Detective James Francis scuffed through the fallen leaves. The only illumination was provided by the bone-white moon that sent faint rays of light
filtering through the leafless branches of the thick woods that surrounded him. He was close to his quarry now. He could feel it.
The Doll Maker. He wasn't sure where the name had come from. It was something that was whispered in fear on the streets. To the department, he was
nothing more than an urban legend. His own partner thought that he was chasing shadows. If it hadn't been for the latest victim, Francis's own wife,
the detective might have believed it himself.
A rash of disappearances had struck the homeless population. Nobody cared. The homeless were seen to be less than human and anyway, they were
notorious for not staying in the same place long. Next came the children. Still, not much concern was raised. After all, kids ran off. Abusive
fathers, domineering parents, teenage angst-the list went on.
Something about the case had snagged his attention from the start. There was just something about it, something he couldn't put his finger on. He'd
poured over case after case late into the night trying to find patterns, all the while his co-workers laughed behind his back and told him to just let
it go. Each trail he'd followed had lead to a dead end. That was until one cool October night when he'd interviewed a prostitute who had witnessed a
teen being coaxed into a dark colored panel van. She had just finished with a john and was emerging from an alley and had seen the driver illuminated
by a street light. She'd described him as white, middle aged, a real looker. He'd felt a tickle in the back of his brain when he'd heard the
description. He was sure that it was somebody he knew.
That's when the calls had begun; each one more threatening than the last. He would have gone to the chief about them but the records were gone as soon
as they were made. He didn't know how it was done. Whoever made those calls had to have had some technical experience. He hadn't stopped digging
though. Now he wished he had.
He'd gotten home from his shift a month ago to find the house empty. He'd searched the house and found nothing amiss, except for Diana's purse sitting
on the counter beside the carrots, potatoes, and roast she was going to fix for dinner. The roast, frozen the night before, was now thawed. He had no
idea how long it had been sitting out. He'd made desperate calls to her friends but to no avail. That's when he made a call into the department and
gotten them involved.
He was disgusted, but not surprised, when blame for her disappearance had fallen on him. After all, how many times had he been on the other end of an
interview, tearing a suspect's story apart. The spouses were always the first to fall under suspicion. When the officers had found nothing they
offered condolence and moved on. The official story was that she'd left him. Police officers had high divorce rates, after all. It was nothing new.
Francis had taken a leave of absence to hunt for the monster responsible on his own. If anything, his fellow detectives were happy to see him go. He'd
become an embarrassment. It had taken him a couple of weeks and many more false leads until finally he'd found an old deed at the county court house.
Now here he was, deep in the woods, with a crumbling old mansion ahead of him.
He stepped through the door, dirt gritting under his feet, and beheld a statue of an angel. It guarded a staircase. It looked like marble at first
glance but something seemed off. Francis walked up to it and ran his fingers along one of its arms. It was made of plaster and had been painted to
resemble marble. Being as silent as possible, he chipped away at one of the statue's hands.
His worst fears were confirmed when the plaster crumbled away. A decaying human hand stuck out from the hole he'd made. Something about the wedding
ring on it's finger sent him into a panic. He chipped away the rest of the plaster, bashing it with the butt of his gun, unmindful of the noise he was
making. Diana's corpse fell into his arms. Pressure built up in his body until he thought he would explode. His screams of anguish echoed through the
house. He laid her body on the floor and turned toward the stairs.
A chuckle drifted down from above. "I'm so pleased that you could join me, Detective. I see that you've found my gift. I warned you to leave me
He pulled back the hammer of his revolver and climbed the stairs, keeping to the edge so they wouldn't creak. He saw a long hallway extended to both
wings of the house when he reached the upper landing. Dust was everywhere. A faint trail veered off toward the left and he went that way. He came upon
a pile of doll's heads. He wasn't surprised when he kicked one, breaking it, and found the skull of a child grinning up at him from the hole he'd
Heart racing, he edged further along the hall, holding his breath. One foot, two feet, three. A door at the end stood open. A faint shaft of light
fell into the corridor. He slipped up to it and did a quick peek around the frame. It was a large room. The original furnishings were shoved and
jumbled against the walls, making room for a rough work shop. He lunged into the room.
It was lit by a few kerosene lanterns. Shadows danced with the flickering of their flames. Ahead was a large table. A body was strapped to it. Francis
couldn't tell if she was dead or alive. He came closer. It was the prostitute he'd talked to, the one that had given him the description of the van
driver. Her chest rose and fell, ever so slowly. She looked like she'd been drugged.
A mirror sat on top of a rickety dresser across the room. He saw the dim reflection of a figure behind him. He spun and saw a man (six foot two and
heavy, wearing dark clothes and what looked like a leather mask). His arm was raised. He held a wooden club.
"You bastard! You killed my wife!" Francis swung the gun up and squeezed the trigger until the hammer clicked on empty cylinders.
The figure crumpled to the ground without a sound. Francis went up to the body, kicking aside the club. He reached down and pulled off the mask. A
gasp of shock escaped him.
It was none other than his captain. He made sure that he was dead and went back to the woman on the table. She was just coming around. He undid her
bonds and helped her to a chair. He pulled out his cell phone and was relieved that there was service. He had some calls to make. This was going to be
a long night.
edit on 14-4-2016 by Skid Mark because: (no reason given)