The Artist

 

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One

    Using his forearm he wiped the beads of sweat that were dotting his forehead. The air was chilled with morning dew dripping off the trees surrounding him. A light breeze rustling through the leaves. Then sun had just started to rise which made the dirt clearing hazy and eerie. A discarded trap was thrown to the side of where the boy worked.

    The boy struggled to hold the animal still while tying an old dirty rope taut around its frail neck. Once the noose was finished he let the bunny lose and held on to her short leash. Dirt mixed with dry pine needles kicked up from under her small paws. He pulled harshly on the rope tightening the nooses hold around the creatures throat, emitting a strangled scream. Alleviating the strain on the rabbits neck the boy watched with amusement as it tried to escape. 

    Once again he pulled on the restraint the a shrill shriek sliced into the still morning air and goosebumps prickled the boys arms. The teasing continued until the fight left the small mammal. With a sickening smile and a gleam of excitement in his eye the boy disregarded the rope only to replace the pressure with his hands. Through the boys deranged laughter a gruesome crack could be heard.             

    Standing from his knees the boy plucked the bunny off the ground holding the animal by her long ears. As he walked the bunnies limp body swayed bumping the side of his thigh with every step he took. Giggling to himself as he went. 

 
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Heider Broisler

Horrifying and very well written. I'll follow that.

Tom O'Brien

Gruesome opening! I would want to read more though.

Two

   David Cooper blinked back to reality, a chill dancing down his spine. Tiny hairs stood to attention on the back of his neck while his arms tingled with goose flesh. Wiping a hand over his faced he didn’t miss the man at the desk across from his quirk an eye brow at him. Reaching for the mug in front of him he tipped the cold ceramic to his lips anticipating the hot burn of coffee against his lips, they were met with nothing but a lone cold drop. Sighing heavily he set the mug down trying to remember draining it, he couldn’t. All he could remember was the dream. 

    The dreams started after he was promoted to homicide detective almost four years ago. Sometimes months will pass with peaceful sleep but Cooper knows they will come back. They are so vivid they seem more like memories to Cooper. The boy he sees is always the same, the horrors he commits vary. The one he had last night was the most horrific, however. He has been reliving the dream all morning the child’s laugh like a song he can’t get out of his head. As if he had conjured it up someone passed the open doorway laughing, breaking the morning silence. Another shudder past through him.

    “Y’alright kid?” His partner said. James Cavenaugh, whom everyone called Jim could only be described as worn. His beard was peppered with grey, his hair line disappearing. A beer belly that had rarely been touched with beer lately, only whiskey pressed again the white shirt he wore threatening the buttons and he always smelled of cigarettes. It was his eyes that really told the story though, Jim had been a cop for almost forty years, homicide a good portion of his career. “It eats at a persons soul.” He had once told Cooper. 

    Across the room Jim had his legs propped up on his desk leaning back in the chair he was seated in. An unlit cigarette lazily hanging from his lips once in a while he would chew at the filter. Smoking was not allowed inside the precinct but that didn’t stop Jim Cavenaugh from holding one in his mouth, hell it didn’t stop him from closing their office door while sneaking a puff by the window once in a while. He hadn’t looked up from the file his was reading to look at Cooper, he knew he wouldn’t get an answer.

    Was he all right? No, he sure as shit was not all right, in fact he was pretty sure he was losing his mind and could see everyone around he wondering the same. If it wasn’t for Samantha leaving him or the nightmares it would be this gig that did him in. He loved what he did but damn if it did’t eat away at him a little more everyday. Back when he first started he shaved everyday, ironed his shirts, wore a blazer. Today if he looked into the mirror which he avoided as much as possible he would see a man whose seen too much death.

    Heaving a rather large and unenthusiastic sigh, Cooper grabbed up his mug and made way to the door. A file suddenly blocked his path. He took the coffee stained file from Jim’s outstretched hand and read the name Natalie Bane. Opening it his eyes were assaulted by crime scene photographs of the victim. Mrs. Bane’s body was found tucked behind a tree on the side of the road by a couple of teenagers hiking. Badly bruised with a hole in her left temple. 

    “He confessed?” Cooper asked flipping through the papers. 

    “Sure as shit did. Piece of shit.” 

    Natalie Bane was unfortunately killed by her abusive husband. According to her mother, Natalie had finally built up enough courage to leave him. It was a pretty open and shut case once the detectives found out about the husbands hobby of smacking his wife around. The men just had to dismantle the so called alibi Mike Bane had created for himself. Fortunately that alibi was only backed up by the people Mike kept close which were all about as drunk and stupid as he is. In the end the story told its self, Natalie planned to escape late at night and make her way to the bus stop a few blocks away. Mike found out about her intentions to leave him and pretended to be asleep only to follow her unknowingly. A block before the bus stop he knocked her out and placed her into his car. He then proceeded up a mountain road, drug her out of the car and waited for her to wake up. When she did he confronted her with his fist, after he was satisfied with her punishment he asked her if she was ready to come back home and be a good little wife again. When she croaked out a simple no he shot her. Cooper looked through the papers to see where Jim wrote down Mike’s confession, if you could call it that. It read, “Whore had it coming. She was mine and wouldn't be screwin’ round with no one else. She didn't know how good she had it.”

    “Good Fucking Riddance” He said tossing the file in an out going pile before leaving their office.

     Walking through the kitchenette doorway cooper was relieved to see the small room constituting of nothing else than the required furniture and appliances, a fridge, what someone could call a table, and the holy grail; a coffee maker. Camaraderie was not on the menu today  what with the pressure growing behind his eyes and that damn rabbit’s last moments still fresh in his memory.         

    Directing his gaze on the coffee pot, relief along with the fresh aroma of hot coffee teased Coopers nose easing the nagging ache away. Filling up his mug with the dark liquid he then leaned his hip against the counter and bringing the coffee to his lips. Closing his eyes he devoured the rich bitter taste and let himself exist without responsibility in this minuscule moment.

    After what seemed like only a second but was more like three minutes Coppers eyes opened to meet a pair of scrutinizing ones. Mary Hernandez stood in front of him a foot shorter but held her self as if she were seven feet tall. Thick black hair was pulled back tightly into a pony tail, a white blazer clashing with black slacks and permanently tanned skin.The silence was a thick cloud surrounding the two. Cooper knew he looked like shit, he also knew the lieutenant wanted him to take some time off because of it. No one expects a cop to look or act like a game show host, a smile on their face, perfect hair, and a light in their eyes working in this profession. However, the last thing a grieving family member needs to see is a cop that looks like he hasn't slept in three days with a poor excuse for a hair cut and shave. No, they need someone who looks like they can give one-hundred and forty fucking percent. 

    “Mornin’ lieutenant” He said.

    Nodding not daring to look away from her. If there is anything that this precinct’s lieutenant deserves it’s respect, not many woman make it in this field and Hernandez has been through Hell and back to be where she is today. Looking away from her now will show that he has something to hide. So he let her see the shadows in his eyes but made damn sure she also saw his determination. He is not going anywhere. This job is the only thing keeping him from the bottle or worse, his gun. If he had to spend more time in his empty shitty excuse for an apartment he was really going to lose it. 

             Hernandez sighed. “Again I’m going to suggest you take some personal time.” 

    This time cooper couldn’t look at her. He needed time to school his face, Hernandez’s comment was a direct punch to the gut. No one has mentioned his divorce and he has been grateful for that. Shaking his head and stepping aside for Hernandez to top off her mug he worked on getting his facade back. A few seconds passed in silence and when cooper was sure his face gave no inkling that her comment had fazed him he looked at her with hard eyes.

     “Look, if I don’t work right now I’ll really go insane and I’d rather be on this side of the morgue slab. I’ve been seeing that shrink you told me to see. It’s helping.” He said. He really tried to sell that last bit, it was complete bullshit but it would get her off his back. 

    “You’ll let me know if it gets to be too much.” She said.

    He nodded as he made way to leave the kitchen, a tight lipped smile her only response.  She didn’t stop him from going so he left back to his office, almost having to stop himself from running away like some scared kid from the boogyman. He wasn’t stupid he knew he was going down hill fast, and he isn’t too sure how much longer he could go on like this. One thing he did know is that he needed to get his shit together. Of course he told himself this everyday multiple times and nothing changed, at least not yet.

       

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Three

    Walking back into the office Cooper saw that Jim’s cigarette had at some point turned into a Snickers bar. He then took notice of the culprit standing next to a mail cart, her bright pink hair making her hard to miss. She turned to place their mail down and retrieve the files in the outgoing box, she too had a chocolate bar between her teeth. The corners of his mouth turned up as the unease from the conversation he’d just had faded. Kat Manning is twenty years old and has been working as a runner in the building for about two years now. She often spent her afternoons with  Cooper and Jim.

    “You gotta stop feeding him that shit.” He said.    

    “Like Hell she does.” Jim said.

    Kat pulled the candy out of her mouth and grinned, she looked so childlike at that moment. She was young sure, but she always acted mature for her age. It was nice to see her act her age once in a while. Cooper shook his head at the two of them his eyes catching on a rather large package propped against the wall. 

    “He needs his daily dose of chocolate, if not I think he might die.” Kat said.

    Cooper picked up the package and glanced over at Jim his eyes landing on the man’s large stomach. Raising an eyebrow he said, “I think you got that backward.” 

    Jim responded by finishing his candy bar in one bite. Loudly sucking the melted chocolate off his thumb and index finger and then, not so subtly, flipping Cooper the bird. Kat had a good laugh at his shenanigans as she always did, Jim and his wife never had children so Cooper figured that Kat fulfilled his wish of having a daughter. She walked over to Jim’s desk to hoist herself up on the edge. He didn’t miss her place a second candy bar down next to the package of Marlboros. Rolling his eyes his attention was brought back to the package. It was a plain brown box with no marking on it except the address of the department specifically for homicide. The fact that there was no return address made Cooper instantly regret handling the box without gloves. Setting it back down he went to his desk to grab a pair. 

    “What ya have there, Kid.” Jim asked. 

    Cooper shrugged as he donned rubber gloves shifting his gaze over toward Kat.

    “Do you know where that came from?” He said.

    Kat shrugged, “I just grab the cart, Harry does all the sorting.”

    Nodding he returned to the package with his pocket knife. Carefully he cut only the tape making sure not to press too hard. As he did this the sudden thought of the Uni-bomber invaded his mind, of course, everything that came in when through x-ray, but the thought still made his blood cold. Opening each flap warily only to see bubble wrap. Cooper's heart was racing at this point not knowing what he was about to open. 

    He looked up at Jim to suggest he called in Hernandez, to his relief he saw the phone already to his ear. Jim answered Cooper's unanswered question with a slight nod. Cooper hesitated to reach into the package his hand coming back more than once. His gut told him whatever he was about to uncover was going to stir up some trouble. 

    “Lute says to wait for her and forensics.” Jim said breaking the tension that was growing thick around Cooper.

    Cooper stood, relief flooding through him that he wouldn’t have to be the one to first open pandora’s proverbial box. Kat probably shouldn’t for it though. He pushed her mail cart to her and silently told her she should get on with her day.

    “Yeah right! I delivered the package and I’m gonna see whats in it.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stuck her chin up. Cooper was second guessing just how mature he thought she was. Jim got up from his chair and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

    “I think he’s right kiddo, we don’t know whats in there but we do know what could be and you don’t need to be seein’ that shit.” 

    “Look, old man, you don’t let me stay your cut off.” She jabbed him in the chest with her index finger. 

    A horrified look of shock took over Jim’s face he looked from her to Cooper over and over again. Then in dramatic fashion, he grabbed at his heart as his ass hit the chair behind him.

    “She was right coop, I’m dying just at the thought. Oh, my heart.” 

    “Don’t quit your day job.” Cooper rolled his as at the both of them. 

    He looked pointedly at Kat. Sighing she hopped off the desk and grabbed her cart. She must have decided to take a page from Jim’s book of dramatics, because she then, with precise determination, swiped her arm across the envelopes on the top rack sending them flying to the floor. 

    She looked down at the mess with hands on her hips looking from Cooper to Jim with phony surprise, mouth agape, eyes wide. 

    Throwing her arms up in exaggeration shaking her head, “Oh no, would you look at that. Ya know, I’m just so clumsy sometimes.” 

    Her bottom lip caught between her lips to stop her self from proudly smiling at the deterrent she had just created for herself, Cooper thought. She made no attempt to bend down to pick up the envelopes. Silence filled the room for what seemed like a good twenty minutes but in all actuality was maybe three-seconds and then a belly laugh so loud and fierce broke out from Jim, Cooper thought he might fall out of his chair. 

    “You are such a pain in my ass.” Cooper shook his head a soft chuckle escaping him. 

    Kat sunk to her hands and feet to clean her mess up while Cooper and Jim returned their attention to the package. It was obviously not an immediate threat or they would have caught it in the mail room. Cooper made a mental note to talk with Harry. 

    Two knocks came from the open door and then Hernandez came in followed by two forensic technicians.     One of the technicians Cooper has met before the other a young man who must be new, just out of school he thought. They went straight to the package and started pulling supplies from their kit. Stephen instructing the new technician with each new utensil pulled, giving validity to Cooper's assessment. 

    Hernandez made her way to Cooper raising an eyebrow at all the white and brown envelopes covering the floor. Then her eyes landed on Kat and understanding fell over her face. A small smirk touched her lips and she shook her head. She knew as well as everyone else in the department if Kat wants something she’s damn well going to figure out how to get it. Kat gets away with much more than Cooper supposed she should but he knew that Hernandez had a great amount of respect for the young woman. He could see it because he felt the same way. 

    “So,” Hernandez said turning away from one mess to address the other, “what’s going on.”

    Cooper explained the last thirty minutes to her. Leaving out the hesitation on his part and trying to tamp down the relief in his voice from forensics being here to deal with the reveal instead of him. She nodded and grabbed a seat in his desk chair. She knew as well as he did that this was going to take a few minutes as forensics took pictures and swabs of the outside of the box, then they would have to bag everything that was removed from inside. 

    Tension built around the office once more as the conversations died. The only sounds filling the silence came from Kat shoveling envelopes together while inconspicuously making more of a mess, and the clicked from the camera. Cooper leaned his back against this windows lining the back wall trying to stay present at the moment. He did not need to drift back to the boy right now. He started to watch the clock above the office door counting the seconds passing to occupy his thoughts. 

    “Okay, we are ready to open her up.” Stephen said interrupting Cooper's counting. He pushed himself up to stand closer and was met with Jim, Hernandez, and of course, Kat squeezed her way between the two detectives. It was as if all the air left the room as bubble wrap was removed from its cardboard home into its new plastic bag. As the last piece was extracted Stephen reached in and pulled out a canvas, a canvas on which a woman was painted. 

    Stephen held the painting up toward the four of them for inspection. The woman portrayed was young, Cooper would have placed her at about twenty-one maybe twenty-two. She was nude and splayed across a bed her head resting on a pillow. Her pose was natural and modest but also erotic at the same time. Her skin was pale white and blonde hair was swept over to waterfall down the edge of the mattress. The woman neck was purple and blue matching the color of her lips. Her eye’s empty and sightless just like Natalie Bane’s eyes had been that unfortunate day she was found. It was the red in her right eye and the deep burgundy bedspread she was laid on that made chills run down Cooper's spine, however. 

    No one made a noise, no one took a breath, no one moved for what seemed like ages. Delicate fingers wrapped around Cooper’s bicep making him jump a little. Looking into Kat’s wide eyes she whispered, “Is that blood.”

    He didn’t answer and he didn’t need to, it was clear what made such a shade of red on the canvas. It was clear they had a killer on their hands. And it was clear that he or she wanted to be noticed.

    Kat said out loud what Cooper was sure everyone in the room was thinking, “Shit.” 

 
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