Serial and Milk: AvailableDarkness – Chapter Five
(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.)
Baldwin stared at the image frozen on the screen.
He’d been pursuing the killer for an eternity already. His mind’s eye had worked up hundreds of images of what the man would look like, but none resembled the picture fixed upon the screen. This man was much younger than the profile the agents had been working from. The killer seemed to be in his mid to late twenties. His hair was long, hanging in his face. Shirtless, and bloody, he looked like a college kid who’d been on the losing end of a bar brawl.
While Baldwin had long ago learned that serial murderers came in every size, shape, age color and sex, he had an uncanny ability to size people up within seconds. Most of the criminals he tracked down had ‘a look’. This man did not, despite the rage etched into his face as he swung a chair at the bald man.
This man didn’t appear capable of what had been done to these, or any of the other bodies.
Baldwin wasn’t sure why the dead man had his house wired with security cameras in nearly every room and outside — paranoia or suspicions his girlfriend was fucking around.
“Play it,” Baldwin instructed his agents.
“There’s nothing after this,” Roberts said. The cameras all went to shit at once.”
It happened just as the killer and the bald man began to wrestle. The screen flickered with quick images and then went to snow.
“Signal jammer?” Roberts asked.
“Not unless he’s working with someone we’re not seeing,” Baldwin responded, “Did you check the connections on the cameras?”
Roberts nodded and clicked a button to show that all the screens were working now.
“The security cameras were off when we got here, like someone killed the power,” Roberts said, “even though there’s a backup supply.”
Baldwin stared at nothing, tumbling the known facts in his head, trying to pull sense from insanity. Usually, his analytical mind functioned with the pinpoint precision of a continuous engine, always churning with instant responses. Seeing this man, the man who killed his wife, was clouding the process.
He bit hard on his inner cheek. The copper taste of blood flooded his gums.
He told his agents to send stills of the video to headquarters to cross-check the system for matches. They had already issued regional Be On the Look Out’s for the victim’s presumably stolen vehicle.
If they couldn‘t find a name to match the face, they would proceed to the next step, releasing info to the media to see if anybody could provide an identity or location of their suspect.
Baldwin loathed releasing the details of this case to the press. He’d prefer to keep things quiet to make his job as simple as possible. It was harder to kill a criminal under the tent of a media circus.
Harder, not impossible. Will always lent a way.
Baldwin’s radio crackled through the silence. “Boss, you need to see this. In the master bedroom upstairs.”
Baldwin ascended the steps two at a time. He entered the room and felt an all too familiar sinking in his gut as he saw hundreds of DVD’s and photographs poured onto the bed and two agents watching something on their laptop.
Baldwin knew what was on the video before his eyes ever hit the screen.
A young dark haired girl no more than 11, underneath a naked bald man — the one from downstairs. The camera was zoomed in on the girl’s glazed dark eyes — this was not the first time she’d been raped. She simply stared into the camera, which was being held by someone, likely the girlfriend, judging from what the lens focused on. The camera woman was likely a victim at one point, too, Baldwin guessed.
The numbness in the child’s expression as the bald man raped her, stabbed Baldwin in the guts. Whoever the girl was, that person had died long ago, leaving a shell not unlike that of those downstairs.
He averted his gaze, turning it to the bed, forgetting the pile of DVD’s and photos. Baldwin spotted a few other children in the photos, though none with the bald man. They were likely gathered from newsgroups or traded with other pedophiles. The mind boggled at how many children’s slow deaths were chronicled in the mound of evidence.
Agent Ramirez handed Baldwin a photograph of the girl from the video, the image no less shocking.
“Found that in his printer tray and secured an emergency search warrant,” Ramirez explained. “Then we found all this in the closet.”
If the rapist weren’t already a roasted slab of pork, Baldwin would surely have run downstairs and put the gun to the man’s head and pulled the trigger. Twice.
“Did you see that?” Ramirez asked, pointing to something on the screen.
Ramirez looked around the room and back at the screen. “The closet in the video… it’s this closet! He shot the video right here.”
Baldwin looked at the screen. Sure enough, this was the room in the video. But who was the victim? The neighbors said the couple lived alone and the other rooms in the home served as storage, showing no sign of any children living with them. Perhaps it was a niece, a neighbor girl, or… then something in the video caught his eyes.
“Rewind it,” Baldwin said as he pointed quickly at the corner of the screen, “okay, stop. Pause it there!”
Ramirez, puzzled, looked at the screen, “what are you looking at?”
It was hard to look beyond the evil in the foreground, but just beyond the monster, inside the closet, Baldwin saw something that made his heart leap in his chest and then into his throat.
He raced to the closet.
Light already on.
Threw clothes and half empty boxes aside. Hands furiously searching along the back wall. Only it wasn’t a wall.
But rather a hidden door.
On the floor, just behind a men’s size 12 Nike, an open padlock, the key sticking out like an arrow in a bulls-eye. Baldwin’s eyes locked on the door as if he could will his eyes to see through it.
He drew his gun and glanced back at his agents to make sure they were doing the same — every one of them was.
Baldwin pressed against the door. It clicked softly and slowly opened inward, revealing a 10 by 10 room, or rather a holding cell, painted in garish pink with a mattress on the floor. Soiled sheets with some children’s show characters on it. Stuffed animals lay in a row along a blue pillow. Stagnant air reeking of waste steeped in a bowl in the corner of the room.
“Jesus” someone said behind Baldwin.
The room was empty.
“We’ve got a possible missing child,” Baldwin spoke into his radio, “maybe kidnapped by our murder suspect. We’re sending a photo. Add this to the BOLO‘s.”
He instructed his agents to find out how many other girls were on the discs to see if they could verify if the dark haired girl was indeed the room’s prisoner.
Baldwin glanced back at the monster on the computer screen and prayed the girl wasn’t now in the hands of something even worse.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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