The Killer Awoke Before Dawn
Part Two: Waiting for the Son
Ammar Sanderson spent his weekend watching Netflix and catching up with his three cats. When he wasn’t an arguable shut-in, he moonlit as one of the premier child psychologists in the country, by way of Yale University. At 42 years-old, Ammar had yet to be wed, had no children, and aside from Betty, Moma, and Dusty, lived alone.
Though his future seemed bleak, a budding gut would see to that, Ammar considered himself a content man. The medical practice, flaws and all, was not a bad deal if the scholar in question could claw their way out of student loan debt. He accomplished that feat the previous year.
With his financial standing on the upswing and his habits becoming rituals, Ammar rested in his moderate success and sipped happily from his handle of whiskey—unaware that his life was about to pivot left.
“The hell?” He thumbed his ear canal. “Do you guys hear that?”
The thumb rattled in his ear until it could go no further. Just then, the muffled and low-pitched siren caught a pace and shattered clear.
“Argh… God damn it.” To Dusty (his favorite) “I’ve got water in my friggin’ ear.”
An aggressive spree of knocks would momentarily distract him from the sound.
“Coming. Coming. Hold your horses.” He heel-toed to his apartment door as the knocking continued, more furiously with each passing second. “Do you have any idea what friggin’ time it is?”
Ammar clasped the knob.
He gave another dig at the ear.
Then opened the door.
“Martinez?” The Latina bombshell was his partner in crime and, to his displeasure, also had a taste for exotic women. Her sturdy demeanor aside, she was every ounce his intellectual equal and often his protector. They’d met at a bar some years before and have been synonymous ever since.
“Get dressed,” she ordered as she hustled in. “We’ve got an emergency.”
“Emergency?” Ammar quibbled and shut the door. “At three in the fucking morning?” To the cats, “Sorry guys.” To Martinez, “It’d better be damned important.”
“Don’t say that you’re busy,” Martinez sniped as she scanned the room—no doubt noticing the pile of love-tissues beside the couch. “Besides, you’re gonna’ want in on this.”
Martinez opted to avoid the sticky-looking mauve couch and propped down on the floor like an umpire. “Do you remember a few months ago when a kid in Atlanta went nuts on his family. Killed them all in cold blood and fled into the forests?”
“Yeah. Of course, I do. They shot him dead by a lake or something,” he said.
“River… And six months before that?”
“The kid in Binghamton.”
“Turned up dead in the sewer line,” she said. “Both cases, the families, before their demise, reported their son’s hearing a ‘ticking’ noise. Like a click.”
“Yeah.” Ammar thumbed his ear. “Could just be water.”
“A coincidence.” Dusty jumped into his lap. Like the humble pet, he stroked her back. “Look.” Ammar always led with arrogance. “Are we looking for a connection to the deaths? Answer, yes. Do we have one?”
“We might if you just listen.”
“It’s happening all over the country,” she roared. “New York, Los Angeles, Ohio, Dakota, Virginia.”
“Both Virginia, you goddamn nerd!”
“Oh,” he gulped. “And the connection?”
“The ticks. They all report a ticking sound.”
“Alright.” He laid Dusty on her feet and stood at attention. Dr. Ammar Sanderson was on the clock. “Do we have any of their medical profiles?”
“All of them, but a handful from Jersey.”
“There are… uh.” She popped to her feet and cleared her throat. “There are over three-thousand reported incidents that match the criteria of our search.”
“Christ,” he dragged. “That’s a lifetime of damage in a space of months.”
She cleared her throat again. “That’s not months, Ammar. That’s in the space of the last six weeks.” A pause. “Whatever it is, it’s growing.”
He grabbed at his pocket for an inhaler that wasn’t there. It hadn’t been since he turned twenty. “What’s the number?” He knew she’d already done the math.
“I was only able to track it back so far,” she blurted.
“The total, Evelyn.” Ammar fiddled with a loose thread on his dingy blue robe. “Tell me the total.”
“We’re approaching 15,000.”
“Suspects. All dead but one.”
“What’s his name?”
Martinez had to pull some strings, but she was able to arrange a meet with Matthew Moore. The family lawyer, Patton Pierce, kept himself on retainer and acted as Matthew’s legal counsel. With Pat’s aid, Matthew was remanded to house arrest until a trial could be arranged.
Ammar thought it barbaric. To him, a jail cell would have been The Hilton, compared to the place that you massacred your entire family then, allegedly, “jacked it” with their blood.
“Do you think he’ll be weird,” he asked, trying to lighten the mood.
To his surprise, Martinez actually took time to consider the question. “I don’t know. How do you think that you’d feel if you thought a giant sewer monster telekinetically seduced you into killing your entire family?”
Ammar melted against the passenger seat window. “Like shit.”
“So, yeah,” she added—matter-of-factly. “He’ll probably be a little weird.”
Arriving at the estate, the two were cleared by a crew of police officers who’d been instructed to guard the home. After flashing his I.D. and complimenting the officers (profusely) Ammar sped his way toward Martinez. She’d been waiting for him at the door.
She didn’t have to say a thing.
“Game face. You ready?”
After a seven-minute wait, the two were greeted by Patton Pierce, the big chinned 50-something, with a heart made of cold hard cash. Martinez would note that Pierce had a ‘very punch-able‘ face.
“He’s over here.” Patton Pierce was the kind of corrupt that you could smell and he wore the stench with pride. “I’ve been trying to get him to eat.” A laugh. “But you know how difficult boys can be. Double for this one, I guess.”
“Quadruple,” Ammar corrected.
Pierce led them down a long hallway where shatters of glass were gathered into corners and evidence markers loomed about. “I wouldn’t touch those.” Pierce instructed. “Part of our arrangement is that we won’t tamper with the crime scene. Same rules apply wherever you see the yellow tape,” he said and rambled for a spell about his success.
Martinez interrupted. “It’s a little unorthodox to keep a suspect at the crime scene. Isn’t it?”
“Not when it’s an open and shut case.” Pierce glanced over his shoulder. “In situations like this, with a technical minor, the rules are a little shady. A guilty plea can buy you a lot of leeway in the court of comfort.”
“A guilty-plea? With no guardian? How does that even work?”
“Well, Dr. Martinez.” He looked ahead as the hallway came to an end. “Effective as of last week, I am Matthew’s legal guardian and attorney. As such, I spare the young man some headache and handle all of his legal affairs. Plea-bargain included.”
“What’s he looking at,” Ammar asked.
“Life, assuming he makes it to his birthday next month.”
“Damn shame,” Ammar said.
Pierce spun around and extended a hand to each of them, as if to plead for pennies. “Do yourselves a favor and lay off the murder talk, alright?”
Ammar yawned. Martinez leered.
After scoffing at Ammar’s affability, Pierce continued. “He’s still pretty sensitive about the whole thing. Just let the kid enjoy what little freedom he’s got left. The last thing I need is another dead Moore.”
“Suicide,” Martinez shot. “Has he been threatening it?”
“Promising,” Pierce concluded and stood beside the room—where Matthew was mindlessly playing Call of Duty.
“Thank you,” Martinez said.
“Thank you,” Ammar repeated.
Concluded in Bedlam: A Collection of Things. Now Available.