by Z. M. Dawson
2014, All Rights Reserved.
Suzanne Peters smiled a little as she let herself into her brand new apartment. It still gave her a zing to know she had earned the degree that got her the job, that paid for the apartment all on her own, without help from her parents and their connections. As she opened the door to the oversized two-bedroom apartment and looked out the patio doors across her huge living room at the sun setting over the Sandia Mountains, like blood, she sighed in contentment.
Years of discipline from nannies over the years had her hanging her coat up in the closet, then placing her purse and keys in their proper place, before she gave into her pleasure and walked over to the doors and out onto the patio to enjoy the last of the sunset. She loved that she was high enough up that it was quiet, but under it all was the hum of Albuquerque, and her view showed her the majesty of God’s creation. Making the sun seem like it was almost close enough to touch. When the show was over and the sun had disappeared behind the mountains. Suzanne went back inside and turned into her spacious kitchen, her second favorite room in the apartment.
The pinkish sandstone of the floor mixed with the rose granite counters, and hints of turquoise she had added here and there to create a soft, welcoming kitchen, not a foreboding one like she had grown up with and Suzanne loved cooking and eating in her kitchen. She took out a pot, filled it with water and set it to boil and headed out to change her clothes. She hummed to herself as she passed walls covered with paintings of the desert and mountains, done by local artisans, no cold Renoirs and beady-eyed portraits of long dead monarchs for her. She laughed to herself as she turned into her favorite room in the apartment, her bedroom.
Pleasure glowed from her blue eyes when she saw the huge silver-framed bed, with its mounds of pillows in pastels. Squee, her lifelong pal and tattered teddy sat regally in the middle holding court. Here the walls were lined with paintings of fairies and far away magical kingdoms. She had been collecting faery figurines all her 28 years and they were on any flat surface that would hold them. In this room, Suzanne allowed herself the luxury of still believing in the faery tales. She quickly changed into baggy sweats and her torn UNM shirt and went back to the kitchen to finish the rice to go under the pork teriyaki she had made the day before. When everything was warmed, she turned off the stove and reached into the cabinet for a plate to put her dinner on.
“Good evening, my darling.” a voice behind her startled her and made her drop the plate.
She whirled around to see a man standing in the doorway to the kitchen. He was wearing all dark clothing; in the light from the kitchen he was framed in darkness, except for his abundance of chestnut curls spilling to his shoulders. Suzanne opened her mouth to scream. He was on her and had his hand over her mouth and the other tight on her throat before it came out.
“Now darling, you don’t want to upset the neighbors. They will think something is horribly wrong if you scream. You do not want them to disturb our evening? Do you, my dearest darling?” He said in the soft voice of a lover, soothing another lover.
Suzanne’s eyes were wide with fear and full of tears as she shook her head what little she could with him holding her throat the way he was.
“Lovely. I am glad that we have that settled. It really does spoil the mood when I have to teach that lesson.” He began to pull her out of the kitchen. “Do not worry, my sweet, I want to love you.” Suzanne fought to stay in the light. “That lesson isn’t very pleasant either I’m afraid, so please come with me.”
Suzanne started letting him pull her towards her bedroom, she turned her head a little in the living room hoping that someone would see her through the patio doors, but she sobbed when she saw he had closed the blinds, without her hearing him. No one would see him taking her to the bedroom, no one would know how very much she didn’t want to go in there.
“Now darling. Please remove your clothes.” Suzanne shrank away from him and tried to run into the adjoining bathroom. He grabbed her by her red hair and pulled her close to him. She noticed that he smelled of peppermint and burnt sugar. She tried to resist as he lifted her mouth to his for a kiss, but he was too strong. “That lesson is even more unpleasant than any of the others. Now please, darling, remove your clothes.”
Fingers trembling, Suzanne pulled off the sweats and shirt, and then hesitated.
“All of them my dear, don’t be shy.” He said in that whispering tone.
She unclasped her bra and took her arms out of it and then slid her panties down her legs and stepped out of them. Tears ran down her cheeks as she tried to cover herself.
“You are so beautiful, my darling. Now lie down on the bed, please. And let’s not have any unpleasantness, just do as I ask.” He added when he saw Suzanne’s eyes dart towards the bathroom door again.
Suzanne lay down on the bed. And closed her eyes, maybe he would be quick about it. She would just close her eyes and think about something else and then he would be done.
“Move to the center my darling.”
Suzanne scooted over until she was in the middle of the bed. It was then that she noticed that he had taken Squee off the bed and flung him on the floor and turned back the covers, artfully arranging them like you would a love nest.
“Raise your hands over your head please darling.”
Suzanne just did it. The sooner he started the sooner she could get busy getting over this.
He placed one hand in an iron shackle fitted to her bed frame, then the other. Then he stepped back and began to take off his clothes. Suzanne couldn’t help it she started to struggle.
“Shh… My darling. There is no reason to be nervous. Our time together will be beautiful.”
He finished taking off his clothes, and then pulled a hypodermic out of a bag he had on the floor. He sat down on the edge of the bed and swabbed Suzanne’s arm.
“This is something to make you relax and enjoy our time together, my darling.”
Suzanne flinched as the needle slid into her skin. There was a warm tingle in her arm; she was surprised that she didn’t feel woozy. She tried to think what he could have given her, but his humming caught her attention.
As he went around her room lighting the dozens of candles he had placed there. He was humming under his breath, she could barely make out the tune, it was “Beautiful Dreamer”, and she knew she would always hate that song after tonight. Then she realized that when he moved he was leaving a trail of light behind him. Everything was going soft and fuzzy. She began to smile and hum with him. She spread her legs to welcome him, when he climbed between them.
Emma could no longer remember when Bea figured out the exact right place to stroke to make her moan, or when Bea knew just when breath exhaled over her heated skin would make her shudder. Emma just knew that after all this time, Bea could make her body sing like a finely tuned instrument, that Bea could reach deep down inside her and pull out each perfect note, so time spent with her became a symphony.
Emma’s cries of ecstasy echoed through the spacious bedroom as Bea opened the fountain inside of Emma and drank her fill of the force that made Emma uniquely her. Bea’s willowy body went taut as she took the energy into herself. Emma after all this time, still barely managed to stop herself from begging for more, as Bea’s aura slipped out and drew back into itself.
Emma cradled her head on Bea’s shoulder and sighed contentedly. Bea pulled the sheet over both of them and settled into the mounds of pillows, pulling Emma with her. Emma could tell from the tension in her partner’s body that she was thinking too hard again.
“Bea, you are thinking too hard. Trying to make yourself into a monster.” Emma turned her head and looked into her partner’s ice blue eyes. “You are not a monster, you hunt the monsters.” She reached up and stroked away the single tear that had fallen from those eyes. “Fate brought us together not only because we can stop a lot of evil together, but because I can feed you and it will not endanger my life. Don’t you know after all this time, that I love feeding you, that I love you?”
“It still does not make it right or non-evil.” Bea sat up and began to shrug into her cerulean silk robe.
Sighing, Emma got up and shoved her legs into the wrinkled jeans she had discarded onto the floor when they had climbed into bed. She pulled an equally wrinkled t-shirt over her tousled cinnamon hair. Emma grabbed her ancient tennis shoes and mismatched socks and started out of the room. She was tired of having this fight with Bea over and over. She had started down the stairs when her partner’s pale, hand closed around her arm.
“Please don’t go.” Bea gathered the robe around her and sat down on the curving staircase. “Bradbury is looking for us again, Emma.” She sighed. “Nothing can make me feel more like a monster than remembering my time with them.”
Emma sat down beside Bea, “We were careful with the move this time. We changed our names, created new lives on paper and changed our ages. We are safe and if they show up then we will make them rethink bothering us.” She squeezed Bea’s slender thigh. “I know your time with them was horrible, but I promise you that you will never have to go back to living like that.” She took her best friend and partner’s face in her hands. “Don’t let them rob us of the only peace we have ever known.” She kissed Bea’s perfectly manicured brow. “You are not a monster.” She kissed her nose. “I get as much from you feeding as you do.” She gently kissed her lips. “We both know what our relationship is and isn’t, so don’t let the real monsters, mar what we have.”
“Emma, you are lucky, you found Thad and he understands what you are and what I am and he is secure enough in his manhood to not be threatened by what we share. So, you have balance. I have not found anyone who I would dream of even telling what I am, so I have dating that never makes it to the next level. I am not sure what I want from you is not more than a friend who can feed my dark needs.”
“First, they are only dark if you do dark things with them, if at the heart of it, you are dark. You are one of the brightest, purest souls I have encountered in my 2,500 years on this planet. Second, who the heck cares what people think is going on between us? I don’t. Third, Jeez! I sound like I am giving a lecture.” Emma started down the stairs, then turned back around and smiled when Bea bumped into her, grabbing her arms to stop her from falling. “I would worry about both of us, if we shared something that intimate and the lines didn’t get blurred. I love you, Bea and I am in love with you, Bea.” Emma sat again and Bea sat a step up. “Thad knows how I feel about you and he loves you too. He just isn’t sure he can handle the physical part of our relationship.” Emma looked back at Bea. “Although he absolutely hates it when you date. The guy is always a “putz” and there is always something that makes him completely wrong for you.” Emma rolled her eyes. “I just think it is amazing that I fell in love with the one guy on the Earth who does not fantasize about a threesome with two beautiful women.”
“I don’t know if that would be safe, Emma.” Bea’s brow furrowed.
“I know it would, his life force is connected to mine. As long as I am fine, he is fine. When you draw energy from me, I feel wonderful, relaxed, sated. I never feel drained or tired. So, if it is not harming me, then it will not harm him.”
“I wish I could be as certain of things as you always are.”
“Bea.” She waited until her partner looked into her eyes. “I have had the gift and curse of living for two and a half millennia. There is not much I have not seen or experienced in that time. Now, the one thing that eluded me, having a family, is mine. So, I count each moment that I have with you and Thad as a blessing and I live. If The Fates have already decided when we are to perish, then why waste a moment being uncertain or afraid. Why not squeeze each moment until we can get no more from it?”
“You are right. I still think I will wake to find I have dreamt of my time with you and Thad. That I am still living in the sterile facility at Bradbury, waiting for their next orders to go out and do the awful and unmentionable.” She stood. “I suppose I will go and get dressed, our phones are about to ring.” She turned to head up the stairs.
Emma stood and went down the remaining stairs. “Well, I guess I better wink home and shower, before I show up at the scene. I was set to teach a seminar on recognizing items that do not fit a particular crime scene. “ She chuckled. “Thad calls it, “Which One Of These Things Doesn’t Belong, 101”.
“What is the official name?”
“Knowing Your Victim: The Crime Scene.” Emma pulled on her much beloved bomber jacket and opened the door. “I guess now Ochoa will give it to Hennessey or Rodriguez.” Emma sighed.
“I like Thad’s name better.” Bea came down the last steps. “Emma you might want to put on the socks and shoes and not just carry them around.”
“Bummer. I knew I forgot something. There is just way too much clothing to put on these days.” She leaned against the carved wooden door and struggled into her socks.
“This is nothing compared to getting dressed in Tudor England, now is it?”
“I guess not, but things were simpler when you just put on your dress or breeches and went.” Emma grunted as she tugged her shoe on. She leaned in and kissed Bea’s smiling lips. “See you in a little while.”
“Yes. I will meet you there.”
“Yep. I will be on time, sorta.” Emma smiled as she climbed in her ancient Rabbit.
Bea was laughing as she shut the door and turned out the lights. Her partner was only on time to save Bea’s life, everything else she was late for. She shook her head and went to get showered and dressed.
Det. Sgt. Bea Huntley looked in amazement at the artfully arranged corpse on the pastel sheets in front of her. Then looked around at the faeries lining the walls and covering every spare space in the room, and thought to herself that the woman certainly hadn’t found a faery tale last night, just a nightmare. She sighed and tucked her hands in the pockets of her perfectly creased black wool trousers. She looked up and into the mirror over the faery-adorned dresser and was pleased to see that her dove grey blouse and deconstructed black wool jacket were still without wrinkles. Then she turned her attention back to studying the woman on the bed.
She doubted seriously that the young woman had worn a sleeping cap to bed or dressed in the undergarments of a woman circa 1860. Judging from the stylish clothes in her closet she would not have had an outdated hairstyle, like the ringlets that so expertly crowned her head now. The cameo that hung around her neck was also out of date, just as the gold bracelets around each wrist were. The way she was posed, braced up against the mound of pastel pillows with her arms gently crossed in front of her stomach, suggested that there was some meaning to it, that perhaps only made sense in her killer’s mind. An old-fashioned cotton bedspread covered her lap, making it seem like she had fallen asleep while waiting for someone to come home. The sheets and spread that belonged on the bed, were folded neatly in the closet. Bea sighed again, she hated to think it, but a killer who went through the trouble to set such an elaborate scene, leaving the candles guttered in their holders all around the room, and gardenias in a vase on the chest of drawers with a card that said, “To my Beautiful Dreamer”, was going to just stop and sit quietly while they worked the case the human way and caught him. They probably had a serial case on their hands. Which meant they would have to choose between solving it through nonhuman means and possibly exposing themselves or poking along while more bodies piled up. It was definitely a discussion she would have to have with her partner later.
Bea had told herself she was going to be stern and angry when her Emma came in late again, but when she heard the unmistakable clumping coming towards the bedroom, she just smiled. She wondered if she had at least made sure that her socks matched today.
“Crap!” Emma Mercer said around a mouth full of donut. “We have a serial!”
“That is what I was thinking.” Bea looked down at her best friend’s feet. She had one blue and one green sock stuffed into her ancient sneakers. Bea smirked. And watched as Emma swallowed and started around the room.
“What does the music box play?” Emma asked. She still hadn’t really looked over the body. Bea knew her partner well enough to know that would come last.
“I didn’t see it, yet.” Bea replied.
“That’s why we’re partners, you already know everything about the body on the bed. I will see everything that doesn’t belong in this room.” She flung her sloppy ponytail out of the way. “This music box is a swan on a lake. It doesn’t go with all the faeries.” She put on gloves. “Let’s see what it plays. I bet it is part of the picture, he created.” She wound up the music box and set it back on the chest of drawers. The little swan swam around the lake as the tinny strains of “Beautiful Dreamer” filled the room.
“That is creepy.” Bea shuddered.
“She is dressed in clothing circa 1860. The hairstyle and the jewelry is also from about that time and the sheet is old-fashioned thick cotton, like a sheet from before The Civil War.”
Emma was still looking at her waiting for the creepy tie-in to the music box.
“Old music box, plays “Beautiful Dreamer” which was written in 1860 something by Stephen Foster, is left next to a bouquet of gardenias, which has to mean something, right?” Bea finished in exasperation that her partner was imperturbable as ever.
“In the language of flowers, gardenias, mean, “My Secret Love”.” Emma walked over to the body and stared at it. She walked slowly around the bed, blocking out everything but herself and the woman posed on the bed. “What are you suppose to tell us?” She said out loud. “Who are you supposed to be?” She stopped at the foot of the bed and looked at the woman. “Are you the Dreamer or who he dreamed about? And why does he dream of you like this?”
Emma turned and started away from the bed. “You ready to head back to the station, Bea?” She said as her dirty tennis shoes carried her lanky form out of the room.
“Guess so.” Bea said as she followed her out.
As they exited the swanky apartment, Emma swore under her breath, because coming up the sidewalk were not only the commissioner, but the deputy mayor, and her captain. Captain Ochoa, was okay as captains went, she was fair, seemed to care about the cops in her unit and still remembered what it was to be out in the field. However, the combination meant she was about to have interference in her case, and that she hated. Emma knew it would be a pain in the butt, if she and Bea were going to have to pull out “the woo-woo” to keep the body count down on this case.
“Hi, Captain.” Emma stopped and greeted her short, stylish and curvy commanding officer with a crooked smile. She ignored the other two men hoping the concrete would open up and swallow them.
“Mercer.” Emma tried not to smile as her captain, looked her over from head to toe, and simply shook her head. “We are here due to the sensitive nature of the victim’s identity.” She gestured to the men with her. “The commissioner and the deputy mayor have both assured the victim’s father that the matter would be handle discreetly and expediently.”
“They might not have wanted to be so hasty, Captain Ochoa, take a look at the scene. This one is just warming up. Huntley and I are headed back to the station to look for like crimes in the area and around the country, and to study some of the symbolism from the scene. And we can try to keep a lid on it for awhile, but I believe he will be leaving us another body before long, then discreet goes out the window.” Emma shrugged her shoulders. “Who is her father?”
“Could you please keep your voice down, before the media catches what you are saying and runs with it, Sgt. Mercer?” the deputy mayor said in an impatient whisper, motioning over his shoulder at the media behind the barricade.
Captain Ochoa cut in before Emma could respond, because she knew diplomacy was not her detective’s long suit. “Her father is Ian Peters, CEO and major stockholder of Titan Pharmaceuticals, Worldwide.” She noted Huntley taking down the information. “He has already agreed to meet with both of you at his residence as soon as you are done at the scene. His wife will also clear her schedule for today and make herself available.”
“How magnanimous of them to make time in their schedules to discuss their daughter’s murder with us.” Emma said sarcastically. Bea and Captain Ochoa, looked down, and Emma knew they were both hiding smiles.
“They are very busy people, pillars of the community, and this is a trying time for them. If you do not think you can interview them with some degree of civility, we can have another detective take the case, Sgt.” The commissioner whispered to her. He sounded more like a politician than a cop.
Emma was just about to tell him that and that if he thought someone else would work the case better than she could, to go for it. She never played politics when it came to dead people and she wasn’t going to start because some fat cat didn’t want to make headlines over his daughter’s inconvenient murder. She took a deep breath when her captain, signaled her to be quiet.
“Commissioner Riley. Mercer and Huntley are my best detectives. You wanted your golf buddy to receive my best, so I pulled them from their caseload and assigned them to this case. Unless, I misunderstand how the department runs, who works this case is my decision. So, kindly refrain from threatening my detectives.”
Emma watched in fascination as a vein began to pulse in the slightly balding head of the former cop turned politician. Rachael Ochoa was not without some political clout herself. She was a native New Mexican, whose father was the current governor of the state, her godfather was the mayor, and she had other connections and familial ties in a state where that could often be much more important than the actual job you held. The commissioner, didn’t like it, but he didn’t say anything else.
When Captain Ochoa was sure she was understood, she turned to Emma. “We will go in and look over the scene, so they can get her transferred to the morgue. I will let you know when you get back to the station if I agree with your assessment that this is going to happen again. You and Huntley will go and visit with the bereaved parents.” Her eyes twinkled as she moved past Emma. “Are you aware that your socks don’t match today, Emma?”
“I was running late, I couldn’t find two that matched.” Emma explained. She never understood the fascination with what covered the body. It was covered, so she was done.
“Ah.” The captain remarked as she and her companions moved up the sidewalk.
“Let’s take my car, Emma. It is less likely to have us pulled over by a black and white in the neighborhood where we are going.” Bea headed for her sensible, blue, four-door sedan. Emma followed her.
“I told you. I am getting a new one at the end of the quarter.” Emma sighed. She liked her Volkswagen Rabbit, it got her where she needed to go, so what if it was a 1978 and held together mostly with wire and prayer. Her boyfriend, Thad, was worried about her driving it, and Bea almost refused to ride in it. So, when the next quarter arrived, she would replace it. She had to behave like someone who had to live paycheck to paycheck, so she assigned things to pay periods and quarters, that way no one had any reason to question her finances. Bea supposedly came from money, so the millions in her various known accounts caused her no problems with IAD. Thad was also loaded, so he could decide to buy a brand new bike in the middle of a pay period and no one thought anything of it. The identity she had built herself this time, was living on a cop’s salary. “Do you even look at things in other colors or do you only see the blue ones?” She snapped as she climbed in the passenger seat.
“I see them. I just like blue, all shades of blue. They remind me of my mother, it was her favorite color.” Bea frowned as she started the car and made a U-turn. “I guess I never mentioned that to you.”
“Nope. Sorry. Just edgy about having so much scrutiny on a case where we are going to have to go outside the box if we don’t want a high body count.”
“I thought the same thing and having politicians involved will mean press conferences, etc. It could be dangerous for us. Especially with Bradbury already looking for us.”
“We can’t just pull up stakes. Suzanne Peters and whoever else he gets before we stop him deserve better than that.”
“We do our jobs. We are careful. And we handle things as they come.”
She had been so lost in thought that she didn’t notice that her partner had pulled onto Tramway and was heading north. “Where do these people live?”
“The Wilderness Estates in High Desert.”
“Impressive.” Emma used her e-tablet to look up information. “Suzanne was their only daughter, she was 28, considered a rebel, because she didn’t join the company like her brother and she hadn’t married anyone associated with the company. She got an apartment that was close enough to home, to feel safe, but far enough to exert her independence.” She tapped her stylus against her bottom lip. “She was pretty smart, she graduated at the top of her class in high school and college. Was rising quickly and by all indications, on her own at her job. I think she wanted to prove to her parents she was her own person, she was paying her rent from her earnings.”
“That apartment would have run, what, $1,200 a month?” Bea carefully avoided the driver who cut her off, without any signs of outward irritation.
“How do you do that? Quaaludes?” Emma asked in awe. “I would still be cursing him out.”
“And you would be upset and cranky. And he probably would not even know you exist, unless you abused your authority and endangered lives to pursue him, pull him over and ticket him.” She looked at Emma, the picture of serenity. “So, why go through all that, when you can take a deep breath, imagine him being whipped in your dungeon by your minions until you tire of the entertainment, and go on with your day?”
“Bea, you are truly a scary person.”