[Note: This short story was written as part of a contest. The first and last lines (in bold) were provided & we had to construct our stories between those.]
The eyes were wide open as if staring into her soul. The arctic cold front reinforced the already firm icy silver lining on the black vinyl siding of the old building. It resembled a thin stray of lightning in a dark night, from a distance, as it glittered brightly under moonlight. And that night, it literally was the only silver lining anyone could find in that sleepy town. That is, if anyone really cared to look for one.
Glum and Doom are the only two ways one could summarize the mood that prevailed in Hemsville that evening. It certainly was not the typical cheerful December evening the town had come to be known for in its 139 years of existence. It certainly was not the best day to be working at the Hemsville Police Department, where the need for an officer’s presence in its main office building after 6 PM, never existed till that day. An HPD clerk and a security guard normally took charge of their third shift duties exactly at 5:45 PM, by conveniently getting settled to catch up on prime time television sitcoms and late night talk shows, after all the officers leave between 5:30 PM and 6:00 PM.
Chief Shirley had been looking through the window for about 10 minutes in complete darkness created out of necessity, just like an animal waiting for its prey in the jungle, with a fear that its predator could also be looking for its prey. Her gun was out of its holster, while it looked like she was in a sprint start position, fully bent below the main window of the reception area. Between Shirley and the reception desk, laid the body of Sergeant Kimberly who had just come in for her third shift duty. Her eyes were wide open and to Shirley it felt like they were staring into her own soul because it very well could have been her turn that night. Those 18 minutes after the first shot was fired inside the HPD office building could not have been any different from a crime scene involving a killer on the loose.
Earlier, as Shirley was getting ready to leave for the day at 5:42 PM, she received a package, delivered to her by the town’s deliveryman Himler. With only four more days to go for Christmas, Shirley was not surprised to get a package, which she assumed was addressed to her, at her office. She was about to open the package when her cell phone rang. It was her daughter Amber.
“Timothy wouldn’t let me watch my channels on TV mom! He has been watching Pokemon-Shokemon for 2 hours..”
“Honey..Amber..can you be patient with your baby brother for a little while?. Mom will be home in 15 minutes..I will talk to him after I get home….If you are hungry, there is some leftovers from last night’s dinner…you can check…I will fix your favorite dinner as soon as I get home..Ok..dear?”
“Honey, Please..Mom has had a long day..Please..”
“Alright..whatever..but will you promise me to take me to Mexico for my history project?”
“…Hey listen Amber….I will take you to Mexico next summer. It’s a promise..Ok?”
5:45 PM. Kimberly had just settled at her desk when she noticed the silhouette outside the main window. It was a full moon night, and with snow flurries drifting, the visibility outside was not bad at all for a winter night. The figure that caught Kimberly’s eyes was that of a man in a long trench coat, but it was too brief, yet anyone else in her position probably would have raised an alarm. It was not unusual to see passers by on the sidewalk outside the office building, but not this close to the main window, which was really perpendicular to the building’s only parking lot.
5:46 PM. When Shirley disconnected her call with her daughter and was about to turn around to walk towards the coat stand, she noticed through the corner of her eyes that the package she had just received had a rather odd looking symbol on the top left hand corner where one normally expects to see the sender’s information. The symbol at a quick glance was very catchy because of its red color. But it also seemed handmade and not machine made even for a well-trained pair of eyes. Shirley took a moment to see what that symbol was. What she saw horrified her instantaneously. After a few seconds of trying to place that symbol which seemed very familiar to her, she got distracted. There was a scream followed by a sound of 2 gunshots, with the latter shot almost sounding like an echo of the former one. She had to literally throw the package on the floor and run behind the wall that separated her office room from the reception area. There was an eerie bit of silence for the next few minutes. Only the noises of painful moaning and footsteps filled the air.
The feeble words coming out of the reception area confirmed to Shirley that Kimberly was the victim. And she could hear her say in a very peaceful tone..
“I love you Sam. I will see you soon..”
5:54 PM. Shirley had noticed that the moaning sound had stopped.
“Poor Kimberly”, Shirley thought. “She didn’t deserve to die like this”. Shirley didn’t want to run into trouble voluntarily, but she knew there were not too many choices left for her at that moment. The security guard on duty that night either had already been shot dead outside or had left the premises. So unless Shirley stepped outside the room to look at the scene, she would never be able to catch the criminal on loose, however remote the chances were. So she started crawling on the floor with the gun pulled out and moved outside her office towards the reception desk. What under normal circumstances would take her 5 seconds, took almost 3 minutes. Shirley quickly rolled over to the other side of the desk and hit the main power button, which was hidden under the desk. The building became dark. Except for the lights coming through the windows from outside, it was pitch black. Shirley tried very hard not to breathe so that the silence in the air could remain unpolluted. She hardly heard any noise from within the building.
“Does the package have anything to do with the killing?”, Shirley wondered. Then a chill went through her spine when the thought crossed her mind – “The killer is really looking for me”. “But Why?”.
She decided to wait by the window to ensure she had a better chance of going after the killer should he or she walk out now.
6:04 PM. Shirley heard the footsteps again. She became alert and got back to her sprint start position. Then she heard some heavy noise created by tossing and turning of paper work across the many office desks & it felt like the noise was approaching her. She could actually sense the person getting closer now. The raw smell of salt and snow & the crunchy sound of the salt getting crushed between the boots and the carpet made her even more alert. Because of the overall darkness, the person approaching the reception desk did not have a particularly clear vision of the layout of the office, hence fumbled along till he tripped over Kimberly’s body. Shirley seized the moment.
In no time, she was on top of the person, wringing his neck while positioning her knees in his crotch area after delivering a quick blow there, immediately followed by swinging the gun onto his temple pointedly. She did not have much time to deliberate over what her next actions should be, because with a 6 feet and 180 lb. frame figure lying on the floor, she was no match to the physical strength of the man who could make her choke with just 2 fingers. Shirley used her knees again and this time with more power. She could hear him scream. “Jesus”. Then she quickly rolled over to turn the lights on while the man on he floor was writhing in pain and potentially in no position to stand straight for a few more minutes. As soon as the room was lit up, Shirley looked at the man suffering with some pain and recognized him immediately.
“Sam! You?”“What the hell is going on?”
“Ha.ha..it’s me Chief..yes..”
“You killed Kimberly?”
“Look at her lying on the floor next to you..” “I have to charge you on several counts Sam..”
“It is not what it looks like..”
“What is not?”
“Look at her bleeding Sam..She is dead..”
“I am here looking for a package Chief. It was supposed to have been delivered to Kimberly today..and what you see here..what you see her now..she is not really dead..This is a ceremony Chief. You won’t understand. It is not what it looks like..”
“Bloodletting. An ancient Mayan ceremony. Makes us connect with the God. You won’t understand it Chief. I need to know where Kimberly has the package..”
“Because it has instructions on the next steps of the ceremony. I need to act fast…else Kimberly will be really dead…”
6:13 PM. Shirley moved stealthily towards Sam and used her pointed boots this time to ensure Sam could suffer a little longer with a torturous pain in the groin area, while she brought the package to Sam. It was clear now that Himler had delivered the package to the wrong person.
He quickly opened the package and grabbed a sheet of paper on which Shirley could see some kind of instructions written. Sam pulled out a syringe from the box inside the package, opened a bottle of some liquid, and mixed some powder from another packet before sucking all of them in using the syringe and injecting it onto Kimberly’s temple area.
“I had to make sure she bleeds in her brain….so she could make the connection. Her eyes are open. That’s a good sign…This liquid shot is supposed to stop the bleeding..and once it does, she …”
“Kimberly..you are back”..
“Sam, it was a great experience…I was….”
6:16 PM. Shirley was still recovering from the shock. The last few minutes were a roller coaster ride for her. She had no idea what was unfolding in front of her eyes. But she was glad that Kimberly was not dead. She wanted to sort everything out quickly and get out of the place to be home with her children.
“Kimberly, before the blood dries up we need to take your palm prints on these papers..”, said Sam.
As Sam moved the wrapper around, to get what looked like some special tracing paper sheets, the symbol caught Shirley’s eyes again. This time she paid closer attention to it.
“Wow..Isn’t that the Vision Serpent?”
“How do you know about this?”, said Sam, as he put down all the sheets in front of Kimberly who now was able to sit on the floor..
“Amber’s History project….Never knew…it would come handy…Ha….But I always thought that was just history..”
“Not for us..”
“We have to send these papers to get anointed….”
6:18 PM. Kimberly continued to press both her hands on the floor where her own blood had formed a pool, as she got ready to imprint her palms on the special trace paper sheets.
She scrubbed and scrubbed her hands till they were red.