August 5th, Copley Square, Boston
Mike shifted his head to the right as a shard of golden sunlight glared through the gaps in the buildings opposite and blurred his vision. Time was running out, he had managed to hold off having to shoot the perpetrator. He feared for the safety of the innocent witnesses who cowered behind the church doors twenty yards away.
If he needed to incapacitate the criminal, he would have to take a clean shot. He preferred to make an arrest without causing harm, despite the advice his contacts in the local law enforcement gave him.
“It’s better to mame a perpetrator than for members of the public to be hurt,” the voice of the chief of police rang in Mike’s ears as he stared down his gunsight and bit his lip. He was determined to maintain peace over the situation.
“No one needs to be harmed,” Mike yelled as he loosed his fingers from the cushioned leather handhold of his silver beretta. He shook out his cramp and wrapped his fingers around the grip again.
The man in his sight, dressed in a leather coat and covered in tattoos from head to toe, stood over the body of a girl. Rings and spikes pierced every possible feature on his face. Designed to intimidate, the lackeys who dropped off the bodies of innocent victims were chosen because their appearance would strike fear into people.
This was the last situation Mike imagined he would find himself in on a Sunday afternoon. Thirty minutes earlier, he’d laughed and joked with the patrons of the local church. He was not religious but his Mum, Dora, had been a church-goer since she was a child. Copley Square wasn’t the church she attended but she wanted to visit some old friends. Now Mike wished for her sake she’d saved her sentiments for another day.
The tattooed man, thirty yards away from the church entrance, was a pure case for Mike’s argument of why he could not believe in God. He was convinced that if God existed, then there wouldn’t be so much evil in the world. Especially the kind that presented itself before him this morning in the girl who laid, dead on the ground, at the perpetrator’s feet.
The man held his hands in the air and his leather jacket splayed open, revealing several knife handles tucked into its lining. Under his jacket he wore a deep red shirt, embroidered with golden serpents that slithered up his sides. Their open mouths looked like they were trying to swallow the man’s chest. Mike breathed a sigh of relief as the perpetrator seemed to cooperate, which meant a lowered risk to his friends in the church.
Mike glanced at the girl’s motionless body on Copley Square’s red bricks. He hoped to see her chest rise and fall, a sign that she was still breathing. He waited several seconds before he gave up and accepted that the twenty-two year old was dead. Her wavy blonde hair had adorned her head while she lived, now it was replaced with blood matted hair and reddened flesh around her neck, caused by a torturous ordeal at the hands of the underground crime ring.
“Put your hands on your head and step away from the girl,” Mike commanded as he shifted his gaze back toward the perpetrator and stepped forward.
Sirens blazed as a blue and white squad car screeched into view behind Mike. The criminal’s eyes darted between the squad car and the girl beneath him as he realised his escape was cut off. He licked his lips as he slipped his fingers over the hilt of a knife and watched as two police officers rushed out of their car. They unclipped the safety catch on their firearms, raised them in the air and made their way to Mike’s side.
“Stay calm. No one needs to get hurt,” a police officer on Mike’s left tried to bring order to the situation.
Mike relaxed his aim, let his gun slide out of his grip until the trigger guard rested on his finger. He held his hands open in a gesture of peace as his gun rocked to and fro. With his hands raised, Mike stepped forward with one purposeful footstep after the other.
“We’re here to help,” Mike softened his tone.
The perpetrator snarled through a grimace as his wild eyes glanced at the girl’s blood stained body beneath him, pleased with his handy work. He snorted, looked back at Mike through bloodshot eyes and pulled a knife out of the lining of his coat.
“Freeze!” the police officer to Mike’s right shouted and aimed his gun at the man.
The perpetrator sneered, scowled and spat in the police officer’s direction. He looked towards the church in the background and then a wicked smile contorted his face.
“Put the weapon down!” Mike shouted when he caught sight of the blade in the man’s hand.
The perpetrator let out a manic laugh as he pushed his knife deep into his left arm. He shrieked with pain as he drew it toward his elbow, before he held his arm away from his body and smiled in ecstasy. Thick drops of blood fell from his fingertips onto the ground before he fell to his knees and raised his knife to his throat.
“The night is coming!” the man yelled and spat in Mike’s direction.
Mike recoiled as he caught a glimpse of the man’s eyes. Time froze as they held each other’s gaze. The look of recognition on the man’s face surprised Mike. He was not sure how but he was convinced the man knew who he was. Mike creased his forehead in confusion, unsure where he had seen him before.
“You can’t stop us!” the perpetrator growled.
Two gunshots fired past Mike’s head, he shuddered and hunched on the ground to protect himself in a knee jerk reaction. He looked toward the man who was now sprawled out in a pool of blood on the ground, his body filled with bullets. Mike placed his hands on the pavement of bricks beneath him, his arms shook as he tried to steady himself. A crushing weight pressed down on him, filled with a sudden sadness, he leaned his head on the cold stone as the world started to spin. Mike held onto his belly to comfort himself against a pit that opened in his core and his gun rolled out of his hand, across the bricks on the ground.
The voices of the police officers muffled through the air as Mike’s world darkened and closed in around him. The branches of trees above his head turned to blurry strange creatures that danced in the wind, while the horizon slanted to one side.
“Mike?” A voice rasped through the air but it did not immediately register with him.
He pressed his head against the cold ground to ease the pain that now seared through it. He knew he had to get a grip, so he took deep breaths and counted to ten. He had to regain control.
“Mike!” The alarmed voice rasped again as a hand grabbed Mike’s shoulder.
Mike titled his head and rolled his eyes to in an attempt to see who wanted his attention.
“Get up, man. We’ve got another one for the case,” a man dressed in a blue shirt, brown chinos and black oxford shoes, hovered above Mike.
Mike smiled as he recognised Ray, his private eye partner. Ray clamped onto Mike’s wrist and hauled him up to his feet, dusted him off and patted him down before he grabbed Mike’s cotton white collar and straightened it out.
“There’s nothing you could do, Mike. The man was crazed. Probably brainwashed by the Creed,” Ray’s soft, rough voice offered a consolation.
“The Creed?” Mike said under his breath as he studied Ray’s unkempt stubble. “We’ve got to stop them, Ray.”
Mike twiddled his finger in his ear to stop it ringing as he followed Ray over to the two bodies. Mike’s world returned to normal as the bloodied mess came into view. Mike was surprised by how he reacted to what had just happened. He was usually stronger. He had seen people get shot before, seen blood before. Mike racked his brain as he tried to figure out what made him weak at the knees. Was it the fact that his Mum was only a few hundred yards away from the scene? Was it that another dead body had turned up and he could do nothing to stop the murders? It was another slap in the face on his professional reputation as one of the best private eyes on record in Boston.
“Looks like the Creed,” Ray commented as he studied the markings on the girl’s neck.
Mike studied the imprint of a thick rope upon the girl’s neck, evidence that she had been held in a noose. He moved his attention to various pentagrams, stars, crescent moons and runes that were etched into her arms. Her skin had ruptured and the cuts were still red but the blood had dried.
“The Creed tortured her,” Ray shook his head. “Made her bleed, possibly with blunt blades. How long before they finally ended her misery?”
“We’ve got to stop them, Ray,” Mike looked over at the perpetrator’s motionless body.
“Creed markings,” Ray retorted as he studied the man’s hands. On one, the letters ‘C R E E D’ were imprinted on each knuckle. On the other was a pentagram spread across his palm with the letter ‘C’ in the middle.
Mike grimaced as he kicked himself for not being able to stop the Creed. He wished that he had a lead on their movements, their organisational structure and an understanding of how they worked. The cases had not given him anything to tie them down.
“I hoped to take him in,” Mike stepped toward the man’s body. “I hoped he would’ve given us information on the Creed. What now, Ray?” Mike stared at the ground and kicked a stone. “How many more innocents need to die before we get a lead?”
“You’ll get them, Mike,” Ray rasped with a steady voice and clamped a hand on Mike’s shoulder. “We’ll take them down. Together.”
Mike raised his eyebrows as Ray exchanged a smile and reached into his back pocket.
“Better get on with it then,” Ray smirked, and pulled out a pair of blue latex gloves.
He raised his hand in the air, stretched his fingers through the finger-holes and twanged the elastic against his wrist. Mike shook his head to try to lose the smile that cracked his stern and sombre look. Ray always had a way of making light of any situation with his relentless good cheer. It was why Mike liked him and put up with his habits and quirks. People described them as chalk and cheese. Their differences were even apparent from the way they dressed, Mike was well presented. Sharp and clean shaven. Ray, however, was unkempt, his face surrounded by stubble. Although he dressed well, his clothes were crumpled and his shirt hung loose out of his trousers.
“Come on,” Ray threw a pair of latex gloves at Mike, who snatched them out of the air before they smacked him in the face. “We might find a clue yet.”