“You want to hear something crazy?
The average human body has roughly six quarts of blood in it. Your heart is an interesting organ. It runs roughly two thousand gallons of blood through itself per day! Isn’t that something? That’s somewhere around 83 gallons an hour! Pour out 83 gallon jugs of milk, and imagine that that much blood is being sent out of, and back into, your heart at any given hour. 6 quarts a minute! You know what that means? If you’ve been keeping track, that means that the heart actually circulates all 6 quarts of blood in just around a minute or so. Of course, that’s when you’re not stressed out.
Like you are now.
Your heart is probably pumping faster now. The system is being tested. Those amazing numbers are being pushed higher and higher. That’s impressive, to think that all those figures were just a minimum.
But hey, that’s not why I invited you. So, and you’re going to have to excuse the pun here, let’s cut to the heart of the matter, shall we?”
“Marty, it’s Carl. No, I don’t have time for that. Get you and everyone on the force down to my office immediately. Yes, I found Catherine. Or at least what’s left of her! The bastard got ‘er, Marty. God, it’s… it’s bad. She’s… she’s on the hood of my car, split in half through her abdomen… Please, just… get down here…”
Ballis hadn’t thrown up in twelve years. Now he didn’t know if he was ever going to stop
“Alright, no more hiding things, Carl. Why would the Anatomy killer be targeting you?”
Ballis leaned his back against a van, a let out a long, slow breath. He kept his eyes straight down, pointing into the blackness of an oil slick on the pavement. His own distorted reflection stared back.
“The fuck should I know, kid. Because I was investigating the case, would be my guess”
Simmons slammed his fist against the van a few feet from Ballis’ head.
“Don’t give me that shit! I know this isn’t the beginning of the killer’s interest in you. I’ve seen the pattern, Carl. I got another tip today from the Great Lady Amber. She told me to look at the center of the circle of bodies. And sure enough, the center was right here. Your office! So don’t tell me that this is because you were investigating the case. How long have you known that it involved you?”
“I knew from the beginning.”
“What? You have to be kidding me. What the hell were you thinking? You were hiding facts from the investigation!? How did you know?”
“I… I received a package in the mail, the day before the first body turned up. It was a doll with the hands cut off. Written on its chest was the word “Watson”. The next day, a handless body appeared on the roof of the Watson building.”
“I don’t get it. Why the hell didn’t you call me immediately?! We may have been able to stop this way earlier! But no, instead you had to play Clint fuckin’ Eastwood and take matters into your own hands! You stupid old man, you’re not a detective anymore! You failed at that and now you’re failing at being worth a shit at all.”
“You know what, kid. You want to know why I didn’t tell you?! You want to know why I kept it a secret!”
“Please, indulge me! Give me one more lesson in great detective work!”
“Do you know what I’ve been doing for a living, Marty? I’ve been watching middle aged business men bangin’ mistresses in hotels for the last five years. I’m paid by jealous wives to spy on cheating husbands. Hell, I took a case to find a fuckin’ lost dog once! I haven’t touched a homicide case since I left the force. So why now? Why the hell do you think I took this one? Because I was given no other choice. Not only was this thing directed at me, but I was stuck having to deal with it myself.”
“That’s not an explanation!”
“The doll wasn’t the only thing in the package! There was also a photograph.”
“A photograph? Of what?”
“Who, actually. It was a photo of Amber, looking out the window of her apartment. And written on the back it said ‘Tell The Police, And The Girl Dies’, alright. My hand was forced. I followed up on every lead I could, there wasn’t anything to be gained from the doll or the photo. But I helped you in this investigation every step of the way to make up for what I was hiding. I did this for you, and now I’m paying the price.”
“You know what, Carl. It’s done. I don’t want you near this case anymore. If you so much as step foot near a crime scene, I will have you detained! Leave this to me. I’m not letting this go on any longer! It ends now!”
Amber recognized the name almost immediately. Catherine Morris. She had spoken to her on the phone not twelve hours before she was killed. When the news report came across her television, an immediate sense of dread overcame her. She knew that this had to do with Carl and his involvement. An innocent girl killed simply to get to him.
She walked over to the board, Jack The Ripper stalking after her, and pulled out one of the pins. On the table, she had the morning’s newspaper with a picture of Catherine on the front page. She lifted the article up and stuck it dead-center in the middle of the board.
“It’s just not fair, Jack…”
A sudden knock on the door startled her out of her train of thought. Was it Carl? Did he come back to ask for her advice? It seemed too soon for that, but maybe he thought she could help. She nearly ran to the door, but was able to regain her composure just as she opened it. It wasn’t Carl standing outside the door.
“Ma…Marty, hi. I’m surprised to see you.”
“I know, I’m sorry for showing up unannounced like this. I’m sure you’ve heard about this morning’s unfortunate events?”
“Yes, it’s terrible. Carl… er… Mr. Ballis must be devastated.”
“That’s part of the reason I came to see you. You spoke to Carl, and he obviously revealed to you that he knew he was in the middle of this. I need you to tell me everything you two talked about.”
“Of course, come in.”
The Great Lady Amber was finally being brought in on the case! It was all so exciting, and to have her former lover as a partner? This was the perfect start to the final act.
“He didn’t tell me too much outside of the fact that his office was in the middle of the pattern of bodies. We discussed at great length the prospect that the killer probably knew him. Maybe even had a personal vendetta against him. Perhaps someone he locked away when he was on the force? That kind of thing. He didn’t really tell me much else.”
“Alright. Well, he’s no longer on this case. So I don’t want you talking to him anymore, alright?”
“What? You need him on this, Marty!”
“No, I don’t. He withheld information!”
“He helped with the investigation! You can’t just remove a main character from the story…”
“This isn’t one of your stupid detective novels, Amber! Dammit, this is real! You need to stop this! This pretend world you’re living in, this whole Great Lady Amber bullshit. It has to stop! You were victimized, and you’re hiding from it by pretending that you’re a character in a story!”
“No! This isn’t a game anymore! You need to stay out of this or you’re going to get hurt!”
“Marty… I need this… it’s all I have…”
“No, what you have is a mental disorder. You need to stop refusing help, and you need to finally come to terms with what happened. But most importantly… you need to stop this…”
Marty placed a hand on the case board. With a sudden downward motion, he ripped the map in half. Pins bounced off the table. Papers fluttered down to his feet.
“Enough, Amber. Look what happened to Catherine? She was involved with Carl and now she’s dead. The same thing could happen to you if you keep sticking your nose into things.”
Tears formed in Amber’s eyes, she tried to look away by Marty took her head into his hand and pulled it back to face him.
“…I’m sorry… Marty, I can’t. I can’t give up. I need this… I’m sorry…”
“No, Amber. I’m sorry…”
“I… sorry for what?”
“Because now I’m going to have to kill you.”
Amber felt a sharp pain in her neck. Her eyes widened as she immediately began to feel off balance. Marty released her and she stumbled back into the couch, collapsing. Her vision began to get foggy as she stared at him with confusion. It was only then, as she felt herself drifting off to sleep, that she noticed the syringe in his hand.
“I’m sorry Amber. You weren’t supposed to be involved in any of this. This was between me and Carl.”
Amber finally let the tears fall as she finally gave into the drug.
Marty ripped the tape off of his next victims mouth.
“Marty, you son of a bitch…”
“Now, come on, is that any way to speak to your employee?”
“Why are you doing this? It doesn’t make any sense!”
“Killing you? A distraction. I’m tying up loose ends. Amber’s currently tied up in her apartment, and Carl will be joining us soon enough. But I have to knock the investigation off track first. And what better way than to kill the chief of police!”
Michael Tatum was tied down to a table, his legs and arms stretched out. He stared up at Simmons as he struggled against the rope.
“Do you really think you can fight your way out of this? How many people have I killed so far? I’m getting quite good at it. Not to mention, my collection is starting to look nice. Oh, right, we were talking about the heart, weren’t we?”
“Dammit, Marty you…”
Another piece of tape muffled Tatum’s yelling. Marty cracked his neck and turned to the tool bench behind him. He picked up a large contraption from off the table. Marty’s eyes widened.
“Do you know what this is? Oh, I’m sorry, you can’t answer that, can you? Well, I’ll just explain it then. This here, this is a rib splitter. It’s quite an interesting tool. It was designed almost a hundred years ago, and we still use it! You just stab these little fork looking things into the chest, and it slowly pulls apart the ribs to give surgeons access to vital organs. Such as the heart…”
Marty placed the splitter gently over Tatum’s chest.
“It’s quite a simple design. Almost like a wrench, you just turn this little crank… well, talking about it doesn’t do it much justice. I’ve always wanted to see one of these in action. What do you say we give it a try?”
Tatum’s screaming was louder, even with the tape, as Marty shoved the ends of the of the splitter between his ribs.
“It’ll be over soon, I can assure you. I just want to find out how much you really put your heart into your work.”
At first, he crank was hard to turn, but as the skin and muscle gave way, the hole opened quicker and quicker. The ribs strained against the contraption as Marty turned the handle faster and faster. And then…
“There it is! The heart. What a magnificent machine! It’s beautiful!”
Marty ran a gloved finger lightly across the still beating heart. Tatum had stopped struggling, only labored breathing and increasingly quiet moans gave any notion he was still alive. Marty reached behind him and pulled out a scalpel.
“You should be honored. The heart is such an important part of the collection. You got me into the police force, you helped me learn how to be a good detective, and now… now you’re doing me one more favor. You’re giving me my most prized piece yet.
And I thank you for it.”