I Am the Darkness
Brian J. Jarrett
Copyright © 2016 Brian J. Jarrett
Elegy Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted by any means without the written consent of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Any names, people, locales, or events are purely a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any person (either living or dead), to any event, or to any locale is coincidental or used fictitiously.
For my old friend, Shaun Fox. Rest in peace.
A bell attached to the door of Old Man Joe’s bar jingled as Tom Miller stepped inside, drawing the attention of a few regulars seated at the bar. He also got the attention of the owner, Joe Renfro himself. “Close that goddamn door before you give us all pneumonia,” Joe croaked, his voice gruff from a combination of years and too many cigarettes.
Tom closed the door behind him. “Cold air doesn’t give you pneumonia, but huddling up together in this bar will. You do know that pneumonia is bacterial, don’t you?”
Joe frowned. “Are you a doctor now?”
Tom grinned. “Maybe in the next life.”
“You go out for breakfast or something? You’re out and about pretty early.”
“Nah, just coffee.”
“That so? Where’s mine then?”
“Feeling a little entitled today, are we?”
“No more entitled than the millennials that roll in here and drink their parents’ money away.”
“Can’t argue with you there.” Tom made his way across the room as the rummies went back to their drinks. He hung his coat behind the bar before picking up a towel and getting to work on wiping the bar down for possibly his thousandth time.
“Drop that towel,” Joe said. He picked up a manila folder from behind the bar. “Follow me. We need to talk.”
“Sure,” Tom replied, tossing the towel down on the bar before following Joe to an empty table along the wall on the opposite side of the bar. There he took a seat across from his boss and landlord.
“You make any more progress on that Shimano case?” Joe asked.
Tom shook his head. “I didn’t get anything more than what the cops had.”
“Did you spend enough time on it?”
“Of course I did. All I have is time.”
“What did you find then?”
“Three victims, including Karen Shimano’s daughter, Lisa. All killed in their apartments, all college students, and all three one year apart from one another.” Tom paused. “And the calling card, of course.”
“I am the darkness,” Joe said.
Tom nodded. “Written on the wall at all three crime scenes. Blocky letters, all caps, written in black magic marker.”
“It’s a weird phrase. Did you make anything out of it?”
“I couldn’t find any references to the phrase that had any meaning. But it’s the strongest tie between the murders that the cops can find, and I tend to agree with them. The problem is, the cases are pretty cold by now, and without access to a crime scene, I can’t really get any new leads. I’ve pored over those files hoping that I can find some connection nobody else has noticed, but the cops have done a pretty good job on it. I can’t find any gaps.”
“Harry’s done a damn good job since I left. He’s got some fine detectives working for him.”
“Harry?” Tom said, smiling. “Like Dirty Harry Callahan?”
“Don’t call him that,” Joe said. “It’s thanks to him that we got these files at all. He sends me stuff from time to time, and I look it over.”
“This is the first time you’ve mentioned your source. I guess you trust me now?”
Joe rolled his eyes.
“Does he know you’re sharing with me?” Tom asked.
“You don’t worry about that. You just focus on the facts.”
Tom decided to leave it at that. Joe was the real cop here, after all.
Joe opened the folder and removed a photograph. He handed it to Tom. “Take a gander at that.”
Tom took the photo and stared at it. In the picture, he saw a white wall, the same drab color one might find on any generic apartment across the country. But what was written on that wall was anything but common.
“I am the darkness,” Joe said. “Our killer is back in business.”
“Is this recent?”
“When did it happen?”
“Two days ago,” Joe said. “Harry sent me the file this morning. Another young girl, roughly the same age as the others. Stabbed to death in her apartment, one year after Lisa Shimano’s murder.”
Tom handed the photo back to Joe. “What I can’t seem to figure out with this guy is why he kills them using different methods each time. All his other patterns are the same. He breaks in, rapes and murders them, writing that weird message on the wall before he leaves. But he beat the first girl to death and injected the second girl with barbiturates. And he strangled Lisa Shimano. But now he’s stabbing them? It doesn’t make sense.”
Joe shrugged. “Could be that he’s experimenting, trying to figure out which way he likes best.”
“Could be,” Tom said. “Or maybe there’s significance in the way he’s killing them that we can’t see yet. Some method to his madness.”
“It’s possible. The calling card is for the cops, though. He wants us to know that it’s him. It’s his signature.”
“Like signing a painting,” Tom said.
“Sick, but yeah. Same basic thing.”
Tom sighed. “Looks like my cold case just warmed up. I assume I’ll need to put in for some vacation?”
“You got it,” Joe said. “You should leave tonight. Don’t waste any time. Your leads are cooling as we speak.”
Tom picked up the photo again and stared at the words written on the apartment wall in magic marker.
I am the darkness.
Tom didn’t know what that phrase meant, but he was sure it was the lynchpin that tied everything together.
“You’re ready for this,” Joe said.
“I’m glad you’re so sure, Joe, because I’m not convinced.”
“The only thing you can be completely sure about is the past,” Joe said. “But you can’t wait for the past to convince you you’re right. It’s too late then. Trust your gut, Tom. It’ll know before your brain catches up.”