The Jasper Brown Story Part II

“The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
~Yeats
.

February 10th 2010 outskirts of Charleston Sc.

Jerri stumbled down the hall, sobbing in fear. That darkness pressed at her, blinding her, she panted heavily, in the grip of icy fear and Heartbreak. She stopped hand fumbling on the wall, searching for the light switch and felt relief as her fingertips brush against it.

She flipped the switch, desperate for light, but nothing happened, she flipped it up and down rapidly but still nothing happened. She stood there in the darkness trembling, staring into the pitch-black shadows that seemed to writhe and twist like living things. Then slowly she backed towards the living room, knowing there was no way he could have gotten behind her, from the bedroom.

Light spilled thru the living room window, from the security light outside, that had done nothing for their security. Ron…. Her thoughts stumbled, Ron was dead, it was his blood on the front of her negligee. She almost collapsed to her knees, but then she heard one of her sons toys start up. it was That stupid electronic guitar that her aunt had bought for Adian last Christmas, she realized .

Full blown terror filled her mind, not for herself but for her son, his bed room was on the other side of the living room. But how, how could he have gotten over there, into her sons room with out passing her. it wasn’t possible she thought her mind full of raging chaos as fear for her son took hold.

She took a step forward then another, her need to protect her son overriding everything else. She might not be fearless, but she was determined now. she stepped into the living room, and stopped abruptly, the electronic guitar that had made the noise lay right in pool of light by the window.

She grabbed the golf club Ron had always kept in the umbrella stand, realizing now, when it was far too late, a golf club was a poor substitute for a real weapon.

She walked slowly towards the door on the side of the living room, clutching the Club tightly. Shadows seemed to curl and slide along the walls, just outside the spill of light from the windows. It was silent except for the hum of the electronics in the entertainment center.

“I seee you” a soft sibilant voice called out, from every where and no where. She whirled around in panic slashing the golf club thru the air. And was reward by a chilling laugh.

“Such a lovely lady, so deserving to be a work of art.” The voice said, it suited the short horrific looking freak she had seen in her bedroom.

She turned back to her sons room, and saw the door standing ajar. Fingers of ice clamped down over her heart, as she stumbled forward sobbing in fear and anger.

The door slammed shut cutting of the dim light from her sons night light. “ Run Adian Run” she screamed out.

“aaah yes, but it is too late for the boy to run Jerri, just like its far to late for you to run” the voice said from directly in front of her. She swung the club for all she was worth and found nothing there.

A hand like steel clamped down on her wrist, he was behind her she realized as her blood turned to ice, he wrenched her arm around till the club fell to the floor. She was shoved forward and the killer in her home swept up the club and was gone again. she crawled to her sons bedroom door, sobbing. “ please don’t hurt my baby,” she said over and over.

“oh but I will, repeatedly, but your pain will be so much worse Jerri, your sons pain will be minor compared to the agony you will suffer as I bring out the art hidden in you. his pain will be minor compared to what you will suffer, which is not to say it wont be the worst pain he will ever experience” the voice was cold, matter of fact, but there was a hint of obscene friendliness even good cheer in his words.

“Fuck you the police will be here in minutes” she said. “I called 911”

“oh yes, I forgot” the voice said, then out of the darkness a womans voice, calm and professional came. “ this is 911…..” Jerri listened her jaw sagging open, as the recorded spiel played off, it was the same woman who had answered when she called. “ I took the liberty of making sure your phones were directed to where I wanted them to go, the incompetent police will arrive here in one week and one day, right after they discover your bodies, no sooner dear Jerri”

she screamed and lunged for her sons door, only to be grabbed and tossed across the living room. she hit the wall and lay there half dazed, then managed to roll over. She looked around filled with a primal fear, and saw a man shaped shadow appear like a ghost materializing out of no where, hunchbacked, with spindly arms and legs, an over large head perched on a thin neck. the eyes were hidden in the shadows of the bowler hat he wore.

He floated over the floor, she realized, stunned, her mind reeling, his feet were literally a foot off the floor. He stepped down like he was moving down steps till he stood on hardwood floor she had loved so much.

He stepped lightly to her side, a merry spring to his steps. And then pain flared as he jabbed her with a needle, the world got fuzzy, her mind couldn’t concentrate. One moment she was on the floor, the next she was on the couch, naked. Her son next to her in the same state, she wanted to protest, to beg, but she couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, and then the world went dark once more.

Jasper eyed the mother and son with pleasure, then set about removing the items he had used for the illusions he had used this time. He’d only had to spend three days in their attic before he was certain this family was the one he needed. nothing like a little showman ship to make his job so much more entertaining.

It took three hours to return the Master bedroom, to its normal appearance, after the first night spent in the house, he had bought a duplicate mattress and hidden it in the garden shed out back. With the mattress replaced and clean sheets and comforter placed on it, it looked as if nothing had happened here. He stepped into the bathroom and retrieved the husband’s body from the bathtub where he had drained the body of blood.

Ron had been such a handsome man, a fitting match for the naked, beauty in the living room, Jasper thought as he arranged the naked corpse on the bed. “at least I let you finish foreplay before I stepped in, be thankful Ron” Jasper said as he stepped back and admired his handiwork, only partly saddened that he hadn’t been allowed to use his taser so he could play with hubby in front of his wife before killing him. But the next family he would. “ Im sorry you didn’t get to enjoy me tonight but, it wasn’t meant to be Ron” Jasper said, then laughed madly.

After a moment he wiped his eyes and forced the smile from his face, he still had the woman and the boy, and that was always the best part anyway, the husbands were only a bonus.

He spent time in the bathroom, removing all evidence of blood from the tub meticulously inspecting the floors, door jamb, knob and any other surface he might have touched. Once he was satisfied, he returned to the living room, and knelt beside the woman, running a leathery hand over her soft skin, then cupped a bare breast reveling in his power and control over her.

Her eyes had opened, but thanks to the drug she was only semi aware. He cocked his head to one side as if listening to something “whats that you want me to take you” he said then chuckled. “so eager, but Im afraid that will have to wait for a few minutes.” He said as he lifted the boy and carried him out into the garage and placed him into the Bed of the Husbands truck. to be honest he had no real interest in Sex, but it was part and parcel of the degradation he inflicted and that he did enjoy.

He returned for Jerri, lugging her out to the truck, then spent a half hour cleaning up, once that was done he returned to the garage, where she lay on the tailgate. He smiled he stepped forward, eager to start his job, “your going to be the greatest work I’ve created yet” he told her, as he carefully positioned her on the tailgate, so no evidence would be found on the concrete floor, and then the fun began.

At 0400 hrs, a truck loaded with landscaping tools, bags of fertilizer and seed. Drove carefully out of the neighborhood, it passed three different LEO vehicles with out rousing any interest, and by 0425 was pulling onto a highway and merged with the slowly growing traffic.

* * * * * *

Jasper whistled as he watched the cops finally leave the warehouse, where he had left Jerri and her sons bodies. One of the benefits to using such a huge place to work in, was that it was nearly impossible for the police to search every square inch like they could and did do in homes and offices, which made placing wireless cameras in locations that they wouldn’t think to look, unless given a reason, easy. He so loved modern technology.

Apparently the FBI had finally moved in and poached the case from the local authorities, Judging by the number of Black Sedans and SUVs that appeared on the scene, and argument between one of local investigators, Edward Stanton, and a man in a dark suit. They had been slow this time, it had taken them, two works of art to realize Jasper had moved to Charleston. The Lead Agent must have been rattled after his family tragedy, Jasper thought with a silent laugh.

He turned off the laptop, and placed it in its case. He would of course return and retrieve his wireless camera’s at the earliest moment. slipping past the guards was childs play for one like himself. he wouldn’t have minded leaving the camera’s, but once it was discovered he placed camera’s in a location, to watch the festivities they would know to look for them, and to scan for transmissions. And he wasn’t going to make it that easy for the FBI or give away a major advantage he held.

The faltering economy was actually a boon to his work providing him with numerous places to live and work in. take this small house, situated on the coast, it was cozy, and isolated from any of the others along this stretch. And as a bonus it was fully furnished. Of course he would only be here for two more days, and then it was back to work. He would of course have to alter his approach this time, the Federal Agent was sadly lacking in intelligence, but the conversations his hidden mikes had picked up had happily shown him that one of the local officers, was worthy of a bit more attention. He would of course have to, what was the idiom, stake out the cops domicile.

That he might be misjudging the Lead Agent, never occurred to Jasper. It wouldn’t have matter to him either, he knew their play book and knew exactly how to string them along to see what he wanted them to see. And their reliance on the doing things by the book, and profiling allowed him to do just that. the years he had invested in learning their methods and mindset were paying off now.

He entered the bedroom, glad he had removed the pictures that still hung on the wall, they were the worst examples of so called art in the country, the only thing worse in his opinion were the black velvet paintings of Elvis and card playing dogs. In total darkness he removed his clothes and neatly folded them then placed them on the top of the bureau.

He climbed onto the bed and lay on top of the sheets that he had placed on the bed earlier, he looked forward to his dreams now, they brought such interesting company.

* * * * * *

March 9th, 2010.

Maria approached the table and tried not to stare at the man who sat there, long dark curly hair framed a narrow triangular face, with the biggest hooked nose she had ever seen. The thin lips were set in a perpetual frown, but when he looked at her as he ordered his breakfast, his eyes were flat dark and deadly.

She started to turn away with his order when his hand touched her wrist, sending a jolt of fear through her skin. His lips twitched into a grin almost as if he knew the reaction his touch generated and enjoyed it. “ forgive me, but I would like a Cup of Coffee with that as well.” he said, his eyes boring into her. Then he turned away dismissing her from his world. And she was more than thankful he had no more interest in her.

She passed the order to the Cook, then went to check her other tables dreading when that order came up, hearing the buzz from the door, she looked up and then sighed. As if this morning wasn’t bad enough she thought seeing Will Benton and his Best buddy Carl Myers standing at the door looking around, spotting her they headed for a table passing the creepy guy.

Will, seeing the weirdo, and never being the brightest bulb in the box, had to stop and stare. “Man your fucked up looking” He announced to the odd looking Stranger, shaking his head in disbelief.

“im sorry if your offended, but there is little I can do about my looks” She heard creepy dude say.

“Damn did you hear that Carl, fancy talking asshole too” Will laughed.

Maria looked over sure that they were about to pick a fight with the man, and as odd and weak as he looked, she suspected that he was no push over.

The odd looking man leaned towards Benton, rolling a quarter back and forth across his knuckles, with little movements of his fingers, she could see his mouth moving, in the tight lipped way that people used to hide their teeth. She had no idea what he said, but both Will and Carl stared at him for a long moment then they both turned and walked quietly out of the Dinner.

“ table eight up” Cook called out, Maria went and picked up the creepy looking mans breakfast and placed it before him. Then on impulse said “ I don’t know what you said to those two but thank you, they always cause problems when they come in” she said.

He gave her a close mouthed smile, which never touched his eyes. “ I only wished them a good day” he replied dipping his head down to look at his plate. She didn’t press, she had no desire to annoy this man. “ well have a good meal” She said returning to her duties, she didn’t know that by nightfall, Will Benton and his Friend Carl would be found naked and dead on a roof top.

*************************

This is the last time I eat in public Jasper decided as he stepped out onto the sidewalk, enjoying the light mist that fell from the grey sky. And those two cretins from the diner deserve exactly what they are going to be getting later. Ill make it look like secret gay lovers with a suicide pact, yes that will do nicely, ruin their macho reputations, and it will hurt their girlfriends or wives which will be added bonus.

Oh he could have gone in a better disguise, he frequently did. It was only a matter of padding out his cheeks, teeth prosthetic’s, contact lenses, custom wigs. All acquired years ago, during his tenure as a stage magician, but it was such an annoyance to eat with the caps and inserts in.

He hummed happily to himself as he wandered down the street, intent on not being noticed, which worked more often than not. He stopped in front of a bar, where he could see a Tv set, and saw the news was reporting his latest work of art. He smiled happily, Jerri had been such fun and turned out to be an incredible beauty when the flesh that hidden her inner beauty had been stripped away. He savored the memory of her despair and hatred as he violated her child. But it was all part of the process, to remove one element would destroy the whole work. besides, children were just small versions of the adult disease, they were neither to be feared or respected.

He turned away from the window, tilting his head down. So that the few people out on the sidewalks wouldn’t get a good look at him, not that any of them were intent on anything but getting out of the rain. But it never hurt to be cautious, hence the disguises he wore, Even if your not going to kill anyone in the area, you do not need descriptions floating around of yourself, he told himself.

By the time he reached his newest home the rain had ceased and a light fog had risen with the temperature change. He smiled to himself, it reminded him of London. Oh if he were in London he would have been called Spring hill jack or Jack the ripper, but here, the incompetent media couldn’t come up with a catchy name with out guidance from himself, and he wasn’t about to send them letters. Well maybe one and that one would only go to the police officer that had drawn Jaspers attention.

He stepped inside, and hung up his hat and coat, Before walking into the living room whistling a merry tune. “good evening, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting” Jasper said to the young couple hanging from the ceiling. Tonight’s entertainment was strictly for himself, newly weds on honeymoon, the man was 22, his wife was only eighteen. Both were excellent physical specimens, and the man was, what was the term he had heard, Packing, the woman must have been thrilled with that, jasper thought as he donned his lap coat and apron then opened his toy box and pulled out a syringe and vial.

He had to position them correctly for his fun, and conscious they could put up a fight. He was always as careful as possible, their bodies would be dissolved in acid when he was finished. Which was sad, but with out a child of the right age and sex, they were just not eligible for his art collection. No tonight was just for his pleasure, and his alone and no clues would be left behind. He smiled hugely as he approached the male, who tried to struggle.

“ now now, calm down, at least youll get to have sex one last time” Jasper said soothingly, “ before I use the knives. I have to practice for my art you know.”

**************************

Charleston Register, March 12th, 2010

“….. with the recent murders, authorities are hesitant to state that a serial killer is stalking the city, sources state that killer has so far killed a total of four people, in two separate incidents. Further fueling the speculation that the killings are the work of a serial killer the FBI has become involved and has officially stated that this is an ongoing investigation, and that nothing definite is known at this time, the Lead agent has refused to speculate on any aspect of the case till further evidence has been gathered and considered. Concerned citizens….”

Jasper hid a smile at the reporters words, feigning interest in his glass for a moment. the FBI were an incompetent group of fools who relied far to much on technology and their own egos for being infallible. It amused him that they withheld the fact that there were six victims, or two families. No doubt to help them weed out any imposter who might try to claim credit. Jasper had no need for Credit, his work; his art was part of a higher calling, there in lay the satisfaction.

“….. The double suicide of two gay men, has led local groups to press for programs to help alleviate the alienation and isolation of Gays and lesbians……”

he sipped from his drink as he listened to the report, those two bullies from the diner had been a disappointment, not only had he had to deny himself a bit of sport with them, but they had proven to be more cowardly than he had expected, their crying and begging had annoyed Jasper, people were so cowardly these days.

They should have been happy that he had wanted it to look like a suicide; otherwise they would have suffered for days. But he had given them their 15 minutes of fame in death, and their wives shamed though they were, finding out that their husbands, gasp, had been gay lovers, now were free of the odious men they had been married to.

“CPD sources involved in the investigation of the disappearance of Newlyweds, Charley and Tiffany Clark of Des Moines, are asking that any one that might have seen the couple between the dates of ….”

Jasper looked down to hide another smile that threatened to break out on his face, at the third news report, it wasn’t often that he made the news three times in the same broadcast., some one down the bar called out for the bartender to change the channel. And a moment later some tepid talk show was on, pointless drivel involving people of little importance, he thought as he watched the political talking heads talk with politicians. No real concept of power, just little fearful people with big ego’s that thought they held the power of life and death.

“3.50” a woman’s voice said, dragging jasper out of his thoughts, he looked up and smiled a mouth full of square white teeth, his longish salt and pepper hair framed a triangular face that was softer than usual thanks to modern make up and prosthetics.

He held up a slender well manicured, empty, hand and looked her in the eyes, still smiling. he pictured her dangling from a meat hook, she was, an attractive woman, fun to play with but no work of art, he thought as she repeated her demand for money.

“but watch” he said simply and suddenly there was a five dollar bill in his hand, Charley had, had a small fortune on him, two thousand dollars as a matter of fact, no doubt to ply his new wife with liquor so he could get his way with her, but they no longer needed the money, or coffins for that matter. There was nothing left of their bodys to bury. Other than the images seared into Jaspers mind. And he would savor those memories for as long as he had left.

The waitress, thankfully unaware of his thoughts, laughed and swept the money from his hand, “that’s a pretty neat trick” she said more to humor him, he suspected. She sat the beer down in front of him and sashayed off, Her buttocks rolling from side to side suggestively. It was automatic to act like a tramp he thought, even with his disguise, he wasn’t what any one would call attractive, she was just used to using her body to garner more tips, he would of course oblige, but only to keep from drawing attention to himself, waitress’s remembered customers that don’t tip or tipped cheaply.

Tonight he was just plain Evan, a worker in a metal plant down by the river, out for a beer and maybe a hooker. No murders, just a relaxing evening before heading to bed, after a long hard day at the grind.

Of course his grind had involved making sure no evidence remained of Charley and his lovely bride in the building that Jasper had been staying in. when he left the bar he would head to his second safe house, a little abandoned building on the edge of the bay. A nice little place, nestled back amongst trees, with a view of Ft. Sumter and a nice dock to fish off of, if he actually fished which he didn’t. the dock would also be useful if he wanted to be lazy and make mistakes, providing a place to dump bodies into the bay.

It had been fore closed on, like its neighbors up the road, the previous owners had left everything behind when they moved. Jasper rather enjoyed it, he had rarely stayed in this kind of comfort, and at his age he wasn’t going to ignore it either.

The bartender was changing channels again and as he paused on the news once more, Jaspers eyes fixed on the screen and saw a tall muscular cop, with thinning blond hair, talking with an FBI agent in the background. Aahhh yes Ed Stanton, the brightest one in the current crop trying to catch me, Jasper thought as the channel jumped to some moronic sitcom where a kid was saying “ diiiid I do that.” Mindless drivel, I should move from art to tv and Movie critic, if I slaughter enough of them maybe the shows will get better. He thought about that for a moment, wishing his next stop would be California, LA to be specific, but it wasn’t to be

No he was destined for something else in another city, or so he had been told in his dreams, dreams of blood and chaos that made his soul sing for the events he witnessed. Nashville, back to Nashville, where he would walk thru blood chest deep.

His mind returned to Edward Stanton, there was a temptation to finally send a note to the authorities, just to force the FBI to bring Edward deeper into the case that they had taken over. Edward, was definitely smarter, or at least more imaginative than the FBI and would make the challenge greater.

He finished his beer, vowing next time he would attend an upscale establishment where wine was served. He rose and walked to the door, drawing absolutely no attention to himself. No one even noticed the bell over the door as he left.

As he paced down the dark street, another figure walked with him, thru the mist and rain. It was an old old friend of his, a shadow of malice, a thing of hate, it was his other half, his soul mate.

Reaching his place of residence, he stripped the nasty street clothes off in the dark, he carefully replaced his disguise pieces in their cases, then donned his suit, one should always present a good appearance when possible.

with that done, he made sure the heavy blankets were in place over the windows in the room, and then sat at the desk where he activated his Laptop and then accessed the internet through the wireless relay that allowed him to tap into the unprotected wireless of one of the few occupied homes down the road.

He spent a few hours watching old black and white movies from the 1930’s. before he called up the news and checked to see if there was anything of interest.

There wasn’t of course, just stupid and petty people doing stupid things, some of which resulted in their deaths. Parasites, politicians as they called themselves were doing what they did best, bleed the rest of the body dry. There were wars and rumors of peace, all the things that he had no interest in.

Tomorrow he would have to start surveillance on the subjects of his next work of art and should spend time checking out officer Ed Stanton. He wasn’t worried about the Lead FBI agent the man was to busy chasing the killer he thought Jasper was, and as result was so far off base, that he would need a small child with a lantern to lead him to the real clues

2010 Charleston South Carolina.

The dust motes danced in the shafts of sunlight that fell thru the skylights of the old factory, creating pools of light in what had once been the factory floor. Now it was silent. Old rusted machinery crouched on the cracked and pitted cement floor. A man walked through the large chamber, whistling a golden oldie. He paused for a moment and adjusted the bowler hat on his head, putting it to a jaunty angle, his thin lips spread into a smile across his bony triangular face.

It is always good to present the proper appearance for work, he thought, as he tugged his waistcoat into proper position. He then went on to straighten his coat, making sure that the handkerchief was still neatly folded in the breast pocket.

Satisfied that his appearance met his approval he approached the entrance that led into the next chamber, whistling again. The door opened with a squeal, alerting his guests to his arrival. He smiled as he heard the woman whimper in fear and pain. Smiling at her, he stepped inside. She hung naked and suspended by chains in the center of the room, like a work of art on display.

“You are a lovely one. I think today I shall work on your legs, you do have wonderful legs,” he said as he removed his coat and hung it on the coat rack. Then donning the white coat he used when working, he grandly announced, “You will be such a work of art.”

Her son, strapped face down on a saw horse, was shivering uncontrollably. He of course wouldn’t be able see what was being done to his mother. Not out of any mercy or compassion on Jasper Brown’s part, but out of the simple fact that it made it harder to work with a child thrashing around and screaming around his gag. He was supposed to assault the child in the opening stages, but he had reversed the order this time. She was such a beauty that he had been eager to get to work on her. He had spent two days raping her, priming her for the real work he was going to start today.

“I can’t decide. Should I remove your skin as one piece or separate it by limbs,” Jasper said conversationally, while eyeing the boy. “Don’t worry about your breasts. Those I have resolved to preserve in bronze. They are too nice to be discarded,” he continued, all the while trying to decide on whether he would break her in more suitably by violating the child, or waiting until she was in pain and anguish before showing her just how worthless she really was, and how little power she held in life by abusing the child then. Either could be entertaining, but the emotional response would be much greater after she had been worked on for awhile he concluded. Tomorrow or the next day would be a good time to molest the boy.

“It would have been a more pleasant party if I hadn’t been forced to kill your husband. Nice looking man, by the way. I would have enjoyed him as well, but as you know he struggled too much when I invited your family to visit,” Jasper said, laughing madly. “I had thought that after spending a week living in your house that it was only proper you come stay with me. Apparently your husband thought that it was rude, and for that I am sorry.”

The hatred in her eyes made Jasper feel warm all over. “Don’t worry, dear. You’ll be with him soon enough,” Jasper said as he selected the proper blade to start with. “I have to say it was a toss up on who I invited, you or your sister’s family. But you’re just so much more beautiful that it didn’t take me more than two days to make the decision.” he said, cackling again.

He had at first toyed with killing both families, a historical first for a serial killer as far as Jasper was aware of. But the odds of making a mistake allowing the police to interfere with his work were too great, so he had decided against such a task. It had only been a few years ago that he had set his sights on using an entire family in his works of art, changing his MO as they said on the television set. The incompetent police and FBI still had no clue as to how many victims Jasper Brown had accumulated over the last four years. They were only aware of the ten he had directed them to. At this point he had only used eight families in his work, three in North Carolina, two in Texas, one more in Tennessee, one in Iowa, what a godforsaken place that was, and four in Canada during a long brutal winter. Of course, those had been blamed on someone else, so officially they weren’t his. What fools.

One of the families in Texas had been singularly exquisite. The woman had no real beauty on the outside, but for once he could see a greater beauty shining from within her rancid obese form. He had taken her husband in the barn. After that Jasper was able to take his time trimming the two hundred extra pounds off her to reveal the work of art beneath before he started on her equally tubby child. It had been, he thought, one of his best works.

He did wish he could have found a way to make his new dream of using two families in a single work possible. The terror and fear it would inspire would have swept the city, and oh how delicious it would have been. It could have finally shown the world just how great an artist he was, placing him on a whole new level.

No, he would have to work on the best way to approach the problems of acquiring two families for a masterpiece. A way in which he left no real evidence. Part of the fun was tweaking the nose of law enforcement. But even more importantly, being arrested would interfere with the other part of his art, depriving his patron of the joys of his art work.

Jasper smiled at the thought of the joy his patron took from his art as he stepped forward and activated the winch lowering his victim until her feet were a foot off the ground, and eyed her with appreciation. Many sculptors believed that the work of art was already in the stone and they only cut away the stone around it. The human body was like that to Jasper. The more beautiful the exterior, the greater the beauty under the skin, Jasper had only to reveal it.

He smiled as he made the first incision under her right breast, blood flowing hotly over his hand. She screamed into the gag and managed to twist away from the blade, making the incision ragged.

“Please do not struggle, or you will mar my work,” Jasper said, then paused as he saw a light flashing over the door to the offices. A light that was part of the security set up he had installed. “It would appear that someone is here to interrupt my work, but please do not worry. Even if I am forced to leave, I will find you later and finish my work with you and your son,” he said as he removed the white lab coat and dumped it into the barrel filled with acid. As the coat dissolved in the bubbling liquid, Jasper donned his own coat and then placed his bowler hat on his head, adjusting it minutely to get just the right look before heading to the office complex’s door.

* * * * *

Ed moved through the dim factory, his hand ready on the butt of his pistol as he slipped through the aisle between large machines.

Once the SWAT team had secured the area, and reported that the two Victims were alive, Ed and Dean were allowed on site to help process information, due in no small part to their actions on the Case preceding the FBI taking over.

Ed knew most of his anger towards the Feds, was because of losing control of the case, and because, they were dead wrong in their assumptions of the actions and motives of Jasper Brown. At least even they were confused about why after years, Brown had not only suddenly sent a note, but signed it as well. there had been some excitement over finally having a name, till nothing came back when they checked it out, not a parking ticket, credit card number, Email account, or facebook account, there was literally nothing. Brown didn’t exist, and so they assumed it was an Alias, and Ed couldn’t fault them for that assumption, but Ed had a gut feeling that it was the killers real name.

Ed had been happy as hell to hear the Report that the Female victim, was injured but alive. not as badly injured as had been expected either, Brown how ever hadn’t gotten around to working on the boy yet, which was one hell of a great bit of news. For that Ed thanked Who ever might be upstairs for that minor miracle.

Brown how ever had vanished, it was assumed he was hiding somewhere in the building, but they weren’t dismissing the idea that Brown could have slipped out some how and be hiding in one of the other buildings on the grounds.

As a result He and Dean proceeded cautiously, just to be on the safe side. Neither doubted in the least that Brown might be hiding on site watching the whole show finding it intensely funny.

Ed crouched at a T intersection, surrounded by huge industrial machinery that he had no clue what it might have done. He peered under some of the equipment, not really believing he would find anything relevant.

“We could have searched the offices,” his partner Dean said, standing just behind him. Dean was five years older, and physically the opposite of Ed. Slender and lean, with ropy muscle and a mop of dark brown hair, where Ed was body builder large, with thinning blond hair, and hazel eyes.

“Could have, but they’re empty, just like the last time, Let the Feds waste their time with it. ” Ed replied, looking around. Misdirection and confusion, that was what Jasper Brown used the most. Dean didn’t question Ed’s assumption. Like Ed, he had been on the case long enough to know Jasper Brown and his sewer pit mind.

“the Feds have already cleared them anyway and we both know they wont find a damn thing, unless they start tearing down the walls” Ed commented, almost angrily, still bitter at having to take a back seat on a case that was emotionally his, but belonged to the FBI now.

“We both know you never proved that Brown had a secret way out of the Room.” Dean said “not that I doubt it in the least, we both saw him run into the office, and then he was gone.”

“we would have found it if the Damn Feds hadn’t stepped into the case and took over. And of course, in their book, bad guys only have secret passages in bad Novels” Ed grumped.

“so instead we are back here far away from the scene of the Crime looking for evidence.” Dean commented.

The last time they had raided one of Brown’s little hideouts they had found a nightmare inside, and Brown had escaped again. The mother, Amy Salinger, had survived. Hideously disfigured, but alive, her son hadn’t made it.

Ed had seen some gruesome shit in his time, but what had been done to that kid was beyond words. In truth, Mrs. Salinger had died that day too. Her body might have been breathing but the woman that everyone had described as vibrant and full of love, a loving mother, had never really returned. Brown had destroyed her as surely as if he had plunged a knife into her heart.

Ed felt a certain amount of guilt over the Death of the boy, Keith Salinger, if he had only been faster in figuring out where the victims were being held, they might have been able to raid a day earlier and the boy might still be alive.

He could remember the chaos, as the Captain stormed around pushing every one trying to locate the killer, at that point they had no name to go with, they had no idea who the next victims were going to be, but they all knew there were going to be more. Then the Body of Nathan Salinger had been found by his sister who had dropped by for a visit while in town, and Ed had known the moment he heard how the husband had died, and the body staged, and that the wife and child were missing, that they were on a clock. He had felt helpless, with so little to go on. But they did recover some evidence from the home, Evidence that was just a little to perfect and to convenient to Eds way of thinking.

But that had gotten Ed to thinking, and then Ed had taken a look at the evidence that his team had gathered from the first local murder scene were Jerri Baker and her son had died, he had been struck by a few details. Which had inspired A little bit of checking, aka calling in favors and hours searching files and the net, had eventually gotten Ed an Address. An Address he was sure was where Brown was hiding.

It had taken Ed some fancy foot work to convince his superiors that the warehouse complex was Browns hiding place, they just didn’t want to accept the thin evidence, who could blame them. If they raided and found it empty, they would look like fools chasing shadows, and if they didn’t check the place out, and bodies were discovered, some one was going to lose their job when word got out that they had, had evidence suggesting the place. there were times, doing this job was almost painful.

That the raid had ended in failure was a blow Brown had escaped, but at least they had recovered Mrs. Salinger alive, which was a first. The FBI had swept in and taken over before they even finished securing the area.

It had been his work in locating Brown, which had gotten the lead agent to bring Ed and Dean into the case to assist and represent the Local PD, which was a courtesy nothing more Ed knew, Caswell could send Ed packing in a heart beat if he felt the urge.

And so here they were crime scene number three, located again by Ed, and still no real thanks or love from Caswell. And again Brown had slipped away. Leading people to yet again assume that Brown had been a cop, and might have friends in the PD, who had let word slip of the raid.

Brown knew the play book all to well, and people were convinced that the killer had experience with the FBI as well. the speculation, didn’t hold up as far as Ed was concerned and to be fair, Caswell and his people didn’t seem to think so either. that was about the only thing Ed and the FBI agreed on.

Ed thought that Brown had never held a job before, at least not a legit one, and believed that Brown had been killing since he was a child and used the money of his victims to lurk on the fringes of society. Dean was slowly coming to believe it himself. they couldn’t know it, but they were only partly correct.

“So Sherlock, where do we look next?” Dean asked with a nervous grin.

Ed had spent the last four hours before the raid, pouring over the plans for the old plant, preparing him self. “I knew He wouldnt be in the offices, he had an escape route from them, something concealed like the last time.”

Ed shivered trying to keep his mind from showing him the images of the human wreckage from the last Raid, before the Fed had stepped in. Ed wanted this fuck badly, and if he did kill or capture Brown, then maybe the nightmares of what was left of that boy, would finally stop.

The best way for him to have gotten out, would be the tunnels that connect all five of the main buildings. From this building there are two access hatches to the Tunnels, from what SWAT reported, the access hatch in the maintenance room, was not accessible, some one filled the room with old filing cabinets, desks and scrap metal. The second is in the back of the building on the outside,” Ed said, as he led the way through the back doors and out to the fenced-in yard behind the old factory. Weeds grew among the crushed gravel that covered the ground sparsely.

To the right near the rear gates that led to the street were large storage tanks sitting on four stubby boxes made from steel. Old crates, pallets, and hunks of rusting machinery lined the long fence directly behind the factory.

Ed turned and looked at the back of the main building where mounds of crates, metal lockers, tables, chairs, and even old 1950’s desks had been piled, covering the access hatch. He walked over and looked at the pile of refuse thoughtfully, then turned and watched Local officers moving across the grounds, assisting the FBI in searching the outbuildings. .

“You don’t think he is hiding in there, do you?” Dean asked with a shake of his head, not seeing how any one could hide in that pile of shit.

“No, he used this crap to cover the access door to the tunnel,” Ed replied. Dean looked at him, knowing his partner was obsessed, and had been since the last attempt to capture this freak. That Ed didn’t even bother to assume the pile of crap could have been here since the place closed years ago was surprising to Dean.

“I know, you think this stuff might have been here for a while” Ed added as if reading Deans mind, he gave Dean a half smile, “ google is our friend”

“What do you mean?” Dean asked confused not exactly sure what Ed was talking about..

“The satellite pics on the net are a year or older, and zoom is our friend. the pictures I looked at, were a year and half old, and this stuff wasn’t here when that picture was taken.” Ed replied.

“Did you tell Caswell?” Dean asked.

“Tried to, but you know how he is, local cops using the net are not as accurate as the FBI experts. Besides, its not all that important of a fact. Except that it supports my belief Brown sets up his murder sites before hand.” Ed said with disgust, whether at the Caswell or Brown Dean didn’t know or want to guess. He watched as Ed paced along the piled up refuse. His hand never far from his pistol.

Dean suspected that Ed was more than willing to just shoot Brown and Dean wasn’t going to get in the way. Jasper Evan Brown, if that was his real name, was one evil piece of shit.

“He used another entrance inside, but if he had left this one exposed to view you could bet SWAT would have entered through it. The entrance he used is probably hidden, to gain him precious time to escape,” Ed added. He doubted the FBI would actually locate the entrance inside, but he had a good idea where it might be.

Ed knew SWAT had targeted the hatch in the Maintenance room, and once they got past the crap piled in the room they had found that the hatch had been welded shut for years. which in turn led to the FBI into believing that Brown had left another way, and probably before they raided the place.

“lets check out that building over there” Ed said pointing, then led the way.
He and Dean jogged across the yard towards the next building a hundred feet away. Dean called in reporting their intentions to search the next building.

Dean could see thick pipes sticking up out of a octagonal hole in the ground. They rose six feet then bent at a 45 degree angle and entered the wall of the two story brick building,

“Think we will find anything inside?” Dean asked. “ a body, or another little surprise from Brown?”

Ed shrugged as he approached the steel door, weapon ready. He might believe Brown had already left but he wasn’t going to take any chances.

They entered, and cleared the twenty by twenty room full of pipes that twisted around each other, some connected to tanks with valves, some passing through barrel-like mixing chambers. Neither man really knew what any of the stuff did, but it was everywhere and could provide a nice hiding space for a man the size of Jasper Brown. The upstairs was another large room filled with control consoles, gauges, valves, and a ton of other old pieces of equipment that might as well be arcane devices from a fairy tale. And there was no where for Jasper Brown to hide.

They returned downstairs and looked around, finally finding a steel hatch set into the floor in a corner behind a tangle of pipes, the hatch had been covered with old rags and scrap metal, to further conceal it from all but determined observation.

Ed pulled it open, both men noting that the hinges had been oiled recently. Ed holstered his pistol and climbed down the narrow metal ladder to the brick lined tunnel. Pipes ran along the north wall of the tunnel, disappearing west into the darkness.

They moved silently down the old dusty tunnel. About twenty feet from the Ladder they found a chamber set into the south wall. On a metal table, neatly folded, was an old fashioned suit with a bowler hat placed on top.

The chamber wasn’t all that large and had once been used by maintenance crews to store tools and do some minor work on fittings and such. But someone had cleaned the place of all dust and dirt, and added a cot and footlocker, which was standing open revealing odds and ends of personal effects.To Ed it looked like a stage filled with props, it was his gut reaction and he trusted it.

That Swat hadn’t found this yet, wasn’t a surprise. the Fed had concentrated on the Main Building, where the Victims had been, and the living area Brown had set up inside. Agent Caswell, had left the outbuildings for Locals to search and process, believing that Brown had only utilized the main building. unfair or not Ed didn’t think Caswell imaginative enough to think outside the box enough to see the forest for the trees.

Once Caswells agents had fully processed the main building, they would fan out over the rest of the complex. With limited manpower it was going to take two or three days to fully search a complex this huge, with sixteen distinct and separate buildings. only five of them of any real size.

“Call it in” Ed said, Dean shrugged and tapped his ear piece.

“Radios don’t work down here” Dean replied. “guess we are going to have to pass on embarrassing the hell out of the Feds for the moment.”

Ed looked around, and made a decision. “leave a note for them” He said softly, as he drew his pistol and moved back to the Tunnel. He might believe Brown was off site, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. It would be just like Brown to leave indications he had escaped while he hid waiting for the LEO’s to leave. Dean followed with out a word, just as prepared as Ed.

“once he is outside the fence, he probably left town, damn sure he left the area” Dean said as they moved deeper into the tunnel.

“No, he will stay in the area, blend in act casual.” Ed responded, not able to really explain how he knew it, but it was true. Jasper Brown was like a stage magician, he set up crime scenes to direct attention away from his true actions. If he could run, he walked, if he could hide, he would boldly lounge around in the open.

No, Brown left those clothes there to draw attention to that spot. So he didn’t want us looking elsewhere for awhile. And Ed planned on finding out exactly what Brown was trying to cover up.

Two blocks away, Jasper gave a closed mouth smile to a woman pushing a stroller as he passed. She gave him a bit more room, no doubt sensing a predator. He wasn’t all that far from the old factory. The whole area, once part of an industrial complex, was being renovated into lofts for the young newly rich. He loved the vibrancy of areas like this, and the people. Maybe he would pick his next victim from here. That shapely blond jogging across the street, or that well muscled dark haired man with the wedding ring, who probably had a beautiful wife, would make great subjects for his work.

Jasper hid a smile as he thought about the handsome muscular cop who had entered the yard. Detective Edward Stanton, Ed to his friends, the man had a knack for seeing more than Jasper liked, but he accepted it as part of the challenge, making his work that much more interesting.

But in truth, Edward would make a great subject for Jasper’s work. Sadly, while following the man after their first little encounter Jasper had discovered he was puffer. Maybe it was time to include a gay couple, Jasper was all about being inclusive after all.

Spotting the newly opened Starbucks, he entered and bought himself a coffee, then went and sat at one of the outside tables. He was not as obvious now. He had applied one of the disguises he frequently wore in public that altered his face, making it look fuller and softer, and inserts made his teeth appear normal.

Today he sported a longish black wig to cover his thin white hair. The clothes he had chosen were baggy sweat pants, a hoody, and a ball cap. With the baggy clothes and the padding he had added on his shoulders and legs, he didn’t appear as skinny as he was. Making the cop’s jobs all the much harder, assuming any one guessed he had actually escaped the so called noose they had slipped around the factory building.

He sipped his latte, enjoying the beverage, watching a twenty one year old brunette with decidedly large breasts that would make a perfect candidate for his work. She was almost as stunning as the unfinished work hanging in his building. If she were married with a child she would be perfect.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a patrol car cruise slowly by, the officer inside checking out people, no doubt looking for one nattily dressed man in a suit and bowler hat, Jasper thought, almost smiling.

He wondered just how many of his escape hatches they would find on their search of the factory, he guessed very few. They were usually not that thorough, no matter what they claimed.

Usually they were more concerned with arrests, and the DA with convictions. For that all they needed was circumstantial evidence. He still found it amusing that there were at least seven men serving life sentences for murders that Jasper had committed. Oh the joys of a system where keeping your job was more important than doing it right, Jasper thought with mild disgust.

If he approached his job the way the officials did, it would never work. He would have been caught after his first murder. But it did provide him with amusement. Snatch a mother and child and the police fixated on the husband, leaving Jasper alone to do his work. it was a bit harder now that he had moved on to killing whole families to frame a family member, but a challenge was what made art and his work so enjoyable.

Oh, he could have hung out at truck stops and rest areas like some of his fellow’s but they were not artists, not picky at all about who they took. Trashy amateurs working in velvet, painting dogs playing poker. Maybe one day he would start a class teaching the basics of the art of killing.

It was at times like this, casually fleeing the police, that his other little talent was highly appreciated. Since he was a child he’d had a knack for not being seen when he didn’t want to be.

It wasn’t foolproof of course, but it had benefited him through his early childhood and many other times he didn’t feel like dealing with people and their stares at his physical peculiarities.

I will need a new identity soon. Its almost time to wrap up my work here and move on to the next city on my list. San Diego would be nice this time year, with plenty of married couples and families to choose from. Maybe a naval family, add NCIS in to the mix and see if they are as competent as the TV show. He rather doubted they were. The FBI certainly wasn’t. They would still be at the factory, tearing it apart for clues that Jasper had left for them. It was Ed who seemed to have a good head on his shoulders for the game.

He sipped from his drink again, watching as a brown haired, mildly attractive police officer climbed out of an unmarked car, looking around. Jasper just copied the reactions of those around him while pretending to be a hole in the universe. Recognizing Ed’s partner, Jasper’s mocking smile faded a degree, and then another as he saw the large muscle bound cop climb out of the passenger side and look around. I would guess he is more determined and intelligent than I first presumed, Jasper thought as he casually strolled into the coffee shop as if going for a refill. I should be flattered to have a Holmes to my Moriarty.

Jasper reviewed his actions, wondering what minor mistake could have been made to bring them directly to the coffee shop he was sitting at. Ed, the smartest of the bunch, must have figured out Jasper would hide in plain sight at a place with plenty of people, then headed to the closest such location. Next time I shall use the furthest one. And next time I need to devise a few quick escapes from places like this, just in case, he thought, as he slipped into the back area of the coffee shop. He was, as usual, totally calm. No point in getting excited about such things, they are no more than lessons to learn from.

As he passed the two employees preparing coffee in the back, one noticed him out of the corner of her eye and turned, but Jasper was already gone. People are so easy too fool, they want to see what they expect. All one has to do is show them their expectations and they are satisfied, he thought as he slipped out the back door and started down the delivery drive between the two buildings. He stepped out onto the opposite street, stuffed his hands in his pockets, bowed his head, and altered his gait to that of a teenager’s restless shuffle.

As he walked through the people on the sidewalk he was struck by the youth and vitality that radiated from them. An adolescent couple with arms wrapped around each other passed giggling, never seeing Jasper watching them hungrily. In front of a book store a young gay man leaned against his boyfriend, smiling and flirting openly. A new mother, her child in a papoose strapped to her chest, was smiling and letting her baby play with her finger.

He took a deep breath, drawing in their fears. The shrinks would say it was only a delusion, that people could do no such thing. But Jasper could. He could look at them and see what they feared most. Not the mundane fears of loves lost and losing jobs, but their real fears. The ones they locked away and never spoke of, The fears that lumbered out of dark closets and even darker corners of the mind.

That one, he thought, looking at a happy faced dark haired woman with large breasts and long legs, is scared of drowning. She never goes near pools or lakes. The queer at the bookstore was terrified of suffocating. The blonde woman entering the deli was scared of being mutilated. He hungrily consumed each personal terror as he passed, the way most humans consume oxygen. It was a gift, allowing him to tailor his work to each subject.

It further amused him when people thought there was a core of decency inside Jasper that could be reached, Some moral center that was hidden away, allowing him to do what he did.

In fact, there was no such core and never had been. People’s value was what Jasper decided it was, and very few rated above his knife. They were weak, and ignorant. When faced with threats they ran to someone else to protect them. They were worthless beyond what they offered Jasper: fear, and the loathing respect they held for him

No, his work was inspired from beyond this world, a monument to his true faith. He was a monster amongst sheep. He embraced that evilness, claiming it for his own. He had never embraced Jasper Brown, the person people thought he should be.

He felt the heat of the knives he carried secreted about his body, like a beacon to carnage. It would be so easy to kill just a few of them. Yet as satisfying as it would be to send them on, it wasn’t art. It wasn’t his work. Random terror was fleeting, people soon forgot it. But the terror that creeps in at night, that lives in their walls, that takes them unawares, was the kind that lingered in the deep recesses of the mind, rising up in the dark and reducing them to the primitives they really were.

Ed had just by chance spotted the short man in the hoody entering the coffee shop. Something about the way the man moved set off alarms in his mind. The man moved just a bit to casually, or maybe it was something else. Ed pointed him out to Dean who nodded and both men strode towards the shop.

“I’ll go around back,” Ed told Dean. Who stayed to watch the front, in case the Suspect returned to the table he had been sitting at. Neither expected that to happen.

By the time Ed reached the narrow street between buildings, any narrower and it could be deemed an ally, Ed thought, he saw the hoody wearing man turning right onto the next street.

Ed quickly told Dean where he was going, then ran to the end of the alley, and started after the suspect who was maybe a hundred feet ahead of him, walking slowly head bowed, but minute movements of the head told Ed the man was checking out people who were on the street.

Dean was out in front of the coffee shop, if he moved to now he could turn onto Dowel street, he would should reach the alley mouth about the same time Ed emerged onto Dowel, then they both could follow Brown.

As he moved towards the alley mouth, he radioed his plan to Dean, then called for back up. They of course wanted him to hold back, Tail the suspect but do not attempt to arrest till they could get half the Local Field office in place to surround Jasper Brown.

Ed agreed with that only because he had no doubts that Brown would kill a few people the moment he thought he was about to be captured. Ed spotted Brown, a block up, and began to close the distance quickly and quietly, Dean behind and to his right.

Ed was only thirty feet from his suspect walking casually, with no apparent interest in anything, when the man reached out, as fast as any striking viper, and pulled a pregnant woman to him, placing a wicked looking knife to her throat.

“You surprise me,” Jasper Brown said turning and pulling the woman around with him, baring his teeth in what could possibly be called a smile. “You just show up in the damnedest places, Officer,” His voice was cold, but soft. He sounded well educated. How people failed to notice this horrible little troll was beyond Ed.

“As cliché as it is, place your weapon on the ground or I shall slice her throat from ear to ear,” Jasper said, his upper lip quivering with amusement.

“You’ll kill her for the hell of it if I do, so no thank you,” Ed replied knowing that backup was on the way. He had Dean but that was it, the Fed were probably still running for their Cars back at the Factory complex.

“Oh you’re so untrusting, but entirely correct of course,” Jasper said, seemingly enjoying the screaming panicked people who were running from the confrontation. “It would seem we face what is crudely called a Mexican stand off.” Jasper pressed the knife harder against the woman’s throat, a thin line of blood appeared. “Don’t tremble so much. Death doesn’t hurt, unless I have time to play.”

Ed heard Dean approach behind him, but waved him back. “Let her go Jasper, you know that just slicing her throat isn’t your style. Do you really want to ruin your record with that?” Ed said calmly.

“Very true Officer Stanton, but every artist doodles on occasion,” Jasper replied. “Or would you prefer being called Ed?” He seemed to enjoy the flash of anger that flared in Ed’s eyes. “You have a very lovely apartment, I must say.”

“Let her go,” Ed said, refusing to let his anger make it a demand.

“Much nicer than the lead FBI agent’s home. His wife was such a slob. You would think she would take much better care of her home when her husband was working so diligently to stop people like me from killing people like her, or this cow,” Jasper said with another of those shark like smiles. “And she was such a beautiful woman. Sadly, their equally beautiful daughter died that same week. Horrendous wreck, mangled her badly,” Jasper added almost suggestively then gave a dark laugh.

It was almost as if he were admitting he had killed the girl, Ed thought. What a sick son of a bitch. The woman Brown held was sobbing quietly, and Ed could hear sirens in the distance.

Jasper smiled at him, his pointed teeth glittering in the light. What kind of sick bastard files their teeth down into points? Ed asked himself, and how is it no one seems to notice he has pointed teeth, not knowing that Jasper had removed the caps that had concealed the shark like teeth when he left the coffee shop. He wanted Ed to see the reality that was Jasper Brown.

“You can’t escape, Brown. Theres nowhere to go,” Ed said calmly.

“Oh theres always somewhere to go Ed,” Jasper replied. “Forgive me for the use of your first name but I feel much closer to you than the others.”

Ed knew if he didn’t get control in the next few minutes that woman was dead, and if he let Brown go the sick prick would only kill her the moment he was out of sight of Ed, just for the fun of it.

A shadow seemed to pass over the area, and a chill rippled down his spine. Brown’s head cocked to one side, as if listening to something, his eyes never leaving Ed. At just that moment two black sedans and a Black SUV with lights flashing in the grill roared around the corner, Browns smile, if possible, grew larger.

For a second Ed smelled rotted meat and sewage in the air and then it was gone. Jasper gazed at him for a moment, as the FBI vehicles screeched to a halt and Agents leaped out. Ed thought he saw browns hand twitch and then suddenly smoke billowed up around the killer.

“Damn it,” Ed swore as he lunged into the smoke, almost tripping over the woman where she lay gagging on her own blood on the sidewalk. Ed dragged her out of the smoke and did his best to staunch the bleeding, and then suddenly paramedics were there.

**** ***** **** ****

“He used homemade smoke bombs,” Dean told Ed, who was standing there watching the ambulance pull away. “At least she will live,” Dean said, nodding towards the ambulance. They both ignored Caswell who stood off to one side glaring at Ed while he coordinated the Search for Brown. It had been an hour since the Freak Escaped and still not thing.

“There is that, and the woman and her son at the factory are physically fine,” Ed added as he turned and saw some of the uniformed officers watching him. They turned away quickly. They blame me for the woman being hurt, he thought. And they damn well should he decided. I should have waited for more back up.

“They canvassed the area for three blocks around here, and no one saw Brown after the smoke bomb,” Dean told Ed as they walked back to their car. “No one at the coffee shop noticed him, not even the employees in the back. One says she thought she saw someone in the prep area but couldn’t really describe him. How is that possible?” Dean asked.

That particular fact bothered Dean a lot, the few witnesses that remembered seeing Brown only vaguely remembered someone in a hoody drinking coffee. That was it. They couldn’t even really remember the color of the hoody.

“I don’t know, I’d guess it’s the same way he has gotten in and out of homes carting off women and their children with out setting off alarms or being seen. The man has talent,” Ed said as he climbed into the passenger side.

“Well what ever the reason the Captain is furious, the FBI is pissed off, and the Mayor is going to want to screw someone over this,” Dean said, pulling into traffic.

By the time the ass chewing was done and the search for a scapegoat was in full swing, it was early evening. Ed wasn’t to worried about falling victim to that search. But he couldn’t blame them if they did use him, Brown had almost killed a woman and escaped with Ed standing right there. And no one wanted to explain to the public that Brown had escaped yet again almost killing another women in the process.

Amazing how politicos don’t want to tell the public shit happens and sometimes the bad guys are smart and prepared for the police, Ed thought to himself.

Finishing his paperwork, Ed turned to Dean, “Call me later, I’m going to go for a walk and then get a beer.”

“Oh sure, leave me here to finish this by myself,” Dean remarked, gesturing to his desktop buried in forms.

“Its against policy for an officer to fill out another officers reports. You know me, stickler for the rules,” Ed replied with a grin. Dean was notorious for falling behind on his paperwork, and frequently had to stay late to finish it, which put a lot of stress on his marriage.

“Okay, get the hell out if you’re going to be all ethical,” Dean said with a tired smile.

Ed wasn’t in a cheerful mood. By the time he reached his motorcycle he was totally lost in thought over the case. There was something that still nagged at him, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Brown was always a step ahead of them. The current line of official thought was that Brown moved from place to place as each killing ground was discovered, choosing the next hideout as he went along. But that was just plain wrong. Everything else he did was well planned out.

Ed saw no reason that Brown didn’t take the same kind of care in picking the locations he would use to torture and kill his victims. Add the fact that Brown always had some sort of hidden escape route in each one, told Ed that Brown had spent considerable time finding and concealing those routes, and that’s not the mark of someone running from the cops and ducking into a building to hide and find a new victim. Ed suspected that Brown picked each victim for a specific location he had set up to kill them in.

Sometimes it was a factory, sometimes warehouses. A few had been killed in vacant commercial buildings like stores. Three sets of victims had been killed in empty foreclosed homes surrounded by other empty homes. There was no rhythm or reason that anyone could figure out to how Brown chose his locations, or victims for that matter; he left no notes, and left few clues or physical evidence. What evidence he did leave Ed truly believed was on purpose.

Until today no officer had ever gotten more than a quick glimpse of him. All of that supported careful planning and preparation in picking his locations. But how to prove it? Ed wondered, knowing without being able to explain it that Jasper Brown moved into a city, scoped out areas to hide in, set them up ahead of time, then pre-picked all of his victims. Each set of victims belonged to a specific location.

Ed pulled up to the curb in front of Joe’s, a trendy little restaurant he frequented, when Brown’s admission to being in Special Agent Caswell’s home struck him. Why the hell did it take so long for that to really impact? Ed’s epiphany, once arrived, seemed obvious.

Until today there had been no obvious signs that Brown had ever spied on any of the agents or officers tasked to catch him in the various cities he had killed in. The fact that he had gotten into Ed’s apartment and then left Ed the note today, detailing items in the apartment had been considered an aberration or possibly Brown getting nervous. It was thought Brown tried to upset the hunt for him and was attempting to intimidate Ed, and through Ed other officers and Special agents by hinting he could enter any of their homes.

What if he had been spying on the opposition all along? In fact, that really fit with Ed’s opinion of Brown being a methodical planner. Studying the other team for weaknesses to exploit was a basic tactic. And if Brown had been spying on Ed and some of the other officers he had to have had a place to hide and watch. With that realization something one of the kids had told him at his building suddenly made sense.

Ed had been working out at the gym in the apartment building when Kelly Clark’s son Tommy had dropped in to talk to him about something. Kids had been talking about a monster or something seen lurking in hallways, bushes, and other dark spots at night. Tommy, being thirteen, had thought maybe it was some pervert lurking around checking out kids. Maybe he wore a mask Tommy had explained. Ed had promised to look into it, and had passed along the story to one of the officers he knew that patrolled the area. But now he was certain those kids had seen Jasper Brown lurking around the complex for almost two months.

The Manager, Betty Colburne, was a rather plump woman with a friendly smile. Her office was full of flowers, stuffed animals, and pictures.

“How can I help you Mr. Stanton?” she said as Ed entered her office. “I need to know how many and which apartments are vacant in the same building as mine, or with a view to my apartment. Particularly ones that have been vacant for three or more months,” Ed told her, showing her his badge to let her know he wasn’t asking as a tenant. “It appears that a suspect in a case I’m working on has had my under observation and has even been inside my apartment. I suspect he was hiding in a vacant apartment.”

Ed half expected her to tell him to come back with a warrant or something, but she didn’t. Betty gazed at him for a moment, anger in her eyes. She felt a responsibility if someone had been harassing him or spying on any of her tenants. “I assume this is official police business?” she asked, but before he could answer she said, “Theres two in your building, one has been vacant of three months. It was supposed to be refurbished, but with the economy…” She shrugged then pulled a binder out from the bookshelf, opened it, and gazed at a map of the complex. “There’s one directly across from your building, Building C. You’re on the north side of building E, correct?” she asked. Ed nodded. “Then that one has a view of your apartment.”

She picked up a pen and wrote down three apartment numbers. She laid aside the pen, then paused looking thoughtful as she held the paper up. “Apartment 504, in building C, that’s the one that the people below it thought that they heard someone walking around in. I’ve sent security up to it but it was always empty. Which is how the stupid rumors of it being haunted got started. You don’t think that’s the one do you?” She gazed at him speculatively. “This person isn’t dangerous is he?” she asked.

Ed hesitated; he almost lied, then nodded. “Yes, he is very dangerous, but I suspect he is long gone by now.” Ed wouldn’t actually swear to that, but if it made her feel better, so much the better.

The sun had already set as Ed moved slowly down the cobbled walkway in the landscaped quad. Quaint lights, styled after Victorian gas lamps, lined the tree shaded walkway casting pools of warm light in the gathering darkness. To his right he could see the pool, lit from below and glowing sapphire blue. A few residents sat around the pool talking. Three were in the jacuzzi, sitting close and conversing quietly.

Building C looked like something out of the French Quarter with the decorative wrought iron balcony with ornate railings, French doors, and multi peaked roof with dormer windows. Apartment 504 was on the fifth floor in the western corner, and had a direct view of his own balcony.

The fifth floor hallway had a popular rose and black colored antique pattern styled carpet, in keeping with its Colonial French exterior. Faux antique end tables were placed at the corners of the hall, holding flower vases that contained orchids and other complementary plants.

Ed walked quietly down the hallway, telling himself he should call for backup, but after that ass chewing earlier, he wasn’t about to place himself in the firing line if he was wrong. Brown could be long gone by now, moving on to another city and more victims

A young attractive couple emerged from their apartment, their arms wrapped around each other and smiling into each others eyes. As long as they don’t have a kid, they should be safe from Brown, Ed thought darkly.

Reaching the door to 504, he inserted the master key that Betty had loaned him. She was more than eager to have a police officer check things out to be on the safe side. Especially one who lived here and wouldn’t make a scene unless there was a reason to.

He truly hoped there was no reason, but a small part of him prayed there was. He wanted Brown off the streets.

He unlocked the door, and then drew his sidearm as he swung the door open. The short hallway beyond was dark, the walls bare. Ed slipped inside, closing the door behind him, then tried the lights, which were off of course.

He started to step forward then stopped, the lights shouldn’t be off, the apartment complex would have to clean it and maintain it periodically. The power would be kept on, it was pretty much standard procedure. He glanced up at the fixture, it was possible that the bulb had burned out.

At the end of the hallway lay the large living room with its vaulted ceiling, and French doors that led out onto the balcony. An arch to the right led to the kitchen. On the left wall of the living room was a long hallway with two bedroom doors and the guest bath. What little light there was in the living room, leaked in from the French doors, a reddish orange light from ornate lights on the quads foot paths below.

Ed moved quietly onto the thinly carpeted living room floor, looking carefully around in the darkness, his weapon up and ready. The apartment felt like someone was inside. There were those that would argue that was impossible, but for Ed it wasn’t, the sounds of an empty place were off. It was a gut reaction, or maybe some sort of instinct, but he knew he wasn’t alone.

He tried the light switch in the living room, but it didn’t come on. Now he was certain this was where Jasper Brown was hiding. He had disabled the lights. Ed could hear the fridge humming happily to itself, so the power was definitely on.

There was nothing in the kitchen, and there was no real place to hide. As he turned back he saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye, moving across the arched doorway. Ed brought his weapon into line, there was no way in hell he was going to let Brown get the drop on him. Dying was the least of his concerns.

He didn’t hear the front door open, so whatever he had seen was still in the apartment. Ed moved back into the living room, peering into the dark corners and wishing there was enough light from outside to brighten the room, even a little.

He stayed near the wall, and slid down it till he could peer into the pitch black hallway, but saw nothing. He wanted to use a flashlight badly, but the light would only pinpoint his exact location in the dark room, giving Brown as much of an advantage as it gave Ed.

A soft click reached his ears, like a lock being engaged. Ed whirled and peered into the entry hall, but there was nothing there. Another click from behind him caused Ed to turn and see one of the French doors swinging open, letting in a flower scented breeze.

“Brown you’re under arrest. Come out now and I promise I will not shoot you,” Ed said suddenly. He didn’t need any other proof that Brown was in the apartment.

“Oh but you cant shoot me, I don’t have any weapons,” the soft cold voice whispered in Ed’s ear. Ed whirled, panicked, and saw nothing but wall. Laughter came from a dark corner.

“Been home lately Ed? You should have. Your lover moved out, he didn’t like your work coming home with you,” Brown said mockingly. Ed went cold, but refused to rise to the bait.
“I thought meeting you again was more important than going home right away,” Ed replied, his eyes darting from side to side. Misdirection and confusion, that was Brown’s MO.

“I didn’t kill him if that’s what you’re worried about. Or maybe I did.” Brown’s voice laughed in Ed’s left ear.

The fucker is a ventriloquist, who would have thought it, Ed told himself.

“Whether you did or not isn’t the issue at the moment. What is, is whether you leave here in a body bag or in cuffs,” Ed called out into the dark room, refusing to even think about what might be waiting for him in his apartment.

“Ooooh, so butch,” Brown said with a laugh. This time it sounded as if it were from the kitchen. Ed refused to look, instead he used his peripheral vision to check the arch, while he inspected the various spots Brown could be hiding at.

“Fuck you, you murdering freak,” Ed snapped, letting his anger come through for the first time.

“Now now, Officer. Where’s your professional behavior, as well as your supposed personal detachment to the crime and the suspect?” Brown chided, his voice coming from the balcony door this time.

Ed actually laughed at that, a deep, harsh, hate filled laugh. “Why? Brown, why do it?” Ed asked, hoping if he could get him to talk more, Ed would have the time to figure out where he was hiding at.

“Why what? Why do I kill, or why do I play games with you and the rest of the so called law enforcement officers?” Brown asked. Ed could picture him shrugging in dismissal. “I suppose that bravado would require me to say, Why not. But the truth is Ed, there are two reasons for the first, and many answers for the second,

“I do more than kill of course, but you’re fully cognizant of that fact. No, I suspect you’re asking a general question, and the answer to that is because I can. Because I like it, and because….” Brown’s cold voice trailed off, then there was a soft laugh. Ed was paying less attention to Brown’s voice than the shadows, and the sounds underneath the talk.

Brown was being to obliging, he was trying to misdirect Ed’s attention. “Well honestly Officer, what did you expect me to say? I have issues with my mother? Or that I’m a pedophile and taking my self disgust and self hatred out on my victims, blaming them? No, the answers are much more complex than that Ed. Where there is good there is evil, and evil on occasion wants the spotlight.”

Brown fell silent, and shadows seemed to swirl and dance, but Ed kept his attention on sound now. There, a slight scuff of a shoe on hardwood to his left. Ed ducked and slid right, a knife unseen but definitely felt cut thru his left shirt sleeve, leaving a shallow gash, and embedded itself in the wall.

He dimly saw a man shaped shadow wearing a bowler hat disappear into the darkness towards the hallway. Ed leveled his pistol but held his fire, fearing he might hit someone in the next apartment.

“Oh to have such qualms to be shackled with,” Brown laughed. Ed realized the prick was wearing night vision goggles. It was the only way he could have seen Ed’s actions and hesitation in firing. There was no point in not using a light now, Ed thought as he pulled the minimag from his pocket with his left hand. Turning it on, Ed braced his right wrist over his left wrist, so that the light speared out ahead of him. The beam cut the darkness like a knife.

He saw movement out of the corner of his left eye and started to turn towards it then turned right, just in time to catch Brown full on in the light. Brown backpedaled, ripping the NVG’s from his face, his sharp teeth glittering in the light. Ed pulled the trigger once, the boom of the Glock .40 loud in the apartment. Glass shattered as the bullet punched through the French doors.

“Got to do better than that Ed,” Brown said. “I had thought you would enter with a light. I was glad to see you did not. But to satisfy your curiosity, I do what I do for a higher calling. It is a form of art as well. I am a sculptor of flesh, a connoisseur of fear, and the right hand of the Dark One,” Brown said, then laughed. It was a sound of madness and evil. Ed shuddered but placed his back against the wall, so that Brown could only come at him from the front.

“Hide and seek, come and get me if you can,” Brown’s voice called out from the hallway. Ed stared into the hallway, keeping his attention on a spot to his right in the far corner by the fireplace. It was filled with shadows, so deep it was black there. He didn’t turn his light that direction, but he knew in his gut that’s where Brown was at. Like every other apartment there was a solid wood bookshelf there. He stepped towards the hallway, probing with his flashlight, and saw movement in the corner as a section of darkness moved outwards then back in like a door opening and closing.

Ed reached the entrance to the hallway, then spun and lunged to the right, catching Brown completely off guard as he prepared to sneak up behind the unsuspecting cop. Ed didn’t shoot, and didn’t waste time with a fancy self defense move, he simply slapped Brown across the jaw with his Glock and sent the man falling to the floor, his NVG’s knocked off his oddly shaped head. Brown hit the floor on his hands and knees and Ed kicked him in the jaw sending him sprawling on his back.

Brown lay there for a moment, a strange smile on his face, then Ed yanked him over and slammed him face down, before cuffing the little bastard. Only then did he realize that he was bleeding heavily from a knife gash.

Ed knelt next to Brown as he pulled out his phone and hit speed dial. “You fucked up when you mentioned creeping around Caswell’s house,” Ed said as he waited for Dean to pick up. Brown turned his face to one side and stared up at Ed with one gray eye, flecked with strange bits of blue and green.

“For all things there is a time, and this was the time to be taken to where I need to go. My destiny if you will. But I can promise you this Edward. I’m going to come back soon. When I do, I’m going to kill you, your partner, and as many people as I feel like. I will devour your city,” Brown said in a pleasant tone of voice, but there was hatred like cold hammered iron underneath the words.

“Next time, you sick fucking freak, I will blow your stinking brains all over a wall,” Ed replied, and smiled at Jasper Brown. “Count on it.”

keeping his pistol trained on Brown, Ed pulled out his Cell phone and hit speed dial, calling Dean on his private cell.

“Partner you had better have good news” Dean said, as he answered the phone. “the Captain is in his office with Caswell right now.

“Get over here to my complex, Building C Apartment five oh four. I have Brown in custody,” Ed said cutting Dean off. “bring every body and hurry, or he might not be alive by the time you get here”

He didn’t even listen to the string of questions that Dean was throwing at him, he just hung up. As Ed waited he tried to not think about how easy it would be to just blow Brown’s head all over the floor. but damn if that smirk on the freaks face didn’t push every button he had to pull the trigger.

It wasn’t till later that Ed while writing up his report, sat staring at the words that Jasper had spoken at the end, realized, the freak had left the note and clues to lead Ed by the nose straight to his hiding spot. But Why? He asked himself refusing to believe in the destiny that Brown had spoken of.

June 17th, 2010 Nashville Tn.

Jasper shuffled across the room and sat down across from his lawyer, a pretty little thing with big heavy looking breasts, long dark hair, and liquid brown eyes. He eyed her full lips and slender waist, thinking how wonderful she would look if he only had his tools and a place to display her.

He shook off the arousal and listened to her explain how he would be denied bail in the light of his crimes, but that she would fight anyway since all men were innocent until proven guilty. He tuned out the drivel letting his mind paint a picture of what he would do to her given time, and found it diverting.

The only reason he even bothered with meeting with her was to get out of his cell, otherwise he couldn’t care less. He had no plans on staying here any longer than he had to, whether the courts and cops wanted it or not. For most of his life, Jasper had a knack. A gift really, of not being noticed when he didn’t want to be. It had rarely failed him, though the last time it had when Edward Stanton had captured him. Jasper had something special planned for Edward, if time permitted.

Jasper had often believed that the Devil aided him when he really needed help, and this time would be no different. His dreams even told him to escape tonight so he took that as a sign.

“Do you have any questions, or requests?” she asked, bring him back to reality.

He shook his oddly shaped head, aware she found him physically repulsive. He didn’t really blame her. He was more like a caricature of a man than the man he was supposed to have been. God no doubt had marked him at birth so that all would know the evil he would someday do.

“No, but thank you for your efforts on my behalf,” He said, giving her a smile that would have looked more at home on a shark than a human. He smiled a bit more broadly, knowing the sight of his teeth filed down into points scared her, as his mind conjured an image of her sitting across from him, skinless except for her hair. He was starting to get aroused again, and had to work to keep his reactions normal and under control.

She rose smoothly, controlling the revulsion and fear she felt and for a moment he wondered if she were totally unaware of how sexual she made each movement. He suspected she was, and also thought it likely she complained about how every man, and maybe some women, hit on her or checked her out. But she probably spread her legs for any man with enough money, which made her some what of a hypocrite when he got down to it.

“I’m leaving,” she said to the microphone over the table. “Mr. Brown, I hope you follow my advice in this case. They have a lot of evidence against you, the plea bargain giving you life if you tell the prosecution about other murders you committed would be in your best interest,” she said, pausing at the door.

Not that she cared what happened to him, Jasper knew. She was of the opinion that Jasper deserved to die, and painfully, but she had taken his case and would defend him. The money was just too good for her to do otherwise. Dance with the Devil, whore, and you get screwed.

Jasper rose slowly to his feet as the door closed behind her and a guard entered the room to escort him back to his cell. Jasper grinned at his escort and the guard shuddered despite himself. Jasper stood there in the middle of his cell as two more guards stood over him while he was unchained, he loved that they were that uneasy around him, he was still smiling as the cell door clanged shut sealing him in.

*******************************

That night as men slept, three things happened. At midnight the power flickered on and off several times, before returning to normal. A few inmates woke up and would later swear they saw a man shaped shadow stalk up and down the hall, but none of them would ever tell anyone just how terrified the sight made them. Guards, hearing the shouts of the inmates, did a bed check and found one cell empty. Jasper Brown was gone without trace.

“How in the hell can a man that weird looking just walk out of our jail?” Sheriff Forrester asked. Angrily glaring at the men assembled in his office, he wondered how he was going to spin this to the feds, who had dropped Brown off in his custody until his arraignment.

“All we know is that somehow during the power fluctuation he got the cell door open and escaped. From there he somehow managed to get past the cell block door without being caught on camera or by the guards, then slipped past the guard room into the new annex and out into the parking lot without being seen. No vehicles were missing from the parking lot. We can only assume he had help, an accomplice inside the jail and one that picked him up,” Thomas Derby said, just as angry as the Sheriff. “Possibly his lawyer set it up, but we have found no evidence that he passed her any notes, or directly asked her to contact anyone. She denies any such thing occurring. In fact she said, ‘I find him repugnant and disturbing, and I was only too happy to have him behind bars’.”

Forrester glared at the wall for a moment then looked around. “We say nothing for twenty four hours. We do not want the public to know. Its likely he never left, and is hiding somewhere in the building. But come 0700hrs tomorrow we will have to go public. So find him before then.”

There were nods from the assembled men, who all knew their jobs hung on finding Brown before this became public. “Get out of here and start searching the place as discreetly as possible. I don’t want the parasite reporters that hang around here getting wind of this if we can help it. And make damn sure no one from night shift talks.”

As the men filed out of his office, his secretary, a cute blond with a body made for a bikini, who also was married to his brother, slipped in looking nervous. “Sheriff, theres two men from the FBI here.” Forrester groaned, seeing the whole charade about to come crashing down.

“Send them in Tina,” he said, as he sat heavily.

***********************

When Jasper had been in his twenties he had become a stage magician. His natural talents for contortion, eye hand coordination, and slight of hand served him well, as did his incredible intelligence. Getting away from the jail had been child’s play as far as he was concerned. In fact he had used his stage magician skills to great effect in his work. People usually only saw what they wanted to see, and on occasion they had to be helped to see exactly what they expected.

And the fact that he knew they would hesitate to announce his escape gave him a day, maybe two. He knew of one escape where a prison had waited a week to tell the public as they tried to recapture the escapees. He, however, would be lucky to get two days. He was by far the most notorious villain they had ever locked up, and the incompetent FBI had placed him in a county jail of all things. As usual they were, what was it the youngsters used? Ah, yes. A tool, Jasper thought to himself with amusement.

He leaned over the table in his new home, not really noticing the roaches and rats. They were old friends, very old friends. They didn’t mind his looks, nor did they judge his work. Like Jasper they were despised and outcast by the so called normal people. Not that Jasper could have cared what people thought.

The room he was in had dirty white painted walls, faded Monet prints hung on the wall’s pitted and filthy surface, that was the height of decorating taste in the ratty old room. Jasper hummed happily as he studied the list of items he would need in order to play with his new guests.

“Going to have to do,” he said cheerfully as he turned and looked at the naked man and his girlfriend tied to chairs in the middle of the room. “I was so lucky to stumble across you two during my escape. Yes I was, and you a handsome police officer and his girlfriend. I hate to admit a weakness, but I have a thing for police officers. There’s one in particular who interfered in my business. Sadly he has to wait until I get back to Charleston.” He laughed loudly as he saw the fear flicker in the back of the cops eyes.

“Yes, you’re correct. I have no plans on letting you live. If you know who I am you know that’s not possible Bryan. You don’t mind that I call you Bryan do you? Oh well, doesn’t matter if you do,” Jasper said as he walked across the room and peered out the crack between the boards over the window.

“I have a few things to do, and to make sure you don’t escape,” he began, while walking over to Bryan with a six inch long nail and a hammer. Bryan’s eyes grew wide and he began to shake. “I’m going to attach part of you to the chair,” Jasper said, smiling as he placed the nail and looked into Bryan’s pleading eyes. The hammer rose and fell once. Bryan screamed through his gag, then his eyes rolled up into his head and he passed out.

Jasper turned to the still shrieking woman. “Don’t make me nail parts of you to a table. I have much better things in mind for you before this is all over, but you’ll remain pain free for a little while longer,” he told her, his lips quivering into a smile.

*****************

Talbot’s Hardware was a small mom and pop place, filled with over flowing shelves of anything and everything that a person could want, need, or just collect. It was one of those old buildings with dim lighting, plenty of shadows, and creaking hardwood floors. Those who entered first noticed the smell of camphor, then the underlying odor of metal and oil.

Jack King wiped his strong callused hands on his store apron, looking up as the bell over the door jingled, and watched the odd looking man enter the store. Thin, stoop shouldered, with a huge beaked nose, thin lips, and thin wispy white hair. He wore a hoody, jeans, and penny loafers, and moved with sudden bursts of energy. Like a beak nosed, spastic scarecrow, Jack thought.

“Can I help you?” Jack asked, not really liking the freaky looking man, who gave him a closed mouth smile.

“No, but thank you. I know what I require, but would like to look around as well, to see what else might strike me that would be of use in my little project,” the man said, his voice soft but disturbing. The odd looking eyes seemed to see straight through Jack, who felt like he was a bug on display.

“Well if you need help just ask,” Jack replied, praying this weirdo wouldn’t need any help. Jack glanced out the plate glass window into the empty parking lot, with its one flickering parking light. Beak Nose was the only customer he’d had tonight. If this kept up he would have to quit and find a new second job where he could actually earn money. He wanted to ask his girlfriend Emma to marry him and needed the extra cash to pay for the ring, wedding, and honeymoon, as well as a down payment on a house for them.

He turned back to the store and saw that Beak Nose had vanished into the shadowy rows of heavily stocked shelves. Jack could hear him humming an odd tune, something old, like civil war sounding old. Why do I get all the weirdo’s, he asked the heavens mentally, but the heavens remained silent.

Jack tidied up behind the counter, checking the inventory on the knives and individual tools in the case. He counted the till since it was slow as hell and only half an hour remained before he had to close the store down.

He had just finished counting the change and rolling it when he realized how silent it was in the store. Only the creak of ancient ceiling fans could be heard. The skin on the back of his neck crawled and he had the distinct impression that he was being watched. He looked up and saw Beak Nose’s head peering around a shelf loaded with garden tools. It vanished back behind the shelf as soon as Jack looked at him.

Jack reached under the counter and checked to make sure his shotgun was close to hand, deciding he wasn’t walking away from the counter unless it was to shoot the freak or escort him out the door.

A moment later the humming started again and Beak Nose appeared in the main aisle, his arms loaded with items that he proceeded to dump on the counter. His odd shaped eyes watching Jack thoughtfully.

“Looks like you have a pretty big project going on,” Jack said conversationally, not comfortable with the way the man watched him. Like the way a snake watches a rodent just before it strikes. He didn’t know where that thought came from but it was appropriate.

“Oh, rock candy. I haven’t seen rock candy in years,” the customer said, spotting the fish bowl full of candy on the scarred wooden counter top. Beak Nose reached into the bowl, grabbing a hand full and placing it in the small brown bag placed there for just that purpose.

“Serious projects, yes. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop you know,” the man said, and then laughed as it at some private joke. The sound was bad enough, but a glimpse of the mans pointed teeth sent shivers up Jack’s spine.

Jack only forced a smile as he rang up the X-acto knives, duct tape, hole saws, brackets, rope, pulleys, drill bits, and other things. As he worked, Beak Nose returned to the shelves and reappeared with more items, and then a third trip into the back for his final run. The odd looking man placed the arm load of items on the counter, giving Jack a close mouth smile.

“Do you believe that a person can sense storms coming?” Beak Nose asked suddenly, a scary glitter in his eyes.

Jack just wanted this guy out, but he didn’t let it show as he replied, “My grandfather always could tell when one was coming.”

Beak Nose nodded. “Well son, trust me. A storm is coming, a real shit storm, an end of the world shit storm.” Oddly, the man sounded as if he wasn’t used to cussing, or maybe that was Jack’s imagination.

Jack didn’t know what to say to that so he just read off the total to Beak Nose, “Three hundred sixty five dollars sir. Cash or credit.”

“Only a true loser uses credit rather than spending only what they have,” Beak Nose replied as he pulled out a wad of bills and peeled off four of them. “Keep the change,” he said as he scooped up all four bags and somehow managed to keep them all in hand as he moved slowly to the door.

The door shut behind the odd looking strangely repulsive man. Jack noted it was closing time and went and locked up. He saw an old truck pull out of the parking lot, passing a man who stood on the sidewalk just staring at the store. He was just a shadowy shape, but it was enough to creep Jack out. He then pulled the security gate down over the windows and door, then got his shotgun out from under the counter and slung it over his shoulder. He glanced out at the street once more but the man on the sidewalk was gone.

He was glad as hell. There was something about that man that just made his testicles crawl up into his body.

* * * * *

Jasper pulled the truck around the back of the old abandoned tenement building and parked by what had been the maintenance and delivery entrance. He whistled softly as he unlocked the door then began to carry his purchases into the building. He didn’t know if any one else could sense the impending doom in the air like he could. He hoped not. It would make the end so much more entertaining. The panic, the fear, the sheer terror that would cripple so many would be like food to him.

The dim yellow bulb in the maintenance room barely cast enough light to see by. It was more like a decoration in his opinion. But beggars can’t be choosers, he thought with a laugh. He took his time getting ready as he pulled out the clothing he had stolen earlier in the day. He dressed by feel, he had avoided mirrors for years. He preferred to see himself as he should be rather than the weak hunchbacked body he had been cursed with.

He rather liked Nashville, there were plenty of Stores, mostly western clothing stores and costume props shops that sold the clothing he required, and his personal bank account under the name he had acquired years back allowed him to purchase what he wanted, if he couldn’t purchase he stole.

With the popularity of old west and civil war reenactments, old fashioned style clothing was in demand and many of the high end western shops carried such things, Nashville had the bonus of films being made here, as well as Music videos and Country stars so old style clothing was more in demand here than most any where else.

The only draw back to having been arrested, was that his vehicle and the supplies inside, were still safely parked in a long term storage building in Charleston. Until his arrest, he had rarely had to risk the attention to buy clothes since he traveled with a full wardrobe, and if needed could return to the Van and resupply himself with clothing and props when needed.

He buttoned the waistcoat and attached the pocket watch fob before slipping the gold chased pocket watch into a pocket. The man who had owned the watched would no longer need to know the time; he would have lived to see the end of the world, if he had only been willing to sell.

He ran his hands over his clothing, making sure everything was in place, then satisfied he pulled on the frock coat. He ran a comb through his thin hair and donned his bowler hat. Maybe he would add an ascot to his ensemble. That would definitely go with his overall appearance and hide his thin neck.

It had taken some searching to find spats, but he had lucked into meeting an old woman who had mentioned she had some in her attic that had belonged to her father. In a fit of generosity Jasper had paid her and left her alive with no clue that she had just done a deal with the devil’s sidekick.

He gathered up the tools he would need tonight, which weren’t many. A bit of torture, some rape, he had already decided on the raping the cop tonight. Tomorrow night he would skin half the woman and make the cop watch. He wished he could have waited to escape until the cop he hated so much had flown in to testify. But he was on a schedule, and he only had a couple of days and nights to finish up this one last job before he moved on to something else.

“Yes sir, its going to be a fun time in the world very soon!” he said to the empty room.

He headed upstairs with his tools for the evening and spread them out on the table in front of the couple who shivered in abject fear. “It took me a while to find a medical supply place to get many of these Bryan. So I hope you appreciate the effort I went to, to make this a special evening for you,” he said as he checked to make sure the nail that held the man to the chair was still in place.

“Let’s get started shall we? This is going to hurt, but not as much as what I have planned for your woman tomorrow. But by then, Bryan, you’ll be praying I linger on her before getting back to you. But at least you’ll still have your family jewels until then, have to have something to nail down to keep you in place.”

Jasper inhaled sharply as if to breath in the fear he saw in the cops eyes. He always felt more alive at moments like this. He whistled a bluesy tune as he picked up a wickedly curved blade.

By sunrise Jasper was tired, but sated. It had proven to be a fun night all the way around. Bryan was unconscious and on the floor nailed in place. The woman had slipped into a fugue state, which Jasper was going to have to get her out of before he could really start on her. But that was just part of the game.

He entered his bedroom and removed his clothes, folding them carefully and placing them on a chair next to the old bed with its ratty mattress. He lay down on top of the yellowish sheets with his hands clasped over his stomach and began to slow his breathing.

June 22nd 1900 hrs.

What had begun in the Congo at midnight had struck in Nashville at 6 PM, not that many noticed. At first it had been a handful of cases, but more were bitten each time, and it spread. At midnight, two infected somehow got into a concert and attacked several men in a bathroom. Those men died and rose up and the two had swelled to ten. Those ten fell on people in the corridors, and the numbers swelled again. Soon they were stumbling into the concert and the sixty infected fell on those in the back. It took a few minutes for the screams from that section to register with others, but when it did, panic set in as a camera focused on that set of seats and the infected feeding appeared on the screen behind the performer. It went downhill from there, as people trampled others heading for the doors. Those who were trampled and died started biting people. The chaos spread out into the streets, and many who were bitten fled the scene. Many more were taken to local hospitals for observation.

***************************

Jasper awoke to darkness; he sat up slowly on his bed, listening intently. Something was in the room with him, he could feel it. A dry fetid breath of air flowed over him, like some large predator stood beside him breathing slow and silent. There was a heavy presence in the room and a profound stillness, as if something waited in the darkness. He felt a moment of disappointment as he realized that his time was almost up. He could still create one work of art tonight before it was too late. Jasper then smiled with delight, knowing that soon he would be about his greatest work. A smell like rotted meat and sewage filled his nose, and the presence seemed filled with a savage delight, greater even than Jaspers. Then it was gone, the smell lingering for moment then it too faded away.

Jasper rose and dressed quickly in the darkness, then and only then turning on a light. He hated seeing his body, the body that god had cursed him with. Jasper adjusted his waistcoat, attached his starched collar, and then stepped into his playroom with a bright smile.

“I’m sorry to have to do this tonight,” he said to his victims. And he meant it. He would have preferred to take his time and let them fear the coming sunrise and his renewed interest. He liked to savor each indignity, each wound, drinking in the terror and hopelessness. He picked up a flaying knife and advanced on the woman who shrieked into her gag. “But it seems that things are moving right along for me, and I won’t have the time to do as thorough a job as usual.”

He had become an expert at skinning human beings alive over the years. His first, so many years before, had only lasted a day. But since then he had gotten to where he could keep them alive for a week while he worked on them. Tonight he had only hours, and he had been ruthless with the woman.

He stepped back from the dying woman, and eyed his work. It had been crude but he thought she looked alluring with only the long dark hair and muscle. Her skin lay in a bloody heap next to her like so much soiled and discarded clothing. The cop had managed to tear himself free of the nail in his furious thrashing to reach Jasper and save his woman, and now lay in a pool of blood that spread out from his crotch.

Jasper stood over Bryan. No sympathy, no real emotion other than amusement, in his eyes. The man could have lived just a bit longer if he had only waited. “Tore a vein there, son,” Jasper said conversationally as he knelt beside the dying cop. “I had such plans for you. But time is too short, I have an appointment for a new job.” He smiled at the cop and slit his throat. “But don’t worry, only part of you dies here. The rest of you is going to get up and kill, and kill, and kill some more.”

He rose and watched as Bryan died, and then smiled in anticipation as the body began to twitch and jerk. Then the corpse struggled silently against its bonds. Milky white eyes fixed on Jasper who felt no fear at the sight. He stepped to the woman’s side and smiled down at her. “Too bad we didn’t get to the raping part, you would have enjoyed my company. But you get to die beautiful,” he said as he slipped the knife into her heart. She shuddered and died.

He quickly cut her loose, and then cut the ropes on Bryan before heading for the door. He wanted his last job to be free, so that those who lived through the fall of civilization might see his work and live in fear. Fear that Jasper would come for them.

He made his way outside, and smiled as he heard sirens wailing in the distance. He walked out onto the street, watching the poor residents of the area loading their meager possessions into their cars, hoping to flee the holocaust bearing down on them.

A full moon floated overhead, its light anemic against the street lamps. Even now he could see a few people staggering down the sidewalks where weeds grew out of the cracks. He watched as a man loading a cloth suitcase in an old caddy failed to see two of the dead appear from around the corner of the old building. He was still trying to arrange things in his car to fit the bag in when they fell on him and tore him apart.

Jasper laughed at the death around him as he walked down the road. The old grey buildings with their stunted trees and half dead shrubs were birthing the death of this city. Here where the cops rarely went, and were now busy in the nicer areas protecting the rich and the middle class, without realizing their deaths were being born here in the ghettos where a larger segment of people lived. And in a day or so the dead would sweep out of the poor areas and overrun the rest of the city.

None of the undead even seemed to notice Jasper as he walked down the road, protected for the moment. He moved from street light to street light, striding through the pools of light and vanishing into the darkness between. Around him small groups of undead were attacking those who were foolish enough to be outside, the undead numbers growing steadily with each death.

He finally found his way onto a major thoroughfare lined with stores and restaurants. Traffic still passed on this street, the drivers unaware of the hell brewing just blocks away, in an area they dismissed and ignored on a daily basis. He walked past the glowing store signs and the people who still thought the few news reports they had heard were exaggerations. They talked and laughed and cruised for sex, not even aware of the growing horde of undead nearby. The people that actually saw him drew away, seeing the blood and the knife in his hands. He didn’t mind in the least, not this night. Tonight he would be reborn, he would become the right hand of the Dark.

He walked up to a hotel and smiled at a family just about to enter the building, wishing he had a few days to play with the son and daughter. Maybe later, he told himself as they saw the blood on his clothes and the knife in his hand and rushed inside the lobby, shouting and pointing.

He waited calmly, grinning as a few late arrivals parked and started for the entrance only to turn and run back to their cars seeing Jasper standing there waiting. It only took five minutes before he heard sirens in the distance. Two patrol cars screeched into the parking lot, splitting up so they could park one to each side of him. Jasper made no move to escape.

He stood there proudly in the flashing red and blue lights, a grin quivering on his lips as four officers got out their weapons.

“Drop your knife on the ground and kick it towards me,” an officer demanded.

“I fear I cannot comply,” Jasper replied, and almost laughed at the look of anger and surprise that flashed across the talker’s handsome face.

“I said…” the officer began, only to be cut off by Jasper.

“You can repeat yourself all night Officer and I shall fail to comply,” Jasper replied, enjoying the game. But it was midnight and time to end the charade. In his years working as a stage magician, escape artist, and knife thrower for a traveling circus he had honed his skills. With a quick flick of his wrist, a knife appeared in his left hand. His arm flashed as it drew back and then shot forward, sending the knife flying end over end to bury itself in the handsome cop’s shoulder. The officer shouted in pain, and reeled back. “Damn good show that,” Jasper said as the night erupted with gunfire.

He lay there panting, pain flaring through his body. A baptism of blood, he thought with amusement, between the waves of pain. He heard one of the officers approaching. “The freak is still alive.”

Going to have more trouble than just me in a moment, Jasper thought. Here between life and death he could sense the undead nearby, and they were coming closer, closer.

“Holy shit, Bill!” one of the cops yelled. Jasper faded out for a moment but when his senses returned he heard a lot of gunfire and some one screaming, the sound of tires peeling out on pavement as a car fled the area.

A person ran towards him, and then fell heavily. Jasper turned his head and saw an older blonde cop with a teenaged girl on top of him, her teeth tearing at the cops shoulders, as they lay a mere two feet away. Blood pulsed from the open wound in the cop’s throat.
Jasper looked into the dying cop’s eyes and laughed at him. Thought you ruled the world, didn’t you Boyo. Well you didn’t, but I will stand at the right hand of the Dark and rule the ruins with his permission.

He saw feet shuffling around and then past him. The undead knew he was marked and left him be. He smiled as the dead cop’s milky white eyes snapped open, and then slowly he climbed to his feet and shuffled towards the motel doors with his brethren. Jasper smiled once more, his vision fading. Time to get started with the new job, he thought happily.

Welcome home Jasper Brown a voice whispered from the dark.

2 thoughts on “The Jasper Brown Story Part II

    • Thanks glad you liked it, I find that I really enjoy Bowler hat as a Villain both alive and undead and occasionally I have to fight not to find some way to bring him back to raise Havoc and stalk the streets.

      Like

thanks for reading please leave a reply

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