“Well, are we going to kill him or not?” Jr asked with a slight scowl.
“Of course not what’s wrong with you!” said Nathan. They had been having this back and forth Nathan’s entire car ride home and to his displeasure, it continued into the night. To his further annoyance Jr had taken to wearing the stupidly expensive watch Nathan never wanted to see again. “First I promised father Norton there wouldn’t be any other killings and second even if we were going with your plan we don’t have concrete proof of Foster’s corruption.”
Indeed it looked like there wasn’t anything online that even hinting at Foster working with the Evans brothers online. To everyone in the city save a few fringe groups he was the people’s mayor. Nathan would have liked to believe that too, that their conversation at Luckybeat was all to goad him into giving up information about the hook killer. That idea was shattered though as a grandiose basket of expensive champagnes, a charcuterie board, and expensive steaks was waiting on his doorstep when he got home.
He had four of the steaks for dinner and stress ate the charcuterie board while digging up evidence, yet still didn’t feel full. Something was off with his appetite something he felt needed a doctor to look over.
“You don’t have proof because you ate it.” Jr mumbled.
Nathan ignored this and said, “You need to calm down. Everything’s going as planned. The dagger’s been defanged from our church visit, I have a plan to move forward with Umbra, and we’re about to take down Foster.” He got up from his laptop and moved to his living room. “Let’s see if anything about Foster shows up in the news.”
He knew nothing would come up but was happy to watch if it meant keeping Jr quiet even if for only a moment. The stories were just the usual though, a tagger running rampant through graveyards in the night, general fear and hysteria about the hook killer, and more information on a missing woman. He was about to shut it off as one of the reporters began to speak.
“Don’t forget tonight we will be live from the policeman’s ball to raise money for the VPD’s K-9 unit. Mayor Foster will be there too so make sure you come out, donate, and party, it’s sure to be a good time. Now to Catherine for the weather.”
Jr smiled playfully which Nathan didn’t like at all. “No,” he said quickly.
“You said you needed evidence and a source and what’s better than a firsthand account?” Jr asked.
“That’s breaking and entering, I promised Father-”
“Oh my god, will you stop with the goddamned priest! I regret sending you to that place, I mean for god’s sake you’re not even a Christian!” Said Jr. “Besides, you promised you wouldn’t commit any more sins right? Which of the seven sins involves breaking and entering? As long as you don’t rob the man on your way out you’re in the clear.”
He hated how sound Jr’s logic was just as much as the fact he was now having full conversations with the specter. Nothing he did at Foster’s house would be in breach of his promise to Father Norton, and it seemed like the only way he’d get anything on Foster. He hesitated but finally said, “One condition… The dagger stays here. I don’t trust the thing after its little performance in the church.”
Jr tapped his foot impatiently against the floor apparently irked the proposal. “You drive a hard bargain but fine. The dagger can stay. Hell, I’ll stay behind too if it gets you down to his house.”
“That would make me feel better but I was meaning to ask you something. What exactly are you? You look exactly like me but ten years younger.” He hesitated a moment before adding, “Have I cracked?”
“You’re just now asking this?” Jr said with a haughty laugh. “Well fine. I don’t know exactly what I am. Perhaps I’m exactly what you said before. ‘A figment of an overworked mind.’ I do know what I want to do and that’s help you Nath. Help you take down Joseph and get revenge for Alice. Our Alice.”
Now it was Nathan’s turn to laugh. “Don’t give me that figment bullshit. That was before I saw you moving things, opening cabinets, and touching me. No you have something to do with the dagger and I’m going to find out what.”
“Are you sure about that? Joseph and Erik didn’t see me remember? Maybe you’ve just been doing everything yourself.”
“I won’t be gaslighted by myself…” Said Nathan as he gathered his keys. He knew how crazy he sounded as he said it. “No you’re real and I’ll have to deal with you at some point…”
He heard Jr snicker as he was leaving. He hated how persuasive the doppelganger could be and knew he had to do something about it. But for now it was being helpful, taking down a corrupt politician would be the first step to ridding the city of people like the Evans brothers and eventually Joseph Crane.
“Be careful around that Crane fellow and Umbra I can’t exactly tell you why but he’s a dodgy man.” Foster’s words echoed in his head. A tiny part of him wondered if getting rid of Foster would be a good idea. If Joseph and Foster were at ends with one another he reasoned there might be a way to use Foster to get rid of Joseph.
The summer’s heat hit him the second he was outside; it was getting hotter by the day and he was glad the season was almost over. Before getting in his car his eyes automatically darted to where Sammy had died. Where he had killed him. The pang of guilt he felt hit him every time he left and it was getting worse. Maybe I should move… Nathan thought glumly. But it was just a passing thought there was too much history in his house.
Nathan drove to an address on the piece of paper Foster passed him. At the edge of the paper there was a small string of numbers but he couldn’t think of what those were supposed to be. As he drove the houses began to get bigger and nicer; most of them were gated. The buildings lacked, muck and grime like the average ones you found in Vreport and the people walking about were all dressed to impress. The difference between how people like him and Foster lived couldn’t have been more apparent.
He parked in an alley blocks away from his destination; lest someone notice the shabby looking car in front of the mayor’s house.
The house Foster lived in was as majestic as he thought it would be. It was a marble mansion with large columns supporting an upper deck. The entire residence was surrounded by a large metal gate whose door had an electronic padlock on it. He himself was now disillusioned about Foster but seeing his house he wondered how anyone else could believe he didn’t have side deals. There was no way he could have afforded the house on a mayor’s salary.
While the padlock was worrying he thought he had a solution for it already. He got out of the car and simply input the random code he was given. There was a small moment of terror as Nathan waited for the machine to accept the code but in the end it turned green and clicked open.
What am I doing… He thought as the gate clicked behind him. It had just dawned on him that if he got caught he would be arrested, Joseph would just find someone else to be his killer, and he would never get to the root of the dagger’s mystery. Every sound he made from the crunch of a twig to the rustle of his clothes now seemed amplified to his ears.
He circled the property looking for an opening making sure to stay out of sight from the front door. If Foster had a doorbell security system his little excursion would be over. The house seemed impenetrable, if he were to break a window he was sure an alarm would trip, there was a doggy door that was big enough to fit him if he got on all fours but that also told him Foster had a dog.
Maybe there’s another way to do this. He thought as he circled the house a fourth time. I could trick him into giving me a tour and secretly record him. I’d lose my job but it’s not like I’ll need it when this is all over…As that gloomy thought passed a loud click rang out from the house. He looked and saw the door standing ajar. A familiar hand wearing a familiar watch was beckoning him inside from the gap.
Just a figment of my imagination huh! Nathan thought furiously. He decided he would have several words with Jr when he got home. For the time being he covered his face as best he could and barreled inside.
If the outside was extravagant the inside of Foster’s house was to higher degree. The entire house was decorated white as far as the eye could see; a bejeweled chandelier hung over the entrance way which Nathan was sure dazzled magnificently when powered; there were paintings adorning every wall, including replicas of famous paintings such as American Gothic or Monet’s water lilies. The banister leading to the second floor seemed to be made of real deer antlers; he wasn’t sure how usable such a thing was with all the prongs jutting out from it.
“Focus Nathan!” he whispered trying to disenchant himself. He took out his phone and turned on a light. If Foster were to have anything incriminating he felt it would have to be in his personal office if he had one.
He went from room to room on the first floor searching for the office. He became more amazed at how the richer half live with every room he passed; there were temperature controlled wine rooms with vintage wine for as far as the eye could see; an entire room full of expensive candies and even a home theater with rows of reclining seats. Unfortunately his amazement was marred by anger at the degree of how much Foster lied about cutting back.
He was living like this while people like Sammy died in the street. Nathan thought bitterly as he passed another diamond encrusted vase.
Before giving up and heading to the second floor he ended up in the kitchen. His eyes were instantly drawn to a large double door fridge. There was no reason for him to look inside he knew that but a voice inside him wanted him to keep looking at it.
When will you get to see what the wealthy eat again? The voice asked. Even though he thought the idea was silly he ripped open the fridge and was bathed in its cold glow.
His stomach growled angrily as the smell of the fridge hit him. He didn’t know why but he tore into the food like a wild dog. The feeling had been building for the last few days but the savage voracity he exhibited was different from the amount he’d been eating before. It barely mattered what he was eating as long as it fit down his throat; cartons of chinese food, eggplants, butter, it wall went down the same.
He was just finishing a pack of cold sushi when his elbow knocked over a metal bowl. It hit the ground with a metallic clatter that reverberated around the entire house. He froze as he heard a low growl. The dog! Nathan remembered too late. There was no trace of the beast as he walked around the house, so he put it out of mind.
There was no time to think he dropped the food he was holding and rushed for the front door. His heart stopped just before his feet did. Right before the entryway was a large Doberman watching the door. The urge to tiptoe away was there but the dog was too quick, it rounded on Nathan and cocked its head confusedly as if wondering what was going.
Nathan didn’t dare breathe; he had never been bitten by a dog but knew what a Doberman could do to a man. It’s confused. He thought frantically. Maybe it’s not an attack dog, it could just be Foster’s pet… Or maybe it hasn’t decided what to do with me yet…
The dog must’ve made up its mind as a split second later it crouched low to the ground. It let out a low growl as it bared its fangs. To Nathan, they looked like two rows of knives ready to sink into his flesh. He instantly regretted not bringing the dagger.
His heart accelerated as he watched the dog slowly walk his way. There was no way for him to think now; fear obliterated his every thought. He could see the dog’s eyes now; they were darker than the deepest black and appeared to engulf its sclera.
As the dog began to circle him he looked around him for something anything that could help him. One of Foster’s vases sat on a table right next to him but he didn’t think the Doberman would take kindly to him sticking out his arm.
With no other option and the dog becoming increasingly aggressive he quickly grabbed for the vase. The dog jumped for his exposed arm the second he did. With a berserk swing, Nathan smashed the vase into the dog’s open maw.
It whined in pain and jumped away from him after realizing what happened. Nathan’s legs seemed to come back to life. Without even thinking about an escape route he dashed up the central staircase. The dog barked at him in mad pursuit. The second he reached the landing he ran to the first door he saw and slammed it behind him. He could hear dog still furiously barking and slamming against the door but prayed it would hold.
Safe again he slumped against a wall and exhaled deeply, his hand sank into a deep carpet. He looked around to see large bookcases all around him. His eyes immediately zeroed in on a desk in front of a large window. The desktop was covered in scattered papers, and empty pill bottles; strangely enough on one of the desk’s edge was a bleached alligators skull; besides the skull was a picture of Foster and a man he swore he’d seen somewhere.
He got up, walked to the desk, and stopped; the dagger was sitting right on top of the papers. Nathan’s clenched his fist. He had asked one thing of Jr and he couldn’t even get that. The dagger still seemed inert though, so he brushed it aside and began combing through the mayor’s things. Someone’s got an anxiety problem… he thought examining one of the pill bottles. He tossed it aside and began reading the notes. Most were about taxes, inquiries, or letters asking for interviews. One such letter piqued his interest; it was stamped with a large golden ‘C’.
Mr. Foster, I assure you, no one from our organization would ever be caught fraternizing with anyone from the Evans Brother’s (let’s not mince words here) gang, Nathan read. Alistair was with me the night of the twenty-eighth our prototype for Umbra’s new virtual assistant is nearly complete. If you would like to discuss this further perhaps we can talk in a more modern fashion? My personal email address is below, I’ll be awaiting your letter. – Forever yours Joseph Crane.
“So that’s what he meant by dodgy. It seems scum runs in the same circle. ” Nathan thought tossing the letter aside. It did make him wonder though why the mayor would leave such a paper trail. If he could afford such a house he could’ve afforded a secure email service. Putting that out of mind he stopped leafing through the mail and looked up. The dog had stopped barking.
He had been so entranced by Joseph’s letter he hadn’t noticed. The dog’s silence was somehow more worrying to him than its viciousness. Attack dogs weren’t supposed to stop until there target was taken down.
Quickly now he looked through the letters again. Finally, he found one labeled ‘Evans shipping and security.’ Rolling his eyes at the syndicate’s facade he quickly scanned the letter.
Charles, we like everyone else believed our mutual problem was taken care of three years ago. You cannot imagine our dismay when we learned the killer had not only returned but preyed upon one of our workers. Now I like you Charles and would hate to see news about a missing person’s report turn into a murder investigation when I open Luckybeat’s morning paper, so I assume this problem will be handled much quicker than last time. Just to inspire you to get the job done we’ve left you a little present, make sure to lock it up tight. – Leon Evans
Nathan looked up from the letter aghast from what he just read. He entered the house hoping to find Foster was taking bribes not covering up murders. There was movement downstairs, he didn’t know if it was the dog or someone returning to the house. The letter was proof enough Foster was hiding something but the ‘present’ the letter mentioned would be even better. Before he knew it he was rummaging through the desk drawers looking for anything suspicious. His search came up with a few more empty pill bottles but nothing incriminating. He felt the desk’s large middle drawer though would turn up something interesting; it was locked, unlike the others.
Multiple footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs now. Nathan began to sweat as he grabbed the dagger and dived under the desk. He thrust the dagger upwards into the drawer’s bottom and carved around its edges; the dagger went through it like butter as its foreboding pulse started up in his hand.
When he finished cutting the drawer’s bottom fell out along with a silver revolver and several bullets. The weapon’s sudden appearance shocked him as he realized he was more than likely holding a murder weapon. Just to make sure he checked the gun’s chamber and saw two of the six shooter’s bullets were missing.
The door to the room opened and Nathan took a painfully sharp breath.
“What’s gotten into you Maxie? I’ve never seen you like this. If it’s about the vase I forgive you.” He heard Foster say with a chuckle.
For a single second, Nathan considered revealing himself as he heard the dog sniffing closer and closer to where he was. The sound was just at the edge of the desk now, but he was armed. Whether armed enough to defeat the dog he didn’t know.
He saw the Doberman’s great snout and quietly said, “Fuck it…” Throwing safety to the wind he jumped up from his hiding spot and turned to face Foster.
I really need to stop trying the auto-post feature on this site or at least study looking into it better. Sorry this is late I set it to post and then looked away. Anyways the last post of this story coming Monday and I’m leaving it on a strong note.
Until then stay well,