The Legend of the Pied Piper
The night was thick. Not fully black due to the brightness of the city lights but it was black enough. The streets were slick with fresh rain. The air was humid. Steam rose from vents and gutters. Far off, the sounds of traffic could be heard. But there was near silence here, in the condemned building - silence except for the faint sound of footfalls and the swish of fabric against concrete. She stopped moving and then there truly was silence for a few precious moments.
"I have your payment," a man's low gravelly voice clawed through the inky black of the empty building. "Don't speak or I'll put a bullet in your brain. The target is in the briefcase. We'll be watching you." The man's hasty footsteps faded into the ambiance.
And she was alone in the quiet and in the dark. With careful footfalls, she glided to the nearest window where moonlight streamed in. Silver light cascaded over her form. She lifted a hand and ran it through the beams, idly watching the reflection off of the metallic fabric of her gloves. Then she caught sight of her employer making a hasty retreat outside of the window. She smiled ruefully.
She opened the briefcase at her feet, ignoring the wads of cash inside, and flipped through the thick file folder that contained the information she needed. Location, identity, everything. In a very short time, the man would be dead.
With quick sure motions, she snapped the case shut and disappeared once more into the shadows.
Joseph Manella took a long drag from his cigarette before tossing the butt of it into the dark waters of the ocean. He leaned against the pier's railing and waited. The shipment was due any moment now. He could already imagine the sickly putter of the boats engine as it sided up to the pier. But imagination and reality were far from friends. There was still nothing but a chilly breeze and the sickly yellow glow from the pier lights.
Manella pulled his coat tighter, hunching his shoulders against the chill. This place creeped him out more then he cared to tell people. This late, with no one around, in the dark…it was creepy. He dug his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the time. The boat was late. He punched in a number.
As the phone rang in his ear, a figure suddenly walked out of the gloom. A distinctly female figure. She walked in that feminine way with sashaying hips and narrow stance. She had a wide brimmed had shading her face from the yellow light but he could see the silhouette of long hair.
"Hey, sweetheart," Joseph called. "Whacha doing out here all alone?" He eyed her hungrily. Waiting didn't have to be boring.
"Hang up the phone," came the sweetest, smoothest voice that he'd ever heard.
He snapped his phone shut.
"You…workin' or somethin'?" Joseph asked. He'd pushed off of the railing and took a small step towards her. She stopped walking, just under the pier light. Her hands were in her pockets.
"You're a terrible person, Joseph," she cooed.
He frowned. "What the—"
He snapped his lips shut as he glared at her.
She walked over to him. As she got closer, he could see the big blue eyes and the shapely lips that were turned up in a coy smile. "Now," she said softly, "as I was saying…" Her hand flitted up to trail fingertips down his cheek. "You are a terrible person, Joseph. You feel horrible about that, don't you?"
His stomach churned. Guilt snuck up on him like a living creature. It pushed down on his shoulders. He averted his eyes and the slightest hint of a nod jerked his head down.
"Shhh," she hissed, "It'll be ok. You can save yourself." She tilted his head up and looked him dead in the eye. "Go to the end of the pier and jump off. Don't swim back to shore." Her voice resonated in his ears. She stared at him for another few seconds then abruptly walked away, heels clacking on the wood. He watched her retreat then looked down at the pier, at his boots, at the water between the slats. Joseph turned towards the dark end of the pier. He felt his feet walking towards it. He heard the waves crashing and the putter of an old boat engine. He hands curled around the rough wood of the railing at the end of the pier.
Joseph felt tears of shame curling down the contours of his cheek. He lifted himself up and sat on the railing, feet dangling over the edge. Voices were shouting at his back. They sounded worried. He glanced back over his shoulder at the men staring at him. These were his employers, he realized. He had a job to do. He had some drugs to unload.
Joseph pushed himself off the railing. The wind whipped past his falling body and the cold ocean waves leapt up to meet him as he crashed into the water. As he sank down in the tumultuous water, Joseph felt a twinge of panic. But mostly, he felt relief as the burden of guilt melted away.
The bright spotlight shined down on Garrett's half-brother's dead face. His black hair was combed flat pressed against his pale forehead. If not for the stitched up cut running down his chest, Joseph could have been sleeping. Garrett Manella hadn't seen his half-brother in over five years. He hadn't grown up around Joseph due to the fact they had different mothers, but he did see his younger brother on the weekends. That was until Garrett left for college and ever since then he hadn't seen much of his half-brother again.
Garrett had very little in common with Joseph, but one thing they were alike was how they viewed their own lives. Not in a million years would Garrett even think of suicide. He would rather make a thousand other lives miserable before taking his own and Joseph thought the exact same way.
"Are you sure it was suicide?" Garrett asked for the third time.
"Positive. He washed ashore near the pier," Detective Logan Prince said. "Saltwater filled his lungs and there was no sign of a struggle."
It was hard for Garrett to believe it. He knew Joseph had gotten caught up in some illegal dealings. Maybe he had been out on the pier doing a deal and someone pushed him over. But the detective was saying there hadn't been a struggle. Joseph would have tried to fight back.
"Did he have anything on him?" Garrett tore his eyes away from his half-brother's face to look Detective Prince in the eye.
"A wallet and a set of keys. Three-hundred and fifty-four dollars in cash. Clearly he wasn't robbed. We'll be able to release his belongings to you." Detective Prince paused and gave him a sincere look. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Yeah, me too." He turned completely away to survey the rest of the small autopsy room. "I'll sign for my brother's things and be on my way."
The detective led Garrett out of the morgue. It went the morgue, jail, then police department in this small oceanside town. They entered the police department and Garrett waited for the detective in the man's office. He came back and Garrett signed the paper. Detective Prince handed him the bag of Joseph's property. Garrett left and went to his car. He set the bag in his lap and opened it up.
The keys were to Joseph's apartment and car, nothing special. Garret looked through his wallet, sorting through everything. Taped to the back of his debit card was the numbers 0330. What an idiot, he thought. On the back of an American Express was another set of numbers, 023011. Garrett stared at it, confused. It was too long for a pin number. Frowning, he set the card to the side and started up his car.
"What's it matter to me?" he mumbled to himself. "He's dead."
He pulled the car out of the parking lot and glanced down at the numbers again. What did they mean? There was a red light in front of him and he slowed the car to a stop. If he went on straight he could just go back home, but if he turned left Garrett could head to his brother's apartment and have a look around. He struggled with the choice. He was curious, but at the same time he didn't want to get caught up in whatever mess Joseph got himself in to.
The SUV behind him blared its horn and Garrett looked up. The light was green. He pulled the car out of the SUV's way and turned left.2/2/2011 #2
Detective Prince decided to head back to the police station, grab a cup of coffee, and pore over his reports. This case was unusual, yes, but not any worse than what he was used to. After 10 years on the force and witnessing the deaths of many loved ones, including his own wife, hardly anything shook him up anymore. A true void of emotion was what made a good cop. His father would be proud.
As he was sure the death was nothing more than suicide, he decided to work on his biggest priority. Mayor Cade Churchill had been found dead in his sleep just a week ago. He had been found with a knife in his chest. It was ruled suicide but there was just too much evidence for Prince to leave it alone.
Prince had arrived. He slid out of his non-descript car and walked in the front door. To his surprise, he was greeted by the Commissioner himself. Not to his surprise, the man was totally ticked.
"We are NOT going to let this killer undermine the police! I want you to bring him in dead or alive." He turned and looked at the detective. "Why hello, Prince. Apparently your killer has taken someone else down, and it happened right in our protective custody unit!"
"So, an inmate took him down. That happens all the time. One less scumbag-"
"We needed him for evidence! And we've checked DNA samples and nothing matches any of our convicts. I don't know who the hell this person is but they broke into my jail and murdered one of my inmates. I'm not going to let it slide."
"How did he do it?"
"That's what we're trying to figure out!"
"No, I mean how did the convict die. What did the killer do to him?"
The Commissioner just shook his head. "He apparently had poison put into his system but we don't know what kind or how it got there. The killer might have hypnotized the guy. His expression was one of perfect peace…" He left the detective there and headed back to his office.
Garret snooped around his dead brother's apartment for about half an hour. He hardly found anything in the room besides a few old calendars. He remembered his brother having a weird thing about saving every used up calendar at the end of the year. It made sense to take them with him- a relic of Joseph's memory.
Before leaving, Garret decided to search the calendars and see if he could find anything unusual. He checked his phone for the date: November 3rd, 2021. The 2020 calendar laid on top of the pile as the current one was still on the wall, so he decided to check that one first.
The calendar was chockfull of appointments and reminders. Dentist appointments, mechanic appointments, here and there it mentioned a date- Garret found about 13 in just the first couple months, all with a different woman. Joseph had always been quite the player.
He finally decided to skip ahead and check the current date, a year ago. November 3rd, 2020. The square looked quite different from all the other entries. Up until now they had all been scribbled down haphazardly but this one was three easily legible words written in perfect lines: KNIFE JOB DUE.
He blinked. Why in the world had his brother written something like that down? Joe must've been stoned out of his mind. He knew the kid dealt in drugs, but this… This was unimaginable. The phrase just didn't make any sense.
Out of curiosity, he looked at that American Express card that had belonged to his brother. The numbers on it were 023011. He looked back at the date. Suddenly it clicked:
The date his brother had written "knife job due" was 11/03/20.
Detective Prince decided to ask the Commissioner where to find the body. He knew some form of evidence could be found there. It had to have been done by a vengeful detention deputy or a bored convict. No one ever broke into this jail and got away with it.
His boss's office had panes of glass surrounding it that, while not transparent, showed movement within its confined walls. As he got closer he could make out a clearly female figure- a good looking one at that- on top of Johnston's desk. He shook his head in disgust. Get a room you idiot.
Prince walked up to the door and slammed his fist against it. He saw Johnston get back up and fix his pants before letting him in. "What the hell do you want?"
"I need to take a good look at the body. I can tell you've been doing a lot more than that in the last few minutes."
"Shut up you prick-"
"Where is it?" He nearly screamed at him. The man's antics could be really tiresome.
"It's still in the cell. Didn't want to contaminate the scene for you."
"Ah, how nice."
"Now get out of here."
As Prince walked out, he noticed the woman look at him with a sweet, seductive smile. He returned the smile but had a sick feeling in the bottom of his stomach. Something wasn't right about her.
* * ** * ** * ** * ** * *
Prince was finished with the body. He had only found one clue, something highly unusual: tattooed to his arm in tiny digits was the number 027021. This could be interesting. He jotted it down in the man's file and ran back to the Commissioner's office.
When the detective got back to the office, he found the door hanging open- something his boss never did. He walked inside but quickly jumped back out at what he found.
Commissioner Johnston was hunched forward with his face soaking in his own blood, clearly dead.2/4/2011 . Edited by Fleur-de-lis Evans, 2/5/2011 #3
The woman slipped quietly down the street, her blue eyes passing over the throngs of people, searching for the one face she already saw in her mind's eye. A face so like another, one so beautiful, and so hated. It could prove a difficult task, to find him among all the other inhabitants of the town, albeit it was a small one. But she had no doubt in her mind that she would find him. And soon, she thought with a devious smile, as she paused under a tree, just across the street from his half-brother's apartment.
She crossed the street, and started up the sidewalk towards the building. The door pushed open, and a man stepped out. Her eyes locked onto his face, not twenty feet away, taking in the wavy brown hair, the hard jaw line, the dark eyebrows overshadowing his eyes like cliffs over a grey sea. She had found him, she knew. Even at a distance, she could never mistake that face, which she at once longed for and abhorred. It was his face… No, she reminded herself. This was Garrett Manella, a man she had never even met before. But none of that changed anything, now did it?
Garrett was standing under the portico, feet planted shoulder width apart, apparently deep in thought, as she approached. He ran his hand through his hair, and blinked wearily at his watch. She came and leaned against one of the brick pillars of the portico, arms folded nonchalantly over her chest. She tilted her head and looked up at him, as he turned and saw her. He blinked.
"Hey," she said with a tiny smile.
"Uh, hey," he mumbled, obviously preoccupied. She didn't blame him; she figured he had plenty to mull over today.
"You seem a little anxious. You okay?" she asked, a delicate crease forming between her eyebrows.
"Yeah, sure," he said, coolly running one hand over his hair. "It's none of my problem," he added casually.
She pushed herself off the pillar and stepped toward him. "Don't you worry about anything," she said in a soothing voice, brushing his neck with her fingers. "Don't even think about anything, right now."
He reached his arms around her shoulders. "How could I? I couldn't think about anything else now, even if I wanted to," he said with a grin.
"Mhmm." She slipped out of his embrace and slinked around behind him, walking her fingers over his shoulders.
"So, whatcha doing this evening?" he asked carelessly, as she came around in front of him.
"Nothin'," she said with a coy smile."Really? Then how's about coming over to my place?"
"Hey, why not?" She flashed a wicked grin.
"Great," he grinned back.
"Good," she murmured. She leaned against his chest and traced the side of his face with her fingertips. "I should go for now, but I will see you later." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek, and slipped away.
"Wha- uh, wait," he stammered. She paused in her tracks and turned to look at him. "So, what's your name anyway, babe? Mine's Garrett."
"Kelly," she said. "Kelly Swanson." Then she disappeared.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Kelly was leaning against her car at the edge of an inconspicuous parking lot, when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. She pulled it out and flipped it open.
"I told you we would be watching you, Ms. Swanson." The gravelly voice of her employer grated in her ear. "I'm warning you, you're going too far. This wasn't in the agreement."
"I'm more than happy to work for you, Mr. Randall, but I'm not your personal assassin. I choose my own targets as well."
"That's fine, as long as it doesn't interfere with business. I don't want Garrett Manella dead."
"You never said anything about him before. I don't know what you want him for, but I have my own plans, and you can't stop me."
"I'm warning you, this will be fatal for you if you go through with it. You know what happens when I'm through with my employees."
"Of course I know," she said, a bit impatiently. "I just finished carrying that out for you. But I'm the best killer you have, and you know it. You won't find anyone who can take me out like I did Manella and Evans."
"I wouldn't be too sure." A sigh sounded on the other end. "You've been warned, Kelly. I hope you enjoyed your last job, because it could be your last. A pleasure doing business with you," he said dryly. The phone clicked.
She snapped her phone closed and tossed it onto the seat without a second thought. She was confident she could deal with anyone Randall might send her way. Most of his employees were a coarse mishmash of drug dealers, gang members and other disreputable felons. They were easy to manipulate and do away with. Even if her old employer did have something else up his sleeve, she doubted it would prove too much for her.
She glanced up at the darkening sky, above the black peaks of trees. She smiled into the chill, still air. She liked working at night. Somehow, her adrenaline and satisfaction was magnified by the shadows and silence. Evil was known to favor the darkness. She liked that too. Was she evil? Maybe she was. Oddly enough, that neither surprised her nor bothered her in the least. In truth, she rather relished the fact.
She bared her teeth in a feral smile, and turned to her car. She slipped in, and started up the engine. Humming over the pavement, the car glided into the night, as silent as the silky shadows.
* * *
Brian Cramer crouched behind the house, watching the glistening car pull into the driveway. He saw the woman get out and walk up to the door. He could just shoot her now, but that would alert the man inside, and maybe get the police involved. That couldn't be allowed to happen, so he would have to do something subtler.
The woman went into the house, and he followed around the side of the house, watching them through the gaps in the shades. They went into the living room. He watched, waiting for an opportunity.
* * *
"This is a nice place," she commented. Indeed it was nice, not immaculate, but well kept. By the looks of things, Garrett seemed to have a slightly more respectable character than his late brother.
"Thanks. I try to keep it that way." Then he stopped, bewildered, as if just realizing something. "Hey, how did you get here, anyway? I mean, how'd you find my house?"
"You told me," she said innocently, walking towards him.
"Yes," she said, staring into his warm grey eyes. "You told me your address, and I just Googled it. Don't you remember?" Her voice was low and smooth.
"I- I guess not," he finally stammered, disoriented.
She stepped closer and stroked his neck and shoulders. "Well no matter," she said in that same silky tone. "I'm here now, and it doesn't matter how I got here." She slid her hands up, caressing his face, gently coaxing it down toward hers. He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her in. Their gazes locked, her mouth hovered just inches away from his. In a sudden rush, he closed the distance. Her stomach fluttered, and she felt him shaking under her hands. His breath came harder, and suddenly, they were falling onto the couch.
He lay over her, kissing hard. She returned the kiss with passion, meanwhile trailing her trembling fingers up his back, up to the nape of his neck. He shivered, and she saw the fire she had kindled burning in his eyes. Ever so discreetly, she slipped a small syringe from her sleeve. Then, she swiftly poked it into the back of his neck, meanwhile pressing closer to him and sharply nipping his lip, so that he didn't even notice. She narrowed her eyes and grinned wickedly. The effect was almost immediate. In only a few moments, he stopped and stared at her, dazed.
"Hey, wha…" he blinked. "Kelly?" He fell limp in her arms. She shoved the body off her. Just as she stood up, she saw a shadow in the window.
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