While stalking the killer of a young college co-ed a cop pays the ultimate price.
Lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating briefly the darkness of the park. Fat droplets of rain fell from the sky, splattering on the ground, dripping through the budding branches of the trees. Mist began to rise from the snow that had been covering the ground for the past few weeks, creating a thick rolling ground fog that seemed to swirl through the trees with a life of its own, reaching and climbing, covering the cold ground in a silvery gray blanket.
Thunder rumbled through the night as another silver-white spear of lightning cut a jagged path through the cloudy night sky, reaching down towards the wet earth with deadly fingers. She chose that moment to run, darting out from a thick stand of trees, hoping that she would not be seen by her pursuers.
Her bare feet sank into the melting snow, kicking up small chunks as she ran. The girl barely noticed the cold, so strong was her sense of fear. Fear of what would happen if she was caught. Her once pretty dress hung from her in ragged strips, revealing expanses of bare flesh that had once been beautiful and unmarred. Now that same flesh was mottled with bruises and cuts, torn and bleeding from the abuses she had suffered. The dress had once been whit though it was impossible to tell that now. Streaks of blood had run down her arms, run down her thighs. Her face was puffy and swollen and bruised. Her breath came in sharp, painful gasps, her chest burning as she fought to get oxygen into her tortured lungs.
Her eyes were wild with fear as they darted about searching for cover. Behind her, she could hear the sounds of her pursuers, her torturers, her captors, her hunters. They had discovered her escape and now were on her trail. She snarled like a hunted animal, pushing through branches and brush, not even feeling it as the sharp ends tore into her skin drawing blood anew from her battered flesh.
A shrill cry rose into the night sky from somewhere behind her, only to be lost in a deafening roll of thunder. Something caught her foot and suddenly she was flying through the air, slamming down on her chest, the air driven from her lungs as she impacted with the ground. Cold wet snow and slush splashed into her face, going up her nose and into her mouth. The girl coughed and choked, fighting to clear her air passages of the cold liquid. Sharp pain ripped through her side and chest, a white hot spike that took what little of her breath she had regained away.
Thunder rumbled again in the night, and as it echoed off in the distance, she could hear the cries of the hunters as they drew nearer. Tears streamed down her bloody face, mixing with the rain that splashed over her body. Fear washed over her once more. She knew she would die if they caught her again. Crying and shivering uncontrollably she thrust her palms into the snow and levered her body upward until she could get her feet back under her. She could see lights through the trees ahead of her. If she reached the light, she would be safe. They wouldn’t follow her into the light. She shot a fearful glance over her shoulder. Shadows darted through the mist, drawing closer to her position. It was her final chance,
Summoning the last of her strength, the girl started to run toward the light. She could hear the sound of cars passing on the wet street ahead. Hope forced her onward, even as reality set in, the crunching footsteps of her pursuers drawing closer behind her. Their guttural grunts of hunger and desire growing louder in her ears, so loud that they were audible even over the rumbling thunder.
The edge of the woods was closer, almost right in front her. She felt a swell of elation; hope blossomed and gave her strength. She pushed harder, driving one foot in front of the other. She could hear them closing on her, see the light in front of her. She tried to jump, but white hot pain ripped across her back and her strength left her. She tumbled into the snow. Pain exploded in her back and in that moment, she knew she was dead, even before her vision faded to blackness.
It was nearly two a.m. when he reached the crime scene. The rain still had not let up. He hated that, because it was washing away evidence. Kevin Savage climbed out of his unmarked police car and walked down the gravel drive that had been cordoned off by the uniformed officers that had arrived first on the scene. A 911 call had come in from a cell phone about a woman being attacked at the edge of Murdock Park and the Sunnyside Middle School Football field. All in all, pretty unusual circumstances for a town like Lafayette, Indiana.
Savage was a ten year veteran of the Lafayette Police Department. The last four had been spent as a detective. He had seen a lot over the years, but it still didn’t prepare him for what greeted him as he reached the edge of the woods where portable lights lit the scene up like daylight.
Water streamed down his face, plastering his dark hair to his head. He blinked the rain from his eyes and wished that he had taken the time to grab a hat before leaving his home after getting the call. Now he was cold wet and uncomfortable, but there was nothing that he could do about it. Savage plodded on towards the crime scene, trying his best to keep out of the deeper puddles of rainwater that looked as if they would go over the tops of his hiking boots. It was bad enough that the rain was turning the snow to slush and making it slicker than shit.
Savage knew that he was going to be the lead detective even though there were two other detectives already on the scene. It was a simple matter of rotation, and his number was up. There were a couple of County uniforms on the scene as well. That was nothing unusual either. For the most part, the homicide team was a mixture of City, County and State investigators. Lara James headed in his direction, an umbrella shielding her from the falling rain. Her hair didn’t even look damp, he noted as she reached him. Lara was one of those lucky women who always looked their best, not matter what the circumstances, and did so with a natural ease that Savage always found amazing. This morning, however, he noted that she looked very pale, and he lips were compressed in a thin line. One more unusual event.
“What have we got, Lara?” Savage asked her, his blue eyes searching her face for clues as to what she might be about to say.
“It’s a bad one, Kev,” she replied with an easy familiarity that came from the history they had as partners in the detective bureau.
“How bad?” Savage asked.
“Probably the worst I’ve ever seen,” Lara James replied soberly. “The vic had been beat up pretty badly. The coroner said he suspects raped repeatedly as well, but he’ll have to wait until the autopsy to confirm that. The people that did this to her, nearly cut her in half as she reached the edge of the woods. Harris has no idea how they accomplished that, but her body is in two parts. The top half was all that made it out of the woods,” James explained, her face taking on a slightly greenish cast.
Savage could understand that. He had seen some pretty bad wrecks when he had been in uniform and on patrol. Decapitations, a few bodies crushed beyond recognition. None of it prepared him for what he saw as they arrived at the body. The top half of the girl’s body was lying just outside the woods. The girl had almost made it to safety. Twenty-five more yards and she would have reached 18th Street. The snow was still crimson around the lower portion of her torso. Just inside the tree line Savage could see the lower half of her body. The two halves were still joined together by a length of intestine that had miraculously not been severed completely by whatever had been used to cut her in half. He felt his own stomach do a slow roll and began taking short fast breaths through his mouth, fighting to keep from vomiting.
No wonder James had looked pale when she had reached him and had turned green as she had described the condition of the body. This was one of the most brutal deaths he had ever seen. It sickened him to realize that this had been done by another human being, a monster in human form that was walking around undetected, camouflaged by actions that appeared normal to most people. “What else?” Savage asked, knowing instinctively that she had not given him everything yet.
“She was being chased by multiple assailants. All of them were barefoot. Kevin, what kind of deranged psycho runs around barefoot in snow?” James asked him.
“The same kind that would cut a young girl in half,” Savage replied. “Are you sure that there was more than one person chasing her?”
“The Crime Scene techs have identified five separate sets of footprints besides hers,” James replied.
“Five?” Savage gasped in astonishment.
“Yeah. We have a whole pack of these assholes out there,” Lara .James replied soberly.
“Is anybody back tracking them?” Savage asked, knowing the answer, but asking anyway.
“Two techs and four uniforms,” James replied.
“Well armed?” Savage asked, glancing once more at the body.
“Yes, at least two of the uniforms are off the SWAT team and they had their toys with them. I’d hate to take that bunch on,” James replied with a ghost of a smile. Savage nodded absently as he turned the facts over in his mind.
“Were they able to make casts of any of the prints? We’ll need them for evidence,” Savage said. He almost wished that he hadn’t given up smoking a few weeks back. A cigarette would be good about now.
“They got a lot of pictures; I’m not sure about casts. Would that even be possible in rain and snow?” James asked.
“I don’t know. We need something solid though, something that will tie a noose around the necks of the people that did this,” Savage said his voice tinged with anger.
“One other thing, Kevin,” Lara James started.
“What?” he asked her, dreading the answer.
“Not all of the people chasing her were men. There were at least two sets of female footprints besides hers,” James told him
“Well shit,” Savage said, shaking his head. It chilled him to the bone to think that women were involved in such a brutal atrocity. “Did she have any ID on her?”
“None. However, she does fit the description of a girl that disappeared from the Purdue campus two nights ago.” James paused to dig a small leather notebook out of her coat pocket. She flipped it open and sorted through the pages before stopping at a particular page. “Jean Wilson. Age, 21, a sophomore majoring in Veterinary science. She went out with a bunch of her friends on Wednesday night. Left the Neon Cactus by herself about one a.m. and hasn’t been seen since,” Lara James read from her notes.
“Until now,” Savage said softly.
“If it turns out to be her,” James agreed.
“Have her prints run as quickly as possible, see if they match, also have dental records checked. I don’t care who we have to wake up over at the University, I want to know if this is Jean Wilson,” Savage said, his voice cold and grim. James looked at him for a long moment.
“I’ll do my best,” She told him. Savage nodded as she turned and headed for the street and her car. A commotion from the street caught his attention and he looked up to see the Channel 18 news vehicle had arrived. He felt himself frown. Great, the vultures had arrived.
Savage had never been a big fan of the press. More often than not, in their zeal to get a story they had concealed and sometimes even destroyed evidence in order to skew the story in a direction that they wanted, sometimes going so far as to aid criminals in eluding the police. He shook his head disdainfully, wishing that he was somewhere else, wishing that this wasn’t his case.
Whoever had killed the girl was an animal. An animal that had the perfect protective coloring. Five animals, he mentally corrected himself. What kind of person could so horribly brutalize another human being and then cut them in half? Why had they been barefoot? Why had they hunted her as a pack? They were questions that he had no answers to. He would find the answers though. When he did, he would bring her killers to justice.
Lara James was glad for the chance to get out of the rain. She folded her umbrella in and shook it to try and remove some of the excess moisture from it. She removed her keys and inserted on into the ignition of her unmarked car, turning it and starting the car. The heater kicked on immediately blowing air against the windshield, slowly warming it and dissipating the condensation that had gathered there while she had been working the scene. Savage had looked tired tonight, more so that she had ever seen him.
It might have been the combination of the weather and the savagery of the murder that had been committed, but somehow she didn’t think so. Something was bothering Kevin Savage, something serious. One thing she was sure of was that it wasn’t his marriage. Kevin and Bernice Savage were very much in love, still acting like newlyweds after years of marriage. She wondered about his health. A wave of guilt washed over her for not asking. Savage had been her partner for the past two years. He and Bernice had stood with her, lending comfort and support when she had gone through a breast cancer scare. She shook her head and pushed the personal stuff to the back of her mind. She had to get across the bridge to West Lafayette and the University and find out everything there was to know about Jean Wilson.
Part of her hoped that Jean Wilson had turned up alive and well since the report had been made out on her. The way the girl in Murdock Park had died was horrible beyond comprehension.
Savage walked the scene, checking the angles from where the girl had fallen, circling through the woods behind her body. The rain was finally letting up and the CSI techs have managed to get some casts of the footprints. Those would be helpful if they managed to track down the sick sons of bitches that had murdered the girl. He had given a brief, non-descriptive comment to the reporter from Channel 18 and to the one from the Journal-Courier earlier and had them escorted from the scene. Savage glanced at his watch. It was nearly five a.m. The sun was starting to turn the eastern sky pink as it moved closer to coming up over the horizon.
The uniforms that had followed the tracks had lost them up near Sunnyside Middle School. He shook his head, it would have sure helped if they could have back-tracked her to where she had been held at. Deep inside, part of him was sure that the dead girl was indeed Jean Wilson. It was just too coincidental for a young girl to turn up so savagely beaten and brutalized that she was barely recognizable two days after a young girl fitting the same general description had vanished.
People, other cops included, liked to tell themselves that things like this murder just didn’t happen in Lafayette, Indiana. However, the dead girl’s body was proof that they did. Death didn’t discriminate. In death alone, all people are treated equally. Savage rubbed his eyes, the fatigue finally finding him. He knew that he needed some rest. Hell, Bernice had been after him to try and slow down some. The problem was that he didn’t know if he could.
Investigation was in his blood, had been before he even had become a cop. Becoming a detective had been his goal since he was a kid, growing up reading Ed McBain’s 87th precinct thrillers. Sighing, Savage headed back towards his car. He needed to type up his report and head for a nice hot shower and a warm bed. Maybe after he had some rest, the case would make some sense.
Holly Jenkle had not been happy about being rousted out of her bed in the middle of the night. However, when the Dean of Admissions learned that a missing student might have turned up dead, it had changed her attitude. Lara James shook her head. It still amazed her how death could open doors that just being missing could not. Part of it, she knew, was that if a co-ed was missing, there were better than likely odds that the person had taken off under their own steam. Once the word homicide got mentioned, though, the worry emerged that the University might get sued. James shook her head. She was too young to be so cynical.
The woman had, however allowed her to take photocopies of Jean Wilson’s full records with her. James was walking across campus now, heading toward the dorm where Jean Wilson had roomed. Wilson had been an exceptional student, top academic honors, no brushes with the campus Police. All in all a very normal kid. A shrill cry tore through the night and James froze in mid-step, her right hand automatically slipping under her raincoat and drawing her department issue Sig-saur 223 .40 auto-loading pistol. The shrill cry repeated itself, seeming to echo off the concrete and glass of the buildings. If she didn’t know better, James would have thought it was the howl of a wolf.
While not impossible, given the proximity of Wolf Park, it was pretty unlikely. She had never heard of any of the animals at Wolf Park getting loose. A dog was more likely, or possibly even a coyote. They were becoming more and more of a problem in Indiana now days. Shaking her head and taking a deep breath to settle her nerves, James reholstered her weapon.
The odds were good that one of Jean Wilson’s friends could offer up some more information about the missing girl, or at least give them a positive identification that the dead girl was her. Still carrying her folder, James started once more across campus, noting the sky in the east turning pink with the rising of the sun.
Kevin Savage was beat when he pulled into his driveway. He glanced at his watch, barely able to make out the blurry led display. It was after 9 a.m. Bernice would have already been teaching in her second hour class by now. Just as well, he was too tired for conversation anyway.
Savage entered his home and peeled off the black leather jacket he had been wearing the night before, tossing it unceremoniously onto the back of a chair. Lately he had been thinking about quitting the force. He was seeing too many bad guys getting off with slaps on the wrist because they or their lawyers were really really good at screwing the system. He found himself wondering about the person that had killed the girl the night before. Would they get off on some lame technicality? An I not dotted or a t not crosses on a search warrant? He pushed the thought aside. Without so much as a suspect yet, there was no point in worrying about it.
Savage walked to the bedroom and kicked off his wet shoes. He was glad that they weren’t the only pair he had. It was going to take them a day or two to dry though. Sighing he drew his holstered pistol from his waistband and laid it on the nightstand beside the bed. Savage took off his pants and shirt, standing for a moment in t-shirt and briefs, then climbed into bed and closed his eyes. Within minutes he was sound asleep.
Savage woke to his wife gently shaking his shoulder. “Honey, you need to wake up. Lara’s on the phone,” Bernice told him. Savage blinked the sleep from his eyes and stretched and yawned. Looking at his wife, Savage couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have her. Bernice was thirteen years his junior with a slim build and very sexy, even though she didn’t think so. Savage knew better. He knew how sexy his young wife was, and he also knew how much she loved him and how much he loved her.
“What time is it?” Savage asked as he threw back the covers and climbed out of bed.
“About seven p.m.,” Bernice replied. She handed him the phone.
“Savage,” he said.
“You sleep too much, partner. First we have a positive ID on the girl. Second, we may have a suspect,” Lara James told him.
“Was it Jean Wilson, then?” Savage asked looking up as Bernice brought him a steaming cup of coffee.
“Yes, her roommate ID’d her,” James replied.
“Who’s the suspect?” Savage asked, more than mildly curious as he sipped the hot coffee.
“A graduate student named Bressard. Seems he had quite a thing for Jean, but she didn’t reciprocate his feelings. You want to talk to him?” James asked.
“You bet. Informally first though, I want to get a sense of this guy before we haul him into the station,” Savage replied, feeling awake at last.
“The word I got is that he’ll be at the Neon Cactus tonight about 10 p.m.,” James told him.
“Okay, swing by here about 9:30 to get me,” Savage replied, breaking the connection. Savage became aware of Bernice standing beside him. He looked up and noticed that she was no longer dressed.
“Think you can spare a few minutes for me?” Bernice asked with a grin. Savage looked her up and down, his voice sounding thick as he replied.
“You bet’cha,” Savage growled folding her into his arms and kissing her long and hard.
The parking lot of the Neon Cactus was full as Lara James guided their unmarked car through the lot hunting for a slot. Savage eyed the bar with a certain amount of disdain. He had enjoyed the place when it was country, but much less so since it had converted to a rock club/bar. Now it was far too loud for his taste. “How good is the dope on Bressard?” he asked.
“Pretty good. The guy was practically stalking Jean, according to her roommate,” Lara James replied.
“What’s the roommate’s name?” Savage asked as James swung the car into a vacant slot.
“Kim Lawrence,” James replied, shutting off the engine.
“What’s your impression of her? She on the up and up?” Savage asked.
“My impression, yeah she is. She said Bressard frightened both her and Jean Wilson. Said that the man was six kinds of scary dude, I believe were her exact words,” Lara said.
“Anything solid behind that, something she could back up?” Savage asked.
“She said we’d understand when we met him. Also, there are four others that hang with Bressard, “his little pack,” she called it,” James replied as they climbed out of the car.
“There were five sets of prints besides Jean Wilson’s,” Savage said. He looked over at his partner. “You look dressier than usual,” he told her.
“Because we’re going to a club,” Lara replied with a shake of her head.
“To question a suspect,” Savage reminded her.
“You’re more dressed up than usual too,” Lara replied.
“Bernice did that,” Savage replied softly.
“She did? Did she say why?” James asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Because we’re going to a club,” Savage muttered. James grinned at him triumphantly.
“Don’t even start,” Savage growled as they headed for the doors.
“Start what?” James asked innocently.
Inside the Neon Cactus it was as crowded as the parking lot had indicated. The bar was a sea of humanity, swirling and swelling with currents and tides all its own. The volume of the music was near deafening. Savage leaned close to James and yelled into her ear. “So how are we going to find this guy in here?” he asked.
“Because he has a ‘usual spot’ where he always camps when he’s here,” Lara yelled back.
“Where might that be?” Savage yelled, eyeing the crowd uncomfortably. Word was already spreading through the bar that a couple of plain clothes cops were in the building. It had been unavoidable when they had badged the doorman to get inside without paying a cover. Several couples and a couple of large groups were already filtering rapidly towards the doors. Savage grinned, knowing that he could probably get some pretty good narcotics busts if he stopped any of them. However that wasn’t what he was here for. Not this time, anyway.
“Follow me,” Lara replied, threading her way through the fluid streams of people moving through the bar.
“At least she didn’t say ‘walk this way’,” Savage muttered to himself, trailing along behind her as best as he could. Once or twice, a swell of people swirled between them, but Savage kept his partner in sight, following her to a group of wooden tables at the back of the bar. One table in particular caught his attention, and in his gut, he knew it was the right table.
There were currently six people at the table, evenly divided between men and women. One of the girls was sitting in the lap of a large, powerful-looking man with a leonine mane of dark brown hair. Dark hair pushed from the unbuttoned shirt where it hung open over a well-muscled chest. The man noted Savage’s scrutiny and raised one corner of his upper lip in an almost predatory snarl. Only the girl on his lap didn’t look like she belonged to the bunch at the table. Savage figured her for the guy’s latest conquest.
Savage moved around the rail and came to a stop across from the obvious leader of the group. Something about the man made the small hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Savage gazed into the man’s eyes, noting their odd, almost amber color. “Bressard,” Savage said. It wasn’t a question.
“That’s my name. Who are you?” Bressard asked.
“Detective Kevin Savage, Lafayette Police Department,” Savage replied.
“Am I supposed to be impressed?” Bressard asked mockingly.
“Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you are or not. I need to ask you some questions,” Savage stated, moving closer, intruding on the sitting man’s personal space.
“Ask away?” Bressard replied with a wolfish grin.
“Do you know a girl named Jean Wilson?” Savage asked. He noted that Lara had moved almost unnoticed to the other side of the table and was directly behind Bressard.
“Possibly. I meet a lot of girls and get to ‘know’ most of them,” Bressard responded with an oily laugh. The others around the table laughed with him. Savage nodded his head. Lara James slapped a photograph on the table in front of Bressard.
“Did she look like this when you got done with her?” Lara asked. The photo was a head shot of Jean Wilson’s corpse.
“Not bad, perhaps even an improvement,” Bressard laughed. He picked up the photo and showed it to those seated with him. The girl on his lap took a close look at it and went pale.
“Am I being charged with anything, Detective?” Bressard asked.
“Not yet,” Savage replied.
“Then fuck off, and take your little bitch here with you,” Bressard snarled, indicating James with a nod of his head.
“Not very polite language to use in front of a lady,” Savage said, his voice suddenly ice cold. With a slow deliberate motion he reached down and picked up a beer bottle from the table.
“Going to hit me with it?” Bressard asked with a mocking grin.
“No,” Savage replied, stepping closer and pouring the beer into the man’s lap. The girl sitting there squealed and bolted off into the crowd. Bressard turned red, his eyes wide in a mixture of both shock and anger. With a snarl he shoved his chair back only to freeze as the barrel of a gun appeared at his temple, pressing against his head.
“Don’t call me a bitch unless you’re sure about it,” Lara James said, her voice quiet, barely audible above the music and crowd noise. Savage leaned across the table.
“If you had anything to do with Jean Wilson’s death, I will find out. I will stop you from hurting anyone else. Got that?” Savage asked softly.
“Until next time, Detective,” Bressard hissed, barely containing his rage. Lara backed away and holstered her gun. She walked past Savage and then Savage, walking backwards away from the table followed her. Two minutes later they were outside the club and heading for their car.
“That certainly went well,” Savage said.
“Yes. Very informative,” Lara replied.
“He’s good for it,” Savage said.
“Yeah,” James replied.
“So now we start building our case. Did the roommate give you any other names of people Jean Wilson talked to about Bressard?” Savage asked.
“She sure did,” James replied as they climbed into the car. She started the engine and the automobile roared to life.
“Let’s go talk to them,” Savage said. James put the car in gear and backed out of the parking slot, then shifted to drive. As they rolled past the front of the Neon Cactus, Bressard and his group emerged. Bressard shot them a dark look. Savage waved and smiled.
“What do we know about Bressard?” Savage asked.
“Not a whole lot. Born in France, an exchange student, decent grades, strong personal charisma,” James ticked off the relevant facts.
“Do we have a first name?” Savage asked.
“Julien,” James replied.
“Have you run him through INTERPOL yet?” Savage asked.
“No,” Lara replied.
“Then I will as soon as we get back to the station. Something is not right about that guy,” Savage said almost to himself.
“I understand what Jean Wilson’s roommate meant now,” James said.
“About what?” Savage asked.
“About Julien Bressard,” Lara replied. “He is frightening.”
“Yeah,” Savage agreed. He reminded Savage of a rabid animal, dangerous and cunning, yet needing to die.
The moon was high in the sky, bright and bloated and silver, like a huge eye looking down on the earth. Shadows flitted through the silvery moonlight, prancing and reveling in its glow. One shadow was larger than the rest, the leader of the pack moved ahead, slipping through yards and over fences.
They had a specific goal tonight. A lesson needed to be taught to those who had the arrogance to challenge the pack leader. The target had been so easy to find. The pack leader knew that his message would be received, in as much as it also hurled a challenge at the interloper. The pack circled the small frame house. The neighborhood was quiet in the early morning hours
The leader padded forward, nostrils dilating as he tested the scents around the house. He growled deep in his chest and then vaulted through the front window in a shower of shattering glass. The other pack members enter in similar manner. A scream echoed through the house as the occupant became aware of the pack. The leader moved forward panting in anticipation as he closed the distance to his prey. Suddenly the prey rose and light and sound blasted toward him. The Pack leader leaped forward, moving past the barrel of the shotgun, claws extending to rip soft flesh. Blood splattered across the room, splashing on the wall. The leader stood over his kill and howled the sound loud in the early morning stillness, reverberating across the city, chilling those who heard the sound to the bone.
As he spun to leave, he saw that the pack had not escaped unharmed. One of his children was gone; the head blown clean off its body. Growling with rage, the leader spun back to the corpse of the woman and began tearing at it, sending blood and lacerated flesh spraying across the room. After several tense moments, the pack melted out of the house and into the shadows of the night as sirens began to cut through the darkness, rapidly approaching the house.
Kevin Savage had just poured a fresh cup of coffee when the call came in. The dispatcher yelled for him immediately as she wrote down information. Curious, Savage walked over to her desk.
“There’s been some sort of disturbance at your house. The neighbors called about a gunshot and animal noises,” the dispatcher said.
“Shit!” Savage snapped his face going pale as he spun and ran for the door. Lara James was up and moving behind him, reaching the car a heartbeat after he had jumped inside. She threw open the door of the passenger side and jumped in.
“What’s going on, Kevin?” she demanded as he screeched tires getting the car moving. Savage hit the siren and snatched up the radio mike.
“Get all available cars to my house right away!” he snarled.
“Kevin, what is going on?” Lara snapped.
“Bernice,” he hissed through tight lips. Several moments later they had arrived at the house.
Savage jumped out of the car, his pistol in his hand as he ran for the front door. The door had been shattered, as had the front window. “Bernice!” Savage shouted as he entered the house. Inside the house was a total wreck, furniture slashed and smashed. James hit the entrance right behind him, her own pistol drawn and at the ready. The house was silent. Savage felt his breath catch in his throat; his heartbeat seemed loud in his ears as he started down the hallway toward the bedroom. His vision narrowed to a tunnel the closer to the bedroom he got. He reached over and touched the light switch, flicking it own. Kevin Savage started to scream.
Lara James flinched as Savage screamed, nearly triggering her pistol. Outside she could hear other officers arriving. Savage was on his knees next to the remains of his wife, cradling her head in his lap. James noted the headless body near the doorway. She blinked back tears. She had loved Bernice like a sister, now she was dead. At least she had given an account of herself and taken out one of the animals that had done this to her.
Lara James grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around her partner’s shoulders as he cradled his dead wife’s head in his lap. Who had done this? Who was capable of such evil? Bernice had been ripped apart by what looked like the claws of a wild animal. Savage was muttering something under his breath. She leaned closer to hear what he was saying.
“That son of a bitch! I should have expected this. I’ll get the fucker, Bernice. I promise you he won’t get away with this!” Savage wept. Lara James had heard enough though. She stepped out of the room and keyed her radio. In quiet tones she requested that an All Points Bulletin be put out on Julien Bressard and his friends on suspicion of murder. It would be easy enough the see if the foot of the nude corpse matched any of the footprints from the Jean Wilson murder scene. James stepped back into the bedroom and that’s when she realized that Savage was gone.
“Oh shit,” she said as she turned and headed for the front door. By the time she got outside, the car Savage had driven to the house in was gone. Her partner was out there, hunting and alone with no back-up and the urge to kill.
Savage was running almost on autopilot. On one level he realized that he was in shock, but on another, more primal level, he was more alive than he had felt since Operation Desert Storm. Bressard had wanted to send him a message. A Message that said no one is outside of my reach, no one is safe. Bressard didn’t know how right he was.
Savage knew where he would find the man, knew it as surely as he knew the sun would rise. He had seen animals like Bressard before. Vile beasts, who thought that they were immortal, thought that they were above both the laws of man and God. Well Savage was going to show him that he wasn’t. No one was above the law!
Anger and rage burned within him like a white hot nova as he guided the unmarked police car through the streets of Lafayette towards Murdock Park. That was where the hunt would take place. Him against Bressard and his buddies. Only three of them left now, Bernice had made sure of that. Tears filled his eyes at the memory of his wife. She had been so young and full of life. It shouldn’t have been her that had died. Savage ran the stoplight at the intersection of South Street and 18th, the undercarriage of the police car throwing sparks as the car collided with the pavement. A light rain had started to fall as he shot up the hill and swung into the park.
Murdock Park wasn’t a big park, not like some in town. It was big enough though. Savage climbed out of the car, pulling a shotgun from the seat beside where he had been sitting. With a quick jerk of his arm he loaded the shotgun. It was ready to fire. “Bressard!” Savage shouted, the name echoing through the darkness. From the distance came an answering call. A howling, much like that of a wolf. Smiling, Savage moved into the darkness away from the car.
The rain was falling softly, making small noises as it hit the snow-covered ground, washing away the snow and accumulated dirt along the sides of the plowed streets that ran through the park. Savage walked towards the shelter house, the shotgun in his fists ready to fire. Fog swirled through the darkness, glowing eerily in the light from the infrequent streetlights. Savage drew closer to the shelter, a slight noise from above caught his attention and he looked up. A human form was in the tree above him. It jumped from the tree even as he swung the barrel of the shotgun up, his finger working the trigger, the shotgun bucking in his fists, blasting out a load of triple 000 buckshot that ripped the falling figure in half.
A strangled cry of rage from his right caught his attention, and even before the body from above had hit the ground, Savage was spinning to face the new threat, his hand automatically working the pump action to chamber another round. The second attacker was fast, almost too fast. Savage fired when the attacker was inches away from the muzzle. Hair exploded into flame, ignited by the muzzle blast as the body flew backwards. Savage worked the shotgun’s pump action again. Two more of Bressard’s people down. Counting the one killed at Savage’s house, that left only one besides Bressard himself. Savage moved deeper into the park, searching for the last two killers.
A howling sounded from behind Murdock Elementary School. Savage felt himself smile, but he knew the facial expression had nothing to do with good humor. It was the feral smile of a savage beast stalking its prey. He moved into the thicker trees. There was less light here, just dim glows off in the foggy distance. Shadows moved in the darkness ahead. Savage waited, not sure of his target. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
Savage stepped forward, carefully placing his feet, doing his best to avoid stepping on twigs that might snap and betray his location. A howl ripped the night right in front of him and a shape reared up from the ground. Savage slammed the barrel of the shotgun forward, triggering the round in the chamber, blowing the head off of the shape.
Pain exploded in his back as something tore across his back, propelling him forward. Savage spun as he fell, working the pump and triggering a blast. A scream of pain tore from his assailant an instant before the shotgun was torn from his grasp.
“You fucker!” gasped Bressard’s voice. The man’s huge form stood above him, one arm cradled to his chest. Savage smiled cruelly and kicked the bigger man’s knee with his heel, feeling cartilage snap under the blow. Bressard fell as Savage rolled away. He could see the gloves the man was wearing, at least on his one remaining hand. The fingers were tipped with steel claws. Savage drew his pistol and leveled it at Bressard.
“Was it worth it, Asshole?” Savage snarled.
“Killing your wife was better than fucking,” Bressard laughed evilly. Savage fired his pistol and Bressard screamed as his good knee blew apart, the lower part of his leg nearly separating from his body.
“Why?” Savage demanded, his voice cold.
“It was all part of the game. Kids love these fucking games,” Bressard gasped.
“What kind of fucking game is it where you murder people?” Savage asked.
“A powerful one. It’s all about power,” Bressard gasped, his voice growing weaker. Savage moved closer to the fallen killer.
“So how does it feel to lose?” Savage asked.
“I haven’t!” Bressard snapped, striking at Savage’s leg with his remaining clawed hand. White hot pain exploded in his leg. Savage threw himself back, stabbing the pistol towards Bressard and firing it out. Savage hit the ground, feeling the wet warmth of blood on his leg. He rolled away from Bressard. The man was dead, his face a bloody hole. Sirens were approaching rapidly in the distance. Savage fought his way to his feet and staggered back towards the light. Bernice and Jean Wilson had both been avenged. However the act had changed him, transformed him into something he had never known he could be. Savage fell to the ground just as he was caught in the headlights of a car.
“Kevin!” he could hear Lara James’ voice. He was getting cold, probably from blood loss. Everything faded to black.
“You’ve been cleared of all charges Kevin. The Chief really went to bat for you,” Lara James said as she sat next to his hospital bed.
“Were they the ones that killed Jean Wilson?” Savage asked.
“Yes, Bressard had even video-taped it. It seems he was a fan of a game called Werewolf, The Apocalypse. He set up little mini-cults every place he went. He was wanted for a long string of murders stretching from France all the way across the United States,” Lara said.
“Not anymore,” Savage said.
“No, not anymore. What about you Kevin? What are you going to do now?” Lara asked, her eyes full of concern.
“I don’t know, Lara. I know I can’t play by the rules anymore, not after this. The rules got Bernice killed. I’m turning in my badge, maybe I’ll go private. I just don’t know yet,” Savage said.
“Let me know,” Lara said, standing up and walking out. Savage watched her go. What would he do now? No wife, no job. He lay back on the bed and turned out the light. Maybe he would know in the morning, when he could look at his choices in the light of a new day.