In case anyone missed last week’s installment: Chapter I
“George Town University Professor Shot and Killed in His Home,” The Washington Post proclaimed on the front page the morning following the death. The article revealed the mysterious circumstances of the murder, saying that the body had been found in a locked house. It also said that while there was no solid evidence leading police to a suspect, it did not appear to have been a suicide.
Late on the third day following the murder, a young woman was returning from a hike in Eakin Park, east of Fairfax. When she rounded a blind bend in the trail she saw a young Hispanic man, of average build and appearance, standing in the middle of the pathway. As she started to walk around him she noticed he was wearing a heavy gold necklace. It looked like an animal head, but she couldn’t tell what kind of animal. She also noticed that he was watching her, closely.
The next day a hiker found a body of a young woman, severely mutilated, lying in the bushes. The best the park rangers could determine was that she had been attacked by a good-sized feral dog. They sent her dental prints in to make an id of the body.
A few days later a nature enthusiast turned from the small deer herd she was watching to investigate a soft noise behind her. She eyed the man that approached critically. After admiring his medallion for a moment she decided that he presented no immediate threat. She absently motioned him to be quiet and returned her attention to the deer.
The second death in less than a week in Eakin made the front page. The article, citing park authorities, said that the deaths appeared to have been caused by a wild dog. The police and animal control were starting a search for the animal. Since both deaths had occurred after sunset, in the lesser traveled areas, hikers were warned to stay in the more traveled areas and to be out of the park before nightfall. Additionally, since both women had been alone, hikers were advised to travel in groups.
The morning after the second death Thad tossed his paper aside in disgust. Between the article of the deaths in the park, and the brief on the Jacques murder, the whole law enforcement community was beginning to look like a bunch on incompetent fools. He picked up the copy of the report he had gotten from Homicide. As he scanned through it, he saw why the press was having such a field day. There was no evidence in the Jacques murder. There were no fingerprints in the house or garage, other than Jacques’. Homicide had gone over the house from top to bottom, torn the yard apart, even turned the garage upside down. They could not find the gun, or any casings. These absences suggested that the perp had used a revolver and had taken it with him when he left. Moreover, there were no signs of forced entry. The sound of the doorbell ringing interrupted his study. He heard his wife talking to his partner, moving down the hall. Thad slipped the report, under a stack of papers on his coffee table.
“Hey, partner. You forget the extra duty we have today?” Rhea gave him a wicked grin as she walked in.
“Extra duty?” Thad frowned at her.
“At the High School.” Rhea’s grin grew wider. “The D.A.R.E. program.”
“Shit!” He jumped off the couch and bolted for the bedroom.
“I take it he did.” Rhea shook her head, smiling at Chrissy. “Hurry it up, Thad. We don’t have all day.”
A group of local teenagers took hiking in the Great Falls National Park failed to notice that one of their party had fallen behind. One of the girls stopped to retie her shoe and a pair of squirrels playing nearby drew her attention. When she finally turned around, she realized that her group, apparently not noticing that she had stopped, had gone on without her. She started down the path at a pretty fair clip, hoping to run into them. After several minutes had passed and she had not located them, she stopped and looked around. She had past a small side trail a ways back. Thinking that perhaps they had gone that way, she headed back towards that trail. Arriving at the intersection, she stopped and looked around. A fairly nice looking young man, wearing a pretty gold necklace, stepped off the game trail onto the main path.
“Hello,” she hesitantly offered. “I’m looking for my friends. I think then may have taken that trail. Did you, by chance, see them.”
“Yes, I think I did,” he replied. “I’ll take you to them.” He smiled at her, fingering the necklace.
The rising sun found a park ranger kneeling next to a badly mutilated body. He glanced up as another ranger entered the small clearing.
“What’ve we got, Jim?”
“It appears to ‘ve been a young woman, Sam. Age’s indeterminable. Gauging by the damage to the body, she was attacked by a large animal, possibly a dog.”
“Must have been a hell of a fuckin’ damn big dog, to have done that kind of damage.” Sam glanced briefly over Jim’s shoulder and shuddered. “There’s nothin’ left of her throat. What the hell happen to her clothes?” He turned slowly, looking around the clearing. “There’s not a sign of a stitch here.”
“Damned if I know,” Jim muttered. He shifted his position to study the body from a different angle.
Sam pivoted back around and stared at Jim. “Cult job?”
“Not hardly,” Jim looked over his shoulder. “There’s too many paw prints, and not enough human tracks for it to have been human.” He returned to his examination of the body, spying a few course, grey, hairs caught in the girl’s fingernails. He fingered the hairs briefly, a frown slowly forming. He dropped the hairs into his shirt pocket, stood up and started to make a slow circuit of the clearing, pausing to study the foot prints on a small game trail. Turning back around, he looked over the scene, eyes half closed. One eyebrow rose a fraction. The sound of several large bodies moving through the brush brought his attention to the main entrance as his supervisor and a few other rangers, carrying a stretcher, entered the clearing.
He kept his suspicions to himself until he got home that evening.
“I think we need to call some of our friends,” he told his girlfriend over dinner.
“Oh?” She barely glanced up.
“Something about that body doesn’t feel right.”
“I assume you mean besides being dead in the park.”
“Yeah. I think this is falls into “unnatural” events. Prints going in, but not out.”
“Anything from the wildlife?”
“No, that’s the other weird thing – nothing would come into the clearing.”
The young lovers were so engrossed with each other they failed to notice that their area of the park was empty, or that the sun was setting. The sound of a branch snapping, close by, drew some attention though.
“What was that?” The young girl looked around.
“Probably an animal of some type,” the boy replied, without looking up.
“Bobby, it’s getting late. The sun’s going down.” The girl started to stand up.
“Good, we can watch it.” Bobby reached up and pulled the girl back down to him. “Come on, Tammy,” he murmured when she started to resist, “don’t be such a wuss. The parks are safe.
She giggled and relented to his overtures.
A second, closer, sound brought Bobby’s head up, up to stare eye to eye with the young man that had entered the clearing. The stranger gave him slow malicious smile. Bobby never knew what had hit him. He fell to one side, his head hanging limp from a broken neck. Tammy screamed as the stranger turned his attention to her, his smile spreading.