Monday June 3rd, 2013, New York City
Night drips slowly into being, such as water might drip from a tap, but its effort is wasted, who sleeps in the city that never sleeps? Besides the children of course… While men and women run around with their busy lives, in whatever part of town fits their fancy, the children are at home sleeping peacefully. No thought is given to them; they are safe, after all, because the door is locked and they know the number for 911. If they do not, well then, it is easy to work out.
The exact amount of children sleeping at night in New York City is unknown, the same for the exact amount of children in New York State full stop. New ones are born every day while old ones are sometimes, tragically, thrown away. Maybe because they die, or because they are simply no longer wanted. It is hard to be sure about why things happen.
People, not just children, go missing all the time in big cities. It is hard to keep track of them. Everybody is constantly on the move, quickly, quickly, time is so important they do not like to waste a single second. They are so busy they hardly notice what is going on around them. Then, in the time it takes for them to blink and look again, their travelling companion is gone. Hearts will weep of course, it is the natural reaction, and then they will forget. Forget that poor person, that child, as if they were never born…
The window of the apartment slid quietly upwards, the catch already unlocked from within and the slide greased so as not to make a sound. A dark figure wiggled quickly through the window before jumping lightly on top of the bed situated underneath it into the large, empty, master bedroom, the parents’ room. There was no fear that the parents were home. Of course they were gone, who would stay inside on a glorious New York evening and look after the kids?
The dark figure slipped across the room, treading as near to the walls as possible to escape any creaks, to the door. It was unlocked; there had not been any reason for the parents to lock it. Gripping the handle, the figure gave it a slow twist. Just enough that it would turn and enough that no one would actually see it turn did they happen to be on the other side. The lights were off in the whole apartment, but you could not be too careful.
The door opened, and the figure stole through the small crack created. Then, still with its hand on the knob, it closed the door. She stood listening for a couple of seconds for any sounds at all in the apartment, but all was quiet. For a moment, the figure thought that maybe the parents had arrived home early, but it did not seem to be that. Maybe the child she had come for had just rolled over. Whatever it was, she still had to be careful.
Creeping quietly along the hall, she counted the rooms and the steps it took to walk from the window, down the hall, to the bedroom just on the left before it opened out to the wide, spacious living room. It was a tricky spot; from where the figure stood, she had a clear view of the front door, which meant also that anyone entering would have a clear view of her. Not good. If they decided to come home early before the job was complete then it might have to be cancelled. The figure frowned underneath her black mask; she hated to leave a job empty handed. She would either leave with her prey or stay with nothing.
Gripping the handle of the door, she repeated the process of carefully turning it. The room on the other side was a light pink, girl’s bedroom. Pictures of teddy bears were painted on the walls, and a nice, soft, red carpet covered the floor. In the middle of the far wall rested a cot, inside lay the whole reason for the visit. Striding purposely across the room, not worrying to walk the long way along the walls because the carpet hid the sound of its footsteps and prevented any creaking, she reached the cot and stared down at the baby within. She was tucked up in a green fluffy blanket and hugging a teddy bear, fast asleep.
The girl was only eight months old, and was a true miracle. The mother and father had been trying for a child for a year but nothing had happened, and then suddenly she had arrived. The parents were so excited they could barely contain it. In fact, they didn’t want to.
There was a moment after the birth that they thought she wasn’t going to make it. She had a weak heart and trouble breathing, so had to be kept under close watch in the hospital with all sorts of things plugged into her to help her stay alive. It hurt the parents to see their little baby on the bed, a tiny little form struggling to live.
Then that was when another miracle happened, or maybe just the continuation of the miracle, she was well. It happened overnight, the nurses checked on her in the morning and all her vitals were fine. Her heart was healed and she no longer had any trouble breathing. Just to be sure, the doctors ran some tests but they all came back with positive news. The next day she was taken home for the first time.
It was a beautiful story, and brought tears to the mother’s eye every time she retold it, but a story has to end sometime.
Bending down, the woman made soft cooing noises to the little girl as she lifted the baby into her arms. As the child awoke the woman swayed and jiggled her about, the baby probably thought she was going to be fed or something. Before it made any noise, the kidnapper pulled a pacifier from a pocket and gave it to the baby to suck on. Attached to the ring at the top of the pacifier was a cotton rag that covered the baby's nose while it sucked. There was enough Chloroform to knock her out and stop her heart. That was what the kidnapper was hoping.
As the woman turned to go, there was a click and the front door opened. Frozen, she listened with paused breath. The parents’ window was still open, as was theirs and the baby’s door, the moment any of those were seen trouble would rain down.
Sinking into the shadows of the room, which was hard to do in a brightly painted room, she listened hard to what was being said in the living room. It came faintly through the mask, but she was able to understand that they were wondering what Mary’s door was doing open. They obviously remembered closing it.
Mary, was that the little girl’s name? The kidnapper had hardly bothered to find out, only where she lived.
While listening hard to what was being said, she had been looking around the room for a means of escape. There was the door, which couldn’t be used at the moment because she would surely be caught the moment she went out. There was the window, but it was locked and therefore would need to be opened which would take time and be hard to leave by with a child.
As the footsteps of the man, she presumed to be the father, sent to check on Mary, neared, the woman shot forwards and slipped inside the closet. It was one that stretched the length of the room and opened out near the door. If she could nip out the other end and through the door while the father was checking the cot then she might get to safety. She had planned to go out via the front door anyway, it would be impossible to climb out of the window and down the side of the building holding onto a baby.
From within the closet, the woman could tell that the father had arrived and was making his way to the cot. If the plan to get out quietly failed, she would have to kill the parents. It would be messy, rushed, and not at all how she normally worked, but problems came with the job.
The moment arrived where the father reached the cot and peered in, and then she prepared to rush. She would have to time it perfectly; either while he was at the cot, leave and run past the mother, or wait in the hopes that the mother would rush into the room leaving the coast clear for the getaway.
A sudden, surprised cry of shock alerted the kidnapper that the man had noticed the baby was missing.
‘What’s wrong?’ the mother’s voice rang out in worry.
‘She’s gone! The baby’s been taken!’
Standing in the closet, the kidnapper could hear all the emotions running through the father’s voice and it sent an exhilarating shiver up her spine as she listened in the dark.
There was a loud gasp from outside and a shatter as something hit the floor, followed quickly by a pair of high heels clicking across the tiled floor. The woman couldn’t help smiling as she thought of the looks on their faces, and the fear in their hearts about poor, little, Mary. Normally she would be long gone before the child was discovered missing, so this was a completely new experience and the she didn’t want to change it for the world.
Deciding that it was now safe to leave, and sliding the wardrobe door ever so slightly open, she peered out. The father was holding his wife in a hug while she cried; the man wasn’t making any sounds though his shoulders were visibly shaking. The shock of finding their child gone would only last a minute or so before they phoned the police.
While they were distracted, she slid the door open further before creeping quickly out of the room. The moment the parents turned, they would see the open door so she would have to hurry to be gone before then. Hitting the living room at a run, she pulled open the front door with her free hand and rushed outside just as there was a cry behind as the open wardrobe door was noticed. Turning the key in the lock, locking the house from outside, she turned away. Well, while the parents may have arrived home earlier than expected, things had gone all right.
Looking at the watch on her spare hand, she ignored the banging and cries coming from the apartment. There was no need to rush; none of the other residences would be able to leave their rooms as their doors had also been locked earlier.
She would, however, need to get out of the building before the police arrived, that was a definite. The police force was still incompetent though, ever since they had fired and imprisoned their best man, so there wasn’t too much to worry about. As the doors to the elevator sprang open, the woman smiled to herself. It would be thrilling to match herself against their best man, Dastardious Hollow.
'Another one bites the dust,' the words were stated plainly by a thick set man of late forties with a handlebar moustache that he had great pride in. Tossing the morning's paper onto the smooth, dark wood surface of the table, the man swivelled in his chair to face the men seated at the table around him. His name was Harry Gallapolo, Commissioner of the Police.
The other four men around the table were Gallapolo's secretary, Earnest Oskins, a thin wiry man with a great mop of ginger hair, wearing a cream coloured suit that hung on his body as if a coat hanger was holding it up.
Next to him sat Detective Theodore Mulligan, a sharp, thirty-nine year old man dressed in clothes that actually fitted and suited him. His eyes were light brown, hypnotic, staring vacantly off into space, but you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking he was distracted or not listening. He had a proud face, high cheekbones and black hair chopped short out of the way. He was considered a charmer, adored by all the women, but could become cold in an instant if he needed to. He had his eye on the big promotion of Lieutenant that would raise him two levels above his current status. It was all he cared about and would do anything to get, which was why he was currently sitting at the conference.
His job was in the Major Case Squad under Deputy Inspector Wallace Gomar, who was currently seriously ill and couldn't attend. He had been ill for a while, unexpectedly with something they weren't sure of, because of his illness the Commissioner had been keeping an eye on the MC Squad.
Mayor Simon Carrow was the third man at the table and he too was a snappy dresser, having won two years in a row the best-dressed man of the year. There wasn't much to tell about him, he was plain with no distinguishing features that made it strange to think that he was known all over New York.
The fourth man at the table sat next to the Mayor. Gallapolo didn't recognise him, but felt that since he was seated at the table he was important somehow and so hadn't objected. He also felt it would be rude of him to ask who he was.
'May I?' inquired Inspector Mulligan, pointing to the paper.
Gallapolo nodded and the Inspector pulled the paper over and studied the front page. The headline was very clear; it referred to the tenth murder of an innocent child in less than three months. So far, all cases had been reasonably similar and they felt it safe to presume that it was the work of a serial killer.
All victims were children under the age of thirteen, and all were reported missing before they turned up dead in various parts of Manhattan. They were unable to pinpoint a time that joined all the children as it changed per child, sometimes it would be a week before the body turned up, another time it was an hour after reported missing. There were never any letters to the victim's parents asking for anything, and no warning as to when the child would show up or whether they would be returned either alive or dead. Each time it was dead though.
The main part of the story in the paper was again calling on the inefficiency of the police in bringing the man responsible to justice. The other part talked about the latest victims, John and Tyler Harrison whose eight-month-old daughter Mary had been taken from her cot at 10:25 PM the night before. Mulligan did not need to read the story, he already knew what it said and had already been on the scene.
An open window in the parents' room, which they both swore was closed and locked when they had left, was where the kidnapper had climbed through. The room was eight stories up and so it would have been a tough climb, which pointed towards the kidnapper being athletic. Unless of course it was a ruse.
There were four suspects to the case and as much as Mulligan wanted to make an arrest, he knew the charges wouldn't hold.
The Harrisons' were the first two suspects; their daughter was the one missing after all. They had gone out for the night, leaving a baby sitter in charge of their daughter. The baby sitter was the third suspect and her boyfriend was the fourth. However, the fact that both the baby sitter and her boyfriend had been locked inside the room without the baby pulled the suspicion away from them. They also claimed they heard the kidnapper.
What the baby sitter had claimed was that she had gone out briefly to meet her boyfriend down at the doors to show him the way up, by the time she arrived back the baby was gone. She had only been gone fifteen minutes at most.
They had walked in to see the baby's bedroom door open. The sitter had sent her boyfriend to check on the baby while she put on a pot of coffee. After discovering the baby gone his cry brought the sitter into the room with him, and both swore that while they were staring at the empty cot the kidnapper, who mustn't have had time to leave, slipped out of the wardrobe. Neither of them saw the person, but they both said that when they had entered the wardrobe door had been closed but when they turned around it was half-open. They also claimed to hear running feet and then the front door closing. By the time they arrived they found it locked from the outside.
When Mulligan arrived all the rooms on the eighth floor had been locked from the outside preventing anyone from leaving. No one had seen a thing, and only one or two had heard the sitter and her boyfriend hammering at the door. None had bothered to leave their rooms.
As for the Harrisons, they arrived home shortly after the police and had an alibi for the whole night. Moreover, of course with the story they told about the trouble they had had with Mary when she had been born it seemed absurd to think that one of them would kidnap their own child, but people did strange things sometimes. Mulligan just didn't know how they could have managed it.
It did look like an inside job to Mulligan, apparently, the bedroom window had been locked but it was discovered open. So the options were they were either lying about it, someone had crept inside and unlocked it for the kidnapper, or they had just thought they had locked it.
One of the options bothered him: if someone had crept inside to unlock the window, why not just take the child then?
He had looked for fingerprints but none were found, he also had the Harrisons go through their possessions to see if anything was missing just in case it was a robbery. Nothing had been taken which proved it was a kidnapping. It just remained for them to wait and see if it was their serial killer or someone else. Mulligan doubted it was someone else -absolutely nothing had been found to help him at the scene of the crime, which was the Shadow's trademark.
'What are we going to do about it?' Commissioner Gallapolo asked. 'This is the tenth child in less than three months,' he said, stating the obvious for all of them.
'What do we have to show for it?'
It took a minute for Mulligan to realise that he was the one being asked the question; he had been side-tracked by the name of the female reporter who had written the story. She had a most unusual last name.
'Uh,' he cleared his throat. 'Well...'
'Anything?' the Commissioner asked hopefully.
'No,' Mulligan told him, shaking his head. 'Nothing new at all to go on, it's the exact same thing we've been facing since the beginning, nothing to go on.'
'So what do we do?' the Mayor asked.
'I really have no idea, sir,' admitted Mulligan. 'When I say there is nothing to go on at all I mean that. We've checked the houses the children had been stolen from, we've checked the children when they've shown up, the time of death is always within an hour of their kidnap time. Because of this, I believe that until we receive a ransom note to prove otherwise, if this isn't our Shadow, then Mary Harrison is probably already dead by now. Of course I do hope that this case might be different...'
'Are there any signs on the previous children that might lead us to where they were kept?' asked Mayor Carrow.
Mulligan suppressed a scowl. This was Carrow's first meeting with them about the Shadow, and if that was his first question then it meant that he obviously didn't know anything. It meant Mulligan would have to explain, which he hated to do, especially when it pointed out how little they had been able to get.
'We can't seem to find anything. They show up in the same clothes they were reported missing in, no strange fingerprints, nothing that wasn't on them when they left. The way of death changes with each one.'
'So I've heard,' muttered the Mayor. 'So, again, what do we do? We have the kidnappings no one sees, all victims under the age of thirteen, all of them seem to die the same day they disappear and then appear in seemingly random parts of Manhattan exactly as they were taken, except for being dead. Have I missed anything?'
'No, sir, you haven't,' Mulligan told him. 'But the bodies are never dumped, either. They are placed neatly and with care, as if the Shadow has more respect for the dead than the living. They've also been persevered, in all cases it seems the method used is freezing.'
'But that doesn't answer what we are going to do about it,' interrupted the Commissioner. 'We've had three months and nothing done! The public is starting to get down our throats about this! People will be afraid to have children in case they end up being snatched away by an all too real bogey man.'
'We could go to Dastardious Hollow...'
The silence at the table was startling; you would have been able to hear a pin drop had any of the men in the room had a pin and the desire to drop it to hear it. It lasted a mere second before the Mayor asked, 'Who?'
'No!' yelled Mulligan deafeningly, drowning the Mayor’s question
'Why not?' the young, unknown man seated next to the mayor asked. 'He was the best officer while he worked here, even though he may have been slightly unhinged-' he paused as Mulligan burst into a dry laugh and then after a moment he pressed on. 'You must have noticed that in his seven years of absence crime has steadily arisen. It happened before, when he was being treated after that accident after his family's murder. He was gone for two years and we ended up facing some of the worst years of crime we've ever had. Did you notice how it suddenly fell as soon as we brought him back? He's a miracle; no officer is like him. If anyone can find a lead to follow in this case, I tell you that Dastardious Hollow will find it. I'll bet on it.'
'How about no betting, how about we just find this guy and bring him in,' suggested the Mayor. 'How do we find him? Where is he?'
'No! Sir, you don't want Hollow, I know this man, he was discharged for murder and arrested for it. And I guarantee you that if you bring him in someone will die. This will end in disaster,' Mulligan told the Mayor sharply.
'Mulligan, you've been on this case since the beginning, you've gotten nowhere. Now I've heard about this man, Hollow, and how good he was; maybe a fresh mind will help shed some unforeseen light on the case,' Gallapolo told him. 'Where do we find him?'
'Are you absolutely sure, sir?' pleaded Mulligan hopefully.
'Where is he?' repeated the Commissioner firmly.
'He is currently being held on Rikers Island, sir,' the unknown man replied.
'He’s been there for seven years?' asked the Mayor with a frown. You were sent to Rikers only to await sentence before moving to a real prison. It was rare if you spent a year there.
'No, sir, he was elsewhere but has since been moved to the island.'
'Well, then, let's go see him! Fix an appointment immediately with head warden, I want Hollow on this job as soon as humanly possible,' Carrow ordered.
'What if he won't come?' Mulligan asked quietly, having resigned himself to the fact that the Mayor and Commissioner's minds were made up and there was nothing he could do about it.
'Then we offer him an ultimatum, something like if he comes we'll drop all charges and give him his old job back. Maybe promote him if he puts a stop to the kidnappings.'
Mulligan's eyes widened at this. Give him the promotion! There was only room for one of them to get that and he would be damned if it was a petty murderer like Hollow!
'It’s all very good to bring him in,' he said at last, 'but what if it's not good enough and he fails to find the Shadow?'
'Then we write him off as useless, and it will have been a waste of time your worrying about losing that promotion,' Gallapolo answered.
Inside Mulligan swore. Had they really seen how eager he was for that?
'I'll set up a meeting with him right away,' the young man said, rising to his feet and crossing the broad room. It belonged to the Mayor. Paintings by famous artists sat on the wall and everything blended and matched with everything. A large glass window along one wall looked out over the city, in the far distance over the East River you could make out the shape of Rikers Island and the two other islands, North Brother Island and South Brother Island. The Island was a notorious place to stay, dangerous; it was strange for a man to spend six years there. However, Dastardious Hollow was a strange case and so it made sense. Sometimes the law seemed to bend around him. The fact that he had spent so long in that place was thanks to Mulligan. He was responsible for Hollow's arrest all those years ago for the blatant murder of the man's partner, Mulligan’s younger brother Edgar.
Hollow hated having partners or having to work with anyone, and as he was such an asshole none of his assigned partners enjoyed working with him and would end up requesting a transfer, and as was said, the law sometimes seemed to bend around him. It was normally part of the law for you to have a partner, but Hollow escaped that for a great many years.
That all changed when Harry Gallapolo was made Commissioner. It was his fault that Edgar had died because he had ordered Hollow to take him. At the time of Gallapolo's arrival Hollow was a hard man who had spent two years in a recreational psychological facility after cracking. The reason for cracking was the fact that his wife and daughter had been murdered. Distraught, Hollow had marched straight into a hostage situation going on down town and ended it by killing all seven hostages, his partner, and the man keeping them. Knowing who was responsible for the deaths of all those people made the other officers scared to touch him. They all feared they would die as well.
Not knowing Hollow's record, he decided that Ed, who had only been on the force one year, needed to be placed with an experienced detective to teach him.
No one ever really understood the exact reason for his death. Dastardious Hollow refused to comment or even proclaim his innocence in it all. Mulligan found him in his apartment holding onto the rope looped to the ceiling from which Ed hung. Seeing who it was Hollow had murdered, Mulligan swore to take him down and place him somewhere dark and horrible where he would never see the light of day again, a place where no one else would suffer from the man's insanity. That place was Rikers.
Mulligan did have to admit though that while the man was unhinged, he had been good. If he was still good then he was a threat, not just to stealing the promotion but also to everyone who might get too close. Mulligan could see that he was New York's only hope of making Hollow fail as soon as possible and put him back where he was found.
'Excuse me, sirs,' he said, rising to his feet and following the Mayor's secretary, Oliver Bourgins.
'What do you think you're playing at?' he snarled as soon as they were out of hearing of the others, and grabbing Bourgins' shirt lapels forced him against the wall.
'Have you any idea of the destruction that Hollow will bring to this town?' he hissed, still not trusting their distance from the door to prevent anyone from hearing them. 'He's a madman! He will be just as bad as the Shadow. The only difference being is that we'll know who's leaving the body trail!'
'Detective Mulligan, maybe to catch a killer you need first a killer on your side to find him? While I understand your concern for the citizens of the state, you must admit that Hollow is the best and our only chance of capturing the Shadow. Now, I can get my boss, our Mayor, to request firsthand accounts of how Hollow is doing. That means that I will be able to pass information of how well he is doing on to you. That way if he picks up some vital clue that you have missed you won't actually miss it. You know what I mean?'
'It means I'll still have a chance of receiving that promotion...' commented Mulligan slowly, releasing Bourgins from his grasp.
'Exactly. It will be for the best; Detective Hollow will help you move forwards, though he may not know he is doing so. But you are right, Detective, we don't want him here any longer than we need him. As soon as this case is complete, if it ever is, you must get rid of Hollow again. Send him back to the island if you have to; just don't let him stay.'
'Mr Bourgins,' began Mulligan, 'you're a genius, but if you end up lying to me about anything you hear, you may find yourself in a cell all by yourself. On Rikers!'
The Island is named after Abraham Rycken, a Dutch settler who moved to Long Island in 1638. Until 1884, his descendants owned the island, since then it has belonged to the city as a jail. The complex on the island consists of ten jails, and a few different facilities which since they are different they are used for different reasons.
The daily inmate population is about 12,300 each day, but the daytime population, including staff, could be 20,000 or more.
An unmarked bridge spanned the ocean between the island and Queens, before that you could only access it by a ferry. It was across this very bridge that Commissioner Gallapolo, Mayor Carrow, Bourgins and Detective Mulligan crossed a little later that day. With the Mayor on board the car, they passed through all the gates and checkpoints a whole lot faster than they normally would, and wound up outside the facility housing Dastardious Hollow.
It had been a hard choice for them to decide exactly where to place Hollow, as the North Infirmary Command dealt with the mentally ill inmates, though technically Hollow was declared sane despite his reckless tendency and enjoyment of killing. So instead, they housed him in the Otis Bantum Correction Centre.
A stern, pockmarked faced warden approached them as they passed through the doors and held out his hand.
'Good afternoon, gentleman, Mr Mayor, I'm Francis Long, Senior Warden for this facility,' he introduced himself. He was an oldish man, probably in late sixties, but looking strong enough to be able to break up a brawl. 'If you will please follow me I will take you to see Inmate Hollow.'
They walked for a while in silence, heading deeper inside the facility, only stopping to have their bodies searched while waiting for the doors to open. Hollow was, they had been told, in solitary confinement for the moment. It seemed he had spent a lot of time there since arriving at the island. He had been placed in cells with other men, but they had all tried to be tough with him, apparently, and he quickly sorted them out. Over half of them had to be rushed to the emergency wing with others sustaining minor injuries.
Solitary confinement was supposed to be hard on the inmate, to teach them a lesson of what happens when you don't abide by the rules of the jail. Dastardious Hollow seemed only to abide by the rules just because he felt like it, and didn't mind the punishment if he broke a rule. In fact, it seemed to Long and the guards that whenever he broke a rule it was on purpose just so he could be alone. Not that he needed to worry about that, shortly after his arrival the other inmates learnt to be weary of him and stayed out of his way. They would go so far as to cause ruckuses just so they were removed from him.
With each story Mr Long retold to them, Mulligan could see the Mayor and Commissioner exchanging looks. Maybe with luck Mr Long would continue and eventually frighten them into leaving. It wasn't to be. Leading them down a long hall of grey, metal doors, Mr Long stopped in front of one marked 47 in black.
'This is his cell,' he told them. Rapping loudly on the door with his club he called, 'Wake up, Hollow! You have visitors!’
From within came a low, menacing growl. 'It says “solitary confinement” for a reason. Tell 'em to go away.'
'It's Mayor Carrow to see you!'
No reply came, and eventually the Mayor indicated for Mr Long to open the door and let them in.
The keys came jingling from his belt as he selected the one needed and opened the door. Grabbing the handle, he dragged the door to the side. Inside of the concrete cell there was a mass of deep grooves in the wall, Hollow had obviously been inside for a while. There was no furniture inside, as part of the punishment, nor were there any windows. There was a light bulb though, but it was dim and fading quickly.
Leaning against the wall in the far right corner stood a tall man in the dark blue suit the inmates had to wear. His hair was brown but greying and grizzly, about shoulder length and they could all see it hadn't been washed in a while. Nor had he, but there was still an aura around him that let you know that despite physical appearances he was still the same man inside.
'Forgive me for not know which one of you is the mayor, I've been inside so long I lost count of how many we've had,' Dastardious Hollow murmured as he watched them through dull brown eyes. They landed briefly for a second on Mulligan; recognition flicked and then was gone as they moved on to stare at the other men in the room.
'Mr Hollow, I'm Mayor Carrow,' the Mayor introduced himself. 'The same one as when you left, just re-elected. To my right is Commissioner Henry Gallapolo, you must remember him surely?'
Dastardious looked hard at both men, but said nothing. Clearing his throat, the Mayor continued. 'This is my secretary, Oliver Bourgins, and Detective Theodore Mulligan,' he introduced the other two men behind him.
Dastardious continued to gaze unblinkingly at them. Finally he moved, making them all jump as he spread his arms wide to the floor. 'Take a seat,' he said. 'Tell to me your tale of woe.'
Pulling a whistle from his pocket, Mr Long blew it and presently a chair was brought into the cell for the Mayor to sit on. Dastardious stared at the chair as it was brought in, he had not sat in one for three months, not since he had beaten up his previous cellmate who had tried to get superior with him with the iron chair they had had.
'First off, have you heard about all the kidnappings we've had to deal with lately?' Commissioner Gallapolo asked once Mayor Carrow was seated comfortably; Dastardious noticed that Long had even brought a cushion for him. He almost felt like laughing.
He nodded his head. 'It's been in the paper,' he said with the faintest lines of a smile. 'That Mourner girl really knows how to give you men a bad name, doesn't she?' he asked, his smile broadening into a large evil grin.
'I don't know where Susan Mourner gets her information about us from, but-' the Commissioner started to object loudly before Dastardious interrupted him.
'Perhaps you should check her out then. She's been following the story for her paper ever since it started-' his words cut off suddenly as he sank to the floor gasping. Worry creased the Mayor's face and he started to move forwards to help when Mr Long's club appeared across his chest preventing him from moving any further.
'Don't go any closer, Mr Mayor,' Long warned. 'They sometimes pull tricks like this to get the upper hand to help them escape.'
Nodding silently, Carrow returned to his seat and Long's club moved.
'Why should we pay Mrs Mourner a visit?' Mulligan asked, speaking for the first time. Dastardious ignored him.
'Mr Mayor, Commissioner Gallapolo,' he said instead, 'before this gets any further and I divulge any more information on how to complete this case, I suggest you tell me exactly what you're here for. I'm a very busy man; I have to recount my concrete cracks. I think I discovered a new one just before you arrived.'
'I'll get straight to the point, then,' Carrow replied.
'And it's about time too; you've been in my cell destroying my quiet time longer than I would normally allow anyone to.
While the Mayor frowned at this remark, the Commissioner started to explain. 'We want you to come back and take over the case.'
'What about Mulligan?' Dastardious asked, interrupting them. 'He currently has the job.'
'He will still be working the case, two pairs of hands on this is better than just one. While Mulligan is doing a good job, we feel we need some more help. I'm not afraid to admit that we're not getting anywhere.'
'And so you come to me?'
'It has been pointed out to us that you are very good at your job, or were once very good at your job.'
'Just because I may have been good doesn't mean I'll be able to get any further than Mulligan has. And why should I even come back and for you?' he asked, opening his closed eyes and raising his head while rising to his feet.
'If you come back you will receive your old job, and your sentence will be cut to an end. You'll be free; there might even be a promotion at the end if you're successful.'
'That's a lot to get me back,' admitted Dastardious. 'But what if I don't accept because I happen to like it here?'
'Then we leave and you keep your solitary confinement,' Mulligan told him before the others could say.
Dastardious glared at him. 'I'll think about it,' he told them all, ending the conversation.
Carrow rose to his feet and Bourgins removed the chair and placed it outside the cell as they prepared to leave. They had offered him the choice and told him where he would end up if he refused, it was up to him to see the light and pick freedom.
As they all trooped out, Mulligan decided to stay behind.
'I'll be out in a moment,' he told Mr Long who nodded and stepped outside to give the men some privacy.
'Hollow,' Mulligan said as soon as they were alone.
'Ted,' replied Dastardious, watching him closely as he wondered what the man wanted. 'You're looking well.'
'I try. You're looking...'
'What do you want?' demanded Dastardious.
Cutting the niceties down, Mulligan stepped forward and lowered his voice just for Dastardious's ears.
'I am confident, Dastardious, that if you accept this job you will not succeed. You may be free to roam but I will not allow you to take this promotion from me. I worked hard for it and this case is just what I need to get it. And believe me when I say that when I receive it I am going to make sure that the only life you see will be your own, alone in this cell just as I promised you before. The Mayor and Commissioner might take a shine to you while you're out and let you stay for your help, but I will not allow that to happen. I won't give you the chance to ruin and end another boy's life,' he snarled.
Dastardious simply smiled as he said, 'Well, Teddy, if you're so confident in your ability to find this serial killer, tell me why the Mayor himself came to ask my help? I'm fairly certain that they would never have come unless their world was starting to fall apart,' he told him.
'And I'll tell you something else: I was actually going to refuse to help them, but after your little threat I think I just might accept. You know why? So that when I win that promotion I can have the pleasure of taking it and watching your face as I do so. You've been seeking it for six years now; if you still don't have it then you've obviously been doing a rubbish job and don't deserve it.'
'You think you will have any more luck than I at catching the killer?' demanded Mulligan angrily.
'Well, even if I don't I can still stop you from receiving the promotion.'
Dastardious smiled again. 'Don't worry; I won't resort to it unless it looks like I'm going to fail,' he assured. 'Warden!' he yelled. 'Remove him from my cell, I have nothing more to discuss with him. Good day,' he said as the door opened to let Mulligan out.
'I will not let you win! That is a promise!' screamed Mulligan as Mr Long closed the door, shutting them both off from Dastardious.