid over there…” She pointed to a child that had climbed on top of the skeet ball games and was currently trying to go inside the air vent.

Aidan groaned and then yelled, “Harper! Get down from there!” The little girl pretended like she couldn’t hear him, so he took out his wand and used his magic to float her down. He apologized to the employee, “Sorry about that.” She sort of half smiled before she ran off to the kitchen. Aidan gave me an appreciative look and then commented, “I can’t believe you agreed to this date! Then again, I’m still in shock you wanted to go out with a guy like me in the first place!”

I shook my head in exasperation as he played the humble card again! I’m a decent catch, maybe a bombshell to a loser like Ben, but I couldn’t accept a man this handsome, fit, charming, and rich wanting to act like he wasn’t good enough for someone like me! “Why do you keep saying that? I’m a plus sized woman who’s about to get divorced, and I live in a crime-ridden trailer park with my mom and crazy stepdad, that’s a lot of baggage! I haven’t even had the chance to dress my finest, and you keep saying I’m so pretty! I got so stressed that you had to teach me how to have fun again! Why do you wanna take all that on? You’re funny, talented, you make decent money, and you’re one of the most gorgeous men I’ve ever seen in my life, so why do you want me? Why do you want me when you could have the most beautiful woman in the world?”

“Oh, I can have you?” He gave me an amorous smile as he spoke.

“I was serious!” I thought the gesture was cute, but I truly wanted some honesty here. If he wanted to manipulate my feelings in order to pull the wool over my eyes to his potential crimes, then this operation of me going out with him to gather evidence against him would have been pointless. I pondered what story he would come up with, and if I detected any hint of deception, I readied myself to walk out and let him deal with these wild kids on his own!

With an intensely serious face, he looked me right in the eye and insisted, “So I was!” I hadn’t expected any authenticity, and the concept stunned me in the best kind of way! He went on, “When I first saw you, I had to look twice ’cause I thought an angel just walked in! I swear! You’re smart, and you seem curiously adventurous, but what really drew me to you is a strong sense of decency that’s very rare and very attractive! You’re a better person than me, and I’m lucky you even gave me a chance! I know you almost didn’t.”

After blushing furiously for all of the sweet ways he described me, I felt a little guilty for my initial hesitation of dating him. “Well, you gotta understand, I just left my husband, like, a week ago…”

“Oh, that makes sense.” He nodded in comprehension.

“I didn’t expect to date again for a while, and then you came along, and it just felt so fast…” I almost spilled my guts out about how attracted I grew to him, but then it occurred to me that a window of opportunity to discover the secret that I needed to uncover for my case just opened up, and as much as every fiber of my body wanted to elongate this romantic occasion, I couldn’t let my community down by not seizing this chance! If he did play a part in the murders, I needed to know right away! If I acted too selfishly, I could put innocent lives in danger, and I refused to let that haunt my conscious! So, I came up with, “I like you a lot, and I’m ready to be yours, but only on one condition… You have to tell me what’s in those missing files at your work!” His face soured a little, but I pressed on, “I need to be able to trust you, and I can’t date someone who doesn’t tell me what they really do at work!”

He contemplated my offer for a few seconds, and then he concluded, “Okay, I’ll tell you. I just hope you don’t hate me too much when I do!” He mentally prepared himself to expose his secret, and I waited with bated breath…

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 27

Fear cascaded throughout my body, and I felt as though I could have passed out right then and there! I’m honestly not sure what kept me upright, and it mystified me as to how I summoned the strength to walk down the hall right then! I’m grateful that my mind seemed to have went on autopilot because inwardly, I was screaming! Aidan had my phone number and could talk to me any time he wanted to, so for him to see me in this capacity made me think he had something to contribute to the case and probably not anything good! I didn’t think he would have anything to tell us but a confession, and the idea of hearing someone I had fond feelings for admit to a ghoulish crime spree just sickened me! I couldn’t believe someone who showed me such kindness had such malice for other innocent people! It didn’t feel real, and even as I gazed at the outside of the interrogation room they placed him in, my mind raced as though it had just entered into a sinister nightmare! I had no clue how to cope with this impending doom!

At that moment, Sandra offered, “I’ll give you two some privacy!”

“No!” I reacted vehemently. The concept of doing this alone frightened me, and it suddenly seemed urgent to have someone accompany me in there. I didn’t know exactly what I’d do in there, but if I completely lost it, I needed somebody to take the reins! “You should come with me!”

“No you shouldn’t!” Chief Mazarine objected. “I don’t need someone in there drooling over him during such a critical time!”

Sandra differed, “I’m not gonna drool over him! I’ve lost interest in since I found out he’s dating… someone.” She tried not to look at me as she said that. I could legally date him now, but I think she wanted to spare me from an awkwardness that would evolve into more office gossip. Plus, if Chief Mazarine knew about our relationship, he would make somebody else take over his questioning. If Aidan really had intended to confess, I wanted to at least say goodbye! I would need some closure, and I’m not sure if she knew all that or not, but I appreciated her effort either way.

Chief Mazarine turned to me and directed, “If she starts to act like a fan girl again, l’expulser tout de suite!”

“Yes, sir!” I didn’t understand that last part, but from the context of the conversation, I figured out what he meant. I briefly felt the urge to laugh, but I just couldn’t stomach it right then. As he walked away, I took a couple of deep breaths and tried to mentally prepare for this momentous event.

“Are you okay?” Sandra inquired. I nodded, but I think she could tell I lied. “You lead the way!” She put her arm around me to push me forward, but I could sense she found a subtle excuse to give me the brace that I desperately needed to do this. I appreciated her support, but all I could do was listen to my heart pounding in my ears as the time for this horror to begin grew closer and closer with each step…

I saw Aidan glance up as we entered the room, and while he gave off a depressed vibe, he smiled when he saw me. I couldn’t help but grin a little, and as I sat down, I studied him. He exuded so much benevolence and gentility, so it boggled my brain that such a genuinely nice man could have done what I suspected he did! A part of me wanted to embrace him and console him for whatever bothered him, and I had to fight the urge to treat him romantically. At that instance, I knew this process would become more difficult than I could have imagined! It pained me to do anything that might hurt him, but I wanted to get this done and over with, so I pulled out my notebook and pen and stated, “My chief says that you have something to tell me.”

As he opened his mouth, I anticipated the worst. Instead, he asked me, “Jasmine died this morning, didn’t she?”

“Yes…” I answered with a slight confusion. “How did you know that?”

“Well…” he explained, “Last week, she texted me saying she thinks some guy was following her. At first, she could just feel someone’s presence around her and thought she was just being paranoid, but then she started seeing a guy with a hood covering his face everywhere she went. She felt sure someone was stalking her, so I advised her to go to the police. She didn’t think you guys would help her ’cause she’s a Fay, but when I heard on the news that three Fays were murdered, I knew she had to be one of them!” After he finished speaking, he shook his head sadly.

I waited for my adrenaline to spike down before I replied. In a way, it pleased me that he hadn’t come here to admit to killing anyone, but it bothered me that he still wanted to act like he played no role in this grievous matter! He knew about her death awfully quick, and I thought perhaps the news did report it that rapidly, but I also considered that he may have known about it because he participated in the activities leading to her death. It made me wonder why he had actually come in that day. If he did play some role in it, I thought maybe he had come to give us some type of evidence to get on our good side. He didn’t realize that I’d never stop suspecting him until I found out the truth of what he kept hidden from me! “I’m sorry for your loss.” I gave him a minute to grieve before I queried, “What made you tune into the news this morning?”

He revealed, “Yesterday, all of my coworkers who were Fays quit on me. All of them! I didn’t get much of an explanation why they did it, and even Jasmine stopped texting me, so I got left in the dust! I knew something weird was going on, so I put a news alert on my phone and kept checking it at work. I didn’t want anything crazy to happen, but I needed some answers! Not like I got many from this. I mean, it’s good that I found out what happened to my friend, but I think I have more questions than answers right now! I’m guessing you can’t give me any details though since you’re still trying to solve the case.”

“Sorry.” I didn’t really mean that apology. I never have remorse for refusing to sharing my knowledge of a case to anyone not directly involved in solving it, but I especially didn’t feel remorse for refusing to give away anything pertinent to someone who I thought committed a crime related to the investigation! If he came to gather information like that, he wasted his time because no amount of charm or sexy looks would allow me to compromise my principles!

“I understand,” he glumly commented. “I just thought you guys should know about the stalker. I hope it helps your case!”

I mulled over this revelation a bit. If his version of events proved itself accurate, then I imagined that the killer aimed to recruit all of the Fays that he could for his doomsday operation. I knew he had Giada’s drug dealer helping him, but if he wanted to have a greater impact, it made sense for him to get more Fays on his side. Clearly, he couldn’t persuade Jasmine, and he tried to bar her from turning in a key piece of evidence. The other two probably got silenced since they became witnesses after he committed that act, but other than those three, he really didn’t go after Fay victims. If he had the time to follow Jasmine and, most likely, intimidate the other Fay Folks in the area, then I wondered how the killer found the time to pursue his potential human victims on top of all that. It seemed logical to keep Aidan on my radar since he had the means to do it while his workers did all the work to finance his company. I had no idea if he made that story about the stalker up or not, but whether it bore truth or not, I couldn’t rule out his involvement.

Of course, I didn’t tell any of that to him! I couldn’t let him know I was onto him or else I would have spoiled my shot at observing him in a social setting. I kept up the charade of his innocence by displaying some gratitude, “It could! Thank you for letting us know!”

“Happy to help!” He grinned at me, and for a second, my melting heart made me forget all about my suspicions! “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you!”

“Wait!” I called out before he could leave. “There is one thing.” He sat down and gave me his fullest attention. “Do you know anything about the last thing she tried to sell before she passed?”

Aidan’s face twisted in puzzlement. “The last thing she sold was a wedding dress. The woman who owned it wanted to sell it before she had a chance to walk down the aisle ’cause her fiancé made a pass on her best friend! A young lady in Virginia bought it from her. I think she was working on finding more things to sell after that. Why? Are any of the women from that sale involved?”

His response seemed authentic, but I still maintained that he mastered faking his emotions, so I pressed him, “So, you don’t know anything about a cellphone she may have tried to sell?”
“A cellphone?” He jogged his memory and apparently came up blank. “She didn’t mention anything about a cellphone. Why? Was that part of the reason she got… why he went after her?”

“Maybe.” It bugged me how adept he became at keeping up his poker face! “We’re still trying to figure that out.”

Aidan appeared to have pictured a gruesome image because he shuddered slightly. “I’ll never get over her dying alone and scared for something like that!”

Without thinking about it, I corrected him, “She wasn’t alone! I…” I cut myself off when I realized I almost divulged a tidbit from the case that should have stayed classified, and I berated myself for letting my amorous interest in him sway my judgment like that!

“It’s okay!” Sandra took out her wand and turned off the recording devices in the room. “Off the record, your girl held Jasmine and comforted here before she went to Heaven!”

“You did that for her?” Aidan’s eyes glistened as if he had his heartstrings pulled enough to emanate an outward effect.

While I had a hard time getting over Sandra breaking protocol like that, I temporarily shelved that issue as I gazed at Aidan’s face. He stared at me in awe, and I couldn’t help but blush. “Just doing my job!”

Aidan admirably expressed, “Not a lot of police treat Fays with that kind of decency! Thank you!”

I repeated what his words that he uttered a minute ago, “Happy to help!”

For a while, the two of us didn’t say a word. My instincts had the strongest desire to kiss him, but I held back since I knew that people still had a visual of us through the two way mirror. It amazed me that he had the power to make me forget everything else and created waves of bliss for me to bask in like that! That sentiment didn’t last long though. My pulse ran a million miles a minute as he requested, “Since we’re off the record, I need to ask you for a favor…”

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 26

I told Chief Mazarine, “We just got to the station. If you give us the coordinates for the crime scene, we can head there right away.”

As Sandra started the car back up and prepared to take off, Chief Mazarine informed us, “Actually, you can just walk there. We had a triple homicide in front of the station!” Sandra and I gazed at each other in disbelief. I truly believed that he got that wrong because everything seemed so normal on the way here, but after a while though, we noticed red and blue lights flashing by the main road, and we slowly began hearing the voices of police officers trying to keep a gathering crowd under control. As soon as reality clicked for us, Sandra shut off her vehicle and we ran to investigate.

The moment I saw three bodies laying on the sidewalk in front of our station, my gut wrenched into a tight little knot! No one likes to see police tape around their workplace, but knowing that three people’s life came to an end right by the entrance was completely disconcerting! It felt especially baffling that a building full of detectives hadn’t seen a thing, and I’m sure most of them were now wrapt in guilt since they couldn’t do anything about that now! Some of them may not have risen to that level of empathy since all three victims were Fay Folks! One lime green male and one bright orange man laid on one side of the staircase while a purple female rested on the side closest to us. I could see the forensic team arriving, which made me wonder, “How did Chief Mazarine know it was our killer if forensics hasn’t analyzed it yet?”

“That’s why!” With horror, Sandra pointed above our station’s front door. I gasped when I saw a message that read: “Stop protecting sinners!” The killer hadn’t made an actual sign this time, he had written directly on the sandy-colored bricks using the blood that oozed out of all three victims! As Sandra went to meet the forensics team, she nervously joked, “At least he used blood this time!”

“Yeah, I guess that’s…” I didn’t finish my sentence, and I froze in my tracks. Something caught my eye about the female victim, and I had to take a closer look to confirm it. As I knelt beside her, I knew I recognized her- it was Jasmine! My heart writhed just knowing that Aidan had a connection to another grisly murder, and this poor woman obviously trusted him! Seeing her hunched on her side with her hands clutching her chest just pained me! Everything about her appearance suggested she died in agony, and I bitterly hoped that Aidan had nothing to do with this monstrous act!

I took one last piteous glance at her before I got up to rejoin Sandra, or at least that’s what I intended to do. All of a sudden, I felt something grab on to my jacket! I turned around to see Jasmine clutching my clothes, and she gave a slow, raspy breath! I urgently, “Call rescue! Call rescue!”

Everyone rushed over to witness this for themselves, and as I turned her over, Sandra paged for medics to come. I put my hands on the burst artery, and while the bleeding stopped, I still worried about how much blood she already lost. As I kept pressure on the wound on her arm, I noticed she kept her other arm on her chest. She appeared to be holding something that had shattered, and I couldn’t imagine why she had held on to something with such jagged edges at a time like this! I chose to put that worry to the side and shifted my focus on renewing her fighting spirit. “Hang in there! We’re gonna get you to the hospital, and once we close the wound and get you a transfusion, you’ll-.”

“I… tried…” she barely croaked out.

“Don’t talk!” I advised. “Focus on breathing.”

She ignored my guidance and seemed determined to tell me something. “He… wanted… this! I… saved… it… for… you…”

Very shakily, she tried handing me the object she had been holding onto so tightly- a cellphone! I couldn’t lift my hands to take it or else her artery would gush again, but luckily Sandra had seen this and used her wand to float it to the forensic investigators for examination. I assured Jasmine, “You did good! Now try to keep breathing!”

“Hiking… garbage… can…” She gave a faint exhale as the other two bodies were suddenly suspended in the air and surrounded by light. We all watched as the two Fays’ bodies plummeted down towards the Earth before they disappeared! “So… smelly…” Jasmine weakly said.

“Try to relax!” I suggested as I heard the sirens of the ambulance blaring towards this direction. “Help will get her e soon! Hang on!”

Barely audible, she whispered, “I tried!”

She grew more and more limp, and I urged her to stay with me, but as the paramedics arrived, I knew she had died! I didn’t want it to be true, but when the light surrounded her, I knew she had definitely passed! I stepped back as her body hovered for a few seconds, but instead of falling as the men had, she flew upwards before she disappeared! “At least she went to Heaven!” I sniffed.

The forensics team used their wands to collect the blood that had gotten onto my skin and clothes, and while they did this, Sandra asked me, “What did she say to you?”

“She tried,” I echoed her words. “She kept saying that. I guess she fought her attacker.” I sniffled a little, and then I added, “She also mentioned hiking, a garbage can, and something smelly. I’m guessing that’s where she found the cellphone.”

“Of course!” A light bulb went off in Sandra’s head as she made the connection. “The bathroom where we found Giada’s body had a really foul smell, and her cellphone went missing, so obviously the killer disposed of it along the nearby trail.”

I agreed with her, “That makes sense! And she sold random items for a living, so naturally, if she saw something like that in the trash, she’d grab it.” My insides suddenly felt very hollow. If Aidan had been the killer, and he knew that Jasmine had found this piece of evidence, he would have a motive to commit this heinous action!

Sandra clearly figured out what I was thinking, so she proposed, “Before we talk to her employer, let’s take a look at the security cam footage and see who this guy really is!”

As I vacantly stared at the cellphone that may or may not have belonged to one of our victims, I mumbled, “Yeah, let’s go find out who…” Once again, I couldn’t finish my sentence. As much as I maintained that Aidan did it, a part of me thought that something would come along to prove me wrong. Thinking that Aidan may have actually committed this crime broke me! As we headed into the station, a lump rose up in my throat. I despised this crime, but I loved spending time with Aidan! He brought a little fun in my life when I needed it most, and I got a lot of comfort from gaining a new ally. I needed to solve this case, but I didn’t want to lose what I had with Aidan!

As we stood in the audio lab waiting for the footage to get to the part of the feed where our murder took place, my heart pounded wildly, and I wildly prayed that Aidan’s identity wouldn’t be recognizable! Not that I wanted him to continue to get away with it, but I just really didn’t want to arrest someone I felt so attracted to! I considered briefly that Aidan had nothing to do with any of these deaths, and I truly didn’t want to get proven right for once, but my fears about this couldn’t get shaken! We slowed down the video as it came to the correct point, and I held my breath as we watched…

Jasmine tried to enter the station, but she got accosted by the two male victims. They tried to intimidate her into not going inside, and after exchanging a few heated words, she managed to shake them off. All of a sudden, a medium-sized man with a hoodie covering his face came into the camera’s range! The three Fays looked frightened as the man took out his wand and aimed it at the recorder. The screen turned into snow, and the forensic analyst in the room relayed to us, “He broke our equipment, so that’s all we have unfortunately.”

“Can you go back to where we saw the suspect?” Sandra requested. The forensic analyst complied, and then Sandra directed, “Freeze it right there.” We studied the hooded figure’s visage, and Sandra concluded, “This matches the description we got from Giada.” In a low voice, she expressed to me, “Don’t worry, it can’t be Aidan! He’s a little shorter and thinner than that man.”

“That could be anyone!” I knew she meant to comfort me, and while I did feel some reassurance that I didn’t readily recognize him on this tape, I still didn’t feel totally convinced of his innocence. Oh sure, it relieved me that I didn’t have to arrest him right now, but I didn’t see anything that made me think that I never would! “I’ve seen cases where people tweaked minor things about their appearance to try to throw us off their trail. One time, I caught a woman wearing a pregnancy belly to steal beer, and it took us a while to catch her ’cause she’d always take off her disguise when we left the area. It could be the same with… this guy.”

Sandra questioned, “Are you saying that you think our suspect is wearing a fat suit to keep us from identifying him?”

She sounded really skeptical, but I believed my theory had merit. “I dunno, maybe. All I’m saying is we can’t rule anybody out based on this footage. We need more solid evidence!”

“I’ll analyze the video to see if your suspect shows signs of altering his image in any way,” the forensic analyst volunteered.

“Thank you!” Sandra replied to him. “If you could decipher any of the victims’ conversation too, I’d appreciate it.”

The forensic analyst responded, “I’ll see what I could do.”

Sandra turned back to me and queried, “Should we go see if they were able to do anything with that cellphone?”

“Maybe…” I considered this notion. “We can also call Giada in to see if she can identify it with what’s left of it. Or maybe we should search the trail to see which trash can Jasmine found the phone in so we can retrace-.”

“You’re not doing any of that right now.” Chief Mazarine abruptly showed up by us. “Aidan Maddox is in one of the interrogation rooms. He says he has something to tell you…”

Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 25

“Those are flowers, Ben,” I told him sarcastically. “I know you don’t recognize the custom since you never participated in this ritual, but sometimes people give these pretty things as gifts to show affection for one another!”

“Hey, I gave you flowers!” Ben refuted my claim. “Remember a few years ago, I got you some for Valentine’s Day.”

I corrected him, “You got it the day after ’cause you forgot on the actual day and the gas station had them half off. You’ve never given me flowers on a random spring day!”

Ben didn’t have a comeback for that statement, so he went back to his original source of anger, “Well, that’s not even the point! Who is giving you flowers when you’re still married to me?”

“Excuse me?” I bellowed. “You gave other women your body and my money while we were still together, and you’re upset that someone is giving me flowers now?”

“You were cheating me this whole time, weren’t you? I knew it!” Ben exclaimed. “All those late nights at the office, I knew you were seeing someone else!”

I rolled my eyes and irritably remarked, “For the last time, I never saw anyone else while we were together! You only thought that ’cause you knew I was too good for you and that someday I’d come to my senses and leave your sorry ass!”

The bankers all reacted to my low blow, and I supposed that I had been a bit harsh, but I really didn’t care anymore! Ben certainly didn’t consider my feelings when he drained our accounts to engage with those ladies of the night! While we were still together, I forgave him for a lot, but he never seemed grateful! In fact, he accused me of infidelity a lot, and here he had partook in that activity himself! I felt the ire from this injustice coursing throughout my veins, but I also suddenly became overwhelmed with exhaustion! I forgot how much magic I used earlier, and the energy it took to perform that feat had caught up to me. Here we were almost done with this tedium, and he just had to start some drama and keep me here longer! I wanted to eviscerate him, he truly deserved it, but I really needed to go home and rest, so I decided it would be easier to listen to his counter arguments and then just leave.

“You’re right!” he admitted. I nearly jumped when I heard him say that! I expected him to whine until he got his way, just like he did when we were properly married, and it really astonished me to hear him take on some personal responsibility like that! He went on, “You were always out of my league! When I first asked you out, I never expected you to say yes! How could a loser like me get a girl like you to even notice me? The longer you stayed, the more I wondered why you wanted me! After a while though, I realized you weren’t going anywhere, and I got comfortable. I took you for granted…”

“Uh-huh…” I mumbled as though I were paying attention to his babbling, but as my weariness grew stronger and stronger, I heard less and less of what he said. It took all my remaining strength just to stay awake, and I started thinking of the urgency of stopping for coffee on the way home…

I hadn’t fully grasped how much my mind had wandered until he suddenly grabbed my waist! Apparently he had taken my silence as consent, and he softly spoke to me, “I’m sorry I didn’t love you like you deserve, and I promise I won’t ever let that happen again!”

Before I could stop him, he kissed me! His embrace didn’t bear the comfort it once did! Quite the opposite, actually! It reminded me of my uncle Richard, who came from a time when it was still politically correct to smooch a female on her lips without it carrying any kind of romantic stigma. I immediately pulled my lips from his, pulled away from him, and reacted vehemently, “Bleck!”

“You didn’t use to think our kissing was gross!” Ben noted as I wiped my mouth off so I could get his taste off of me. “What’s so different now?” He glanced at the flowers in the backseat and morosely commented, “You have a boyfriend already, don’t you?”

“I-!” I fully intended to tell him off, but his question made me ponder a little. I mean, Aidan and I only had one date, so I didn’t think I could call him my boyfriend yet, but our time together had so much more significance than the beginning of any other relationship I had! But was that even real? I still had no idea if he had fabricated everything in an effort to get on my good side so I’d no longer suspect him of a serial murder, so I didn’t think I could call myself his girlfriend if he was just using me like that! Then again, I also began dating him with ulterior motives! I could let our relationship progress so I could gather more clues, but if I didn’t find anything, I worried that my colleagues would catch me and I’d get fired for orchestrating an illegal scheme like that! I also realized that I had the option to go out with him without searching for evidence, but if I went down that path and he got proven guilty of that heinous crime, I’d end up totally heartbroken! I had no idea what to do about Aidan, and I certainly didn’t know what kind of label to put on our situation, but I did know one thing- I didn’t want Ben anymore! Not even a little! He waited for me to continue my response, so I simply stated, “I’m going home!”

I could see the hurt I gave him spread throughout his face, but it now occurred to me that I had no obligation to care about his emotions anymore! I ghosted him completely as I stormed to my car. Okay, the car belonged to my mom, but I had it in my possession at the moment! Anyways, I didn’t look back as I started the car even though I could hear him call me name. I just continued to ignore him and drove home!

On the way back to my house, I tried to use that time to decide how to deal with Aidan, but my heart still pulled me in two different directions. Plus, the more I mulled it over, the more angry that Ben made me! His false accusations had always bothered me, but his actions today really got under my skin! He still acted like we were an item, and he had the audacity to put a move on me in my weary condition! It almost seemed criminal to me! I needed to vent about this to someone because if I didn’t get this off my chest, my head would have exploded! When I got home, I saw that my mother and Wade weren’t there, and I forgot that they had planned to go to the restaurant that day. I couldn’t let all this acrimony fester inside me, I had to talk to someone! I knew I’d see Sandra in the morning, but I couldn’t wait until then! I tried texting her, but she didn’t reply back. I didn’t really have anyone else to confide in, but then I noticed Aidan’s card on the flowers…

I didn’t even think twice about it! Desperate to connect with someone, I put his number on my phone and practically wrote a novel to him! I didn’t know how he’d respond, but I hoped he would offer the sympathy that I ardently needed! I hoped that my lack of communication up until this point hadn’t offended him! I also feared that maybe I disclosed too much to him. I mean, I knew we had shared a lot of deeply personal stuff on our date, but it could have been the effect of the wine that made him more open. I speculated on a lot of reasons why I may not have heard back from him, but to my surprise, he called me! He had apparently grown very concerned about me, and I found it really endearing that he worried about my well being like that! We talked for hours, and it felt unexpectedly refreshing to have someone I could speak so freely with! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and it pained me when I heard Wade and my mom pull up! I couldn’t hear Aidan anymore, so I had to hang up. We kept text each other though, which was also nice. I still had no idea what his intentions with me were or where this relationship would end up, but I just savored this moment while it lasted!

The next morning, I waited on the porch with dreaded nerves continuing to mount more and more after each passing minute. I kept trying to think of a way to phrase my secret operation with Aidan without admitting to an offense that could jeopardize my job. Bits of it were totally innocent, but I didn’t know how to fill in the gaps without lying. Travis came strolling over to me, and before he could even utter a single word, I snapped, “I don’t know where your bike is!” As he ran off with a hurt look on his face, I berated myself for starting the day off with a lie, and it really needled me to have to possibly tell another one!

I got a text message, and I thought Sandra may have been notifying me of the possibility of her late arrival, but it actually came from Aidan! He wished me a good day at work, and I smiled as I returned the sentiment back to him. I don’t think I ever had anyone tell me that before! Okay, sure, maybe some cashiers if I stopped somewhere en route to work, but other than that, I don’t think I really had anyone who cared about what kind of day I’d potentially have! It felt really nice, and I wanted to relish in this feeling for longer, but when I glanced up again, I saw that Sandra had pulled up! I knew she must have seen my delighted expression, and as I walked to the car, I went back to dreading this impending event. I passed my mom’s car, and I longed to take that again instead of this uncomfortable voyage! I observed that Aidan’s flowers were still in there, and I cringed. If I could see them, then surely Sandra also could! I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I may as well get this over with!

As soon as I got in Sandra’s vehicle, she immediately spat out, “You slept with him, didn’t you?”

“With who?” She gave me a stare that clearly indicated that me playing it coy wouldn’t suffice, so I clarified, “I didn’t sleep with anyone, but I saw my soon-to-be ex yesterday, so I didn’t know who you meant.”

“I really don’t think Ben could have that kind of an effect on you!” Sandra denoted, and I acknowledged the truth of that affirmation. As she began driving, she impatiently asked, “Well, what did happen between you and Aidan?”

I opted to start with the beach excursion. I hadn’t crossed any lines at that point, so I could speak freely about that. I just willed the universe to distract her before I had to explain my amorous investigation! “So, Friday night, I saw that Aidan was heading out of town, so I followed him. He used a transportation spell, and I managed to get in on that. It turned out he had taken us to the beach. He had apparently picked up on how stressed I am, and that’s where he goes to relax, so he had pulled off that stunt to help me feel better!”

“Awwwww! That’s so sweet!” Sandra cooed.

“He had good intentions, I think, but it was a little bittersweet for me.” I confessed, “You see, when I was a kid, my family didn’t have a lot of money, but my dad saved up for a trip to surprise my mom for their anniversary. When we came home early to tell her, we caught her cheating on my dad with his best friend!” As I narrated the story to her, I couldn’t believe I was actually admitting that information that I always tried to keep secret to another soul besides Aidan! It also stunned me that I had greatly preferred to tell this very personal story to her instead of having an honest conversation with her about my relationship with Aidan! “My parents split after that. It was awful! I found out later that my mom did it ’cause of her secret drug addiction, but still, going to this place where we were going to go on that vacation…” I started tearing up at this point.

We pulled up to the parking garage of our station, and as soon as Sandra turned off the car, she took off her seat belt and gave me a hug. “That sounds very painful!”

I agreed, “Yeah, things were never the same after that! It’s why I never wanted to leave town if I could help it. Ben sure was happy about not having to pay for a honeymoon, cheap bastard!”

Sandra giggled, and then she inquired, “So, what happened with you and Aidan next? Are you guys just flirting? Is there something more than that? Did he ask you out?”

“Why are you getting so excited about this?” I went on the offense instead of answering. “Do you really think it’s a good idea for me to date a criminal?”

“What makes you so sure he’s a criminal?” Sandra challenged.

I brought up, “Remember his time records? He had gaps! He’s hiding something!”

Sandra waved that off, “Oh, businessmen always look for shortcuts for tax reasons or whatever. I don’t think that’s enough to make him a criminal! At least, he’s not guilty of anything too scandalous, come on!”

“It’s not just that! I-!” Before I could finish my sentence, I got a phone call. When I read the caller ID, I announced, “It’s Chief Mazarine. I better answer it!” She seemed completely miffed by getting cut off from getting more juicy details, but she knew our boss wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important, so she didn’t object. I figured he must have seen us in the parking lot and wanted to yell at us for taking too long to loiter instead of coming inside and being productive, and for once, I didn’t mind receiving a scolding! It bought me some time before having to explain to myself or anyone else what Aidan and I had relationship-wise! “Hello?”

“Get to the station right away!” Chief Mazarine urgently directed. “Your killer struck again!”