He waits behind the crowd, swaying in a corner—visible, yet perfectly forgettable. His incoherent mumbling is as much a disguise as the layers of filth he stole from the corpse of a homeless man only a few hours earlier. The corpse, when alive, had spent most of its time begging for change in the very spot this impostor now stood—both shuffling feet and jingling coins in a cup.
The bustle of men and women blindly swarms past, cramming onto the subway platform with a narrow, narcissistic awareness. Hot gusts of air swirl through the tiled alcove as trains rumble along distant rails, pushing and pulling putrid fumes that nearly mask the scent of urine on the man’s clothes.
I watch as he watches.
His eyes flit from face to face, searching for the right one, the right moment.
A train arrives in a whirlwind of garbage and air pressure. The crowd tenses, impatient with unopened doors as the transport slows. When the train finally stops, it releases a horrific screech like the piercing wail of elephants at slaughter. The sound ricochets off the tile walls as the vessel sets free its detained occupants. Squeezing past one another, the new commuters fill the train beyond capacity and abandon a few on the fringe. With a faltering chime, the entourage departs. One of the forsaken hurls obscenities before jogging back up the steps to find another route home.
For the moment, two would-be passengers remain on the platform. The practicing beggar continues his feigned self-involvement while venturing further from the wall. I believe we both sense the moment ripen as a young man scuffles back to a bench, delves into his smartphone—earbuds and all—isolating the final commuter.
A young woman stands alone, gazing down the tunnel that will deliver the next train. Her appearance and demeanor seem average until I glimpse her blue eyes. Beautiful, yes, but they hold the light to which killers flock: fear.
I see him, with such subtle motion, skulk his way to the girl. Her head turns toward the movement, or possibly the smell, just as he makes his move. Those anxious eyes pop open to their fullest, quivering, clamoring—fueling her attacker. With a hand clamped over her mouth and a firm arm locking hers in place, he yanks the girl around the corner and out of sight.
This is it; the moment I’ve been waiting for. Over seven months of surveillance to finally catch him in the act. Today is my day!
My body tingles with cool adrenaline as I leave my perch to follow. Traversing the platform, I search for potential witnesses. None.
He is good.
I hear the next rush of commuters spilling down the steps and into the station behind me as I slip around the corner in pursuit.
Down a ladder at the end of a service ledge, I follow his path along the tunnel. Darkness swarms me after a few paces. The distant percussion serves as a constant reminder of the next train’s inevitable approach. Urging my legs beyond their usual lope but trying to remain cautious in my footing, I hurry toward the intersection ahead. Green utility lights mounted on the tunnel ceiling casts the open crossroad in faint light that seems to accentuate the garbage, filth, and overall disrepair as if it’s the emerald city that time forgot.
There has to be an old storage locker or maintenance room here; it’d be the type of place he would use as his ‘art’ studio—an enclosed space, full of useful items, and near the echoing rumble of subway cars that mask the inevitable screams.
Scanning through the murk, I spot the entrance a few yards away in one of the connecting tunnels. It takes a few moments of stepping over rails, refuse, and even the rotting corpse of a mangled dog to arrive at the door.
I stand there for a moment, staring at the threshold, catching my breath and collecting my thoughts. Two muffled voices float through the barrier, one significantly more than the other.
Gently squeezing the cold metal latch, I confirm my suspicion and set to work with my picking tools. Wincing at each little click, I manage to unlock the door without hearing changes within.
After a deep breath, I draw my weapon and creep inside.
The walls are lined with supplies for both cleaning and electrical repairs; the odor of ammonia is prominent. A breaker box stares me in the face from the far wall before the space takes a ninety-degree turn. I ease the door shut behind me and strafe around the corner with my gun level.
His back is to me as he attends to the victim. She’s restrained; wrists and ankles handcuffed to steel conduits jutting from the wall; an oily rag used tightly as a gag. Her blouse is ripped open; a shallow cut glistens between her breasts. The woman notices me first—her eyes widen in a silent plea. Her shift in expression must have alerted him as his knife stalls in mid-slice along her cheek.
“Freeze!” I shout. “Lower your weapon.”
The man turns slowly, shoulders slumped, hands out in placation; but once he sees me, his demeanor shifts. “Who the fuck are you?”
“The man who’s watched you long enough to know everything, Mr. Barton.”
“You don’t look like a cop, old man. You a detective?”
“Does it matter?”
He eyes me up for a moment. Sweat rolls down his brow. “Are you gonna arrest me or not?”
“Me? No.” I reply, lowering my gun. “But whether you still end up in jail tonight depends on you.”
A raised expression of surprise washes over both captor and victim.
I continue. “My name is Owen Dunning and I’m in the market for a new vendor. I need a man of your interests and abilities—I want something that you can provide.”
“Like what, exactly?”
The woman screams into her gag and struggles with the handcuffs, rattling them against the pipes.
Mr. Barton silences her with the back of his hand and her body drops. Motionless, she hangs from her restraints as he returns to the conversation.
“You want me to sell you body parts from my victims?”
“Yes. But don’t worry, my needs won’t interfere with your…art.”
“Why don’t you just buy from the morgue, or something?”
“Come now, Barton. Do I look like a desperate idiot? I’m an aficionado. I demand quality and freshness.”
He stares at me for a moment, a long gaze across the bridge of his nose. “An aficionado, huh? These’re souvenirs…for a collector?”
“No. Rare delicacies for a connoisseur.”
Another stare, but this time his expression has the air of inquiry rather than apprehension.
“In exchange for my requested cuts,” I explain, “I offer you generous payment to fund your operation and my assistance in maintaining your freedom and anonymity. Do we have a deal?”
I produce an envelope full of cash and hand it to him.
He accepts it with a Cheshire grin. “What’s your first order, Mr. Dunning?”
“I want to taste her soul—taste her fear. Those blue eyes of hers would be divine.”
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2015 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.