Walking in a Killer’s Wonderland
By: Brian Bringazi
Six o’clock on the dot. Rebecca Austin was always the last to leave the Santa Exhibit at Desoto Square Mall in Bradenton, Florida where she worked during the holidays. Sundays were always slow, and tonight was no different. Maintenance hadn’t fixed the lights and there were no video cameras working yet. She knew the area well, so there was really nothing to worry about. While she walked to her car, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She looked around. There was nobody there. The last-minute shoppers had left already. She dismissed the thought, but then she heard footsteps. Her skin began to crawl. Bone chilling sweat began pouring down her spine. Her heart pounded. A dark figure appeared from around the corner of the building. She couldn’t make out any features, but she called out to the figure.
“Hello? Can I help you?” she asked.
The figure didn’t respond. Rebecca tried again to speak to it. This time It moved into the light. It was a man dressed as Santa Claus.
“Oh, Mr. Griffith, it’s you. I thought you were someone else. I have the Santa exhibit all closed for the night. It’s nice of you to play Santa again this year. Shouldn’t you be heading home? Why are you still wearing your Santa suit?”
The man didn’t speak. He moved closer. She saw the look in his eyes. Austin cocked her head to one side realizing Mr. Griffin wasn’t as tall as this Santa, and what was that red stuff speckled in his white beard. She took a step backward. He pulled out a hunting knife. Rebecca ran to her SUV and jumped inside. He chased after her, but she managed to lock the doors in time. Knocking on the tinted glass, he showed her that he had the keys. She heard him breathing heavily as he stood there at the window. He disappeared from her sight, so she slid into the backseat and waited. Sitting in the floorboards of the 4 door Ford Excursion something warm dripped on her leg. It was thick. When she looked up the back seats, she tried to keep quiet. There were two dead bodies piled on top of each other. Instantly she recognized them. It was Mr. and Mrs. Griffith. Both of the bodies were stripped down to their undergarments and blood oozed out from them with a tarp underneath. When she saw the wounds from the bodies, she panicked and dropped her spare set of keys. They disappeared under the console.
She felt around for the keys. When she looked up, he pulled the door open and dragged her out by her hair. She tried to twist and kick her way out of his grip, but out of nowhere a pair of hands covered her mouth with a rag. At first Rebecca continued to fight her attackers. A sweet smell attacked her nostrils, but after what seemed like an eternity her body gave into the chloroform and everything went black.
The two attackers dragged Rebecca’s body to a dark corner where they could do their work in peace. A security guard drove by. The two killers stopped and stood to wave at the him hoping that he didn’t notice anything strange. The guard waved back. He came over to say hi. The woman dressed as Mrs. Claus met him halfway and started talking. The man dressed as Santa started to get nervous. Blood was starting to pour out of Rebecca’s wounds. He had to think of a plan quick, so he picked up a box and began to wrap it. As the security guard got closer, Santa had started to sweat. The guard looked over at him and just shrugged his shoulders. After about five minutes, the security guard got back in his golf cart and rode off to do some more rounds. The two had to move more quickly before the security guard came back around.
They removed her shirt and bra. The woman held down Rebecca while the man cut her skin with a scalpel. He removed the flesh revealing bone. After that was done the woman handed him a bone saw to cut through her breast bone. Once he was done cutting, he eased out the heart.
This will get his attention for sure, the man thought.
The woman went to Rebecca’s car removing anything that would give away the fact they were there. After removing evidence of their presence, she noticed a bunch of boxes lying around in the trunk of the car. Pausing she scratched her head while looking at the boxes, nodded, picked up one of the boxes and took it back to the man and the body.
When she returned with the box the man placed the heart in the box. The woman took the box with a gift tag on it. It was made out to a William Atoms. They began to clean up the blood. When they heard the security guard coming back around, they cleaned up the scene leaving no evidence behind other than the three bodies and a mysterious box with a gift tag on it.
The security guard came around again doing his rounds just as the killers left. Scratching his head, he thought that perhaps they were late for a party. Whistling a Christmas carol, he went to his golf cart and got his flashlight. He walked around for a bit making sure that none of the other cars were broken into. He turned around to continue his patrol when he saw a car door sticking out of the darkness. He went over to investigate. He stopped, gaping at three dead bodies hidden in the dark, then turned and vomited. All of them were naked. Crouched next to the bodies, he kept trying to keep his lunch down and examined a gaping hole in chest of the body lying closer to the corner.
He saw a box near the body and immediately went to his cart, called for backup and notified the local police.
Eight pm. Officer Patrick White and his training officer John Smith were first on the scene and taped off the area.
White had saw a group of other security guards and walked over. Once he got there, he asked who the senior security guard was. They pointed to older man standing near one of the light poles. He went to the head security guard to ask questions. “Who was the first to find the bodies?”
The man stepped forward pointing to a tall wiry kid who looked like he was eighteen years old. “Frank Speed our nighttime guy found them around seven.”
“Point him out to me again.”
“He’s the tall one with glasses.”
White walked over to the security guard and thought, Damn! What a first day at work this turned out to be. First an armed robbery and now this.
He shot a glance at Officer Smith. Smith nodded encouraging him to keep going.
While he talked to the man, two detectives arrived on the scene. One had a bandaged nose and the other one had a bandage around his hand.
“We’ll take it from here rookie,” the detective with the bandaged hand said as they walked up to the two men.
“Asshole,” White whispered to himself.
The head detective smirked as White stormed off. He started asking questions about the bodies and how they came to be found.
“If you saw someone looking suspicious, why didn’t you call the sheriff’s department sooner?”
“Because, detective, I see people dressed up every year for Christmas whether it be for a Christmas party or something else. So, I just waved and went about my business.”
“I think there is more to this story than what you are telling us,” the detective responded.
Lieutenant Jaquelyn Slade arrived just in time. The lieutenant kept both men away from the scene until the Techs arrived. The two of them finally gave up and went back to talk again with the security guard.
The detective with the broken nose was staring at a mysterious box dumbfounded. He picked it up, and said, “Hey what do you want to do about the box?”
One of the techs told him to lay the box down and they would contact the bomb squad. Another one yelled at him from a distance.
“Where are your latex gloves?”
“They’re in my pocket. Relax, would ya.”
The lieutenant overheard the two talking and yelling at each other. She called him over. “What in the hell is wrong with you? You know damn good and well that you never touch anything at a crime scene without putting on latex gloves.” She started to walk away, but looked over her shoulder and said, “Oh by the way. You can tell your partner that you and he are off the case and are on suspension indefinitely.”
He lowered his head and told his partner the bad news.
The detective swore.
Once he calmed down, he went over to the lieutenant. “Please, Lieutenant, cut us some slack. We will do anything to stay on the case,”
“Not this time detective, you and your idiot partner really screwed up.”
She stepped away.
They looked at each other dumbfounded.
As soon as they left, the lieutenant called out, “Someone please get me a phone. As of right now Atoms and Reef are on the case.”
She called the sheriff to take the suspension off Atoms.
After calling the sheriff, the lieutenant immediately called Will’s phone to tell him to get his ass down to the scene at once, but there was no answer. After several tries, she gave up and decided to send a unit car to get Detective Atoms.
Things were getting out of hand. The sheriff knew it would only get worse until they could reach Atoms. Instead of putting the two idiots back on the case, he contacted Atoms longtime friend and partner, Josh Reef.
Reef answered on the first ring. “Sheriff? Why are you calling so late?”
“Because nobody can reach your partner and we need both of you out at Desoto Square Mall. Ya’ll are the best we got. Now contact Atoms and tell him to get his ass over there too.”
After the sheriff hung up, Reef got dressed and called Atoms on his home phone. He had no idea the lieutenant had already sent someone over to get him.
One of the officers volunteered to go get him. When she showed up at Atoms’ house, she noticed the yard hadn’t been cut in days and there was trash everywhere.
“My God don’t the man own a lawnmower and trash bags,” the officer thought.
She knocked on his door. No answer. She kept knocking, until she heard a gruff voice on the other side.
“Alright I’m coming. This better be an emergency or I am going to kick some ass.”
Atoms opened the door. “What can I do for you Officer Atkinson?” he asked.
“You’re needed at Desoto Square Mall parking lot Detective.”
“No can do. You see I’m on what they call suspension.”
“Cut the bullshit Atoms. You and I both know that you and Reef are the best investigators we got. Lieutenant Slade wants you down at the scene now, so get dressed. I’m taking you.”
Atoms’ cell phone rang right before he was fixing to tell the deputy he had been drinking. Then he glanced at his cell phone’s caller ID.
“Well if it isn’t my best friend and partner. What can I do for you? Wait. Let me guess. They called you too. They want both our asses down at Desoto Square mall.”
He put the cell phone on speaker so both him and the other officer could hear the conversation.
“Yeah how’d you know?” Reef asked?
“Because Atkinson is in my living room right now waiting for me to get dressed.”
“Wow! They must be desperate…or maybe Norcom and Bilkins screwed up again. Anyhow, they want us down there so finish getting dressed, I’m coming to get you. Tell Atkinson to head back to the crime scene and report to the lieutenant that we’ll be there asap.”
Atoms couldn’t figure out why they needed both at the scene. He finished getting dressed. Something popped into his head that he couldn’t shake loose.
Who in the hell is killing people before the holidays the week before Christmas Eve?
Atkinson is right. Reef and I are the two best investigators the thirty fifth precinct have. Hell, the whole department for that matter.
Officer Atkinson was just leaving when Reef arrived. No sooner that he got out of the car, Atoms walked out of the house.
Reef looked at his partner and said, “God you look like shit. Is the suspension getting to you that bad?”
Atoms paid no mind to the comment. Once in Reef’s four door sedan, Atoms began to fidget around. He was around six feet five inches tall, so the space was a little cramped for him. But Reef’s six feet two frame allowed him to fit comfortably in the car. On the way to the scene Atoms moved around to get comfortable. Neither one of them spoke a word on the way there. Something puzzled them though. A multiple homicide in less than twenty-four hours was odd.
Once they arrived, the news media was everywhere. A few uniformed officers held the crowd at bay. The rookie cop White approached them with caution. After his run in with Norcom and Bilkins he didn’t know what to expect from these two.
“I was the first responding officer to the scene. Here is what I have so far. Have fun detectives.” White walked away.
Reef looked at White with a look of disgust on his face.
White looked back and said, “First day on the job.”
Atoms walked over to where the bodies were found. One of the techs recognized him and walked over with the mysterious box in hand. “Detective this was left for you. Bomb squad already checked it out, so it’s safe to open.”
Atoms analyzed the box from the outside. Insects buzzed all around it. Especially blow flies. There was a ton of questions on his mind before he opened the box. Now one of those questions was, What the hell is in it, and why is it addressed to me? Before he could open the box, Reef caught up to him.
“What the hell is in the box?” he asked.
Atoms didn’t respond, so Reef tried asking a different question.
“Hey man are you ok?”
Without missing a beat, Atoms looked up and said, “Yeah. I’ll be fine just as soon as I find out what’s in this damn box.” He couldn’t figure out why the box was addressed to him. Just as he went to open it, another uniformed officer came over and asked him for a cigarette. Atoms didn’t acknowledge him. The officer nudged him and asked again.
“WHAT?!” Atoms spat. The officer backed away slowly. After a few minutes of peace and quiet, Atoms called the officer over. “Come here,” he said.
The officer walked back over to him. “Yes detective?”
“Is this your first time at a murder scene?”
“Good. Then you don’t need a cigarette. Now go do your job and keep the media and looky loo’s away from here.”
The officer walked away embarrassed. Atoms headed back over to where the bodies were found. This crime scene was not your average crime scene, but then again what is normal to a detective with sixteen years on the force? As a detective he thought he had seen it all, but this topped the cake. There was blood of course, but the odd thing was only one body was missing something other than clothes. Everything looked normal except for the blood stains where the bodies were laying. No cars were broken into and none of the victims’ belongings were taken. It seemed the killer had cleaned up everything before the security guard came back around. Atoms wasn’t satisfied, so he looked over the entire scene again just to make sure he didn’t overlook something.
Then it hit him. White’s notes said the security guard was the one to find the bodies. He started to leave until Atoms stopped him. “Excuse me? Mr. Speed?”
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“Actually, yes you can. My name is Detective Atoms. I’m working the case and was wondering if you saw anyone on your first trip near the area.”
“Yes. I saw a couple dressed like Santa and Mrs. Claus.”
“That didn’t strike you as odd?”
“No. I see the people who play the part everyday here at the mall during the holiday season.”
“Anything else you saw?”
“Yes. When I came back around the second time, I noticed they left in a hurry.”
“And that didn’t raise any red flags?”
“I just figured that they had an emergency.”
Atoms thought to himself, Yeah, they had an emergency alright. One dumb security guard and three dead bodies to hide in a matter of minutes.
“Can you show me where they sped off from?”
The two of them got into the golf cart and headed towards the side entrance of Sears. Once they were there the security guard pointed to where the couple had left.
“They pulled out of that exit around the bin just before you get to shipping. And like I said, they left in a hurry.”
Atoms headed for the exit where the security guard pointed. Once he got there, he squatted down to look for tire tracks with his flashlight. There were too many to make out just one. “Damn kids,” he thought.
He looked around for more evidence such as cigarette butts or anything that might have fallen off the vehicle.
Harbor approached him in a police cruiser.
“Atoms why aren’t Norcom and Bilkins working the scene?” he yelled.
Atoms ignored the remark and kept on working.
Harbor liked to rattle Atoms’ cage. He was still young and fresh out of college. His weight made Atoms wonder how he even made the police force.
“Why aren’t you at the scene Lieutenant? Why are you way down here?” Atoms asked.
“Because I saw you slacking off down here, that’s why.”
“For your information Lieutenant, the killer or killers was last seen heading out of this exit, and I was looking for tire tracks.”
After looking at Atoms’ appearance, Harbor said, “Atoms you truly are a certified piece of shit.”
Atoms had to contain his anger before he hit the Lieutenant in the face. Ever since Harbor joined the police department nobody liked him except for Norcom and Bilkins. Which is why they were his two top guys. After he left Atoms and headed to the scene, Atoms continued his search for fresh tire tracks. Thirty minutes after he found nothing, he went back to the scene. Just as he walked up to his partner, one of the CSI techs called him over.
“Detective, you’re going to want to see this.”
Atoms walked over to see what was going on. The tech looked at him and said, “I hope you are ready for this.”
He moved out of the way for Atoms to get a good look. It was one of the bodies that the security guard had found.
“Well that explains where the heart went.”
After seeing the girl’s heart in the box, he went over to Reef and told him to start the car. Before he got into the car himself, he told the tech to get the heart over to the morgue with the body asap.
Sitting outside in the dark of night at Westfield Siesta Key mall, the two killers waited for their next victim. They watched in silence as scores of people flooded out of the stores and into their cars.
The one thought to himself, Fools! All of them wasting their money on trivial items. This year Santa has something very special for certain ‘naughty’ people.
As the two of them watched the crowd, a man carrying gifts had also walked to his car.
Two pairs of eyes watched his every movement. When Michael Element fumbled for his keys, the couple snuck up behind him.
He noticed two figures standing behind him before he felt a sharp pain in his neck, and everything went black. After administering twenty ccs of anesthetics, the woman let his body slide on the ground gently. Santa spoke up.
“Grab him under the arms and help me load him into the back.”
The two lifted him off the ground and carried him to the SUV, threw him into the back, and drove off.
Michael woke up. All he could remember was seeing two figures behind him before feeling a searing hot pain in his neck. He tried to move. Every time he did his body felt a stabbing pain in his side. A woman walked into the room. He tried speaking to her, but she didn’t respond.
“Hello? Who are you and why am I here?”
The woman dressed as Mrs. Claus stayed quiet. Then, suddenly the man dressed as Santa Claus walked into the room. Michael tried desperately to speak to them, but neither of them responded. Thirty minutes later Santa spoke up.
Santa said, “Would you like to know why you are here? It is quite simple young man. You are here because you have been naughty this year.”
“Who are you and what do you want?”
“Why I’m Santa Claus, and this is Mrs. Claus. That is all you need to know. What I want is no concerns of yours. Now you are probably wondering why you are strapped down. I am going to do a simple surgery on you. Now hold still.”
The man dressed as Santa grabbed a scalpel and sliced him open. Michael screamed out in pain as he felt the blade cut him. Trying to fight his way out, the restraints held him down. The woman stuffed a sock in his mouth, so nobody could hear him scream. After the man was done cutting, Michael passed out. Making sure he was really passed out, Santa cut his left side and removed his liver. Blood was everywhere.
Santa, who was covered in blood said, “Now for the final step my dear.”
The woman dressed as Mrs. Clause came around the other side of Michael and poured Kerosene all over him and down his throat. With a book of matches, the man lit each of them and threw them onto the body. Instantly Michael went up into flames.
Around Siesta Key Beach they disposed of Michael’s remains. A man had come walking by just as they were getting ready to dump the remains in the brush. “Hey! Don’t you kids be fooling around in the bushes,” the man said. The two of them looked at each other with satisfaction.
Mrs. Claus spoke. “We need to need to hurry up and get this done. There is only a week or two before the holiday season is up.” Santa nodded and went to his list of victims and searched google to find out where each of them lived.
After Atoms and Reef left the scene, they headed for the station to start piecing the puzzle together. On the way Reef commented, “Looks like Santa didn’t like one of his elves this year.”
Atoms didn’t laugh, but he knew he was right. Something still bothered him though. Why are the killers targeting me?
Once they reached the station, Atoms headed to his desk to see if any more information had become available. Nothing came up on the computer screen. He did a search for any reports of people being followed by a man dressed as Santa Claus. Nothing came up.
As he powered down his computer Sheriff Black walked in and headed for Atoms’ desk.
“Sheriff. What can I do for you?”
“Simple I want you and Reef to work together with the Sarasota Police department. There will be a Detective Simms and Detective Sun also working the missing persons case. Chief Meledy and I believe that the two cases are connected somehow. As of right now, Chief Meledy has men still searching for the young man that is missing. See what you can find out about the two cases and get back with me.”
“Look sheriff, I understand you and Chief Meledy think that the two cases are related, but as it stands right now, we have no leads or clues in the homicide case. All we have is the night security guard saying he saw a couple dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.”
“Ok Atoms. But I want to know the second you get a lead, so we can figure out how or if the two cases connect.”
The sheriff walked off without saying another word and headed for his office. After he shut his door, Atoms and Reef headed out. As soon as they got into the car, Reef suggested they get something to eat. Atoms agreed and decided that they should go to their favorite late-night diner Copper’s Diner. It was the best place in town to clear your head. And with it being late at night, the place would be quiet with no customers. Besides, they had the best blueberry pie you could get for a buck. When they got there, they each ordered a slice and went over all the notes they had on the case so far. After four hours, they headed home and got some sleep later that night. Atoms had trouble going to sleep. The question still burned in his mind. Who was going around killing people near the holidays?
After eating breakfast, the next morning, Atoms decided to head over to the crime lab. He called his partner to let him know where he was going to be and that he would meet up with him later. After he hung up he grabbed his keys and headed for the car to go to the lab. As soon as he pulled into the parking lot, his cell phone rang. He checked the caller ID and saw it was Reef calling him.
“Detective Atoms speaking,” he said.
“Will! It’s Josh. I’m down here at the morgue. You’re going to want to hear what the doctor has to say.”
“Ok I’ll be there shortly. I’m here at the crime lab to see if they got any prints off the box or anything else that might help us on this case.”
“Roger that, partner. I’ll be here waiting for you.”
After they hung up with each other, Atoms walked into the station and headed for the lab. Once he got there, he asked around to see if the lead tech Manny Tulepo was in today. Manny was the head tech and the best in the city.
“Hey, Will. Finally got off suspension I see. What can I do for you?”
“Well I was wondering if ya’ll found any more evidence or get any prints off the box.”
“Nope, not yet. And as far as any more evidence, we are still processing some of it.”
“Ok. Keep me up to date on that would you? I’m heading to the morgue to meet up with Josh, so I’ll catch you later.”
“Ok. Hey, are we still hanging out for…”
Atoms was already out the door. As he walked to his car, he felt like he was being watched. He looked around but saw nobody. As soon as he got into his car, he was startled by someone tapping on the window. Once he realized who it was, he relaxed.
“Hey man. Just wanted to tie up some loose ends with you. Are we still hanging out for Christmas day?”
“Yeah, of course we are Manny.”
Manny nodded his head and headed back inside. Atoms started his car. While waiting for the engine to warm up, his cell phone rang again. Not bothering to check the caller ID, he thought it was Reef calling to see where he was. When he answered the voice on the other end was rough and distorted.
“Detective Atoms? There is no reason for a response. Just listen and listen carefully. As of right now you have three bodies and one missing person. I can assure you that there is no need to look for him. He’s dead. The other thing I want from you is to stop looking for me or there will be more bodies to follow. Oh, one last thing detective if you tell anyone about this call I will find out and then I will kill you.”
“Wait a second. Who is this, and how did you get my number?”
The line went dead. Atoms checked the caller ID, but nothing came up. He raced to the morgue. Reef was waiting outside when he pulled up.
“Damn, man! What happened to you? You look like you have seen a ghost or something,” Reef said as they walked into the morgue.
Remembering what the killer had said, he just looked at Reef and said; “I’m fine. It’s probably the breakfast I ate this morning. No biggie.”
Reef left it alone for now and continued walking down the hall towards the morgue. The putrid smell of death and decay assaulted their noses. When they finally entered the morgue the medical examiner, Heather Guney, waited for them by one of the bodies.
“Doc. Tell my partner here just what you told me about your findings,” Reef said.
“Well detectives, all three bodies have been identified. The male victim is forty-year-old named Samuel Griffith. A big-time attorney with money to throw around. He has also played Santa Claus at the mall for the past five years. The second victim you see here is Patricia Griffith Samuel’s wife. She always played Mrs. Claus ever since Sam started doing Santa. Finally, your third victim is nineteen-year-old Rebecca Austin. She attended University of South Florida and had played an elf for the past two years at the mall. As you’re aware her heart was removed. I believe it was you Detective Atoms who found the box it was in.”
“That’s correct Doctor,” Atoms replied.
“The first two victims died from blunt force trauma to the head. Rebecca on the other hand shows high traces of chloroform in her system and on her lips. It appears after they knocked her out then they cut her open using a surgical tool and a bone saw to remove the heart.”
“Doc can you run anymore tests to see if maybe drugs were involved?” Atoms asked.
“Yes detective, but it could take weeks for the results to come back.”
“Do what you have to do Doc. I need a lead in this case.”
“Do we have a time of death for the victims, doc?” Reef asked.
“Yes, the time of death for the Griffith’s is actually two hours behind Rebecca’s time of death.”
“Which is what?”
“When you found them, Rebecca had been dead maybe two hours before you got there. As for the Griffith’s, I would say about four hours before you got there. All three bodies were still a little warm when they came in.”
“Thanks doc. We will come by later to get some more information from you.”
After meeting with the medical examiner, they stopped to get a bite to eat before heading back to the precinct. Just as Atoms was getting into his car his cell phone rang. It was the lieutenant.
“Yes Lieutenant? How can I help you?” Atoms asked sarcastically.
“You and Reef are wanted in the captain’s office. NOW!”
“Yes Ma’am. We are on the way NOW!”
Once he hung up with the lieutenant, he raced to catch Reef before he took off.
“Hey Josh,” he yelled.
Reef looked in his rear-view mirror. He watched Atoms race to his car.
“Yeah. What’s up? I thought you were going to get a bite to eat with me.”
“Change of plans. Captain wants us in his office pronto.”
“Ok, I’ll meet you over there.”
Atoms ran back to his car as Reef pulled out.
“Why does the Captain want us in his office? We didn’t do anything wrong.”
With that in mind, he got into his car and headed for the station. Thirty minutes and three red lights later he arrived at the precinct where Reef was waiting. He was smoking a cigar as Atoms walked up.
“I thought you quit smoking.”
“Yeah, but it’s the captain we’re seeing not some rookie or dispatcher.”
“True. Well hurry up so we can get this over with and see what the captain wants.”
Reef put out his cigar and walked in right behind Atoms. They were getting stares as they headed for the captain’s office. Something was up and neither one of them liked it. Once both walked in, the captain started in his usual tone, cool but stern.
“I’m sending the best we got.”
“Thank you, sir,” they replied in unison.
“Now listen. The sheriff is real adamant about this case. I want you two to dig up as much information on the victims as you can. You’re on the clock until this case gets solved.”
“Yes, sir,” they said in unison.
As they walked out of the building, Reef noticed a kid hanging around Atoms’ car. He waited around before getting into own his car. Atoms opened the driver side door.
The kid approached and startled him.
“You Atoms,” the smart mouthed kid asked?
“Detective Atoms to you.”
“Whatever. Look this weirdo dressed as Santa Claus paid me to give this to you. Said it was important.” The kid handed over the box with Atoms’ name on it. He took the it with extreme caution. He went to interrogate the boy about what was in it, but the kid was gone. He went to open the it, as Reef walked over.
“What did the kid want?” He asked.
“I don’t know, but he gave me this box. Said some guy dressed like Santa Claus told him to give it to me.”
“I don’t like this Will. Some kid gives you a box, then disappears. It doesn’t sound right to me. Let’s have Manny look at it before you open it.”
“You’re right. I’m going to take this to him right now.”
As he walked into the station, there were cubicles with uniformed officers and detectives by the water cooler. He got the feeling all eyes were on him. Not knowing what was in the box was dangerous. But he had to take the risk for Manny to look at it. Manny was still working on the first gift, so it wasn’t a big deal just to see if there were any finger prints left besides the kid’s. Atoms and Manny started chit – chatting about everyday life when the machine picked up some prints.
“What does that mean Manny,” Atoms asked about the machines ding.
“It means there were some prints left on it, but there is no bomb,” Manny replied.
The two of them walked over to see what the results said. What it showed didn’t surprise Atoms in the least. There were only the kid’s fingerprints on the box. As Atom’s walked away he told Manny; “This is the second package addressed to me in a week.”
After thanking Manny for his time, he walked outside with it in hand still not sure what was in it. Reef saw the look on his partner’s face and asked; “What did Manny find out?”
Atoms just sat in silence until Reef got irritated and shook him.
“Dude, are you ok?”
“Yeah I’m just a little shook up is all. Let’s go see Dr. Guney.”
“You sure you don’t want to see the department therapist first?”
“I’m fine I told you. Now start the engine and let’s go.”
Reef left it alone after that. Atoms knew that the killer was toying with him, but he couldn’t be sure why. This case was becoming more and more bizarre. On the way to the morgue, Atoms’ phone rang. Once again, the voice on the other line was rough and distorted.
“Detective, don’t speak, just listen. I hope you enjoy your gift. It was the only thing I could find to give you for Christmas,” The voice chuckled. “Oh! If you go to see the good Dr. Guney, she will be my next victim. Remember people’s lives are at stake.”
“Who is this,” Atoms demanded.
The line went dead again leaving him with more questions on his mind.
“Who was that on the phone?”
“Nobody. It was nobody. I’m hungry. Let’s get something to eat.”
Reef pulled off to the side of the road and asked again, “Who was on the phone, Will?”
“I can’t tell you,” Atoms replied.
“How the hell are we supposed to be partners if we can’t trust each other?”
“I know, but people’s lives are at stake Josh. Just trust me, ok? We can’t go see the doctor.”
“Ok. Let’s head to Sarasota to talk to Detectives Simms and Sun.”
They headed down U.S. 41 to meet up with them. Reef and Atoms decided to have Simms meet them at Westfield Siesta Key Mall where the man disappeared. Once they arrived, the area was packed with news reporters trying to get information on the missing man. Atoms and Reef walked over to the other detectives and introduced themselves.
“Gentlemen, I’m Detective Reef and this is my partner Detective Atoms. We were told to work with ya’ll on the disappearance of a one Michael Element. Do you have any leads on this case yet?”
“No not yet. How are things on your end?” Simms asked.
“No. It’s like whoever is behind the killings in our case decided to come over here and find new victims.”
The four of them went over all the details of both cases and still came up with nothing. They decided to split up and check the surrounding area to see if anything suspicious had been seen. After four hours of searching, they finally got a lead. The techs pulled a hair sample out of the truck that Element drove. Atoms and Reef followed Simms back to the Forty- Third Precinct to check out the hair that they found. From there they headed over to the Sarasota’s Medical Examiner’s office. They decided to open the box there to see what’s inside
They headed to the medical examiner’s office.
“Hey man, what gives? You’ve been quiet since we left Westfield.”
“I’m fine,” Atoms said. “I just have a lot on my mind,”
“Well get your mind on the case, or it’s going to cost us our jobs… or our lives.”
After arriving at the medical examiner’s office, Reef took Atoms to the side and whispered, “Let me do the talking. I know her pretty well.”
The place smelled like fresh lavender which was unusual for a morgue. Reef recognized her golden hair and pale complexion. She turned around.
“Detective Reef, it’s good to see you again.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“Simple, I heard you talking down the hall and I saw you when you pulled up.”
The two of them acted professionally, shook hands, but Atoms wondered if there was more than the eye could see.
“What can I do for you detective?” she asked.
“Well, doctor, my partner received two suspicious packages in a week.”
“And how does that concern me? For all we could know it could just be someone trying to be nice. It is the holidays you know.”
“Well we would like for you to look in the box and tell us what’s in it. We know it’s not a bomb, but that’s all we know.”
“Who sent it? Do you know?”
“We don’t know,” Atoms answered.
“Ok, first, I’m going to need you to open it detective. Once we find out what we’re dealing with, we can move forward.”
Atoms opened the box. The doctor looked inside.
His eyes widened. “It’s a human liver, but why do you have it in your possession,” she asked?
“Looks like someone’s trying to get your attention, Will,” Reef said.
“Yeah, but why me?”
“I don’t know,” she answered, “but I need to run some tests on it to see who it belongs to.”
“Let us know the results,” Reef said.
Atoms headed back to the car while Reef stayed behind to talk to the doctor for a few minutes. While Atoms waited for Reef to come out, his cell phone rang. “Detective Atoms speaking.”
“Well now that you’ve opened your gift, how do you like it?” It was the same voice as last time.
“I hope you appreciate my gifts to you. As I told you before, the man you are looking for is dead. You can tell your partner that the man is dead, but how do you explain yourself? So, I’m curious, will you take the chance and tell what you know, or will you keep it to yourself?”
“Go to hell, you sick bastard,” Atoms yelled. He looked around at the buildings and the shopping center wondering if the caller was somewhere waiting.
The voice chuckled. Atoms hung up. He was fixing to throw his cell phone across the parking lot, when Simms came rushing towards him.
“Guys we might have a lead. A couple found a body of an elderly gentleman about two miles down the beach. The area is now being roped off. The man was decapitated.”
Within twenty minutes, they all arrived on the scene. There was a crowd already forming. Pushing their way through the people, they smelled the sour scent of decay. The head laid a few feet away. It was missing the eyes and tongue.
Simms asked to speak to the first responding officer. The officer stared at the grizzly sight.
“Take your time, son,” Simms said calmly. “There’s no rush,”
The young officer calmed down and spoke with ease.
“Well detective, what would you like to know?”
“Let’s start with around what time you arrived on the scene?”
“It was around six thirty, I guess.”
The two of them talked a while before Simms came back.
“The officer said when he arrived, the body was already brought on shore by a young couple. The couple are pretty shaken up about it. They also said that they found the body floating in the shallows near the shore line while they were walking on the beach.”
Atoms had a feeling he already knew what happened. The hell with your threats.
“Josh, we need to talk. I think I know what’s going on,” he said.
“Well it’s about damn time. Welcome back to the game partner. So, what’s up?”
“I’ve been getting threatening calls from someone claiming to be the killer. Trouble is, the voice is always disguised. He also said that the missing person we are trying to find is dead.”
“Yes, but how do we know they are telling the truth? Could be some random person with a police scanner wanting fifteen minutes of fame for all we know.”
“I don’t know. Something tells me that the package the kid gave me earlier is connected. Not to mention, just before we left the medical examiner’s office, the same person called again. He knew about the package.”
Just then Simms walked up.
“Hey guys, ya’ll might want to come look at this.”
Reef and Atoms walked over to where his partner Sun was standing. He saw something in the detective’s hands.
“What do you have detective,” Atoms asked?
Sun held up a letter that was found near the body and it was addressed to Atoms. Simms handed the letter over, so Atoms could read it before it got logged as evidence. After he was done, he handed the letter to a tech that was nearby.
Atoms already knew what the letter said, but asked to see it one last time before they took it in. He opened it and read it to himself.
“Well, what does it say Partner?”
“It says there are four dead bodies, but five murders,” Atoms said.
“But why say that?” Simms asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“It makes perfect sense because whoever wrote this letter and left it with the body knows more than we do.”
Atoms knew things would only get worse if they didn’t catch this person. Before leaving the scene, Atoms handed the letter back. The rest of the day he and his partner spent their time trying to figure out a motive for the killers. Suddenly, his phone rang. He was cautious about answering it. The caller ID said it was the medical examiner from Sarasota.
“Detective Atoms speaking.”
“Yes detective, this is Doctor Holly Frieze from the District Twelve Medical Examiner’s office. We spoke earlier about the human liver that was delivered to you in a box.”
“Yes, Doctor? Anything on who it belongs to?”
“Well yes, I ran some preliminary tests.”
“What did you find?”
“Well you aren’t going to believe this, but the liver belongs to Michael Element, the man you and the other detectives have been looking for.”
“Damn.” Atoms hung his head as his worst fears were confirmed.
“Okay, thanks doc,” he said.
“Well, what did she say,” Reef asked?
“The liver in the box belongs to our missing guy. The only problem is, we still don’t have a body.”
It had been two days since their last victim. Stupid old man shouldn’t have gotten in the way. Now it was time for a fresh kill. Sitting in the parking lot near the Publix at Lakewood Ranch Gateway, the couple searched for their next victim. There weren’t that many people to choose from. Publix was closing for the night and most of the people had gone home. Around nine thirty, a young woman with golden blonde hair, eyes blue as the sea, and tan skin came walking out to her car.
Amy Beckett loved helping people and working with the public. That’s why she became a night time manager at Publix. Three years as a customer service manager helped a lot. As she was walking to her car, she heard footsteps behind her. She looked in all directions just to make sure but saw nothing. She reached for her mace as protection, but there was no use. By the time she turned around to spray the mace, there was two prongs stuck in her flesh like fangs of a venomous snake sending through 50,000 volts through her body knocking her unconscious. The man known only as Santa Claus had aimed the taser perfectly. After Amy was knocked out and fell to the ground, the woman dragged her body over to the SUV.
“Don’t drag her! You will leave evidence behind,” the man said sternly
“Sorry. But can you give me a hand in getting her to the car,” the woman asked?
Once they got her to the vehicle, the man opened the trunk only to realize there was no tarp down.
“Where the hell is the damn tarp,” Santa asked?
“I guess I forgot to put one down before we got here.”
“Put her in the backseat till we get back to Myakka.”
The woman lifted Amy’s limp body into the backseat and got into the truck. The man just shook his head. He knew he had to do something about the mistakes Mrs. Claus was making.
Once they left the parking lot, they headed east on State Road Seventy towards Myakka City. After arriving, they pulled off the road on to a dirt path. The path led to an old run- down cabin with broken shutters and cobwebs everywhere and covered with vines. Next to the cabin was a shed that was big enough for three people to move around in comfortably, and that is where they were headed to. Once they pulled up, the man slung Amy over his shoulder and carried her into the cabin while they prepared the shed. After they were inside the cabin, the man went to look for his favorite tool. A survival knife. The woman stayed with Amy’s body in case she woke up. Two hours went by and the man was still looking for his knife. An owl hooted as the couple dragged Amy into the building. Everything was quiet except for the wind howling outside. A storm was brewing in the west.
Once inside the shed, the man prepared the makeshift exam table which was a concrete slab on top of bricks. After everything was sterilized the couple placed Amy’s naked body on the makeshift table and strapped her down. The man reached over her for the exam light and turned when she began to stir. He reached for the knife. Amy started to wake up. When she opened her eyes all she could see was a bright light and two figures standing over her.
“Well, it looks like our patient is waking up,” the man said.
“Where am I? Am I in a hospital? What happened? Who are you,” Amy asked?
The woman said with a smile, “You’re in Santa’s workshop my dear, and you have been chosen to be a part of a little operation.”
“Why are you doing this? I haven’t done anything wrong.”
The couple chuckled and walked away for a few seconds. Amy tried twisting and turning but it was no use. The more she moved the tighter the straps got. When the couple returned, the woman had a syringe filled with a mixture of Lignocaine and Bupivacaine. They were meant to keep her calm and still while they cut her open with the survival knife. Slowly they removed all her intestines laughing as every inch hit the floor.
They finished, packed up and headed to a local campground. Bee Island campsite was only a few miles down the road, so they decided to go there. Once they got there, they checked in with the ranger and proceeded to the campsite. They were stopped at the gate.
“Hey folks, you can’t leave your stuff here. You have to go back and get it, or you can’t stay here,” the ranger said.
“We were just dropping off a friend of ours at her campsite. She got pretty wasted on alcohol and passed out,” the man said.
“Okay, No problem. Ya’ll have a good evening,” the ranger said as he headed back into the guardhouse.
With that, they left and returned to the cabin. They left another gift for Detective Atoms.
Once there, they dumped Amy’s lifeless body on the ground and left. As she laid on the ground near death, she could hear voices talking in the distance. She tried calling out for help, but it was no use. The couple had returned and was talking to the guard. As soon as the guard turned around, the couple tasered him knocking him out. Amy knew it was useless and that they had come to finish her off. In a jar, they had flesh eating acid. She just looked up with pain and pity in her eyes. The man was the first to drop some of the acid on her. It hit her face. Next, the man dipped her fingers into the jar removing the flesh from her bones. But he was not satisfied, so wearing a respirator he went and grabbed a ten-gallon bucket of hot acid and poured it all over her body dissolving every bit of her flesh until it was just bone. After they left the campground, they headed back to Bradenton for another victim.
When they arrived back in town, they changed into plain clothes to blend in. They would go searching in the morning. It was too late to look now. The following day they returned to Lakewood Ranch. They decided to search the area for a potential victim. Moving through the throng of people at Main Street, they walked amongst the people like wolves wearing sheep’s clothes. Nobody suspected anything and just passed by while the couple stood and looked at their next location to leave their next victim, a department store window front in the mall.
Around one thirty in the morning, Atoms and Reef sat at Copper’s Diner going over possible suspects for the case. Atoms was still in shock after finding out who the organ belonged to. Now they had to search for the body. Somehow, Atoms knew they wouldn’t find one, but they had to keep searching. Simms told them to go get some rest and take it easy because without a body they couldn’t do much more. That was impossible though because their captain had said that they were on the clock until the case was solved. After eating some blueberry pie, they headed back to the crime lab to see if any more information came up on the case. Once they got there though, something didn’t seem right. It was too quiet.
“Where’s Manny,” Atoms asked?
“He left after talking to Captain Wolf,” one of the techs said.
“What happened,” Reef asked?
“The captain put him on personal leave.”
“Why,” Atoms asked?
“Got word that Manny’s girlfriend went missing and he was told to go home and that they would find her and call him once they know something. She disappeared a few hours ago and nobody has seen her since she left work. Neither of them had been heard from since.”
“Any new information on the Santa case yet,” Atoms asked?
“Nothing detective. Not even a fingerprint. It’s like these killers anticipate our next move. They clean up their mess and leave nothing behind.”
Atoms thanked the tech and walked away. Reef wasn’t far behind him when the call came in about a park ranger finding human remains at a campsite. Atoms asked where the call came from and the dispatcher told him it came from Mossy Oak Primitive campground. As soon as they got the address, they jumped into the car and headed there. The drive took about an hour to get there. When they arrived, the rookie officer White and Officer Smith had already taped off the area.
“Officer White? What are ya’ll doing here so fast,” Atoms asked?
“This is my new patrol area detective. As soon as the call came in, I rushed over here. The park ranger is a friend of mine,” He replied.
Atoms shrugged it off and walked over to talk to the ranger.
“What happened Ranger uh…”
“Hill. Ranger Russell Hill. I saw this couple come in dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.”
“You didn’t think to report that to us,” Atoms asked?
“I knew nothing about what is going on in Bradenton detective. That’s why I didn’t report it.”
Atoms let it go and let the ranger continue his story.
“Anyways, I saw them pull into the gate and head over to one of the campsites. They dropped something off and then went to leave. I stopped them at the gate and told them that they couldn’t leave whatever they left there at the campsite unless they came back. That’s when they told me they were dropping off a friend who had gotten drunk.”
Again, Atoms interrupted the ranger.
“You didn’t check the guest list to see who all was registered at the campground?”
“No, it was too late and too dark detective.”
Atoms just shook his head and proceeded to ask the ranger, “Are you new around here son?”
“Yes detective. This is my first day on the job too.”
“That explains a lot. Anyways, continue with your story.”
The ranger looked irritated and said, “About an hour later the couple came back and told me they were just coming to see if she had woken up yet. That’s when I heard someone call out for help. I reached for my gun and that’s when I got tasered and everything went black. When I woke up, they were gone. I rushed to where I heard the voice coming from and immediately investigated the scene and that is when I found the skeleton all in one piece and still had some blood on it, so I knew it had to be fresh.”
Atoms had the feeling it was the same people who killed Rebecca Austin, kidnapped Michael Element, and killed the old man at the beach. But he couldn’t be sure and still had to figure out how they all connected. He walked over to where the skeleton was found and asked, “Can we get an id on the skeleton?”
“Not yet detective. We have to send them to an anthropologist to get a positive ID,” a tech replied.
“Ok, I want to know the second you get the id of the remains and make it stat.”
On the way back to the precinct, Atoms kept trying to find the connection with all the victims.
“What are we missing besides a body,” He thought to himself.
“Well, what do we know so far,” Reef asked?
“We have four bodies, five organs delivered to me at every damn crime scene, and six possible murders being as that we haven’t found Michael Element yet.”
“Don’t forget about the letters,” Reef reminded him.
“Ok, let’s say the old man and Mr. and Mrs. Griffith were just in the way. Where does that leave us?”
“Yes, but why remove the old man’s eyes, tongue and then decapitate him? It makes no sense,” Reef said.
“Nothing about this case or the other case makes any sense.”
“That leaves us back at square one then.”
“Damn it! We have to find Michael Element’s body before it’s too late.”
Heading west on State Road Seventy, Atoms’ phone rang. It was the distorted voice again.
“Detective Atoms speaking.”
“I warned you detective. Now the blood is on your hands.”
“Go to hell you piece of shit,” Atoms screamed into the phone.
The distorted voice had already hung up. It was a major shock to Reef. Reef knew his partner had a bad temper but had never seen him in a rage like that. He knew that Atoms wanted to find the psychos doing all this.
As they pulled into the station, Atoms’ phone rang again. This time Atoms automatically yelled into the phone, “Go to hell. Stop calling my phone!”
“Atoms, who in the hell do you think you are talking to,” The voice asked angrily?
It was the captain. Immediately Atoms apologized and explained the situation.
“Captain, I’m sorry but whoever is doing these murders calls me on my personal cell and nobody has that number but you and Reef. They have threatened to kill the medical examiner if I go to her about the case. You need to send units over there now before this asshole strikes again.”
“Alright, Atoms. I’ll investigate it and let you off the hook this time, but it better not happen again and I want you and Reef in my office ASAP.
“Roger that, Captain.”
As soon as they walked in, Norcom immediately started harassing Atoms about sending units over to the medical examiner’s office.
“Hey Detective Atoms, must be nice to be sleeping with the local medical examiner. Do you like get off on dead bodies and stuff? Does she ever bring her work home with her?”
Anger boiled in Atoms’ face.
“Norcom shut the hell up before you get hurt,” Reef said.
“Oh, what’s the matter Detective Reef? You jealous just because your partner is getting some and not paying you any attention,” Norcom sneered?
“No, just don’t want to hear you whine when he puts you in your place.”
Norcom got up to leave, but as he did Atoms got in his face. Reef tensed up ready to try and restrain him from doing something stupid. Norcom just looked at Atoms and said; “You got a problem Atoms?”
“Yeah, I do, and his name is Danny Norcom. And he can’t keep his dick in his pants!”
Norcom went to swing, but Atoms moved out of the way trying to avoid a fight. But when Norcom went to swing again Atoms turned around and hit right in the jaw. You could hear the bone break in Norcom’s mouth. Atoms continued to hit him in the face, but it took the captain and Reef to pull him off.
“I warned you dumbass, but you didn’t listen,” Reef said.
Bilkins came over to help his partner off the floor. The captain looked at Bilkins and said, “Get him to the hospital now and don’t come back.”
Atoms was trying to break Reef’s grip on him, but before he could the captain grabbed them both and pulled them into his office.
“Look Will, I have no choice but to send you to the department therapist or suspend you again indefinitely. Now listen, I want you two to talk to the park ranger again. See if he remembers what kind of vehicle the suspects were driving.”
“But we haven’t even found the missing guy yet. All we have on that is his liver down at District 12 medical examiner’s office and that is because some punk kid gave my partner a box with the liver in it,” Reef said.
“Like I told you before the killer keeps contacting me on my personal cell,” Atoms chimed in.
The captain nodded and told them to just make sure they keep him informed and dismissed them. Right after Atoms walked out, Lieutenant Harbor charged into the captain’s office. As Atoms was walking towards his desk, he could hear the fat lieutenant yelling and screaming.
“Damn it Jim, I want that piece of shit you call a cop Atoms fired immediately. He has disregarded my rank and has hit two detectives and almost killed them. Now you fire him, or I will go to the sheriff about Atoms behavior and your inability to keep your men in control.”
The captain stayed quiet for a few minutes and then said to him; “Harry, first this isn’t your precinct, second I am a higher rank than you, so you will address me as Captain or sir, and finally, don’t tell me how to do my job!”
Harbor went red in the face and as he walked out. He slammed the door not even looking at Atoms. You could tell he was beyond pissed. As he walked by Atoms, it took everything Atoms had not to start laughing. After the rotund man walked out of the building, Atoms went back in the Captain’s office.
“Hey Captain, what did Harbor want? I mean, I heard some of it through the door, but not all of it.”
“It’s Lieutenant Harbor to you and he wants your badge for hitting Norcom and breaking his jaw and Bilkins nose. I basically told him to go to hell. Now get your ass out there and find these low lives before they kill someone else.”
Atoms walked out. Harbor got what he deserved. As Atoms was walking out, the captain came out of his office and yelled; “Make sure you close the door behind you next time!”
Reef walked over to his partner and asked; “Well, what did the captain say?”
“Said that Harbor wants my badge.”
“So, what’s going to happen now?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t tell me really. Just told me to get my ass out there and find the low lives doing this. But to do that we have to find Michael Element’s body.”
“I know, but where in the hell do we start looking?”
“Well, they found the old man at Siesta Key Beach. Maybe they were trying to dump the body there and the old man caught them doing it, so they killed him too. I tell you partner this case keeps getting weirder and weirder.”
The duo walked out and headed for Reef’s car. Once they were strapped in, they headed down U.S. Forty- One towards Siesta Key hoping to find their missing body.
Seven p.m. and still not a word from Amy. No call. Nothing. Just dead silence in Manny Tulepo’s apartment. Sitting on the couch by the phone waiting for a call was killing him, but the captain did tell him that he would call him if he had heard or found anything. It wasn’t good enough. He decided that if she was going to be found it would be him to be the one to find her. After leaving the apartment, he headed down Cortez Road to their mutual friend’s house to see if maybe she had heard anything from Amy. Once he got there, he thought to himself that he was being ridiculous. But then he thought; This isn’t like Amy not to call. When he got out of the car, his cell phone rang in his pocket. He checked the number. It was the captain.
“Yes sir, how can I help you?” He asked.
“Tulepo! Where the hell are you? I’ve been trying to reach you on your home phone for the past thirty minutes.”
“I’m not at home. I went to a friend’s house to see if they had heard from Amy.”
“Damn it Tulepo, I told you to stay home, and I would let you know if we find or hear anything.”
“Look Captain, I’m not going to just sit at home with my thumbs up my ass and wait for a damn phone call. As long as she’s missing, I am going to at least search for her on my own.”
“Tulepo, get your ass back—”
Click. Manny hung up on him before he could finish talking. As he started to walk up the sidewalk, the front door opened, and a voice called out from the shadows.
“Manny, is that you? What are you doing here?”
It was Scarlet Dole Amy’s longtime friend. Scarlet also worked with Manny in the crime lab. That was how Manny met Amy.
“Yeah Scarlet, it’s me.”
“Why are you here,” She asked.
“I was just wondering if you have heard from Amy since yesterday.”
“No, I haven’t. What’s going on? Where is she?”
“She has been missing since yesterday. I was kind of hoping you knew something about her whereabouts.”
“No, I’m sorry. I haven’t heard anything till now.”
Manny hung his head in despair. “Ok, thanks. I’ll see you when I come back from leave.”
He got back into his car and drove off. As he drove down Cortez Road, his cell phone rang again. He didn’t bother checking the number figuring it was the captain calling back to chew him out for hanging up on him. When he answered though, the voice was distorted and angry.
“Yes,” Manny replied.
“If you want to see Amy alive and in one piece you will follow my directions.”
“Who is this? Where is Amy?”
The voice laughed and said; “If you follow my instructions then you will see Amy again.”
“Ok, fine, but please don’t hurt her.”
“Good. Now listen closely. Go east on State Road Seventy till you get to Myakka City. I will call again in an hour and a half to see where you are.”
The voice hung up. Manny did exactly as he was told to do. Once he got to Myakka City he pulled into a local Shell station and waited for the phone to ring.
An hour and a half later, it did. It was the mysterious voice.
“Are you in Myakka City yet?”
“Yes. Now tell me where Amy is.”
“Patience. Now drive until you get to the first dirt road you come across and travel down it till you see an old cabin and wait for further instructions.”
Manny drove until he saw the small dirt path leading up to an old cabin covered in vines and cobwebs. He pulled down the road and headed for the cabin. The voice was still on the phone.
“Are you at the cabin yet?”
“Yes. Now what?”
“Go inside and wait for more instructions.”
Manny walked into the cabin and held the phone up to his ear and said; “Ok I’m inside. Now what?”
Manny had his gun ready. The voice came back on the phone.
“I want you to sit in the old chair in the room and wait. Follow my instructions and you will see Amy again.”
“Ok, I’m sitting in the chair. Now where the hell is my girlfriend?”
“Turn around and you will find her.”
As Manny turned around, a large figure approached him. Manny tried to shoot at the figure, but the shots bounced off it. He tried to run, but there was nowhere to go. Then he called out for her.
“AMY! ARE YOU HERE?”
The figure came closer and pulled out a syringe with Suxamethonium Chloride. Manny tried his best to fight the figure, but it was too strong. He plunged the needle deep into Manny’s neck. Within seconds, Manny was paralyzed from the waist down. As he fell to the ground, he saw the figure turning out to be a man dressed as Santa Claus. He knew was in trouble. There was nothing he could do. He passed out on the floor. Ten minutes later he woke up and tried to move, but he was strapped down to a metal table. He looked over to his side and saw the man and a woman dressed as Mrs. Claus.
“Hey Man! Let me go. I just want my girlfriend home. I won’t tell anyone what I saw ok,” he pleaded with fear in his voice.
“I’m sorry young man, but I’m afraid I can’t do that,” The man replied.
The woman handed him a serrated scalpel and said, “You didn’t follow directions, and now you have to be punished.”
“I followed your damn instructions. Now let me and Amy go!”
“Oh, you will see her soon, but for now I can’t let you go without being punished. Now hold still because this is really going to hurt.”
With that, the man plunged the scalpel deep into Manny’s flesh. He tried to scream in pain, but the woman stuck a rag in his mouth to stifle the scream. With each cut, the man went slower and slower making sure that Manny felt every bit of pain imaginable. He finally started to go dizzy from the loss of blood. As the blood oozed out, Manny fell into darkness.
After he was dead, the couple continued to cut the rest of his flesh from his bones. Once they were done, they slowly slid the empty skin into a chest and put the bones on a tarp in the back of the SUV. An hour and a half later they arrived on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. Carefully, they removed the trunk and the bones from the SUV. A few minutes later they were in front of J&S Gallery. It was here that they broke into the store disabling the alarm system, hung up a curtain to hide the background, started hanging the skin from the ceiling, and put the bones on a pedestal in the store front window. It only took about ten minutes to complete their task. Now the skeleton of Manny Tulepo was on display for everyone to see.
Eleven Thirty am and Lakewood Main Street saw its first customer. Hiram Rodriguez was an art enthusiast. He was looking for a new piece for his home when he came across the display window at J&S Gallery. As he was looking at it, he thought that it was very strange to have something like this in the display window. After all it was a little late for Halloween.
Something dripped from the ceiling. As he continued to look up to see where the drops were coming from, he noticed they were red. Blood was dripping from something hanging from the ceiling near the ventilation shaft— human skin. Then he noticed the skeleton on the pedestal. Immediately, he raced into the store demanding to see the store owner.
“How can I help you sir?” The owner asked.
“Do you realize what you have in your display window?”
“Yes sir. It is my winter collection of paintings and you can buy one for just Twelve Ninety-Nine ninety-nine.”
“You better look again.”
The owner followed him over to the display window. Once they drew close to the window, Hiram ripped down the curtain revealing the hanging skin and a skeleton on a pedestal. When the owner saw everything, he rushed to a phone and dialed 911.
“911, what’s your emergency?” The dispatcher asked.
“Yes. Someone broke into my gallery last night and put a person’s skin and bones on display in my store window.”
“I’m sorry sir. Could you repeat that?”
“Someone somehow got into my gallery last night and put human skin and bones in my store front window!”
“Okay sir, just calm down and we will send someone over right away.”
Atoms and Reef were not far from the scene when the call came in. They rushed over there. Nothing could have prepared them for what they were about to see. Bilkins and Lieutenant Harbor were already there.
As soon as Harbor saw Atoms and Reef pull up, he went over to their car. “This is my crime scene. You two idiots can leave now. This is real detective stuff. Not for two idiots who think they are the best.”
Atom’s eyes were seething with anger and hatred.
“Let it go Will. He’s not worth losing our jobs over and besides look who showed up,” Reef said.
Not long after he said that, Sheriff Black walked up. Harbor saw him and walked over and said, “Sheriff, we have the whole street taped off, and we are ready to dust for prints.”
“Good. You and Bilkins can leave, and head back to your precinct. This case belongs to Detective Atoms and Detective Reef. And one other thing Lieutenant. Bilkins was suspended and shouldn’t have been here in the first place.”
“I reinstated him sir.”
“Under whose authority?”
“Mine, sir. Lieutenant Slade suspended him, and I reinstated him.”
“Harbor! I’m only going to tell you once. I gave Lieutenant Slade permission to put Detective Bilkins on suspension and Norcom too. So, until I say otherwise, they will remain on suspension.”
Harbor and Bilkins hung their heads and left. The sheriff walked over to Atoms and Reef.
“Damn good to see you two here.”
“Sheriff? What is going on here?” Reef said. We heard on the two-way radio that someone broke into an art gallery here and placed human remains in the store front window,”
“That’s right. J&S Gallery owner David Flowers said that a man had come in and showed him what was behind the curtain.”
“Okay, so why are we here?” Atoms asked.
“Well, it appears that our mysterious killers have struck again. Only this time it hits close to home. Which is why I am taking you off the case Atoms. We don’t need a vigilante cop on the streets.”
“Who is the victim sheriff?” Reef asked.
“Manny Tulepo. Our head CSI Tech. I know Atoms and he were close, so I’m taking him off the case as he is too close to the victim.”
With a shocked look on his face, Atoms asked; “How? Last I heard Captain put him on personal leave because his girlfriend had gone missing.”
“Apparently, Captain Wolf talked to him last night trying to get him to go home where he was safe. Tulepo went to a friend and co-worker’s house to see if she had heard from his girlfriend. She said no and Tulepo left. Nobody had heard from him since then. We are sure it is him by the blood samples we got back a few hours ago. Reef I will assign you a new partner tomorrow. For now, Atoms you go home and get some rest. Reef I want this place cleared and checked for any kind of evidence.”
“Yes sir,” Reef replied.
The sheriff walked away and headed for the taped off area. Atoms just stood there looking shocked. Reef looked at his partner and said; “Go home Will. I will keep you updated on everything as we find out.”
As Atoms was about to walk towards the car to head back to the precinct, his cell phone rang.
“Yeah detective. This is Detective Simms. You and your partner might want to come see this.”
Underneath his breath, he said, “I will come right now, but do not tell anyone I am coming. I have been taken off the case and will explain later.”
He hung up the phone and headed right for the car. When he got there, he looked at Reef and said “Hey Reef! I need to borrow your car to get back to the station. Is that ok?”
“Yeah. Don’t drive it like you drive your car.”
Reef was not just his partner anymore, he was also his only friend. Seeing Manny’s skin sprawled out like an animal hide at a native American campsite really made things personal. He no longer cared about the killers getting locked up. He wanted them dead. Once he got to the station to grab a few things before heading over to see Simms, he called Reef to let him know where his car was. As he was talking to Reef, he began to get emotional.
“Me, Manny, and Amy were all supposed to hang out Christmas Day. Guess now that’s not happening since Manny is gone and Amy is still missing. I got to be honest with you Josh. I have never wanted someone dead as much as I do now.”
“You have to keep it together Will. Otherwise Manny’s death will be for nothing. Let me find these bastards and have a jury decide their fate.”
Atoms was never one to show emotion, but this was different this time it was personal, and whoever did this would pay for it and he would make sure of it. Later that day, Atoms was at home going over the files from the other victims to see if there was any kind of clue he might have missed. Nothing. Not even a single piece of evidence was overlooked, and then it hit him. Element’s body hasn’t been found yet. The hell with waiting for a jury to decide these psychopath’s fate. He was going to be judge, jury, and executioner.
“I’ll find the killers on my own. I don’t need no help to justify my actions,” Atoms said to himself.
He got into his car and headed over to the Sarasota Police Department to see what Simms and Sun found. Maybe they found Michael Element’s body. Atoms hoped he was right. He went to call Simms on the cell phone. No answer.
Reef walked in.
“Well? What are they going to do about his body or what’s left of it I should say?”
Reef hated seeing his partner like he was. “Come on, I’ll drive you home”
Atoms looked at Reef and said; “I am fine. Besides, we need to go see Simms and Sun. I am hoping they found Element’s body.”
“We are going nowhere except to take you home. You are off the case remember.”
“Fine. If you won’t go with me, I’ll go by my damn self.”
Reef didn’t have time to stop him, so he raced out to catch him before he took off. Once he got out the door, he caught up to him having to jump through the window as Atoms was taking off. They sped down old 301 to Ninth Street East. Once they hit Fifty Third, Atoms raced to US Forty-One just barely missing traffic. Twenty minutes later, they arrived in Sarasota. Reef called Simms from his phone hoping that he would answer.
Simms answered on the first ring, “This is Detective Simms.”
“Simms, it’s Detective Reef. I don’t have much time to talk but is there a place we could meet.”
“Ah yes. Detective Reef. I was hoping to hear from you. Your partner called and said he would meet us somewhere and not to tell anyone. What in the hell is going on?”
“I’ll explain later. You told my partner that you and Sun had something to show us.”
“Yes. We can meet at the precinct if you would like.”
“Good idea. We will see you in about ten minutes.”
“What do you mean we? I thought it was just you coming.”
“Like I said, I’ll explain later.”
Reef hung up the phone. Ten minutes later they pulled onto Adams Lane heading for the main precinct. Once they pulled into the parking lot, Atoms rushed inside with Reef trailing behind.
“Detective Atoms! We didn’t expect to see you so soon,” Simms said.
“You said that you had something to show me and my partner. What is it?”
“Come with me.”
As they walked through the precinct, Atoms kept wondering what they were about to see. Eyes watched them walk through the cubicles along the way. There was a hint of coffee in there, but there was no time for that. Finally, they got to the evidence storage room.
“Hey Bill,” Simms said to the officer in charge of the evidence.
“Jake. How’s it going? How are the wife and kids?”
“They’re doing good. Um, we need to see article 1836 from the Element case.”
The officer walked back into the huge room that was the storage area for evidence. When he returned, he had a large clear plastic bag with him. Inside was a photo frame and photo of Element and some girl. The girl was Rebecca Austin. Upon seeing the photo, Atoms and Reef were in shock.
“Where did you find this?” Atoms asked.
“We found it in Michael Elements bedroom at his apartment,” Sun replied.
“We got a court order to search Element’s bedroom and apartment. We found this and many other photos of the two of them together,” Simms said.
Atoms asked if he could hold on to the photo for a little while. The officer said no and took the photo back and put it back in its area.
“Well that answers my question as how the two cases relate. Maybe with this new evidence the sheriff will let me…”
“No way, Will. I need someone with a clear head and you are too close to one of the victims.”
Atoms just nodded and thanked Simms and Sun for their time. Reef followed his partner out the door. When they got outside, Reef said; “Look Will I know you want to catch the killers as bad as I do, but you need to get some rest and clear your head. Don’t worry we will find the bastards that did this.”
The two got back in Atoms’ car and drove off heading back to the station with the new information.
Ten thirty pm. Belinda Atoms was ready for her bath and the night-time pill that helped her sleep without pain. The nurse that took care of Mrs. Atoms had already started her bath water. After her bath, she helped roll her into the bedroom to get ready for bed. When the nurse left to get some water for Belinda to take her pills with, there was a knock at the door.
She thought, Now who could be knocking at this hour?
Looking through the peep hole, she saw two people dressed like Santa and Mrs. Claus. Before she opened the door, she asked, “Who is it?”
The voice on the other side replied, “We’re friends of Mrs. Atoms.”
She opened the door.
“Hello,” the man said.
“May I help you,” she asked?
In the politest voice he said, “Yes. We are here to see Mrs. Atoms. We realize it’s late, but we just got out of church and we wanted to come by and say Merry Christmas.”
Belinda heard voices coming from the hallway but couldn’t make out any of them except for her nurse.
She asked, “Felicity, who is it?”
“Just some friends who want to say Merry Christmas,” Felicity replied.
“Tell them to come back tomorrow.”
When the nurse turned around to tell the couple to come back tomorrow, the man slammed an axe into her skull splitting her head open. Her body fell to the floor.
Belinda heard a thud in the hallway and called out, “Felicity are you ok?”
Silence. Then she heard the front door shut. Belinda began to get scared.
“Hello? Whoever you are, you need to leave my house at once.”
She cried out for Felicity again. Again, she heard nothing. Then a figure appeared in the doorway of her bedroom.
“Who are you,” she asked?
“Hello Mother,” the figure replied.
“William is that you? Take off that silly beard,” she demanded.
The figure moved into the light. It was the man from the front door she heard talking to Felicity.
“Who are you? Do I know you?” The old woman asked.
“What’s the matter Mother? Don’t you recognize your own son?”
Before she could reply, he took off the hat and the beard to reveal a clean-shaven face, raven black hair, and violet eyes. The old woman eyes widened. She tried desperately to reach for the phone but being in a wheelchair made it impossible to reach. The man moved closer.
“What’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. You should be happy your son is home.”
“You’re not my son. You’re a monster.”
“I am what you made me, bitch. You’re the one that had me sent away to an asylum.”
“Yes, and that is where you belong! How did you get out?”
“That’s none of your concern Mother. Right now, you should be celebrating my homecoming. And oh, by the way, I have spoken to my baby brother. Quite the Atoms I see.”
“You stay Away from him, Michael. Do you hear me?”
He ignored her. Then he looked over and saw the pill laying on the nightstand.
“Oh, look Mother you haven’t taken your medicine yet. Lindsey, honey would you get mother some of our special water, so she can take her medicine. I made it just for her.”
Five minutes later, Lindsey returned with a plastic tube filled with Hydrofluoric Acid. Belinda was strapped to her wheelchair with duct tape. Michael took her OxyContin pill and shoved into her mouth. Then he grabbed the plastic tube and pushed it down Belinda’s throat pouring the hydrofluoric acid with it. She started vomiting up blood. Then acid began to eat through her skin. As her organs fell to the floor, Michael looked her in the eyes and said, “I didn’t forget Mother. Merry Christmas.”
As he walked out, he kissed her cheek.
“Goodbye Mother. I’ll see you in hell.”
It was Eleven- thirty pm and Atoms and Reef were still in shock after they found out that Michael Element was involved with Rebecca Austin. Reef now had a lead to work on since Atoms had to leave the case. He was told to stay home where it was safe. Nobody was safe in public anymore. But Atoms was stubborn. Instead of going home, he went to the local tavern to try and drink the rest of the day away. Four drinks later the bartender cut him off and told him to go sleep it off at home. Atoms reluctantly agreed.
After a long walk home, he crashed on his couch in the living room of his apartment. His mind swirled with ideas on why the killers chose to kill Rebecca and Michael, but nothing made sense. All throughout the night, he kept tossing and turning dreaming of the killers coming after him.
Reef came by the next morning to check on him. When he walked into the apartment, there was paper with questions and theories everywhere. Atoms was passed out with a bottle of Johnny Walker Whiskey in one hand and a pen and paper in the other. The room reeked of alcohol and heavy body odor. Reef kicked the couch to wake him, but he didn’t budge. After three kicks, Atoms awoke with a startle. Instantly he drew his nine-millimeter pistol.
“Whoa partner, it’s just me,” Reef said.
“Jesus Reef! What the hell are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be out catching bad guys?”
After he lowered the gun, he went back to drinking from the bottle of whiskey.
“I was on my way into work, and I came by to check on you to see how you were holding up.”
“I’m fine. A little shook up that’s all.”
“A little? It looks like you and Johnny Walker went on a writing spree with no end. What’s with all the paper anyways?”
“I’ve been trying to establish a motive for our Santa and Mrs. Claus killers.”
“Forget it Will. You are too close to this case. Stay out of it. Go on vacation or something, but leave the crime solving to us.”
“I’m going to find Manny’s killer Josh.”
Reef shook his head and walked over to take the bottle away from him.
“Any new leads on the case?” Atoms asked.
“Nothing except what Simms showed us. Look, I am running late for work. I just came by to see how you were holding up. Once you sober up, you should come in and see Doctor Avia.”
“I already told you, I’m fine.”
“Yeah sure you are. That’s why you are drinking right?”
“Whatever. So, I had a rough night. Ok?”
“Yeah. I’ll come by later and check on you again.”
“Damn it Josh. I told you I’m fine.”
As Reef walked out the door, his cell phone rang. He closed the door behind him and walked a little way down the hall to take the call. Atoms could hear him talking through the door but couldn’t make out what he was saying. After he heard Reef hang up, he opened the door and said, “Who was on the phone?”
“It was the captain. Look Will, I got to go. They found another body.”
“No, and I can’t tell you whose body.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
“You might want to sit down.”
“Tell me what’s going on.”
“When was the last time you checked on your mom?”
“Last week. Why? What Happened?”
“The body they found was your mom’s.”
Atoms fell to his knees. This was the last straw. He grabbed for his keys, but Reef stopped him.
“Captain told me to keep you away from the scene. He doesn’t want you seeing your mother like she is.”
“Damn it Josh, I’m not a kid.”
“I’m sorry Will, but I can’t let you go.”
“Did he say how she died?”
“Not yet. But they said the scene was pretty rough.”
Immediately, Atoms shoved Reef out of the way and headed for his car. Reef wasn’t sure how, but he knew he had to catch him before he reached the crime scene. It was seven o’clock in the morning. Atoms shouldn’t be that hard to find.
Instead of wasting time searching for him, he put out an APB on him and his car. He also alerted the captain that Atoms was on his way there.
When he got there, the captain was there to hold him back.
“Go Home Atoms,” The captain said.
“It’s my mother in there.”
“I know son. Let us do our job okay?”
Atoms calmed down for a few seconds then dashed inside. He saw the home health nurse covered up and an ax lying next to her. Immediately, he rushed to his mother’s bedroom and saw her body covered up as well. He balled up his fists and stormed outside towards the captain.
“Who the hell did this, Jim?”
“We aren’t sure yet.”
“BULLSHIT! You do know. You just aren’t telling me. Now tell me the truth.”
“We think it was the Santa and Mrs. Claus killers again.”
Manny and his mom were gone, but why them? He immediately headed back to his car and sped off in a rage. The hell with the job.
He was going to find these bastards by himself. He left and headed for the station. Reef was there waiting for him.
“What do you expect to find that we haven’t already?”
“GET OUT OF MY WAY JOSH!”
“No. I’m not going to let you throw away your career.”
“She was my mother!”
“And she would want you to do the right thing.”
Tears formed at the base of Atoms’ eyes. Reef took him in his arms and hugged him tight. He hadn’t been this emotional since his father died.
“Look Will, go home and get some rest. We will find these bastards.”
After leaving the station, he headed back to his mother’s house hoping to find clues as to what happened. Everyone was gone and there was crime scene tape across the door. The acrid smell of burnt flesh made Atoms’ stomach lurch. Putting on latex gloves, he checked everything for prints, but he didn’t find any. After searching the house for an hour, he saw a gift box lying on the coffee table. When he picked it up, he shook it to see what was inside. He immediately threw the box. Inside ticked a timer, but it wasn’t connected to anything. There was a card attached to it and it read; “Merry Christmas Detective Atoms.”
What the hell?
He started to check the box for any more clues.
“Where is the damn connection?”
Then he saw it. There were burn marks on the floor.
“Maybe it’s time to pay a little visit to the medical examiner.”
As he drove to her office, he kept trying to figure out why the killers went after his mom.
“The only lead I have is between Michael Element and Rebecca Austin. But there must be something I’m missing.”
His brain swam with a thousand clues that meant nothing. On his way over, he called Doctor Heather Guney
“District 12 Medical Examiner’s office. How can I help you?”
“Doc, its Detective Atoms from the Manatee Sheriff’s office. Have you determined the cause of death in the Belinda Atoms case yet?”
“Not yet detective. We just got the body an hour ago and I have been swamped.”
“Ok, I want to know the minute you find something.”
“Sure thing, but what’s the rush?”
“The victim is my mother. I don’t know anything else.”
“I’m very sorry detective. I will be sure and keep you up to date with everything.”
After he hung up with her, he turned around and went back to the station to visit the crime lab. With Manny being gone, it was going to be awkward not seeing him there.
“Don’t worry Manny. I will find your and mom’s killers and make them pay for what they did to you and mom.”
Once he got to the crime lab, he asked to see the lead tech working on the case. He was surprised to find out their identity.
Scarlet Dole was the first to come out and say hi and give her condolences.
“Thanks Scarlet. That means a lot,” Atoms said.
“The new head tech will be right with you Will. She is just finishing up some paperwork.”
After Scarlet walked away, he watched her and saw her talking to someone but couldn’t make out who it was. After ten minutes of waiting, he almost got up and left but something told him to wait. Finally, after thirteen minutes the head tech came out.
Slacia Nix had been friends with Atoms since high school. Now she was the head tech in the crime lab. She stood about 5’4 and was a bundle of fire. She spoke her mind no matter what. Atoms went to extend his hand to shake with hers, but instead she walked up and gave him a huge hug.
“Well, hello stranger. I haven’t seen you in ten years.”
“Hey, Will. Yeah, I know I went to college to get my degree in forensics. Anyways, I’m sorry to hear about your mom and your best friend. I’ll do everything I can as head tech to catch these psychos.”
“Thanks, Slacia. Look I need a favor from you.”
“Sure. Anything. What is it?”
“Well as you probably heard by now I was taking off the ‘Killer Santa’ case.”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“I need you to look at something for me.”
“Ok, what is it?”
Atoms pulled out the tiny gift box he found at his mother’s house.
“I found this at my mom’s house. It has a timer on it, but it’s not connected to anything.”
“You took something from a crime scene?”
“Yeah, apparently your techs missed it somehow.”
“Does anyone else know you did this?”
“No, I’m doing my own investigation.”
Slacia stayed quiet for a few minutes and then said, “I’ll do it this one time, but after that I can’t help you.”
Atoms agreed and started walking out the door when the captain spotted him leaving.
“Atoms, get your ass in here.”
The captain knew something was up but didn’t have a clue as to why Atoms was in the crime lab.
“Shit,” Atoms said.
As he walked into the captain’s office, he couldn’t help but to think; “Why didn’t the techs see the giftbox on the table?”
The captain waited till he sat down before he started in on his tirade.
“Damn it, Atoms. What are you doing here when I told you to stay at home?”
“I came to talk to an old friend captain.”
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“No, I just told you I came here to talk to an old friend.”
“Go home and stay there till this thing blows over.”
“I want justice, Jim. My justice.”
“We don’t need a good cop going out there and playing vigilante. Be patient and let us do our job.”
“I’m sorry captain but I just can’t do that.”
After he said that, he got up to leave, but as he walked out the captain said; “Atoms stay out of this you’re too close to this.” The captain knew there was nothing more he could do or say.
Atoms just calmly walked out and headed for the door. When he left the precinct, he walked home instead of driving. He had too much on his mind to be driving. On the way home, he remembered something.
“Mom took OxyContin for pain. I wonder if that was the issue.”
Immediately, he called Doctor Guney. She answered on the first ring.
“Yes, this is Doctor Heather Guney.”
“Doc, It’s Detective Atoms. By any chance have you done any tests on Belinda Atoms yet.”
“No. We just got the body in a few hours ago. But we are fixing to do some presumptive tests on her first.”
“Ok, I want to know as soon as you get something.”
He hung up with her and kept walking until he got to his house. Once inside, he waited for Slacia to call about the box. While he waited, he made a few calls. One of them was to Detective Simms.
“Detective Simms speaking.”
“Detective Simms, this is Will Atoms.”
“Yes, detective how can I help you?”
“Have you had any breaks on the Michael Element case?”
“No. Not yet. I will keep you posted as I hear something.”
“Sorry Detective. Wish I could be of more help to you.”
Atoms hung up and laid on his couch. Every minute that passed felt like an eternity. His mind started to race again. Finally, when he got up, he called Doctor Guney again even though she told him she would keep him updated. It rang and rang until it went to voicemail.
“Damn it,” he thought.
“If I’m going to find the killers then I had better start from the first murders and work my way up.”
He returned to the precinct to look over his files again to see if there was anything he missed. Nothing. Just notes from the interview with the security guard. He left and headed for his car. He was going to go to his best thinking spot. Anna Maria Island was close, but he needed to get away for a little while, so he headed to Siesta Beach. It was eighteen miles away, but that was no biggie. Once he got there forty minutes later, he went down to the shoreline forgetting that it was an active crime scene. The beach was the best place for him to think alone.
The sound of the waves calmed his nerves. As he walked back to the car, he noticed something in the bushes. When he got closer, he realized it was a pile of bones. Upon further inspection, he noticed that they were black and charred. He began to wonder if they were human bones and if so why didn’t the techs see them. Immediately, he called Simms back.
“Simms, It’s Will Atoms again.”
“What can I do for you detective?”
“I’m down here at Siesta Beach and I found a pile of bones in the brush along the dunes. You might want to get down here and have a look before someone else sees them.”
“Detective that is an active crime scene. Don’t touch a thing. I’m on my way now.”
Someone must be helping them. This is the second time that the forensic team missed a possible clue.
“What the hell is going on,” he said to himself.
Twenty-five minutes later, Simms showed up.
“Sorry I’m late. Traffic was a nightmare. So, where are the bones at?”
Atoms pointed to the bushes. Simms walked to where he was pointing and saw them. Immediately, he called in the forensic anthropologist. An hour later he showed up.
“Ok, Doc. What do we have here? Are they human or animal?”
“They are most definitely human, but I need to take them back to the lab to identify the victim.” He carefully removed the bones from the brush putting them into an evidence bag. Simms followed behind him leaving Atoms with his thoughts again.
Atoms sat in the car for a while trying to piece together why the bones and the gift box was overlooked. Things weren’t making any sense. Not even his partner noticed either of them items. It was time he started asking questions and get to the bottom of this before someone or something else goes unnoticed.
The next night Michael and Lindsey headed for Anna Maria Island. It was the perfect place for their next kill. The area they chose was empty. The day before they burned their costumes and dumped the ashes in a dumpster behind a local 7-11. No more games, Michael thought.
They pulled into the Coquina Beach parking lot waiting for their next victim to come strolling by. It wasn’t long before a woman in her mid-twenties walked down the beach alone.
Victoria West was a full-time student at the University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee campus studying for her master’s degree in education. Walking down the beach by herself made her an easy target, but she didn’t notice the SUV that sat in the parking lot. She kept walking until she heard a man’s voice call out.
Who in their right mind would come down here at this time of night besides me?
She ignored the voice and continued to walk down the beach when Michael came rushing up.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
“I’m sorry to bother you so late, but my car won’t start. Could you possibly give me a jump?”
“Sure. Let me go get my car and I’ll be right back.”
When she pulled up, she said, “Where is your car again?”
“Right over here.”
As she pulled up facing it, she didn’t see him get the pepper spray. She went to get out of her car, and no sooner than that happened he sprayed her right in the eyes. Her eyes stung even as she kept them closed. For three minutes she was blind, just enough time for Lindsey to knock her out with a club. They dragged her body down to the shoreline where they started to dig a hole big enough to bury her alive. After an hour, the hole wasn’t big enough. Michael became irritated and decided to chop her up and bury her that way. She started to wake up, and as she felt the axe cut through her flesh, she screamed in agony. Lindsey hit her with the club again and she was out cold. In a hurry, he hacked up what was left of her and buried her.
After he finished, he decided to make a makeshift grave marker and placed it where the body was buried. He cleaned up the mess and made everything neat again, they headed towards the City Pier at the other end of the island to hunt for another victim. It was time to “Up the stakes”. The number of victims per night was about to increase. After thinking his previous decision through, he uncovered her body parts and left them out on the beach.
Michael was done with small murders. He wanted to be rivaled with the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. He also wanted the public to know he was dead serious. Lindsey had begun to annoy him. Her time was coming too. After all, he never really intended to keep her around, but how would he get rid of her? He started to think of ways to kill her, but most of them were too easy. He wanted something grand like what they did with Manny Tulepo.
Now that was artwork at its finest, he thought to himself.
Then he finally got the idea of how he was going to rid himself of this weak child who looks like a woman.
“Stay here,” he told her.
He got out of the car and started walking towards the pier.
Bailey West was your average woman. Standing at only five feet tall, she had long golden blonde hair and piercing green eyes. She loved to shop especially with her sister Victoria. Even though they were always around each other, they still had their differences. This time Victoria wanted to walk on the beach, but Bailey wanted to fish. Eventually, they agreed to do their own thing. As Bailey reeled in her line, Michael approached.
Michael walked with a purpose. He remembered Victoria mumbling something about her sister Bailey before they knocked her out again. He had no clue as to what she looked like. Instead of asking around, he just walked up to the first woman he saw.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
Bailey looked up just as he spoke.
“Are you Miss Bailey West?”
“You need to come with me right away. It’s important.”
“Why? I don’t know you.”
“It’s your sister. She needs you.”
“Oh my god! Is she ok? What happened?”
“She got stung by a jellyfish.”
“She’s allergic to jellyfish.”
Both raced to the SUV. Once they were in, Bailey got the feeling something wasn’t right. They raced back to Coquina Beach, and when they got there, Bailey rushed out to find her sister along the shoreline.
“I don’t see her. Maybe somebody found her and took her to the hospital.”
As she turned around, Michael was waiting with his axe. He swung around cutting off her head. After he decapitated her, he laid her on a tarp and left her there for the cops to find.
The next morning Atoms hit the road early. Finding those remains brought back images of Manny sitting in the art gallery window with his skin hanging from the ceiling, but the question remained unanswered. Who is overlooking evidence and why are they doing it?
As he sat in his car, he tried to eliminate the possibilities of who would do that. The list in his head was endless. There was nobody on the team he could think of that would overlook this type of evidence. With no suspects, he would have to wait until Slacia called and gave him the results of what she found.
Later that day, Atoms went to Copper’s Diner for dinner because he was tired of eating carboard meals. As soon as he sat down, two uniformed officers walked in. He didn’t recognize them, so he didn’t pay attention to them. The cashier politely asked if they wanted some coffee. They declined walked over and showed a picture to her.
“Ma’am have you seen this man? He is a person of interest in an ongoing investigation.”
It was a picture of Atoms. He stayed quiet until he heard the woman say; “Yes. That’s him sitting in the corner over there.”
She pointed to the exact location where he sat. They started walking towards him, he stood up and said, “I’m Will Atoms. Why are you looking for me?”
“Sir, we would like for you to accompany us down to the station. We just have a few questions we would like to ask you. It would be easier for both of us if you just rode with us.”
“About what, officer?”
“We are not permitted to discuss this in public. Now, if you could please just come with us. Please, detective don’t make it any harder than this has to be.”
After ten minutes of arguing and questioning the officers, they placed him in handcuffs and walked him out to the squad car. When they got to the car, Atoms demanded to know why he was being detained.
“Two young college girls were found dead last night. They were sisters, to be exact.”
“So, what does that have to do with me?”
“You will find out when we get to the station,” the other officer said to him.
Atoms sat in silence all the way there. He was going to get to the bottom of this just as soon as they let him go. When they arrived, they escorted him through a back door and led him to an interrogation room and they proceeded to ask him some basic questions.
“Sir, where were you last night between nine and ten?”
“I want my lawyer first and then I’ll answer your questions.”
The two officers got up and left, and two minutes later two detectives walked in.
Detectives Murphy and Snapdragon were from the eighty-second precinct assigned to cover for Atoms and Reef. John Murphy was a hardened Irish cop from New York City Police department. He received three commendations for valor in the line of duty and serving ten years on the force in New York and left there for the ‘quiet life’ of Florida. His partner Henry Snapdragon was a vice cop from Honolulu Hawaii who almost lost his life in the line of duty. His wife and him moved to Florida seven years ago. Together they made two of the most hard-nosed cops in the department.
Atoms knew he was and what to expect, so he kept cool and calm. Detective Snapdragon was the first to walk in and noticed that Atoms was calm. Detective Murphy walked in with a file in his hand and sat down to start the interrogation.
“Let’s cut the bullshit and formalities, shall we? We both know why you are here.”
“Actually detective, I don’t have a clue as to why I’m here. I just know that two college girls are dead, and that supposedly I’m a person of interest right now. So please, fill me on what the hell is going on.”
“Why do you need your lawyer if you are only answering questions, Detective? Afraid you might tell the truth?”
“No, but I know my rights and you have to let me go without proof.”
The captain walked in.
“Let him go. We have no evidence of him being involved.”
“But captain, we…”
“No buts, Murphy. Let him go!”
After the captain walked out, Murphy looked at Atoms and said, “I’ll be watching you.”
Atoms got up and walked out towards Reef’s desk. He wasn’t there. That was odd, but before he could reach his desk to find out what happened, Slacia called him over.
“Will, come here.”
He causally walked over to her to not arouse suspicion.
“I ran a fingerprint analysis on that little box you found.”
“And what did you find out?”
“Well there were no fingerprints on the box. When I went to put it aside, I looked inside and found a little note saying, ‘Merry Christmas Detective’.”
“Thanks, Slacia, for everything.”
Atoms walked away and headed home. As he was walking, Reef happened to pull up and told him to get in and that he would give him a ride home. On the way to his house, Atoms asked Reef why he wasn’t at the station.
“Well someone put a death threat on my head and the captain found out. I was going to ignore it, but, like you, he put me on leave. Now he has half the precinct watching my house.”
“When did this happen,” Atoms asked?
“Two days ago.”
“Why didn’t the captain tell me?”
“I don’t know, but it sounds like someone wants me out of the way and your attention,” replied Reef.
“Well they got that for sure. Killing one of my best friends wasn’t enough. They had to kill my mother too.”
“Maybe,” Reef said. “Does the captain have anyone watching your place?”
“No. But if it weren’t for the captain, I would still be sitting in the interrogation room.”
“The interrogation rooms? What in the hell for?”
“It seems as the new detectives covering for us isn’t too happy about it, but they do seem to believe I’m involved somehow.”
“We need to follow up with Simms and Sun and find out what they know. I heard you found remains on Siesta Beach.”
“Yeah, I did, but the forensic anthropologist has them and they are still trying to figure out who they belong to.”
“Still. We need to know what they know, or this could be a dead-end case.”
“Let’s go talk to them. I’ll call Simms and let him know we are coming.”
Reef made a U-turn on Cortez Road and headed towards U.S. 41. Atoms got a hold of Simms and explained what was going. Simms told him to meet to him at The Golden Dragon restaurant, and they would talk there. Twenty minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot. Simms was already inside waiting. Atoms was the first to walk in with Reef right behind him. Instantly, they were greeted by a little Chinese man who escorted them to Simms’s table.
Simms told them to sit down and enjoy themselves.
“Look Simms, we don’t have time for chit-chat. We just want to know if you have heard anything about the bones I found on Siesta Beach.”
“Nothing yet. The doctor still has them, and we won’t know anything till after Christmas. Please sit down and relax and enjoy the food.”
“We can’t wait that long, damn it!”
“Well, you can go talk to her if you like. She is down at the lab trying to reconstruct the bones to see who they belong to.”
Reef followed Atoms out the door as he stormed towards Simms’s car.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Will.”
“He’s hiding something and I’m going to find out what.”
Crash! Simms came rushing out as soon as he heard glass break.
“Hey! What the hell is your problem?”
Atoms had busted out Simms’s driver side window. Standing there with a bloody fist Atoms said, “Damn, that felt good.”
Reef just shook his head. Then Simms saw what he had done to his car.
“MY CAR! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO MY CAR?”
“Be grateful it wasn’t your face. Now, I know you are hiding something. Tell me what it is, or I will break the other window.”
“I’m calling your captain right now.”
Simms grabbed his cell phone and dialed the number.
Atoms just looked at him and said, “Go ahead. I’m not on the case anyways.
While Simms was on the phone, Atoms went over to the passenger-side window and tried to break it, when his cell phone rang. It was Dr. Guney.
“Yeah Doc, I’m a little busy. What’s up?”
“I got the results back from the presumptive toxicology test.”
Atoms stopped mid-swing.
“They were positive, so I’m going to do some more tests to see exactly caused your mother’s death.”
“Good. Keep me informed Doc.”
Michael watched from a distance and thought, how do I make my little brother responsible for my deeds? If he is on the run, it shouldn’t be that hard.
After he hung up, Atoms walked over to Simms and said, “Tell me what you know about the bones I found, or your car will be the least of your worries.”
“Okay, Okay I’ll tell you what I know. The bones belong to Michael Element.”
Atoms’ rage grew. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“I thought I could keep the investigation going. That’s it I swear!”
Atoms stomped off. He headed towards Reef’s car. He wasn’t far behind. Once both were in the car, Reef looked over at his partner and saw that he had a disgusted look on his face.
“Hey partner, what’s on your mind?”
Atoms stayed silent. He knew there was more going on than just Simms wanting to keep the investigation going.
Reef asked him again; “What’s on your mind Partner?”
“I’m thinking that the story Simms fed us is bullshit. Someone has got to him and he is covering for them. It’s time we get some answers.”
They left Simms with his broken window and headed for the Sarasota Police Headquarters. When they arrived ten minutes later, the place was packed. Detective Sun tried to hold back the press while Chief Meledy held a press conference about the bones that Atoms found. Something wasn’t right, though. They hadn’t found the killers yet, so why was he holding a press conference on the case? Atoms went to stop the chief when he heard his name.
“We are currently searching for the suspect, Detective Will Atoms. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact Sarasota Police department immediately. This man is wanted for the murder of Michael Element. Do not approach him. He is considered armed and dangerous. Thank you for your time.”
After making his statement, he walked back inside. The chief just named Atoms as a suspect. Atoms was stunned.
Reef was right the killers, or someone wants us out of the way, but why?
He had to get out of there before someone spotted him. As he headed back to the car, a thought occurred to him. Simms wasn’t talking to the captain. He called his partner and was trying to get me to stay so they could arrest me.
With Manny dead and Reef off the case, they had nobody to turn to for help. It was time they looked out for themselves and each other.
Reef looked at Atoms, “We need to get out of here and get some place safe.”
He followed Reef to the car and just as he was getting in a reporter recognized him.
“Hey there he is! Get Him!”
Reef hit the gas pedal, barely missed two dozen reporters, they flew out of the parking lot and headed towards Venice. A dozen patrol cars followed them with sirens wailing. As they neared South Tamiami Trail, Atoms remembered a street they could hide down until the patrol cars were gone.
It was eerily quiet when they pulled down the side road. The patrol cars passed by without incident. After waiting a few hours, they drove through the different neighborhoods to avoid being spotted on the main road. When they arrived in Venice, Reef called Captain Wolf to explain what was going on.
“Captain, it’s Reef. Meledy announced they are listing Atoms as the suspect, but he was set-up.”
“I know. Just stay where you are, and I’ll meet you later.”
Reef hung up with the captain, but they still needed to find a place to lay low. Something didn’t seem right when he talked to the captain. It felt like the world was after them and no place was safe to hide.
“Hey man, I almost forgot that my family has a condo near Venice beach. We could hide out there for a while till we figure out a way to clear our names. Plus, there is nobody nearby.”
“Are you sure we would be safe there?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
After making up their minds to hide down at the family condo, they headed towards the beach. Twenty-five minutes later, they arrived at the condo. It seemed too quiet, so Reef went got out first to check around the house.
“All clear,” he whispered.
Atoms got out of the car and headed for the front door trying not to make a sound. Cautiously, they walked into the house and checked all the rooms. After seeing nobody in the house, they relaxed a bit. The sun was starting to go down below the horizon. One by one they slowly turned on the lights. As Atoms laid down to rest, his cell phone rang. He checked the caller ID and made sure the VPN worked.
“Will, it’s Slacia. What the hell is going on? Where are you?”
“It’s a long story and I can’t tell you that.”
“I already heard the announcement. The captain is looking for you too. They both believe that you killed Michael Element.”
“I didn’t though.”
“Just come in and we can clear your name. I’m sure the captain will listen to you.”
“Sorry Slacia, I can’t do that. Look, I better get off here before they start to run a trace on the call.”
“No Will don’t…”
Click. Atoms hung up. After what Slacia told him, he went and double checked all the blinds and made sure they were down. Reef passed out on the couch and he couldn’t sleep, so he shut off his phone and got on the computer to see what the news was saying about all of this.
The next morning Reef’s cell phone rang. It was Captain Wolf. “Detective Reef speaking.”
“Reef, where the hell are you? You aren’t in Bangkok for God’s sake.”
“Sorry captain, have VPN and can’t tell you where I am.”
“Why the hell not?”
“I’m with Atoms. He’s laying low because of the announcement Meledy made.”
“I hope you know you are aiding and abetting a suspect in a murder case, not to mention obstructing justice.”
“Not if he’s innocent.”
“Damn it, Reef! Bring him in and we will get all of this sorted out.”
“Sorry captain. I can’t do that.”
Reef hung up just in time because the captain was trying to trace the call. After his brief conversation with the captain, he raced to Atoms’ bedroom.
“Will get up. NOW!”
“Why? What’s going on?”
“The captain is also on the hunt for you. We need to get out of here now before they catch us.”
Atoms raced to get dressed. Two minutes later, they were out the door and on the road heading south. Reef stayed off the main road to avoid being seen by any patrol cars that were searching the area.
Heading towards Dade County, he stopped at a gas station for gas and something to eat. When he saw the flyer with Atoms’ and his picture on it, he ran out to the car and booked it out. The gas station attendant raced after him for not paying for gas. Atoms had fallen asleep until Reef woke him up again.
“We have to go north because heading south is no longer an option.”
“Well then let’s head towards Gainesville.”
Reef made a U-turn and headed north. Hopefully, they got away just in time. They stopped at the Beach House restaurant to blend in with the crowd.
Four days had gone by and everything went according to plan. Michael had easily set-up his little brother. Cops are so stupid these days. One anonymous tip, and BAM, the heat’s off me. They ‘re no longer looking for Santa and Mrs. Claus, and even if they are, they’d never find them. Michael wasn’t sure whether to find his next victim on his list or eliminate Lindsey first. His mind raced with ideas and images of what he could do to her. The hell with one week. He was going to continue showing off his work.
He looked at the list again to make sure he was on the right track.
“Ah. Tammy Charming is next, but first I need to dispose this little aggravating bitch.”
“Did you say something, Michael?”
“Just thinking out loud, dear.”
He kept muttering under his breath and finally made up his mind
Miss Charming is next, but how do I do it?
He began to chuckle. This would be his best work yet. Tammy was a medical consultant who worked five days a week nine to five. This would be easy for him.
Once they arrived in the quiet community of Harbor Trace, they kept watch over Tammy’s house. It was quiet and dark. They wanted to be careful not to arouse the behemoth that lived next door. The 150-pound Rottweiler had to be subdued somehow. At first, Lindsey suggested that they just shoot the dog, but that would wake up the neighbors and it was too simple. Michael came up with the idea and left to go to the nearby store. Lindsey stayed in the SUV, while he went in. About ten minutes later he came walking out with two bags full of dog treats and peanut butter and some over the counter melatonin.
“Fine time to be thinking about food, don’t you think?”
Michael just gave her a cold look and said, “It’s not for me. It’s for the nuisance next door.”
That was the last straw with him. He had decided to kill Lindsey and Tammy at the same time. She made her stupid remarks for the last time. As they were heading back, he kept thinking of ways to get rid of her body.
When they arrived back at Tammy’s house, he prepared the special treat for the road block that stood between them and their next victim. Slowly, he brought out the melatonin, crushed it, mixed it with the peanut butter and put on the dog biscuit that he had purchased at the store. Once that was done, he tossed the juicy morsel over the fence. The dog went straight to it. Within minutes, he heard the dog snoring. Now was the time to make their move. Michael was the first to go over the fence into the backyard. Lindsey was next, and while she was climbing over, her pants got caught on the fence. Michael gritted his teeth and helped her over the fence. Then he climbed up to the master bedroom window and pried the screen open. After the window screen had been taken off, he lifted Lindsey up the window, and they climbed in it.
Tammy was in her office preparing notes for her speech at a medical convention the following week. She didn’t hear the thud of Michael’s boots when he hit the floor. As he rounded the corner though, he was able to see her tiny figure sitting at the computer typing away. Lindsey crept up behind Michael and took a glance at what he was looking at. Slowly, they sneaked into the office waiting to strike. Just as she turned around, Michael prepared hit her on the head with a lead pipe he had brought with him. Instantly, she crumpled to the floor. They picked up her motionless body and walked out the front door, the still snoring dog and headed for the SUV. Once they had her in the back of the vehicle, they went back and made sure everything was put back in place just like it had been before.
As they were leaving, Lindsey started to have an anxiety attack.
“What do we do if she wakes up? What if the cops used her to set us up? What if…?”
Michael put his hand up to her lips and said, “Shhhh, it’s ok. She isn’t going to wake up anytime soon.”
They headed back to their beach hideout on Bridge Street near the Bridge Street Pier. Lindsey was still freaking out, so to quiet her down before she aroused suspicion, he handed her some Xanax or what looked like it. She took them without hesitation. Without warning she started to feel dizzy and short of breath. Then she got sick and vomited all over the floor in the room and then passed out. Michael went to check her pulse. It was slowly dying, so he forced more pills in her mouth. Little did she know, it was rat poison that he gave her. After ten minutes, she was dead.
“One down and one to go,” he said to himself.
He walked over to where Tammy’s body laid still. He checked her pulse. Everything was normal. Then just as he raised his scalpel, she woke up and screamed. He went to drive the scalpel into her, but he missed. Instantly, she went for the taser that was sitting on a table nearby. He grabbed her wrists trying to wrench the taser free. They fought for a minute. Finally, after three tries, he managed to get the taser out of her hand. She jumped quickly for it but fell short. He was just about to inject anesthetics in her to knock her out again when she jumped quickly out of reach.
When he tried for a third time, she blocked it and hit him in the head with the same pipe he used to knock her out. His body crumpled to the ground. Before he could rise, she ran out of the house towards the intersection at Bridge Street and Gulf Drive. Fortunately for her, there was a car sitting in the parking lot at the Beach House restaurant.
She raced over and banged on the window. The person in the car rolled down the window. It was Reef and Atoms. She was frantic and scared. Immediately they tried calming her down, but it didn’t work.
“Please, please you have to help me. This man kidnapped me and just tried to kill me.”
“Calm down Miss. Who’s trying to kill you?”
She pointed in the direction of the house where they had brought her. The three of them ran back to it. This could be the only way to clear my name, Atoms thought.
The door was not open or locked. When they walked in she guided them right to where everything went down. When they got there though there was no sign of the struggle she had with Michael. Not even Lindsey’s body was there. He was gone.
Michael’s head throbbed.
That bitch, Tammy, is going to pay dearly for whacking me in the head with a lead pipe.
He headed towards Manatee Avenue carrying a giant duffel bag that contained Lindsey’s body. Bodily fluid began to leak through, so he had to think of some explanation. The smell was becoming overbearing in the heat of the sun.
To hell with the damn car. They won’t find anything.
As he was walked, he decided to head to Robinson’s Preserve to hunt for his next victim. Even though it was daylight, the preserve was secluded and would make it easy to take ambush someone. Nearing the place, he looked up and smiled. There was a woman in her early twenties walking near the beginning of the trail. This should be like taking candy from a baby.
“Excuse me, miss,” he said.
The girl stopped and replied, “Yes? How can I help you?”
“My ride left me stranded on Anna Maria, and I’ve been walking for ten miles with my duffel bag. Could you give me a lift back home?” he asked charmingly
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You can use my cell phone to call a cab or Uber though.”
He smiled as said, “Sure, that would be fine.”
The woman walked towards her Jeep that was parked near the entrance. Michael followed her. She handed him the cell phone, and he pretended to dial a number, and then he acted like he was talking to someone. “Hey Bob. Yeah, It’s Mike. Listen Sam left me stranded on the island and I walked to Robinson Preserve from there. This beautiful young lady is letting me use her cell phone. Could you come and get me? Okay, thanks.” The woman looked at him strangely. Not noticing her look, he handed the phone back to her and said, “My ride will be here in a little bit. Mind if I walk the trail with you?”
“Look Mister, I don’t know you and I would really like to get back to my walk, so have a nice day,” said the woman.
This made him furious, but the woman turned around and continued her walk through the trail. He followed her. When she realized what he was doing, she tried to make a run for it. But it was too late. He had caught up to her.
As he chased her down, he took the hilt of his knife and knocked upside the head with it knocking her down. In a calm soothing voice, he asked her, “What’s your name?”
“Jamelynn. What’s your name?
“My name is not important. You’re pretty, Jayme.” She shivered in fear. He continued to talk all the way to Myakka City. “Now listen you are coming home with me. Don’t try anything stupid because where we are going, there is nobody for miles around. Got that?”
“Good. Now sit tight and keep your mouth shut.” Once they reached the city line, he took the first dirt road they came to and drove down it.
“What’s in the bag?” she asked.
“Just tools. Like I said I got stranded on Anna Maria.”
“Why does it smell so horrible?”
“You really don’t want to know.”
“I think I’m going to puke.” She vomited in the back floorboard making the smell even worse.
Upon arriving at the dirt road, he followed it all the way to a run-down cabin with a tiny shack. Once they got there, he told her to stay in the car and that he would be right back. She agreed and waited fearing what was going to happen next. Michael was cleaning everything up inside. He wanted it to be perfect. Finally, after ten minutes, he came out, picked her up and brought her in.
“Sorry it took so long. I had some straightening up to do. Why don’t you sit down, and we’ll have a drink?”
As she sat down on the couch, he pulled out a bottle of wine. “Here we go. Fresh out of the cellar.” She was scared stiff, afraid of what he might do next. Michael poured two glasses of wine and looked over and said, “Drink it because it may be the last drink you will ever get.
She paused a minute before she said, “How do I know you didn’t poison the wine”
“You don’t. Just take my word for it”
After four glasses of wine, she felt light-headed and wobbly. As they started outside, she wobbled. Michael knew that the drug he put in her drink was working. He picked her up and carried her the rest of the way into the shed.
“Please let me go. I won’t tell anyone about you I swear,” she pleaded. Once they entered the shed, he laid her on the surgical table and strapped her down. “What do you plan on doing to me?”
Michael paid her no mind and walked towards the corner of the small building.
“Hold still this is going to sting a little bit.”
He took a needle, poked her, and filled a vial.
“Wait. What was that for?” she asked.
“Relax, my dear. You are about to help make the wine.”
“What do you mean? What’s going?”
As soon as she said that, he had a sledgehammer raised above his head.
“Don’t worry my dear. You won’t feel a thing.”
He sent the massive hammer flying down as she screamed, and her skull shattered. He smiled and walked away.
After leaving the house on Bridge street, Tammy, Reef, and Atoms headed for the sheriff’s office. So far, Tammy had been the only one to encounter the killer and escape. Once they arrived, Tammy asked them to come in with her, but they refused. Tammy nodded and headed in by herself. Atoms told her to ask for Detectives Murphy and Snapdragon. He said they would help her.
The sergeant on duty escorted her to the interrogation room. Once the two detectives came in, they asked her a dozen questions and then finally showed her a picture of Atoms and asked if he was the one who tried to harm her.
“No. He and another guy saved my life. They’re the ones who brought me here.”
“Ma’am this man is wanted for murder. Are you sure this isn’t the man who tried hurting you?”
“Yes, I’m positive. You are going after the wrong guy. He isn’t the one doing the killings. While I was strapped down on a table in the house, I overheard another guy say that he was the killer.”
She went into graphic detail about what happened. They sat in silence while she continued her story and told them what Michael looked like. She added that there was another woman’s body lying on the floor when she came to. After she finished telling everything, she had them take her back to the house where she had been held.
When they got there the place was dead silent. Thinking that Michael might have returned, Murphy told her to stay in the car. He and Snapdragon went up to the house to check the place out. They banged on the door.
“Police! Open up,” Murphy said.
Nobody answered, so they tried opening the door. It was unlocked. They went in with guns in the air and moved very quietly. Nobody was there. Thirty-minutes later they returned to the car to call in the forensics unit to see what they could find. Shortly after they called it in, the CSI techs showed up.
“Okay! I want the whole house looked over with a fine-tooth comb. You got that?”
After giving orders to the techs, he walked back over to the car and told Tammy to go with another uniformed officer named Sperry.
“Take her back to the station. She is not to leave until we get this place looked over.”
The officer escorted her to the car and helped her into the back seat. Once she was in, they drove off. Nothing was said all the way there. After they got to the station, Officer Sperry escorted her into the interrogation room where she would be safe.
Michael was cleaning up the bone shards from Jayme’s skull when someone pulled in the driveway.
Thank god her jeep is parked behind the cabin.
The sound of footsteps walking through the gravel that led to the front door made his heart race. A knock on the door made Michael jump. He quickly regained his composure and walked out of the shed.
“May I help you?”
“Yes. What do you want?”
“UPS, sir. I have a package for you.”
“Thank you. I forgot all about it.”
The driver walked back into the UPS truck and drove away. Michael breathed a sigh of relief. He thought for sure he was going to get caught. After the truck was out of sight, he went back to cleaning the shed.
Night time was coming and was going to be difficult to see. Once he finished cleaning up the shed, he dragged Jaymee’s body to the jeep. After putting Jaymee’s body in the jeep, he took out Lindsey’s body and sat it next to Jaymee.
“Time to dispose of you bitches.”
Now he had to get rid of both bodies, but that was simple enough to do. The river was the best place to do it.
Ten-thirty p.m. Michael purchased a campsite for the night. He waited until the park ranger left, before he pushed the jeep near the riverbank. Once it was pitch black, he put the vehicle in drive and slowly pushed it into the water. As he walked away, the jeep slowly sank to the bottom of the river.
“Now it’s time for revenge.”
The next morning Reef and Atoms decided to go talk to the captain to get Atoms’ name cleared. By the time they got there, Tammy had told them that Atoms isn’t the Santa Killer, but she couldn’t prove it. When he walked in, all eyes were on him. Two uniformed officers placed handcuffs on him and put him into a holding cell until the captain returned. Candy Greenwhol had reported her roommate missing. Murphy and Snapdragon were the ones to respond to the call. Atoms was released, and he and Reef tried to figure out why they named him a suspect.
“Why me?” Atoms said. “My fingerprints are nowhere near those bones. Someone must have seen me at the site that day and called it in. But who?”
A deputy came in with keys and walked up to the door.
“Detectives, you are free to go. Here are your badges. Captain says to stay put until he gets here.”
“That was fast. What changed?”
“Ms. Charming came forward said there was no way you could be the killer Santa and said she would testify in court to that.”
Atoms and Reef were happy, but something still didn’t make any sense. Why did the killer want Atoms out of the picture? Their names had been cleared and their badges restored. All Atoms could think was, she came forward at the right time.
Tammy was still waiting to be interviewed by Murphy and Snapdragon. As Atoms walked out heading towards the interrogation room, a uniformed police officer name Peter Iolo called out to him.
“Detectives, you should see this.”
After that he turned up the tv where Chief Meledy was set to make a statement regarding the case.
“I am sending out a public apology to Detectives Will Atoms and Josh Reef. They were wrongfully accused of a crime they did not commit. Detectives Roger Simms and Anthony Sun have been taken off the case and placed on Administrative leave at this time. Once again, I humbly apologize to these fine men. Detectives Simms and Sun’s incompetence reflects poorly on our department and our staff…”
“Turn it off,” Reef said.
He went to tell Atoms he would be right back, but Atoms had left. Tires were squealing outside as he left Reef behind. Reef knew there was nothing anyone could do to stop him from what he was about to do. Flying down US Forty-One, Atoms raced towards the Sarasota Police Headquarters off Adams lane. The captain was already there but had no clue what was about to happen. Chief Meledy was fixing to leave the podium when Atoms flew into the parking lot and straight towards him. He stopped just an inch away from Meledy’s leg.
“And here he is. I am truly sorry son. It won’t happen again.”
Meledy extended his hand. Without saying a word though, Atoms punched Meledy in the face knocking him to the ground. After he walked away, Meledy ordered his officers to arrest Atoms for striking a fellow police officer and superior. The captain stood in their way.
“You got what you deserved Chief.”
The captain caught up to Atoms as he headed back for the car.
“I need you and Reef back on the case.”
“Fine, but I need access to all the evidence you have collected so far.”
“Done! Now you and Reef go find this maniac before he blackmails someone else.”
Atoms was back on the case. Now he needed to see every file after he went on the run to try and find any other connection. He was certain the cases were connected. Heading back to the station though, something occurred to him.
“Of course! Why didn’t I think of that before?”
He raced back to the station to get Reef and start going over all the files. When he got there, Reef was at his desk already looking at them. Atoms walked up and said, “Let’s go talk to our survivor.”
“Sure. Let’s do this.”
They headed for the interrogation room when Murphy stopped them.
“That’s my witness Detective. What do you want with Miss Charming anyways?”
“We need to find out if she got a good visual on our suspect.”
“Ok, but I want to be present.”
They agreed and the three of them walked in.
Michael seethed with anger as he smashed the tv.
“How the hell did he get out?”
Now he had to be extra careful.
“They have only made one connection. They won’t make anymore.”
He looked at his calendar.
“Shit! Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Time for the big surprise.”
Reef was going over the files of each case when he saw something that caught his attention.
“Will, come look at this and tell me what you think. You aren’t going to believe what I found.”
Atoms walked over to see what his partner was having a fit over. As soon as Atoms saw it, his mouth hit the floor. Rebecca Austin, Michael Element, and Amy Beckett all in one photo. Atoms decided to make some calls to mutual friends of the deceased to figure out the connection. The results were uncanny. Amy was Rebecca’s half-sister.
“If Amy was Rebecca’s half-sister, why didn’t Manny tell anyone?”
“Maybe, he didn’t want to get taken off the case.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t even tell Amy about Rebecca’s death.”
“I really don’t know man, but I think it’s time we talked to Doctor Guney.”
Atoms agreed and headed out the door with Reef not far behind him. As they rode down U.S. Forty-One, Atoms started to think.
“If Dr. Guney performed the autopsy and the identifications of both set of bones, then she knew as well. DAMN! And I liked her too.”
“That means we will have to get a warrant.”
“Not if we’re just asking her some questions. The more and more we investigate the more bodies show up.”
They pulled into the parking lot of the medical examiner’s office. Dr. Guney was leaving. Atoms and Reef looked at each other knowing something was up. They headed inside. Dr. Frieze was still in her office though typing some notes into her computer.
“Dr. Frieze. Me and my partner are wanting to talk to Heather Guney.”
“That’s too bad detective because she just left.”
“We know. We saw her leave. Do you have any ideas of where she’s going?”
“Not really sure. She didn’t tell anyone she had to leave. She just up and left.”
Reef looked at Atoms and said, “Time to get a warrant to search her files and everything on the computer.”
They headed back to the precinct to get the warrant to search Heather Guney’s house which included her personal computer and all the files she kept at home. Once they secured the warrant, they headed straight for the place. They knocked on the door, but nobody answered. They tried it again only to get the same result. Finally, they used a battering ram to knock the door down. Immediately, they headed for her office. They searched all the files on the computer only to find personal files.
“Damn it, she must have kept her work at the office,” Atoms said
“Let’s go check it out.”
They rushed down U.S. Forty-One to the medical examiner’s office. Once they got there, they showed the warrant to Dr. Frieze. After interviewing her, they went to Heather’s office and went through everything she had. They found what they were looking for. Amy Beckett’s file laid on the desk, and inside it said that Rebecca Austin and Amy were sisters. Now they had to find Heather.
Heather Guney was never one for excitement up until three weeks ago when she helped her sister Lindsey and her new boyfriend Michael escape the mental ward. Now she was on the run. Lindsey was all Heather had left for family. She stabbed their parents to death. Ever since, Lindsey had been locked away at Manatee Glens Mental hospital. Heather immediately dialed Lindsey’s cell phone number. Michael answered it. “Hello?”
“Michael, it’s Heather. Where is my sister?”
“She’s sleeping. Why? What’s wrong?”
“The cops are on to you. You must get out of there before they show up. I’m leaving for Virginia. I’ll send some money as soon as I can.”
“I’m not leaving, and neither is your sister. Now calm down and tell me what happened.”
She paused for a moment. “I didn’t tell anyone about Rebecca Austin and Amy Beckett being related.”
“So, what. The cops are too stupid to figure out that they were related, and besides they are too busy looking for Santa and Mrs. Claus.”
“I’m coming for my sister. Stay here if you like, but me and Lindsey are leaving.”
She hung up the phone. She had to figure out where in Virginia they could hide out. Heading down State Road Seventy, her phone rang. “Hello?”
“Heather, this is Dr. Frieze. The police were just here looking for you. They want to ask you some questions. Are you in trouble?”
“No, Dr. Frieze. I just had a family emergency and I won’t be back. I’m heading back to my home state. Consider this my resignation. Merry Christmas.”
As soon as she hung up, she started cursing herself. Heather, you idiot. You should have never said where you are going. Now the cops will be looking for you throughout the state of Florida. Michael already knows what happened. You are so screwed girly.
She turned on some music to quiet her thoughts, but it wasn’t working. The closer she got to Myakka City the more nervous she got. Facing Michael was not something she was prepared to do. Once she crossed the city line, she knew there was no turning back. Driving further down south State Road Seventy, her stomach started twisting in knots. Finally, after an hour and a half, she reached the lonely dirt road that led to where her sister was staying.
Michael was nowhere to be found.
Good! Maybe it won’t be so hard to get her to come with me.
She pulled up the road to the cabin. The place looked deserted. She got out of the car and walked up to the door and knocked as loud as she could. Nobody answered. She called out for Lindsey to see if she would answer. She heard a chopping noise. Fearing the worst, she raced to where the sound was coming from. When she noticed what was going on, she breathed a sigh of relief. Michael had been chopping wood, and when he saw Heather standing there, he stopped. “Oh, It’s just you. Where’s my sister?”
“She went to the store to get a few things. Said she would call you when she got back.”
Heather got the feeling he was lying to her, but she played it cool.
“I’ll wait for her right here.”
“Fine, suit yourself. But trust me you’re going to want to come inside once it gets dark.”
Michael walked back into the house. He stood at the kitchen window watching Heather’s every move.
Her sister is dead, and she is next on my list.
It started to get dark. Heather hadn’t come in yet. Michael laid down on the couch in the living room.
Heather started to walk back to her car to wait for her sister. As she was walking, she stepped in something, and then she heard a snapping sound. She screamed in agonizing pain Her foot was caught in the bear trap Michael had set up just in case the cops showed up. As soon as he heard her scream, he walked outside and seen that she had stepped in one of the bear traps that surrounded the front and sides of the house.
“Now I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your pretty sister isn’t coming back. She’s dead and swimming at the bottom of Myakka River. You’re about to join her.”
He slit her throat. Then, he dragged her body to the shack to prepare for his best piece of art yet.
After searching all night, Michael finally found a place to put her body. Seal’s Hobby Shop off Manatee Avenue East had a huge store front window. Inside was a huge assortment of toys, models, puppets, and other knick-knacks. The store front window will be a perfect place to put her.
He disarmed the alarms protecting the store. After breaking the lock, he slid in dragging Heather’s body with him. She was rolled up in an old shag carpet covered in mildew and black spots. He unrolled it and gently removed the body. Next, he placed the carpet in the store window like a painter’s sheet to make sure no blood dropped on the floor. After he finished setting up, he skinned the top of her hands and the top of her feet and slowly removed the tendons and strung them up like a marionette. Once he was done with his work, he activated the alarms, set them off and headed back towards Myakka City.
Reef and Atoms had set-up surveillance to watch Heather’s house all night. Nothing so far. Reef fell asleep and began to snore. Atoms shook him.
“Hey man! What the hell?”
“Your snoring was killing my eardrums, and you are supposed to be keeping an eye out in case she returns.
There was no sign of her for the rest of the night, so they packed up and headed back towards the station. Just as they were pulling into the parking lot, a call came in about a break in at 8910 Manatee Avenue East. Atoms recognized the address.
“Hey that’s old man Seal’s hobby shop. I used to go there as a kid. Let’s go check it out and see what’s going on.”
The dispatcher came back on the radio and gave the rest of the description of the crime.
“Caucasian female five feet four inches tall. Found in the store- front window. All available units please respond.”
Reef and Atoms rushed to the scene. When they arrived, the place looked like a three- ring circus. Reporters were everywhere, and there was a crowd of “looky-loos.”
Old man seal was giving his statement to the officer first on the scene. Atoms walked over and told the officer, “I’ll take it from here.”
The officer nodded and walked away. Atoms had known Old man Seal since he was a little boy.
“Dan, what in the hell happened?”
“Well, when I first came in, I noticed the lock on the door had been busted, so I thought maybe someone was trying to steal some of my inventory. But when I looked for broken glass, I saw these bloody marks, like someone drug in a dead deer or something. Anyways, the marks went from the front door to the store front window.”
“What did you see after that?”
“I went to the store front window, and that’s where I saw that nice young lady from the medical examiner’s office strung up like a puppet. That has to be the most gruesome thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
After Atoms consoled the old man, he walked over to Reef and if there were witnesses
“No. Nobody saw or heard anything.”
“How about a positive ID on the body?”
“It’s definitely Heather Guney.”
“Damn it. That makes nine victims in less than a week, and that’s not counting Tammy who escaped.”
“How do we know it’s the same people? I mean come on Will. Santa hasn’t been seen in days.”
After getting further statements from the store owner, they headed back to the station to fill out the paperwork. While they were going through different cases to hopefully make another connection, a call came in about a jogger who found a makeshift grave with bloated body parts and a decapitated body underneath a blue tarp on the shore. That confirmed it. Eleven victims within a week. Atoms was positive it was the same person or persons doing the killings. Murphy and Snapdragon returned from interviewing the woman about her missing roommate. A search had been called for.
“Find anything?” Atoms asked.
“No, and by the way I’m sorry for busting your chops,” Murphy said.
“Don’t worry about it. You were just doing your job. Now, do you have any helpful information on the missing persons case?”
“Nothing really. Just her name and description.”
“That’s good enough. Give me everything you have on her. I want to know if she has a past record or just some stupid girl. I think our killer Santa is back, or either he never stopped.”
Within two minutes, Murphy returned everything he had from the interview. The notepad was not even full.
“Ok. Her name is Jamelynn Smythe. She stands five feet three, with brown hair.”
“Any idea where she was last seen?”
“The roommate said that the last time she saw her was near Manatee Beach. Hasn’t heard from her since.”
Reef was writing everything down, when Norcom and Bilkins were headed their way. Atoms looked and walked out the door.
Tammy was finally able to go home. Atoms accompanied her to make sure she was safe. As they walked out, Norcom said, “Tell your girlfriend that this is a police station not a bar.”
Atoms jumped in front of Norcom.
“What did you say to me?”
“I heard what you said you low life piece of shit. Now you got two options.”
Norcom just crossed his arms.
“Option A: You shut your mouth and go on about your business.”
With his muscles tense, he balled up his fists and said, “Option B is I put your pretty little face through that glass door.”
Tammy was shocked. Norcom just smiled, looked at Tammy and said, “Hey pretty lady. If you want a real man, you should come home with me.”
Atoms snapped. He grabbed Norcom by his shirt and threw him into the door. Glass scattered everywhere. Norcom’s face was cut to shreds. The captain rushed out.
“What the hell is going on out here?”
“Oh, nothing captain. Norcom just tripped and fell into the door. I was just about to catch him when he fell.”
The captain knew there was more to it but said nothing. Norcom had his face covered with his hands.
“Are you okay Norcom?” The captain asked.
Norcom said nothing.
“Is that what really happened Bilkins?”
Bilkins didn’t want to be next in line, so he nodded.
“All right, get Norcom to a hospital. I don’t want blood all over my steps.”
Bilkins helped his partner off the ground and led him to his car. The captain waited till they left before saying; “Atoms, I want you in my office. NOW!”
Atoms knew he was going to get an ass chewing, but he didn’t care. Norcom got what he deserved. Once he walked away and headed for the captain’s office he looked back and told Tammy that he would be right back. Tammy wasted no time in heading for a bus stop to get out there. There was no way she was going to stick around and watched another incident. After he walked into the station, the captain said, “Get your ass in here now.”
He went to shut the door, but the captain wasted no time in lecturing him.
“Damn it Will, you are going to have to control your temper or I’ll have to suspend you indefinitely. I know Norcom started it, but you gotta learn to walk away.”
“So Norcom gets off without being reprimanded?”
“No, I’m going to tell the chief who started it and what happened. Now get out of here and see to it that Ms. Charming gets home safely.”
As he walked out of the captain’s office, he started to calm down but was still a little pissed off. He knew the captain was right. The look on his face said it all. Reef walked over to see what happened.
“Hey man, everything okay?”
“Yeah. I put Norcom back in the hospital, that’s all. The captain wants me to take anger management classes.”
Reef could tell there was more to it than just anger management classes. He started to follow him but decided against. If he wants to talk, he’ll let me know.
Atoms walked out and headed towards where Tammy was sitting.
“What in the hell are you doing out here. I said I would take you home. Now come on I’m not going to hurt you.”
She reluctantly walked back to his car and got in. After he dropped her off at her house, he headed towards the beach to think but knowing the place would be packed, he changed his mind and headed for Long Boat Key Cemetery where his mother had been buried. On his way there, he thought about something. He never got the results of his mother’s autopsy report. Something wasn’t right.
“Josh, it’s Will. I need you to look through Dr. Guney’s files and tell me if there is an autopsy report on Belinda Atoms.”
“Ok, hold on.”
Reef reached for the files he obtained from Heather Guney’s office. Atoms could hear him rummaging through the papers.
“You’re not going to believe this, but there is nothing on Belinda Atoms. Not even a file. It looks like she never did an autopsy on her.”
“SON OF A BITCH! So, she lied to me.”
“She lied to everyone Will.”
“Get me a search warrant for her apartment ASAP. I want to find out who she really was.”
“Will, you know you’re not supposed to go alone. I will be there shortly. Where are you?”
“Get me that damn search warrant and don’t worry about where I’m at.”
Atoms hung up the phone and pulled off to the side of the road.
“If she lied about my mother’s autopsy, then how many more reports did she lie about.”
Five minutes later, his cell phone rang. It was Reef again.
“Will, I got your search warrant, but the captain wants me to join you.”
“Screw the captain. I’m doing this on my own.”
“There’s something else. It looks like she is the one who helped set you up. Not Simms and Sun.”
“Thanks, Josh. I’m headed over to her place now. Just make sure you get there before I do, so I can search the place legally.”
As soon as he hung up, he raced towards her apartment. It was off Manatee Avenue East. When he got there, the landlord was cleaning up the apartment next door.
“Can I help you?” He asked.
“Yes sir, I am Detective Will Atoms from the Manatee Sheriff’s office. I have a search warrant for Heather Guney’s apartment.”
“Of course, come right this way”
Something wasn’t right. Landlords were never this nice, but he followed him into the apartment.
“Take your time Detective.”
As Will searched, he found lots of paperwork that were mostly from a psychiatric ward. They showed Heather being discharged from Sun City Psychiatric Hospital three years ago. He had a feeling that the more he searched for clues to why she was killed the more evidence he would find. It turned out to be the exact opposite. As he was leaving, something caught his attention. It was a picture of Heather and another woman.
He picked it up and turned it over. It read, Me and Lindsey 2010.
I’ve never heard the doc talk about family being around here.
When he went to question the landlord, he was gone. He rushed to the door, but it was locked. Suddenly, a blue gas cloud started to fill the apartment. Atoms started to cough. He had to get out of there before he collapsed. Then an idea came to him.
“If I can break the window with something, I might make it out of here alive.”
While covering his mouth, he searched all over the apartment for something heavy enough to break the glass window in the living room with. The gas started making his vision blurry. His limbs were getting weaker and soon he wouldn’t be able to hold anything up. On the verge of passing out, he finally found a baseball bat lying underneath the bed. Crawling on all fours, he made his way back to the living room. He threw the bat as hard as he could at the window. It shattered on impact.
He weaved his way to the broken window and climbed out. The paramedics and police showed up just as he fell to the ground. As soon as they got to him, they were carrying a bottle of oxygen for him to breathe in. Once he was stable, he gave the order to the other cops to search the area and gave them the supposed landlord’s description. One of the officers handed him a cell phone.
“Atoms, what in the hell were you thinking going in that place alone?”
“Captain listen to me okay. There is more to Heather Guney’s case than her just being another victim. And I think I may have come across the killer.”
“I don’t care what you think. You could have been killed. Now get your ass to a hospital to get checked out, and once they release you, get your ass back here.”
“But Captain, I was—”
“I don’t care what you were. Get checked out that’s a not a request. That’s an order.”
After the captain hung up, Atoms went over to one of the paramedics and asked if he could ride in the ambulance to the nearest hospital.
He got in and they headed for Manatee Memorial Hospital.
“If that wasn’t the real landlord, then who the hell was it?”
When the cops searched the area all they found was bottles full of tear gas in them. Michael was gone. He had exited the building right after he set off the tear gas in Heather’s apartment. Carrying a gas mask, he casually walked down Manatee Avenue heading east. The cops swarmed the apartment complex like love bugs on a hot summer day. He scanned the crowd for his younger sibling but couldn’t find him.
Nobody bothered to stop and offer a ride or even ask about the gas mask. He felt the urge to kill again, but he remembered wanting revenge against Tammy Charming for hitting him with a 2×4. She was going to pay dearly for that. As he crossed Manatee Avenue East, he could smell the doughnuts from Dunkin Doughnuts along State Road Sixty-Four. He headed for the local Toyota Dealership. A thought came to him.
“Why the hell am I coming this way when I can just take Heather’s car once I get back to Myakka City.”
It was a long walk back, but he had walked further distances than that. Just then, a woman pulled up in a new Toyota Corolla.
“Excuse me sir, but could you help me?”
He gave an evil grin and turned to speak to the woman.
“Of course. How can I be of assistance?”
“Well I’m not from around here, and I’m lost.”
“Where are you trying to get to?”
This was his opportunity to get away.
“I’m headed that way myself. My truck broke down and I was going to walk home.”
“I can give you a ride.”
“You sure? I don’t want to impose on your plans being it the holidays and all.”
“Yeah, it’s no problem. Climb in.”
He climbed into the car, and they headed for Myakka City. As they rode down Manatee, they passed by Heather’s complex. There were a ton of cops searching for him. The woman looked over and said, “Sure is a lot of police cars over there. I wonder who they are looking for.”
“Probably just a drug bust. They happen all the time in that place.”
He kept his eyes on the road waiting for the right time to strike. The woman continued to make conversation. Michael’s urge was getting stronger.
“My name is Nena. Nena Honeywell. What’s your name if I may ask?”
“Eric. Eric Ocean.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Eric. I can’t thank you enough for helping me find my way to Myakka City. How long have you lived there?”
“Two years next May. Mind if I ask, why are you heading to Myakka City all by yourself for?”
“I’m going to see some of my family for the holidays and go back home around the third of January.”
“That’s nice. I bet they’ll be happy to see you.”
They passed the dirt road that led to the cabin. He didn’t want to go back to the cabin just yet. They continued to drive.
“Where did you say you lived?”
Nena laughed and kept driving. She looked at her gas gauge and noticed her car was getting low on gas. Michael noticed it too.
“Say uh, if you need gas there is a small gas station up ahead about a mile or so.”
They pulled into the gas station and she pulled out her gas card to go pay for the gas. He saw the gun in her purse. Then he unloaded the gun and dumped the gun back in her purse. Michael went for his knife, and when she got back in the car, she noticed that he went to grab something. She went for her pistol she kept in the glove compartment. As she aimed it, he started laughing hysterically.
“What’s so funny Eric?”
“The fact that you won’t shoot me. You are nothing more than a scared little girl with a gun.
“You think so huh?”
She pulled the trigger. Click. Nothing happened. She tried again. Click. Michael was still laughing.
“Forget something sweetheart?” He asked as he held the bullets in his hand.
She tried to run and scream for help, but the scream got caught in her throat. He put his hand over her mouth and stabbed her several times. Blood covered the driver side window. The clerk inside the convenience store came out. When he saw the driver side window, he rushed to call the police. It was no use. Michael had cut the phone lines while Nena was pumping gas. ran for help, but again Michael was three steps ahead of him. As the clerk was running away, Michael yanked his knife out of the sternum of Nena and threw at the backside of the clerk. It landed straight in his spinal column.
It was time to leave another message for the cops. Using the clerk’s blood from the hole in his back, Michael wrote on the window, “Merry Christmas Detective Atoms.” As soon as he finished, he took a set of keys from the clerk’s pocket and rushed off with his car heading back to the cabin.
After a couple of hours in the waiting room of Manatee Memorial Hospital, Atoms was finally taken back for examination. While he waited for the test results and the doctor to come back, he wondered why the killer used tear gas to try and kill him. It didn’t make any sense. Suddenly, the doctor walked back in the room with the test results in hand.
“You’re lucky to be alive Detective. The results came back positive for not only tear gas but also carbon monoxide and chlorine.”
“Am I clear to go back to work or not Doc?”
“Not yet. I want you on oxygen for a just a little while longer to help clear up your lungs.”
“Look Doc, I feel fine. Release me and I’ll be on my way.”
The doctor looked worried. Atoms knew something was wrong.
“Ok Doc, what aren’t you telling me?”
“The tear gas wasn’t your typical riot control gas that you guys use on the force. Like I told you, the tear gas was mixed with more than just carbon monoxide. Whoever created this cocktail was either really stupid or a chemical genius who knew what he was doing.”
“You sound like you admire the person Doc.”
“No. More like confused.”
Atoms considered what the doctor had just said for a few minutes then walked away.
“If your lungs start to burn or you have trouble breathing, I want you to come see me ASAP. I’ll go ahead and draw up your discharge papers. I must say though you really should stay on oxygen for a few more hours.”
“I’m fine Doc. If I have any more trouble, I’ll come see you right away.”
After he left the hospital, he heard over his police radio something about two dead bodies found at a gas station in Myakka City. He debated if he should check it out or not. Suddenly, he heard his unit called over the dispatch radio. He didn’t bother responding to the dispatcher and just rushed over to the scene.
After Atoms got to the gas station where the two bodies were found, he walked over to the responding officer to find out who was in charge. The officer pointed and said, “Detective Sanders and Detective Fink are in charge of the scene.”
The scene looked like something out of a horror movie. Blood was everywhere and the bodies began smelling. There were no other surrounding buildings.
Sanders and Fink were standing in for Norcom and Bilkins who were still on suspension. Norcom was also recovering from the cuts on his face from being thrown into a glass door. Atoms was glad it was them and not the other two. Fink and Sanders automatically recognized him.
“Hey guys. What do you got so far?” Atoms asked.
Sanders was the first to answer.
“Two people murdered. A passerby called it in. One was the clerk of the store by the name of Johnathan Woods and the other is thirty- six-year-old Nena Honeywell. She still had her ID on her when we found her. From the looks of things, the only thing our suspect took was the clerk’s keys and drove off with his car. The problem with that is…”
“We don’t know what kind of car we are looking for,” Finks said.
Atoms nodded and perused the scene. That’s when he saw the writing on the glass.
“Anyone get a sample of that blood?”
“Not yet. We were waiting for you to get here and see it for yourself,” Sanders replied.
Atoms grabbed one of the techs nearby and said, “I want a sample of that blood tested and a full DNA analysis pronto. It could be our suspect’s blood.” Afterwards, he walked back to his car and called Reef.
“Josh, it’s Will. It appears our friend the “Killer Santa” is back.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Oh, just the fact that he left a nice little Christmas message for me on a glass window at the crime scene.”
“Damn. Sounds like our little friend is getting bolder. By the way, the captain wants you here ASAP.”
“Why? I did what he told me to do.”
“I don’t know, but something tells me it can’t be good. Just get here quick.”
“I’m on my way.”
Driving down State Road Seventy, Michael’s mind started racing with thoughts on what he should have done with his latest victims.
“Idiot! You should have burned the bodies and then got the hell out of there. What were you thinking?”
He couldn’t shut his mind off, and it was driving him insane.
“Think Michael. How do we rectify this situation?”
Then a thought popped into his head.
“I’ll work my way back to that little bitch Tammy. Her and my little brother seem quite close. It seems as I’ll have my revenge and my Christmas present all in one shot providing little brother isn’t dead already.”
The thought made him grin and laugh evilly. When he arrived back at the cabin, he started preparing for his revenge by taking all of Lindsey’s personal effects and placed them in a fifty-gallon barrel and burned them. If Atoms was still alive, he hoped that he didn’t find anything to connect Lindsey or Heather to him at the apartment.
After three hours of cleaning and straightening up, the cabin was spic and span. There was more work to be done, but that could wait. There would be plenty of time for celebration afterwards, but for now it was time to hunt for a new victim.
7:00 pm— Michael waited patiently outside the precinct for his next victim to appear. Mary Masters had no idea what danger awaited her as she came out of the police station. She was filing a restraining order against her ex-husband.
Michael watched as she walked out and headed for her car. When she left the parking lot, he followed her all the way down First Street to the light at Cortez and Fifth Street to go home. The second time he changed his mind didn’t follow her. Instead, he took a different route, so he wouldn’t be seen. He knew where she was headed so he took Fourteenth Street all the way to Fifty Third Avenue. Mary arrived at the light at Fifty Third and Fourteenth just as Michael pulled into Starbucks. Once the light turned green, she continued down Fifty Third and headed west. He caught up to her around Twenty Sixth and Fifty Third.
She pulled into Mayfield Apartments off Forty Third and parked in front of her apartment building. She had no idea that she was being watched. Michael waited till she went inside. He changed into a business suit and grabbed his fake ID badge. After he was finished changing, he casually walked up to her door and knocked. She looked through the peep hole to make sure it wasn’t her ex. Then she called out through the door, “Can I help you?”
“Yes ma’am. My name is Detective Penske from the Manatee Sheriff’s office. I’ve come to ask you questions about your ex-husband. May I come in?”
“Can I see some identification?”
He held the fake badge up to the peep hole. She looked at it and opened the door.
“Come in and have a seat Detective. Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea? Water?”
“Water is fine, thank you.”
She turned around and headed to the kitchen to fetch him a glass. She must have been doing dishes when he knocked on the door because he could smell the scent of lemon dish detergent. The kitchen was a tiny little space off the dinning room with a stove, sink full of dishes, and a microwave hanging over top of the stove. Silently, he crept up behind her knowing there was barely any room for two people in the kitchen. He had picked up a kitchen knife from the table.
As soon as she turned around with the glass in hand, he slashed her throat with one good swipe. She grabbed her throat unable to scream or speak. The glass hit the floor and shattered. When she fell to the floor, she tried grabbing on to him to keep her standing, but he moved away and watched her bleed out all over the kitchen tile. The light in her eyes flickered like a flame on a candle that was being blown out. Once she was dead, he picked up her lifeless body and carried to the SUV he used to follow her and drove to the apartments. There was a tarp covering the trunk. He placed her body on the tarp. Afterwards, he went back to clean up his mess and wait for the ex-husband to show up. The ex was his next victim.
Two hours passed by and still no sign of the ex-husband. He was getting impatient. His mind racing with thoughts again.
“Her body is probably starting to stink up the place. Good thing I parked next to the dumpster.”
He went to the window to see if anyone was nosing around the SUV. As he sat back down though, someone knocked on the door. Looking through the peep hole, he saw a man in blue jeans and a black t-shirt. He called out from behind the door, “Who is it?”
The man didn’t answer and continued to knock.
“This must be the ex-husband.”
He opened the door casually and looked at the man and said, “Tommy, right?”
“Yeah. Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Brad, her roommate. She’s not home right now, but she will be back. Come in and have a seat. Make yourself at home. She has told me all about you.”
Tommy walked in and make himself comfortable on the couch. Michael closed the door and walked over to Tommy. He had his knife ready, but this wasn’t going to be easy. Tommy was a big brute, but he could handle it.
Two minutes later, Tommy laid dead on the floor.
Two hours later, Atoms and Reef were standing in the doorway of a one-bedroom apartment with a dead body laying on the living room floor. The room smelled like copper and the techs were coming in and out of the apartment with evidence. Atoms looked confused. He knew this didn’t fit the killer Santa’s M.O.
“Could there be a copycat killer on the loose or was the killer evolving his pattern his way?”
After talking to Scarlet, Reef walked over to Atoms to give him the run down.
“Neighbor said she saw a strange SUV parked near the dumpster but paid it no mind. Thirty minutes later, she heard a scream, and that’s when she called us to report the scream.”
Atoms didn’t respond. He kept his eyes focused on the dead body. Something was missing, and he knew it.
“Hey Will, you ok?” Reef asked.
Scratching his head, he said, “Yeah, I’m fine. There is just something I don’t understand.”
“This killing makes no sense, and there is no package to be found anywhere.”
“Most of them don’t, but who knows? We are still searching the place.”
“I want to know who lives here and where the hell they are.”
“That’s just it, Will. Nobody knows where the tenant is. The neighbor said that a woman by the name of Mary Masters lives here. As a matter of fact, I remember seeing her in the precinct. Something about filing a restraining order against her husband. Our key witness right now says she saw Mary going into her apartment but didn’t see anyone come out until her husband showed up. Even then, she didn’t see Mary come out. Said she saw some nice-looking man in a business suit come out and let the husband in. The guy you see here is her husband Tommy Smalls.”
“He must have caused the killer to freak out.”
Suddenly, a tech walked over to Reef and Atoms.
“Detectives, you might want to look at this.”
They followed the tech into the kitchen area where there was a huge red stain on the floor.
“That isn’t a wine stain I can tell you that,” the tech said.
Atoms already knew what it was. He dismissed the tech and took a closer look at the stain. Now he knew what was missing. A body. Reef saw the look in his eyes and knew instantly that it was no longer about the job. This was personal.
“I want every nook and cranny searched. Ms. Masters is missing, and I want her found now! Let’s get going.”
In minutes the place was crawling with deputies and techs alike. Twenty minutes later, the search turned up nothing. No body. No weapon. Nothing. Atoms figured that the killer must have taken the body, but where to? This case was going to be difficult to solve unless they find the body. Atoms had a gut feeling she was already dead, but where the hell did they go? There was no blood trail for him to follow.
While Reef interviewed one of the other neighbors, he remembered what the first neighbor had said about a strange SUV being parked near the dumpster. As soon as he was finished, he walked over to the dumpster and came across a sky-blue hair scrunchy laying on the ground. Immediately, he called his partner over to see it.
“Bag it. We will take it over to the crime lab and have it checked out.”
As Atoms started walking away, he noticed there was a puddle next to the scrunchy. It was a pool of blood. But that didn’t make sense.
“How the hell did he get the body from the apartment to the vehicle without leaving a trail of blood?”
He called over Scarlet and asked her to do a swab on the blood.
“I want that taken directly to the Medical examiner’s office ASAP.”
“Sure, thing Detective.”
After Scarlet walked away with the swab, Atoms noticed a man with a smartphone out and videotaping the entire scene. The man stood about six foot three inches tall wearing a pair of denim jeans and a red shirt. The face made Atoms think he looked familiar. Then Atoms dismissed the thought and began thinking, “Who the hell is he? Is he a reporter?”
He walked over to confront the man, but then the man disappeared into the crowd of looky loos.
Damn people. There is always someone trying to get fifteen minutes of fame.
Michael walked away satisfied with his work. Hell, he had it all on video.
“New Year’s Eve is going to be a Blast.”
After he left the scene, he grabbed Mary’s body and threw it into the dumpster for his baby brother to find.
“Enjoy little brother,” he said to himself.
Atoms decided to check the area one more time for the strange man videotaping, but he was nowhere to be found. Reef went back to look for more clues near the dumpster when he smelled a copper smell along with the garbage that was in the dumpster. Once he saw the source of the smell, he immediately called Atoms over to have a look. There laid Mary Masters along with the bloody suit that the killer was wearing. He put on his powdered latex gloves and pulled her body of the dumpster. Reef grabbed the bloody suit and they immediately took them back to the scene.
Michael left the scene satisfied with how things were going. Heading east on Fifty-Third, he hoofed it all the way to Fourteenth street west. From there, he headed North on U.S. 41 to Palmetto where he would find his next victim. He needed a change of scenery. Bradenton was starting to bore him.
Several hours later, he started walking across the Green Bridge. Once he was across the bridge, he headed down Tenth Street looking for a new vehicle to take. But if he stole one, they could trace it. Even if he bought one they could still trace it, so he had to be careful. Ten minutes later, he found what he was looking for. The only problem was the dealership was closed. He had to think on his feet before some cop comes by and sees him looking at the car. Finally, he decided he would stay the night at the local Hampton Inn & Suites.
He started walking when a car stopped on the side of the road. It was a man wearing nothing but camo.
“Howdy there Mister. Need a ride?” he asked.
“Sure. I’m headed to the Hampton Inn & Suites for the night. My wife and kids are there waiting for me.”
“Well what are you doing on this side of the river?”
“Well, I was on my way back to the hotel when my car broke down.”
“I know how that is.”
“Look I appreciate you giving me a lift back to the hotel.”
“It’s no problem. Just helping someone out in need.”
Michael was getting bored with the conversation.
“If I’m going to take this truck, I need to take out the hillbilly first.”
Michael grabbed the man’s hunting knife and started to whistle.
“Mighty fine knife you got here mister. It’s a shame I’m going to have to use it on you.”
The man smiled and said, “What did ya say? I’m partly deaf in one ear so you will have to speak up.”
Right then, Michael grabbed the man by his shirt collar and said, “You have two options. One you can leave me the truck and I not kill you, or I can kill you right here right now.”
“Mister you have got two options as well. You can either get the hell out of my truck or I can blow your brains all over this blacktop.”
The man immediately got out of the truck and pulled a pistol out.
Michael thought for a moment and then said, “I think I’ll take option 2 and got out of the car.”
Fire flashed from the gun as the man fired his pistol just grazing Michael near the ear. He lunged for the man and stuck the knife in his stomach. They struggled for several minutes until the driver began to fade. Michael stuck the knife in deeper this time. Then the man was dead. After he cleaned off the knife with the hillbilly’s shirt, he looked at the man and said, “I think I’ll keep this as a reminder of our little chat.”
Once he was satisfied about the old hillbilly being dead, he got into the truck and left. Heading towards the Hampton Inn in downtown Bradenton.
There was a cop sitting in the parking lot eating a doughnut. Michael had to find a way to get past him without being noticed. Then an idea came to him. He would casually walk up to the cop and ask for a cigarette, so he didn’t look suspicious.
“Excuse me Officer?”
“Yes, can I help you?”
“I just wanted to know if you had a cigarette on you I could bum.”
The cop handed him one cigarette. Michael lit it and started to walk away.
“Well that went better than I thought.”
That night Michael relaxed in the hotel room feeling good about what he had been doing and didn’t think nothing of it. The next morning, Michael rose with a start. There were cops everywhere. He had no idea what was going on, but to make things easier for him, he did as he was told. While standing in the hallway, he could hear the cops dragging out a known drug dealer. He felt a sigh of relief knowing it wasn’t him they were looking for. As soon as they had everyone outside, Michael went for the truck and drove off. This time he was going to Ellenton where he could find more victims.
There was not much to Ellenton. He cruised around the different neighborhoods to see if he could find anyone that would be a challenge. Finally, he found the place where he wanted to be. The Ellenton Premium Outlet Mall. He sat in the parking lot for a few minutes watching as the unsuspecting public went about their daily routine. Suddenly, a young woman in her early thirties with long chestnut brown hair and hazel green eyes walked out of Saks Fifth Avenue off Fifth with a bag that looked ready to fall apart.
“This should be easy pickings.”
He watched as she made her way across the parking lot to her dark purple Ford Mustang. Her bag fell apart dropping her items and clothes all over the ground. He got out of the truck and made his way over to her.
“Excuse me Miss? Do you need some help with this?” he motioned to the bag.
“Yes, please that is very kind of you.”
“My pleasure ma’am.”
While she was putting things into the car, he got the license plate number. Now all he had to do was hack into the Tax Collector’s office’s main frame to get her address.
After she picked up her things and put them into the car she got in and started to drive off.
“I’ll see you tonight sweetheart,” he said to himself.
6:30 pm. Sitting in the parking lot at Bayshore High school, Michael successfully hacked into the tax collector’s office main frame, however, he had no such luck finding what he was looking for. The license plate 2 Hott 4 U was too common to narrow it down to just one. Then he tried looking up dark purple mustangs in the area and got a solid hit. Sandy Good was a fifth-grade teacher who happened to have the only dark purple mustang. He wrote down the address and was fixing to leave when a sheriff’s deputy showed up. Michael rolled down his window. The deputy said, “Excuse me, sir?”
“Yes, Officer how can I help you this lovely evening?”
“Sir you can’t park your car here. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Not a problem Officer. I was fixing to leave anyway.”
The deputy nodded and told him to move along. He left the parking lot casually and headed to Sandy’s neighborhood. He said to himself, “That was a close call.”
Once the cop was out of sight, he pulled out the hunting knife he used on the man. “Damn it,” he thought. There was still blood on the knife blade. Not realizing that the blood was dried on there, he tried his best to get it off. But it was no use. Finally, he got frustrated and tossed the knife into the backseat. He glanced at the computer screen one more time. The address read 5678 Fifty-Seventh Ave. West. That wasn’t too far from where he was. Once he got there, he drove slowly past her house to make sure she was alone.
Time was ticking away, and he parked the truck three streets over from his destination. It was go time. Gearing himself up, he put on a Domino’s Pizza delivery outfit that he stole from the local dry cleaners. “This will definitely work,” he said to himself.
Pulling up to the house, he grabbed a few empty pizza boxes that he got out of the dumpster where he dumped Mary Masters and walked up to the door. He was sweating due to being nervous.
“Why am I so damn nervous? I have done this before. No big deal.”
After wiping his sweaty brow, he rang the doorbell. A soft but stern voice spoke from the other side of the door.
“Can I help you?” the voice asked.
“Yes ma’am. I have two large Domino’s Pizza for a Sandy Good for delivery.”
“I didn’t order pizza.”
She turned around to say something to the kids in the house, but before she could get the words out, he tasered her from behind. Instantly, her body crumpled to the floor. He picked her up and carried her fireman style to the truck.
A few hours later she woke up not realizing that she had been taken. All she knew was that she felt an electric shock before she passed out. Looking around as best as she could, she realized she was moving. Then when she tried to move, she found out that she was hog-tied and laying in the back of a SUV.
Once they reached the city limit, he stopped for a minute. She wondered where they were. There was nothing but trees around for miles and the air had a damp smell to it. Suddenly, she heard something splashing into water somewhere. She figured they must near Myakka River State Park. All she heard was his feet crunching on underbrush and twigs as they snapped and broke when he walked on them. The back hatch of the SUV flew up, and he stepped up into the truck. She feared for her life not knowing what he was going to do next.
He reached down and grabbed her by the hair pulling her out of the truck. She got scrapes and cuts from the brush as he pulled her along.
“You see those Gators? You better make peace with God now because you will be joining him soon, BITCH!”
The fear in her eyes said it all. She knew that it was pointless to fight to get free. After he showed her the gators, he dragged her back to the truck and threw her into the back. Her back and legs were killing her. Driving three miles down the road, they turned off onto a dark dirt path. When he stopped the truck, she thought that this was it. This would be the last thing she would see. In the distance, crickets sang their song of melancholy.
When he got out of the truck, he left her behind and walked into the shed. She could hear him fumbling around with something but didn’t know what it was. Then she heard what sounded like the click of a revolver being loaded.
“Oh, dear God. He is going to shoot me.”
She closed her eyes, but when she didn’t hear a gun go off she breathed a sigh of relief only to realize the horror of what was really going to happen.
Once he came out of the shed, he headed for the cabin. It was the end of the road for Sandy. After he came out, he went to the truck to grab her. He knew she would try and get away, but he had a trick up his sleeve. Once he lowered the tailgate, he untied her and said, “You bore me to death. Now get the hell out of here before I change my mind.”
She took off running, but it wasn’t long before she got caught in a deadly bear trap that had been setup near the SUV.Screaming in pain, she tried desperately to open the trap to get her foot free, but it was no use. She could hear footsteps coming towards her. When the steps grew closer, she realized it wasn’t someone coming to help her. It was him.
Michael looked at her and shook his head.
“Did you really think that I would let you go after seeing my face?”
He laughed evil and began to toy with her. One minute he would act like he was going to open the trap, and the next he would let it snap shut again. Her foot began to tear off each time he snapped the trap shut. He enjoyed seeing her in pain.
Before she knew it, she blacked out, once he saw that she was unconscious, he opened the trap and carried her inside the shed. Her foot was hanging on by a string of meat hanging off the bone like a worm on a hook. Carefully, he laid her on the ice-cold table. With an evil grin, he looked at her and said, “Time to confuse baby brother.”
He cut the rest of her foot off, but she couldn’t feel it. Afterwards, he began his trickiest operation yet, removing her brain. Slowly he drew lines where he would cut open her skull cap, but instead of using a scalpel, he used his survival knife. When he was done removing the brain, he brought out an old-style hatchet to cut the rest of her up.
Placing the pieces in a zip-loc bag, he headed west on Clark Road through Sarasota till he reached U.S. Forty-One. Along the way, he stopped near Myakka River State Park. Walking through the brush was the easy part. Finding the river with the gators he showed her earlier was harder. Once he reached the river banks and saw the mighty beasts lounging around, he tossed the bits of flesh to them. Knowing how territorial they can be, he kept a safe distance. After every bit of her was gone, he returned to the truck where there was a box on the passenger side seat. Inside were the brain and foot of Sandy Good.
7:30 am. Atoms was already at the station filling out paperwork. Shortly after, Reef came in with two cups of coffee.
“Here ya go partner. Just how you like it.”
Atoms took the cup without even looking up to acknowledge him.
“Will, you ok…”
“Yeah, just haven’t had much sleep lately.”
“Join the club.”
Neither hadn’t had much sleep since the start of the Killer Santa cases. But the look in Atoms’ eyes said it all. Ever since they found their friend Manny strung up like a puppet, it had become personal. But something else was bothering Atoms. He just couldn’t figure out what it was.
Both were filling out paperwork when the call came through. Another package addressed to Atoms had been found near Myakka River State Park. Nobody had touched it. Not even the responding officers knew what to do with it, so they called in Atoms and Reef. They were out the door before anyone could say anything.
Reef got in on the passenger side knowing they could get there quick with the way Atoms drives. An hour later they were pulling up to the gate at the park and showed the ranger their badges. Officer White and Officer Smith were the responding personnel and had already taped the area off.
“Ok, what do we got?” Reef asked.
“It’s what we don’t have that bothers us Detective,” White replied.
“What do you mean?” Atoms asked.
“What I mean is all we have is a box addressed to you, Detective. We don’t know if it’s a bomb or what. No body. No Witness. Nothing.”
Atoms walked over to the box. He put on latex gloves to prevent contaminating the evidence, he picked it up and noticed something leaking from the box. When he looked inside his stomach rolled. Atoms puked. The box had something that looked like a brain and a foot in it. Reef rushed over to his partner.
“Will, you ok?”
“Yeah, but I don’t understand why this freak is targeting me… And another thing, how the hell did he get my personal cell number?”
“I don’t know, Will, but we will find him that’s for sure.”
After leaving the scene they headed to the morgue where Dr. Frieze was performing an autopsy on Mary Masters and Thomas Smalls. When they got there, they wasted no time in giving the run down on the box to her and where it came from.
“Got this from the newest crime scene. Only problem is there was no crime reported, no body, no weapons, just a box with a surprise in it.”
The doctor looked up from her work.
“I’m sorry Detective, but I am a little busy with your last victims.”
In a fit of rage, Atoms got mad and started to knock stuff over. Frieze tried to remain calm, but it was difficult with Atoms destroying everything in the morgue.
“This takes priority Doc, so ‘cuse me for being a little pissed off. Especially, when we don’t know what the hell happened.”
The doctor was stunned at his fit of rage. She had never seen him like that, but he should know the procedures. Reef calmed him down and got everything settled. The doctor finally gave in and said, “Alright, I’ll look in to it. Set it on the slab over near my desk.”
They laid the box on the slab and waited for her to get herself together. The putrid smell of garbage and dead bodies wafted off her and filled the air. Suddenly Atoms’ phone rang. “Detective Atoms speaking.”
“I trust you got my little package.” It was the killer only this time the voice wasn’t distorted.
Atoms turned away and said, “What do you want from me?”
“Oh, just a simple family reunion. You know me, mother and you. Oh, wait I forgot Mother is dead. Hahaha.”
Atoms froze and said, “What did you just say?”
“You heard me.”
“Who is this, and why are you doing what you’re doing? How did you get this number?”
The voice laughed and said, “Listen and listen close. I want to see you at 10:00 pm at the old Sunland Mental Hospital on New Year’s Eve. Don’t be late. Oh, and one more thing come alone, or it will be the last time you see Ms. Charming.”
The killer hung up leaving Atoms speechless.
Michael hung up the phone laughing hysterically. He now had the upper hand. Tossing the pay-as-you go phone in the trash, he knew it would be a wild goose chase.
Michael, you are a genius.
“Just a few more things to patch up, and they will never know what hit them.”
He punched in a few keys on his laptop, and instantly he had the Manatee Sheriff Department’s mainframe at the touch of his fingertips. It was getting dark, and he had to get ready for his next victim. There were so many to choose from, but he already had someone in mind. Scarlet Dole was one of the county’s finest crime scene technician. Standing at Five-foot Four inches tall with raven black hair, she was very attractive, but she wasn’t invisible. Michael licked his lips as he watched her walk to her car.
She looks ripe for picking.
Her perfume wafted through the air like a kiss being blown to a lover. She casually looked around to make sure nobody was following her, but as she unlocked her door, he silently crept up behind her. He went for something in his jacket, but she had turned around and kicked him in the groin. She looked at him lying on the ground and said, “You should never sneak up on a woman who has martial arts training.”
As he laid on the ground he began to laugh. Scarlet had a confused look on her face.
Why the hell is he laughing? He should be in pain.
After laughing so hard, he finally revealed his little secret. He was wearing a cup underneath. Michael crawled near her legs, while he was on the ground, he managed to shackle her feet, so she couldn’t get away. She tried to run, but it was no use with her ankles in shackles. Instantly, she fell to the ground. She tried reaching for his keys, but they were too far away. When he realized what she was reaching for, he took them off his belt-loop and dangled them in front of her face. She spit in his face and tried kicking him again, but it was no use. To keep her from screaming, he grabbed some duct tape and placed it over her mouth. Once she was secure, he picked her up like she weighed nothing and placed her in the backseat of her car.
“Nice car you got here Scarlet. May I call you Scarlet?”
She tried screaming but it was stifled by the tape. He climbed in the front seat and took off. However, on the other truck he left a note.
“Catch me if you can baby brother.”
Taking off down Three-O-One Blvd., he squealed tires. Scarlet fell to the floorboards as he sped off. Laying there, she tried looking for something to cut the zip-ties he had placed on her wrists off. Michael didn’t realize that she had fallen on the floor of the car, nor did he care. Underneath the seat, there was a small survival knife that she kept in the car for protection.
If I can just get to knife, I’ll be okay.
Michael continued down old Three-O-One and turned off onto Ninth heading towards Fifty-Third Avenue East. As he turned onto Fifty-Third, he heard a snap. He looked back and saw Scarlett laying on the floor. Once he turned around, Scarlett moved slowly towards the front. Michael was too busy listening to the radio, and when she got the chance, she shoved his face into the steering wheel. Instantly, he slammed on the brakes sending Scarlett face first up into the front seat. They wrestled for several seconds and everything was a blur. Finally, he managed to get a hold of her and slammed her head into the dashboard knocking her unconscious. Once he regained control, he got out and picked her up out of the passenger seat and threw her into the trunk.
“That’ll hold your ass for a while.”
After getting back in the car, he started cursing himself out for not checking the car.
Why the hell didn’t I just use the truck or check the car?
All the way to Myakka City he cussed himself. Suddenly, he heard a pop. When he looked back, he noticed that the trunk had popped open. Immediately, he stopped and got out to see how it happened. Scarlett could hear him and laid still. She could hear him swearing as he got closer.
“That stupid little bitch better not have caused me to stop.”
Once he got close enough, she would spring into action. He saw that she was still in there and went to shut the trunk. But just as he was about to slam it shut, she kicked him in the face breaking his nose. He howled in pain as blood spurted everywhere. She tried to run, but her feet were still shackled. As he writhed in pain, she crawled over and got the keys to the restraints. Not being satisfied with her initial attack, she went back to finish him off and shackle his feet to hold him until the cops arrived. When she got there though, he was gone.
Suddenly, her body went rigid as a hundred and fifty-thousand taser volts traveled through her from her leg all the way up to her brain. Instantly, she fell to the ground convulsing as the volts did their work. After he finished tasering her, he stood up, regained his composure and kicked her in the ribs, breaking a few of them.
“Now we are even,” he said.
She laid on the ground for several minutes in pain from the hard kick to the ribs. He picked her up off the ground and put more tape over her mouth, and then he put her back in the trunk. When he got back in the car to finish driving, he turned on the radio to hear the latest news reports about his previous victims. But as he listened, he didn’t hear one damn thing about the previous victims.
“So, the cops are keeping it quiet on my work. No matter, I have it all on video, and then we shall see how long they keep quiet about their next case.”
Cars whizzed by as they passed him in the other lane. After driving slowly, he sped up a little bit continuing down State Road Seventy. As he was driving though, he could hear her pounding on the inside of the trunk.
What can I do to shut the bitch up?
Finally, after an exhausting two hours of driving, he saw the dirt road. He pulled up to the cabin and stopped.
“Home Sweet Home.”
The air was ripe with the scent of Longleaf Pine Trees. He breathed it all in savoring of what was to come.
She could hear him walking around outside the car. There was nothing she could do now except pray. As she laid in the trunk, she started to think about ways she could get free from this monster.
Michael went into the cabin to get his scalpel.
“That bitch is going to feel every inch of this blade.”
He was tired of dealing with bitches like her and Tammy Charming. Once he found what he was looking for, he went out to get Scarlett. When he opened the trunk, he yanked her out of the trunk by her wrists which were zip-tied again and dropped her on the cold hard gravel. After a few minutes of thinking, he picked her up and carried her into the shed.
“It’s time you felt pain bitch.”
He raised his scalpel to plunge it deep into her brain, but when he came down with it in his hand he missed. She had moved out of the way. She was still in pain, but adrenaline took over. He tried grabbing her, but it didn’t work. After taking her shackles off and ran outside, she headed for her car and locked herself in. He laughed as he watched her get in her car. He just dangled them in the driver side window. Thankfully, she had a spare set of keys that he didn’t know about, and when he saw them his eyes filled with rage. He went to go get a rock to smash her window with, but as soon as he started her way, she started the car and put it in drive. The car hit him hard knocking him onto the hood. As she backed away, he rolled off the hood and onto the ground.
“How do you like it you son-of-a-bitch?”
She stayed put for a few minutes making sure he was down. Once he didn’t move, she continued to back up and head for the main road. Breathing a sigh of relief after getting on the main road, she pulled over to get her hands free of the zip-ties using the knife she found in the floor when he was driving. After getting her hands free, she pulled back onto the road and sped off. There was no use in trying to use her private cell phone because she had no signal.
When Michael came to, he was pissed.
“THAT BITCH WILL PAY FOR HITTING ME WITH HER CAR!”
He got up off the ground and headed for Heather’s car. When he got in, he hot-wired it and sped down the dirt path hoping to catch Scarlett before she got back to Bradenton. It didn’t take long for him to catch up with her. She hadn’t got very far when out of nowhere Michael rammed her car into a nearby tree. He was still in a fit of rage. Once he got out of the car, he walked over and saw that she was unconscious. Then with an evil grin he said, “I told you it was time for you to feel pain.”
He left her pinned against the tree.
Feeling not quite satisfied, Michael stayed out of sight, but could still see the two vehicles. As he dialed Nine-one-one, he could hear the fire truck and ambulance off in the distance. The ambulance was first on the scene. Paramedics seemed to be everywhere. Viewing the crashed vehicles, they realized that there was nothing they could do until the fire department got there with the “jaws of life”. Michael feared being caught, so he climbed into one of the trees nearby. Afterwards he strayed onto a huge branch that could support his weight to get a better look. The dispatcher on the other end of the phone could hear him breathing. He forgot he had dialed Nine-One-One. Over Michael breathing, the dispatcher could hear sirens in the background.
“Hello? Anyone there,” this dispatcher called out?
Michael heard the dispatcher and looked at his phone and realized it was still on.
“Shit,” Michael said.
He slammed it shut.
“Way to go you moron,” he thought to himself.
He had to get rid of the phone or the cops could easily find him. He smashed it against the tree. After thirty minutes, the fire department finally showed up. Now was the perfect time to escape. He climbed out of the tree staying hidden in the darkness. With all the noise, he could easily get out of the area in a hurry. The firefighters began to pull one vehicle off the other to reach Scarlet who was trapped and get her to a hospital before she bled to death. Michael wanted to see the damage. He had to. It was a necessity. Once they freed the two vehicles, they got her free. Michael watched as they pulled her out of the SUV. Once the paramedics got her on a stretcher, they loaded her into the back of the ambulance, and drove off. Michael came running up.
“That’s my wife. Where are you taking her?”
The fire chief grabbed him and told him to calm down. After a few minutes Michael calmed down, and the chief asked him if he had seen what happened.
“No sir, I just got here. My wife and I got into a huge fight, and she stormed off. I came looking for her, and that’s when I saw you all pulling her out of the car. May I ask what in God’s name happened?”
“Well from what we saw when we got here it looked like a pretty bad accident. We are searching for the other driver to see if he sustained any injuries, but so far, we haven’t found him. The police are on the way. If you could stick around and give them a statement that would be a great help.”
“I have to be with my wife. Please it’s important that I be there with her,” Michael said.
“Okay, I guess we could tell the officers what you told us. They are taking her to Doctors Hospital in Sarasota. It is the closest hospital, besides Health South Rehabilitation.”
After calming him down or so they thought, the fire chief let him go without any further questions or concerns. Michael headed back towards the house.
“Sir, Doctor’s hospital is in the opposite direction,” one of the firemen called out.
“Where is your vehicle,” the fire chief asked him.
Michael stopped for a minute and said, “It’s right there.”
He pointed to the SUV Scarlet drove. A man had stopped to offer help to clean up the debris. That was Michael’s opportunity to disappear into the woods. He had to get away before Atoms got there. Everything was going just the way he had planned. Once he was back at the house, he started laughing hysterically.
“Oh my God! Even the firefighters are stupid. This couldn’t be easier.”
He walked into the bedroom to change clothes. Slipping off his shirt, his right-side throbbed. All he saw was blue, black and purple bruise near his ribs. When he tried taking in a deep breath, pain shot through his body like a wildfire spreading through a forest. He began to try and figure out how he injured his ribs. Then it came to him.
“The impact of ramming the truck into her SUV must have bruised a few ribs. No worries. I’ll just wrap myself up and keep going.”
He bandaaged up his side, walked outside, and headed for the main road. Little did he realize that he was bleeding on the inside.
After reviewing the scene, Atoms decided to look more closely for clues. All he had now were statements he got from the fire chief who was at the scene. He also told Atoms that there was a man standing outside the vehicles when they showed up.
“Did you question him or ask for his ID,” Atoms asked?
He was becoming irate while talking to the incompetent fire chief. There was no time to waste. While waiting for the chief to answer his question, he looked over the vehicles one more time. The chief finally looked at him and said, “The man didn’t seem to be hurt and kept saying that he had to get to his wife after the EMTs took her to the hospital.”
“Can you describe what the man and woman looked like,” Reef asked?
“I didn’t get a good look at the woman, but the man stood about six feet four inches tall. I couldn’t tell what his hair color was because he was wearing a Tampa Bay Rays baseball cap.”
The chief stopped talking as Reef walked up from the accident.
“Don’t let him stop you chief. Just continue what you were saying,” Atoms said.
The chief looked at both detectives and said, “I didn’t see his eyes either. They were covered by the baseball cap.”
“Anything else you can tell us about him,” Reef asked?
“Yeah, he had a dark tan with raven black hair.”
“How about what he was driving? Do you remember seeing him arrive in a vehicle?”
“Like I said, he was already here when we got here.”
“Thanks chief. We’ll take it from here,” Atoms said.
The chief walked away. While waiting for the flatbed trucks, Atoms took a closer look at the SUV pinned against the tree. His eyes lit up. He recognized the vehicle. It was Scarlet Doyle’s vehicle. Immediately he rushed over to Reef.
“Reef we need to get to the hospital now,” he demanded!
“What’s the rush? We still have to have forensics search both vehicles for evidence.”
“The SUV pinned against the tree belongs to our friend Scarlet Doyle. Apparently, she was his latest victim, but she somehow survived.”
Reef’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of their sockets after hearing what Atoms just told him.
“Will, we will have to kill this bastard because if we don’t then his killing spree will continue until he gets what he wants, and it will not stop at Tammy Charming.”
“Things are getting way too close to home,” Atoms thought.
One thing was for sure though, and that was Tammy Charming was going to be his next target. He looked over at Josh and said, “Do we have units posted near Ms. Charming’s residence?”
“Yeah, why do you ask?”
“Because Tammy Charming is next on his list especially since she got away and hit him with a Two-by-Four. He is not going to let that happen again that’s for sure.”
“Will you’re starting to freak me out. What are you trying to tell me?”
“I’m telling you that we need to find this asshole before he gets to her and all hell breaks loose.”
They jumped into Atoms’ car and drove east.
“Why are we headed this way? We should hit the hospital first and see if we can get any more information on the killer from Scarlet. Maybe she saw his face or something,” Reef said.
Atoms ignored him and kept driving.
“Hello? Earth to Will.”
Atoms slammed on the brakes. Reef shot forward in the seatbelt. His head bounced off the dashboard.
“Jesus Will! Are you crazy or something?”
“Look Josh, we need to get over to Tammy Charming’s house or have more units on scene. I don’t need another death on my hands.”
Reef nodded in agreement, but still thought that they should have went to the hospital first to see Scarlet and to see if she could provide more information on the guy. Atoms continued towards Tammy’s house. Once they arrived, two officers Spiron and Coke who were watching the house walked over and began talking to them.
“Detectives, to what do owe the honor of your presence,” Spiron asked?
“Yeah, what’s up,” Coke chimed in.
Officer Spiron was new to the precinct and had already heard about Reef and Atoms. The other officer was an officer named Samuel Coke. He was also new to the precinct, but somehow got assigned to the duty of watching over Tammy Charming’s house.
Atoms glared at them. Reef took control over the situation before Atoms could blow up on them.
He asked, “Have either one of you seen anybody lurking around the neighborhood?”
“Shit detectives, we haven’t even seen Ms. Charming.”
Both Atoms and Reef looked at each other in confusion. Something wasn’t right. Either Spiron and Coke were trying to cover their ass for falling asleep on the job or the killer already got to her. Immediately, they rushed to the door. Atoms began to pound on the door. Finally, after banging on the door several times, Tammy came to the door.
“What’s with all the banging on my front door? I was in the shower.”
“If you were in the shower, then how did you know I was banging,” Atoms asked?
“My dog was barking. That’s how I knew,” She snapped back.
Atoms calmed down and told her that the reason for all the banging was because the killer was still at large, and they had reason to believe that he would come back after her for revenge. Tammy was furious still that in the middle of the night the police were banging on her door.
“Detective, I have a brand-new state of the art security system, two police officers watching the outside of my house, so you two officers can leave now.”
Atoms stood in shock as she was talking and the way she was acting.
“Furthermore, I just rescued an eighty-eight-pound German Shepherd to listen for any suspicious noises. He’s an excellent guard dog. Now if you don’t mind detectives I would like to get to bed. I have a long day in the morning.”
With that she slammed the door in Atoms face. Atoms and Reef headed back to the car.
“Something seems a bit off, don’t you think Josh,” Atoms said as they got in the car.
“What do you mean Will?”
“I mean she is acting a bit strange if you ask me.”
“She just told us that she is well protected.”
“Yeah, right before she slammed the door in my face. Not only that, she went from being scared shitless one day to being calm the next especially after hearing that the killer was still on the loose. I’m telling you Josh, something isn’t adding up with this woman”
“Yeah, but what do we do now,” Reef asked?
“We sit a distance away from the house and keep watch all night if we have to.”
Reef knew Atoms was right, so they parked down the street out of sight from the house. Around two a.m. a figure came walking out down the street, and then turned left down another street into the shadows. Atoms saw the figure walking and decided to follow the person on foot. By the time Atoms turned the corner, the figure was gone. Frustrated as hell, Atoms headed back to the car. When he got there, Reef was passed out in the passenger side seat when he got in. Atoms got up close to his ear.
“WAKE UP DUMBASS!”
Reef woke up startled.
“Jesus Will! Why did you scream in my ear?”
“Because you are supposed to keep a lookout for me. Anyways, listen I saw a figure come out of Ms. Charming’s house, so I followed him. The only problem is the figure turned the corner and disappeared.”
“Look Will, why don’t we head back to the station and go back over all the evidence to see if we missed anything.”
“Good idea,” Atoms agreed.
After starting the car up, Atoms apologized for screaming in his partner’s ear.
“It’s all good Will. Now let’s see what we can find about this mysterious figure and Ms. Charming.”
Along the way to the station, a call came in about a vehicle found in the Myakka River.
“Well it looks like it’s going to be an even longer night partner,” Atoms said.
He turned the car around and headed for Myakka River State Park. An hour later they drove up to the gate and showed their badges to the officer that oversaw who was going in and out of the park. They made their way to the river bank where the fire department had already hooked up a winch to the sunken vehicle. Within minutes, they were hoisting it out of the water.
Once the vehicle was fully out of the water, everyone rushed over to it to help. There were two bodies inside, both females were sitting in the driver and passenger seats. One was missing her head. The other body was fully intact. The original two officers who responded to the scene consulted with Atoms and Reef on what they found when they got there.
“Well detectives, this is what we know so far. A camper in the park had seen the back end of the vehicle sticking out of the water. Me personally, I think it was a murder/suicide, but that’s just my theory. What’s your theory of what happened?”
“I don’t think it was a murder/suicide,” Atoms said.
The other officer looked over at Reef and asked, “What do you think detective?”
Reef shrugged his shoulders and said, “I agree with my partner on this one. However, I also think this could be a message from our killer Santa. You agree Detective Atoms?”
“Wait. You mean to tell me that you haven’t found the killer yet.”
Atoms nodded and walked away. Something caught his attention. Not only was the driver’s head missing, but the edge of the neck was very ragged. Not smooth like it had been cut off.
“Who in the hell takes one victim’s head, but not the other,” asked one of the two officers.
Atoms thought to himself, good question.
While he watched the EMT’s take out the headless body, something else caught his attention. The head wasn’t missing because it had been cut off but smashed. Things still didn’t add up though. Reef walked up just before Atoms was about to say something.
“What do you make of this homicide Will?”
“I think our killer is still on the hunt, but he isn’t getting sloppy. He’s making a statement that clearly states that he oversees this cat and mouse game.”
Just as an EMT walked by, Atoms stopped him and immediately pulled down the sheet covering the body.
“You see that Josh? Look right above the where the neck is supposed to meet the head.”
Reef look right at where Atoms was pointing.
“Jesus! How in the hell did you notice that the head wasn’t cut off but smashed?”
“When the EMT’s pulled out the body, I noticed that where there should have been teeth marks from the blade there was nothing there. The killer is becoming more and more vicious and is now going in no particular order.”
Both agreed to head back to the station and try to piece everything together with what they had so far.
Michael couldn’t help but to think that he had pulled off another puzzle for his dear little brother to solve. Since he had followed the fire truck and ambulance to the park, he sat not far away from the scene and watched the unsuspecting dupes pull the jeep out of the water. The sledgehammer he used on Jaymee’s skull was sitting on the floor between the driver and passenger seats. He sat back as he watched and thought to himself, they look confused. So, what if they find the sledgehammer, they still don’t know where the house is. If they do find the house and the shed, they won’t find anything. Everything is spic-n-span.
Atoms and Reef pulled into the parking lot just as the flatbed truck that had the vehicle was leaving. They headed to the impound lot which was located at the back of the station where the vehicle was being held. The CSI techs were already starting to search the jeep for more clues.
“I want this vehicle searched top to bottom,” Atoms ordered.
As he walked towards the station, Norcom and Bilkins walked towards him. Immediately, Reef rushed over and stood by Atoms side just in case they were going to start trouble with him. Something was off about their demeanor. They were both in civilian clothes, but they didn’t walk so arrogantly like they used to.
“Will,” Norcom called out.
When he turned around to see who was calling him, he immediately balled up his fist and stood still.
“What do you want Danny,” Atoms asked?
“Look Will, Bilkins and I just wanted to come to you personally and apologize for our behavior over the past couple of weeks,” Norcom said.
He held out his hand to shake hands with Atoms. Atoms was in utter disbelief.
“Who put you up to this? The captain?”
“Nobody put us up to it,” Bilkins said.
With his hand still out Norcom said, “Look Will we truly are sorry for our comments and actions during the past couple of weeks. It’s just…”
Suddenly a young man’s voice echoed through the lot calling out for Atoms. As he turned around, he saw the young man who had just interrupted him and Norcom.
“Excuse me detectives, but Detective Atoms I think you should see this, and my boss wants to see you in her office.”
Atoms followed the young tech to the jeep.
“I was told to show you this,” the young man said pointing towards the jeep.
“What is it,” Atoms asked?
“We recovered some fingerprints from the bodies, but we also found hair fibers here in the floorboard. Now if you would please follow me as my boss wants to see you.”
Five minutes later, they were walking into the station and headed for the crime lab.
“I can take it from here kid. By the way what’s your name?”
“Chestersworth. Liam Chestersworth.”
“Ok Liam you get back to work. I will talk to your boss.”
Atoms walked away not telling Liam that he knew who his boss was. Once he walked into the crime lab, he spotted Slacia working on her computer. She was looking over notes when Atoms walked up to her.
“Well, what do you have for me Slacia,” he asked.
“Nothing yet, but I wanted you to look at these photographs that we took inside and out of the jeep that was brought in from Myakka River State Park.”
Atoms took the photos from her and began thumbing through them. As he was looking through them, one photo caught his attention.
“Slacia can we enlarge any of these photos?”
“Yeah. Which one do you want to enlarge?”
He showed her the photo he wanted to enlarge, and she scanned it into the computer. After she typed in a few commands on the keyboard, the photo grew to ten times the normal size.
“Shrink it down some,” Atoms said.
She shrunk the picture down to about two times the normal size.
Instantly, Atoms saw what he was looking for and pointed it out.
“You see that Slacia?”
“No. What is it Will?”
“It looks like our killer really is trying to send a message, but he’s not thinking clearly.”
“I’m not following what you are trying to say. What exactly are you getting at Will?”
“Look really close at the bottom of the photo and tell me what you see.”
Slacia got right up to the photo and was about to turn around towards Will when suddenly she saw an object laying hidden between the front two seats. Atoms sat back and grinned.
“Do you see it now,” he asked?
“Yeah, but how did we miss it when we took the bodies out of the vehicle?”
“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me.”
Immediately, Slacia called in the whole CSI tech team.
“I want to know who has been overlooking or not looking at all for everything at every crime scene since I took over as head tech.”
None of them said a word.
“Ok. Who here saw the sledgehammer but refused to say anything about it?”
Atoms sat back and watched as she grilled all the techs. Every tech said that they didn’t see the sledgehammer in the jeep. After talking to all of them, Slacia told them to go back to work on the jeep. Instantly Atoms jumped up and said, “Not yet. I want that sledgehammer and I will get it out myself.”
“Sorry Will, I can’t let you do that. Rules are rules.”
“Slacia I need that sledgehammer. Just give me the tools to get it out of there and I’ll be out of your way.”
Slacia lowered her head down and knew it was pointless to argue with him.
“Alright Will. Just this one time. Someone get Detective Atoms some tools, and after he is done, I want you all to go over that vehicle with a ‘fine tooth comb’.”
After getting the tools he needed to get the weapon out of the jeep, he walked over to it and put on powered latex gloves to open the passenger door. He reached inside hoping to just grab the sledgehammer and leave, but it wasn’t that easy. The sledgehammer wouldn’t budge. Atoms tried with all his might for at least thirty minutes before giving in to using the tools. Carefully, he removed the passenger seat to make things a little easier to grab and pull out. Still nothing.
A few minutes later, Reef showed up.
“Will, what in the hell are you doing taking the seats out of the jeep?”
“I’m trying to get this sledgehammer out from between the seats.”
“What sledgehammer? I don’t see…oh that sledgehammer. But what does it have to do with our case?”
“It’s the murder weapon that the killer used to smash our victim’s head. See the blood on the hammer head?”
Reef’s eyes grew wide as saucers when Will showed him the blood.
“How in the hell did you know it was there, when the tech didn’t even see it?”
“I saw it in one of the crime scene photos that Slacia showed me.”
Reef was amazed and after struggling with the damn thing to pry it loose, they were back in the lab. Atoms still had his gloves on and carried the hammer over to a machine they used to scan the weapon for other clues. With every pass the machine made they found more blood on the handle, bone fragments left on the hammer head, and hair. They knew the bone fragments wouldn’t help, but the hair and the blood they could use to test for DNA. Atoms decided that they needed to consult with the Medical Examiner’s office to get a positive identification on the body. The body was already at the morgue. All they needed to do was call and set up a time when him and Reef could go over to compare the blood samples from the sledgehammer to some of the tissue that was still intact even after decomposition.
Just as he went to grab his phone to call, it rang. It was the M.E.’s office.
“Detective Atoms,” the voice on the other end asked?
“Yes, this is he.”
“Detective, this is Dr. Carolyn Flagg from district twelve medical examiner’s office.”
“I was just about to call you dr. What can I help you with?”
“We have a positive id on the woman in the passenger seat of the jeep that was found in Myakka River, and we would like you to come down and see what we found. Can you meet me at the lab in an hour?”
“Yes ma’am. I’ll be there as soon as possible. Oh, one more thing doctor.”
“Yes, what is it?”
“We found the murder weapon with dried blood on it. I would like to compare the samples of blood that you have to the dried blood we found on the weapon.”
“Sure, detective. I will be waiting outside for you.”
“See you then.”
They both hung up at the same time. Slacia and Reef looked at Atoms with confusion written all over their face.
“What? That was the medical examiner. I’m heading over to the morgue to see what she has. She told me that they have a positive id on the passenger, but as we all know the driver was missing her head. Slacia, can I borrow these blood samples we got off the sledgehammer?”
“Yeah, just make sure I get them back. We need those for evidence,” she replied.
Atoms nodded his head and grabbed the samples and headed out the door. Reef wasn’t far behind. They headed back to the car to go to the morgue to meet the doctor. Once they left the station, they headed east on 301 Blvd. towards 1 street. While they were heading to the morgue, Atoms got to thinking about the other victims.
This person is not your average serial killer or murderer. He never uses the same weapon or has the same motive. Also, he is not targeting a certain type of person. Things just aren’t adding up.
There too many questions that were unanswered, but the biggest thing that was on his mind is why the killer called him little brother. Before they knew it, they were at the health department. Dr. Flagg was standing just outside the doors smoking a cigarette. They walked up and shook hands with the doctor.
“Let me guess Detectives Atoms and Reef right,” she asked?
“Yes ma’am, that’s us alright,” Reef said.
“Thank you both for coming on such short notice.”
“It’s not a problem doctor. We are always ready for some good news.”
“Well, you are going to be shocked when you both hear what we found out. Oh, Detective Atoms you said on the phone that you had some blood samples you wanted to compare with ours.”
“Yes doctor, I have them with me.”
Dr. Flagg nodded and opened the door that lead towards the lab. Inside there was equipment everywhere. Computers were up and running tests on different things. In the middle of the room there were two gurneys. Both had a body on it waiting to be put on ice. It appeared that Dr. Flagg had been working twenty-four hours since Dr. Heather Guney was found dead on the side of the road in Myakka City. The gurney on the left side held the body of the headless victim who was labeled as “Jane Doe”. The other one was the body they had found intact sitting in the passenger seat of the jeep. Atoms look another look at the headless corpse. After he had covered the body back up, Dr. Flagg called him up the microscope. He walked over and handed the samples to the doctor.
“Here are the samples I told you about.”
“Thank you,” she said as he handed them over.
“So, doc you said that you have made a positive id on the passenger of the jeep?”
“Yes, give me one minute and I’ll pull it up for you. It took about three days to get the positive id, but we finally found a match.”
She jumped on to one of the computers, typed in a couple of commands, and instantly the victim’s id was brought up on the computer screen. Lindsey Guney was what popped up. Atoms look at the doctor in shock.
“So, you mean to tell us that Dr. Guney had a sister. That kind of explains why she left in such a hurry the last time Reef and I saw her.”
“What do you mean detective,” Dr. Flagg asked?
“The last time we saw Dr. Guney she sped out of the parking lot like she was in a hurry to get somewhere,” Reef replied.
“Nobody has saw her until they found her dead,” Atoms chimed in.
“I know. The investigation for her death is still ongoing.”
“What did you find out about the cause of death for our victim here,” Reef said to change the subject?
The doctor looked them dead in the face and said, “she was poisoned.”
They had been so wrapped up in the id on Lindsey and the investigation about Heather Guney’s death that they forgot about the blood samples being compared to what Dr. Flagg found.
Suddenly, a computer beeped indicating that the samples were the same. Dr. Flagg typed in a few more commands on the computer, and it started a program called CODIS. CODIS is a DNA database of everyone in the country. After a few minutes, the computer beeped again indicating that CODIS had found a match. What they found out was nothing short of a miracle.
The DNA belonged to a woman named Jamee Sanders. “Jane Doe” had finally been identified after just a few short hours. Atoms felt like everything was getting more difficult to get a motive for the killer. Atoms read Jamee’s credentials just shaking his head. She was only 27 and he remembered busting her and a few of her friends a few years back for prostitution. The motive still didn’t fit the puzzle.
Why in the hell did he kill a prostitute and Dr. Guney’s sister then put both into the jeep and dump them into the river along with the weapon, Atoms thought to himself.
He couldn’t get what the killer had said to him out of his head about New Year’s Eve. It was time to hunker down and find this guy and kill him before he could do anymore damage. That was going to be the only way they could catch him.
Michael decided to make a special phone call. He waited for a voice to come on the phone. After three rings, he finally got his wish.
“Hello,” the voice asked?
“Hello my love,” Michael responded.
“Yes Michael. What do you need?”
“Are the cops gone yet?”
“Good. Now we can prepare for tonight’s festivities.”
“I’m almost ready darling. Now who do I go after and bring them to the abandoned asylum?”
“You are going to go after Scarlet Doyle,” Michael told the mysterious voice.
“Oh, just one more thing Tammy. If you screw this up, you will join Ms. Doyle. Do you understand?”
“Yes dear. I understand.”
“And Tammy, just so you know my little brother almost caught me leaving your house. So, from now on we meet somewhere private.”
“Tammy thought to herself, Damn it! I told them guys to leave and that I was fine.
“Well, I’ll come over later, and we can setup everything. I hope there are no hard feelings about me hitting you with the two-by-four.”
“I’ll let it slide,” Michael said with a hiss.
She knew he was still pissed about her hitting him with the two-by-four. Finally, they said goodbye and hung up. After he hung up, Michael began gathering all his belongings from the house. The shed was squeaky clean. Earlier in the week, Michael had made a new weapon that was unlike any weapon anyone had ever seen. It was a syringe filled with a chemical powerful enough to cause the symptoms of a heart attack. In fact, he had made two of the same weapons. The only difference was that the other one had a chemical in it that induced a small coma on the victim. He picked them up and threw them into the vehicle that Heather Guney left behind. As a matter of fact, the truck was full of his belongings. He put the two weapons in the back seat of the truck with caps on them so they wouldn’t stick him on accident. The weapons were so easy to use a monkey could do it blindfolded. He checked to make sure he had everything. The trip was an exhausting two hours and eight minutes. It wasn’t something normally he wouldn’t do, but the trip was so worth it especially being it was New Year’s Eve. After he double checked everything, he filled a Jack Daniels whiskey bottle with whiskey and gasoline, stuffed a rag into the bottle about halfway to act as a wick and then lit fire to it and tossed it through the window in the living room. Everything went up in flames that was left in the house. The cops wouldn’t find anything. Not even in the shed.
Looking at his watch, he knew he had time to kill before meeting up with Tammy. Just then a thought occurred to him.
They will never see this coming.
He laughed hysterically thinking about the look on his little brother’s face, and the more he kept thinking about it, the more it made him smile.
After they had an ID on the headless victim, Atoms and Reef headed back to the station to see if they could find any leads on the investigation. Atoms pulled into the parking lot about ten minutes after they left the morgue. Walking into the station, they noticed that there was hardly anyone there, so Atoms checked with the desk sergeant if he had missed any calls from anyone.
“Yeah detective. The fire chief from the Myakka City fire department called about a dozen times. Said something about you needing to call him. It was urgent.”
Atoms nodded and went to his desk to call the fire chief back.
“Chief, Detective Atoms here. What do you need?”
“I found something at Myakka River State Park that you need to see.”
“Okay, what exactly is it?”
“I can’t say anything over the phone, but you might want to get here quick. This might help your investigation.”
With that, the fire chief hung up. Atoms had a confused look on his face.
“What is it Will,” Reef asked?
“The fire chief just told me that we need to get to Myakka River State Park pronto. He also said that he might have something that will help our investigation.”
“Well then, let’s get a move on. Lead on partner.”
“I hope this helps piece this damn puzzle together once and for all.”
After getting in Atoms’ car, they sped off down towards I-75 and headed for Myakka River State Park. Hoping for a miracle, Atoms prayed that whatever the fire chief found it was something good. A gun would be nice, but these murders have been anything but normal. Thirty- eight minutes later, they pulled up to the gate and showed their badges to the park ranger on duty. He waved them through, and they continued towards the nearby river bank. They called the chief and said that they couldn’t find him.
“I’m at the campground which is not too far from the river bank.”
Atoms and Reef turned around and headed for the campground. Once they finally got there, they found the campsite where the fire chief was waiting for them. He walked over and introduced himself.
“I’m Chief Wyland Reese. Sorry I didn’t introduce myself the last time we spoke. Everything was so hectic, and my guys and I were trying to keep things under control. You do remember me from the major accident in Myakka, don’t you?”
“Yes, chief I do remember you. Now what do you have for us?”
He walked them over to a special campground site and asked, “You smell that detectives?”
“It smells like burning plastic or burnt plastic,” Atoms replied
“Exactly detective. It has smelled like this since we removed the jeep from the river that day, so I started looking around for the source and the smell lead me right to here.”
“But why would someone be burning plastic,” Reef asked?
“I asked myself the same question detective, and that’s when I found this.”
He held out his hand and right in the middle of his palm was what looked like a melted driver’s license.
“Also, the park ranger found footprints near here, so he made a plaster cast of the footprints. That is why I told you I found something that might help your search for this maniac.”
Atoms nodded and thanked him for his time. As they walked away, they got the feeling they were being watched, and they were right.
Michael was less than fifty yards away from where the cops and the incompetent fire chief were standing. He watched and listened in on the whole conversation via parabolic dish. Finally, he had found the perfect candidate to test his new weapon on and the perfect candidate for his little new year’s party at the abandoned Sunland Mental Hospital.
“Oh yes little brother, we are going to have some fun tonight. See you then,” he said while watching the two detectives leave.
After they left, he crept slowly towards the unsuspecting fire chief with the weapon in hand ready to strike. Before the chief knew what was going on behind his back, Michael had already stuck him with the needle filled with the induced coma chemical. The chemical only lasts a few hours, but it was perfect for what he had in store for the chief.
“Night, night Chief Reese. I’ll see you when you wake up in a few hours connected to a machine that will decide your fate. You should have just overlooked the campsite.”
He gave off an evil laugh. With everything in motion, he put the chief in the back of the truck and left the park.
Atoms and Reef had just pulled into a parking place at the station when Atoms’ phone rang.
“Hello, Detective Atoms. Don’t say a word and just listen.”
It was the killer.
“What do you want psychopath,” Atoms asked?
“I already told you. Could it be that the one and only Detective Atoms forgot what he was told? I highly doubt that you forgot little brother. I am just calling to remind you of our little family reunion and our little New Year’s Eve celebration. Come to the abandoned Sunland Mental Hospital. Be sure to here by ten p.m. sharp or Miss Charming dies.”
The line went dead. Michael had hung up leaving his little brother in shock. Reef saw the look on Atoms’ face and asked, “Will you ok? What’s wrong?”
“That was our killer. He wants me to come to some abandoned mental hospital called Sunland Mental hospital by ten p.m. Said if I didn’t show up by then Miss Charming dies.”
“Will that’s insane. Do you even know where Sunland Mental Hospital is?”
“No, but I intend to find out. I can’t just let Ms. Charming die. I forgot it was tonight I was supposed to meet our little friend the Santa Claus killer.”
“Will you can’t just show up there by yourself. He will for sure kill you the first chance he gets.”
“I have to Josh. I have to face him alone.”
“Bullshit, Will! We are a team and that will never change. You can’t go after him alone. Work with me here partner. What aren’t you telling me?”
“Do you remember the last phone call I got from him?”
“Exactly. He called it a family reunion. I don’t know why, but just a minute ago he called me little brother for the second time.”
“That is kind of spooky. Look you are going to need all the help you can get in catching this maniac.”
Atoms nodded in agreement and decided to come up with a plan to outsmart the killer. There was just one small problem. Orlando was out of their jurisdiction. It was nine in the morning and they had to come up with a solution quick. Reef thought of a great idea.
“Why don’t we give the Orange County Sheriff’s Department a call? I am sure Sheriff Hampton would be more than glad to give us a hand. He has been there for us before.”
Atoms agreed and dialed the number for the sheriff’s department in orange county.
“Orange County Sheriff’s Office, this is Deputy Trenton Gamble. How can I help you?”
“Deputy Gamble this is Detective Atoms from the Manatee Sheriff’s Office. I was wondering if you could patch me through to Sheriff Hampton’s office?”
“Hold for just a minute detective.”
Atoms held the line. Thirty seconds later the deputy returned to the line.
“Patching you through now detective.”
“Sheriff Riley Hampton speaking how can I help you?”
“Sheriff Hampton, this is Detective Atoms. I was calling to inform you that a psychotic serial killer is headed your way, and I intend on going after him. All I need your people to do is watch my back from a safe distance away, so he doesn’t know you are there.”
“I understand detective, but what are you going to do to this serial killer? After all, your reputation proceeds you.”
Atoms went over all the details of what was going on and what he intended to do to the killer even if it meant lie a little white lie. After an hour on the phone with Sheriff Hampton, they came up with the idea to make sure Atoms had a wire strapped to him so they could get a confession from him, and the sheriff’s office along with his partner Reef would be out of sight but close enough to snag the killer.
After hanging up with Sheriff Hampton, Reef and Atoms went to the captain’s office to let the captain know what was going on. The captain gave his approval and dismissed them. Just as they walked out, Meledy walked in calmer than they have ever seen him. They were about to walk away when they overheard Meledy talking to the captain and Sheriff Black.
“James, Jim, I wanted to come by and say how sorry I am for everything. Is there anything the Sarasota Police department can do to help? And no worries, Detectives Sun and Simms have been terminated for falsifying a police report and wrongfully accusing Detective Atoms. We are like brothers and no more shit will happen on my end.”
The Sheriff and the captain thought it over. The captain was the first one to speak up and say, “Not really chief.”
Sheriff Black told Meledy that they had everything under control, and that Orange County Sheriff’s office is working with them now that the killer has crossed county lines.
“Okay,” the chief replied and walked out.
Reef and Atoms made it look like that they were still making plans for their two- hour drive as Meledy walked by. Once he left, they went back to the Captain and Sheriff Black to discuss the plan they had come up with.
“Okay, here is our plan. We have strapped a wire to Atoms’ body. Once he comes face to face, we get him to confess to the Santa murders. Then we go in for the arrest.”
“Sounds more like your plan Reef. What do you intend to do with him once he is in custody?” the captain asked.
“Interrogate him and find out what his motive was for the murders.”
“Reef don’t take offense to this, but that is too textbook for the kind of case this is.”
Atoms spoke up.
“The captain is right Josh. We need to stick to our original plan and kill the son-of- a bitch.”
“I’m not saying that you should kill him just stun him a little bit in case he tries to escape.”
Reef nodded in agreement, but Atoms was still stuck on killing him.
Michael was stuck in traffic on FL-37N heading for the old mental hospital in Pine Hills. He had a feeling they were going to try to get him to confess and then trap him until help arrived. Even though he told his little brother to come alone, he knew that help wouldn’t be far behind. He devised an escape plan before he left Myakka City. The plan was that he would wear body armor under his clothes in case they tried to incapacitate him. Not once did it include Tammy in the escape plan.
Time was running short and the drive was only supposed to be two hours long instead it felt like forever to get there. Finally, after thirty minutes of being stuck, traffic started to move again. Now the celebration won’t be held up, he thought to himself.
The escape plan was perfect. Nothing could go wrong now. The whole time he hoped that the cops took Tammy and not him. If he were to be caught, he would either escape from prison or kill himself. Tammy had served her purpose and it was time for her to go.
Tammy was headed for Manatee Memorial Hospital to kidnap Scarlet and meet up with Michael at the abandoned mental ward. When she arrived, the parking lot was full, so she decided to park nearby in the street to make for an easy get away. Walking towards the entrance to the hospital, she started sweating. She was becoming nervous. Her breathing became more erratic, and her heart beat against her ribs. It was now or never. She knew that if she screwed this up, Michael would literally kill her. As she reached the entrance, she couldn’t help but to think, I hope I don’t screw this up or get caught.
Once she reached the entrance she walked in and headed for the information desk where she could find out which room Scarlet was in. A nurse walked by while Tammy was looking to see if they listed who was in what room.
“Can I help you ma’am,” the nurse asked?
Tammy froze in place, put on her best smile, and replied, “Yes ma’am. I am looking for my friend’s room and I can’t seem to find it.”
“What is your friend’s name?”
“I’m sorry, but Ms. Doyle was transferred to a local rehabilitation center yesterday morning. I’m not sure which one, but you might be able to ask one of the nurses at the nurses’ station down the hall.”
“Can you show me exactly where that is from here?”
The nurse pointed to the big semicircle that was connected to a wall at the end of the hallway. Tammy thanked her and headed for the desk. A hundred feet away from the desk she felt a big knot in her stomach. When she reached the desk, a nurse walked up and asked, “Can I help you find something or someone?”
“Yes. I was wondering if you could tell me what rehabilitation center Scarlet Doyle was transferred to?”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but I can’t give out that information out unless you are listed on the HIPAA form.”
“Shit! I just want to see my friend. I haven’t seen her in a month and heard about the wreck, so I figured I would come and see her. Oh well. I guess I will have to wait to see her when she comes home. Thank you for your time.”
Tammy walked back to the car slowly knowing that once Michael find out, he would be pissed. She called the prepaid cell phone that he had bought for them to communicate and not get traced. Three rings and no answer. She breathed a sigh of relief. Her phone started to ring and instantly she knew who it was. She let it ring four times and then answered it.
“Is it done? Have you got her?”
Tammy just hung her head down and responded with, “No Michael it isn’t. She’s not in the hospital. I tried to find out where she is located, but they won’t tell me anything.”
“Damn it. We need her.”
Michael tried to remain calm, but his nerves were already shot.
“I want you to check out every place you can think of where she would be. FIND HER NOW OR IT IS YOUR ASS!”
After Michael hung up, she started to feel the pressure and began to call around to different rehab centers to try and track her down. Finally, after forty-five minutes she called a rehab center called Manatee Springs.
“Hello?” the receptionist on the other end said.
“Hi, my name is Tammy Velez. I was just calling to see if you had a patient by the name of Scarlet Doyle there by any chance.”
“Hold on one-minute ma’am I’ll look,” the receptionist replied.
Exactly one minute later, the receptionist returned to the line.
“Yes, ma’am we do. May I ask what the relationship is between you and Ms. Doyle?”
“I’m her friend.”
“Okay, you may come and see her.”
After hanging up with Manatee Springs she thought to herself, It’s worth a shot.
Twenty minutes went by and she pulled onto Ninth Street East and came up on Manatee Springs rehabilitation center. After pulling into the parking lot, she thought to herself, this is it. It’s do or die situation Tammy. What are you going to do?
She walked in and headed for the reception desk.
“Excuse me, my name is Tammy Velez. I called about twenty minutes ago asking if you had a patient by the name of Scarlet Doyle.”
“Yes, I remember how can I help you,” the receptionist asked?
“I was wondering what room Ms. Doyle is in.”
The nurse directed her down the hall and to the left.
Tammy followed directions as she was told. Once she reached room 214, she knocked on the door. She heard a raspy voice answer.
She walked in only to find the surprise that Ms. Doyle was an eighty-year old woman.
“Sorry wrong room.”
As she walked out, her phone began to ring. She knew it was the beginning of the end.
Michael knew something wasn’t right, so he called Tammy to get an update on her end. Four rings and no answer. He was becoming irritated.
“Why in the hell is she not answering the phone?”
He slammed the phone down in a rage and was fixing to smash it against the wall. His muscles were tensed.
“I hope that either she gets caught or brings Ms. Doyle like I told her to. If she does, then it still won’t matter. She will be dead anyways.”
Michael laughed with a deep evil tone. The look in his eyes said it all. All he could think about was how his little brother was going to be in for the surprise of his life. Thirty minutes later he pulled down a long driveway that stopped in front of the old administration building. He walked in. It was dark inside, but that didn’t bother Michael a bit. He looked around for the switch to turn on the lights throughout the whole hospital. As old as the building was, he was surprised that there was still power running to it.
He began to look around to see what exactly he saw in the blueprints. First, he went straight for the electro-shock therapy room.
“It looks big enough to have two bodies hooked into the machines at the same time, but I want Chief Reese to be put in the hydrotherapy tank. I have a little surprise for him.”
After going over his plans, he went back to his truck to gather the equipment he brought with him and Chief Reese. It was time to get set-up. First, he started in the electro-shock therapy room. In addition to the two machines in the room, he hooked up two car batteries to each machine giving them more power when they were turned on. Next, for the hydrotherapy tank, he had carried several barrels of hydrochloric acid and hooked them up to the hoses filling the chambers with the deadly acid. Once that was complete, everything was set to go into motion. Now all that was left was to wait for Tammy and his little brother to show up for the party.
Time was running out for Tammy. It had been a few hours since Michael called, and after finding out that the Scarlet Doyle she had found wasn’t the right one. She tried one last place hoping that the place would be the right one.
Riveria Palms better be the gold mine it looks to be, she thought to herself.
While she sat in the parking lot, she looked at the place and noticed that it was a very nice rehab center. It was the only place she hasn’t looked.
After she got out of the car, she made her way to the front door. Once inside, she headed up to the reception desk.
“Hello. Welcome to Riveria Palms rehabilitation. How can I help you today,” the receptionist asked?
Tammy was stunned by the politeness and professionalism of the receptionist.
“Yes, I was wondering if you had a patient here by the name of Scarlet Doyle?”
“Give me one-minute ma’am. I will check our records.”
While waiting on the receptionist, Tammy looked around to get a feel for the place. The receptionist was still typing on the computer and going through the records when suddenly Scarlet’s name popped up.
“Yes, we do. May I ask what relation you are to the patient?”
She lied and said, “I am an old friend of hers.”
“And what’s your name ma’am,” the receptionist asked.
“Okay Ms. Kidd, I need you to sign in here, and go down the hall, take the first right, and Room Two-Thirty-One is on the left.”
“Thank you, Mrs.?”
“Gutierrez, but you can call me Ella.”
“Thank you, Ella.”
Once she left the receptionist desk, she followed Ella’s directions and finally came up on room Two-Thirty-One. She knocked on the door. A feminine voice answered from the other side of the door.
“Come in,” the voice said.
Tammy walked in and noticed that the nurse was just finishing wrapping Scarlet in some blankets. Just as the nurse was about to walk out, Tammy moved forward towards Scarlet. The nurse said quietly, “She is sleeping. Please don’t wake her.”
When the nurse left, Tammy got out her instruments and went to work.
There must be a way to keep her asleep until we get the asylum.
It was 3:15 p.m., and she was already supposed to be at the asylum by now. Tracking Scarlet down took most of that time. She had to hurry. After hooking an IV to her, Tammy administered Uther in her IV in order to keep her asleep. Then once everything was done, she tried picking up Scarlet. It was no use. Scarlet wasn’t budging. Finally, after forty-five minutes, Tammy got her up on her shoulders and headed for the nearest exit. She opened the door and headed for her car before she was seen. Her task was almost done. Suddenly, her cell phone rang. She answered it immediately. It was Michael and he was not happy.
“Hello Michael? Is that what you got to say for yourself? What the hell is taking you so long, and why didn’t you answer the last time I called,” Michael screamed into the phone?
In a calm voice trying not to cry, she said, “I was still trying to find Ms. Doyle, but I have her now, and we are on the way.”
Michael was still pissed off and began to scream into the phone again.
“YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN HERE BY NOW, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I’LL GIVE YOU SOME MORE TIME. NOW GET YOUR ASS HERE!”
She heard a loud click. That was her cue that Michael had hung up. As soon as she pulled out of the parking lot on Three-O-One to head towards I-75. She could hear sirens wailing coming towards, but Three-O-One was backed up. The backup looked like it was due to a car accident, but when she realized the sirens were getting louder, and then heard the alarms coming from the rehab center she decided to go the opposite way. About half-way down the road, she realized that something wasn’t right.
It’s time to look at the map, she thought to herself.
Once she glanced at the map, she realized that there was no other way to get to Sunland Mental Hospital except for going to I-75 and then hit I-4 heading towards Orlando.
“Damn it,” she said. “How the hell am I supposed to get to the interstate with all these idiots in my way?”
She looked down for just a minute, but when she looked back up, a police officer was walking towards the car. When he got there, he tapped on the window. Immediately she rolled it down.
“Ma’am have you seen this woman? She has gone missing from the Riviera Palms rehab center,” he said while holding a picture of Scarlet.
“No sir, I sure haven’t.”
“Are you sure, because I just saw you come out of the Riviera Palms parking lot.”
“Yes sir, I was visiting my mother who is in there.”
“May I ask where you are headed this evening?”
“Orlando. I am on my way to see a friend of mine up there and will be up there all weekend.”
“Ok well, just watch your speed and have a safe drive. There are a lot of maniacs out on the street. That’s why we have the sobriety checkpoint set-up as well. When you get there, just tell them that you already spoke to Officer Hill.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The cop walked away and headed for another car. Tammy breathed a sigh of relief and made her way to the interstate. Reaching the checkpoint, she did just as Officer Hill instructed her to do. Looking back, she realized that there would be nothing stopping her now and headed towards the interstate. She had made it through the checkpoint with no problems.
Atoms and Reef were heading up I-4 heading for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. It was time to get ready for the most monumental confrontation of his life. Two lives were at stake that he knew of. Traffic was a nightmare and having called ahead things were almost ready to go. Sheriff Hampton was waiting patiently for them to show up. Atoms drove the speed limit all the way there, and it freaked Reef out. Something was going on in Atoms head that wasn’t right.
“Hey Will, what gives? Why are you so calm,” Reef asked?
“No reason. I just don’t want to get worked up and kill the son of a bitch. You know what I mean? You never know what could happen when I come face to face with the asshole. For all we know, he could be leading us on a wild goose chase.”
“I agree partner, but I just want you to be safe. Ok?”
For an hour, they rode in silence. When they arrived at the Sheriff’s Office, Hampton was already near the doors ready to brief them on what was going on. They walked up to the doors and walked in.
“Sheriff, is everything ready for tonight,” Atoms asked after shaking hands with him?”
“Yes detective, everything is up and ready to go. We have several units watching the area that he has been in, or at least we think it’s him.
“What do you mean you think it’s him? We gave you the name of the place where he said he will be,” Atoms said as he slammed his fists down on the table.
“Come with me detectives.”
He led them into the communications room. There were huge monitors everywhere, and each monitor showed the different locations around the old Administration Building.
“Damn! It looks like you guys want to catch him as bad as me,” Atoms said.
“Do you guys have an exact location on our guy sheriff,” Reef asked?
“Yes, he’s in the hydrotherapy room, and it looks like he’s planning something big.
Six-thirty p.m. It’s almost time to go.
Tammy was twenty- minutes away from the administration building. The more she thought about everything, the more accomplished she felt. Fifteen minutes later she came up on the road that led to the old mental hospital. She pulled up next to Michael’s truck and honked the horn. Michael heard it and came storming out in a rage.
“What the hell is the matter with you? Do you want to get caught and go to prison for First degree murder?”
Tammy had no idea what to say. She was shocked at his reaction, so with tears in her eyes she said, “I thought you would be glad to see me especially since I did what you wanted me to do.” She ran inside crying. Michael didn’t feel the least bit sorry. He followed her inside still filled with anger and said, “I am happy that you got Ms. Doyle, but that stunt with the horn could have got us caught. Well you are here now, so go strap the bitch into the electro-shock machine. I’ll be there in a few. I have some other things to do. Now just sit back and wait for the signal.”
Tammy did as Michael told her to do. He helped lift Scarlet’s body and carried it with Tammy to the electro-shock therapy room.
Seven forty p.m. Michael had sat down in the administrator’s office after helping Tammy with Scarlet. He was ready for anything because he was wearing body armor all over his body underneath his clothes. The only thing to do now was sit and wait for his little brother to show up.
“Come on little brother, don’t be scared. The party is just getting started.”
Atoms took the lead in heading towards Sunland Mental Hospital. As they headed down Route 429 towards Pine Hills, he started to get anxious about his confrontation with Michael. He wanted him dead, and there nothing going to stop him from making sure of that.
Reef was in a patrol car with one of the deputies from the Sheriff’s department. Sitting only a few blocks away, Sheriff Hampton wanted everyone to stand down until they got a confession from the killer.
“Sheriff, if my partner gets into any trouble, I’m going to go in with or without your permission,” Reef called over the CB radio.
“Ten-four,” the sheriff called back.
He knew there was nothing he could do to stop them. Atoms came over the radio saying that he made it to the front of the old administration building. When he got out of the car, he noticed that there were two cars not counting his car instead of one.
“That’s odd. What in the hell is Tammy’s car doing here,” Atoms asked himself?
Something wasn’t right. Tammy was supposed to be at home. Things weren’t adding up. When he walked into the creepy old building, each step he took felt like his last. Suddenly, all the lights came on, and a familiar voice came over an intercom speaker.
“Hello little brother.”
Atoms twisted and turned to find where the intercom speaker was.
“Who are you? Show yourself,” he demanded!
The voice came back over the speaker.
“Oh, you will see me before the night is over, but let’s have a little fun shall we. In front of you should be a tv. Now look at the screen, and to answer your question of who I am, you will find out soon enough.”
Atoms turned to face the tv screen, and when he did, the voice came back over the intercom speaker.
“Come to the place you see on the tv screen before you or your precious friend dies in just a few hours.”
Atoms started to shake and bare his teeth when he said, “Where am I supposed to go, and which friend are you talking about?”
The voice returned angry and frustrated.
“You’re the cop. You figure it out!”
The tv cut off leaving Atoms with his thoughts. Where the hell was that location. Maybe the asshole will tell me more once I figure out where to go.
He looked down at the floor and saw a map of the whole place.
“That’s it. I am supposed to go to the nurse’s station. Hopefully I can find out more of what’s going on.”
When he got there, nobody was anywhere to be seen. Then he heard the voice again over the intercom speaker.
“Excellent detective. You truly amaze me. Now as I said before, you have a limited amount of time to rescue your friend from death. Good luck. The timer will show you how much time you have to get to them, and here’s a hint they’re on the second floor.”
“Which friend are you talking about? You have killed so many of my friends that I can’t remember who I lost and who I haven’t”
“Indeed, I have, but how does the name Scarlet Doyle sound,” The voice replied?
Atoms’ eyes lit up with fire in them.
“How did you find out where she was,” Atoms demanded?
“Come to the second floor’s nurse’s station and you will find out.”
With that, the voice disappeared. Atoms went into panic mode and ran to the second-floor nurse’s station. Once he got there, an old tv cut on, and a video began to play. A masked figure showed up on the screen. When the figure went to speak, his voice was distorted.
“Nice try little brother. Did you really think I was going to be there and just give up? No way that takes all the fun out of this little meeting, but I did promise that you will see me face to face soon enough. Well now that you know who to save, let’s play a little game I call family history. I call you little brother because in fact you are my little brother. We share the same mother and father I think, but I’m not sure,” the voice said.
“My father was Travis Atoms. He died before I was born,” Atoms replied.
“Then you should’ve done your homework little brother because he was my father too. I killed him while you were still in mother’s womb. Did you know that mother is the one who put me into the mental hospital back in Bradenton? Fitting isn’t it. I bet you didn’t even know I was transferred here when it was open. Then I was sent back to Bradenton. It’s a shame mother can’t be here to witness this little family reunion.”
Atoms was feeling flushed and began to shake again. Then out of nowhere, he punched the tv busting the screen to shreds. The voice came back over the intercom.
“Aww. Now what did the tv ever do to you? What’s wrong little brother? Truth hurts doesn’t it. Let’s play another little game. You have twenty-five minutes to find the electroshock therapy room and save Ms. Doyle. Better hurry though. Time is ticking away.”
Once again, the voice disappeared. This time the timer appeared out of nowhere counting down the minutes left to get to Scarlet and save her. Atoms raced down the hall searching every room for the electroshock therapy machine. Looking up and down the hall, he searched for a sign telling him how close he was to the therapy room. No such luck.
How in the hell did this psychopath remember where everything was, he thought to himself?
Then it hit him.
“That son of a bitch has a map of the whole place,” he whispered to himself.
Instantly, he ran down up and down the hall looking for a map of the second floor. Then suddenly, he saw it. A huge map on the right-side wall showed him exactly where the electroshock therapy room was. Ten minutes was left on the timer and he raced right to where the room was. Immediately, he walked in, and that’s when he saw Scarlet unconscious on a table. He began to untie the rope tied around her wrists and released the belts holding her down. After releasing Scarlet, he told her to find a place to hide and stay there till he gave the signal that the room was all clear. She found a desk to hide under, but no sooner then she hid, a thud echoed across the room. Atoms had been attacked from behind and hit the ground hard. He was out cold.
As Scarlet watched from behind the desk, she saw a figure appear out of the shadows. It was Tammy holding an aluminum baseball bat. There was nothing Scarlet could do to help Atoms because she had anesthesia still in her system making her weak and unable to defend herself. Tammy dragged Atoms’ body across the floor and down the hall. Then suddenly, Michael showed up and saw what Tammy had done to Atoms. His muscles tensed for a moment then seemed to ease up, but then he began to shake. He had fire in his eyes. She knew instantly that she was in trouble. Michael knocked her against the wall knocking her unconscious. He picked up her limp body and carried her into the electroshock room. She started to wake up and when she did Michael was standing over top of her.
“How dare you knock my little brother unconscious!”
Tammy tried to move, but that’s when she realized that he had her strapped down on the table. She tried to scream but knew it was no use. Then she heard duct tape being pulled away from its roll. As Michael put tape over her mouth, he began to talk more to her.
“He followed the rules. You didn’t, and now you must be punished.”
He took another piece of tape and strapped one electrode to the side of her head. Next, he taped on the other electrode to the other side of her head. Little did Tammy realize, Michael had put haloperidol and lorazepam in with the anesthetic. She was paralyzed and couldn’t move. Just as Michael turned the voltage on, Atoms started coming to.
Meanwhile, Reef and Sheriff Hampton were sitting a huge black van listening to everything going on in the asylum. Reef was on edge waiting to hear his partner say something. A thought occurred to him. Are they really that stupid to not notice that Atoms was wearing a wire?
All they could hear was someone in the background scream, but the screams were muffled. Reef wanted to rush in. The sheriff held him back.
“We can’t do anything yet. He hasn’t really confessed really.”
“Bullshit sheriff. You heard him just as well as I did,” Reef said.
He was getting mad.
“All we can do is sit back and wait for the signal,” the sheriff retorted.
Finally, Reef calmed down and sat back down in his chair.
While Tammy was writhing in pain, Michael realized something.
I know my little brother saved Scarlet Doyle, but where the hell is, she at,” he thought to himself. He checked everywhere and still couldn’t find her. Then an idea came to him. I’ll flush her out by leaving the room for a little bit, and then she will come out thinking I’m gone.”
He walked over to the entrance to the room, and then stepped out. Scarlet heard him leave, but she didn’t really know if he was truly gone. She came out from underneath the desk and looked around. Michael was watching the video feed in one of the security rooms. She went to the hallway to see if Michael was still gone. Still she heard nothing. After she ran to Atoms’ side, she hoisted him up on his feet. She looked around again just to be on the safe side. Nothing nor nobody was there. The two of them started walking down the hall when Atoms stepped into a trap created by Michael. Whip! It was a snare trap that was meant for Scarlet. She went to step out to help Atoms get out of the trap, but instead, she stepped in one too. Her trap was a steel cage no bigger than a shark cage with electricity running through the bars. Michael controlled the contraption with a remote. As Atoms was trying to free himself from the snare to help Scarlet, Michael’s voice came back over the intercom speaker.
Sorry to keep you hanging little brother, but I have some loose ends to fix. Ciao.”
Michael walked away laughing hysterically. Atoms called out to Scarlet.
“Scarlet are you okay?”
“Yeah I’m just peachy sitting in a cage where electricity surrounds the cage,” she said sarcastically.
Suddenly, they heard a voice coming from the electroshock therapy room. It was tammy calling out for help now that the anesthetics and the other medications wore off. Michael came walking into the room.
“Ah, look who’s awake. Are you ready for some more of your therapy? Just a moment while I close the door.”
With that, the doors shut and locked.
“DAMN IT! I have to go help her,” Atoms said.
“No Will. She is with the psychopath. For all you know it could be another trap. Plus, I believe she is the one who kidnapped me. When I woke up, I was in her car,” Scarlet replied.
Realizing what she said made since, he stayed put. Then he heard Michael’s evil laugh from behind the doors.
How in the hell did he get in there without me seeing him, he thought to himself?
After the doors locked, Michael began to torture Tammy again only with a higher voltage this time. She screamed in pain. The electricity going through her skull was leaving burn marks on the sides of her temples. After forty-five minutes of her screaming, Michael decided to turn the voltage all the way up, and then add in the car battery to finish her off. Five seconds later her head exploded into tiny fragments leaving brain matter all over the room. She was dead.
Atoms struggled to break free. Then suddenly, he was released. He ran to the electroshock therapy room. The door was unlocked. When he walked in, the scene was gruesome and horrifying. Blood was everywhere and Tammy no longer had a head or a face. Nothing could have been done to save her. While Atoms sat in the hallway, Michael’s voice came back over the intercom.
“Did you like what you saw little brother? I did it just for you. Now the next person to die on my list is a surprise. You have exactly fifteen minutes to save this person. I’ll tell you where he is, but it’s up to you to get there. Oh, and if you think of using the elevators, they are all disabled thanks to me. The person is in the hydrotherapy room. As I have said before, you have fifteen minutes to save him by opening the hydrotherapy tank and save this person before the tank fills up with hydrochloric acid and they become all bone. Good luck little brother. It’s all the way on the fifth floor and that’s all I’m going to say.”
Another timer lit up and began to count down the minutes till the tank started to fill. Atoms raced to the second-floor staircase that leads to the third floor. Another timer came on as he reached the third floor. Ten minutes were left to get there, and he still had two more floors to get to before he reached the hydrotherapy tank. By the time he got to the stairs to go up to the fourth floor, he was out of breath, but he couldn’t waste any more time. Time was of the essence with only five minutes to reach the fifth floor and to find the hydrotherapy tank. Suddenly, a tv screen came on with video of the tank. The video camera was facing the only window in the tank. Atoms was struggling to get to the fifth floor. Two minutes showed up on the timer. He knew it would too late by the time he got there, but he thought to himself, I can’t give up now. This person needs me. I wonder if I can get there in time to spare their life.
Once he reached the final floor, he rushed to find a map of the floor showing where the hydrotherapy tank was. Two minutes later he found what he was looking for. A huge map of the entire floor was hanging on the wall like a portrait. The hydrotherapy tank was at the far end of the hall, so Atoms sucked in air and breathed and ran down the hall to where the tank was. He didn’t make it in time. The tank was already half full, but he saw a body in there. Then he realized who it was that he was saving. Fire Chief Wyland Reese was dead. When he Atoms opened the chamber, a little bit of acid spilled out nearly melting the rubber on Atoms shoes. He grabbed the chiefs body trying to move what was left of him out of the way, and that’s when he noticed that Reese had been eaten half way by the acid.
After running down the stairs to try and free Scarlet, he tried to open the cage to get her to safety. Once he got to the second floor, he called out, “Scarlet are you still with me?”
“Yeah just a little shook up,” she replied.
“I’m going to try and get you out of there.”
“No, you can’t, the bars have enough electricity running through them to kill you. Just go get the psychopath. I’ll be fine right here.”
“Okay, but I’ll be back for you once this nightmare is all over with.
Scarlet nodded her head, and then Atoms started his search for Michael for the final meeting.
Michael headed down to the first floor to prepare for the face to face confrontation with Atoms. He packed up all the incriminating evidence. From the administration building to the first floor of the hospital itself, he wiped everything he had encountered clean leaving no trace of him at all. Just before leaving, he set two-time bombs in the first floor and in the administration building. Both were set to go off in two hours.
“Now there is no escape for my little brother,” he said to himself.
Calmly, he walked up to the staircase leading up to the second floor. As he passed by the electric cage containing Scarlet, he dropped the remote that controlled it inches away from the cage, and then said “If you can reach it without getting electrocuted, you are free to go. But if I were you, I would get started because you only have two hours before my bombs go off. Ciao.”
After he walked away from the cage, he continued his leisurely walk down the hall towards the third-floor staircase. Once he disappeared, Scarlet tried to reach the remote with a long stick she had with her in the cage, but it was no use. Michael stopped and listened to her trying to reach for the remote, but then he heard something that disturbed him. SMASH! He ran back to the cage to see what happened. Scarlet had destroyed the remote.
The humming of the electricity flowing through the bars had stopped and she was able to touch the bars without getting hurt, so with all her strength, she kicked the door as hard as she could causing the door to swing open.
As Michael ran towards the cage, he heard the cage door slam against the wall.
“Damn it, I didn’t think it was that easy,” he said to himself.
While he stood there waiting to see what would happen next being that Scarlet wasn’t in the cage anymore, she snuck up behind him with a fire extinguisher. When he turned around, she sprayed him right in the face. He fell to the ground holding his face from the burning on his skin, and then he started to laugh. Scarlet made ready to hit him with the bottle, and just as Michael stood up, she rammed the bottle right into his nose and face. He got knocked to the ground. His face was pulsing with pain., but Scarlet wasn’t done. She hit him again knocking him out cold. Blood started to pool underneath his nose. He wasn’t getting up anytime soon, so Scarlet dropped the bottle and ran down the stair to the first floor and out the door to try and get help.
Atoms had reached the fourth floor after checking the third floor for any trace of his so-called older brother. In the back of his mind though, he thought to himself, this son-of-a-bitch is going to die, and this nightmare will be just a bad memory.
He continued his search, and after thirty minutes of finding nothing, he decided to back track his steps. Walking back down the hall and down the steps, something caught his attention. Footprints were all over the floor, and they were bloody footprints going up instead of down. The front door was open too. Atoms rushed down the stairs to investigate. There was nobody there. He went back inside, and that’s when he noticed it. To his immediate left there was a time bomb ticking away waiting to go off. He had to hurry and get out of there before the damn thing went off. When he went back inside, he headed up the second-floor steps and noticed that the cage Scarlet was in had been opened. Good, he thought to himself. Maybe she got out and went for help.
When he looked down, there was a pool of blood on the floor. After looking back up, he looked down the hallway, but there was not a soul in sight. He continued to walk down the farthest end of the hall to check to see if there was anyone around bleeding, and that’s when he saw a figure down at the other end of the hall.
“Hello,” he asked?
The figure didn’t respond. He tried again.
“I’m a detective from the Manatee Sheriff’s Office. Are you hurt? Do you need medical attention?”
Still the figure said nothing just labored breaths.
Atoms tried speaking to the mysterious figure one last time.
“Can you help me out? I’m looking for someone.”
Then the figure spoke.
“Looks like you already found what you were looking for detective.”
Atoms was confused by the figure’s answer. The figure came closer.
“Who are you,” Atoms asked.
“You know who I am. Just not my name.”
Then it hit Atoms. It was his older brother he had been looking for. They charged at each other. BAM! Both collided into each other. Atoms was the first one up He grabbed Michael by the hair and upper cut him in the chin. When Michael got up, he said, “Well done little brother.”
Atoms’ anger turned to rage.
“Who in the hell are you,” he asked.
“My name is Michael, and you my little brother are going to die.”
“Not a chance in hell,” Atoms responded.
Michael went for a lead pipe, but Atoms got there first and kicked it away.
“No weapons Michael. If we fight, it’s going to be a fair fight. Fist to fist,” Atoms said.
“Fine,” Michael hissed.
Then without warning, Michael grabbed a handful of plaster dust and threw it in Atoms’ face temporarily blinding him. After he realized that his little brother couldn’t see, he raced up the stairwell to the fourth floor. Atoms’ vision came back to normal, but Michael was already gone. When he saw that Michael was gone, he yelled, “MICHAEL! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!” Silence. Then suddenly the intercom speaker came on.
“Aww, what’s the matter Detective Atoms or should I stick with little brother? Are you missing my fist in your face already? Well come get your prize detective. I’m almost to the roof of this place. Catch me if you can.”
Atoms raced up the stairs in pursuit of Michael. The time for negotiation was over. Now Atoms was the hunter, and Michael was the prey. Atoms searched the entire fourth and fifth floors. When he reached the nurses station on the fifth floor, he saw the bloody footprints again, and this time he saw a phone receiver hanging off the cradle. This must be where the asshole used the intercom, he thought to himself.
After putting the old receiver back on the cradle, he drew his nine-millimeter Glock out and searched the rest of the rooms. Once he was done searching, he went to the stairwell and headed up the stairs to the rooftop. As he stepped up on the stairs, a bullet whizzed by his head. Michael shot at him from the top of the stairs. Atoms took his Glock and aimed for Michael’s shoulder. The bullet hit its target, but Michael didn’t budge. He just stood there while Atoms reloaded. Atoms went to take another shot, but his brother was gone.
Reef raced towards the asylum at full speed after hearing shot being fired over the microphone that was attached to Atoms still. Once he got near the administration building, he saw Scarlet running towards him.
“My god Scarlet! What in the hell happened in there,” Reef asked?
“I’ll tell you later. Right now, we need to get the hell out of here. The administration building and the first floor of the asylum rigged with two-time bombs,” she replied.
They raced back to the black van for safety, but when they got there, everyone was dead except for Sheriff Hampton. He had been shot in the stomach and was bleeding out fast.
“Sheriff, what in the hell happened here,” Reef asked?
With small short breaths Hampton said, “Shooter…on the roof.”
Reef saw that he was bleeding heavily.
“Scarlet take a towel or something and—”
“I know what to do Josh. Go and find some help,” Scarlet said.
Atoms was almost to the roof access door when he heard it lock.
Damn! Now what do I do, he thought to himself.
Prior to the door locking though, he heard gun shots coming from the other side of the door.
What in the hell is he shooting at?
Then it hit him. Michael had seen the cops and the van a few blocks away from the roof. Atoms rammed the door with his shoulder, but the door wouldn’t budge. He reached for his Glock and aimed it straight at the door knob and door lock and shot at it. It worked. He kicked off the door knob and the door swung open.
“Well, look who decided to join the party,” Michael said.
The two brothers were face to face again.
Atoms looked his brother dead in his face and said, “Now it’s time you faced justice Michael. MY JUSTICE!”
Reef rushed to one of the patrol cars to call for help. He noticed something odd though. The shooter had stopped firing on them. He went back to the radio when suddenly a huge explosion lit up the night. The bombs in the administration building and the first floor of the hospital went off simultaneously. The first thing that came to Reef’s mind is, how in the hell is my partner going to get out of there.
Once his mind stopped racing, he finally called for help on the radio. Scarlet was still with Sheriff Hampton trying to keep him alive, but if help didn’t arrive soon, he was going to be another casualty on the list. Then out of nowhere, shots were being fired, but not on them. It came from another direction.
Michael ran for his high-powered rifle, but Atoms popped off more shots that came close to hitting its target. After he stopped shooting at Michael, he loaded more rounds in the Glock. Michael looked around for another weapon to go at Atoms with amongst his own. He found a spud bar and charged head on at Atoms with full speed. Atoms saw him out of the corner of his eye and moved just as Michael swung the spud bar. The bar landed about an inch away from Atoms’ head. Michael became frustrated and irate.
“Damn you, why won’t hold still,” he said.
He grabbed his hunting knife and swiped at Atoms’ mid-section, but he missed. Then Atoms tried to kick the knife out of Michael’s hands, but the blade went straight through his foot. He yelled in pain.
“Ah, so you do feel pain. Good because you are about to feel a whole lot more,” Michael said.
“Go to hell you sick bastard,” Atoms replied in pain.
“If I go, you are going with me little brother.”
Just before Atoms could reach the handle of the knife, Michael yanked it out and licked the blood off the blade. Atoms raised his left foot and caught Michael in the jaw sending him flying backwards. After he kicked him off, Atoms ran for his Glock laying on the ground. It had been knocked loose after Michael charged at him. He grabbed the gun and aimed it at Michael’s chest. Then he pulled the trigger. Blood splattered everywhere, and Michael fell to the ground landing on his face. It’s finally over, Atoms thought to himself.
Out in the distance, Atoms heard sirens coming towards him.
“Thank god,” he said.
He went over to make sure Michael was dead. As he got closer, Michael opened his eyes. Atoms went to kick him, but suddenly Michael grabbed his leg and knocked him to the ground. He fell and landed on his side. Michael got up and tore off his shirt to reveal the blood packets underneath along with the body armor. As soon as Atoms saw them, he felt an adrenaline rush and charged towards him, but Michael was ready. He moved out of the way just in time, and Atoms hit the wall behind Michael head on.
Michael laughed hysterically. Atoms shook off the hit and ran towards Michael again. Only this time, Michael’s back was turned. Atoms picked him up and rammed him into another wall. Michael crumbled to the ground but was still able to get up in a rage.
“Stupid son-of-a-bitch! So, you want a real —”
Pow! Atoms hit him as hard as he could repeatedly.
“This is for my mother. You sick piece of shit,” Atoms said!
Michael had blood streaming out of his mouth. When he got up, Atoms was ready and waiting for him.
“When will you learn little brother? I’m all you got left for family. Why don’t you quit while you’re ahead and join me in the fun? Don’t think of it as taking innocent lives because nobody is innocent. We could have fun killing people we don’t like. What do you say,” Michael asked?
He extended his hand. Atoms stopped and thought for a minute and said, “You know something, you’re absolutely right. As a matter of fact, let’s start right now.
He grabbed Michael’s hand and walked over to the edge of the roof.
“What in the hell are you doing,” Michael asked in confusion.
Atoms picked up a gun and swung it around hitting Michael in the head knocking him off the roof and let go of his hand. Something wasn’t right though. There was no thud of a body hitting the ground. What the hell is going on here, he thought to himself.
He looked over the side of the roof, and there was Michael hanging on to a windowsill with both hands. Michael looked up and started laughing.
“Thought I was dead didn’t you little brother,” Michael said.
Atoms saw the fire department getting set up with the ladder truck. Once he saw the ladder come up to where Michael was, he thought to himself, Damn! He got lucky.
By the time the ladder reached up towards Atoms. Michael was saved and was brought down by one of the firemen from the station it came from. When Atoms noticed Michael was on the ground, he yelled down to the other firemen and paramedics to keep an eye on him, but it was too late. Nobody heard what he had said over the roar of the fire truck. When they finally turned around, Michael had already grabbed the fireman’s cutting knife and jammed it into the fireman’s throat. With one firefighter down, the others scrambled to get to him and put pressure on the wound. Michael looked on another truck to find another useful weapon. Then he found a six-foot hook and chain. He swung it around and tossed it catching one of the young paramedics in the skull. After that, he pulled the paramedic back to him. The paramedic was dead.
Atoms tried to aim his gun on Michael, but it was too late. Michael was faster than him and was heading towards an ambulance close by. Atoms could see clearly exactly what Michael was thinking. After climbing off the ladder, he raced towards Michael to try and stop him. Michael looked behind him and spotted Atoms coming towards him, so he fired off a few rounds with a gun he had found on the ground. He tried to keep Atoms at bay, but Atoms fired back and hit him the shoulder again. This time the bullet hit its target dead on. Michael hid behind one of the other fire trucks.
“Just let it go little brother,” Michael said.
“No way in hell asshole. You killed my family and my friends and for that you must pay. I’m not letting you go,” Atoms replied.
“Well then we will go together,” Michael said as he raised his gun and aimed for the ambulance close by him and Atoms.
A second later, Atoms heard a bullet hit the side of the ambulance. He knew he had to make a run for it, so he jumped behind another fire truck for cover. Michael made a run for it also in the opposite direction aiming his gun dead on with the oxygen tanks that lay just slightly out the door. Instantly, the vehicle went up in flames and the two paramedics who were inside died immediately. After hearing the explosion of the ambulance, Atoms anger turned to rage. With the wound in his foot, he wrapped it up and chased after Michael. However, Michael headed towards where the Sheriffs Department were posted earlier. He wanted to make sure everyone was dead. However, when he got close, he was surprised at what he saw.
Scarlet saw Michael coming down the street towards them, so she tried pull the sheriff to safety. It was too late though. Hampton died while being pulled to safety. Then she did the only thing she could do and hid underneath a patrol car. She could hear the crunching of glass as he walked by. She also saw blood. He must have been hit, but by who, she thought to herself. Michael kept on walking by, but Scarlet stayed right where she was.
Reef saw Michael heading his way, so he jumped up and shouted, “Freeze! Manatee Sheriffs Department. You are under—”
Michael laughed and shot Reef in the shoulder. Then he walked around the patrol car to where Reef was sitting. He looked down at Reef and said, “You cops are all the same. Too bad your partner isn’t here to save you, but when you see him tell him I said an eye for an eye.
Just then, Scarlet came up behind him and kicked him in the testicles along with hitting him in the head with the hand grip of a gun she found. Michael went down on one knee, and Scarlet finished him off with a kick to the face knocking him out. Reef placed handcuffs on Michael, and then Scarlet carried him off to an ambulance to be checked out. After checking him out the paramedics uncuffed him and strapped him down to the gurney. He was still knocked out cold. Everyone was on high alert because of the situation.
Reef closed the double doors and the ambulance drove to the nearest hospital, so he could be checked out further. Afterwards Reef and Scarlet asking around about Atoms, but nobody had seen him since he climbed down the ladder with a fireman right behind him. Then Scarlet had an idea. She started to look for his car, but it had been incinerated after the two bombs went off.
“Where in the hell is, he” she said to herself?
Then the answer hit her.
“Oh Shit,” she said to herself again.
When Reef looked over at Scarlet, the look on her alarmed him. He rushed over to see what was wrong.
“Scarlet, what’s wrong,” he asked?
Reef interrupted her sentence.
“Where? Where is Atoms going,” he said?
“He’s going after the ambulance with Michael in it,” she replied.
Reef knew he had to stop his partner before anyone else got hurt, so he borrowed a dead sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car and went after Atoms.
After leaving the old asylum in flames, Atoms had taken Tammy’s car. She won’t be needing this anymore, he thought to himself. The ambulance had taking Michael 19 minutes away to the Orlando Regional Medical Center. Atoms watched as they pulled the gurney out with him on it.
Perfect shot. If the damn paramedics weren’t in the damn way, I could take the shot.
Doctors and nurses rushed to the scene. He knew that there was nothing physically wrong with Michael, so after the paramedics and the doctors walked away with Michael, Atoms walked in the regular entrance looking for the closest information desk. He saw a nurse walk by, but she never stopped to see if he needed any help.
“She must be in a rush to get home,” he said to himself.
A few seconds later, a man in a tailored suit with a white lab coat walked up to him.
“Can I help you sir,” the man asked?
“Yes, I am looking for information on Michael Atoms. He was brought in a few minutes ago,” Atoms replied.
Check the emergency room. He might still be in there.”
The man smiled and walked away. Atoms continued to the E.R. When he got there, he showed the nurse at the desk and asked to be shown where Michael Atoms room was.
“Right this way Officer,” she said.
She took him right to where Michael was supposed to be. When they got there though, something didn’t feel right, and Atoms drew his gun. The nurse ran off, and he walked closer to the room. There were no sounds coming from the area behind the curtain. When he pulled the curtain back, the scene was horrific.
Yep. It definitely looks like Michael’s handy work,” he thought to himself.
Two paramedics were dead, and there was blood everywhere. The doctor assigned to Michael had just walked up. Immediately, Atoms showed the doctor his badge. The doctor nodded and went to call for help. A fire exit alarm went off and Atoms heard it. He headed straight to where the sound was coming from and ran out the door, but it was too late. Michael had commandeered a vehicle and was driving off. Atoms headed for his car, and the chase began.
Heading down I-4, Michael noticed that Atoms wasn’t far behind him.
“Damn! Why won’t he give up,” Michael asked himself?
They weren’t even close to the exit to get on I-75 South. There weren’t any cops around, so Michael sped up and get to the exit first. Hoping to lose Atoms, he used the shoulder of the road to bypass the other cars. When he reached the exit, Michael rushed to get onto I-75 South. There was barely any traffic on the interstate.
“Shit, with this type of traffic Will definitely will catch up to me,” he said to himself.
Within no time, Atoms had caught up to Michael and was in hot pursuit. There is no getting away now, Atoms thought to himself. That was soon to change. Michael knew exactly what he was doing. Time was growing short. He raced down I-75. Dodging in and out of traffic, he had to figure out where the Bradenton/ Palmetto/ Ellenton exit was. There was no time to look at a map, so he followed the road signs all the way down.
About an hour after he saw the sign he was looking for, he slowed down his pace. There was no sign of Atoms anywhere. Michael breathed a sigh of relief, but he still had to find a place to stop and dig the bullet out of his shoulder. No hospital was safe, so he had to dig it out himself. He was no stranger to pain. There was no way he could stop and do it himself without tools. Then a thought occurred to him. I could stop at a vet, and little brother would never find me, but where is the closest vet hospital once I get on of I-75.
The more he thought about it, the faster he drove, and it was a good place to hide. After thirty-minutes, he saw a vet and finally pulled over to the exit leading to SR-64. A thousand horns beeped at him along with people cussing at him for cutting them off. Michael didn’t care. All he could think about was getting the bullet out of his shoulder and to hide in plain sight. Hoping he lost Atoms, he got off the exit and headed to where he needed to go, but where was there a vet clinic. After getting onto SR-64, he began his lookout for the closest vet hospital that was open twenty-four hours, so he could get the bullet out and hide. Ten minutes later he found one. It was right across the road from Lakewood Hyundai and Wal-Mart. When he pulled in, there was nobody in the parking lot except for two cars. There was nobody in the waiting room either. This is perfect. Little brother will never think to look here, he thought to himself.
A lady in scrubs walked into the receptionist area.
“Can I help you sir,” she asked?
Trying to make it seem worse than it really was he said, “Yes…Need doctor…Been shot…need help,” he exasperated.
“Hold on and I’ll get you a doctor,” she told him
Five minutes later after she took off running towards the back, a doctor came out.
“Yes? How can I help you sir,” the doctor asked?
“Need bullet…taken out…am bleeding,” Michael said.
“Sir, this is a veterinarian hospital. I don’t have—”
Michael grabbed the doctor by the collar of his jacket, and the tone of his voice changed.
“You will help me, or you will die.”
He looked over at the receptionist and grinned.
“Oh, if you try and call the cops, I will kill you and the other staff. GOT IT! Now let’s get to work doctor. I am running out of time.”
Michael shoved the doctor into the surgery room. The doctor closed the door and began prepping for surgery on Michael’s shoulder. Once everything was ready, the doctor went to put a mask on Michael in order to administer anesthesia. Michael wasn’t having it. Out of fear, the doctor nodded and began surgery to remove the bullet from Michael’s shoulder.
Forty-five minutes later, the bullet was out. Michael was being bandaged up when the doctor heard the front door open. The receptionist came in with an urgent look on her face.
“What is it Ms. Lucero,” the doctor asked?
“There is a man in the waiting room wanting to speak to you,” she replied.
“Tell him to come back tomorrow I’m busy,” the doctor said with a look of fear on his face.
“The man said it was urgent sir.”
“Alright tell him, I’ll be right with him.”
Michael grew suspicious but didn’t show it. The doctor looked up at him and said, “I’ll be right back.”
“You got two minutes,” Michael replied.
The doctor walked out and shut the door on his way out. When he walked into the waiting room, he saw a man wearing a badge. Instantly he knew who he was.
In a whisper he said, “It’s good to see you Detective Atoms.”
He finally caught up to Michael. The doctor started telling him about he knew what was going on and that Michael was there. Michael got close to the door and listened in on what the doctor was saying.
“Damn it,” he said in a whisper.
“Where is he doc,” Atoms asked?
“In the surgery room,” the doctor whispered.
“Go back in there and act like nothing is wrong. I don’t want him to know I’m here. When he comes outside of the clinic, I’ll catch him there,” Atoms said.
It was too late. Michael had heard everything and planned to play along. The doctor did as he was instructed to do. He also knew he had to be careful, so he came up with an excuse why it took so long.
“Ok, sorry to keep you waiting, but I had to use the men’s room,” he said.
Michael knew he was lying, but he waited for the right time to strike. Once the doctor turned his back, he grabbed a few bottles of pain medication. He was getting ready to hand them to Michael, but Michael was ready to strike. He had two huge syringes filed with Pentobarbital and alcohol better known as Eutha-6. It was used to euthanize animals, and this time the doctor was the animal. Michael grabbed the doctor by the throat lifting him off his feet, jammed the syringes into the doctor’s heart and injected the deadly medicine. Within seconds, the doctor as dead. The receptionist had already left and went for help. Michael walked into the waiting room and said, “Where are you little brother? I know you are here.”
Atoms came out of hiding and bum rushed Michael straight into a wall. Michael got up and said, “You can’t just let it go. Can you little brother? I know I killed all your friends and mother, but hey who says murder isn’t fun.”
He laughed and then went to pick up Atoms and threw him into the fish tank that sat against the wall near the entrance to the back of the vet clinic.
“I’m not here to arrest you Michael. Oh no this has gone too far for that,” Atoms said as he was spitting up blood.
“Let me guess then, you’re here to kill me right,” Michael replied.
Atoms’ gaze didn’t leave sight of Michael. Both were ready for another round of hand to hand combat with each other. Their eyes burned with rage. Michael pulled out the cutting knife he stole from the firefighter he killed back in Orlando. Atoms, however pulled out a Bowie Knife he found in the car. They circled each other waiting for the other to make a move. Atoms made the first move as he swung his knife around hoping to catch Michael in the stomach, but he missed by a half of an inch. Michael was surprised and went to make his move but didn’t get close enough to cut him. Atoms went again, only this time he caught Michael in his other shoulder. The blade went straight to the bone.
“If you’re going to kill me then why don’t you just do it and get it over with,” Michael said as he yanked the knife out of his shoulder blade.
“Because I want you to SUFFER just like you made the others suffer,” Atoms replied.
Michael went to make a kick to Atoms groin area. Atoms blocked him and the fight continued. Michael didn’t forget about Atoms’ foot being injured, so he slammed his foot down on it sending Atoms to the floor. Atoms grabbed pepper spray and hit Michael in the face with it. It worked. Michael screamed in agony as the pepper spray burned his eyes, and he was blind.
“Paybacks are hell aren’t they Michael,” Atoms said with fury in his voice.
Michael charged at him blindly. Atoms took advantage of him being blind and threw him into the front door which was all glass. A woman had just pulled up when Michael went through the glass. As he was getting up, he rubbed his eyes and Atoms ran up to him and yelled to the lady, “Ma’am, you need to leave this is a crime scene and this man is a serial killer I’m trying to contain.”
The lady looked at him and said, “No problem. I’ll just call you some back up.”
As she got back in her car, Atoms noticed Michael was nowhere to be found. Then just as fast as he disappeared, he popped up in the lady’s car.
“You should’ve done what he told you to,” Michael said as he slit her throat.
“NOOOOOOOO,” Atoms yelled!
Then he ran over and slammed the door on Michael as he was getting out of the backseat. Michael howled in pain from the door crushing him. Atoms tried to get the lady to safety, but it was too late. She was dead. Michael had enough and kicked the doors off the hinges. After he got out of the car, he walked over to Atoms, picked him up like a rag doll and threw him into the outside wall of the veterinarian hospital.
“How does it feel little brother,” Michael asked?
Spitting up blood, Atoms got up and said, “You tell me.”
Once he was up, he charged at Michael and rammed his body into the wall but struggled with trying to ram his head into the wall. Michael resisted and fought back. He knocked over Atoms like he was a bunch of children’s playing blocks. Atoms struggled to get back up, and upon seeing this, Michael took advantage of the situation. He gave one swift kick to Atoms’ ribs. The wind was knocked out of his lungs. Then he heard the sweetest noise he had ever heard. Sirens were headed towards them. Michael heard them too and made a mad dash from the area.
It was the paramedics. When they arrived, Atoms was feeling light headed and dizzy from the confrontation. One of the paramedics climbed out of the back of the ambulance, and when he got closer, he instantly recognized Atoms.
“Jesus Christ. Detective Atoms, are you ok,” he asked?
Atoms shook his head yes, but when he got closer to check Atoms’ wounds, Atoms shoved him out of the way and started limping back to the car. The paramedic called out to him.
“Detective, stop. You are badly injured and need medical attention.”
Atoms didn’t care. He just wanted to get to Michael and finish what he started. The paramedic rushed over to the radio in the ambulance and notified local authorities to keep a look out for a white police cruiser with Orange County Sheriff’s Department on the side of the car. He also mentioned that Detective Atoms was back in Manatee County, and that he was badly injured and needed medical attention.
Reef drove down I-4 West hoping to catch sight of Atoms before anyone else did. Then as he was driving, his cell phone rang. Hoping it was Atoms, he answered it.
“Josh, it’s Scarlet. We have news on Atoms, and I thought you would like to hear the latest,” she said.
“Okay, give me the news,” Reef replied.
“He’s back in Manatee County still chasing his brother which also happens to be the ‘Santa Claus Killer’.”
“That’s good that he is still alive, but there is just one problem though.”
“What’s that,” Scarlet asked?
“I’m stuck in traffic on I-4 West, and I haven’t seen the I-75 South exit ramp yet. I’ll keep going till I find it.”
“Okay, I’ll see you both hopefully in one piece as soon as I can.”
They hung up at the same time. About fifty-six miles down I-4 West, he finally came upon the I-75 South interchange. Feeling relieved, he hurried down I-75. The drive was easier than he thought. About an hour and sixteen minutes had went by, and he was finally was on the Bradenton exit heading towards FL-64 West. Right before he turned on FL-64, his cell phone rang again. He looked at the number and immediately answered it.
“Officer Josh Reef speaking,” he said.
“Reef, it’s Jim,” the voice replied.
“Yes Captain, what can I do for you?”
“Nothing, I heard about what happened in Orlando. Now listen. I want to help find Atoms, and we know where he was last seen.”
“Where,” Reef asked?
“Some veterinarian hospital off SR-64. One of the paramedics that arrived on scene saw Atoms sitting outside of the clinic beaten and blood. He said he went to check out Atoms, but he pushed the paramedic out of the way and drove off.”
“Captain we need to find him ASAP, or we won’t have a suspect to prosecute.”
“What do you mean by that,” the captain asked?
“What I mean captain is that if Atoms gets a hold of our killer one more time, he will most certainly kill him, and the families of the victims will not have any peace.”
The phone went silent for a moment.
“Captain, are you still there,” Reef asked?
“Yes, I’m still here. What do you suggest we do,” the captain responded?
Reef breathed a sigh of relief, and then said, “the only thing we can do. Catch Atoms before he snaps.”
“What about our suspect,” the captain asked?
“We will catch him too.”
The captain agreed and hung up. Reef continued down FL-64 for a few minutes and then he saw the vet clinic the captain told him about. He pulled into the parking, and the first thing he noticed was glass all over the pavement and the crime scene unit van.
“What the hell happened here,” Reef asked?
“We have a dead body in there,” one of the techs said.
“Well no shit, but how do you explain the glass all over the ground?”
Reef walked over to the door of the clinic and showed the officer at the entrance to the crime scene his badge.
“Go on in Detective Reef. It’s a bloody mess in there,” the officer said.
When he walked in, he saw nothing out of the ordinary except the stuff that was broke and glass everywhere.
“Looks like there was a struggle in here,” Reef said.
“Yeah detective. Your partner was involved in the struggle too. His fingerprints are all over the walls and the floor, but he didn’t kill the vet,” a voice said behind him.
When Reef heard the voice, he knew who it was.
“I figured you would be here.”
He turned around and smiled. It was Slacia Nix.
“Boy am I glad to see you. I heard about Atoms. What the hell happened up there,” she asked?
“Long story. I’ll tell you later. Right now, I must find Atoms, and standing here isn’t doing me any good.”
“Well all I can tell you is that he was here.”
“I know. I heard.”
After talking with Slacia, he got into the car he used and left. Going down FL-64 he felt like something off about that place, so he raced back to the vet.
After Reef and everyone left, Slacia stayed behind to double check everything. The suddenly she heard a door open from somewhere in the vet. She started to head in the direction of where she heard the door open and shut. Then out of nowhere, a hand grabbed her and pulled her into another room and pinned her against the wall. It was Michael.
“You should’ve left when you had the chance little piggy. Now you are going to die and for what. Huh,” he said with venom in his voice.
He brought out a scalpel and went to slit her throat but decided to torture her. She was helpless within his grasp. Instead of cutting her up some, he decided to string her up through the ceiling and went for her feet. She thought he was going to cut her feet off, so she kicked at him. She missed. He grabbed one foot at a time and cut her Achilles tendons. As he taunted her, he untied her from the ceiling knowing she couldn’t walk.
“Run little girl. If you can get up and walk out of here, then you are free to go,” He taunted her.
She tried crawling across the floor to safety. Michael just watched as she bled out all over the floor and then picked her up. She screamed. A few minutes later there was silence as Michael walked out and left with her car and headed further into Manatee County.
When Reef showed back up, there was nobody around except one car. He ran back inside and called for Slacia, but there was no answer.
Reef checked every room in the clinic calling out to see if there was anybody still there. The back door was shut, but he knew that didn’t mean anything, so he kept walking towards the door. As he walked by the last room on his left, he noticed a body hanging from the ceiling by the hands. The body was missing a face though, but when Reef looked down, he almost threw up. Slacia’s face looked up at him from the ground. Atoms had to get out of there before he contaminated the scene. “Atoms’ brother must have come back to try and clean up his mess and Slacia got in his way, he thought.
Once he walked back outside, he radioed for backup, forensics and paramedics stat. He couldn’t put the scene out of his mind. Atoms is going to be pissed when he finds out, but if I can convince him to let the department handle the case, then I might be able to keep him out of harm’s way.
The paramedics were first on the scene. Reef couldn’t bare to be there anymore even though he was the first responding officer, so he decided to leave. But right as he was about to pull out, one of the paramedics came out to get him.
“Detective, you are going to want to see this,” he said.
“No thanks. I’ve seen all I wanted to see,” Reef replied.
He started heading towards the car to leave when his cell phone went off. The number was unknown. At first, he wasn’t going to answer it, but he decided to anyways.
“Hello,” he said.
“Josh, it’s Will.”
“Where the hell are you Will? We have been trying to find you all night.”
“No time for that now Josh. Michael is still on the loose. He might head back to Orlando. I’m not sure of that yet, but make sure he—.”
“Will, I’m not in Orlando. I’m back in our county looking for you. Now tell me where you are at.”
“Sorry partner, I can’t do that just yet. Just know that I’m ok.”
Right as Atoms was about to hang up Reef said, “Will Michael is still in Manatee County.”
“How do you know for sure,” Atoms asked?
“Because he struck again.”
“At the vet clinic off SR-64. Listen Will, he struck close to home for both of us.”
There was nothing but silence on the other end, and then Will asked, “Who was it this time?”
“It was Slacia Nix,” Reef replied.
“Stay there. I’m on my way now!”
“No Will. They won’t let you in the crime—”
Click! The line went dead. As soon as Atoms hung up, Reef called their supervisor Lieutenant Lisa Slade. She answered on the first ring.
“Lieutenant Slade speaking,” she said.
“Lieutenant, it’s Reef,” he replied.
“Reef? Why are you calling me on this line instead of the radio?”
“I need a huge favor from you.”
“What can I do for you detective?”
“I need backup ASAP! Atoms is on his way here, and it’s going to take a lot more than just me to hold him back from the crime scene.”
“Its Dr. Nix ma’am. She’s dead, and Atoms knows.”
“Did ya’ll catch our suspect yet?”
“That’s a negative Lieutenant. Ever since the incident at the old Sunland Mental Hospital, he has been trying to kill the suspect. If he gets his hands on the guy, we will have another death on our hands and a damn good detective out of a job.”
“Stay there! I’m on my way to where you are at. Which by the way where are you,” She asked?
“I ‘m at the old vet clinic off SR-64 right across from Wal-Mart.”
“You mean Cottonwood Veterinarian Hospital?”
“That’s the one.”
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
She had already hung up. Reef sat and waited. Ten minutes later a police cruiser pulled into the parking lot. The only problem was, it wasn’t Manatee County Sheriffs Department. It was white and green like their cruisers, but on the side, it said Orange County. Reef sat up and reached for his pistol. The person that got out of the car though was not who expected. It was Atoms bloody, bruised, and almost raving mad. His eyes were a bloodshot read and his breathing was labored. Reef rushed over to help him, but Atoms told him to stay where he was.
“Don’t move Josh. It could be a trap.”
“What could be a trap,” Reef asked.
“Your car could be rigged with a bomb set to detonate if you move,” Atoms said.
“Will, he’s not here. I’ve looked. Plus, I just got here about thirty minutes ago.”
Atoms stopped and asked, “Who else did you talk to besides me?”
“Just the Captain and Lieutenant… Oh shit! He’s going after everyone close to you,” Reef replied.
Atoms stared at the ground for a few minutes scratching his chin debating on what he should do next, and then he headed back to the police cruiser.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going,” Reef asked?
“To end this nightmare once and for all,” Atoms said with a grim tone to his voice.
“Stay out of this Josh! It’s not your fight.”
Reef looked at Atoms in shock. He has never acted that way before, he thought to himself.
“Look Will, he killed some of my friends too. Now either let me go with you or I’ll shoot out the tires. I swear to God I’ll do it.”
Atoms considered what Reef said for a moment, and then unlocked the passenger side door.
“I’m glad you came to your senses finally,” Reef remarked.
Atoms stared forward and said, “Me too.”
Reef went to close the door, when Atoms hit the gas pedal hard and pushed Reef out of the car.
“Will, what in the hell are you trying to do? Kill me?”
“No, but like I told you before I don’t want you getting involved. You have been through thick and thin with me, and I thank you for that.”
Atoms handed over his badge to Reef.
“What in the hell is this for,” Reef asked?
“Tell the captain when he shows up that I said that I’m sorry and hand him my badge,” Atoms replied.
Reef looked over at the driver side window and said, “Why don’t you tell him yourself?”
Atoms looked over and saw the captain with his hand out.
“Captain. What can I do for you,” Atoms asked?
“Get out of the car and hand over the keys Will.”
“Listen Captain, this psycho has killed my family and my friends.”
“I know son, but if you don’t let us handle this, he’ll kill you too.”
Atoms finally got out of the car. Reef came up behind him to cuff for safety. The forensics van had pulled in, but something wasn’t right. They came in wildly which is not like them. Atoms had a bad feeling and pushed Reef and the captain into the car, slammed the doors, and jumped over the hood fearing the worst. Once the van stopped, the techs were about to turn off the vehicle, when Atoms yelled at them not to turn off the engine. They didn’t hear him. BOOM! The van was engulfed in flames. All Atoms could hear was the screams of the technicians as they were burned up in the van. The scent of burnt flesh clouded the air.
The captain got out of the car and said, “Damn it Atoms! How in the hell did you know about—”
BANG! He fell to the ground with a bullet hole in the middle of his skull about the size of a quarter. The captain was dead. Reef and Atoms ran for cover, but there were no more bullets being fired. They looked at each other in confusion. Then they heard a familiar voice.
“Come on out little brother,” Michael said.
“Drop your gun first asshole, and I will,” Atoms replied!
“You know that was quite a thrill watching that van go up in flames. I’m glad I wired it before they came back here, and before the good and pretty looking Lieutenant Slade came walking out.”
He had been at the precinct watching the lieutenant before he followed the crime scene van and blew it up.
“Got to love explosives,” He said.
“I thought you were a man to man guy not some coward who uses explosives,” Atoms responded.
“I’m no damn coward little brother. You are.”
Atoms finally came flying out of coverage and headed towards Michael.
“Will, no,” Reef screamed.
It was too late. Atoms had his gun aimed dead center of Michael’s chest.
“Well you wanted to kill. Here I am. Personally I don’t think you have the balls to pull the trigger,” Michael continued to taunt.
“The hell I don’t asshole,” Atoms screamed!
He pulled the trigger but slipped on some rocks and hit Michael in the foot. Michael howled like a scalded dog but stood up and shot Atoms in the hip. They went down at the same time, but Michael got back up and limped towards Atoms. Reef saw what he was about to do, and before Michael could raise his gun again, Reef shot him the same shoulder where Atoms had previously stabbed him with a Bowie Knife. Paramedics from a different firehouse arrived on scene. Atoms and Michael were both lying on the ground writhing on the ground in pain. The first person the medics tended to was Atoms. As they were putting Atoms on a gurney, Reef immediately ordered that Atoms and Michael be put in two different ambulances.
The paramedic in charge put in an order for another ambulance to transport Michael. While they were waiting on the other ambulance to show up, Reef placed Michael in handcuffs with his hands in front of him. The paramedics tended to his wounds as best as they could until they could get him to a hospital. Fifteen minutes later, another ambulance pulled in and unloaded the stretcher. The paramedics picked Michael off the ground and loaded him on to the gurney and put him in the back strapped down and locked the straps. Both ambulances headed for Manatee Memorial Hospital.
The ambulance that brought in Atoms pulled into the emergency entrance. Doctors and nurses waited. Everyone was put on high alert. Throughout the ride there, Atoms had lost a lot of blood and was barely conscience. By the time they got him into the trauma unit the bleeding had stopped. He kept going in and out of conscience though. Dr. Bekah Carmichael was going to be the one to operate on him. It was six-thirty in the morning of New Year’s Day, and she was ready to get started.
While the nurses got Atoms ready for X-Ray, Michael’s ambulance pulled into the other side of the emergency entrance. The paramedics rushed him in. Another doctor showed up and asked what had happened.
The paramedic in charge said, “He has multiple gunshot wounds and a wound where he was stabbed at.”
The doctor looked over Michael and noticed where the stab wound was there was no blade in sight nor a handle to pull it out with.
“Can you hear me son,” the doctor asked?
In a barely audible voice Michael said, “Yes.”
“Can you tell me where the blade is?”
Michael was fading in and out. One of the paramedics stepped up and said, “I do. The blade is in his shoulder deep. As far as the handle we haven’t seen it.”
“Okay, let’s get him in here right away for surgery. If the blade stays in any longer it will get infected worse than what it is now. Were you able to stop the bleeding,” the doctor asked?
“Yes, but we weren’t taking any chances. My crew has been keeping an eye on him the whole way here,” the paramedic in charge said.
“Okay. We will take it from here. Thank you.”
The paramedic smiled and walked away with his crew. After they left the doctor ordered for Michael to be taken to X-Ray. He needed to see how deep the blade went if they were going to get it out. After that he was to be taken to be prepped and ready for immediate surgery.
Dr. Carmichael began getting ready to start the surgery on Atoms’ wounds, but when he came out of X-Ray, he was barely conscience. She decided to go ahead and sew up his knife wound in the foot.
“I want gauze bandages on that foot and get him ready for surgery,” she said.
“Yes doctor,” the assistant replied.
While they were prepping him for surgery, Atoms started to wake up. He was still a little groggy, but he knew there was medical staff around him.
“What the hell is going…Ouch,” he said!
Dr. Carmichael had just walked in when she saw that her patient was away.
“You’re in Manatee Memorial Hospital,” she said to him.
“Yeah, No shit doc. The question is why am I here,” he asked.
“You were badly injured and were brought here. There is a gun-shot wound in your hip, a knife wound in your foot that I already stitched up, and six broken bones. You are lucky the paramedics got to you in time. Now sit back and relax. We still have to prep you for surgery.”
Atoms eyes lit up and he said, “GET ME READY FOR WHAT?!”
Next thing everybody knew, Atoms passed out again. They had to work fast in order to get him ready for the operation. Once they were done, they pushed him towards the anesthesiologist. He woke up right before the anesthesiologist put the mask on to make him go back to sleep. He was out in no time flat.
Dr. Carmichael looked at the x-rays before walking into the operating room. She noticed that the bullet didn’t go very deep. That gave her some relief. The bullet was only about two inches deep in skin. It was more like a flesh wound than anything. When she walked into the operating room, she thought to herself, this is going to be an easy operation.
Once everything got started it was no time before they got to the bullet, but with one complication. The bullet kept lodging itself forwards every time she tried to grab it.
Michael was prepped and ready for surgery. His doctor from the beginning was Dr. Thomas Kibble. Kibble had been preparing for the operation ever since they got the call. Michael was still knocked out from the shot the paramedics gave to him in order to keep him calm. Once everything was set and ready to go, they wheeled him down to the second operating room in the trauma unit. The anesthesiologist went to put the mask on him, but the doctor said there was no need. Dr. Kibble wasted no time on getting started. The shoulder that had been infected started having pus come out of it. The nurses and assistants raced to get it cleaned up before gangrene settled in. Dr. Kibble raced over to where the blade had been settling and saw that wet gangrene was starting to settle in the shoulder. He knew that if he didn’t get a stop on it, the gangrene would travel down Michael’s arm and they would then have to amputate it. Kibble raced against time to get the situation under control, and that’s when it hit him. He would have to start with getting the blade out first and go from there. The surgery was going to take at least four or five hours.
Dr. Carmichael was just about finished with Atoms when she got another call for another trauma victim.
“Get him into recovery NOW! We have another trauma patient that needs help”
When she heard it was Michael and that another doctor was on their way to trauma two to help, she looked back and said, “Bring him back. I still need to clean up and dress his wounds.”
The surgery was a success. After cleaning him up, she sent him to recovery. Reef had been waiting in the waiting room the whole time. He was also waiting for Atoms to get a room so they could go see him. Not to mention, Half of the Manatee Sheriff’s Department was there as well. When Dr. Carmichael came out to give the update on Atoms’ condition, Reef was already waiting at the door.
“Well doc, what’s the news on my partner,” Reef asked?
“His condition is stable. He’s in recovery right now, but he is still sleeping. You will be able to see him once we get him into a room,” she replied.
Reef sat back down in relief.
“Thank god he made it,” he said to the other deputies that were there.
Then without warning, Lieutenant Slade showed up five minutes later.
“How is he,” she asked.
Reef stood up and said, “He’s in stable condition. Thankfully the bullet didn’t go too deep. He’s in recovery right now. The doctor said we could see him as soon as they get him a room.”
“Good I’ll wait with you to go up and see him.”
About four hours later, the doctor came out and told them that he would be in room T447. Everybody headed up to the room. Atoms was awake when they got there.
“How you feeling partner,” Reef asked?
“Like shit. How about you,” Atoms replied?
“Did they ever get the bullet out of your shoulder?”
“Now that you mentioned it, it turns out that the bullet grazed my shoulder. It didn’t go in.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Michael’s surgery was far from over. The infection kept getting worse and worse, but the doctor did manage to get both bullets out of his shoulders. Michael was still bleeding, and pus was still coming out as the gangrene rapidly descended into his arm. When the doctor opened his shoulder to get the blade out, he realized then that the blade was stuck in bone. There was no time for thinking about how to do it. I can’t damage the nerves and tissue anymore than what they already are, he thought to himself. After that, he went straight for the edge of the blade with his pair of hemostats to close off the area where the pus was coming out. Then he grabbed a pair of pliers and began to pull the blade out.
While he was pulling the blade out, he started thinking. I need to know how if broke off in the first place once the surgery is done.
Four hours had passed since he started the surgery, and finally, he got the blade out. He knew he had to patch up the wound, so he began doing that when a nurse walked up to him saying that there was a lady here to see Michael.
“Is she a friend or family,” the doctor asked?
The nurse went out and checked with the mysterious woman who had come to see Michael. Then when she came back in, the doctor was already getting washed up.
“She said she is a friend,” the nurse replied to the doctor’s question.
“Just tell her to have a seat and we will update her in a little bit.”
The paramedics were already gone, so there was no way of asking them. Instead, he would have to ask Michael when he woke up. This was not going to be easy. He had heard about what Michael and his accomplices did. After cleaning up some more, he ordered Michael to be taken to recovery, and then went to see the young woman who was patiently waiting for an update on Michael’s condition.
“Hello. I’m Dr. Kibble. I’m the one that operated on Mr. Atoms,” he said.
“How is he doing doctor? Did he make it,” she asked?
“He’s in stable condition, but we are going to have to keep a close eye on him. Gangrene is starting to set it and we must get that under control before he loses an arm. He is in recovery right now, but as soon as he gets a room you can go see him. I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”
“Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn Shannon.”
“Nice to meet you Ms. Shannon. Like I said, Michael is in recovery and we are keeping a close eye on his shoulder. Once he is awake and gets a room, I’ll have my nurse to come and get you. Please help yourself to the complimentary snacks and coffee while you wait.”
After the doctor left, Kaitlyn made herself at home. He never said how long it would be, she thought to herself and then passed out.
While Michael was in recovery, Atoms had already gotten his room. Everybody was fixing to leave when Atoms sat up and said, “Thank you everyone for coming down here and supporting me on this surgery. Thank god the bullet didn’t go into deep, and I made it out alive.”
After everyone else left, Reef shut the door behind them.
“What are you two still doing here,” Atoms asked.
“To keep an eye on you, that’s what we are still doing here,” Slade said.
“Look I know it has been a hellacious two weeks on everyone, but you two could also use a break. Go home. I’ll be fine. Ya’ll can come visit some more tomorrow.”
Reef sat up and said, “Will, I’m not going anywhere until you completely recover. You always have been and always will be my best friend.”
Lieutenant Slade looked over and said, “First and foremost, I stayed behind because I want you to get better. Second, I am giving you paid leave for as long as you need it. Third I will be guarding you tonight, and last but least the FBI is coming to ask you some questions about your brother Michael.”
What do you mean they are coming to ask questions about Michael? I don’t know anything about him except what he told me and that I hated him,” Atoms said.
“What do you mean you hated?”
“Just what I said. He’s dead right? I saw Reef shoot him and he fell. Not to mention I stabbed him in the shoulder blade.”
Reef and Slade looked at each. Now they knew how the knife came into the picture. Atoms looked at both with a puzzled look.
“Okay someone better let me in on what the hell is going on. You two look like I said something that caught your interest and acted very strange when I said Michael was dead. So, tell me what the hell is going on that I don’t know about.”
Reef spoke up and said, “Look Will, we got him, but he’s not dead.”
“What do you mean he’s not dead,” Atoms asked with anger in his voice.
“When you shot him, you slipped and hit him in the foot. At the same time, he shot you in the hip. Then after he fell, he came towards you ready to shoot you again, so I shot him in the same shoulder you stabbed him in.”
“I need to get out of here and go find this bastard and kill once and for all.”
“You can’t Will. He is in here too. I just don’t know if he is still in surgery or if he is in recovery. Anyway, when he does come out of surgery and recovery, he will be under 24-hour surveillance until he has recovered enough to be brought to jail.”
Lieutenant Slade had heard enough. She looked Atoms dead in the face and said, “Let’s face the facts Atoms. You are in no shape to go anywhere or do anything. Now lay your ass down and get some rest. Me and Reef will be right outside.”
Atoms relaxed, laid back down and fell asleep. Reef was about to walk over to Lieutenant Slade when a group of men in casual dress walked up.
“FBI. We are here to speak to Detective Atoms.”
“I’m sorry agents you will have to come back tomorrow he’s sleeping, and he just came out of surgery,” Slade had said.
“I hate repeating myself Lieutenant, but since as you are hard of hearing I’ll say it again. We are here to speak to Detective—”
Reef stepped in and said, “Like the lieutenant told you he just came out of surgery, and you’re not speaking to him right now. He needs his rest.”
The head agent walked over to the Lieutenant and said, “Lieutenant if you and your subordinate don’t step aside, you two will both be under arrest for impeding a federal investigation. Michael Atoms is our suspect now.”
“BULLSHIT! He is our suspect. We caught him here in Florida, so you have no jurisdiction here Agent Better Homes and Garden,” she insulted him.
Reef grew angry and clenched his fist. Slade saw this and made no attempt to stop what was about to happen.
“You listen here you hard nose prick. Nobody, and I do mean Nobody is going in there unless they are family or friends. GOT THAT ASSHOLE,” Reef said seething with anger!
The agent went to place handcuffs on Reef, but the lieutenant stepped in the middle.
“STEP ASIDE LIEUTENANT OR YOU WILL BE PLACED IN HANDCUFFS AS WELL,” the agent said already beat red with anger!
Slade didn’t budge.
“Gentlemen if you all don’t leave now, I will report you to your Director of Operations,” she said with a stern look on her face.
The lead agent went beat red again. This time with embarrassment. He turned around to leave, but Reef was right in his face.
“I’ll tell my partner when he wakes up that you were here,” Reef said.
The agent went to go leave, but Reef hit him in the face.
“That’s going to cost you detective,” he said as he was leaving.
The other agents lifted him off the ground and left in embarrassment as well. Then after they were gone, Dr. Carmichael came in to check on Atoms. She noticed that the agents were leaving with beet red faces.
“I see your meeting with the FBI went well,” she said sarcastically.
“Oh no better than any other time doc,” Reef answered.
“How is my favorite patient doing,” she asked.
“He’s sleeping hopefully doc,” Reef replied.
“I’ll come by later then,” she said as she walked off.
Michael finally came out of recovery. As they took him to his room, he saw a familiar face. One he hasn’t seen in years, but he was still a little groggy, so he didn’t know if he was hallucinating or not.
There is no way that could be her, he thought to himself.
When they pulled him into his room, he was still looking at her trying to figure out where he knew her from. After the medical staff left, he saw the woman talking to a doctor.
Is that the doctor who operated on me, he wondered?
After the doctor left, the woman came in and sat down next to him.
“Who are you and why are you in my room,” he asked?
“I figured you wouldn’t recognize me with my long raven black hair,” the woman replied.
Michael studied her face a little more, and finally, he recognized her.
“Kaitlyn,” he asked in shock?!
“The one and only,” she replied.
“How did you find me,” Michael asked.
“Never mind all that. I have been keeping a close eye on you and these murders, and I’ve come to help you get revenge on those who stopped you.”
Michael’s eyes lit up with interest. He had an idea what she was planning in doing. He sat up and listened to her reveal her plan. An hour later, he had dozed off due to all the medication he was on. Kaitlyn went to go sit down and wait till he woke back up. She heard someone opening the door, so she hid until the person left. It was a cop. She hated cops. The sheriff’s deputy came in to make sure that Michael’s restraints were still on tight. After the cop left, she over heard him say to a nurse that he would be right back he was going to get some coffee from the vending machine. While he was gone, she slipped out making sure nobody was around and headed out.
“I’ll see you soon babe,” she whispered into Michael’s ear as she left.
Then she disappeared without a trace.
Dr. Carmichael came back a few hours later to check on Atoms. He was sound asleep until Reef and Lieutenant Slade woke him up.
“Will, wake up man. Dr. Carmichael is here to see you.,” Reef said.
Atoms slowly opened his eyes as he was trying to wake up from his long nap. Then in a weary voice he said, “Good to see you doc. How is my progress?”
“Well you just had surgery this morning, so it’s still too early to tell. We will make sure you are in good health before we discharge you,” she replied.
Reef noticed something about Atoms but didn’t say anything. Atoms had a spark in his eyes. He was also smiling the whole time while the doctor checked him out. Atoms noticed Reef and Lieutenant Slade talking very low.
What the hell are they talking about, he thought to himself.
“He won’t be smiling, once he finds out that Michael is in the room opposite of him,” Reef whispered to the lieutenant.
Just as the doctor finished looking him over, Atoms reached up and gave Dr. Carmichael his card.
“Call me if you ever want to have dinner or drinks with me doc,” he said with a wink.
The doctor smiled and walked out. Reef and Slade weren’t too far behind her, when Atoms gave Reef the thumbs up and went back to sleep. When they got into the hallway. Reef walked over to the doctor and asked, “About how long will it take him to recover?”
“Three weeks,” she said.
“How in the hell are we supposed to keep the fact that his sworn enemy right across the hall from him,” Reef asked?
“Simple, don’t,” she said as she walked away.
Reef considered what the doctor said and looked back in on Atoms. Thankfully, he was sound asleep and didn’t hear a word. Lieutenant Slade looked over at Reef and said, “Go home and rest. Atoms will be fine. I’m sending over Sergeant Blanchard to guard Michael.”
“It’s not Atoms I’m worried about. I’m worried about Michael,” Reef said.
“It will be fine. Now go home and get some rest,” Slade replied.
Reef nodded and headed down the hallway, when he bumped into Blanchard.
“Oops, sorry there mister…oh wait, hey it’s you Ramon. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bump into you there.”
“Hey. It’s ok. I’ve heard about the rough time you and Will had with this guy,” Ramon replied.
“Yeah it’s been pretty rough. Just watch your ass with him he is super intelligent and is quick to react. Also, please for the love of God, do not let Will get in there otherwise it will be a blood bath,” Reef said to him.
“Thanks for the advice. You have a good night Josh.”
The two went in separate ways, when Reef looked back and said “Watch your ass Ramon. This one is dangerous.”
Ramon nodded and continued towards his post. As Reef headed for the entrance, he looked outside and saw that it was pouring down.
Good thing the walkway has a canopy over it, or I would be drowned out there.
As he walked to the elevator to get to his car, he couldn’t help but to worry about his partner. They had been through some rough times together. Atoms and he grew up with each other’s side, but they really saw some hard times when they got on the force together. The walkway that went from the entrance of the hospital to the parking garage was empty and the garage alone looked like an old abandoned building. Reef wasn’t scared, but the thought of not having his partner around for a while was enough to put shivers down his spine.
Just as he went to get on the elevator, an alarm sounded off inside the hospital.
What the hell is going on? Shit, Will must have saw Michael across the hall, Reef thought to himself.
He went rushing to doors to get it, just in case, they needed help. Security guards were running all over the place. Reef showed his badge to one of the guards.
“What the hell is going on in there? Why can’t I get in,” he asked playing dumb?
“A patient attacked another patient. The other security guards are having a hard time getting in the room, so we have the entire hospital on lockdown,” the guard replied.
Who are the Patients, if I may ask,” Reef asked?
“Detective Will Atoms and his brother Michael Atoms also known as the Santa killer.”
“Shit! Let me through. I can handle this,” Reef said.
“Sorry, can’t do that detective. Not until we are given the all clear from the head of security”
“Look I get it. You are just doing your job, but if you don’t let me in there will be a death in that hospital and not from disease either.”
The security guard moved out of the way and let Reef through. Racing towards the nearest elevator, he noticed that the elevator was shut down and ran to the stairwell near him up to the fourth floor. When he got there, he ran down the hall towards Michael’s room. Inside he could hear Atoms yelling and screaming at Michael. When Reef looked down, he saw Blanchard on the ground being treated for a head wound. The other security guards had no way of getting in, and Atoms had the door locked, so nobody could get in.
“DIE YOU BASTARD! JUST DIE ALREADY,” Atoms was saying!
He was getting weaker and weaker by the minute, but then Adrenaline kicked in. Michael was at Atoms mercy by being restrained to the bed. He tried fighting Atoms off, but Atoms kept coming back. Then suddenly, one of the stitches broke, and Atoms started to lose blood. Then he fell hitting the rolling table next to the bed. CRASH! After hitting the table, he fell to the floor.
Reef rammed the door as hard as he could to find out what had crashed to the floor, but it was no use the heavy wooden doors were almost unbreakable. Then he had an idea.
“Go get the janitor somebody please. I need a flathead screwdriver to knock these pins out of the hinges.”
After waiting for about ten minutes, one of the other security guards came rushing up with the janitor on duty for that floor. Once Reef got the pins out, and the door was removed, he went rushing in and found Atoms lying on the floor unconscious. They rushed him down to the operating room.
Dr. Carmichael was about to get off shift when she heard her name called over the intercom.
“Dr. Carmichael to OR one please. Dr. Carmichael to OR one,” the voice said.
She rushed to the operating room. Then she remembered all the commotion about a patient going after another patient. It didn’t occur to her that it was Atoms they were talking about until she got to the operating room.
“What the hell happened here,” she asked in a raised tone?
“They found him laying on the floor of Michael Atoms’ room,” one of the nurses told her.
Reef checked in on Sergeant Blanchard.to see if he was ok and to see what happened.
“What happened Sergeant,” Reef asked?
“Detective Atoms came walking around the corner when he noticed me sitting near the room. He started to say hi, and things were going smoothly, until I told him why I was guarding the room. Once he found out it was Michael Atoms’ room, he went crazy. The nurse that was with him tried calming him down, but it didn’t help. Then after she went to go get help, he just looked at me and said he was sorry. The next thing I knew he hit me in the face and knocked me out. When I came to, I noticed noises coming from the suspect’s room. It was Detective Atoms with a piece of broken glass in his hand. He must have broken the mirror to get the shard of glass to stab Michael in his bad arm with when I caught him. It was no use though. The son-of- bitch used defibrillator pads on me to knock me out the door. That’s when he locked the door, and this has been going on ever since. If it hadn’t been for you, He would have died trying to kill Michael,” Blanchard said.
After talking to Sergeant Blanchard, Reef walked into the room to see if Michael was still alive. The doctor came in and introduced himself.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Kibble,” he said.
“Detective Reef. Nice to meet you doctor. Now what can you tell me about your patient here,” Reef replied.
“Well Detective, when he came into the hospital, he had several wounds as you know. One of them was a knife wound in his shoulder, but what nobody knew is that the knife blade had been broken off inside his shoulder. He eventually came down with gangrene.”
After talking to Dr. Kibble, he went down to check on his partner. It was being said that Atoms made it. They had resewed the stitch that broke, stopped the bleeding and was wheeling him back up to his room.
Dr. Kibble came back to Reef and said, “We have to amputate Michael’s arm in order to keep him alive. The gangrene and the infection he developed while he was in here has gotten worse.”
Reef just looked at Kibble and said, “You mean to tell me that my partner did major damage to Michael’s arm. I mean I did see blood on the sheets but I…”
“No Detective, what I’m saying is the infection got worse due to Michael trying to defend himself. All Detective Atoms did was cut open some pus pockets and they started to bleed. So, if I don’t get him in the operating room, he will die very soon as in days,” the doctor replied.
Reef knew that if Michael died while in the hospital that they would blame Atoms, and he would be kicked off the force and charged with first degree murder. There was no way he was going to let that happen. He walked over to Dr. Kibble and told him to go ahead with the surgery.
After everything settled down, Reef went to check on Atoms. He was heavily sedated. Reef left the room to make an important phone call to Lieutenant Slade.
“Lieutenant, we have a problem. Michael is back in surgery,” he said.
“What happened,” she asked?
“His infection got worse, and they are going to amputate his arm in order to keep him alive. I went ahead and gave the go ahead to do the procedure.”
“Fine. Anything else you want to tell me?
“Yes, Atoms has gone nuts. He knocked out Sergeant Blanchard and attacked Michael. I’m telling you, we need to move Michael away from Atoms before he actually succeeds in killing him.”
“I understand your concern Detective, and I’ll look into immediately. Where are the two of them now?”
“Atoms is in his room and Michael is in the operating room having his arm amputated.”
“Ok, I’ll be there shortly.”
Click. She hung up the phone and got in her car and headed for the hospital, and Reef was left with more questions than answers.
Four hours had passed, and Michael was still unconscious from the anesthetics. The doctor looked worried. Had he just killed his patient? He worried that they were too late in amputating his arm. Michael started to stir a little bit, but he didn’t wake up. Kibble hadn’t said anything to anyone, but he knew there was more to it than just a knife wound and cuts from pieces of glass.
Extensive damage from the knife and the glass mirror tore through too much muscle, tissue, and vessels to make surgery a valuable option, so amputation was the only way to go in order to save his life. After he had removed Michael’s arm, he had sealed up the arteries.
Michael called for the doctor after waking up two hours later realizing that something wasn’t right.
“Okay doctor, tell me what in the hell happened”, Michael asked in a demanding tone?
The doctor grew pale because he knew Michael was not going to be happy.
“We had to remove your arm in order to save your life,” Kibble replied.
“Do me favor doc. Next time just let me die ok?”
As Michael started to get up and walk around, he got nauseous and wobbly. Kibble grabbed Michael by the only arm he had left. Michael looked at him with his fierce violet eyes.
“GET YOUR GODDAMN FILTHY HANDS OFF OF ME, NOW!”
The doctor let go immediately fearful of what Michael might do if he didn’t. Michael walked over to where the broken mirror was. Staring at the spot where the mirror used to be, he asked, “Who did this? Was it my little brother?”
The anesthetics were starting to wear off and things became a little bit clearer. Kibble just stood there while Michael waited for an answer.
“I’ll tell you something doc. All I remember is my little brother standing over me and stabbing with something. What was it?”
Kibble knew there was no use in telling the big man half- truths, so he said, “Yes Detective Atoms was.”
“That didn’t answer my question. Why the hell was he in my room stabbing me?”
The doctor hung his head in shame and responded with, “He was trying to kill you, and nobody could stop him. In the end it was his partner Detective Reef who stopped after trying to pull him off you.”
Michael looked at him with hate and contempt in his eyes. As he walked towards Kibble, the doctor shrank in fear and whimpered like a child. Sergeant Blanchard heard the commotion and walked in. When he saw what was going on. The doctor was checking Michael to see if there were any more wounds.
As soon as Blanchard closed the door, Kibble tried to move but it was no use. Michael got up and covered the doctor’s mouth.
“Listen doc and listen good. You are going to restrain me and take me to get fitted for my new arm. If you try anything to get away, I’ll crush your head like an aluminum soda can. GOT IT!”
The doctor nodded and began to restrain Michael. After he was secured, Kibble wheeled them out in the hall. Blanchard had already come out prior to the doctor restraining him. He watched them carefully as they walked down the hallway. Something just isn’t right, thought Blanchard.
After Michael and the doctor were out of sight, Kibble strolled down the hallway to an elevator that would take them to the prosthetics lab. Michael was getting antsy. Five minutes later they were down on the first floor where the lab was located. Kibble pushed the bed into the room even though he knew it would barely fit. Once in the room Michael told the doctor to take the restraints off, so he could sit up. Kibble did as he was told.
With a fierce tone, Michael ordered Kibble to do exactly what he wanted.
“I don’t want a prosthetic arm. Instead I want you or whoever makes these damn things to make me a robotic arm that way I can control it myself.”
“I can’t do that Mr. Atoms. It is almost impossible to make a robotic prosthetic here at the hospital.”
Michael grabbed the doctor by the throat slowly crushing his larynx and windpipe.
“I told you what I wanted. Now either you do as I say or call someone who can do it. Keep in mind that if you screw up then I will kill you where you stand. All I have to do is squeeze a little harder, and you will be dead in a matter of seconds.”
The doctor was on the verge of passing out until he said, “I would have to call in and order it and then you will have your robotic arm.”
Michael threw him across the room with his other arm. Security came rushing in to see what all the commotion was about. Michael stayed quiet. One of the security guards out for the doctor.
“Doctor Kibble, are you in here?”
The doctor came too and answered, “Yes, I’m here. Everything is fine. I’m just getting my patient fitted with a new arm. You gentleman can leave now”
They left immediately. After the door shut, Michael got up off the bed and picked the doctor up by the collar and gave him an evil look.
“Don’t piss me off doc or you won’t be the only one laying dead in the floor next time.”
“We don’t have any robotic arms here, but I will put in an order for you to get one. However, I will not be the one doing the procedure. Another doctor will come and do the fitting and the procedure.”
Michael broke the restraints and walked over to Kibble and proceeded to crush the doctor’s head with one hand. Feeling the pain Kibble asked, “Why are you doing this? I kept my word.”
Michael said nothing. Kibble had no time to scream as the sides of his head began to buckle under the pressure of Michael’s meaty hand. After the skull caved in the jaw crumbled too. The doctor’s eyeballs began popping out of their sockets shooting ooze everywhere. Finally, after a minute and a half the brain finally was crushed and squirted out brain matter.
To add insult to injury, Michael wiped off the brain matter that had splattered all over him on the doctor’s clothes and laid on the floor pretending to be hurt.
After two hours of being gone, Sergeant Blanchard went to look for Dr. Kibble and Michael. A security guard was walking down the hall when Blanchard approached him.
“Excuse me son, have you seen Dr, Kibble and his patient Michael Atoms,” Blanchard asked?
“Yes officer, they were in the prosthetics lab last time I saw them,” the security guard told him.
“Did anyone check on them? They have been gone for over two hours.”
“Last time anyone checked on them, everything was fine. Mr. Atoms was getting fitted with a prosthetic arm.”
Blanchard knew something wasn’t right.
“Call for back up. I am going down to the prosthetics lab and make sure everything is kosher. I think Mr. Atoms is looking to escape.”
Immediately the security guard called for all available staff and guards.
“Do you know how to get to the prosthetics lab?”
“Yes, now get me some help down there. I’ll meet you there.”
Blanchard raced down the to the elevators and headed for the Prosthetics lab. When he got to the door security hadn’t shown up yet, so he walked up to the it and knocked.
“Dr. Kibble, everything okay in there,” he asked?
There was no answer. Blanchard drew his gun in case Michael was waiting to strike. Then suddenly, he heard someone in the room groaning like they were in pain. When security got there, they unlocked the door and saw two bodies laying on the floor. One was Dr. Kibble and the other one belonged to Michael. Immediately they ran to get help. Blanchard didn’t seem to think both bodies were alive and decided not to wait for security. He instantly called the scene in.
Dispatch, this is Sergeant Blanchard. I am at Manatee Memorial Hospital with two bodies laying on the floor in the prosthetics lab. I need some back up. I’m not really sure both are dead.”
A voice came back over the radio.
“Roger that sergeant. Can you identify the bodies?”
“Yes. One is Dr. Thomas Kibble and the other body is that of Michael Atoms.”
The voice came back over the radio.
“Copy that. Sending all available units over to your current position.”
Blanchard breathed a sigh of relief, but then Michael moved. The young sergeant immediately put Michael in restraints until help arrived. Thirty minutes after Blanchard put in the call, Reef showed up.
“Jesus Christ! What the hell happened Ramon,” he asked?
“The doctor decided to take our prime suspect down to the prosthetics lab. That was two hours ago. When they didn’t come back, I asked the security guard if he had seen the good doctor and Michael Atoms. He told me that they had seem them in the lab, and that the doctor said everything was ok. I didn’t think everything was ok, so we headed down there and checked on them again, and that’s when I heard someone groaning in the room. After that I called dispatch and ordered back up because I really don’t trust Michael Atoms.”
“Well what about the doctor?”
“He’s dead. It looks like something or someone crushed his skull to the point of not being recognizable. Michael was laying next to him. He was the one groaning in pain. But I still wasn’t going to take any chances.”
“Alright, let’s get this room taped off while we wait for forensics to get here.”
“What about Michael Atoms,” Blanchard asked?
“Get him back to his room and wait and see who his new doctor is.”
Blanchard called in a nurse to take Michael back to his room. He followed the nurse and went back to his post. Once Michael was back in his room, he sat up and looked around. Nobody was around, so he tried to take the restraints off, but it was no use because he was cuffed to the bed. Blanchard heard him fighting against the cuffs and smiled.
That ought to hold you for a while, he thought to himself
He was double cuffed so he couldn’t remove break the cuffs or remove the restraints. Michael Atoms was going nowhere except to jail after he left there toand await trial. Ten minutes later, a very attractive woman walked up to Blanchard and introduced herself.
“I’m Dr. Michaela Lawson. I am the new doctor attending Michael now. We must send Mr. Atoms to South Seminole Hospital for him get fitted for his prosthetic arm,” she said.
Blanchard looked suspicious because he had not been told this.
“Okay doctor. I have one question though. Actually, I have two questions.”
“Okay Sergeant Blanchard fire away with your questions.”
“One, how in the hell are you going to transport him? After all, he is a prisoner of Manatee County.”
“Well sergeant, we are taking him by Bay Flight accompanied by two armed guards. They are approved by the sheriff of course to make sure he doesn’t escape,” she replied
“Okay, but why wasn’t I informed of this? And why can’t they fit him here?”
Five minutes later an officer walked up and handed the orders given by the sheriff.
“Sorry sergeant, your guard duty will be over in a few days.”
There was nothing Blanchard could do or say. It was directly from Sheriff Black himself. Blanchard just nodded and returned to his watch duty. Slade had already left after handing the orders over to Blanchard.
The doctor walked into the room where Michael was pretending to be sleeping until she got close to the bed. Instantly, he said, “Who are you and what do you want as he opened his eyes.”
“I am Dr. Lawson your new physician, and I will be overseeing you while you are here,” she replied.
Knowing the answer to his next question he pretended not know what happened to his last physician and asked, “Where is Dr. Kimble? He was supposed to put in an order for me for my prosthetic arm.”
Without missing a beat Dr. Lawson said, “He’s dead Mr. Atoms. He was found next to you with his head crushed, so I’ll be the one looking over you until your transfer in a few days.”
Michael just laid down and looked up at the ceiling.
“What about my prosthesis,” he asked.
“Like I told you, you are being transferred to another hospital for your fitting and your arm.”
“Dr. Kibble put in an order for me to get a robotic arm,” Michael said.
“I’m sorry Mr. Atoms, but that order never made it through, and plus this hospital isn’t equipped to fit and properly attach the robotic prosthesis. After your fitting however, you will be handed over to the proper authorities upon your return back to Manatee County.”
Michael grew angry at what she had just told him and tried to break the restraints, but it didn’t work. The double cuffs did the trick. The closer the doctor got to his bedside, the angrier he got. He strained and struggled against the restraints cutting his wrist with the cuffs. Then Dr. Lawson pulled out a syringe with Valium in it and stuck it in his side. It worked like a charm. In minutes he passed out. After that, the doctor calmly walked out.
“I want to thank you sergeant for your help,” she said.
“Just doing my job doctor,” Blanchard replied.
“I was being sarcastic.”
“What are you trying to imply doctor?”
“What I’m implying sergeant is that your incompetent in your job. I’m reporting you to your superiors. Now if you excuse me, I have a job to do.”
Just then Reef and Captain Slade walked up and overheard the argument. Captain Slade spoke up.
“Excuse me doctor, but why are you harassing my officer,” she asked?
Lawson turned around and said, “Oh good someone with authority. This officer isn’t doing his job.”
“Who are you to judge Sergeant Blanchard,” Slade retorted?
“I’m Dr. Michaela Lawson. I’ll be overseeing Michael Atoms until his transfer to South Seminole Hospital.”
“Michael Atoms is going nowhere until he is fully recovered and back in custody,”
“Captain I have orders from Sheriff David Black to—”
“Doctor, I’m fully aware of who are Sheriff is and I have orders right here that Michael Atoms is to be detained and stay right where he is. He will receive his fitting and his prosthesis when comes back into our custody.”
Lawson stormed off. Reef looked at Blanchard and asked, “What the hell was that all about?”
“She didn’t like the fact I was asking questions and claimed I wasn’t doing my job.”
Slade looked over at Blanchard and said, “Don’t worry about her. I’ll take care of it. Just keep doing what you are doing until you get further notice. If you need anything Detective Reef will be just down the hall guarding his partner Detective Atoms.”
“Okay, but what about the other orders that the sheriff sent,” Blanchard asked?
“What orders,” Slade asked?
Blanchard showed her the other orders. She became suspicious.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on here, but I will get to the bottom of this.”
“Okay,” Blanchard said.
As the captain walked away, Blanchard didn’t hear a peep out of Michael’s room. He decided to go check on him to make sure he wasn’t dead. Michael looked like he was asleep, but as Blanchard got closer, he woke up. The Valium wore off. He stabbed Blanchard with an empty syringe several times and then Blanchard slumped to the floor.
Reef went to check on Blanchard, but when he got there Blanchard was no where to be found.
Dear God, please don’t tell me he is dead, and that psychotic asshole escaped, he thought.
He checked everywhere for him except Michael’s room. The door was locked so Michael couldn’t escape.
But that is a joke, he thought to himself.
The asshole was a certified genius with a psychotic mind.
How would a locked door stop a mad man with the strength of ten men, he thought.
As he was looking for the key that the doctor had given him, a noise caught his attention. It sounded like glass breaking.
Reef hurried to unlock the door, but when he finally got the door open everything seemed in place. The window wasn’t broken. Then suddenly he looked over and found Blanchard’s body sprawled out on the floor. He thought that Blanchard was just passed out, but when he rolled him over, he noticed the needle sticking out of the officer’s neck. Instantly, Reef drew his gun out.
“Michael, where are you at? I know you are hiding in here somewhere waiting to kill me.”
Then Michael spoke up.
“Detective Reef, you are a clever man in deducing that I am waiting to kill you. But as far as telling you where I am isn’t happening, and there is one thing you forgot.”
“You forgot to close the door to the room.”
Just then, Dr. Lawson walked into Michael’s room.
“Doctor watch out he has this room rigged!”
She walked right into Michael’s trap after not heeding Reef’s warning. Her leg hit a wire that was connected to several syringes that were filled to the maximum capacity with morphine. As soon as she tripped the wire, all the syringes came flying at her. All but two missed their mark. Michael didn’t care. Reef rushed to help the doctor, and then Michael came out of the shadows and rammed into Reef knocking him into a wall. After knocking Reef over, he climbed on top of Dr. Lawson. The two syringes hit her in the heart. Michael pushed down on the syringes and released the morphine into her heart.
Dr. Lawson gasped for air, and within ten minutes she was dead. Michael went to get up and escape. Reef grabbed his foot and held on until he kicked Reef in the face and knocked him out.
Once Michael got up, a sharp searing pain in his neck spread through his body. Fifty thousand volts shot through him like wildfire. He tried to move, but all he could do was slump down. He had to see who tasered him, but his vision was blurry. He couldn’t make out who it was. Then he was out cold.
Atoms had finally been released when he realized that his partner was missing.
Maybe he went to check on Blanchard, he thought to himself.
After grabbing his things, Atoms was wheeled down the hall to get Reef and tell him he was ready to go. As the nurse wheeled him down the hall, he noticed an eerie silence. Blanchard wasn’t at his post and the door was wide open. Atoms stood up to walk, but the nurse begged him to stay in the chair while she went to get help. After the nurse left, he got up and walked into the room. There were two bodies lying in a pool of blood. Blanchard had a syringe sticking out of his neck and the doctor looked unconscious, so he walked in further to check the doctor’s pulse. She was dead. Then he found his partner knocked out cold. He knew who was responsible.
“Michael where in the hell are you? I am taking you in,” he yelled.
Michael came to and was barely able to stand. He heard Atoms yelling for him to come out and rose but didn’t move from where he was.
This is where you die little brother, he thought to himself as he opened the door to the bathroom. That was the last thing he remembered was going to hide, but someone tasered and locked him in the bathroom. He still wondered who tasered him.
As he opened the door, he managed to see Atoms heading right for him. Michael picked up a gun and loaded it.
How in the hell did a gun get in here?
Just as Michael opened the door and aimed his gun at his little brother, Atoms slammed his right knee into the side of Michael’s skull. Bones crunched and he staggered back. Then he went to charge at him, but Atoms was ready. He aimed his partner’s taser gun right at Michael’s chest. It caught him right above the left pectoral muscle. Immediately, he went down, but Atoms wasn’t satisfied.
He walked over to check and see if Michael was out. Then he bent down, picked up Reef’s gun and pointed it at Michael’s head.
“Do I kill you now and end your reign of terror or do I let the good lord sentence you?”
Just as he said that, Captain Slade walked in and saw Atoms holding a gun to Michael’s head.
“Will, don’t do it. You would be no better if you shot and killed him. Let a judge and jury decide his fate,” she said.
Atoms lowered the gun and dropped it as officers came rushing in to get cuffs and shackles on Michael. Slade walked over to him and walked him out. Then she went back and got Reef as he was coming to. The forensics team came in shortly behind her.
“We’ll take it from here ma’am,” one of the techs said
Slade nodded and walked over to Atoms and Reef.
“You two ok?”
“Yes ma’am,” they said in unison.
As she started walking off, Atoms asked, “where is the nurse who wheeled me down here? She is a hero too. If she hadn’t brought me down here Michael would have escaped, and Reef would be dead.”
“She’s fine Will. We will see to it that she gets credit for helping. As a matter of fact, she is the one who came and got me. I was taking care of some business. That’ when I rushed up here and saw you with the gun in your hand.”
Two officers came walking out of the room to get more cuffs leaving the other room with Michael.
“What do you want to do with the guy in the bathroom” one of the officers asked?
“I’ll take care of him. You two just get back here with those other cuffs.”
The two officers that were left had put on special boots, so they didn’t contaminate the crime scene. One had the shackles in his hands and the other had one set of cuffs ready to restrain Michael. As soon as they got close enough to put the restraints on Michael woke up and kicked one of the officers in the stomach knocking him against a wall and grabbed a shard of glass to stab the other officer. He started to charge towards Atoms. Atoms grabbed a Billy club from one of the fallen officers, moved out of the way, and hit Michael in the knees knowing it would slow him down long enough for him to get to Michael.
When Michael hit the ground, Atoms was right there and slammed his head into the hospital floor. It was finally over. Michael was finally incapacitated.
The tech’s continued to work the crime scene. One of them found the other taser that was used on Michael the first time.
“Hey, Danny, did you see this here before” the tech asked?
“No, I didn’t,” Danny said. “Bag it up anyways and we will take a look at it.”
The tech did as he was told and went about his business. Atoms took Reef home.
“Damn Josh I thought you could handle your own,” Atoms laughed.
Reef stayed quiet and just watched the road. Atoms didn’t think nothing of it and kept on driving. The captain had ordered Reef to get some rest and relaxation for a few days. Before they left, Atoms asked to return to work immediately since the doctor cleared him.
Two days later, Atoms was back at the station. Everyone clapped and gave him handshakes and hugs. Michael may have been caught, but there was more to what was going on than what everyone knew, and Atoms knew it. The case didn’t seem to feel like it was closed. Atoms knew he had to dig deeper on his own to find out what was really going on.
Michael sat in the medical ward at Port Manatee Correctional Facility waiting to be fitted with a prosthetic arm. There was still the sentencing hearing that he had to go to, but he knew his time was coming to be free. He just didn’t know when. After all, that’s what the newest letter he got in the mail said.
Atoms finally decided to pay a visit to Michael and made sure he knew that he wasn’t getting out. From the station he drove to Port Manatee and showed his credentials to get past security. Once he entered the visitor’s side of partition, he sat and waited to have a nice chat with dear big brother.
Michael was brought out in chains, shackles, and handcuffs in the inmate side of the partition for visitation time. When he saw Atoms on the other side, he laughed. Atoms picked up the phone and Michael followed suit.
“How nice of you to come visit your big brother in jail,” Michael said.
“Screw you,” Atoms retorted.
“What do you want detective?”
“For you to rot in hell.”
Michael just smiled and laughed. Atoms could feel the anger welling up inside.
“You killed my mother, you sick son of a bitch. Not to mention half of my department and friends.”
Michael didn’t say a word. Atoms kept on talking.
“Tell me something. Why did you kill all those innocent people?”
Finally, he got a response.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out. I mean that’s your job isn’t it. The bad guy commits a crime and you solve the puzzle. Well good luck baby brother on solving this puzzle because you never will.”
Atoms grew tired of the bullshit answers, hung up the phone, and walked away. He knew Michael would never tell him anything. Especially the different boxes with the organs in them. It was a sick game to Michael, but Atoms knew something was missing. After leaving Port Manatee, he headed back home to pour over the files for the millionth time. Once he got home, he started going over the files and taking another look at the victims list. There had to be a connection there and he was going to find it.
“Damn it. Where the hell is the connection to all the victims?”
His cell phone went off and he jumped clear out of his skin.
“Detective Atoms,” he said.
“Will, it’s Josh.”
“Hey partner. How are you feeling?”
“Not too bad. Just wanted to call and check up on you.”
“I’m okay. Just frustrated.”
“How is work?”
“Could be better. I’m just going back over the files from the “Killer Santa” case. By the way, I went to Port Manatee to pay a visit to Michael today.”
“Why? It’s over. He’s in jail waiting for his trial. What more do you want?”
“I have a feeling there’s more to this case than what we found Josh.”
Atoms started reading off the victims list.
“I know who the victims are Will, so what are you getting at?”
“Where is the connection between all of the victims. There has to be one.”
Reef went silent.
“Yeah, I’m here. I’m just thinking.”
Then something popped into Atoms’ head.
“Rebecca Austin and Michael Element was our first clue.”
“What do you mean?” Reef asked?
“Do you remember when I was almost killed in those apartments by that deadly gas?”
“I saw a picture of Rebecca Austin and Michael Element together in the same picture.”
“Stay there. I’m coming over.”
Atoms hung up and got in his car and was headed towards Reef’s, when out of nowhere a blue Ford F-150 pick-up truck came flying eighty miles per hour straight towards him. He swerved out of the road and almost landed in a ditch to avoid a head on collision.
“What the hell was that all about? Stupid drunk drivers.”
When he looked back to get the trucks tag numbers, it was gone. He called the station to see if anyone had reported a stole vehicle or someone speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road.
“No detective. There haven’t been any calls like that,” the dispatcher said.
“Damn,” he thought.
He finally arrived at Reef’s house. Pounding on the door he said, “Josh, it’s Will let me in.”
Reef opened the door and Atoms walked inside like he owned the place.
“Nice to see you too,” Reef said.
“Listen Josh, you and I have to start watching our backs. I was almost ran into a ditch on the way here,” Atoms said frantically.
“Whoa partner. Calm down. Now tell me, what do you mean we have to start watching our backs?”
“Just what I said. And like I told you I was almost ran into a ditch on the way over here. Someone wants us out of the way.”
“Yeah, but who? Michael is in jail, and his two accomplices are dead.”
“But what if there was a third accomplice that nobody knew about?” Atoms asked?
Reef just shook his head. He knew Atoms sounded crazy.
But what if Will is right, he thought to himself.
“I know what I’m talking about,” Atoms said.
“Okay fine. What all do we have on the case?” Reef asked?
Atoms went out to the car to get everything he wrote down. When he looked up there was the same pick-up truck that tried to run him off the road earlier. He went to approach the truck to see who it was driving when suddenly, it sped off. Something just didn’t add up. Just before the truck took off, Atoms got a look at the license plate and recognized it immediately. It read “BDASS19”. That was Jeremy Norcom’s truck.
But why to try to kill me, he thought.
Atoms went back inside, but Reef was nowhere to be seen. He called out for him.
“Josh. You in here?”
“Yeah, taking a leak. Be there in a second.”
Atoms breathed a sigh of relief. Then off in the distance, Atoms heard the truck coming back around. As soon as he looked outside a sub-machine gun poked out the window. Reef had just walked out of the bathroom when Atoms yelled, “GET DOWN!” Shots tore through the house. Atoms managed to get to his partner in time, but the house was destroyed. When they went to get up the truck sped off again.
“Are you alright?” Atoms asked?
“Yeah thank god the kids are at my mom’s house for the weekend. I think I just emptied what was left in my bladder in my shorts.”
This had gone way too far. Atoms wanted answers, and he was going to get them. He put an APB out on Norcom’s Truck and Norcom. It came back that Norcom had been at his precinct the whole time. But the truck came back as being Norcom’s kid’s truck. Someone was trying to frame Norcom for attempted murder.
But why though? Atoms thought to himself.
The more he thought about it, the more it puzzled him.
The next day Atoms went over the files of the main victims again. He kept thinking to himself, there must be another connection besides Rebecca Austin, Michael Element and the others.
He tried and tried to find the missing piece, but he couldn’t piece it together. That night Reef and he headed over to Copper’s Diner for a late-night breakfast and to go over everything they had on the case to try and find the missing clue. With neither of their homes being safe to go to, they figured the diner was the best place. Then Reef remembered something.
“What is it partner? What’s on your mind?” Atoms asked?
“I just remembered that the feds came to talk to you while you were in the hospital laid up. Captain Slade and I wouldn’t let them because you had just come out of surgery.”
“Pushy bastards! Did they say why they wanted to talk to me?”
“Not really. They just kept saying something about Michael.”
“You get a card with a name and number on it?”
“No, I just hit the guy for being too pushy.”
“Damn. Maybe they will come back around once they find out I’ve been released and back on the case.”
About that time, an FBI agent came walking in alone. He sat down at a booth and ordered an espresso. After taking a sip of his espresso, the waitress came back and asked if he would like anything to eat. He ordered toast, eggs, and bacon to look not so suspicious. Atoms watched him closely. The agent looked over and saw Atoms looking right at him. The next time the waitress came back around, the agent stopped her.
“Excuse me miss, but do you know where I could find this man?” he asked?
He held a picture up of Atoms and just when the waitress went to answer, Atoms was already standing next to her.
“It’s okay Mel. I’ll take it from here,” he told her.
Not looking at the photo, the agent was not very pleased.
“Unless you have information on this man—”
He stopped dead sentence. Atoms showed him his badge and sat down.
“I’m Detective Atoms. What can I do you for you?”
The agent smiled and said, “Detective Atoms, I’m with the FBI and my name is Agent Donald Ayala. My supervisor would like to ask you some questions about your brother Michael Atoms.”
“First of all, I already knew you were FBI. I could smell the cologne a mile away. Second Agent Ayala, I know nothing about the man you call my brother other than he committed a lot of heinous crimes here in Manatee County and through out the state of Florida. Currently he is sitting behind a steel plated door waiting to be sentenced for the crimes he committed.”
Atoms took out his business card.
“Anything else your supervisor wants to talk to me about, tell him to call me and we can set up a time and day. But right now, I am going to enjoy a nice cup of coffee while going over somethings with my partner.”
He picked up a piece of bacon off Ayala’s plate, stuck it in his mouth, and walked off. Reef and he left the diner.
“What was that all about?” Reef asked?
“FBI. They want information I don’t have on Michael.”
As soon as they left and were out of sight, Agent Ayala called his supervisor. A dark husky voice came over the phone.
“Yes sir, I talked to him, and he doesn’t know anything except what happened here in Florida,” Agent Ayala said.
“Keep an eye on him. We may need his help in the future,” the husky voice replied.
Five minutes later the agent hung up and followed Atoms and Reef.
Atoms took Reef back to his house where maybe they could get some answers. When they walked in, Reef noticed all the case files from the “Killer Santa” case was strewed everywhere.
“Working hard I see,” he commented.
Atoms said nothing but walked over to his window and looked at the black SUV that had followed them since they left the diner. Reef picked up one of the case files and set it aside after realizing that his partner hadn’t even been paying attention to him. It was starting to bother him, so fifteen minutes later he finally said, “Okay Will, what gives? You have been staring out that window this whole entire time I have been here, and what’s with all the case files being all over the place?”
Atoms still said nothing. Reef walked over to the window to see what was going on and asked, “What’s on your mind?”
“We’ve been followed,” Atoms said finally.
“How do you figure that?”
“You see the black SUV across the street?”
“Yeah. What about it?”
“It followed us from the diner.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I kept an eye on it all the way here. The FBI think they are smart, but not as smart as we are.”
Reef finally looked over at the SUV as it was pulling off. After it left Atoms looked at his partner and said, “Grab everything you can get your hands on as far as the cases go and leave nothing behind. The FBI will probably search the place looking for clues or connections between me and Michael.”
“Why though? You have told them everything you already know except what we know from the case and the hell we went through to catch the asshole.”
“I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out.
The guard banged on the steel door with his “Billy” club waking Michael out of a dead sleep.
“Time for your fitting. Now get up and come to the door,” he grumbled.
The door had a four-inch-long and six inch slit in it so Michael could put his hands through while the guard cuffed him. After cuffing him, the guard opened the door shackled him to the floor and let the doctor in. The doctor quickly strapped him down, so he couldn’t try and escape like he did at the hospital. The guard unshackled him from the for, and once he was strapped down, the doctor and the guard pushed him down towards the infirmary. There was another doctor there waiting with the new prosthetic arm for Michael.
“Aww, don’t I get a lollipop for being good doc?” Michael asked sarcastically.
“Keep your mouth shut, or you will get time in solitary confinement,” the guard snarled.
The first doctor measured Michael’s shoulder blades to make sure the prosthesis would fit. Next the second doctor slipped the arm on using leather straps since there was nothing left to strap the actual prosthetic limb on. Michael just laid there while they worked on him. Two hours later, the guard escorted him back to his steel cell. The next morning Michael was handcuffed and shackled as usual and escorted to a video conference room. There was a tv set up and on the screen was the judge presiding over the process of reading the charges being brought against him. They told Michael to sit down as he was the only one in the room. While the judge read off the charge of capital murder, Michael smiled and made the remark, “Santa will come again.”
The judge slammed his gavel down and ordered Michael to be quiet or he was going to be held in contempt of court for his remark. After the charge were read, the judge said, “There is no bail at this time. You will be held in Manatee Central jail.”
The guard grabbed him and took him back to his cell. “You won’t be going anywhere till after your sentencing. Your attorney will take your place at the arraignment. Any questions?”
“Yeah when’s lunch?” Michael remarked.
“Keep it up and you won’t get any.”
“By the time all this happens I’ll be long gone.”
The guard ignored Michael’s last remark, closed the door, uncuffed him, and locked the door.
After the SUV left, Atoms and Reef headed to the station to look over some the notes that were taking on Michael from a previous record. The more they investigated his background the more things didn’t make any sense. Three hours later, Reef grew tired of looking for something that wasn’t there and said, “Damn it Will. We have been looking for hours on end at this stuff and I still don’t see any connection to him or the victims. It looks just like random killings. What kind of connection are we looking for anyways?”
“Any kind of connection. Whether it be in the past or present, it doesn’t matter we just need something to make sense,” Atoms responded.
Just then Captain Slade walked over to Atoms’ desk.
“Atoms, why are you here? You’re shift ended hours ago, and Reef, you are supposed to be at home resting.”
“Captain, Atoms thinks there is a bigger connection between the victims and Michael Atoms, so we are trying to find it,” Reef said.
“Why does it matter? Michael Atoms is locked up and can’t get out. They have him locked away in the medical ward at Port Manatee.”
Atoms looked over at the captain and said, “It matters because Michael isn’t the main piece. He is just part of the equation. There is someone else behind the scenes.”
“What do you mean?”
“Other words the main victims are all connected somehow. There is no way he picked them out randomly.”
The captain still looked confused, so Atoms and Reef took out all of Atoms’ notes and explained it piece by piece including the part about them being attacked at Reef’s home and the fact that the FBI was following them. After they were done talking the captain said, “It still doesn’t make any sense. Michael is locked up and can’t harm anyone else. It’s over.”
“Captain there is a third accomplice out there, and we need to catch the person before someone else dies.”
“How do you figure there is a third accomplice when there is nobody else left?”
“Doesn’t matter. He had an arsenal at his disposal, and we don’t even know how.”
The phone at the front desk rang. It was the medical examiner’s office. The captain took the call in her office.
“Yes doctor, what seems to be the problem? What did you just say?”
Just then Atoms heard the voice on the other end. Someone had stolen Sam Griffith’s body and destroyed records from the Rebecca Austin case. The captain came rushing out.
“I’m on my way over to the medical examiner’s office. You two see what you can dig up. As of now Reef, you are officially back to work.”
After the captain left, Atoms’ cell phone rang.
“Detective Atoms speaking. We will be right there.”
“What is it?” Reef asked?
“Some convenient store owner found a dead body behind his store.”
“Let’s go check it out.”
Once they got there the officer first on the scene was talking to the owner who seemed pretty shaken up. Atoms and Reef walked up and excused themselves before asking who was first on the scene.
The officer spoke up. “I was.”
“Mind if I ask the store owner some questions?” Atoms asked?
“Sure, go ahead.”
The officer walked away trying to keep the crowd that had built up around the store back. Atoms began asking the store owner where he found the body.
“Behind my store out by the dumpster,” the store owner told him.
Atoms walked back there to see what they were dealing with. Something wasn’t right. The body was intact except for one arm. He spoke to one of the techs dusting for prints.
“Find anything yet?”
“Nope. It’s like the killer wiped away all the fingerprints, but there is no trace of rubbing alcohol at all. Whoever this guy is, he’s really good.”
Atoms headed back over to the shop owner and started asking more questions about the body.
“About what time did you find the body?”
“I would say two minutes before I called it in. I thought it was just some homeless guy sleeping off his buzz, but then I noticed his face being pale blue, so I called you guys,” the store owner replied.
Atoms gave the owner his card in case he could remember seeing the guy before. Then one of the techs called out his name and asked him to come take a look at what she had found. When he got there, he couldn’t believe what he saw. It was Samuel Griffith’s body.
“Well that explains where the body went, but how did it get here?” Atoms said?
A call came in on Atoms’ cell phone. It was the captain calling from the medical examiner’s office.
“Yeah captain, we are looking at the body right now,” Atoms said into the phone.
Two minutes later he hung up with the captain and called Reef over.
“What is it?” Reef asked?
“Captain said to watch our asses in case the killer was watching. Still doesn’t explain the dead body though.”
“Now I understand what you were trying to get at.”
“Yeah, but it still doesn’t make any sense at all, and it doesn’t fit into the puzzle. Why steal a dead body that has already been found in one case and put it into another case? And on top of the that, why kill someone else?”
The two of them wrapped things up at the scene and headed back to the station. But as they got into Atoms’ car, Atoms made a call to a friend on the bomb squad.
“Yeah Jaxson. It’s Atoms. I need a favor.”
“Sure, what is it?” Jaxson asked.
Jaxson Christensen had been with the bomb squad for twenty-two years and has seen a lot of different type of bombs, but Atoms’ request seemed a bit odd. He wanted Christensen to check out Griffith’s body to make sure it was safe to transport back to the morgue.
“Yeah sure, but why call the bomb squad?” Christensen asked?
“I have a feeling someone is trying to take out Bradenton’s finest detectives,” Atoms replied.
After they hung up, Atoms looked at Reef and said, “The only connection now I am picking up on is Griffith, and what bothers me is that the third accomplice is still out there.”
“True, but it brings about the question of why steal a dead body from the morgue again and make it into a bomb. It doesn’t make any sense,” Reef replied.
“Good point partner, but I don’t want to take any chances on this one. Yeah, we may have caught our suspect, but we need to catch the bigger fish to put the puzzle together. If we can catch this third accomplice, I will be able to sleep better at night.
After leaving the crime scene, Atoms decided to check around at different banks to see where Michael might have hidden his fortune. To his surprise, none of the banks had any record of a substantial amount of money being deposited. Not even banks overseas had any records of it.
“He never stored his money, so whoever funded his killing spree must have given him cash up front. That’s why there is no paper trail leading us to a third accomplice.”
He went pale in the face. For once, someone had outsmarted him. With no bank records, they were back to square one. Then an idea hit Reef.
“What about phone records? Did we check those of the burner phone he had on him?”
“No, but we may have a lead if we do. Good thinking on your part,” Atoms said.
Atoms called the company that the burner phone came from and requested phone records of all the calls made out and into the phone. It still turned up nothing, so they decided to check house phone records even though there was no evidence of him having a home phone or address. Then they hit pay dirt. Among the numbers they looked up, Lieutenant Harbor’s phone number came up several times with calls coming in late at night.
“Doesn’t mean anything Will. He is a police officer and his precinct might have called him on other cases.”
“True, but something tells me that sneaky bastard is involved somehow.”
About halfway down the list of phone numbers, Lieutenant Harbor’s cell number came up. This puzzled the detectives. Once they were back at the precinct, Atoms immediately went into Captain Slade’s office.
“Captain, I think we may have a lead on something.”
“What is it exactly? I am kind of busy,” she said.
Atoms showed her where Lieutenant Harbor’s cell phone came up several times around the time of the murders. They were highlighted in yellow.
“How do we know he is involved? He was there at the first crime scene hounding Atoms.”
“Yes, but he didn’t stay around long. Plus he wasn’t at the other crime scenes. But at the same time, we don’t know if he is involved. Yet, how would Michael have access to where every single person was?”
“Get concrete evidence and I’ll get you the search warrant to search his house.”
Atoms nodded. As they left the station, four men in suit and ties were standing next to Atoms’ car along with Agent Ayala.
“How can I help the FBI tonight?” Atoms asked sarcastically.
“My director would like to speak with you, as I have already told you before.”
Atoms looked at Reef and then said, “Okay, where would he like to meet?”
“If you would just step inside the SUV, we will take you to him. It will only take a minute of your time.”
“I don’t know if you guys remember what happened the last time you got pushy. But I wouldn’t suggest trying a second time.”
One of the men was there that day when Reef hit the lead agent for trying to push his way into Atoms’ room at the hospital. He went to grab something out of his coat pocket. Reef looked at him, and the man took his hand out of his pocket.
“Tell your director that if he wants to talk to me to contact my supervisor, and we can discuss when and where to meet. Have a good night Agent Ayala.”
Atoms and Reef went to get in the car when Atoms heard a voice calling him. He looked around until he saw who it was. It was that punk kid who had ran off after giving him that package during the investigation.
“Detective Atoms,” the kid cried out.
“Well if it isn’t my little buddy who ran off after I tried asking him questions. What do you want kid?” Atoms asked?
“Look, I came to give you some information on your case.”
“How do you know the case is still open? We got the guy. Now run on home.”
The kid looked at him with contempt and then said, “There were three weirdos that day that the guy handed me the package.”
Atoms stopped dead in his tracks just before he opened the car door.
“Do I have your attention now?” the kid asked?
Atoms raised his eyebrow and said, “Did you get a good look at the other two?”
“No, they were all dressed up. But I did hear one of them say that if the job wasn’t down right there would be no more money for the others.”
Atoms slammed his hand down on the steering wheel.
The kid looked over and said, “Look I got to run before someone sees me talking to you. I just figured I would come by and tell you what I know.”
“Thanks kid. I greatly appreciate it. Would you be willing to testify in—”
The kid was gone.
“Something must have spooked him since he was in a hurry to leave.”
Atoms started the car, and they headed over to the second precinct where all the crime scene records are stored and where Harbor was located. After showing their badges to the receptionist who must have been new, a uniformed officer was called over to escort them to the records room.
“Right here detectives,” the officer said as they stopped at a tiny little office.
The officer went behind the desk to check the log to see if the records were still there.
“I’m sorry detectives, but someone must have already checked them out.”
Atoms gave Reef a look that showed their suspicion. Just before the officer walked away, Atoms asked, “Does the log show who checked out the files?”
“Yes, it does, but…that’s weird there is no signature for the killer Santa case files.”
“Thanks anyways,” Reef said.
Atoms walked away without saying a word. Reef knew that Atoms was thinking about who could have taken the files without signing for them. As they headed out the door of the precinct, Atoms noticed something.
“That’s odd,” Atoms remarked.
“What is it?” Reef replied?
“Harbor’s car isn’t there.”
“Maybe he is out on a call or something.”
“I doubt it. That fat ass wouldn’t leave his desk unless it was a good enough case to get credit for.”
That’s when it hit him.
“Let’s go see where he went.”
As they walked back into the precinct, Atoms kept trying to figure out where Lieutenant Harbor was involved and why. The receptionist looked up as the two of them walked in. Before she could even speak, Atoms said, “We need to speak to Captain Macdonald. It’s important.”
She called the captain’s office and told him about Atoms and Reef wanting to speak to him.
“Send them in,” he said over the phone.
Captain Amos Macdonald was a career captain for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department and a Vietnam War Veteran. At fifty-eight, he had the build and bulk of a professional football linebacker with snowy white hair. When Atoms and Reef walked in, he invited them to sit down.
“First, let me start by saying, excellent work on capturing that psychotic piece of shit. No offense. Now what can I do for you?”
“We need to know where Lieutenant Harbor is,” Atoms said first.
“Why is he in some sort of trouble?” the captain asked.
“We believed he’s involved in the ‘Killer Santa’ Case,” Reef replied.
The captain looked a bit shaken up.
“That’s impossible. Norcom, Bilkins, and he have been working on taking down a drug ring, and that started before the ‘Killer Santa’ case happened.”
Atoms looked over at Reef and then said, “Then why was he at the first crime scene harassing me?” Atoms asked.
Macdonald looked dumbfounded. Atoms noticed this and said, “You didn’t know did you captain?”
“No, I didn’t. I should have the little prick demoted for lying to me.”
After what Atoms had told him, he got on the phone with the receptionist and said, “Tell Lieutenant Harbor to bring his sorry ass in here. NOW!”
“Yes sir,” the receptionist said.
When the captain hung up Atoms looked at the captain.
“Sorry to tell you this captain, but Lieutenant Harbor is gone. His car is not in the parking lot. We noticed it when we were headed out the first time before coming back in here.”
“What exactly were ya’ll doing here to begin with?”
“We came to look at some records down in the records room and evidence locker, but when we got there the records were missing with no signature of who took them out.”
“And you think Harbor took them, right?”
“Yes sir, and if we don’t hurry up and catch him, he will either continue the ‘Killer Santa’ killing spree or the real person will catch him and kill him.”
“But I thought Michael Atoms was locked away?”
“He is sir. But Atoms and I believe there is a third accomplice out there, and if it’s not Harbor continuing the killing spree then we need to get Harbor before the accomplice does,” Reef added.
“What do you need from me?”
“All of the cases Harbor was supposed to working on. We may be able to see where he is going through that, and we also need you to act normal. We don’t need to spook him and then him and the other accomplice get away.”
The captain nodded and had the receptionist bring all the case files that Harbor was supposed to be working on. It was then that the captain noticed that nobody had followed up on any of the cases.
“Send in Detectives Norcom and Bilkins,” he said to the receptionist as she came back in to bring more case files in.
Norcom and Bilkins came in and sat down while Atoms and Reef listened.
“What have Lieutenant Harbor and you two been working on the past couple of weeks?” the captain asked.
“The ‘Killer Santa’ case captain,” Norcom said. “Well that is until we got kicked off the case and Atoms and Reef here took over.”
The captain dismissed Atoms and Reef, but as they walked out of the office, they could hear Macdonald yelling and screaming at Norcom and Bilkins. As they headed out to the car, Atoms kept talking to himself about something, but Reef couldn’t make it out.
What the hell am I missing, he kept saying to himself.
Heading back to their own precinct, Atoms kept trying to put the puzzle together, but there was still something missing.
“We have checked all the phone records for Harbor and the financial records as well.”
Then it hit him.
“But we never checked the number that had been calling him to see where it might lead.”
Reef just looked at his partner and said, “How did you go about coming up with that idea?”
“Something the kid at the precinct told me. He said that there were three weirdos at the place where he met Michael to get the package delivered to me that day.”
Immediately, he pulled to the side of the road.
“What the hell are you doing Will?” Reef asked.
Three weirdos. But were all of them dressed like Santa Clause?
“Okay, so the kid said there were three weirdos there. He could’ve meant the woman too.”
“No. Michael wouldn’t have let her be there. It had to have been two other men with him. Women are inferior to him. Remember? We saw that firsthand.”
“I’m still confused partner.”
“Harbor isn’t the missing piece I’m looking for, but he is part of the puzzle. And the puzzle is Michael. We have to get to him before the other guy does or we lose our lead.”
Atoms threw the car in gear and sped off heading west on Cortez Road. He figured out where Harbor would be this time of day.
Harbor had just left the local WaWa store getting doughnuts and coffee. He had also got gas while he was there. He felt good about himself because he had done exactly what he was told to do.
Just before he left the precinct earlier, a private call came in on his cell phone. The voice on the other end gave him strict instructions about what to do with the records. Get rid of the evidence against Michael or he would die. Feeling better now that his task was done, he crammed a doughnut into his mouth while waiting for the red light to turn green at Cortez and Twentieth Street West. His cell rang again. It was the same voice as earlier.
“Go to the Thirty- Fifth precinct and kill Captain Slade.”
“Okay. No problem there.”
He hung up and started heading towards the Thirty Fifth Precinct near the operations center on old Three-O-One Boulevard. Unbeknownst to him, his next stop would be his last.
Atoms called Captain Macdonald on his way to where he thought Harbor would be. He filled him in on what he thought was going on and what would happen if they didn’t get to Harbor in time. Macdonald had said that Harbor had called in and said he was making a stop of the Thirty-Fifth Precinct to visit with Captain Slade about putting Norcom and Bilkins on suspension. Atoms hung up and took a short cut to get to the precinct avoiding traffic. Reef knew what was coming and hit the siren just in case they hit traffic along the way.
By the time Harbor was close to the precinct, he was nervous and sweating profusely. He had never done anything like this before, but the voice and Michael promised he would get all the credit for solving the case. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Now he had to make things right. First, he would kill Slade and then he would kill those lousy detectives Atoms and Reef.
Right before he pulled into the parking lot of the Thirty-Fifth precinct and the Operations Center, Atoms and Reef cut him off. He smiled until Atoms pulled a gun and ordered him to get out of the car.
“Harbor get out of the car now.”
“Atoms have you lost your damn mind? I am a senior officer and do not take orders from the likes of you. Now either get out of my way or get shot,” Harbor said as he pulled his own pistol.
“Get out of the car, I said,” Atoms yelled from the safety of his car.
“Atoms, put the —”
The car went up in flames throwing Atoms and Reef fifteen feet in the air. The explosion caused everybody to come out and investigate what just happened. Atoms was knocked unconscious from hitting his head on a dumpster nearby. Reef was ok. He landed in a pile of garbage nearby. When Atoms came to, he noticed the fire department was already putting out the fire. The paramedics were tending to his head and checking for any broken bones or cuts.
“SHIT,” yelled Atoms!
“Did I hurt you?” one of the paramedics asked.
“No, but I just lost my lead on this case.”
“You should be thankful you didn’t lose your life,” the paramedic retorted.
Reef walked over to where Atoms was being treated.
“Well, there goes that lead, and now he will never face a judge.”
“Yeah, and he will get an honorable funeral. Without the records or knowing where they are, Michael can be found incompetent to stand trial,” Atoms stated.
“Well, where doe that leave us?” Reef asked.
“Empty handed unless we can find those records before Michaels arraignment tomorrow.”
“Well, then let’s go.”
“Not yet Josh. The person continuing the killings is tying up loose ends. Which means he will kill again. We need to find him first. If we find him, we will find the records.”
“What do you mean?”
“Harbor wasn’t the missing piece of the puzzle, just the missing link. Michael is the puzzle, and there is one thing we keep overlooking.”
“Who and what is to gain from helping Michael.”
Just then, Captain Slade walked up.
“Thanks for saving my life guys.”
“How did you know he was here to kill you?” Reef asked.
“Simple. After ya’ll left, I had a feeling someone in the department was helping Michael, but I just couldn’t figure out who. When Atoms mentioned Harbor, I had an inside source put a bug in his phone when he wasn’t looking.”
“Smart move captain,” Atoms said.
“Now get out there and catch this third accomplice.”
It had been two days since Harbor’s death, and Atoms and Reef still didn’t have a clue to where the records disappeared to. Thankfully, the judge postponed the arraignment for another four days, but it wouldn’t be that long. Somebody was toying with them, and Atoms intended to find out who it was. He searched the witnesses notes time and time again to see if there was something or someone they missed. His original theory about Harbor helping Michael financially was confirmed after getting bank records from Harbor’s bank. It showed withdrawals up to five thousand dollars being taken out at a time.
They also found withdrawal slips from Harbor’s home with other large amounts on them. With Michael awaiting arraignment, tensions were high and so was Atoms’ temper. The sheriff didn’t want the media to know about Harbor’s involvement with Michael. It would have been an embarrassment to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department. While still rummaging through the pig- sty that was Harbor’s home, Atoms’ phone rang.
“Detective Atoms speaking,” he said into the phone.
A young man’s voice came over the earpiece and had said that he had found something with Atoms’ name on it.
“Yes detective, my name is Scott Morton. I work here at Pac- N- Ship in Cortez Plaza.”
“Yes Mr. Morton, what can I do for you?” Atoms asked.
“Well, a box with your name and telephone number on it just showed up here via UPS.”
“What kind of a box Mr. Morton?”
“It looks like a box full of records. I called the number on the box as soon as I got it.”
“And you said it arrived via UPS?”
“Yes sir, about ten minutes ago it came in with the other usual shipment of stuff.”
“Does it have a return address on it?”
“Thank you. I’ll be right there”
Atoms hung up the phone and headed for his car with Reef in tow. They headed down Ninth Street West and until they hit Cortez Road, and then went straight across the road into the shopping plaza. As soon as they got there, the store owner brought out the package for him. When they saw what it was, they breathed a sigh of relief. The records had been found and shipped to the place, but how did the person know who to ship it to.
“You said it came in with the other shipments?” Atoms asked.
“But why ship it here?” Reef chimed in.
“That’s what we have to find out.”
They thanked the store owner and left to head back to the station. Once there, they decided to investigate all the files that were in the box. But then they noticed something.
One of the files had been missing. It had to deal with who all was staff and patients at Manatee Glens where Michael spent most of his adult life until someone came along and got him out. Even with that file missing they still had enough to prosecute Michael. The state attorney was overjoyed at the fact that they found the box. He gave Atoms and Reef time to go through all the records to see if they could figure out who the other accomplice was. Nothing popped up.
Most of it was stuff that they had already knew about him. But Atoms was hell bent on finding the missing accomplice. And then suddenly he figured out at least part of the missing piece of the puzzle. It was the missing file.
Atoms knew with what they had, the state attorney could send Michael to Death Row at Florida State Prison in Raiford. He hoped that with the state of Florida given death row inmates the choice on how they wanted to die that Michael would choose lethal injection because there was no way and he would fry in the electric chair.
The next morning Michael sat in his cell reading a book about chemistry. It was one of his favorite subjects. A guard walked by and banged his baton on the slit in the door to wake Michael up.
“Get your sorry ass over here Santa,” the guard yelled into the slot.
Santa was the nickname that the guards gave him because of the remark he made in the conference room. Michael walked over to the slit.
“You know the drill. Turn around facing the wall.”
Cuffs were being placed on him. He knew something was going to happen, but he just didn’t know what yet. After doing what he was told, he walked away from the door while two big burly guards came in to shackle him. His first appearance was done at the jail. Now he knew the arraignment was coming and along with that his trial. The trial wouldn’t take long. He even figured that the State prosecutor would ask for the death penalty.
Once they shackled him, he was escorted down a hall to an underground parking garage where his transportation was waiting. As he walked down the long hallway, one of the guards stopped them in front of a door with steel gray bars on them. The guard motioned to someone inside a room where the door was controlled. A buzzing sound went off and the door was unlocked. After walking through the door, Michael was pushed into a white van with the words Manatee Department of Corrections painted on the side of it. They were taking him to the courthouse for his trial. At least that’s what he thought. His court appointed public defender would be there waiting for him. When he found out who was defending him, he didn’t like it.
I don’t need a public defender, he thought to himself.
Once they arrived at the courthouse, he was shoved out face first on the concrete by another inmate who was there for his sentencing. Michael got up off the ground but made no move to retaliate against the other inmate.
“Get your ass moving bitch,” the other inmate said to him.
Michael just smiled and moved along. The guard walked them to the prisoners’ entrance and led them down a hall that headed right for the holding cells. Michael was put in one and the other inmate in another cell. There were four of them all together. Twenty seconds later the other inmate was led out of his cell and was escorted to the courtroom.
“Who is the presiding judge?” Michael asked.
“Just sit tight and shut up until it’s your turn Santa,” the guard replied.
Twenty minutes later the bailiff came for him.
Finally, the three-ring circus begins, he thought to himself.
When he walked in though, something wasn’t right. There were no reporters in the courtroom. Nobody. It was just the state attorney, Antonia Case, his public defender and him. In a low voice he asked the attorney, “Why am I not standing trial yet, and who is the presiding judge?”
“Because this is your preliminary hearing and then we go to your arraignment,” the attorney said.
Michael already didn’t like the public defender, so killing him would feel so good. In the back of his mind he thought, I’ll fix you.
The bailiff came in and said, “All Rise for the honorable Judas T. Barron.”
Once the judge sat down and called the court to session, he ordered everyone to be seated. After everyone had taken their seat, the bailiff read off the court case.
“Your honor this is case number 6589 in “The people vs. Michael Atoms.”
Ms. Case said, “Your honor we have sufficient evidence to show that probable cause is indeed present. All the evidence is clearly there.”
Judge Judas T. Barron was one of the hardest judges on the bench. If you committed a minor crime you got the maximum penalty for that crime. Barron was no louse. He saw to it that the law was upheld, so after hearing the defenses objection he said, “On what grounds?”
When he looked over at Michael, he saw him smiling. This made him angry. There was no smiling in Judge Barron’s courtroom. Instead of saying something to him directly, Barron looked at the public defender and said, “If I catch your client smiling in my courtroom again, I will hold him in contempt.”
Michael expected this to happen. After all Lester Andersen wasn’t the brightest of all the public defenders. After the preliminary hearing Andersen looked at Michael and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow. We need to go over your defense plea.”
Andersen left and Michael was escorted back down the hall to the holding cells. The other inmate looked over and said, “I know who you are you little bitch. You are the one they are calling the Killer Santa. You don’t look so scary to me. Better hope I don’t catch you in my yard.”
Michael said nothing and waited to be put back in the van with the other inmate. He would wait till they got back to the jail to get his revenge on the other inmate. Once they arrived back at Port Manatee, Michael got out and walked over to where he was told to stand and then the other inmate stepped out. Just as he did Michael lunged forward even with shackles on his feet and headbutted the inmate in the testicles smashing them with his head. The inmate howled in pain and was taken to the infirmary. Now everything was going as planned. They escorted him back inside and led him to where the solitary confinement cells were.
“Why am I being put in here?” he asked.
“Attacking another inmate and your cell is being searched for weapons. Have a good night in your new cell.”
Michael didn’t protest. Once the door was shut and locked, he pulled out an ink pen he had stolen from his public defender and got to work at what he does best. Knowing he would be in there for a while, he quickly made deals with the inmate that served the food to him that involved smuggling in some gun powder, and some other items. The ink pen was being made into a grenade.
The public defender will never know who or what hit him, Michael thought as he began to laugh.
For the next several days Michael had been working in something so simple a child could build it with the right instructions. The inmate that brought his food had helped him smuggle in at least three dozen pieces.
Tomorrow will be your last day in the courtroom or anywhere else for that matter, he thought to himself as he made the final touches.
On the outside it looked like an ordinary pen, but on the inside was a well-constructed bomb. Lester Andersen’s days were about to end.
Michael couldn’t tell what time of day it was, but he knew food was coming. That was one of the best signs ever was the food. He could hear the cart coming down the long hallway. A guard rapped on the steel door with his baton.
“Food’s here Atoms. Come and get it,” he said.
The guard must be new here because none of them ever called me by my last name or any name other than Santa, he thought to himself.
Walking over to the slit in the door, he grabbed the Styrofoam tray and his plastic eating utensils which he had to give back after he was done. That way he couldn’t make a weapon out of the utensil.
“Hurry up and eat. Your fellow inmates would like their dinner too you know,” the guy with the cart had said into the slot.
Damn it. They must have caught Cooper smuggling stuff in, because this guy is a dick.
The guard rapped on the slit once again. This time he wasn’t so pleasant.
“Time’s up. Place your tray with your utensils on the tray in the slot. NOW!”
Michael did as he was told and waited patiently for Lester Andersen show up like he said he would. Andersen had no idea today would be his last. Time seemed to creep by. Michael was getting impatient. Then what had seemed like hours finally turned out to be time to see the idiotic lawyer of his. Andersen showed up a few minutes after Michael was taken to the little eight by 14-foot room where he and his lawyer could talk. Once again, they handcuffed him and shut and locked the door where Andersen sat going over the case files he had.
“This is going to be hard a case for you to plead not guilty,” Andersen said as Michael walked into the room.
After taking a seat, he noticed that Andersen had indeed been very organized. But the dumb-witted lawyer forgot one thing and that was his lucky pen. The guard in the room offered up his pen, but the attorney turned it down. Then as if on cue, Michael dropped the pen he had stole from Andersen the day before.
“Is this the pen you are looking for Mr. Andersen?” he asked slyly.
“Why yes, it is. Where did you find it?”
“It was on the floor.”
Michael handed the pen over. It would work normal just like a regular pen, but if he clicked it three times it would start a timer on the pen that turned it into a grenade. Two hours had gone by and Andersen was still trying to explain to him that if he pleaded not guilty it would go to trial. However, if he pleaded guilty then he would get a sentencing hearing.
“I’m still pleading not guilty,” Michael said sharply.
“You realize that all the evidence points right at you as committing the crime?”
“Yes, but I want to plead not guilty on grounds of insanity.”
“My job is not to prove your innocence. It is to—”
“Your job is to do what I tell you to do.”
“How do you know your plea will work?”
The young attorney shook with fear. He immediately agreed and went to head out. The pen was still sitting on the table where he had been sitting.
Michael called out to him saying, “Don’t forget your pen Mr. Andersen.”
Andersen thanked him and reluctantly took the pen from him. He hurried his pace out of the room leaving the guard and Michael alone. Watching the attorney run out the door, Michael just smiled and said, “Goodbye Mr. Andersen.”
After the attorney was gone, the guard escorted Michael back to solitary confinement. Patiently, he waited for all the commotion to begin.
Andersen had just got into his car when he smelled something. Gasoline was leaking somewhere. After smelling it, he got out of the car to see where the gas was leaking from. That’s when he saw it. The gas was coming from his gas tank.
“This isn’t good,” he said to himself.
Wanting to get as far away as possible from Port Manatee, he immediately called AAA to get it towed to the nearest car shop to have it fixed. He still had no idea what he held in his hand. Once the tow truck driver got there, he hooked the car up to his winch and pushed the button to pull the car onto his flat bed. After that was done, the tow truck driver grabbed some papers for Andersen to sign. The attorney grabbed his “lucky” pen and signed everything that needed to be signed. As the driver headed back to the truck to grab some more paperwork for him to sign, Andersen was on the verge of having a panic attack. His palms were sweaty, and his forehead looked like he had dunked his head in a tank full of water. In a nervous fit he clicked the pen three times. The timer began. He had exactly ten seconds to get rid of the pen or his life. When the truck driver turned around—BOOM!
The grenade went off as planned. Lester Andersen would never get to return home. Guards rushed to the scene, but it was too late. The damage had been done. Immediately there was a call for a lock down of the entire facility.
Michael had heard the commotion going on down the hall. His plan had worked. Lester Andersen was dead. He just sat in his cell and smiled.
So much for him being a good public defender, he thought.
One of the guards told Michael to turn around and walk backwards towards the slit in the door. Doing as he was told; he knew what was coming. He heard the cuffs clink shut around his wrists. They were moving him.
“Good news Santa,” one of the guards said. “You are being transferred back to the medical ward. Seems like someone doesn’t like you being in solitary confinement. I hope you enjoyed your stay there. By the way, did you enjoy blowing up Counselor Andersen? Because I know you were the one behind the whole thing. Michael simply looked at the guard and said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
After they secured him in his new cell in the medical ward, they shut and secured the metal door leaving him to the four gray walls and his new cell mate.
Atoms was at Copper’s Diner when the television went to a breaking news update. A bomb had been detonated outside Port Manatee. He knew Michael was behind it, but he couldn’t figure out how. He finished eating his dinner and ran out the door leaving money to pay for his food. Heading towards his car, his cell phone rang. It was Captain Slade.
“Yes captain, I saw the news. How the hell did they get a hold of it so quick?”
“I don’t know, but you need to get here asap.”
As soon as he left the diner, he headed straight for Port Manatee. He knew the place would be swarming with news reporters. When he got there, a whole area was taped off near a tow truck. Before the guard at the gate could speak, Atoms already had his badge out. Slade was waiting for him near the crime scene.
“Do you think our mysterious accomplice is behind this?” she asked as he walked up.
“No, Michael was behind this. He had to be. Lester Andersen was his public defender.”
“Yeah, but how if he is locked up? Not to mention, one of the guards said he was in solitary confinement for attacking another inmate before this all happened.”
Atoms whirled around so fast that he almost became dizzy.
“SOLITARY CONFINEMENT?” he asked in amazement!
“Yes, that is where he was until Lester Andersen came to talk to him about his plea. One of the guards overheard what they were talking about.”
“Captain we have to get him back in the medical ward or put him in general population.”
“Why do you suggest that? Besides that’s not my call.”
“Because he works at his best when he is alone. We have seen that since he killed the other accomplices he had.”
“If they put him in general population, we will have a lot of more dead bodies on our hands.”
“I need to get in there to talk to him.”
“Good luck. The whole facility is locked down due to the incident. No visitors allowed.”
Atoms knew they were running out of time. It wouldn’t be long before the other accomplice would try to run. They had to find out who this person was, and the only way they could answers was through Michael himself. Immediately, Atoms called Reef.
“Josh, it’s Will. Any luck on finding that sheet with the list of names on it and who took the box to begin with?”
“No such luck partner.”
“Okay. We’ll keep looking, but for now I’m going to find out who this mysterious accomplice really is.”
Atoms clicked off and returned to the crime scene. It would be a while before he could get in to see Michael. He looked at the captain.
“What do we know so far? Any witnesses?”
“Just the tow truck driver. He said that he got the call about Andersen’s car about an hour ago and when he got here Andersen was complaining about gas leaking from his car. After putting the car on the flatbed, he gave Andersen some paperwork to sign. Not long after that is when the explosion happened. No damage to anything or anyone. Just Andersen who happens to be all over the place.”
“I have to talk to Michael. He is the only way we are going to find out who the secret accomplice is and where to find him.”
After the scene had been cleared of all the news reporters, Atoms noticed another detective walking up. The detective’s name was Gage Dunlap. He was around Atoms’ height maybe an inch shorter with short cropped black hair and weighed about two hundred pounds. He was all muscle and a major asshole.
Like Norcom, Dunlap thought he owned the scene. Only difference was Dunlap was a real stickler for doing things by the book. He was good at what he did, but not nearly as good as Atoms, and he resented that. When he saw Atoms, he walked over and started asking questions. Questions that Atoms didn’t have an answer for yet. As soon as Atoms told him what he had so far, Dunlap looked ready to blow his top.
“What the hell do you mean you don’t have all the answers yet? You are the department’s poster boy for finding these assholes. A good dete—.”
Atoms cut him off immediately.
“A good detective takes his time trying to put the puzzle together. You of all people should know that. So, unless you got some information that I don’t know about I suggest you get out of my damn way and off my effing crime scene.”
Everyone had heard the commotion between the two detectives and stopped to see what would happen next. Dunlap’s face turned red from embarrassment and stormed over to Captain Slade.
“You need to get a handle on him. He is a loose cannon Jackie.”
Slade got up in Dunlap’s face and said, “It’s Captain Slade to you and Atoms is the best we got, and he’s also the one who caught the Killer Santa. Now unless you want me to strip your badge from you, then I would highly recommend removing yourself from the scene.
Dunlap did as he was told and left but not before leaving tire marks in the parking lot from squealing tires. Atoms saw what had happened and walked over.
“Sorry captain. It won’t happen again.”
Slade nodded her head and walked off. After everything calmed down, Atoms headed towards one of the guards.
“How in the hell did a grenade get in or out of that facility on Counselor Andersen?”
“We are looking into that now detective. All I can say is that the grenade must have been pretty well hidden to get through the metal detectors.”
Atoms stopped dead in his tracks.
“You may have a point. Did Mr. Andersen come through the metal detectors with anything that would have set off the metal detectors?”
“No sir, just his briefcase and that went through our x-ray machine. He was here visiting Michael Atoms.”
“I want to see the video feed from the surveillance cameras going from the time he walked into the building to the time he left.”
Twenty minutes later, he was sitting in an empty room going over the video feed from the cameras. It didn’t take him long to figure out that the grenade didn’t come in with Andersen, but it did leave with him.
He kept watching the video until something caught his attention. The frame was on where Andersen was talking to Michael about his case.
Michael dropped something on the floor, picked it back up and handed it to Andersen.
Then it hit him.
“I want to see Michael Atoms. NOW! And I want every inmate that has ever walked the food cart down the hallway where solitary confinement is interviewed at once,” he said to the guard standing nearby.
“Right away detective.”
The guard went out of the room and five minutes later came back with Michael in handcuffs even though he only had one arm and shackles. The guard stayed in the room to ensure the safety of Detective Atoms.
Once Michael was sitting down, Atoms looked at him dead in the eyes and said, “How did you do it?”
“How did I do what?” he said playing dumb.
Atoms wasn’t buying it and replied with, “How did you build the grenade?”
“What grenade? I don’t know anything about no grenade. And how do you know for sure that I was the one who killed Counselor Andersen?
“Because it has your signature written all over it. No pun intended.”
Atoms was getting irritated knowing Michael was behind the death of the late Lester Andersen and knew that Michael was toying with him. Finally composing himself he said, “I saw the video surveillance of when Counselor Andersen and you were talking. And I also know he didn’t come in with the damn grenade, so stop wasting my time and just tell me how you did it because like I said I have already seen the footage of you handing something to the counselor. What was it?”
“It was a pen. Is that a crime to hand my own attorney or should I say public defender a pen to write with?”
“Considering it was used as a weapon yes, it is a crime and your going down for it.”
“Oh, come off of it little brother.”
“It’s Detective Atoms to you.”
“We both know why you are here.”
“And why do you think I’m here?”
“You want to know how I found all those people that I killed. It’s simple really. Ever heard of a thing called google?”
He could tell he was getting to Atoms. The look on his face said it all.
Any second and baby brother will be at my throat.
“You’re wrong,” Atoms said. “I’m here about Counselor Andersen. Now quit trying to change the subject.”
“What’s the matter detective? Not getting your way sucks doesn’t it?”
“Is that why you murdered Lester Andersen?”
“Don’t turn this around on me. You know I’m telling the truth.”
“I’m not saying anymore until I get a new public defender.”
“That’s fine. We will let the tape speak for itself.”
“Like I said, is it a crime to hand someone a pen?”
Atoms could feel the anger welling up inside him. All it would take is one wrong word, and Michael wouldn’t have to worry about a trial. He walked away for a second to compose himself, and then he sat back down.
“Why did you kill Lester Andersen?”
“Who says I did?”
Michael was getting irritated with the same questions repeatedly and that’s why Atoms kept repeating himself.
“You’re new friend Cooper. He isn’t much of a friend if he gave you up. Don’t you think?”
“Am I? He told us about smuggling parts in here for you. Also told us that he didn’t know why he did it, but I think we know why he did it.”
“Why is that detective?”
Michael shook his head no, but Atoms knew he was getting to him. So, he kept going.
“Cooper told us everything we wanted to know, and all for a plea deal on his case.”
“So, if you know the answers already then why ask me?”
“Because I wanted to hear it from your mouth.”
Well that’s one less inmate the county has to worry about feeding tonight, Michael thought to himself.
“Oh, and if you are thinking about how to off Cooper, don’t bother trying. He’s in protective custody.”
Now Michael was cornered. His eyes were like that of a caged wild animal ready to strike as soon as anyone opened the cage. His calm demeanor was dwindling as well. The tables were being turned around on him. Then his uncontrollable rage overcame him.
Just as Atoms was fixing to walk out, Michael looked at him and said, “The little shit should’ve done his homework and listened to me.”
He sat back down just as quickly as he got up eager to hear what Michael was going to say next.
“What do you mean he should have done his homework. What homework? You mean the file on you? I’m sure he read up on you, but why should he have listened to you?”
In a fit of madness and rage, Michael told Atoms exactly what happened.
Good thing it was caught on video, Atoms thought to himself.
Now he needed Michael to talk about the other person helping him with the other murders. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was worth a shot. Then his cell phone rang. He checked the number and saw that it was his partner.
“Excuse me for a second,” he said as he got up to leave the room.
Michael knew that Atoms had lured him into saying that he killed the public defender, but it didn’t matter. Just one more charge to add to the list. It’s why he told Atoms everything he did. He wanted the attention.
Next time won’t be so easy little brother, he thought as he watched Atoms talk on the cell phone outside the door.
Atoms watched Michael the whole time he was on the phone. He was looking for any changes in his posture, attitude, anything he could nail Michael with as far as him lying. Michael just sat there and returned the gaze. The look they gave each other looked like they could tear each other apart at any given moment. Then Atoms hung up and came back into the room.
“Well since there is nothing left of Counselor Andersen or the pen for that matter, we can’t figure out how you did it. But mark my words Michael when I do find something and I will, I’m coming after you,” he said.
“Ooooo is that a threat detective. Because if it was it didn’t scare me in the least.”
“Fine, let’s do things your way. Why don’t you finish telling me exactly what happened to make you want to kill an innocent man?”
Michael had calmed down and his demeanor had changed again.
“How about you calling it a day detective? I’m not answering any more questions from you unless I have my lawyer.”
“Nor should you have to,” came a voice from the doorway.
As soon as the person entered the room, Atoms asked, “Who the hell are you?”
“Christian Key, defense attorney at law, and you are badgering my client detective…”
“Atoms. Detective Will Atoms.”
“Well as you can plainly see my client is done talking to you and I have advised him not to speak to you anymore unless I’m present. That way nothing gets obscured by you people.”
Atoms’ rage was building again. There was something about this man that he didn’t like. More like detested. But there was nothing he could do, so he looked over at Michael and said, “Well Michael looks like you have an attorney now. I’ll be in touch.”
He left feeling less than satisfied with the way things went. As soon as he got to his car, he saw the creep Bolton leaving. After watching him get into his multi-million-dollar car, he placed a call into Reef.
“Yeah Josh, it’s me.”
“What’s up partner? I thought you were ‘visiting’ Michael.”
“Yeah that’s why I am calling. It got interrupted.”
“A slime ball named Christian Key. He is Michael’s new defense attorney.”
“What do you need from me?”
“I need you to dig up anything you can find on this asshole. I have a feeling he is not going to let Michael go down easy for the Killer Santa murders.”
“Christian Key is no joke Will. They call him Christian ‘Mad Dog’ Key because he is ruthless in the courtroom. And I have met him before. He is a royal dick.”
“So, I’ve noticed.”
“Just be careful Will. The man will try to dig up any dirt on you and/or the department that he can get his hands on.”
Atoms clicked off and went to start his car, but as the engine roared to life, one of the deputies came out of the jail and was walking towards him.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“My name is Tony Vance. I was the guard in the room when Lester Andersen was talking to Michael about his case.”
Atoms shut his car off.
“What can I do for you Deputy Vance?”
“Look is there some place we can talk? There are too many prying eyes and nosy people around here.”
“Do you know where Copper’s Diner is?”
“Yeah, I eat there a lot.”
“Meet me there in twenty minutes and we can talk.”
Twenty minutes later, Deputy Vance was sitting in a booth back by the restrooms when Atoms walked in. Atoms climbed in the booth across from Vance and waited for the waitress to come over to take their order.
“What are you having Tony?” the waitress asked.
“Coffee with four sugars and two creams please. Oh, and a blueberry scone.”
“What are you having Detective Atoms?”
“Nothing for me except maybe a glass of water.”
After she walked away, Atoms looked over at Vance and said, “Well you wanted to talk to me, so what’s on your mind?”
“Today when Counselor Andersen came to the jail, he was all ready to go over the ‘Killer Santa’ case with Michael and how he was going to plea. I remember him telling one of the other guards that he wasn’t comfortable being Michael’s public defender before they brought him in. Anyways, Michael and he were in a heated discussion about Michael’s plea. Andersen went to get a pencil to take some notes but couldn’t find his pen. I offered mine, but he turned it down. Just as I went to look away, I heard something hit the floor. When I looked back it was a pen laying on the floor, so I thought nothing of it. So, trying to keep my nose out of their business I went back to staring at the wall, and that’s when I saw Michael pick the pen up off the floor. As soon as the counselor saw him with the pen, he asked where he found it and Michael said he found it on the floor. But the thing is, I never saw Andersen drop a pen on the floor, so Michael must have had it all along.”
“So, you’re telling me Michael was the one who dropped the pen?”
“That’s exactly what I am telling you.”
“But where did Michael get a pen from especially since he was in solitary confinement?”
“I don’t know detective. He must have stolen it from court and snuck it in when he got back.”
“Why wasn’t he searched when he came back from the courthouse?”
“Like I said, I don’t know. I wasn’t there when the van came back with the prisoners.”
As Atoms went to leave, he said, “Thanks for the info. I’ll be in touch if I need anything else.”
Vance shook his hand and said, “No problem. Anything I can do to help.”
After Atoms walked out, he sat in his car trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together from the murders to the pen grenade. It didn’t make sense. Thirty minutes later he was back at the precinct and was already trying to put everything together. The thought that Michael was smart enough to make a hand grenade out of a pen sent shivers down Atoms’ spine. He started to think about what Deputy Vance had told him at the diner. Things still were not adding up.
Why kill the person defending him?
The more he thought about it, the less it made sense. His thought process started piecing the puzzle together, but it was quickly interrupted by Reef calling out to him.
“Hey Will, we may have something on Harbor’s death.”
“Huh? Oh right. I forgot about that. What do you have?”
“The stuff to blow up Harbor’s car was regular dynamite connected to a timer, but it had a glass vial attached to it to accelerate the blast.”
“What was in the vial?”
“How is that possible when regular dynamite is already nitro. It’s a bit overkill.”
“Maybe the accomplice isn’t that smart.”
“Or maybe he is. What if he did it on purpose?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, but I have to tell you this case is getting weirder by the minute. First a dirty cop is blown to smithereens and then the same thing happens to a public defender on the same day.”
“Yeah, but two different places and two different people.”
“I don’t know, but all Michael said when I asked him about the public defender was that he wouldn’t listen to him.”
“Maybe Michael ordered the hit from inside the jail.”
“It’s possible, but still who is the accomplice taking orders from Michael?”
“We have to find a motive Will, or all three cases go out the window.”
“What do you mean maybe not?”
Atoms thought for a moment and then said, “Maybe I can get him to talk to me again.”
“How if he is all lawyered up now?”
“Doesn’t matter. His lawyer can be there if he so chooses.”
“Be careful Will. Like I said the man is a pit viper. I’ll see what I can do on my end, but just watch your ass out there.”
As both walked away from each other, Reef called out, “Will, for your sake I hope they can convict his ass and then fry him.”
Atoms just smiled and kept on walking.
When Atoms got home, the FBI was there waiting for him outside.
“What can I do for the FBI?” he asked.
“Now, you come to our office. There is much to discuss,” one of the agents said.
“I’ve done told Agent Ayala—.”
“Agent Ayala has been taken off the case. I am overseeing it now.”
A big wall of a man got out of the SUV that had been sitting outside. The man was about six foot four with close cropped hair military style and a smile that looked like it came from the devil himself. Atoms was still a little leery of them after the way they had been approaching him ever since he was in the hospital.
“How do I know you guys really are the FBI considering I have never known them to be this persistent?”
The man pulled out his credentials and showed them to Atoms. The name on the badge was Douglas Elliott.
“Well see here is the thing Agent Elliott. I don’t like people showing up at my house unannounced at my doorstep. Doesn’t give me time to clean up things like that,” Atoms said sarcastically. “I also don’t like the FBI poking their nose in my cases. Now you can either leave or I can call your director.”
Elliott seemed to back off. He went to say something but changed his mind at the last second. Atoms kept a close eye on them as they walked back to their SUV and drove off. Once they were gone, he went inside to get a beer, but something didn’t’ feel right. He felt as if he was being watched. That’s when he noticed a red dot on his chest where his heart was. He ducked down on the floor just as the shot flew through the window and right into the wall. Now things were personal, and he was going to see to it that they caught this accomplice and bury them under the jail. He called Reef and explained what happened from the time he got home to the time where the shot was fired. Reef arrived ten minutes after they hung up. Once he got there, he rushed inside to see if his partner was ok.
“Did you see where the shot came from?” he asked.
“No, they had me pinned down.”
“Damn. Which means you didn’t see who the shooter was did you?”
“No, considering I was trying to keep my ass alive.”
Forensics came in and looked at the round embedded in Atoms’ kitchen wall. Slade came rushing in with a worried look on her face.
“What’s wrong Captain?” Atoms asked.
“I just got a call from the second precinct lieutenant replacing Harbor. Captain Macdonald is dead. Nobody saw what happened. From the sound of it, he got shot in the head.”
“Where was he when he got hit?”
“On his way to his car. He had just gotten off work. Didn’t even see it coming.”
“Damn sounds like whoever it was killed Captain Macdonald first, and then came to try and kill me.”
“So, now we have a serial killer in jail and a cop killer on the loose?” Reef asked in a panic.
“I’m afraid so.”
Everyone turned around to see who was speaking. It was Agent Elliott.
“What the hell are you doing back here?” Atoms asked heatedly.
“I tried to get you out of harm’s way, but you wouldn’t heed my advice.”
“So, you knew the accomplice was here?”
“Yes. Now you know why we have been wanting to talk to you.”
“About what? That there is another person out there? We knew that already.”
“Yes, but we know who. And we couldn’t tell anyone until we were sure he was working alone.”
“Until who was working alone?” Reef interjected.
“You know him as Deputy Patrick White. However, his real name is Travis Solomon. We have been keeping an eye on him for some time now. Until a few weeks ago, we thought we lost track of him until he popped up down here.”
“Why keep an eye on him? He’s a rookie cop,” Slade said.
“I’m afraid you’re wrong Captain. He helped Michael Atoms kill Michael and Detective Atoms’ father who happened to be a key witness in a drug trafficking case here in Manatee County.”
Looking over at Atoms’ he continued saying, “Your mother was also a key witness to the case we were working on back then. We still don’t know why Solomon and your brother killed your father, but we suspect it had to do with the case.”
“Still doesn’t explain why Michael did what he did here in several different counties,” Atoms replied.
“We think we know why.”
“Care to explain it to us Agent Elliott?” Captain Slade asked.
“Not here. Solomon could still be watching.”
“Answer me something,” Atoms said.
“Was Solomon with Michael at the mental hospital?”
“Yes, but we think he went under a different alias back then.”
“That explains why the staff and patient list is missing. He didn’t want us to know he was there. But, still how does Harbor fit into all this?”
“Lieutenant Harbor had been corroborating with Solomon and Michael for over six months but met face to face with Michael a month before the murders started and he helped them financially. Anything else you want to know, because I don’t know about ya’ll but me personally I would like to talk in private where its safe and secure.”
“Name the place and we, well at least I’ll be there,” Atoms said.
“My office in two hours and I’ll explain everything.”
Elliott and his entourage of agents left. Atoms knew where the office was, so he looked at Slade and Reef who both said, “Go! We’ll clean up here.”
Atoms went to his car and headed for Tampa ready to learn why Michael killed so many people and why he chose the holiday season to do it.
An hour and a half later, Atoms was sitting in the lobby of the Tampa Field Office waiting to be escorted into Agent Elliott’s office. When he was finally escorted in, he noticed that the office itself was not that big. No bigger than a typical business office. Only it was decorated with Elliott’s awards that ranged from when he graduated from the academy up until two years ago where he helped take down a cyber-terrorist cell in the bay area. Atoms was impressed, but he still wanted answers. Five minutes later Elliott entered the room.
“Detective Atoms. I’ve read your service record at the sheriff’s department. I must say that I’m impressed. But we are not here to discuss that, are we? Now you must understand why we have been so secretive all this time. Originally, we thought you knew more than what you were letting on about your brother. But when Agent Ayala approached you, you made it quite clear that you knew no more than we did about Michael. So, we had no choice but to leave you alone until we received word that Solomon had once again been involved with Michael in several murders.”
“Which was tonight.”
“So, tell me everything you know about Michael, why he did what he did, and why did he choose the holiday season.”
“Michael was about fifteen years old when your parents witnessed a drug trafficking operation going on downtown one night. Little did they know Michael was involved. So, they came forward with information, and we placed them in witness protection to keep them safe. Michael was pissed obviously and had an argument with your father the night he was killed. Michael and Solomon came up with the idea to kill him and your mother to keep the drug operation going. Well, they succeeded in killing your father, but your mother got lucky. And when she learned of Michael’s involvement with the drug operation, she put him in the mental hospital to try and get help after killing your father. We had no idea your mother was pregnant with you at the time. Twenty years later, Michael escapes from Manatee Glens and hooks back up with Solomon to do the murders.”
“But why did he kill certain people?”
“Because some of the people he killed were the kids of the people who helped put him in the mental ward for as long as they did. The rest were just people who were in the way if their overall plan.”
“What about Manny Tulepo and his gf Amy? They were good friends of mine.”
“Michael wanted your attention and he got it by killing people close to you.”
“And my mother?”
“Revenge for having him put away in the mental ward for so long to begin with.”
“Okay, what’s your explanation for why he took the body parts?”
“As I said before, he wanted your attention by leaving the gifts.”
“So, how do you plan on catching Solomon since he is the only one left? Just sit back and wait for him to strike again?”
“No, we are going to trap him at your brother’s trial. He will be there no doubt.”
“Still didn’t tell me why he chose the holiday season to do his massacre.”
Agent Elliott looked out his window and said, “Because Christmas Eve is Michael’s birthday, and it’s also the day they killed your father.”
Atoms slammed his fists down on Elliott’s desk so hard it shook.
Now he was determined to catch Solomon and watch both Solomon and his brother fry for what they did.
On his way back to Bradenton, he thought a lot about what Elliott had told him. But something told him that Elliott didn’t tell him everything. Which meant it was time to do his own digging.
It was a few days before the trial. Atoms had done some more digging and found more information on Solomon and Michael. Solomon was one of the orderlies at Manatee Glens hospital along with Heather Guney, but Guney wasn’t her last name. It was Flynn. And the first female accomplice Michael had Lindsey Flynn was also there. Lindsey was Heather’s sister.
All the pieces were coming together now like one big giant puzzle.
Michael had it all planned out before he escaped from Manatee Glens. Solomon joined the police force under the name Patrick White three months before Michael escaped. That put Solomon in contact with Harbor. Harbor is the one who gave Michael and Solomon the funds and the list of where each of the victims worked and lived. Sonofabitch.
Atoms made a phone call to Reef while driving through town.
“Josh, I think I have this case solved once and for all. Meet me at the precinct and ill explain everything to you and the captain.”
“What did Elliott tell you?”
“Everything I needed to know in order to do some of my own digging. Just meet me at the precinct and I will explain my thoughts when I get there. Oh, and do me favor.”
“Get the State Attorney. She’s going to want to see this.”
Reef agreed and hung up with Atoms. He immediately told the captain, and she made the call to the State Attorney Antonia Case.
The phone in Ms. Case’s office was ringing off the hook.
“Damn,” Reef said as he hung up.
Slade looked at him and said, “Try her cell. She might be at home since it’s after six o’clock.”
He searched through Atoms’ rolodex to try and find her cell number. Finally, after looking through all the numbers, he found it in the very back.
“Thank God,” he exclaimed.
It rang three times. A voice answered on the third ring.
“This is Detective Reef from the sheriff’s office.”
“Yes detective. What can I do for you?”
“I would like for you to come down to the precinct to see something if you don’t mind.”
“What is it you would like me to see?”
“We have new evidence in the Michael Atoms case that you may be able to use in prosecuting him.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes tops.”
Atoms was the first to arrive. Holding a thick file in his hand, he casually walked in with a smile on his face. Which was rare for him. It had to be good news he had because Atoms never smiled.
“Where is Ms. Case?” he asked.
“She’s on her way,” Reef said.
“Actually, I’m right here. This had better be good or we will all be looking for new jobs. Detective Reef, you of all people should remember how Mr. Bolton works. Now where is this new evidence?” Case asked.
“Right here,” Atoms said as he laid the file down.
“What is all this?”
“Everything and anything you need to give Michael Atoms a maximum sentence. It contains everything from case reports from when he was in Manatee Glens to visitor logs.”
“Why would I need visitor logs?”
“To show the connection between Lieutenant Harbor and Michael and his accomplice Travis Solomon.”
“And how did you obtain all of this without a warrant?
“I didn’t. I had a friend of mine in another precinct get a hold of the Magistrate to issue a search warrant. Everything anyone who would want to know about Michael Atoms is in that file. Which includes all the people he was involved with.”
Everyone looked shocked including the state attorney herself. Atoms sat there and said, “Anyone care to hear how this all came about because it tells you in his file exactly what he had planned to do.”
“Yes, actually I would love to hear it since this case has made no sense from the beginning,” Slade answered.
“Well, from what I have learned from our dear friend Agent Elliott Michael and his first accomplice Travis Solomon had it all planned out before Michael even escaped the hospital.”
“Okay, that brings about another question. Why wasn’t anything done to prevent Michael from escaping?” Case asked.
“This is true, but in the file that the FBI had said that Heather Guney, yes that’s right our lovely medical examiner was involved.”
“What about the accomplice Solomon?” Reef asked.
“It’s quite simple detective. You bring me evidence of Solomon’s involvement in the Michael Atoms’ case, arrest him, and he goes down with Michael.” Case said matter of fact.
“How do we catch him Atoms?” Slade asked.
“We have to assume he is out there watching our every move. Even though he is mixed in as one of us meaning he is an officer now. We must approach with caution. He is smart and he has already killed an officer tonight.”
“What if he goes on the run?”
“He won’t run. He likes to stay close to Michael which shows us that Michael is the leader of the whole group.”
“How do we know he won’t run?” Reef asked.
“Because his next plan of action is to help Michael escape,” Agent Elliott said coming in the door.
“I thought you were going to let us handle Solomon and then hand him over to ya’ll,” Atoms said. “And how is he going to help him escape when he is already in jail?”
“Remember, I told you he was going to be at the trial.”
“Yes, but there is going to be a lot of people in that courtroom. If he suspects that we are onto him, all he has to do is walk out and disappear. Plus, he has a badge now,” Reef reminded Atoms.
“SHIT! He has access to Michael anytime he wants.”
“Not necessarily true,” Slade said. “He has to have a reason to see Michael even at the courthouse. The deputies won’t let him get near Michael without a good cause.”
“We have to catch him now before it’s too late,” Elliott insisted.
“Then where do we start looking for him?”
“Well he might have gone back to his house to pack up and make ready to get Michael out before the trial.”
“Then let’s hit his house with everything we got to pin him down,” Reef said.
Case called Judge Roberto Duncan to get the proper arrest warrant. Once it was all said and done through the proper channels every single unit flew out of the parking lot to go get Deputy Patrick White a.k.a. Travis Solomon.
Atoms had a feeling Solomon wouldn’t be home. He was too damn smart to just sit there and wait for them to come and get him. Not following everyone else, Atoms headed to Port Manatee. As soon as he walked in, the guard at the front desk said, “Visiting hours are over sir.”
Atoms showed his creds and the guard backed off.
“Has Michael Atoms had any visitors today?” he asked the guard.
“Nobody except his attorney Mr. Bolton,” the guard replied.
“Why am I not surprised?” Atoms whispered to himself.
“Nope, just the one.”
“DAMN IT!” exclaimed Atoms. “Another dead end.”
He sat in his car trying to figure out what he missed. The more he thought back on the “Killer Santa” case, the angrier he got. There was something missing, and if he could figure out what it was then he could find Solomon. Then he remembered something. Nobody thought to check Michael’s residence for any clues, and there was a fire in Myakka City around the same time the murders were going on. He raced back to the precinct to see exactly when the fire had occurred. It was deserted which made things a little easier. He searched through all the files on his laptop of recent fires. Another thing that popped into his head was that nobody really knew where Michael Element was killed or how he was killed. Time was growing short, so he decided that it was time to head back to Port Manatee and visit with Michael again. Only this time there would be no more playing nice.
Deputy Patrick White lived modestly with just a quiet one-story house in Palmetto. He was about to get a rude awakening, or so they thought. After surrounding the house, deputies ran up to the door and announced their presence.
“Manatee Sheriff’s Office open up,” Reef demanded.
Nobody answered and the house was pitch black, so Reef called out again, “MANATEE SHERIFF’S OFFICE! OPEN UP NOW!”
Still no answer. Reef gave the go ahead and the officers had the battering ram ready.
They busted the door down and began searching the house for anyone.
“All clear” rang out through the house.
“Sonofabitch! Where is the asshole?” Reef said out loud.
Then he heard a ticking noise coming from the kitchen. It was a baking timer, but to what though. And then it dawned on him.
The house went up in a giant ball of fire.
Solomon had made everyone look like a fool. He had been watching from a not so remote location and activated the timer himself.
“I knew there was a reason I hated authorities,” He said to himself.
After blowing up his house, Solomon left a house that Michael rented off Pine Street. It was time to pay a visit to the sheriff. Heading east towards Cortez Road, he started wondering what he would say to his old friend.
David Black had attended Bayshore High School with Solomon. Shortly after high school, Black joined the sheriff’s department and then in 2005 was elected to be sheriff of Manatee County. He had heard that rookie Officer Patrick White was really Travis Solomon. Fearing for his life, he locked all the doors and windows. Thinking Solomon was coming after him, he was right.
Thirty minutes had passed, and nothing had happened. Black had sat down to watch television when there was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” Black asked. He was standing by the door with his department issued pistol.
A voice came back through the door and said, “An old friend.”
Black knew who it was, but just to be on the safe side, he looked through the peep hole. The last thing he saw was a muzzle flash. Solomon had shot him dead center in the head. Black’s bulk was laying against the door, so he had to push the door open and walked in. Laying on the linoleum floor was his old friend. But in his mind his old friend had betrayed him. Looking down at Black, all he could think was, “You should have never looked through the peep hole.” Sirens were headed towards him, so he jumped in his car and left.
Atoms headed up U.S. 41 all the way back to Port Manatee. He was going to get some answers. Remembering that visiting hours were over, he called Deputy Tony Vance. Vance had spoken with him earlier regarding the death of Lester Andersen.
“Manatee County Central jail. This is Deputy Vance. How can I direct your call?”
“Deputy Vance, this is Detective Atoms. We spoke earlier concerning Lester Andersen’s death.”
“I have nothing more to tell you detective.”
“I am not calling about that.”
“How can I help you then?”
“I need to see Michael Atoms again.”
“I’ll see what I can do detective. It’s usually lights out by now.”
“I understand that, but this is majorly important.”
“When you get here, give the guard at the front desk my name. I’ll tell him you’re coming.”
Atoms pulled into the parking lot fifteen minutes later. He walked up to the front doors and tried to open them, but they were locked. There was no guard at the front desk like Deputy Vance said there would be. Something wasn’t right, so he knocked on the glass until a guard showed up.
“Visiting hours are way over sir. Come back tomorrow,” the guard said through the glass.
Atoms showed him his badge, and the guard finally unlocked the doors letting Atoms in.
“Prisoner intake is behind the building Deputy…um where is your name badge?”
“It’s detective. Detective Will Atoms. I am here to speak to prisoner Michael Atoms. Now are you going to let me in or what? I already spoke with Deputy Vance. He was supposed to let you know that I was coming.”
“Sorry detective, but nobody has told me that you were coming otherwise I would let you in.”
Atoms was becoming very upset but didn’t show it. Calmly he asked, “Can you call Deputy Vance on the radio and find out what’s going on. It must have slipped his mind.”
The guard got on the radio and tried to get a hold of Vance, but nobody was responding.
“If you don’t mind waiting here sir, I’ll go check with Deputy Vance since I can’t get him on the radio. This will only take a few minutes.”
“Sure,” Atoms said irritably.
Ten minutes went by. Nothing. Then over the intercom heard the worst thing you could hear in a jail.
“CODE BLUE! CODE BLUE! We have a man down near the visitor’s area.”
“Shit,” was all Atoms could say. He was about to rush in when another guard showed up.
“I’m sorry sir, but I’m going to have ask you to leave. We are in full lockdown status,” the new guard said.
“I’m a detective with the department. What happened?”
“We have a deputy down detective.”
“Deputy Tony Vance.”
Atoms’ face went pale. “What exactly happened in there?” he asked.
“He got stabbed.”
“By who deputy? I need details.”
“He was going to get Michael Atoms. Said he had an important visitor, and when he went to wake Michael up, he stabbed him. Now we are trying to find him.”
“Alright I’ll call in an ambulance. Where is Deputy Vance now?”
“In the infirmary.”
“Keep this place locked tight. I don’t want Michael to get away. Keep Deputy Vance in the infirmary until the paramedics get here and rope off the area where he was stabbed. I don’t want it contaminated. As of right now, I’m in charge of the crime scene. Understood? Nobody goes in or out until forensics clears the area.”
Atoms called Captain Slade to tell her what happened. “Yes captain. I have the area roped off.”
“Well it’s going to take a while for forensics to get there. Just try to keep the scene calm. We have two other situations going on.”
“What do you mean? Didn’t ya’ll capture Solomon?”
“No. His house was rigged with a bomb. We almost lost have the precinct if it hadn’t been for Reef hearing it ticking. And I just got word that Sheriff Black was shot and killed not too long ago this evening.”
That pushed Atoms over the edge. As soon as he hung up with Slade, he told the guard to keep the area secured until he got back.
Squealing tires out of the parking lot, Atoms made a straight shot back to Bradenton. He had a hunch of where Solomon might hit next, and he wasn’t about to let him get away.
Michael had finally come out of hiding after hearing that his brother was gone. The guards found him back in his cell somehow stabbing his cellmate with the same shiv as he used on Deputy Vance. They quickly overpowered him and locked him back up in isolation. Once he heard about the Sheriff being killed, a smile crept across his face and he said to himself “Very nice work Travis.” He knew what was going to happen next. Atoms was going after him.
Heading towards the Manatee Sheriff’s Operation Center, Atoms made ready to go face to face with Solomon. Damn it! How could I have been so blind? Solomon was hiding in plain sight.
He had no idea what he who or what he was up against. The situation was much different than when he went face to face with Michael. He knew Solomon would be armed. Pullin off to the side of the road, Atoms made sure he had everything ready for every possible scenario that could be possibly pulled off. The hell with catching him. Now Solomon tried killing him and successfully killed the sheriff was enough. Atoms was going to kill the sonofabitch.
Twenty minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot of the Operations Center. It was dark and the fifty-degree weather didn’t help any. He could see lights on in the building which meant there was someone at the front desk. He headed into the building dressed in street clothes, so hopefully someone would recognize him. Once inside, everything was peaceful. The little Christmas tree they put in the lobby was still there. But then Atoms saw the read bead aimed right at the deputy’s head that sat at the front desk.
A shot was fired but missed it’s intended target. Before the deputy could say anything, another shot was lined up for the kill, but Atoms knocked over his chair just as the shot was fired.
“What the hell just happened? Why did you pull me down here?” the deputy asked.
“I just saved your ass that’s what happened. Now stay down. There is a sniper out there.”
Atoms saw where the shot came from. The muzzle flash gave it away. He moved in to aim and fire at Solomon, but it was too late. Solomon was gone. “Damn this bastard is quick”, he said to himself.
He went out the doors slowly and carefully using the squad cars to shield his movement. Another shot rang out. It hit the light bar on top of the car Atoms was hiding behind. He rose up to get a shot off, but there was nobody around or at least that he could see. Solomon spoke.
“You will never take me alive Detective. I’ll die before I go to prison.”
“Give up Solomon, and we can talk. Maybe even make a deal.”
Solomon didn’t say a word. Atoms aimed and fired his gun. The shot hit close to its intended target.
“Good shot Detective,” Solomon said. “But fortunately for me you just nicked me.”
“Next time you won’t be so lucky. Now give up. It’s over.”
The two of them were at a stalemate.
“You must’ve not read my file good enough, because if you had of, you would know that I am an expert marksman when it comes to the long-range rifle.”
“You’re going down Solomon. Just like your friend Michael.”
Silence. Atoms knew he must have struck a nerve, so he continued talking. “Michael is going to ride the lightning, and you already knew that. But what I can’t figure out is why kill all those other people.” Still nothing came from Solomon.
He was using the side view mirrors to see where Solomon was hiding. The next thing he saw was Solomon moving. This enabled him to get a bead on him. But just as he lined up the shot, another shot rang out.
Solomon hit the asphalt with a thud spitting up blood. Atoms looked around to see where the other shot came from. He didn’t see anybody, but he could hear footsteps. When he looked around again, he saw the Chief Deputy walking towards where Solomon went down. As the Chief Deputy walked up on the wounded man, Solomon said, “You sonofabitch! You shot me in the back.”
“Never turn your back on a man with a gun,” the chief deputy said. “Besides this isn’t the wild west.”
Atoms watched in amazement. Chief Deputy Daryl Warner had saved his life. He ran over to where Chief Deputy Warner and Solomon was. Warner looked over at Atoms and said, “Criminals like Solomon deserve to get shot in the back.
“You could’ve incapacitated him, and he would’ve stood trial,” Atoms retorted.
“A crazy man like him would’ve pleaded insanity and gotten away with what he did.”
“Which is what exactly?”
“How do you know he committed murder? You have no proof that he did anything besides open fire on a government building.”
“You’re wrong Detective. I overheard what you and he were talking about. He even told you that you would never take him alive. Plus, I was there when he killed Sheriff Black.”
“Then why didn’t you do something then?”
“Because I got there too late. I had no proof that he had killed the sheriff until I got up to Black’s door. All I saw was him taking off in his car, so I followed him.”
“Why didn’t you just pull him over and arrest him?”
“I told you. Men like him would plead insanity and he would get away with it. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen before with your brother the first time we caught him.”
“My brother’s trial hasn’t started yet. You know that.”
“I’m referring to when he killed your father. The bastard should’ve fried then, but his asshole attorney got him a plea of insanity. So, they just threw him into the mental hospital. And well the rest you know.”
Atoms was in shock and couldn’t believe what he was just told.
“You were there the first time they caught Michael, weren’t you?” Atoms asked.
Warner nodded and started to walk away when a voice said, “Tell him the truth Daryl.” It was Agent Elliott.
“You tell him yourself Randall. After all you were there too,” Warner said.
“What the hell is he talking about Elliott?” Atoms asked.
Elliott tossed him a flash drive and said, “That should be enough to prosecute everyone involved.”
“All the people involved are dead except Michael. Warner just killed Solomon. What the hell is going on here Agent Elliott?”
“Read everything that’s on those files and it will explain everything.”
Atoms watched as Elliott walked away. “What about Warner?” he called out.
Elliott said nothing and just kept on walking.
Atoms turned to arrest Chief Deputy Warner for the murder of Travis Solomon, but he was gone. Solomon’s body still laid on the ground as a pool of blood seeped out from his wound in his back.
The deputies inside helped rope off the area. Norcom arrived shortly after.
“Atoms, you alright?” he asked.
He looked at the flash drive in his hand and said, “Yeah just a little confused.”
Not long after giving his statement to Norcom, the Crime Scene Unit showed up. Everything was a mess. News reporters were everywhere. No place was safe to go and look at the flash drive, so Atoms headed home to see what Elliott was talking about before he just disappeared.
Once he was home, he took out his laptop and plugged in the flash drive into the empty USB port. I wonder what I’m going to find on here.
He opened the main file and began browsing through it. At first, there was nothing but surveillance photos of everyone involved. Also, there were reports of everyone that had been arrested. What the hell was Elliott talking about when he said if I read the files it will explain everything?
To get his answer, he went through each file one by one. Each of them contained interviews and audio files of those interviews. None of them seem to interest him until he got to a very large file that was labeled Michael Atoms. He clicked on the file and opened it. Inside was a treasure trove of information on Michael and why he was locked away in a mental hospital. One file said that he had bi-polar while another one said he was schizophrenic. Along with the reports were audio files of different interviews with him. Atoms decided to open one of them and listen to it. The first audio file he listened to was an interview done by the psychiatrist overseeing the case. This must have been after he was arrested for killing dad.
On the audio file, he could hear Michael mumbling something, but it was incoherent. The next one he listened to Michael was more complacent and talked to psychiatrist very normally. He could hear that cold and calculated voice that he had heard so many times before.
The psychiatrist on the recording spoke and said, “For the record, can you please tell me your name?”
“NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS!” Michael yelled.
Listening to it, Atoms felt like he was right there with him. Immediately, he hit the stop button as he heard Michael say something under his breath that maybe the psychiatrist didn’t catch while doing the interview. “I’ll have to check that out again to see if I heard it right,” he said to himself.
His cell phone started buzzing. It was the State Attorney that was prosecuting Michael and overseeing the case. She had called to remind him that they had a meeting set up for the morning to go over the case with her.
“I’ll be there at Nine am sharp,” he told her before he hung up.
After clicking off with Ms. Case, he got in the shower, washed off, shaved the beard that was starting to grow, and got ready to go to bed. He hadn’t been getting much sleep lately. Not since the beginning of the case for that matter, and it showed. His eyes had bags under them, and he could barely keep his eyes open. He soon fell asleep into a deep sleep. That was until he heard someone moving about his room.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my house?”
All the voice said was “Get up. NOW!”
As soon as Atoms heard the voice, he pointed his gun right where the voice had come from.
“Go ahead. Shoot me,” the voice said. “Just know if you do, it will be your biggest mistake”
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my house I said?”
“Someone who can help you win the battle against your brother.”
“You’re a little late. Michael is in jail awaiting trial.”
“True. But he won’t be for long if you don’t listen to me.”
“You never did answer my question. Why are you in my house?”
“To give you warning. Michael and his attorney are going to try and discredit you.”
“How if all the evidence points to him?”
“Your temper for one. Listen to me, get him in the pre-trial. It’s the only way to get him in the electric chair. Otherwise, he goes back to the mental hospital, and believe me, you don’t want that.”
“You still haven’t told me who you are?”
The voice went silent and a shadow reached over to turn on the lamp next to the chair they were sitting in. Atoms was in shock when he saw who the person was.
“You’re that kid that came to talk to me about there being three guys. What are you doing here in my house?”
“We’ve been over that.”
“Look kid I’ve had enough surprises for one, so just tell me what you want.”
“I told you I want to help you send your brother to the electric chair.”
“Go home kid before I arrest you for breaking and entering my home. This is no time for a prank.”
“This is no prank detective.”
“Why help me now?”
“I’ve been watching the case. My brother works for the State Attorney’s office.”
“Doesn’t mean you can break into someone’s home.”
“Look, I came here to help you!”
“I appreciate the help, but —”
The kid was gone. Atoms got up and looked around the house to try and find the kid, but he was gone. The only evidence was an open window that he climbed out of.
Damn kids! They think they can do anything they want.
Nine am the next morning Atoms was waiting for Ms. Case and the State Attorney to come and get him for their meeting. While he waited though, he kept scratching his head thinking about what the kid had said the night before. Two minutes later, his train of thought was disrupted when the secretary called him up and told him they were ready for him in the conference room. When he walked in Ms. Case was sitting down while the State Attorney stood up to shake his hand.
“Thank you for coming Detective,” the State Attorney said.
“No problem. Now I understand that is to go over the multiple murders that happened in Orlando, Sarasota, and here.”
“Sort of. We asked to have this meeting because we want you to give us a full account of what happened specifically when you tried to detain Mr. Atoms at the abandoned hospital.”
“Well, for one, I didn’t go there to detain him. I went there to kill him to end his reign of terror on Manatee and Sarasota county.”
The state attorney wrote something down on a notepad, but Atoms couldn’t see what it was.
“Look I know what I did was wrong but how would you feel if a known murderer killed your mother or father or both for the matter. Once I realized the ways of my actions I immediately went to try and detain Mr. Atoms but was pressed to fight for my life.”
The state attorney just looked at Atoms and listened to him recount everything that happened that night.
“Detective Atoms, tell me about what happened in Manatee Memorial.”
“Why is it relevant to this case? The guy murdered a whole damn department of good cops and a lot more people than just them.”
“As you know, Christian Key is Mr. Atoms’ Attorney.”
“Yes, I know that. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the self-righteous prick.”
“Yes, well Mr. Key is already trying to say that Manatee Sheriff’s Department did not protect his client while he was in custody in the hospital.”
Atoms figured that he would bring that up.
“It’s come to our attention also that you have visited Mr. Atoms in jail.”
“Yes, I have seen him in jail and spoke with him. What the hell does that have to do with the case?”
“Everything Detective. Mr. Key is also trying to get the case thrown out of court based on entrapment. And if it doesn’t get thrown out of court then he wants a plea deal. Now Mr. Atoms’ preliminary hearing is coming up. I want him to pay just as much as you do, but we can’t have you going to see him to get him to confess.” The state attorney looked over at Ms. Case and said, “Do we have anymore evidence to present to the judge other than what Detective Atoms has provided us with?”
“Not at this time,” Ms. Case said.
“The judge will set bail if any at his arraignment. Is there anything you wish to discuss with us Detective?”
“No. But I do believe ya’ll are making a big mistake.”
“Based on what grounds?”
“Michael is smart and will try anything he can to get out of the situation he is in right now.”
“Thank you for that information Detective. We will investigate it. I have nothing further to discuss. Do you Ms. Case?”
The state attorney stood up to shake hands with Atoms, but he wasn’t having it. He just walked out without saying a word. There must be more to this case or else he will walk away scot free.
Once he was back at the station, he started looking back over the files to see if there was any more evidence, he could give them for evidence. He knew that there wasn’t enough there to give him the death penalty. As he was about to look through the flash drive that Elliott gave him, Slade called him into her office.
“How did the meeting go?”
“Shitty. The state attorney thinks they have enough to give Michael the death penalty. Truth is they don’t. Michael is going to say I tried to entrap him or say he is insane, which don’t get me wrong he is, but he is also smart.”
State Attorney Conner Sherman had been appointed to take over for Ms. Case in prosecuting the case. He was also supposed to be the best prosecutor in the state. Atoms didn’t care for him. Once he was back at his desk, he went back to looking at the files and came across something he didn’t see before. A picture. It was a nurse from Manatee Glens walking with Michael down what looked to be a hall.
He began looking for other evidence that had been forged or lied about, and he found it. There were inconsistencies with the signatures on the reports. Atoms kept flipping through the pages of reports from the hospital, and then he found what he was looking for. A nurse had signed a report stating that Michael was in his room the day he escaped, which proved to be wrong. He saw an affidavit from an eyewitness who saw Michael and this nurse walking but didn’t know where they were going.
“So, that’s how they escaped. A nurse let them all out,” he said to himself.
But still the only evidence they had of him committing any crime in any of the counties were the eyewitness accounts from the abandoned hospital along with the eyewitness account from the veterinary hospital. Atoms had a feeling that Key would try the insanity plea, so he went back to the State Attorney’s Office to talk to Sherman again.
As soon as he arrived back at Sherman’s office, he headed to the conference room. But before he barged in, Atoms could hear Antonia Case talking about how they should move forward in the case. Sherman didn’t disagree but was saying that they shouldn’t have Atoms testify. Case disagreed. Atoms had heard enough. He swung the door open and said, “Here is your goddamn evidence. Oh, next time you try to talk about someone make sure they can’t hear you. And if you think I shouldn’t testify Mr. Sherman maybe you should read my record some time.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Sherman demanded.
“I came by to give you some more evidence, but it appears you have everything you need.”
“Who the hell let him in?”
“I let myself in. It’s called open to the public.”
“Call security and get this maniac out of my office now.”
“No need for security. I’ll let myself out.”
As Atoms stormed out, Ms. Case ran after him. “Detective Atoms. Wait,” she called out!
Atoms could hear her calling him, but he kept on walking until he got to the main doors.
“Please wait. You don’t understand,” she said as she caught up to him.
“What don’t I understand Ms. Case? The man is incompetent. You will lose the case against Michael if you let him take over the case.”
“Sherman has been taking off the case already. He was taken of this morning.”
“Why was he saying that I shouldn’t testify at the trial, if he was taken off the case?”
“Because he thinks with the way you reacted to him asking questions that seemed to have nothing to do with the case actually does. As Sherman said earlier, Key is going to do everything to get the case thrown out. If I put you on the stand, he will use your reputation against you.”
“Antonia, we can’t let my brother walk free.”
“I know that Detective, and we won’t. I promise you that.”
“When is his arraignment?”
“Two days from today. I’m going to make sure he is there to hear the charges being brought against him.”
“Santa turn around and back up slowly. Put your hands through the slot,” the guard ordered.
Michael heard the cuffs making their ratcheting noise as they tightened around his wrists.
“Move away from the door.”
Michael did as he was told. The guard opened the door, walked in, shackled his feet and brought him into the hallway.
“Your hot shot attorney is here to see you. NOW MOVE!”
He did as he was told and headed down to visitation room where Key was waiting for him. As he walked into the room, he noticed all the security cameras around the room. He gave a laugh and was about to make a smartass comment until he saw Key shake his head no. The attorney looked at him and said, “Take a seat Michael.”
“Why are you here Key? I thought you were taking care of things,” Michael said.
“I am. As a matter of fact, the plea bargaining is tomorrow. Which is why I’m here. We need to go over a few things. I’m thinking we should make a deal with the state attorney.”
“What kind of deal?”
“You do life in prison with the possibility of parole in five years on account for good behavior.”
“Sounds like a good deal. What else are you thinking?”
“You said, you read something about your brother having a bad temper. If we can get him to show his temper maybe, we can get the trial thrown out.”
“Yeah, read his personnel file. If you can do that it will show you that he was on suspension before being assigned to the case.”
“I’ll definitely take a look at that.”
After leaving the State Attorney’s office for the second time, Atoms’ phone started buzzing. He looked at the caller ID, but he didn’t recognize the number. He answered it anyways. “Detective Atoms speaking.”
“Yeah Detective. It’s Tony Shepard.”
“What do you want kid? I really don’t have time for this.”
“Have you thought about what I said the other night?”
“Yeah, I have actually. Now tell me why you are so interested in this case.”
“He used me Detective.”
“Yeah, but did he hurt you in any way shape or form?”
“No, but I don’t like being used.”
“Look kid, unless you have something you want to tell me, I have to get off here.”
There was silence for a moment, and then Tony said, “I want to testify against Michael.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Where are you at?”
“I’m down the road from you. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
“Wait, Kid, I’ll come get you?”
“No, just stay there. I’ll be there soon.” Tony hung up. Five minutes later he was standing next to Atoms.
“You ready kid?” Atoms asked.
“Yeah about as ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s get this over with.”
Side by side, Tony and Atoms walked into the building heading for the State Attorney’s office. Ms. Case was standing outside of the office when Atoms and Tony came walking up. As soon as she saw them, she motioned for them to join her in her office.
Atoms took a sea, looked over at Case and said, “Here is your key witness.”
Case looked at him like he had three heads. Seeing the look on Case’s face, he said, “What? You’re going to need him Antonia. He was face to face with Michael before we even knew who Michael was.”
“Doesn’t work like that Detective. You know that we must subpoena his parents first. Michael has had only his first appearance and preliminary hearing. And the last I heard from Key, he wants to make a plea deal.”
“What kind of deal does that self-righteous prick want?”
“If Michael pleads guilty, he gets life in prison with the possibility of parole in five years on account of good behavior. But as you and I both know, murder in the first degree is a capital offense here in Florida.”
“Yes, I know, but he killed an entire police department right before my eyes.”
“I understand that you want this guy to be punished, but we have to abide by the law. We can’t jump the gun here. His arraignment is coming up soon. Let’s see what the judge says first.”
Atoms calmed down and said, “Fine, but this kid…I mean Tony here is the one who Michael had him deliver one of his ‘gifts’. Isn’t that right —”
Tony had left during the conversation. On his way back home, he thought, The hell with them. I offer help and all they want to do is argue over procedures.
A few hours later, Atoms started to wonder why Tony just up and left. Before he headed home, he stopped by the precinct to see if he could find anything on Tony. He tried every national database available to him. Nothing came up. He was about to give up looking for him, when Tony came walking into the station.
The deputy at the desk said, “What do you want Kid?”
“Yeah I’m here to speak to Detective Atoms,” Tony replied.
“He’s busy. Go home. We don’t have time for—”
Atoms walked over and said, “It’s okay. I can take it from here.”
Tony walked over to Atoms’ desk and made himself at home.
“Get your feet off my desk,” Atoms said. “Look let’s get one thing straight. You’re a kid, and I’m an adult. Got it?”
“Sure, whatever you say Detective.”
“Now why are you here at the Sheriff’s office instead of at home? Where are your parents?”
“Dead. Anything else you want to know?”
Atoms looked at Tony in shock. He felt bad for asking. “I’m sorry to hear that kid. Who do you live with now?”
“My older brother. Now if you’re done asking questions about me, we can talk about your brother. I want to be at his arraignment.”
“No way, Tony. It’s too dangerous and a courtroom is no place for a kid to be hanging around in.”
“Fine. But I still want to testify.”
“Not that easy Tony. I don’t know if you stuck around to hear what Ms. Case had to say but basically the state attorney’s office has to subpoena your brother in order for you to testify.”
“So, send him a subpoena. He won’t care.”
“Well after the subpoena, you have to tell Ms. Case everything you know about what you witnessed. And you can’t just disappear like you’ve been doing.”
“Fine, but I don’t want to hear any arguing like before.”
“Tomorrow is the arraignment, so we might be able to get you in the following day.”
After talking with him some more, Atoms escorted him out of the station. Hoping Tony would keep his word, he called Antonia Case. He knew tomorrow was going to be a bitch to do anything because of the arraignment, but he had to try. All he could think was, God I hope everything goes smoothly tomorrow.
A loud banging on the steel door woke Michael up out of a dead sleep. The deputy on duty said, “Wake up Santa! Today is your big day with the judge.”
“What time is it?” Michael asked.
“Time for you to shut your mouth. Now turn around, you know the drill.”
Michael did as he was told. The guard placed handcuffs on his wrists and opened the door. Slowly they walked down to an empty holding cell. The cell was usually used for drunks and people coming down off their high, but today it was being used to hold one of the most dangerous criminals Manatee County has ever scene. Still wondering what the time was, Michael asked again.
“Six in the morning Santa. Now shut up and get away from the door.”
“What time is my arraignment?”
“Don’t worry about it.” The guard turned around and ignored Michael the rest of the time.
Michael sat in the cell thinking to himself, this asshole is going to get it first chance I get.
Around eight forty-five, the same deputy banged on the glass window. Michael was already awake. His face turned a beet red and he started breathing heavy. He stood in the cell waiting for the deputy to come in. When the door opened though, five deputies walked in. One of them had chains and shackles and headed towards him. Michael stood still. Not yet Michael. Wait till it’s just you and him.
After he was cuffed and shackled, the five deputies escorted him to the loading area for the inmates. This time it was just him and two guards. Michael took his seat and they locked his chains to an O-ring on the floor of the van. Heading towards the judicial center, Michael kept his thoughts trained on two things. Freedom and revenge. Nineteen minutes later they pulled into the back of the courthouse. They unchained him from the floor but left the shackles on. When he stepped out of the van, he smelled the fresh air and muttered under his breath, “Freedom.”
The two deputies with him moved him along like a slave. “Get your ass moving Santa. We don’t have all day.”
As they pushed him into the building, he noticed a kid watching nearby. Winking at the kid, he mouthed, “I’ll see you soon.”
Once they had him inside, they put him in a holding cell underneath the courthouse until it was time for the arraignment. Every five minutes, Michael kept checking the time. The deputy that had woke him up was standing nearby and noticed Michael staring at the clock. He nudged the other deputy and said, “He must be anxious to tell the judge he’s innocent.”
The two deputies laughed, and the other deputy looked at him and said, “Must have a guilty conscience.”
At nine thirty, the deputies went to take him out of the cell. Michael lunged at them grabbing the deputy that had the keys to the cuffs and the shackles and slammed him into the gray bars of the cell rendering him unconscious. The other deputy went for his taser, but it was too late. Michael stabbed him with a shiv in the lungs filling them with blood. He wanted to stick around and watch him choke to death on his own blood, but he had to get out of there. Heading back the way he came in, he could hear other deputies coming towards him. He took a detour and avoided them at all costs. There is no way I’m going back to that infernal hell hole.
After coming out near the door he came in, his heart was pounding from the adrenaline rush of avoiding the other deputies. Quickly, he raced out the door. The kid was still sitting outside the courthouse. Michael rushed over and grabbed him throwing him into the backseat of a purple car. The car pulled off just as the deputies had came out the door and poured into the street. They fired their weapons, but the car was already out of sight.
Atoms rushed to see what all the commotion was about as he had just walked up to enter the courthouse. He remembered Tony telling him that he would be nearby but wouldn’t tell him how close he would be. Hearing that Michael had escaped with a kid, Atoms had no doubt that he took Tony. Damn it, Tony! I told you to stay away.
As he headed back to his car, his cell phone buzzed. He checked the caller ID, but the number was blocked. Answering the phone, he recognized the voice.
“Hello little brother.”
“Michael! Where are you taking the kid?”
“Oh, just on a little field trip.”
Atoms motioned some deputies over as he tried to keep Michael talking, so maybe they could put a trace on the call.
“Michael, where are you?”
“That’s for me to know and you to figure out. That’s the way this works isn’t it I escape, and you chase after me. Only one little problem. I have the kid with me and if I see any cops nearby, I’m killing the kid. Adios little brother.”
Atoms told the deputies to call all law enforcement agencies in the area and tell them to keep the roadways open.
“I want to know one damn thing right now. How in the hell did he escape? We need to catch him, but we can’t do anything because he has a hostage and has threatened to kill the hostage followed. However, I want the state police notified now. This sonofabitch needs to be captured before he crosses state lines. Make sure you give the state boys a full description of the car if anyone saw it before it got away.”
Twenty minutes had gone by. As he was about to jump in his car to look for the car himself, a deputy came running over and told him that they found the car, but it was empty. The realization set in. Michael was gone and had the kid with him. Atoms swore and said, “I want forensics all over that damn car to see if we can find anything that may have been left behind.”
Michael, the driver, and the kid headed up I-95 north to Virginia to look for new hunting grounds.
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