Serial and Milk: Available Darkness – Chapter Four

serial-and-milk-button-225x225(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized horror story co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)

Commander Jack Baldwin narrowed his eyes at the charred bodies as his team processed the crime scene. While the bodies were burned through, the clothes remained completely untouched by flames.

“You ever seen anything like this?” Cherry Heights Police Chief Arnie Williams asked.

“Obviously,” Baldwin said in a voice both tired and strong, eyes still fastened to the withered husks, “you’re the one who responded to the memo that we’re working these murders.”

The chief looked down at his shoes, chagrined.

Baldwin was maybe twenty years younger than the town’s police chief, who was on the wrong side of 60. However, it was Baldwin who carried the jaded look of a man who’d seen five lifetimes of action. He also wore the look of a man who was used to calling the shots and waiting for the yes sirs! Which is exactly what he got when he and his 10-member team arrived on the scene and brushed the locals aside and put a clamp down on the media.

“So, do you guys have a profile of the unsub?” the chief asked, a nervous half-smile flirting with his lips.

For the first time, the agent turned his head to meet the chief  in the eyes.

Williams was no different than the other cops Baldwin usually met when he arrived in small towns like this. Eager police looking to show their little knowledge of serial crimes to the FBI agent. Baldwin wasn’t sure which he liked least, the small town lapdogs or the asshole city cops, who wouldn’t cooperate until Baldwin put the fear of God into them. Since the lapdogs were easier to control, he decided that he liked them more, but just barely.

Besides, this case was still fresh and he might need the chief’s cooperation if another body popped up soon. So he swallowed hard and responded.

“We’re still working on the profile,” Baldwin lied, holding the chief’s stare for a long moment until the old man retreated and found something else to occupy his time.

According to the chief, the two bodies were Randy Webster, a local bar owner with a penchant for hard drugs and violence. The woman was his live-in girlfriend, Stacy Harrison. Their next door neighbor heard screaming, though saw nothing, and called 911. Three hours later, just before dawn, Baldwin’s Special Investigative Team was on the case.

Baldwin leaned in to look closer at the ashen bodies being examined by Agent Leslie Chang.

“Are the burns the same?” Baldwin asked the pathologist.

“Yes,” Chang answered. “they seem to be.”

It had been three months since his unit had been called to one of these familiar scenes, two states away.

Baldwin’s team was one of several working under the Escalated Threat Division of the Bureau, which handled unexplained phenomena that posed a threat to society. The team served the dual function of not only solving crimes but also removing threats, a job they performed exceedingly well.

This particular case was proving a bit more difficult.

Seventy three murders in the course of six years. All the victims had been found in the same condition. They weren’t just burned completely through, they were burned without any accelerant. No gas, no chemicals, nothing. And the point of origin for each fire was inside the body, not outside.

Usually when a body is on fire, it stops burning as soon as whatever fuel was used to ignite the fire was depleted. That wasn’t the case with these victims. They continued burning at an elevated temperature, the body using fat as its fuel, until there was nothing left but cinders. Unlike most fires, the fire in these cases was limited to the victims alone and never spread to surrounding areas nor even consumed the victims’ clothing.

The deaths were most similar to cases of spontaneous human combustion, except for the fact that these cases had signs of foul play.

Unfortunately, beyond the method of the murders, there was nothing else tying the crimes to a suspect. They seemed completely random and spread throughout the country. The past two years, the murders had been occurring mostly on the east coast. Tonight, found Baldwin’s team in the mountainous region of North Carolina.

Baldwin turned the wedding band on his finger, one of his few nervous tics. He thought of his former wife, Julia, Victim number 43.

Suddenly, an excited voice erupted from the basement, “Jackpot!”

Baldwin shouldered his way past the locals and down to the basement where Agent Harris was standing beside Agent Roberts in front of a closed circuit TV monitor. The screen was frozen on the image of a shirtless young man with dark hair swinging a chair at a giant bald man, one of the two victims upstairs.

“This is our guy,” Harris almost whistled, pointing at the screen,  “We’ve got him.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Got any comments or questions? Post them below. We’d love to hear what you think. Also, please tweet this post and help spread the word about Available Darkness and nurture online fiction.

15 responses to Serial and Milk: Available Darkness – Chapter Four

  1. janice

    I was in the middle of watching a video tutorial on how to make 5k to 10k a month. I saw the Inkwell email arrive, came straight here and lost the connection. What does that tell you?! We need serialised stories, fixes for the brain to give us something to savour and look forward to in troubled times. All tribes have their story tellers, and they’re always honoured.

    Loving this, you guys. Absolutely loving it. Doing a bit of casting in my brain as I go along, but that’s good!

    janice’s last blog post..A Touch of Grace

    • Sean

      That’s exactly what we’re going for. Next time we’ll try to catch you right in the middle of dinner. “Sorry honey,” you’ll say to your confused hubby as you fork clinks against the plate, “I think it’s time for my Serial and Milk!”

      Sean’s last blog post..The Classroom is Only a Baseline

  2. Marc - WelshScribe

    Another great chapter but one tiny little error

    A widow is “a woman whose husband has died” so the sentence “He thought of his widow, Julia. Victim number 43″ is incorrect.

    (Baldwin is a widower)

    If I may be so bold as to offer another suggestion. I think the following sentence reads a little better with the word in brackets inserted:

    “Obviously,” Baldwin said in a voice both tired and strong, eyes still fastened to the withered husks, “[since] you’re the one who responded to the memo that we’re working these murders.”

    Marc – WelshScribe’s last blog post..Link Love Friday | Me(me), Myself and I Edition

    • David Wright

      Janice – Thank you. Glad you’re digging it. As for casting, I try to avoid describing characters too much, giving readers an opportunity to do their own casting. Nothing is worse than thinking your character looks like one person then having that blown apart with additional info later which destroys the image you set up. I think it better to describe people in terms like, “chest like a tree trunk” or “slumped like the weight of the world rested on his shoulders, and his alone”.

      Marc – Good eye on the widow thing. I can’t find the correct term for a dead wife. Yes, Baldwin would be a widower. But what word described the dead wife? I’ll look it up later when I have more time tonight. As for the comment, “since” would not be accurate, because the first part of the sentence is not conditional.

      He’s not saying, Obviously, since you’re the one who…”

      What he IS saying is really two separate thoughts and should probably be separated with a semi colon rather than a comma. I’ll also look into that one – thanks for the eye for detail, though.

      • Marc - WelshScribe

        I was wondering about that when I wrote the comment. Yes you’re right that it’s grammatically incorrect but on the other hand it’s a character’s speech and so not always bound by the same rules.

        Maybe better would be “…you were the one who…” or maybe not. The sentence caused me to pause as I was reading it. It could be just me.

  3. Trina

    Delicious! A mix of my two fav. genres. Love the ‘Escalated Threat Division’ monicker – ya, I’d say the threat may be a tad elevated….

  4. Michael

    I’m loving this series and sorry for the delay in commenting. Like Janice I’ve been doing some casting of my own, which got me thinking about Baldwin’s attitude toward the chief and small town cops in general. He sounds a lot like Marshal Sam Girard of The Fugitive, played by Tommy Lee Jones, particularly when he arrived at the train wreck and took over the case from the local sheriff. Regarding the widower/dead wife issue, since he was fiddling with his wedding band while thinking of his deceased wife, it suggests that he hasn’t remarried. Therefore, it would probably be fine to say “he thought of his wife, Julia, victim 43”. It’s not uncommon for a person that loses a spouse (especially under tragic circumstances) to continue referring to the deceased in the present tense unless or until they remarry.

    Michael’s last blog post..Picture This: Day 4

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