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NC-17 Welcome to Fog City

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“Welcome back, night owls. That was Duran Duran’s ‘Save a Prayer’, released in 1982. Today is Tuesday the 15th of October, it is now 4 AM sharp and you’re listening to Steven Jay and the Night Owls on Fog City Radio. Next up is Bru-â€

That was his cue.

The radio had served its purpose and Steven Jay’s infuriatingly monotone voice was starting to get on his nerves. He turned down the dial, muting the radio, and directed his gaze upon the empty streets. The city had been asleep alongside her inhabitants for a while, resting in preparation for another gruesome day of hard work. Even in the Southside Slums you would be hard pressed to find anything larger than a rat on the streets. He, however, was the exception to that. His work was done under the veil of night and for as long as he could remember he had considered rest as a sign of weakness.

He reached out and opened the glove compartment, revealing a pair of black leather gloves, a Beretta handgun and a suppressor. After sliding the leather gloves over his hands he pulled the magazine out of the handgun, making sure that it was loaded. Satisfied with the contents he pushed the magazine back into the gun and attached the suppressor. “Finally,† he muttered. He closed his eyes and took a single deep breath. Fully prepared to fulfil the task he had set out to do he opened door of his car, grabbed the black briefcase that had been sitting on the passenger’s seat and stepped out. With the pistol still in one hand and the briefcase in the other he slammed the door to his grey car shut.

For the past two weeks he had spent every night in his car parked in the Southside Slums, carefully waiting for this opportunity. While tucking the gun into the waistband of his dress pants he crossed the round towards a small apartment complex. The Southside Slums lived up to their name. The houses were old, run down and hardly suited for living, but the people here had either spent all of their money on gambling, crack or whores or did not have any money for decent living in the first place. It was a sad story, tragic even, but he did not care. In fact he was grateful. Grateful that he misfortune of these poor fuckers made it easier for him to do what had to be done. Even better was that there was not a single surveillance camera to be found in the Southside Slums.

As he opened the door of the complex he was greeted by the sound of a dozen tiny feet scurrying towards the closest hole in fear of whatever creature had entered the building. ‘Rats.’ Silently he strode through the ground floor hallway towards the stairs. His destination was on the second floor. ‘201. 202. 203.’ His eyes were locked on the numbers plastered upon the apartment entrances. ‘204. 205. 206.’ This was it. He placed his briefcase on the floor and took a leather case out of his overcoat’s breast pocket. The leather case contained an elaborate 32-piece lock picking set. Patiently he toyed around with the door’s lock and before long he heard the clicking sound of the last pin falling into place.

The door was gently opened in an attempt to avoid the creaking sound often associated with old wooden doors. The insides of the apartment were pitch black, only slightly illuminated by the dim lights of the hallway. Relieved that there was no one in the living room, he put the lock picking set back into its place and picked up his briefcase. After stepping into the flat he closed the door as silently as he had opened it. To the right of the door was an ancient CRT TV with a coffee table and couch in front of it. He placed his briefcase on the coffee tabled and opened it up. He reached around a bit inside of the briefcase, unable to find what he was looking for due to the darkness of the living room. It took him a few seconds, but eventually he pulled a roll of duct tape out and left it on top of the table.

By now his eyes had started to get used to the darkness and a quick scan of the room showed that the kitchen was attached to the living room and other than that there were only two doors. It was likely that one of the doors led to the bathroom and the other to the bedroom. Confident that he stood in front of the door leading into the bedroom he grabbed his gun and slowly started inching the door open. As expected, the first thing he was a single size bed at the end of the room.

His prey was in his sights and it was a matter of minutes before he was done. No longer concerned with delicacy he paced towards the bed and took a peek at who was sleeping in it. It was a woman, mid-thirties, short blond hair and so skinny that you couldn’t tell whether there was any meat between her skin and bones. He sat down on the bed and leaned over her, making sure to cover both of her arms, and placed his left arm firmly upon her lips. The shock of his body on her woke her up screaming, but the sound were muffled by his leathered hands.

“Shush, shush, shush,†he whispered, “do you see this?†He waved the gun held in his right hand in front of her face. “Make any sound louder than I’d like and I’ll be forced to use it. Understand?†Terrified her eyes shot towards every corner of the room, whether that was a sign of disorientation or fear, he was not sure. “Understand!?†She quickly nodded yes, realizing that not answering wouldn’t end well. “I am going to let go of you. You are going to stay quiet. You are going to get up and go into the living room. Understand?†She nodded.

He pressed the gun against her temple and raised his hand off of her mouth, as promised. Still terrified and probably not even sure what was going on she kept staring straight at the ceiling, not making any attempts of eye contact with her assailant. After he confirmed that she would indeed remain quiet, he got off the bed. Click clack. He cocked his gun right before she got up in an attempt to make her realize that a wrong move would end badly, betting on the fact that she did not realize that cocking a gun is an empty gesture. Luckily she understood and got up silently, as ordered. As she walked towards the living room he followed closely with the gun constantly pointed at her lower back.

“Turn on the lights.†She nodded and flipped the switch right next to the door to her bedroom. The light revealed that she was wearing nothing but a white haltertop and panties. Normally he would feel aroused by now, but he felt nothing but disgust when he examined her. “Sit down on the coach.†As usual she did as ordered. “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you.†Before joining her he took a stainless steel kitchen knife out of one of the kitchen’s drawers. “It won’t take long.†As she sat petrified on the coach he used the knife to cut off a piece of the duct tape. “Put this on your mouth.†He handed it over to her, but she just looked at it as if she did not understand what he meant. “Please, don’t make me repeat myself.â€

After she gagged herself he cut off a significantly larger piece of the duct tape. “Stick out your hands,†he said as he kneeled in front of her. She stuck out her hands and he had begun wrapping the tape around her wrists, but at this time she noticed that both the kitchen knife and gun were on the coffee table. As if the fight-or-flight switch in her brain had been switched on at the precise time, she kicked him in the face. He hit the back of his head on the table and ended up stunned for a second, but she did not waste any time. Desperate to survive she ran towards, however with her hands bound she had trouble opening it quickly. She knew it was too late when she felt something tug at her at her haltertop. Before she knew she was tossed halfway through the room, back onto the coach.

“You bitch!†The expressionless cold gaze that covered his face had been replaced with fury. With every step he took in her direction she felt that her time was slowly coming to an end. With a huge swing he hit her in the face with the back of his hand. He forced her down on the couch, sat on her with her chest between his legs and wrapped his hands around her neck. She struggled and screamed as hard as she could, but she was unable to match his physical strength and her voice did not carry far enough for it to be audible to anyone outside of the room. His eyes stared into hers constantly, while she searched the entire room hoping to find something that might save her, but as the seconds passed by her voice become softer and the little strength her body possessed her left.

She was dead.

It hadn’t gone as smoothly as he had imagined, but from what he had heard first murders hardly ever did. With no more business in the Southside Slums he quickly put his gun and the duct tape back into his brief case. As he stood in the doorway he considered one last time to set up the room and create some sort of spectacle, but he quickly decided that that would be too much effort. Instead he decided to keep it simple. With the kitchen knife, that he had used to cut the duct tape, he carved ‘SAVE ME’ into the apartment’s door and then slammed the knife into the door, making sure that it was stuck in place.

He’d have to come back tomorrow and take a peek at the policemen. He was curious to see who would be the one to handle this case and even more curious to know whether he, or she, would be a suitable playmate, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. For now the only thing he worried about was what he should masturbate to before going to bed. 

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The racket from the other room was frightening. My vision swimming, I found no words to utter as the other girl pushed me into a closet; the look on her face was that of pure terror, but she was so strong in telling me to stay hidden that I couldn't decipher the truth.

"Stay in here Sarah, don't come out for anything."


A loud, monotonous tone ejected her from the otherworld and into the plane of existence. Groaning her protest loudly, the woman reflected upon her dream briefly before rolling over and snatching up the cursed device from her bedside table.

"Talk dirty to me Stevens," she drawled with a gravelly morning voice.

"Yeah, good morning to you too Sleeping Beauty. Listen, you might want to get your ass on down here to the Slums--we've got a murder victim waitin' on ya."

"Aww, just for me? You shouldn't have."

"You're the FNG here sweetie--of course I had to."

And with that, the line went dead.

She pondered her course of action thoroughly as she tossed the phone aside, simultaneously switching on the lamp that stood next to her alarm clock.

It was 5:37 a.m.

The recognition of time alone caused her to yawn, raising her arms above her head to stretch. A shower would definitely be choice at this juncture--Stevens would just have to wait a little bit longer.

The rookie detective got out of bed and stole across the room and into the latrine, bringing the shower to life and cranking the heat all the way up; she liked her water hot and scalding.

Wandering back into the bedroom, she began to undress, first the tank top that clung to her slender figure and then the pair of boxers, both articles of clothing laying forgotten upon the floor. Nude now, she let her hair down and shook it to and fro, the dark black locks loosening and untangling before her eyes.

She managed to acquire a towel from a hanger in her closet before flipping her hair behind her head, sighing as she realized she needed to not be too late.

Her attention was drawn, however, to the framed photo atop her dresser.

She stood before it, hazel eyes slanting slightly as she studied the two girls in it. One of them was her, the one on the right, whose arms were crossed with a deep scowl etched into the features of her face; the other girl was her sister, Samantha, and she was all smiles as the picture depicted her placing a kiss on Willow's cheek.

Absentmindedly, she wiped a tear from her cheek and hastened away from the nostalgia, eager to start her day.


"Jesus, it took you long enough--what happened, did you and your shower make love again?"

As she ducked underneath the caution tape and thanked the uniform who assisted her, she shoved a cup of burning coffee and a sticky bun into her partner's hands.

"Ok. You bought yourself six hours of immunity rook."

"And here I was hoping you'd ask me out to dinner."

"If you were only so lucky."

She shrugged and turned toward the crime scene, trying to take it all in at once; it was now 6:20 and light was beginning to peak in from the windows. She was tired and needed more sleep, but duty called.

"Hey, McGuire," she called to the uniform standing by the body.

"Ma'am," he responded, thumbs hooked into his belt.

"You were the first on the scene--what happened?"

"The neighbor heard a racket early in the morning, around four or so; she called the super with a noise complaint, and he came up here and found the apartment door ajar and the vic like this. Then he called the cops. My patrol covers this section of town, so I responded to the call, discovered the body and radioed for backup after I established a perimeter."

She nodded intently as she studied the apartment, ignoring the victim for now.

"Good work. We'll take it from here."

McGuire nodded solemnly and then excused himself from the room.

"So," Stevens declared, sucking upon his fingers loudly, "show me what you can do rook--I want you to take point on this case."

She fixed him with an inquisitive gaze.

"You can't be serious?"

"I am. Brass is interested in reviewing your field work and leadership skills, and this case is perfect for you. Sure, your test scores and profiling skills are off the charts, but we all gotta start somewhere."

She remained silent for a moment and turned back to the crime scene, which she was now in charge of. Radios squawked, a chopper was hovering outside somewhere and a news van had just peeled into the parking lot outside.

It was about to become a very long day.


"I think that's it Willow. Either this guy wore gloves or we're looking for Casper."

It was 10:00 a.m. now and they had just finished dusting the entire apartment for prints. By now, her mood had darkened considerably: between dealing with the media, having a case shoved onto her in the field, having had coffee spilled on her by a uniform, and dealing with her partner's wisecracks, she was nearing the end of her alotted rope for the day.

Her watch showed 10:02.

She took the gloves off her hands with audible snaps and tossed them into the trash with disgust. Whoever had done this had obviously thought about forensics--he definitely wasn't some hoodlum killing for drugs or cash.

She glanced over at the door and at the message left behind, accented by the knife lodged into the wood.

Who was this guy?


"At this time we have no available leads. Thank you."

The television set died, darkness hiding her first ever on-air interview.

"Don't let it bother you rook--your hair looked fine," her partner teased from behind his computer monitor

"Very funny," she mumbled, her attention on the case file.

Jessica Hayes, 34, white female and blonde hair. She stared back at Willow from the comfort of a picture frame that showed off her beautiful complexion in a profile avatar on a dating website.

Right next to that, a picture of her mangled body begged for attention.

Beneath that, a small headline of today's paper read "SAVE ME: VIOLENT MURDER STUNS COMMUNITY".

She sat back and rubbed her temples, feeling feverish even though the office was kept at a chilled 68 degrees. It was all becoming too much to bear--she needed space, needed room to breath.

"I'll be right back," she said quietly, and disappeared from her cubicle.


The interrogation room was her sanctuary.

She rested her back against the glass and fidgeted with the charm bracelet on her wrist, the name upon it spelling Samantha. She was nervous and afraid, and couldn't get the dream out of her head. An uneasiness was lodged in her gut as she slowly slid to the floor, her eyes closing instinctively.

"Where are you?"

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It was 8 AM when the alarm clock rudely pulled him out of his dream. Groggy from the mere 3 hours of sleep the slammed on the snooze button before rolling over to his other side. “Fuck this,†he mumbled, content to spend another hour or two in his bed. “Why the fuck would I set the alarm for 8 AM. Am I fucking reta- Fuck.†Shortly after realizing what he had done last night he was wide awake and sat upright on his bed. He let out an extended yawn before finally getting up. ‘The investigation is probably already underway.’

Before he could go and spectate he decided he needed a cold shower. The freezing water helped him relax and get his thoughts in order. Last night he had made the first move in the greatest game of chess of his life, now he only needed a suitable opponent or else it would be a gigantic waste of time. After stepping out of the shower he started brushing his teeth while staring at the mirror. Years of practice had paid of recently when he noticed that he was finally able to convincingly hide his usual cold stare. His blue eyes were finally bright instead of constantly seeming dead.

After pulling his hair back with a hand full of gel he went back into his white and black bedroom to get dressed. Out of his closet filled with dozens of designer suits he pulled out a single button gray suit, white dress shirt and dark blue tie. Fully dressed he stepped out of his bedroom into the living room.

His minimalistic living room had two white couches facing each other, a small black coffee table between them, an LCD TV mounted to the wall across from the table. The wall on the opposite side of the TV had a bookcase that reached from one end to door on the other end, filled with books, both fiction and non-fiction. In front of the book case was a desk with a dual monitor PC setup. The other end of the room, right next to the door that bordered on the bookcase, was a black dining table with 8 chairs. On the other side of that door was the kitchen, filled with expensive equipment.

First things first. Leaving the apartment without his morning ritual would be awful, so he turned on his computer and went to brew a cup of coffee. He shot of espresso and a cigarette were the secrets to a successful morning. He sat down at his desk and lit up his cigarette. He looked up the Wall Street Journal’s website, wondering if anything interesting had happened in the past few hours, but by the time he was done with both his coffee and his cigarette he had concluded that it was just another boring day for the economy. After putting on his black overcoat he stepped out of his apartment and locked the door.

Unlike Jessica’s apartment complex in the Slums, his apartment complex had no more than 2 apartment’s per floor. The other inhabitant of the 30th floor was some crazy redhead lady who’d made a ton of money by marrying rich old men and waiting for them to die. She had been flirting with him for the past few weeks, but despite the size of her silicon-filled breasts he knew that getting involved with that lady wouldn’t end well. He took the Elevator down all the way to the ground floor. The ground floor had the security’s desk and the apartments’ mailboxes. Before stepping outside of the building he paid a visit to the security guard.

“Good morning, Mr. Ellis. Busy day ahead of you?â€

“Morning, James. Afraid so. Have to visit a few of my associates, before we lose all our money and I have to move to the Slums.â€

“Ha ha ha!†The old doorman laughed loudly. “Don’t worry Mr. Ellis, there will always be a place for you at the Shangri-la.â€

“Good to hear. I’ve got to go now, wouldn’t want to be late. See you tomorrow.†Every morning it was the same old story. In order to keep up appearances he had to engage in small talk with the people in his daily life. Putting on a fake smile and talking about the weather was a tedious thing, but he had to do it to fit in or else he wouldn’t be able to play the game he had been planning for so long.

The Shangri-la Tower was located in the northern side of Fog City. The rich people side. Unlike the slums the streets had plenty of surveillance cameras, the houses were big and well maintained and the people didn’t give you the impression that they would commit murder as long as that would help them score their next hit of heroin. He went to the parking lot reserved for inhabitants of the Shangri-la at the back of the building and stepped into his car. Depending on the traffic the drive from Norfog to the Slums could last between 30 minutes and two hours.


It was 9:30 when he arrived at the Slums. He parked his car several blocks away from the crime scene and paid some black kid a fifty dollars to watch his car, with the promise of another fifty if the car was untouched by the time he came back.

It was a 10 minute walk to the street Jessica Hayes lived in and the closer he got the more policemen and women he saw talking to civilians, hoping they’d seen anything. Ellis was well aware that he stood out a bit in his 3000 dollar suit, but he didn’t care. It was his way of mocking the police, his way of showing that he was better than anyone here.

After standing in the crowd for less than five minutes, one of the officers approached him. The tag on his chest told Ellis that his name was McGuire. “Sir, mind if I ask you some questions.â€

“Of course not, officer. Shoot.â€


After talking to officer McGuire for about 15 minutes, Ellis had gotten bored of all his inane questions. It had reached the point wherein Ellis hoped that McGuire would ask him if he committed the murder, just so he could yell ‘YES’ and be done with it. Luckily McGuire was done asking questions before long and left Ellis back to his viewing party. At that time two policemen stepped out of the apartment complex. They weren’t in uniform, so they were probably the detectives. The first of them was a slightly older man, probably in his late thirties or early forties, but Ellis didn’t care about him.

It was the younger black-haired woman that interested him. It was obvious that she was new here, a rookie, not yet hardened by dozens of cases. Messing with her would prove to be fun!


It’s been more than 24 hours since he saw her. Being a Dotcom millionaire computer genius had proven to have its benefits when it took Ellis less than 24 hours to find out everything known about little detective Sarah Willow.

With step one, the prologue, out of the way and the introduction of his opponent, it was time for step two, the letter of challenge. It didn’t take long for him to put down his thoughts, he knew exactly what he wanted to say to her. He knew exactly what he wanted to do to her.


“Dear Miss Sarah Willow,

It has come to my attention that thanks to your academic prowess you have managed to become a detective in a record setting time. I would like to offer you my heartfelt congratulations and at the same time express my sorrow. Whether it was by cruel chance or because we were destined for each other it has been decided that you will be my friend.

I realize that it may be harsh of me to ask a newfound friend to play with me, but I fear I have little choice. You see, last night in a fit of boredom I killed Jessica Hayes in apartment 206 on Maple Street. Of course I meant for it to be a one-time thing. I was bored, I could not help myself. Luckily I found a way to relieve me of my boredom and prevent me from ever having to kill anyone again. I designed an exquisitely entertaining game, but the problem was that I am a little short on friends to play with. I guess I shouldn’t have killed them?

That was a joke, of course. You should be laughing right about now, but I don’t have any way to check if you are, so I’ll have to trust you, because that is what friends do! So now I am going to ask you to trust me. In a day or two, maybe three, you’ll receive another message from me indicating the start of the game. If you play the game, no one else will have to die. Decline, or fail, and I’ll kill again. Winning all the time is so boring, so I’ll have to find entertainment elsewhere.

One last thing. I don’t particularly care if you tell your colleagues about this email, I don’t care whether you ask them for advice, I don’t care whether you believe me or not. I just want you to know that you are at the beginning of a long road and I am at the end. At the end of this journey, you will realize who I am. What I am. What I am capable of. You will understand everything. But for now, you are Alpha. See if you can become Beta.

Also don’t bother trying to trace me. It won’t work.

Eternally yours,


‘Send,’ with a click of his mouse he sent the email to Willow’s personal email address that he had managed to find during his investigation. Elated he started going around in circles on his chair, with his hands behind his head, and stared at the ceiling. ‘Guess it’s time to start game one.’

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"So where are we with the Hayes case?"

Sarah had always enjoyed meeting Chief Irons in his office; he would usually be found chomping on a cigar and pounding down more coffee than one human being should consume in a week, let alone one day. He was very old school, what with magnifying glasses lying scattered about his desk, and he flaunted the old brown leather concealable handgun harness.

At least the man was consistent, and he was the finest cop she'd probably ever meet.

"Sir," she began, her eyes glued to the case file in her hands, "as of right now, we don't have any leads, nor is there much physical evidence to go on: we have the knife, the message left by the perp and the marks on the victim's neck. We canvassed the neighborhood, but nobody saw anything or met anyone suspicious."

"Any persons of interests?" He asked, the stub of cigar in the corner of his mouth sending a constant stream of smoke into the air.

"No sir, not really; McGuire interviewed some playboy in a very expensive suit, but that was about it."

"Very expensive suit on Maple Street, in the Slums. Sounds sketchy to me kid--what do you think?"

Her brow furrowed as she searched Irons' steel grey eyes with her own hazel orbs, trying to remember the man's face; young and handsome, and sharply dressed too--he didn't fit the bill of a murderer. Yet.

"He was probably on his way to work and stopped to gawk--there was quite a crowd out there sir."

Irons was silent for a moment as he removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, obvious fatigue plaguing his old body; he combatted his weariness with a generous pull from his steaming mug, before waving his hand before her.

"Alright kiddo. Continue."

She searched for more to say internally while her eyes roamed the Chief's desk--mountains of paperwork littered the beautiful mahogany tabletop, dozens of case files and memorandums strewn about. She liked that he was messy--it was the sign of a genius.


Her head tilted upward, her eyes finding his; he was the sole person in the department that used her first name--everyone else stuck to a last-name basis.

"Yes sir."

"Is everything alright?"

She considered lying, but she knew he'd catch her in the act; he was too seasoned to fall for her lame ruse of 'everything is fine'.

"Everything is fine si--"

"Bullshit," he interjected, and they both smiled.

"Look, I know throwing you on this is sudden, but trust me kid, I wouldn't have done it if I didn't believe that you were ready. You're the smartest damn cop I've seen come through here in a long while, and I know you and Stevens can get this done. And you will too, because his case completion percentage sucks and the Mayor is on my ass about it."

She laughed at his words, the stress of the case and her dream fading away as he nodded and donned his glasses again. She contemplated telling him about her dream, but she decided against it and instead began to study the file again.

"Ok kid--run it by me one more time."


Silverware lay forgotten atop the messy plate as Detective Stevens reclined within his booth, both arms extended and relaxed upon the top of his seat to either sides of him; he had just finished his favorite meal at his favorite diner while wearing his favorite suit--life didn't get much better than that.

His favorite suit, a charcoal grey three-piece with a silver-striped black tie to accentuate it along with a matching handkerchief, was expertly tailored and cleaned; he simply would not have it any other way: he was fashionably sensible, moreso for the ladies though than himself, but he loved the way he looked.

On top of his sharp wardrobe, his boyish good looks and charm betrayed the fact that he was approaching forty, with a full head of dark brown hair. He was witty, a 'wise guy', his humor often mockery but his insults were hollow--for the most part.

"You eat slower than old people fuck, you know that?"

His partner paused in mid-bite, arched her eyebrow at him, then bit upon the potatoes on her fork and resumed reading the file in her hand.

She was a tough sell.

Sarah Willow. She was a mystery to him, for they had been partners for little over a few months now; apparently she was some whiz kid who graduated high school early, then conquered college early with a degree in psychology, and then creamed even the brightest the police academy had to offer. Now at the tender age of twenty-six, she was closing cases faster than Martha Stewart could switch funds between accounts.

And then she came to him im Homicide.

His department was falling behind in cases, and Irons had brought her over to help alleviate that. He was lucky enough to be teamed up with her, if not for her smarts then because she was beautiful.

The woman was fair skinned and pale, standing at average women height with long, black hair cascading down her back when off-duty. Her hazel eyes were lovely, perpetually inquisitive and large like a doe--the myriad of directions in which she could move her eyebrows was a bonus.

She didn't exactly pop out as gorgeous, but five minutes in her presence and something about her draws you in; he still hadn't figured out what it was yet.

"God, you're such a creeper," his partner pointed out, her eyes finding his.

"Eat your food little girl, I'm ready to go."





The bag was swinging back and forth like a pendulum with each succession of punches and kicks; Sarah panted as she exerted more energy than was necessary as she assaulted the defenseless piece of equipment.

The gym was dimly lit and devoid of life, aside from the cop who was obsessing over her first case; most of the precinct had split a while ago, and now that midnight was approaching, she assumed she was alone. It was no matter--she had nobody to go home to anyway.

Her hands were stinging as she pushed herself harder and harder, the image of Jessica Hayes' lifeless body hanging before her mind's eye; her feet throbbed with pain as she abused them, cursing her luck for not catching a single break in the case.

Sweat rolling off her in sheets, she finally halted her fury and simply walked into the locker room to shower.


10:27 a.m.

"Oh fuck."

Sarah rolled over and stood to her feet, wiping her face as she desperately tried to wake herself up; she had fallen asleep upon one of the precinct beds last night and now she was late to work.

Clad in a sweatsuit and bare feet, she opened up the door to the dark room and exited, surprised to find that the office wasn't exactly bustling with activity; everyone was probably in a meeting or something.

Relieved, she snuck past countless cubicles to get to her desk, her slightly bruised, purple feet causing her to wince with each step. Rounding a corner, she plopped herself down onto her chair and began to don her running shoes--she needed to head home for a change of clothes.

But something on the screen caught her eye.

Curious, she hovered the mouse over her email icon and clicked it; there was a letter in her inbox.

She opened it.

And then her heart promptly skipped a beat.

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For the past 40 hours he had done nothing but think about what kind of challenge he would give Sarah Willow for the first round of their game. Since it was only just the beginning, proposing something outrageously difficult would only scare her away. He needed to ease her into it, give her the idea that she stood a chance. The feeling that one day she might prevail. That would make her inevitable defeat for more satisfying. Licking his lips in excitement he finished typing the second message that he had planned on sending Sarah.

He puffed out a cloud of smoke and extinguished the cigarette butt before taking another sip of his drink all the while staring at his monitor with a certain sense of accomplishment. ‘Detective Willow, please don’t disappoint me.’ He hoped more than anything in the world that Sarah would be all that he thought she was, maybe even more. For now all he could do was send the message and see how the first round goes. First he needed to take a breather to think things over. Pacing back and forth between his kitchen, to clean the dishes, and his PC, to reread the email, he kept pondering if there were any necessary changes.

Eventually he decided that he had done enough. It was time to pull off the band aid and get over with it. Detective Willow had waited long enough.


“Dear Sarah Willow,

Before we get down to business I would like to apologize for the wait. Setting up the first round of the game took slightly longer than I expected, but I am glad to announce that everything is ready to go as of now!

The first round of our magnificent game will be a relatively easy one. To put it bluntly, I am asking you to arrest a criminal. You probably know that in the last three months there have been four unsolved rape cases in the Southside Slums, I can confidently inform you that all four of these cases have been committed by the very same man. A homeless piece of shit who has been spending the night under the  Yellow River Bridge.

Oh, yeah, in case you read his case file, you seem to be exactly his type!

Anyway, this sounds boring and all, so we’re going to spice it up a bit. You are not allowed to bring your firearm or any other police-issue weaponry to the Yellow River Bridge. Tomorrow, on the 19th, at 6PM you’ll find a garbage container with a small white cardboard box. That box contains a switchblade, which will be the only thing you are allowed to carry with you! So no cell phone, no police badge, no gun, to baton, not even your purse. Oh, also no partner.

On top of that, I’m not telling who the perpetrator is. You wouldn’t be much of a genius profiler if you can’t figure it out for yourself. Be careful though, I’ve heard that the homeless are pack animals, they might defend the guy even though he is a scumbag. I guess pieces of shit have to stick together?

If you don’t manage to find the rapist between 6PM and 12AM, you lose. If you bring anything or anyone with you, you lose. If you lose, someone will die.

Well, I look forward to seeing how you perform! ‘Cause don’t worry, I’ll be watching.

Much love,


With that finally out of the way, all that was left was to wait for her to make her move. Would she respond to this email? Or would she stay silent like she did with the last one. Even more important; would she actually accept his challenge?

A million questions had been popping into Ellis’ mind for a while now, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He had purposefully left out any details about the first murder than only the murderer would know, just to test how gullible Willow truly was.

Or maybe she’d be really smart if she actually believed the mail?


It was a Friday night, the night was still young, there was plenty of time for him to find someone to suck his dick tonight. Worrying about his beloved Sarah Willow would have to wait until tomorrow.

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"He sent another email? He's persistent."

Sarah's cubicle was a bit more crowded than usual, as the precinct was on edge and certainly intrigued by the mysterious man on the other end of the line. It had been almost two days since the first letter, and Sarah hadn't gotten much sleep since then. Much to the dismay of Stevens and Irons, she continued to stay at home; they had both offered to house her, just in case the perp had her apartment cased and could potentially murder her in her sleep, but she had declined.

She may had been rattled initially, but she wasn't afraid. Now she was ready to play whatever game he had in store for her.

"Do you think he's the guy who popped Jessica Hayes?" one of the detectives inquired from over her shoulder.

She clicked the mouse a few times and the letter in which he had admitted to it popped up.

"Well he admits to it here, but he could be lying--if he isn't, then he's one cocky son of a bitch for telling us, but then again, I get the impression he's got somewhat a of a big head anyway," she mused softly, scanning over his words as if they were nothing more than an article in the Sunday paper.

She had spent countless hours poring over his two letters, deciphering what was available to her, but admittedly she hadn't gotten far; perhaps it was the lack of sleep working against her, or perhaps she wasn't as bright as she and the rest of the world thought she was.

"So what's the move now Sarah?" another detective casually asked of her.

The female detective sat motionless for a moment, before she powered down the monitor and stood up from her chair, jacket in hand.

"I think I have a favor I need to call in."


"You're sure this is him?"

"Oh yeah. I'd bet my wife's prized petunias on it."

Sarah stared down into the eyes of a deranged man, his mugshot clutched loosely within her fingertips--just touching the paper made her skin crawl. The perp wore an unkempt beard and sadistic grin, a malicious gleam twinkling within the far recesses of his dark eyes; now that she looked at the picture a bit closer, she began to wonder why she had questioned Detective Gomez in the first place.

"I won't even ask 'if' he has any, but--what are his priors?"

The slim Hispanic cop chuckled a bit as he jammed his hands into his pockets, turning away from the desk to peer out of his office window.

"Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication, Resisting Arrest, Indecent Exposure and a nasty Sexual Assault beef. He's a regular law abiding citizen, as you can tell."


"Are you going to tell me what this is about Willow?"

She looked up at Gomez from her seat, her bottom lip pinned by her clenched teeth; she wanted to speak on everything, from the murder of Jessica Hayes to the two letters she had received, and to the mysterious man who had been sending them--but she and Gomez were no longer partners and no longer worked in the same department; she had moved onto Homicide and he to Special Victims--she preferred to keep such sensitive details strictly in-house, especially considering the situation.

"Sorry Gomez, I can't really say, but trust me, I wouldn't come to you if I didn't seriously need your help."

He assessed her with a soft yet piercing gaze, but he relented, rolling his shoulders as he motioned toward the mugshot.

"His name is Benjamin Strait. Suspected of multiple rape beefs over in the Slums, but he's never left behind enough evidence for us to can his ass."

"And of course, the victims aren't talking."


"Do you know where he is?"

"Oh yeah. That piece of shit lives right underneath the Yellow River Bridge. Lord knows I've visited the dump probably too many times."


"No. Forget about it kid."

"But, sir, if you'll just let--"

"I said no Sarah. That's the end of it."

The Chief blandly shot down her request to go pick up Strait, and he did so by simply waving his hand as if he were shooing a fly.

"I'm aware of the risk sir, and I'm also aware that this could be a practical joke. Shouldn't we at least check this out, on the off chance that someone actually does die?"

"What you're suggesting goes against what this Department stands for Willow--I know you know this. We can't just up and lasso every street walker with a record without conclusive evidence that was crime has been committed; I was gracious enough to allow you to go to SVU and talk to Gomez, but even he hasn't rounded Benjamin Strait up because he has yet to commit another crime. I'm sorry kid, but even if he were in trouble, you still wouldn't go simply because it isn't safe. And that's final."

She sat back in her chair, dejected and defeated, her hazel eyes wide as she searched the mahogany of his desk for answers.

"Are we finished here kid? I've got a lot of work to attend to."

"Yeah. We're finished sir."


8:47 p.m.

The freeway overpass was deafening as cars whizzed by at ridiculous speeds. Night had fallen much faster than she had expected, but that was somewhat to her advantage--Irons had thrown a few tails on her for her safety, but not only had she thrown them off shortly after escaping from her apartment by the fire escape, but it was now completely too dark to find her.

But they know where to find you, a voice in her head said.

That voice was right; Irons had a report on his desk, courtesy of Detective Gomez, that detailed Bejamin Strait's movements for the past six months--he was well aware that Sarah was going to be poking around the Yellow River Bridge, especially since she only had four hours left until the deadline.

Irons knows where you are and so does the mysterious killer, the voice continued.

By this point, she was beginning to regret her decision.

Clad in a brown leather jacket, a pair of jeans and a pair of non-descript sneakers, Detective Sarah Willow peered into the inky black darkness from the 'safety' of the pavilion she was underneath, the park surrounding it deserted not because it was night, but because the neighborhood she found herself in had a notorious reputation; women were kidnapped and raped out here regularly, and it was all SVU could do to try and curb the casualties.

And yet, she had come unarmed and ill equipped, as instructed.

She felt naked without the reassuring weight of heavy metal on her hip, felt anxious without the calming presence of steel handcuffs upon her waist; perhaps this was the wrong course of action, but it wasn't as if she was left with many options. Either she played the game or risked another innocent dying, and she sure as well wasn't going to let something like that happen on her watch.

"Ok, let's do this," she mumbled to herself, and with that, she walked off into the night.


"Oh c'mon Sarah, don't do this."

Stevens watched the blue dot begin to move to the north, indicating that his partner was moving from the safety of her shelter and into the wooded area behind the park. The screen of his handheld device went dark as he looked out through the windshield of his rustey, non-descript car; he wasn't comfortable with the situation at all.

His partner wasn't aware that he had bugged her jacket when she was meeting with the Chief, nor was she aware that he had actually gotten to the Slums before she had, though he was parked a few streets over; before his eyes, he had witnessed a few cars being broken into, but it was more of a little fish, big fish situation at the moment. He had decided to park this far away and out of line-of-sight because clearly, whoever was fucking with his partner in such a way was easily capable of spotting a tail, and that was all the excuse this maniac would need to do Sarah in.

And then her blood would be on his hands.

Worried and anxious, he powered the screen back on and watched as the blue dot crept closer to the river and deeper into hostile territory.

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This would be the third night in a row that he’d spend under the YRB. He had no choice. It would get extremely suspicious if he had joined the group the night of that detective Willow came to arrest Strait, so he had to get acquainted with them before that happened. Luckily he had plenty of time for that.

The homeless were a pack; they were extremely violent towards outsiders, but they would go through great lengths to help or protect their kin. It took quite some effort for Ellis to lose his normally clean appearance and assume the guise of a homeless person. A set of false, crooked teeth, brown coloured contacts, not shaving for three days and hair grease to make it seem like he hadn’t shower in a while were only the first few steps. After managing to get his hands on torn black jeans, a dark brown worn out hoodie and old black boots his disguise was complete.

It was close to 9 PM, but he had yet to lay his eyes on Willow. He had half a mind to go and talk to her, confident that the hood pulled over his head and the greasy hair covering half of his forehead would be enough to keep his identity hidden from her even if they were to meet again, but that would’ve been an unnecessary risk. There would be plenty of opportunities for him to have a chat with her without him compromising his identity. For now the first challenge was a priority.

Benjamin Strait was among the homeless men huddled around a burn barrel while trying to fight off  October’s cold. Benjamin was a misogynistic piece of shit who took pride in boasting about his ‘conquests’, as he referred to them. Ellis was indifferent towards him, Strait was nothing more than a pawn in the game that Ellis wanted to play with detective Willow, but he had to be the ugliest pawn ever created. Over the past few days he had listened to several rape, larceny and assault stories in order to fit in with the group. But what an unsophisticated group they were. They were rotten, tainted. Acting without sense of purpose, inflicting harm upon others simply for the hell of it. They weren’t like Ellis.

“Hey, Benjamin! Ain’t ya gettin’ a bit bored?â€

The three men, Strait and his two companions, hadn’t committed a decent crime in a while and had begun feeling unsatisfied.

“How ‘bout you, new guy?â€

“I just want to stay warm today,†Ellis replied. “Not in the mood for any crimes.†Anyone who knew Ellis knew that was a major lie, but again he had to set aside his selfish desires in order for this to work out.

Not long after that did he hear footsteps coming towards their general direction. They were light, not nearly as brute as the homeless men who had kept him company for the past few days. “Sorry, fellas, I got to go. I’ll smell you later.†With that Ellis stood up and started walking in the direction of the footsteps. The men he left behind stared with a surprised gaze at his back, for them it was unclear why anyone would leave the heat of the burn barrel and wander off into the darkness.

With his head low and his hands rubbing his own arms he walked down the road and crossed paths with someone he recognized; detective Sarah Willow. Hoping she wouldn’t pay him any attention and merely focus on the sounds that Strait and his gang were making, he kept on walking without paying her any heed.


“Fellas, do ya hear that? Someone’s coming.â€

“You sure it isn’t just Jimmy, Ben?â€

“Jimmy just left, why would he come back?â€

“Maybe he forgot some’in?â€

“Now ya’re just being stupid, Alex. Just… just shut the fuck up and listen, okay?â€


As the three quieted down they heard footsteps drawing closer. “You hear that? Those ain’t Jimmy’s footsteps I’ll tell ya that.†He reached into the inner pocket of his old parka coat and drew out a switchblade. “Guessin’ we’ll be havin’ some fun tonight after all, boys.â€

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Sarah Willow had come upon the riverbank. Overhead, the dark YRB loomed, and behind, the dark park stretched on into an inky blackness no light could pierce.

And before her, danger traipsed.


Her tiny voice echoed out to the group that huddled around a burning barrel, her eyes wide to catch any minute detail in the night. The cold cold steel of the foreign switchblade that Omega had promised would be on site was pressed into the palm of her her right hand, ready to strike at a moment's notice.

The men turned toward her, their gazes falling upon her from afar though their intentions were unclear. Until...

"Get her boys!"

Icy fingers of horror clutched at her stomach as the shadowy figures bore down upon her position, and woth great haste. Sarah clenched her teeth but held her ground, her heart beating as fast as it ever had.

The first to make it to the Detective swung and missed with a wild hook, and she rewarded him with a swift kick to the midsection, a direct blow to his ribs; as she was defending herself, another of the vagrants knocked her to the ground with a harsh shoulder tackle.

The switchblade was lost in the grass.

Fiery pain exploded within her hip as she cried out, looking up at her attacker from her back; he was on top of her now, his hands pinning her wrists to the ground as she struggled to break free.

"Sshhh, stop struggling Detective Willow," the man whispered into her ear.

She stopped instantly, her wild eyes focusing on her 'attacker'.

Somewhere above her, she heard who she assumed was Benjamin rallying his fallen comrade back to his feet.

"But she kicked me in mah ribs Ben--it really hurts."

"Don't you mind that boy, Alex has her trapped; now it's our turn to hurt her."

As the two men approached, Sarah's now free hand desperately clawed at the cold ground to locate the missing switchblade. Their footsteps were loud and uneven as Detective Franklin maintained his position atop her body to fool the two homeless men.

"Good job Alex, now we can--"

Benjamin's speech was cut short as the blade dug its way into his vulnerable leg, nothing but the hilt prottuding from the extremity.

Franklin, an undercover cop from SVU, exploded from his position and tackled the other homeless man to the ground, easily bypassing what little defenses he had.

With the two men subdued, Sarah immediately pushed Franklin to the ground and subdued him as well--it was merely an act to maintain appearances.

"I can't explain, but just work with me here: for now, you aren't a cop and the only reason you attacked them is because you weren't interested in raping me," she whispered to him.

He nodded and remained silent, his face in the grass.

Sarah rose to her feet, ignoring Benjamin's cries of pain and agony as he could only watch the source of his pain saunter over, hands on her hips.

"Good evening Ben."

"Fuck you, psycho bitch!"

"We'll get to that later," she replied coolly.

She produced a cell phone from her jacket pocket, her eyes lazily watching as her fingers dialed the number to the station; having already passed her challenge, she was in the clear to call in backup to remove the suspects.

She only hoped that the Chief wouldn't tear her a new one in the process.

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