A Frustrated Hunter
“Oh my god. Another one.” Mitch stared at the report on his desk. Horror fought with fascination and revulsion with duty as he forced himself to go on reading. Outside it was a clear fall day, the nineteenth of September and balmy. Inside his office the temperature had just dropped about twenty degrees.
Mitch Flanagan was a detective. He worked in the homicide unit of the San Francisco Police Department. It had been last May when someone in the department had noticed what they called an “Anomaly.” There were a number of deaths in the city every year that didn’t really make much sense. These were accidents and suicides, at least as far as anyone could tell, but they were – ugly. Nightmarish beyond what accidents and suicides normally were, and there were too many of them for it to be a coincidence.
So they told Lieutenant Purdy, who was in charge of the homicide division, and she had assigned Detective Flanagan to check and find out whether there were any so-called accidents and suicides that might, when all was said and done, actually be the work of a serial killer. And since then Flanagan had been investigating what the rest of the department had started calling the “Freakshow File.” Personally, Mitch was convinced there was a psycho killer out there, because a compelling pattern had emerged. But there was never a damn shred of evidence.
This report, and a dozen others like it, were what Mitch had uncovered so far. No evidence of homicide, per se, but sure as hell it fit the Freakshow Pattern. It was an accident, but you don’t usually see more than a few accidents a year going to great lengths to kill in the most painful and disturbing ways possible. Except in San Francisco, where every month or two there would be one that was a nightmare vision straight out of hell.
Ditto suicides. Suicides, Mitch reflected, were basically cowards, taking the easy way out. They didn’t want messy, disturbing, protracted, painful deaths, they just wanted to quit. Except that in San Francisco, every so often, people took great pains to make their last minutes on earth as painful, hellish, and deviant as they possibly could. And there was nothing, but nothing, like it in any other city anywhere.
There was a pattern to these deaths. There was always evidence of sexual arousal or recent sexual abuse, or both. A fair fraction of them died in the middle of deviant sex acts. There was never any significant history of deviant sex until the fatal incident, and the people involved, even the suicides, had no known reason to want to die.
There was one thing that Mitch found particularly compelling, because it seemed to be the only physical clue that linked these deaths together. There was elevated adrenaline in the bloodstream, and the coroner told him it was twice and sometimes three times the level that ought to be physically possible.
At first they had looked for some kind of new drug that was tripping off adrenal rushes, then they had looked for someone selling adrenaline as an injectable drug. But all the blood work always came up clean, and there was no hint of anything new from the guys over in the vice unit.
Take this report, for example. A twenty-three year old male, and his twenty-one year old girlfriend, both with no criminal record, both members of the college honors program at SFSU, out for a ride in a stolen red convertible, at night. At a hundred and twenty miles an hour. Through the residential neighborhoods down near the Cow Palace. While she gave him a blow job. Okay, that was a little unusual, but this was San Francisco; you had to make some allowances.
They had picked up a police cruiser chasing them to give them a reckless driving ticket, but the guy had floored it instead of stopping. And then, just for kicks, she had bitten off his dick and swallowed it whole, and a few seconds later he had slammed the car through a stand of trees and into the side of a building killing them both. No evidence of alcohol or drugs. No reason for depression. No hints of a fight between the couple. Both doing well at school — the guy was on track to be a December grad with a law degree and she was majoring in psychology. They’d been planning to get married.
Two lives, brought to a sudden end that made no damn sense. Freakshow Deaths like that woman a couple months back who’d committed suicide by driving railroad spikes through her body – and finally, her head – with a hammer. And the adrenaline level in all three of them was well over twice what had ever been recorded in the bloodstream of a living patient. Blood pounded in Mitch’s ears as he made a copy of the report for the case file. Some bastard was killing people, and he couldn’t even figure out how, let alone why or who.
He filed the copy, marked the location on his map, marked the date on his calendar, and stared at both for a while. He dropped various overlays on the map; ethnic neighborhoods, sewers, streets, railroad tracks, subways, bus lines famous crimes, locations that had been used in movies and TV shows. Still no patterns that he could see. Same thing with the calendar. The overlays were significant dates to astrologers and on a dozen different minority calendars, phases of the moon, equinoxes, anniversaries of famous crimes and anniversaries of dates famous or infamous to a dozen minorities. But there were still no patterns. He got on the phone, made appointments with the coroner and the mechanic, and grabbed his coat and his holster.
Damnit, he was going to get to the bottom of this if it was the last thing he did. There was never any damn evidence. But there had to be, sooner or later. Nobody’s perfect; no killer is a damn ghost. Sooner or later this sonofabitch had to leave some evidence, and by all that was holy, when that happened Mitch Flanagan was going to be there to find it.
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.