“Mommy! Catch me!”
“You’re so fast! I can’t!”
In the haze of the gloaming, Skylar’s laughter guided her mother towards her. She picked her up and spun her around. The sky opened and the sun shone for them both. Skylar’s smile intoxicated her mother with such happiness. The giggles filled the air with joy and being held by her mother made her complete. It wouldn’t last. A darkness began to fill the sky. Soon there was no laughter.
“Run, Skylar! Run!”
As Skylar turned, she saw her mother become engulfed by a dark cloud. No matter how hard Skylar tried to reach out for her mother, she couldn’t. Skylar was alone now. The vastness of a desert field beckoning her. She would have to walk alone now, the sun burning her thoughts. She was such a small, tender child. How to survive? How to thrive, alone? A strong wind overcame her small body. She persisted and fought her way through it. It was there, as she made her way through the sandy storm, she saw it. It was bright. The moon shone for her at the same time the sun left her. The wafer was full and so big, Skylar could almost touch it. She fell to her knees in awe.
It spoke her name. Skylar’s heart raced intensely, and she couldn’t hold herself down. The moon had a force on her, pulling her towards it. A force so strong it hurt her core. She couldn’t scream. Even if she could, she was alone. No one would hear. She felt a tightening in her chest, a squeeze. She was so close the light was blinding her. The strangeness of it all felt familiar and she wasn’t afraid. She was curious. She surrendered to the force. She was accelerating. When she finally reached the moon, she let out a fierce scream. The moon swallowed her. She became one with the moon.
Skylar jumped out of bed trying to catch her breath. She felt as though something had been choking her in her sleep. She was covered in sweat, the bed soaked. The little beads of sweat danced on her skin, as to avoid falling.
“Nightmare.” She whispered under her breath. She walked sluggishly to the kitchen for a drink. She inhaled a water bottle as if she had journeyed far and long. Despite the nightmare, she wasn’t tired or overwhelmed. She found it curious how much energy she had. She noticed the clock on the fridge blaring 7:00 AM. She shook her head.
“Shit! I’ll be late!”
“Carlos! My friend!”
“Lieutenant! Damn bastard! Long-time no see!”
Carlos embraced his longtime friend. He ran the precinct covering the quadrant opposite his. It felt odd to Carlos that he should be there. Robert Smith. They had grown up together, same neighborhood, same schools, until fate separated them. A woman. Carlos chose her and Robert chose to get ahead. What was he doing here? Something was off. Carlos walked along with him towards his desk. Robert noticed deep respect from everyone there.
“Well, you know. It stuck.”
“I see. You still working the beat, even after all this time?”
“Can’t take the fever to be out on the field out of me.”
“So, what brings you to our humble corner?”
“You’ll get briefed in a few minutes. But I will tell you this, we’ve got something big on our hands. We’re reaching out to all the precincts in the upper northwest quadrant.”
“Six murders, all children.”
Carlos’ jaw opened wide.
“What? Why is this the first I’m hearing of it?”
“There’s more to it. At first, we thought they were Satanic but… look let me – “
“Captain, can I have word with you?”
“Good morning Skylar. Skylar this is my old friend Robert Smith. Robert, meet Skylar. The future of law enforcement.”
“Ah… good to meet you, young lady. Young blood.”
“Good to meet you, sir. Wait… you’re the Lieutenant on the other side.”
“Oh, you’ve heard of me, have you?”
“I try to stay abreast of certain things. I feel it’s my duty to be in the know.”
Skylar, the overachiever. The ‘I can do what any man can do and do it better’ spunk of a woman. Skylar began to fidget. Something was eating at her, but she couldn’t figure out what. She just knew she had to talk to Carlos about the night before.
“Captain, please. A word?”
“It’s alright. We’ll catch up later Carlos. My young Skylar, a pleasure meeting you.”
“See you in the briefing room.”
“Briefing? Did something happen?”
“Seems like it. We’ll find out soon enough.”
“Yes. That’s why you’re here. Isn’t it? You need to be briefed so you know what to do.”
Skylar swallowed and went a little numb. Carlos raised his eyebrows impatiently.
“Well? What is so important? Spit it out!”
“I… did we have any encounters last night? I mean did we canvass a happening?”
“Yes. Skylar, are you alright?”
“I mean, did we get shot at?”
“Hmmm… it was a false alarm. Are you sure you’ll aright? The call came through and there was no one when we arrived. Remember? Drone logs are available if you need a reminder. Skylar, this is very concerning. What is going on with you?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to make sure I did well. I…”
“You did. It was a slow night. You got lucky. We’ll see how you do on the morning beat.”
“The briefing? Is it serious?”
“It sounds like it. You can sit out and I can fill you in, if you like.”
“No! I got it!”
“You sure? I’ll understand.”
“Captain, I had a nightmare last night and I’m a little foggy, but I can handle this.”
“Alright. Good. Let’s go.”
As Skylar made her way through with Carlos, she noticed a pair of dark eyes gazing in her direction. He’s new. She felt a bit uneasy as he followed her into the briefing room and sat beside her. He held out his hand for hers.
“Skylar. Skylar Deering. You’re new.”
“I am. Brand new. Just cleared the background check. I’m a citizen but you know how these things are. Nice to meet you, Skylar Deering.”
His dark eyes made her nervous. It was as if he was whispering in her ear and she had no control over her body temperature. Her stomach was also twisting up some origami. The sound of his name engraved in an echo. She liked the sound, how he said his name. It was like music. Japanese? She thought it but she didn’t dare ask.
“Okay, kids… settle down and listen up.”
Skylar swallowed, shook herself out of whatever was happening with her body. She felt a little dizzy and her mind seemed to be playing tricks on her. Akihiro noticed her fidgeting and placed his hand over hers.
“What are you doing?”
“I was just trying to help. You seem uneasy.”
“I’m fine. Thanks.” She said, pulling her hand away. She felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around. Carlos had his finger over his mouth.
“Sorry.” She said pursing her lips at her new friend who had a significant grin at her expense. She’d have to be careful with him. She focused on the board in front of her.
“As you can see, we have two other lieutenants here. Lieutenants Smith and Carter. We will be working together with their precincts until we solve this. Smith… I’ll let you fill us in.”
“Thanks, Lewis. Folks, we have ourselves a serial killer of the worst kind. A killer of children. Specifically, younger than ten but no younger than five. Six children so far. They’ve each been branded with some sort of insignia. It looks to be a ritualistic killing. Fingernails removed from both hands as well as a bit of flesh removed from behind both ears.”
Skylar felt sick to her stomach, but she couldn’t let on. Her breath became heavier with each image flashed on the board. So much blood, butchered innocence. Why?
“The insignia is of a circular pattern, like a maze with a star fixed in the center. The branding was done postmortem according to forensics. We have a real sicko on our hands. No leads yet and we kept this quiet because we can’t afford any leaks. This bastard is undetectable. He or she took the children from their homes as they slept. No signs of forced entry. These deaths happened at the axis of our three quadrants. That’s why I’m asking for your help. The murders happened two weeks apart and each of the bodies was meant to be found. He wants us to know. Three parks. We’ve set up drones at each location, although it’s unlikely he will drop more bodies there again. It’s been three days since the last murder, and we are out to find him before he does it again. We’re pulling all our resources on this. Anyone who can go undetectable like this, something is off.”
Skylar raised her hand. Carlos smiled.
“No leads? After what? You said a body every two weeks.”
“Correction. Two bodies every two weeks.”
“About six weeks? Why did you wait so long to come to us?”
Akihiro turned to look at her. He liked her, spunk. Smith took a breath and nodded.
“You’re right. We did wait too long. Honestly, we thought we had the perp but… Let’s focus now on the evidence gathered and move forward. I’m confident, that if we pull all our resources, we can get this guy. I’ve enlisted the help of DrexCon. They have the latest in tech and we are lucky they are using this case to test their latest in drone and stealth technology. That’s all for now. You’ll all be assigned an area and you’ll stick to that beat along with orders and this briefing downloaded to your unit drones. This pattern is designed to canvass the next possible location. We’re making sure to cover all our bases. Let’s have at it. Good luck.”
Skylar was shaken up. She had never seen such violence. Carlos was quick to pull her aside.
“Look. You don’t have to go on this beat. There is a load of paperwork that needs filing.”
“I can’t believe you’re saying that! You told me about how you mentor and how you treat every man or woman the same. Now you want to see me out of this?”
“I just noticed that you’re not doing well. That’s all. I’m trying to help.”
“I’m fine. I told you. I had a bad night’s sleep and It’s got me all fuzzy but I’m fine. I want to get this bastard!”
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
“Interesting tattoo, by the way.”
“What? I don’t have any tattoos.”
“Could have fooled me. The one on the back, right below your neck. Is it a fake? I’m guessing it wasn’t just a nightmare you went through last night. It’s okay Skylar. You won’t get thrown off the force for having a tat. Interesting choice, though. I’ll see you outside.”
Skylar ran to the locker room. She removed her uniform revealing a part of her back and turned to the mirror. She touched it. Her eyes widened.
“What the fuck?”
©2019 Mel Gutiér