* * * * *
* * * * *
“This came for you,” the woman’s voice said. Erik Strand looked up, surprised. Molly Pritcher – daytime security officer – towered over him. She was an awkwardly shaped woman in her forties, with short cropped red hair, and her blue SecureTech uniform fit her strangely: too big in places and uncomfortably snug in others. She held a large manila envelope in her hands. “I signed for it. I was just punching off – thought I’d bring it over in person.”
Erik stared at her like he hadn’t understood a word she’d spoken. She gestured with the envelope again, thrusting it at him. “Hello? Ground Control to Space Station Strand? This just arrived. It’s got your name on it.”
He took the envelope without saying a word, staring up at her with a bewildered look on his face.
“No need to thank me,” she said as she turned with a huff. She walked with a slight limp and her Billy-Club thwapped gently against her thigh with each step. “Probably your subscription to Wallflowers Monthly. Probably an invitation to the Agoraphobics annual barbecue in there as well.”
He eyed the manila envelope suspiciously; he wasn’t expecting any mail. There was no name of the sender, and the return address was a post office box he didn’t recognize.
He opened the envelope with his small letter opener and reached inside. A stack of file folders fell out, scattering across his desk. The folders looked like crime scene files: 8x10 glossy photos and carbon copies of official documents. Depositions. Witness statements. Blood, and an awful lot of it, permeated the photos. Someone was tracking a murderer. A white mailing envelope, sealed. Erik peeled it open. Plane tickets, in his name, to Denver – his hometown. Erik’s pulse quickened. This had grown from curious to insidious. Someone wanted him back in Colorado.
Erik froze. Amongst the stack of folders and documents, a series of black & whites stood out among the rest. Erik was staring at himself – photos of himself – outside the watchtower pub, and several of him walking up the steps to his apartment.
He sat in stunned silence. Inside were crime scene photographs and official police documents illustrating a series of ritualistic murders, all similar in nature. All horribly familiar. The dates on the documents were recent, but there was no doubt that Erik recognized the handiwork.
* * * * *
He knocked on the office door of James Mathus – a formality, as the door was already open – and James gestured for him to come inside.
“This just came in the mail,” he said, holding a stack of files in his arms. “Addressed to me personally. Someone wanted me to see these.”
“Who?” asked James.
“Don’t know,” said Erik. “Just look.”
He handed James the folder he’d just received. Erik had left the tickets and the photos of himself on his desk; he was uncomfortable with the sense of familiarity the anonymous sender obviously had with him, and he wanted to wait before sharing that with his supervisor. James opened it slowly and his eyes grew wide as the photos spilled out. He rifled through the documents quickly, his lips pursed, glancing over the Police Reports, news clippings.
“What do these–” James began, but Erik handed him another folder, clearly labeled from the archives files. The crime scene photos were nearly identical; men and women had been ritualistically murdered, with strange decorations carved into their bodies – apparently while they were still alive. James quickly counted the cases in his head – over a dozen homicides, all with the same method of killing.
James recognized the name on the folder: Cain, Lucius.
“That case was closed almost a decade ago,” James said. “Lucius Cain is dead. His body was identified in the wreckage.”
Erik nodded, his face stoic. James sat in silence a moment; Erik shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
“I want to fly to Denver,” said Erik. “Observational status only. I need to know who’s doing this.”
James pondered this, and then with a look of tired resignation he nodded.
“I’m going with you,” he said.