The End and the Beginning

The serial killer is back. He is out killing again and it's up to Roy to catch and stop him.

Reading time: 15 minutes 8 seconds.

Previously - Killer vs Killer & Shadows

Chapter One 
The Night

The Explorer's Tales

Oh, night. Moonless night, dark and quiet. The kind of night that brings fear to people's hearts and joy to his. He was strolling around the dark street. The night was calling.

Oh, it’s been months, he thought, since I played that little game with that killer. I doubt if it’s going to be that much fun but I'll make the best of the situation, I always do.

He looked at the house, it was dark.

Of course, he thought, he is at the office and probably thinking about what he is doing with his life, thinking that it would be better if he died. I might relieve him from his burden of breathing tonight.

He sneaked into the house from the back door. He circled the house, took his time getting comfortable as if he was back home after a long time.

He turned on the light of the living room, and the television. He fell on the couch and started watching sports but nothing was exciting enough for him, not even the calling of the night. He got bored pretty soon so he switched off the television and the light and then he went to the bedroom to take a nap after checking that everything was ready.

He couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking about the smile that he had witnessed a few months ago. That smile which could still draw a sweat-waterfall if he ever thought about it. He was counting every tick of the clock on the wall and obviously in due time he heard a car pulling up in the driveway. He sat upright on the bed, waiting, listening, preparing.

He heard keys jingle as the door was opened and then shut back. He heard tired footsteps walking towards the kitchen, and the sound of opening and closing of the refrigerator followed by gulping of water which made his heart sing.

He slowly got out of the bed and walked towards the living room. On his way, he locked the front door and took the keys. He also took his smartphone from the kitchen counter. He looked into the living room. A man was sitting on the couch with his head hung back and eyes closed.

“What took you so long?”

The man jumped as if the couch was suddenly set on fire. He turned back but tripped and fell on the carpet. He saw the man struggling to get up like a fish out of the water. The man finally managed to pick himself up and shouted trying to sound brave but his voice was trembling.

“Who are you? How did you get in?”

He said nothing. He simply just stood there.

“Who are you?” the man asked again, then he circled the room and ran as fast as he could.

He was still standing in the living room, then he too slowly walked towards the exit.

The man was struggling to push the door open but it was locked. He started shouting for help. He was now beating the door and crying for help.

He simply walked behind him, put one hand on his mouth and the other around his neck. The man threw his hands and feet trying to get out of his hold but he was weak and tired.

“Shhh! I was just asking what took you so long? I was worried, you know,” he was speaking as if he was talking to his brother who had just come from the office, “What if you got in an accident or somebody else got you, before me.”

He threw him back into the living room.

The man was now breathing heavily, sweating, and was scared sick. He reached for the phone but it was dead, naturally. He ran towards the kitchen, looking for his smartphone but that wasn’t there either so he took out a knife and held it in front of him.

He laughed.

“You don’t have to be scared of me. What you have to worry about is the water you just drank from that bottle,” he said pointing towards the half-empty bottle on the kitchen counter.

The man was either not listening or couldn’t understand. He was looking for a way to escape and he found it. He ran across the kitchen back into the living room and ran towards the window. He already knew that what he was planning so he blocked his way. The man shouted and swung his knife in the air. He gave up quickly and tried to escape through another window but he calmly blocked the man's way every time. The man was so scared even with a knife in his hands that he was not coming closer than a few feet from him. He was shouting for help hoping that somebody would hear him but he had not chosen this house and this night just randomly.

The man tried everything he could. He pleaded to let him go.

“Please let me go. Take anything you want. I'll even open the safe for you. Just let me go. Please. Please. Please.”

The man was crying like a baby. He finally gave up, threw his knife and curled up on the floor, whimpering.

Just a few more minutes, he thought.

The man suddenly had an idea. He got up quickly and dashed to the stairs electrically fast. He was going to jump from his bedroom window. He was just on the third stair when he felt it.

“About time,” he said rolling his eyes.

“The man stopped on the stairs. He put his hands on his throat. It looked like he was having difficulty breathing. He lost his balance and fell on the floor.

He saw him agonising in pain with his mouth foaming for a few minutes and after that, he went still. He would rattle once in a few seconds or a minute.

Ah, finally, he thought.

He picked up his lump body and carried it to the living room. He carefully put him on the couch and sat beside him.

“So, wanna watch sports?” he asked the dead man picking up the remote and turning on the television.

The room filled with the noise of the audience hooting and the voice of the commentator.

Chapter Two 
Man with a Plan

The Explorer's Tales

The sun was high in the noon. The air had a scent of October. The atmosphere was pleasant. Nobody could’ve suspected if there was any kind of danger anywhere. Everyone had a delusional comfort.

Roy was power walking on a sidewalk to an old building what looked like a warehouse of some sort. He entered the building, walked to a door in the corner, threw it open, and went down the stairs to the basement.

It was an office. Everyone was busy working in their cubicles, some of them lifted their heads to see who had just come down then went back to work. The room had lamps hanging down from the ceiling. The old air conditioner was making the only sound in the room accompanied by the usual bustle of the people whispering to each other, either about work or their last night.

Roy didn’t stop to talk to anybody. He straight went into the adjacent office without knocking on the door. The man that was in there stood up immediately upon seeing him.

“Ah, finally!” he let out with relief.

“What was so urgent?” Roy asked.

The man took a few seconds before answering, “He’s back.”

Roy's face changed. His expressions went from curious to caution. He didn’t ask who 'He' was because he didn’t have to. He knew exactly who was back. He remembered when, a few months ago, he had entered the same office, bruised and tired after his recent adventure in Crime City where he attacked the mafia, stealing their drugs, weapons, and money, killing them and not only this, he had fallen in love after a very, very long time. He remembered that the moment he had entered, he was greeted him in the same way.

“Ah, finally!” the man had said.

Roy had walked limping to the table and sat on a chair, more like fell into it.

“What was so urgent?” Roy asked in a very tired voice.

“Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine. I just need some sleep. I'm here for the briefing.”

"As I told you on the phone, there a serial —”

“And like I asked you on the phone,” Roy interrupted. “Why do we care about a serial killer?”

“If you let me finish. He has information.”

“Why did you pull ME out in the middle of an assignment then? Anybody could do it.”

“It’s related to your assignment.”

"What?" Roy stood up from the chair. He didn't look tired at all now. He was attentive, cautious. Still bruised though.

“Yes. The drug cartel you're after, he has information about it.”

“I don’t get it, how does he know anything about that?”

“He used to work for them.”

Roy took a minute absorbing the latest information. “Okay, I'm listening. Fill me in.”

“His name is Nadeem Mckee. We don’t know his real name. He poisons his victims first and then spends some time with them. The police found that the victims had been dead for a while but their home looked like someone was living in there.”

“Seriously? A necrophile?”

“Oh no, he is not— I mean there was no sign of sexual assault before or after the poisoning. One of our Shadows found something interesting. He had poisoned his parents when he was sixteen. He was sent to a correctional facility where he ran away from and was never found. Until five years ago when he poisoned his first victim.”

“What a sicko! And what about the other one? You said this one killed him.”

“Oh, he was just a maniac. Liked to slash their victims, good thing this one took care of him. It’s like trash taking the trash out.”

“Alright. Keep your eyes and ears open, let me know if anything pops up. I'm gonna take some rest first. Then I'll see about this one.”

And then Roy had walked out of the office. There was no news about the killer for months. Roy came to the office now and then only to be disappointed. Later, he stopped coming. He would just spend the day cooped up in his house, mostly sleeping but sometimes when he couldn’t sleep. On some lonely nights, he would think about Sneha, his girlfriend in Crime City. He would sometime see her in his dreams, just as beautiful as he remembered. In his dreams, she wouldn’t be on her usual pantsuit, instead, she would be in a beautiful dress that sometimes felt as if it was made of colourful clouds and she would be smiling every time, unlike her real-world counterpart. Roy had only seen her smile once. He wanted to see her again but he couldn’t go to Crime City until he had that information. The thought would bring him back into reality. He started seeing this killer not only a way to finish his assignment but also a way to meet his girlfriend again and he got the chance.

“When? Where?” back in the office Roy asked the man.

“A man was found dead, poisoned in his home, the same M.O. It's him. We are sure. The man had been dead for a few days.”

“And nobody suspected that? Neighbours? Anybody? Not even when the body starts to smell?”

“He picks his victims and locations where nobody could find him. The police found the man only when his boss informed that he hadn’t been to work and his phone was dead.”

Roy didn’t say anything. He was thinking.

“There’s one more thing. The house– it was a mess. He wasn’t cleaning it properly or cooking even for himself which is very unlike him. It almost as if he's—”

“Depressed,” Roy completed his sentence.

“Yeah, how did you–”

“Oh, I don’t know but I'm sure. Hey, I'm no profiler but I can understand that. He has killed another serial killer. He can never have anything like that again. He is bored. He's not getting any fun out of killing. I think—” Roy started to smile, “I think we can get him.”

Roy turned around and started to walk towards the door.

“Listen I know there’s no need to say this to you but still be careful, he is dangerous.”

“Don’t worry,” Roy said without stopping, without looking back, “I have a plan,” and then he walked out of the office.

Chapter Three 
Smart and Smarter

The Explorer's Tales

The night. Not moonless, not quiet or scary at all but boring as hell, he was thinking, dull, stupid. Nothing in this world is interesting enough now. Everything is boring. He put his hand on his chest. There it is, he thought, still beating but I can’t feel it. I would never feel it again like I did that night, twice actually but anyway he is out now won't come back until midnight, gives me quite some time to be with myself and to prepare.

He slid through the window that he jacked open. Took a quick look around the room before he looked for a switch and turned on the light. He looked at the couch but didn’t sit in and walked away into the kitchen instead.

“Nope, not in the mood of watching TV tonight.”

About an hour later, when he had served himself a plateful of hot dinner. He took out a small vial of a colourless liquid and poured a little of it into almost everything he could find, water and juice bottles, leftovers, ice-cream packs, almost everything that he thought his next victim might eat or drink the minute he comes back and then he started eating but only after one or two bites, he stopped. Even the food was boring. He picked up the plate and flipped it into the bin. He then went into the living room and fell into the couch.

He was thinking about that night, about that killer or player as he preferred to say, about that smile that makes you lose your senses.

He knew how to play a game, he thought, better than me anyway. The ones I spent time with get cold and start to smell. Maybe that’s why he used to cut them open. Feel the warm blood in his hands. He remembered how he had killed him. His hands were covered in his blood. That was the first time he had felt warmth. Everyone in his life had been cold, even his parents. But isn’t it how I like it? He asked himself, isn’t it how I play MY game. Yeah, I'll do this one better and colder, after all, I always make the best of the situation. He stood up and turned the lights of the living room back off and silently sat on the couch. Listening to every little sound until he heard a car pulling up.

Someone stepped out of the car and walked towards the door, unlocked it and entered the house.

He was listening intently as the person walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, took out a bottle and started drinking. He smiled. He then heard him coming towards the living room. He waited and just as the light was turned on–

“What took you so long?” he said.

Roy looked at him from head to toe with curiosity, nodded in appraisal and said, “You are taller than I expected.”

The smile vanished. Nadeem stood up and was shocked. Does this man know me? He wondered.

“Who are you?”

“I don’t have a name, I am a shadow,” said Roy.

“Are you a player?”

“You mean a killer? Yeah, I suppose, but not like you.”

“A killer is a killer. There is no other kind.”

“That’s what you think but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have information and I need that information.”

“About what?” he bawled.

“About your former employer– um– in Crime City.”

“Oh,” he smiled, “you must be one of those sneaky ninja sorts of dudes that hunt the bigger animals of the jungle. Do you know the freak who massacred my former colleagues a few months back? Is he one of you guys?”

“That was me.”

Nadeem laughed. He sat back on the couch. “You are interesting,” he said. “Interesting but stupid. Why do you think I'm just gonna give up the information?”

“Because you don’t have another choice."

“Oh, are you gonna make me? The thing is that YOU are the one without any choice or time for that matter. You have about– I don’t know, a minute, maybe.”

“A minute? Yeah, okay, I could wait a minute,” Roy said and he too sat on a chair in front of him.

Nobody spoke for a minute. Nadeem was looking at Roy without blinking his eyes and Roy was just casually looking around, taking a peek at his watch once or twice every ten seconds. They were sitting like two siblings playing a silent game. Nadeem started to worry with each passing second. It was not even a full minute when he jumped up.

“How are you doing it? What did you do? I heard you drinking from the bottle. How did you do this?”

Roy smiled and took another sip from the bottle while Nadeem watched him in horror.

“You know I used to do magic tricks before– before all of this and one thing that cracks me up is that the audience never sees the trick, even if it is obvious, even if it is right in front of their eyes. Isn’t it obvious? I brought my own water bottle with me. I knew it was poisoned. Oh, no, not because you poisoned it. I knew it because I did it, right before leaving. Now if you give ME a minute–”

He didn’t have to. He felt it. His stomach started to ache and he felt his insides struggle. He put a hand on his stomach and fell on the floor. He rested his back against the couch and started to cough.

“How’d– how'd you even know that I'd– come here?” he asked.

“Oh, I didn’t. I just left every night hoping that you would come, pay me a visit.”

Nadeem felt as if someone had squished his insides. He had had a taste of his own medicine.

“So this is what it feels like,” he said.

“Oh, don’t. You know you deserve this.”

“Oh no, for all the things I did, this is an easy pass. I'm worried about what comes after. Is there a hell? Am I gonna pay for what I did? Are you? When you'll die.”

Roy didn't say anything. He didn't believe in the afterlife. He had an important question to ask, more important than the information he needed.

“Why’d you do it?”

“What? Kill all those people? Well—”

“No, not them. Your parents. Why’d you– why’d you kill them?”

Nadeem took a second before replying but not because of the pain.

“Why do you care? Don’t you need that information? I'm ready to speak up. I don’t have much time.”

“Don’t worry. The poison isn’t as fast as yours. I knew I'd need to keep you alive for a while. Now tell me.”

“I– I just wanted to spend some time with them,” he finally let out, “Can I ask you something you shadow or whatever, were your parents around when you were a kid? Did they ask you how your school was? Did they ever play with you?” he was struggling too much with the pain but he was still speaking. “My parents were never around. They were always busy. They didn’t have a minute to sit and talk to me. I just– I just wanted to spend some time with them.”

He couldn’t speak any further. He started coughing blood. His mouth started to foam a little. Roy just kept looking at him. He was thinking about what Nadeem had just said. Then he snapped out of it.

“Alright, now, your boss. Tell me everything you know about him.”

“Oh, my boss. If Crime City is a jungle, she is a lioness.”

“It’s a woman?”

“Oh, she's– she's twice the man as any of those suckers who work for her or even all of them combined.”

“What’s her name?”

“I don’t know. I never cared to ask her name.”

“What does she look like?”

“Like a lioness. Always. Eyes filled with vigilance. She could make a man piss in his pants. You can never take her off your mind once you meet her. She always looks the same. She used to drive fear in people working for her. They'd lose their shit if they’d see anyone out in the streets wearing a pantsuit. She would scare the hell out of anyone who'd make a mistake. And even if someone pulled the impossible, they wouldn’t get more than a 'good job' on the best day. All the time that I worked for her, I never saw her smile, not even once.”

Something had clicked in Roy's mind. He was trying not to think about it but the description he had just heard reminded him of someone in Crime City. Someone who wore a pantsuit, carried vigilance in her eyes, never smiled but he shrugged it off. It was not possible. How could it be? There were a lot of people in Crime City. How many of those would fit that description? Not too many, he realized. He had to make sure. He took out his phone, scrolled open a picture and showed it to Nadeem without saying anything. He just held his phone in front of his face.

Nadeem looked at the picture and his blue face went white. He looked at Roy who had the same colour on his face.

“Oh, you are way smarter than I thought you were," Nadeem let that out with a small burst of laughter, " I respect you. It’s an honour to die with your—” he couldn’t finish, the foam coming out of his mouth didn't let him speak anymore or breathe.

Roy, on the other hand, who had just been called smart, was feeling foolish more than he had ever felt in his life. He was not the smartest, he was the dumbest. He stood up, walked across the room and switched off the lights and then he came back and plunged into the chair. He kept looking at his phone, at Sneha, his girlfriend, the drug lord of Crime City. Not only did he let out his secret to her but also fell in love with her. He was sitting in the darkness looking at the picture.

The only sound in the room was that of Nadeem's gurgling and choking to death and his hands and legs flapping on the floor.


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