“The pancreas? It helps produce enzymes to break down food during the digestive process. The liver? The liver has countless functions from working with your immune system to storing important nutrients, it even helps with your blood pressure! The gall bladder? It takes what the liver leaves when it filters our body, the bile we need to break down fat. That’s right, even the waste in our body is used for good! Isn’t the human body amazing?
The look on your face says a lot. You don’t find this interesting, do you? That’s a pity, because I haven’t even gotten to the part where you come in yet.
Oh, I’m sorry! I suppose I should leave this knife on the table until we’re done talking. How rude of me. I’m a terrible host. I don’t want my lack of manners to make you feel unimportant. Because that’s not true at all. In fact, you’re a very important guest! Maybe the most important guest I’ve had yet.
And with that said, why don’t we get started?”
Spelled out in intestines with a heart placed in the middle of the “A”. Spread out like a banner over the ribless corpse of Johnny Baker. Age 46. A drug addict and felon.
“Well, I guess Ballis was right about the last victim. Baker’s DNA was all over the last body. We thought we had him this time, but there’s no way this junkie was the Anatomy killer.”
Detective Marty Simmons blew into his hands. It did nothing to remedy the chill of the early morning that still floated in the air. He turned from the body to stare up at the cloudy sky, trying to find some other color than red and gray. He couldn’t. Police Chief Tatum, turning away from the mess, lit a cigarette and sighed.
“The real killer did this to send us a message. That we aren’t even close. Dammit, this is going to destroy our credibility if this mistake gets out. It’s a good thing we didn’t release the information about Baker being our suspect. Listen, Simmons, I need you to swing by my office after you’re done here. It’s time we step up the game. This can’t go on any longer.”
Simmons didn’t even look at his boss as he walked away, simply choosing to respond with a small over-the-shoulder hand gesture.
“Hey, don’t touch anything until forensics gets here! Idiots…”
Every year, stairs just seemed to get more and more steep. Ballis highly doubted that they were built that way. It was probably just his knees. He had to practically tug himself up the railing like it was part of the rope course back in basic training. It took him a couple of minutes to reach the third floor landing of the Shady Pines apartment complex.
“I used to run a five and a half minute mile. Now I’d be lucky if I was alive after walking one.”
With an exhausted sigh, the old P.I. glanced down at the sticky note his assistant had handed him. The address he had asked for printed neatly on it’s bright yellow surface. The paper cast quite a contrast compared to the muted colors of the hallway. It was the only bright color he’d seen in days.
“318…318…here it is.”
Ballis lifted the old metal knocker off the door frame and let it fall once with a dull thud.
“Um… good afternoon Amber. My name is Carl Ballis, I’m a Private Investigator. I’m also a friend of Marty Simmons’.”
“What do you want?”
Ballis shifted uncomfortably. He could almost feel Amber’s eye on the other side of the peephole.
“Well, I heard your theory about the last Anatomy killer victim. Turns out you were right. I was just wondering if you maybe wanted to discuss a few more theories on the case?”
Suddenly, the knob turned and the door popped open, creaking slightly before stopping. No one was standing in the inch and a half gap. Ballis stared into the surprisingly dark interior, as he heard a slightly more animate voice call out to him.
Ballis walked in, carefully closing the door behind him. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, and even longer for his nose to adjust to the musty smell of old books that floated on the air like a thick fog. Not surprising considering the girl’s reputation for collecting books.
“So, how do you know Marty?”
It took a second for Ballis to notice where the voice was coming from. Amber was standing in what looked like a dining room near the back of the apartment. The table that should have been used for eating was littered with novels. And standing behind them, at what appeared to be an enormous tack board, was a stunningly beautiful girl in her mid 20′s. Amber glanced back at him for a second, and with a quick sweeping motion of the hand, beckoned him over to her.
“Uh, well… actually… I was his first partner. I pretty much taught him everything he knows.”
“Interesting. So you used to be in the force?”
“Yeah. I quit after… certain events happened. I took up this career instead. More flexable hours, ya know?”
“Not really. My hours are always flexible.”
“I suppose so. I… know about everything in that regard too.”
“I see. Marty told you?”
“Interestingly enough, it was a tip from me that led him to that alley that night…”
Amber looked back at him suddenly. Her casual demeanor replaced by a look of surprise.
“You’re kidding me? Well, I guess I owe you a thank you!”
“No no, it’s not like that. He was the one who was off duty and still decided to swing out there. He’s the one that… well… saved you, I guess…”
Amber showed another emotion on her face, one she rarely ever showed anyone other than Jack the Ripper. Sadness. Fear of a memory that led to her being locked up in this apartment for the last six years. The mental illness that developed after nearly being strangled to death behind a bar by a serial killer.
“Yeah… well. That’s all in the past now! We have a case to discuss!”
And with that, her upbeat personality returned in an instant. Jack jumped up on the table behind her and she gently patted him on the head before returning to the board.
Ballis already knew what it was, a case board. Newspaper articles pinned up around a big map of the city. All related to the Anatomy killer. He only asked because he didn’t want to take away from her pleasure in explaining it.
“Oh stop, you already know what this is, Detective!”
So much for that.
“Yeah. A case board. Interesting set up. I see you figured out the pattern in where the bodies were placed too, huh?”
“Yup! They’re in a big circle! I was thinking about it, do you think the circle has any meaning?”
“Oh, it has a meaning…”
“Wait?! You know what it is?!”
Amber’s face lit up. She stepped to the side of her board and moved her eyes back and forth from the salt-and-pepper haired P.I. and the board, trying to get him to point things out. Marty had talked about his “mentor” while they were dating, and she was interested in seeing this genius in action.
“It’s quite simple…”
Ballis reached over and pulled a small pin out of the board and stuck it dead-center in the circle on the map. It stuck straight into a small building.
“That? Well, that my dear… is my office…”
“I’m bringing in extra help, Simmons”
Tatum slid the left bottom drawer of his desk open and pulled out a small bottle of bourbon and two glasses. He poured a little into each and returned them to his stash. Simmons reached out to take one before it was even offered, which was met with a small smirk from his superior.
“So, you were serious about putting an end to this?”
“Of course I’m serious! This is making the entire force look like a bunch of idiots! This has been going on for three months now, and we still don’t even have a solid suspect! If the city starts doubting our ability to keep them safe…”
“Yes, I know. So what do we do then?”
Simmons downed his drink in one shot and slid the glass across the desk. Tatum had already finished his and was reaching down for the bottle again.
“I’ve called in some favors with other police chief’s. They’re sending in any agents they can spare. We’re going to hit every lead we’ve found so far, every damn clue that’s been surfaced, no matter how minor. We’re going to attack this thing from every angle. I want this son of a bitch’s head on my desk by the end of the month!”
Tatum threw back the second shot and slammed his glass against the table.
“I promise you, if justice is served in this case, it’s going to be by my hands, sir.”
“Catherine?! Hey, why the hell isn’t there any coffee made?!”
Ballis stumbled aimlessly around his dark office. He’d wasted most of the day discussing theories with that girl, and now he had a long night of heavy drinking to look forward to. But first, he had to sober up from the early morning drinking. He figured since his liver was mostly shot anyway, why not finish the job.
“Seriously? It’s impossible to find good help these days. I hire you for a few small things, and you can’t even do those right. Where’s the damn lamp…”
Ballis felt around blindly until his hand wrapped around the chain of his desk lamp. He pulled down and let the light burst into the room. In an instant, his thoughts shot away from the coffee.
There, on the wall next to the door, written in blood, was a short warning:
Her Blood Is On Your Hands, Carl Ballis!
“Now where was I? Oh yes, the kidney! A wonderful organ, it helps clean waste out of our blood. Isn’t that great? But hey, we’re here to talk about a special organ today. One you have and I don’t…”
Catherine’s tear-soaked eyes widened as the knife blade slowly creeped up her naked thigh. She tried to struggle, to scream, but nothing was going to free her. She could feel the coldness of the blade against her flesh as it climbed higher and higher.
“The uterus. The womb that brings forth life! The cauldron to which all of my collection was mixed in. I haven’t had the chance to get one yet. So I guess I’ll just take yours!”
And with that, the knife slid up and in.