Detective Pete Gibbons had only been asleep four hours when the mobile phone on his nightstand started to ring. The phone had to go off a few times before he finally started to emerge from his slumber. With a loud groan, he reached over and grabbed the small device. It wasn't work calling. Wrong ringtone. He had programmed the phone to ring with a specific ringtone for each contact on his list so he'd know exactly who was calling. This particular ringtone was dark and ominous, which meant it was someone he didn't want to speak with: his ex-wife. He also knew she was going to keep calling over and over again until he finally answered.
"Hello?" he said in a tone that acted like he had no idea who was calling him.
"Pete, we need to talk," his ex-wife Gabby quickly declared. No hello or how are you doing; just we need to talk. For all the money he was giving her in alimony and child support, you'd think she'd show some manners. But alas, she was not in a small talk kind of mood. Pete didn't need to be a detective to know what that meant. What Gabby really meant was that she was going to tell him off and he was going to lie there and take it.
"Gabby, I was trying to sleep," he finally replied.
"This can't wait," she harshly scolded him.
Nothing could ever wait with that woman. Pete sat up and prepared himself for the coming barrage, bracing himself for the next wave of constant nagging. This was one of many reasons why she was now his ex-wife.
"What is it this time?" Pete asked.
"The nanny is increasing her prices!" she cried. "Can you believe this shit?"
"I do. She was kind of due for a raise," Pete replied, relived he wasn't the source of her anger this morning. "I'd rather give her a few extra bucks than have to go through the process again."
"Where will you get the money?" Gabby asked.
"I'm getting a raise at work anyway," Pete informed her. "So, I'll cover that along with my half. Will that be all right?"
"A raise?" Gabby repeated. "When were you going to tell me about this extra income you'd be getting?"
"I only found out yesterday." Pete wiped the sleep from his eyes. "This is the first time we've talked since then, and I'm telling you now."
"Are you alright?" she suddenly asked. It didn't occur to her that he might be tired, despite the fact he already told her.
"Gabby, I was up most of the night working, so if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to bed," Pete said as politely as he could. "I will call you if there are any changes, but I'll talk to you tomorrow when I come to pick up the kids. Okay?"
"Alright," Gabby conceded. She didn't have much ground to stand on since Pete had already agreed to cover the new raise. Sometimes it seemed like she was eager to pick a fight for any reason, but this time she was willing to let it go and let him get back to sleep. Usually she was like a pit bull with a bone.
"Goodbye Gabby," Pete said as he disconnected the line and hung up on her. Listening to her bitch about the world was no longer a part of his job description. She would have to find someone else to listen to her complain about how life was unfair, which was complete bullshit. Kids starving in Africa or people living in a warzone were the real people suffering. Her melodramatics were another reason why he chose to end his marriage, that and the fact that she couldn't stop sleeping around. He had no intention of being around someone who couldn't live up to her vows nor remain loyal to someone she claimed to love. To Pete that wasn't love; that was betrayal. Sharing the same room with the one who broke his heart just wasn't an option.
Pete put the phone back on the nightstand and then laid back on the pillow and tried to go back to sleep. Before he could even close his eyes, his phone started to ring again. From the ringtone, he could tell it was work. Police dispatch was calling, but he wasn't in the mood to play along. He had been working all night, so they had no right to call him back in so soon.
He let it go, aware that dispatch would just have to call someone else to take care of whatever was going on. He ignored the phone, and it stopped ringing seconds later. He tried to go back to sleep again, but the phone just didn't want to leave him alone. This time, the ringtone screamed a new tune at him, one he knew couldn't be ignored. He sat up and picked the cell up off the nightstand.
"Gibbons, why aren't you answering your damn phone!" snapped Darcy McManus, Captain of Homicide and Pete's boss. "We've been trying to reach you for the past hour."
Pete checked the time; it had been less than twenty minutes since dispatch called but he let it pass. "I was up until four doing the paperwork you asked me to finish. I'm trying to sleep."
"I'm sorry for waking you," McManus said with a tone that really said he didn't give a shit. "We need you back in here as soon as possible. I have a case that I would prefer you handle personally."
"Seriously?" Pete asked, despite the fact that he already knew his boss wasn't making a request. After his boss told him once again to get his ass out of bed and get back to work, Pete huffed and slowly dragged himself into the bathroom to clean up and toss some water into his face to wake up. He considered taking a shower but passed on it since he was expected to get out to the crime scene as soon as possible. He had the address and, considering it was one of the wealthiest parts of the city, there was no telling what kind of scene he was going to find.
Riding downtown, Gibbons wasn't worried about being put into a situation that would require him to bend the rules. His boss knew better than that, so Pete was sure this murder was not only big, but one that was going to cause an enormous frenzy with the press. That could be the only reason he'd be woken up after clocking so much time at the station the night before. He didn't use his lights or siren to make his way to the scene, just in case it wasn't public knowledge. They were known to conceal what went on with the upper crust until the press dug around for the details. As he approached the building, he noticed a police officer guarding the entrance to the underground parking.
As he pulled up to the gate, the officer quickly stepped into the way. "I need to see proof of residence in order for you to enter."
Pete took out his badge. "Detective Gibbons, homicide."
"Sorry, Detective," the officer said as he stepped aside.
"Thank you." Pete could have sworn that the officer almost seemed relieved to see him. He didn't like that; nervous cops at a scene was a big red flag. Whatever was going on up there was something that had spooked even a seasoned officer. This worried him, because he used to do the beat himself and they managed to see and experience a lot. Pete drove his vehicle into the parking lot and pulled into the first available spot he could find. As he strolled over to the elevators, another officer was waiting for him.
"Detective Gibbons?" he asked.
Pete showed his badge again. "Last time I checked. What do we have?"
"Someone's been murdered," the young officer answered.
"Considering that I work for homicide, I kind of figured that part out." Pete hit the button to fetch the lift. "What I mean is where and how many."
"I'm not sure how many," the officer answered. "But everyone's waiting for you on the thirteenth floor."
"Of course they are," Pete said. He couldn't believe his luck. He didn't like it when buildings didn't skip the number thirteen. Most buildings skipped that number out of fear that they might be unlucky. Pete wasn't the superstitious type, but even he knew when it was time to push your luck and when it was time to simply back away.
He stepped into the elevator and pushed the button. The officer didn't join him and kept guard to prevent anyone else from following. Pete patiently waited for the elevator to reach thirteen and when the doors opened, things got very interesting. He had assumed the officer in the parking lot was kidding when he said everyone was upstairs, but it wasn't far from the truth. Several additional officers were on watch in the hallway but the biggest surprise came when Pete saw his own boss standing by the door to one of the apartments.
"Were you already on the scene when you called me?" Pete asked as he approached the Captain.
Captain McManus was tough, Irish, and could drink you under the table or toss you over it if you said the wrong thing to him. He stood there with a toothpick in his mouth, which Pete knew would have been a cigar had he not been indoors. He was chewing on the little thing, eager to get the hell out of there, but he wasn't there by choice.
"Yeah, and it's about fucking time you got here!" McManus replied as he met Pete about halfway down the hall. "People are being nosy and asking questions, wanting to know when we're going to leave. These impatient silver spoon bastards are treading on my last nerve."
"That can't be the only reason they can't leave," Pete said as he started to put some latex gloves and booties on.
"No," McManus said, rather solemnly. "It's not."
Pete could tell by his boss' response and the fact that he was back on the clock after next to no sleep that there was a mess in the open apartment and he was expected to clean it up. "What the hell am I dealing with here, Captain?"
"It's going to make national news once it leaks," his boss replied. "A whole family, butchered. Even the two kids when they returned home from school. It got worse with each discovery."
"Son of a bitch." Pete took a deep breath before stepping into what would be someone's personal hell. He spotted the two kids first. Small lifeless bodies lying in the middle of the foyer, likely killed the moment they returned. This gave Pete the indication that they were taken out quickly and with as little pain as possible. He strolled over to the one closest to him and quickly peeked under the sheet covering him. The child was killed with a single shot to the head, which was quick and painless.
Pete didn't need to look at the other one, who was even younger than the first and instead chose to move into the living room, where the lady of the house, the mother of the deceased children, had been strangled to death. He could tell at a glance that her death had been long, painful and very personal. Sitting in a chair, strapped down with Duct tape and handcuffs, was the man of the house. Pete lifted the sheet and discovered he had been beaten, cut in several places and some of his fingernails were missing.
"Who is this guy?" Gibbons asked.
"Eugene Steinbach," an officer answered. "Big banker downtown and one of the wealthiest men in the city."
"Was anything stolen?" Pete quickly asked. He was hoping the reason for the torture was to fish out a password that would lead to untold fortunes rather than for psychotic shits and giggles.
"Nothing," the officer answered. "At least nothing we haven't noticed so far."
"Great, so no robbery." Pete took a step back to the wife and took a longer look. There were no signs of torture, besides the affixation of course. "This is unbelievable."
"What is?" the officer asked.
"She was murdered while he watched." Pete gestured to the wife. "Whoever did this wanted him to watch her die. Just another level of torture to make this guy suffer or talk."
"Why not kill the kids the same way then?" the officer asked. "Wouldn't that be torture as well?"
"I don't think the kids were supposed to be here," Pete said as he continued to look at the man taped to his chair. "We'll have to check with the school they go to, find out when class was dismissed yesterday. I'm guessing that our killer wanted to be finished before they got home, but they walked in way too soon. He didn't want to but had to when they suddenly became witnesses, and could possibly identify him."
"Or her?" McManus suggested.
"Yes, or her." Pete stood back up and studied the room a bit more. "We need to find out why he was tortured. If it wasn't for a robbery or to take his pin number, then what the hell is this sick bastard's motive?"
"I think the answer is in the dining room, Detective," one of the officers standing guard replied.
Pete stood up and moved right into the dining room to see what the officer was referring to. Written in what was likely the victim's blood was a message for everyone who came across it:
Remember the 99
Pete stood there for a few moments, trying to digest what it meant.
"Who's the ninety-nine?" He asked the room.
"Apparently we are." McManus strolled into the dining room to look at the message with him. "You don't read a lot of news, do you, Pete?"
"I try to avoid it," Pete answered. "I endure enough tragedy at work every day. The last thing I want to see when I go home is all the other bad things happening around the world that I have absolutely no control over. It's depressing."
"I understand," McManus stepped closer to the massive message on the wall. "The ninety-nine is a reference the middle class. It's a term that's been used by protesters who are upset about what's going on over at Wall Street."
"Such as the royal cluster fuck of 2008?" Pete asked.
"Well, well… he does watch some news," McManus said as he walked over to the window and closed the drapes. "People are protesting that the richest one percent in this country are screwing over the rest of the population for their own benefit. It's a big movement; one that has been very peaceful."
"Until now," Pete corrected.
"Until now," McManus concurred as he turned to face his detective. "We're not going to release this detail to the press. The last thing we want is people taking their anger out on peaceful protesters who, to this point, have been non-violent."
"That's a good idea," Pete said as he examined the words on the wall. "For all we know, this could be a decoy to interfere with the true investigation. Throw us all off the real scent."
"No shit," McManus agreed. "This could also be an attempt to cause a panic if the upper crust were to learn that they are being specifically targeted."
"That, too," Pete concurred. He needed to speak with the others in the building, and they would be less likely to talk out of fear they might be next if they knew these details. "Now I know why you woke me up."
"I don't care what you do," McManus said as he stepped closer. "You'll have a few people and whatever resources you need. Get whoever did this before they kill again. I'm not sure how long we'll be able to keep this under wraps."
"I see where you're going with this, boss." Pete looked back at the wall. "Remember the ninety-nine. Based on what's in the other room, our suspect is going out of his or her way to make sure the message is received. If we hide it, it might provoke another killing sooner rather than later."
"I understand but this can get politically out of hand if we let people know what the suspected motive is." McManus strolled to the door leading to hallway. "Move quickly, because I think you're right. This person is angry and bound to strike again very soon."