Chapter 1

“Who was the first to find the body?” Kai asked, studying the crime scene at the same time.

“Tiffany,” The response officer replied, pointing toward a still terrified girl at one corner of the room.

Kai put on his gloves and approached the body. “What have you found out so far?”

“One blow to the head,” One of the lab investigators answered.

“No one heard anything?”

Kai and the response officer continued to inspect the scene as the examiner continued with his routine.

“All of them said they were the last group to leave because they had to finish an important assignment for the day,” The response officer recapped. “They didn’t hear anything because of the rain.”

“The sound isn’t that loud,” Kai noted. “In fact, it’s impossible not to hear anything when the break room’s right there–and out in the open space too.” He paused to observe the scene once more. “Any signs the body was dragged there? Or carried?” His eyes fell upon the entrance. “Who has access to this place? Can anyone just come in or do they need to identify themselves? What about security?”

The response officer tried to answer Kai’s questions as best as he could. All the while, the editor in chief had arrived at the scene along with the boss.

“Officer, I didn’t do anything wrong,” The boss rambled off as he approached Kai and the response officer.

“Calm down, Mr. Wang,” Kai said, having glimpsed the report in hand briefly seconds ago before the two men approached. “I need to ask you some questions.”

Both men nodded as Kai began.

An hour later, Kai left the scene holding an umbrella. He received another call. It was a busy night but he was reassured that the team will do their job while he went to the next location.

“What happened here?” Kai asked as he reached the location and turned to one of his fellow cops.

“Another body found,” The other responded, gesturing toward the entrance.

Kai folded his umbrella and placed it aside so as not to disturb the scene when he entered. “Same suspect?”

“Looks like it.”

Kai let the other person enter first. “What I don’t get is why he or she is striking so fast this time. Two in one night?”

The other person turned to him. “Two?”

“I just left this one newspaper place.”

“Oh.”

They continued past the general work area and into what seemed to be a break room.

“This one would make more sense if no one heard anything,” Kai remarked as he stepped into the room, careful as not to step on any possible evidence.

“Nic.” The other guy said into his cell phone. Yes, he had received another call. “Yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Don’t tell me a third one tonight,” Kai said when Nic was finished with his conversation.

“Robbery,” Nic replied. “We’re the nearest so…” He scanned his surrounding once. “You want to continue with this or the robbery?”

“You go ahead,” Kai returned, his attention still on the scene.

“All right.”

Nic left as Kai continued his inspection. This was going to be a long night.

*****

The next day, Nic arrived to find Kai sleeping at his desk. Nic placed a cup of coffee at a corner of Kai’s desk and took the tan folder from Kai’s desk to read up on the latest.

“Morning,” A girl’s voice interrupted his train of thoughts as he was turning a page of the report.

Though her voice was soft but it had awakened Kai. He covered his mouth as a yawn overtook him. He got up and stretched anyway, not wanting to waste anymore time sleeping. Afterward, he reached for the coffee cup he knew Nic had ready for him.

“You just managed to sleep?” The girl asked in her soft voice.

Kai nodded.

She didn’t apologize like one would expect. Instead, she reached for the folder in Nic’s hand to take the other copy of the report. “Two in one night. Who would’ve guessed?”

“Doughnuts?” Kai asked, looking around.

“I’m not that cliché,” The girl joked, giving him an amused expression.

Kai shrugged. “I need my sugar surge.” For a guy up all night, he was quite optimistic.

Though she had teased him about being cliché, the girl soon reached into her tote bag and retrieved a box of fresh doughnuts. The kind Kai loved.

Kai bowed with much grace, taking the box from her afterward. “I’m forever in your debt, Princess Cynthia.”

“Save the tongue work,” Nic interrupted them. “We’re in for good this time.”

“What happened?” Cynthia asked, her smile off and her expression all business again. She took a step toward his direction.

“Apparently, our boss had declared something about solving this case in a month,” Nic answered, his expression grim.

“Maybe we should apply to switch teams,” Kai joked, munching on a doughnut.

Nic folded the newspaper up and tossed it loosely on their joined desks.

“Calm down,” Cynthia said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You know how he is. You should be glad he doesn’t make us explain it to the public when we don’t meet the deadline.”

“Yet he takes all the credits when we solve it,” Kai pointed out, working on doughnut number two.

Cynthia gave Kai a warning glare. “If we keep talking about that, we won’t have time to analyze the case.”

Kai stopped eating to salute her with a knowing expression on his face. “All right. You two finish reading while I restore my energy.”

That was the same as him going back to devour the remaining of the doughnuts while Nic and Cynthia catch up. As they were reading Kai’s report, Cynthia jotted down some items in her notebook also, keeping it for her own references.

“What we have so far is one big mess,” Cynthia said, her impatient tone contradicting her encouraging words to them earlier. She sat down at her desk and tapped her pen against her notebook. “The only common thing about all these is the killer targeted newspaper places. Only one kill per place so far. How many are there in this town? What would he or she do if…”

It was too obvious what her next words were.

“Stop them before we get that answer,” Kai said. “We wouldn’t want the killer to move on to the next town or worse, double back to the old places.”

“Most of the traces of the getaway are probably washed away by the rain already. Nothing suspicious is at the scene, except the same method.”

“We have to coordinate it along with the weather and…”

“I draw up all the lists of the local newspapers and magazines around here.” She pulled out another set of papers and handed a copy for each, saving one for herself. “I didn’t realize we have so many around here.”

“Welcome to our town,” Kai muttered, still polishing his doughnuts. He was also going down the list at the same time, marking down the ones the killer already strike with red ink. “The next one…”

Cynthia scratched her head with the tip of her pen. Not a very lady-like gesture yet she didn’t care. “Six so far? Do we have to stake out at all of those places? And it doesn’t mean that the weather reports are that accurate. We can’t just wait forever, especially when the killer could change directions…”

Kai turned to Nic, seeing that Nic had already settled down at his own desk. “You found the link yet?”

“No,” Nic answered, his tone showing signs of defeat. “The only link is they all work at a newspaper place. But we already established that since the third victim, right?” He was adopting Cynthia’s pen swirling habit.

“Personal?”

“Casual. They get together at times after work but I heard from several of their colleagues that it was those attempts to extract more information for work anyway.”

“What a business, huh? You don’t know you’re friends or foes…”

“You’re never friends, just informants,” Cynthia reminded him, a tint of mischievousness on her face.

Kai nodded. “True. Now…” He had abandoned the doughnuts already and had used Cynthia’s napkins and Purell’s to wash his hands over appropriately. Working with a partner who was over the edge of cleanliness wasn’t that bad after all since he hated the stickiness that the doughnuts bring toward his hand afterward–-though he couldn’t just quit eating doughnuts because of that. “We talked to the employees there several times already, except for the last two scenes but two guesses we don’t have to come back.”

“We’ll think of something. We always do.”

Kai got up and stretched again, his eyes moving toward Nic’s desk. “Assigning tasks?”

“What do you want this time?” Nic asked, looking at the list he just made for them. “Interrogation, coordination, or crime scene visits?”

“Crime scene,” Kai replied after scanning at the photos in his hands.

Nic turned to Cynthia. He did not need to say anything. It was their routine of dividing tasks.

“Coordination,” Cynthia said without even looking at the checklist under the category.

“Easy job,” Kai mumbled as he placed the crime scene photos into an envelope.

“You chose first and besides…” She paused to flash on her cunning smile. “Like you’re not going to the lab to chat with the beautiful lab technicians.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” He looked slightly annoyed but did not care to elaborate. Instead, he pocketed the envelope in his hand and left the room.

“Remember your umbrella!” Cynthia yelled after him.

Kai rushed back to his desk and grabbed his umbrella that was leaning on the right corner and left again. He did not need to say words of farewell because they all knew one another’s habits by now and their own pre-established routines right from the start. Cynthia did not need any cues to get herself started either. She cleared the half-finished doughnut box from sight before spreading out the information she gathered last night at home on Kai’s desk while using her own desk for more research. Nic’s desk was toward her left–-facing Kai’s. She hadn’t invaded his territory yet. She would eventually invade it when Nic was out of sight. Not now. He was still around and working with his list.

Two hours later, Cynthia was the only one left among their team of three. She continued to study Kai’s reports along with her collected information. She did not halt her progress until she realized someone was tapping on the door. She thought it was the raindrops hitting the building’s surface until she stopped rustling some papers in her hands. Getting up from her seat, she glanced around the spacious room once. Their team’s desks had to be near the back–-where the back door was. That was also where she heard some strange sounds seconds ago. Was it Kai playing a joke on her? She glimpsed at the opaque window showing traffic outside. It had stopped raining–-temporarily–-and the sky was showing shades of gray and white morphed together. Dark clouds threatened more rain to come. That also meant more opportunities for the killer to strike.

“Kai?” Cynthia called out to the empty space.

The others just had to be spread out the building at this time of the day. She allowed herself to step outside of their zone toward where the other teams were discussing other cases around the building. Because Kai and Nic had preferred the peace and quiet so they had chosen the back area with a door separating them from the rest. Now, she found it more eerie than ever. She knew they were in a safe and secured building yet she could not help it with her nerves.

“What’s wrong?” One of the guys from Team D asked, looking up at her when she stepped out. “You look so pale.”

“Uh…” Cynthia managed. “Nothing. I thought you guys were making weird sounds here…”

The guy shook his head. “We’re way too busy for games around here.”

Cynthia shrugged and muttered an apology to him before turning to leave again. She let out a sigh and scolded herself silently for being such a scaredy-cat. Then she stepped toward the back door, opening it a little, her right hand reaching for her gun out of habit. When she was sure no one was within sight and there was no immediate threat present, she opened it wider and stepped outside. With one hand still on the door handle, she searched her surrounding with her eyes. Her right hand was still on her gun. As she was pulling the door to reenter, she spotted a box to the left of the door. She scanned the canvas again, making sure nothing was threatening to attack her as she lowered herself to fetch the envelope on top of the box. As her hand was an inch from the envelope, she snapped it up again, reaching for her gloves. Anything could be evidence, Kai’s words echoed in her head.

With one foot as a placeholder for the door, she put her gloves on while still circulating the area with her sharp eyes. When she was ready, she knelt down and grabbed the envelope. Straightening up, she opened the envelope with her gloved hands but her eyes were still focusing on her surroundings. She risked a glance at the envelope which read ‘Police’ in red ink. Her nose told her it wasn’t just ink. Studying the box, she was not sure if it consisted of anything life-threatening. Her instinct told her to bring it inside before she study it further. No sounds of it being a bomb, right? So no harm. Yet.

Five minutes later, she was staring at it at an empty table and away from their desks. Of course she had closed and locked the door cautiously. Should she open it up or wait for Kai and Nic to return? Not wanting to hesitate anymore, she spread out some papers before opening the envelope to read the contents inside. The letter itself only contained one warning sentence in red ink, which read: This is between me and them so stay out of it before you’re hurt.

She placed the letter to one side of the paper square and reached for the box, determined not to be threatened by it. Seconds later, she dropped the box and regretted in not waiting for the others. Inside the box laid someone’s head. The new victim?

© Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Posted: Friday, May 13th, 2011

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