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The Silent Shot
“All right, Dan, that's it for us. We'll take another look tomorrow. You should probably close up shop pretty soon.” the inspector said.
The armada of police cars slowly backed up and sped away. Dan Warren took a deep breath in, the let out a long sigh. He ran a hand through his short, almost military brown hair and shook his head. He fiddled with the buttons on his brown leather jacket, but decided to let them be. He didn't know when they'd broken, but he didn't care enough to fix them. He frowned, blue eyes staring at the road that led up to the crime scene he had to investigate. He had no idea where to begin, and he fiddled with his police badge to pass the time. He was a captain; how he got there, he had no idea.
“Where the hell is he?” Dan wondered. Silas Schuss needed to get here soon. Dan had depended on him for such a long time, he'd almost forgotten how to do his job without him. Silas was a private detective; not a part of the police, but a damned good detective. Without Silas, half of his cases would be cold and unsolved. The inspector would have fired Dan a long time ago.
Still, it didn't seem like even Silas could help with this case. The Silent Shot, they called him. Dan looked over at the body, lying in a small clearing among the trees. They were just outside Chicago, but to Dan this could have been the middle of Nebraska. The victim was a woman; they always were with the Silent Shot. He always killed with a single shot to the forehead, and then he placed their index finger over their lips. “Don't tell anyone,” they seemed to say. A twig cracked like a gunshot behind Dan, startling him.
“I have arrived. You can stop worrying,” Silas said, smirking. Everytime he said an “s,” it whistled out of his tongue, like a hissing snake.
“You're late,” Dan said.
“No, Dan, you should know I'm never late. Is the inspector here?”
“He left with the rest of the squad. Listen, I appreciate you coming out here, but why do we always have to do this without anyone around?”
Silas waved a hand at him and stepped over the body. His black trenchcoat hung loosely around his body as he stepped over the corpse.
“You should really tie your hair back, Silas, you could get hair on the corpse and--”
Silas's sunken dark eyes fixed themselves on Dan. “Shut up. You talk too much,” he said, shaking his head. His long black hair flew back and forth, sending shivers down Dan's spine.
“You could get me fired!” he said.
“I'm saving your job. Show a little gratitude. Victim's a woman. About my age I'd say… Are you getting all this?”
Dan pulled out a notepad and started writing.
“As I was saying, Woman, about my age. Hair recently dyed, contact lenses a different color than her normal eye color, nails cut short, and sunglasses found on the person.” Silas pressed on the dead woman's chest briefly. “Implants, probably in the buttocks as well, and faint evidence of scarring on the face, probably from plastic surgery.”
“What the hell does all that mean?”
“Fear. Running from someone. Changed her entire face, and probably changed her name, too. Silent Shot, I assume?”
Silas chuckled a bit, then murmured to himself. He started laughing out loud, then spit on the ground next to the corpse.
“What's so funny? Damn it, Silas, you just laugh at the air all the time.”
“It's nothing, Dan. I just realized, a shot as good as this? Has to be a military man. A veteran, like me.”
Dan nodded and scribbled it down on his pad.
“As I was saying,” Silas continued, “She was running from someone. I suspect she'd been following the news. Her phone has a subscription to an inordinate amount of newspapers, all of them local papers. I'd expect if you looked more carefully, you'd find a pattern among the victims. One that poor Melissa Anderson figured out.”
Dan shook his head. “That can't be it. The victims are random. Jenna born and raised in Tennessee, Alyssa born in Oklahoma, and Natalie was from New York. They all came to Chicago for different reasons. Jenna was here on work, Alyssa on vacation, Natalie to visit family, and none of them have any military history… You know it, don't you?”
Silas winked and grinned.
“Then why don't you just tell me? There's no discernable pattern here. This silent bastard's pattern is more silent than he is.”
“Where's the fun in telling you? Play the game, Dan. Just play it with me!” Silas cried.
“The game?! Silas, people are dying! You don't get that, do you? I know you're brilliant, now save a damned life!” Dan said.
Silas chuckled, and then he began to cachinnate. He laughed until his stomach hurt and his eyes started to tear.
“Say something! Don't always go silent whenever we get anywhere… Jesus, stop being so silent, Silas!”
Silas's eyes hardened and fixed on Dan.
“What did you say, Dan?” Silas said.
“What? I just said… I just meant you always get so quiet whenever I'm onto anything.”
Silas muttered to himself, then scowled.
“What? What is it?”
“That's what they used to call me. Silent Silas. Before I knew you, Dan.” Silas's eyes danced like demons, and his mouth curled up into a smile that made Dan's heart shrivel.
Dan chuckled and backed up, holding one hand, palm open, towards Silas. The soft grass crinkled under his footsteps like tissue paper. “Not anymore, they don't. Now we can't get you to shut up.”
“No, no, they don't call me that anymore, I suppose.” Silas walked up to his friend and clapped a hand on his shoulder heavily. Dan winced in pain.
I'm sorry, Dan. I really don't have the pattern in mind. Maybe they just pissed him off passing him on the street?”
Dan frowned, looked at Silas, and then focused on the corpse again.
“I've got nothing,” Dan said. “The inspector's gonna fire me so hard.”
“Maybe he was just… misunderstood.” Silas hissed that last word. “The finger to the lips will lead us there.” Silas took a gloved hand and lifted Melissa's finger from her lips. He ran an ultraviolet light along her finger and swore under his breath.
“He's good,” Silas said. “He doesn't make any mistakes. It's like he knows what we're looking for and protects against exactly what we check.”
“Maybe he's a cop?”
“Better than that. He's got to be a detective. Have you considered the inspector?”
Dan shivered. One of his friends, a cold-hearted killer? He joined the force to hunt the bad guys. Who the hell joined the force to learn how to escape the force?
But the inspector… he'd need a motive, sure, but the inspector would know the police better than anyone. It'd make it so easy for him to get away with murder. Silas had done his job for him again. No one would suspect a killer on the force; it would give him the perfect alibi. Unless…
Unless the killer wasn't a part of the force. An outside influence. Someone called in to help on tough cases. Cases like these. Maybe he could get away with it, because…
“You're not investigating your own murder, are you?” Dan reached for his pocket to look for his gun, but he found Silas clenching it in his fist, knuckles white, skin stretched. The vein running down the middle of his hand bulged, and Silas's eyes were each as large and as cloudy as the moon on a starless night.
“Now, why would I do that?” Silas said, winking. Dan opened his mouth to respond, but Silas swung the gun, hilt first, at the base of Dan's skull. The blow lifted Dan up for a moment, then sent him thudding to the ground. His eyes looked like spotlights in a midnight fog.
“I swear, they always fall for that... Oh, you can't hear my pun. Damn it, Dan.” Silas leveled the gun at the center of Dan's forehead.
“I'm silent no more.”
Silas laughed to himself, first quietly, then louder and louder. Off in the distance, Silas could hear police cars heading his way. He contemplated shooting Dan but decided against it.
The game was too much fun to end now.