by Shane Migliavacca
It was the worst blizzard the city had seen in over a decade. Patrolwoman Vojtek strained her eyes scanning the sidewalk as their patrol car crawled down the street. Her partner Officer Roy Soccorso was driving. This part of the city was had been hit hard by the countries current financial stagnation. Decaying buildings. Junk piled on the side of the street. Broke down cars left to rot in open lots. For Vojtek this was too much like the poverty she'd grew up around. Many of the large building around here were "abandoned." But in truth whole families lived mixed in along with others. Junkies, drunks. People without homes or jobs. People who'd lost everything. All under big crumbling roofs. Warming themselves around fires, trying to beat off the chill of a brutal winter. An anonymous caller had reported a woman screaming for help. They'd circled the block a few times and they'd come up with nothing. The blizzard had driven everyone indoors. Between the strong gusts of wind and the visibility being shit, nobody in their right mind would be out here. But here they were. Of course there was somebody prowling the streets that wasn't in their right mind. The self-proclaimed "Annihilator." A serial killer targeting prostitutes and strippers. His favorite method for eliminating his victims was dismemberment with an ax. Cutting off their left arm. Leaving them to bleed out. Taking the arm as some kind of trophy. He'd left notes scrawled in the victim's blood at the crime scenes. Crazed ramblings about washing away sin. The city was in a panic over it. The media loved it. It was on the news every night. The papers ran crime scene photos on the front page daily. So far there were seven victims.
Vojtek left hand clasped and unclasped her holster. Almost keeping a steady rhythm.
"Enough," snapped Soccorso.
"With the holster kid."
Shit. She hadn't realized she'd been doing it. She could get lost in thought sometimes. "Sorry."
"This is just a bullshit call."
Vojtek took off her uniform cap. She smoothed back some of her long blonde hair that obstinately refused to corporate. Much like her partner. He had a habit of diminishing her opinion any chance he got. In truth she felt he didn't trust her. As a partner or a person. Was it because she was a woman? Or maybe it was her history?
"What? You think there's something to this call? Probably just some junkie trying to steal a few bucks. Or some asshole trying to stay warm by raping a bit-" He stopped himself. His face reddened a little. "Sorry kid."
She adjusted the dirty blonde ponytail. Hanging over her shoulder. Twisting it. She kept her eyes on the sidewalks and alleys. Maybe he was right. This was bullshit. Who could see anything out here? Still it wasn't as bad as winters back in Missouri. She'd like to see Soccorso handle one of those. Vojtek wondered how he'd deal with the folks back in the Ozarks. He thought he was a tough city cop. They'd make him shit his pants.
"How long you want this to go on?" Soccorso said.
"What? Your cold shoulder?"
"No Okie. Looking for our phantom suspect."
God she hated that. When somebody back at the precinct found out about her family coming from the Ozarks, one of the assholes had started calling her Okie. They'd got it from some old song. Pretty soon it took off. All of them started calling her that. She smiled and took it. It was better not to let them know how much it pissed her off. Vojtek wanted nothing more than to make every one of those little shits to feel her fist smashing into their grinning faces. Of course, she couldn't do that. Play nice. For now anyway. Someday, someday she'd have the upper hand.
"You got somewhere to be, sir?" She said. Somehow making sir sound like fuck you.
He shot her a look. "No, just think our time could be spent better."
She drummed her fingers on the dash. Her anger was building. Always the anger. It lived in her heart. But there were was to deal with it. Channel it. Her mom had taught her that. She'd been in her fair share of schoolyard scraps. More than a few calls to her parents. Finally after one to many of those calls, her mom had sat her down. Told her ways to vent that anger inside that didn't involve punching somebody. She turned to sports. Soccer, running, basketball. All good outlets. In the tight confines of the cruiser she played with her holster, drummed her fingers. Played with her hair. When all she wanted to do was bounce Soccorso's head off the dash. The anger was always there. Once it scared her. Now it was a friend.
"You know what Okie? I'm going to make it your call. Do we continue looking?"
Vojtek took a depth breath. "My choice? No bitching?"
"Another time around. If there's nothing...we go."
"Okay. Fair enough."
Soccorso turned the corner. Outside the wind gusted. Vojtek could feel the car move a little. Pushed by the wind.
"We've been at this dance for almost a month now kid, I'm supposed be training you. Be your partner and I know jack and shit about you."
That was the way she liked it. There was too much in the past. Humiliating, sad things.
"What's there to know? I'm from Missouri."
Saying it, her accent slipped through. You’re ashamed of where you come from. No that wasn't it. Was it? No it's them. They make you feel that way. Like calling you Okie. You didn't grow up here. Don't sound like 'em, don't act like 'em. They hear that accent and they think hick. Little country girl. Her mom and dad were brother and sister.
"You should open up more kid. Hang out with some of us."
"Why? You guys like making fun of me? Where I came from."
"That's just ribbing kid. No different than any other rookie. You make it harder on yourself anyway. Acting like a petulant child."
"Sorry I'm just not fun and games."
The woman came out of the falling snow. Running at their car screaming. An African American woman. There was blood on her hands and jacket. Soccorso did the first thing that came to mind. He swerved the car, missing the woman. He hit the brakes, but the car didn't want to corporate. It skidded into a snowbank. Soccorso's side came to rest against the snowbank. Vojtek was already undoing her seat belt. Soccorso picked his cap up from off his lap.
"Fuck! You okay kid?"
The woman came running towards them. Vojtek started to open the door.
"Oh god, officer I'm so sorry." The woman said. She went towards Vojtek as she got out of the car.
"Ma'am, take it easy. Is that your blood? Are you injured?"
She shook her head. "No." The woman was shaking. "His-His blood."
Soccorso tried getting his door open, but the snowbank wouldn't give. Slamming the door repeatedly against the bank. Vojtek took the panicked women towards their car.
"What's your name ma'am?"
"Dorothy. It's Dorothy."
"Okay Dorothy I need you to get in the back of the car."
"You'll be safe. Until we can get somebody to look at you."
Soccorso finally gave up on getting his door open. Dorothy slide in. Sitting in the middle of the backseat. A steel mesh separated Dorothy from Soccorso. She looked up at Vojtek. A worried look on her face.
"You'll be safe here. Now can you tell me what happened Dorothy?"
Dorothy told her how she'd been cutting through the alleyway on her way how from the corner store. How a large man had come out of a nook in the alley and chased after her. When she fell on the icy ground he grabbed her. Pulling her up and dragging her along with one arm. She pleaded with the man, who ignored her. Terrified she pulled a metal nail file from her purse. Driving it into his leg she made her escape. Getting his blood on her in the process.
Dorothy pointed to the alley across the street a little ways back.
"It was there."
"Thank you Dorothy." Vojtek said. "You’re very brave. My partner will take care of you."
Dorothy looked up at Vojtek, perhaps sensing what was about to happen. "I looked in his eyes officer. There was nothing inside."
Vojtek tied to reassure her. "It's going to be okay."
"Kid, don't even think-" Soccorso said.
She cut him off. "Call it in. Get back up."
Vojtek slammed the door shut before he could protest more.
Vojtek took off down the street towards the alley Dorothy had indicated. Sprinting. The wind was bitter cold, forcing her to zip her jacket up. She drew her service pistol. A .38, gripping it tight in her left hand. This was it. Her heart felt like it was going to break free from her chest. It pounded harder and harder. She took a couple of deep breaths. She couldn't let him get away. By the time back up came he could be hiding anywhere. She got to the alley. Dorothy’s footprints were still visible. The snow would make backtracking her path easy. She entered the alley. He could still be here. Nursing his wound. But he was bleeding, out in the open. He'd run. There were a lot of abandoned buildings in this neighborhood. Any of them he could duck in to. But he was bleeding. He'd leave a blood trail. At the end of the alley she found signs of their struggle. The alley opened up to a loading area for one of the buildings. In the snow Vojtek could see where Dorothy had been dragged along. Then she found it. The nail file. Lying in the snow. Blood drying on the snow around it. He'd pulled it out. That was the last thing he should have done. Now he'd bleed more. Made her job easier though. There were large footprints as well. Looked like boots. She studied the pattern in the snow. Even if he stopped the bleeding, she should still be able to get him. Vojtek followed the blood down another alley and out on to a deserted street. She had never been much of a hunter. Her dad had taught her how. But her patience was lacking. As a young woman she got frustrated easy. He'd seemed so disappointed in her. Or maybe it was in himself. But those times out in the woods with him, just walking, those where some of her favorite memories of growing up.
She followed the trail across the street and down another alley. The heavy snow fall was quickly covering the blood and his tracks. Hopefully the bastard would just drop. Vojtek got the feeling he knew where he was headed. Maybe he was headed home or to a hideout. What was she walking into? He's just a wounded man she told herself. But don't underestimate him. "A wounded animal is the most dangerous." She'd heard people say that before. Any animal being hunted is dangerous, not just the wounded one. Question was: Did he know?
Vojtek came out of the alley. She heard voices and a door close. She spun around. Her gun at the ready. A young couple stood there shocked. Their little dog on a leash yelped at her.
"We're just walking our dog." The man said. Raising his hands up.
The young women looked down and saw the blood on the snow.
"Oh my god." The young woman said.
"Have you see anybody suspicious? Other than me. Maybe bleeding?"
The dog continued yelping. The man pulled hard on its leash. "Shut up Mitzy." He said
Vojtek wouldn't mind slamming the guy against the wall. Anybody that hurt animals was the lowest form of asshole in her book.
"No, officer." The woman answered. "We just came out. Mitzy has to go."
"I need you both to go back inside. There's a dangerous and wounded man in the vicinity."
The couple headed back in as she crossed the street. Who the hell takes their dog out in this weather? The trail led down the side of the street past a large abandoned building. Then it stopped. Fuck. Maybe he'd managed to treat it. Bandage it with something. There was still his boot-prints. Ahead of her, Vojtek heard loud metal clank. Like a metal door or lid closing. A little ways down the street. There was a narrow side street. The suspect's trail ended here. Looked like he swept it away with something. Shit. He knew he was being hunted know. She regretted leaving Soccorso behind. No, Vojtek thought, this is where I show them what a girl can do. She crouched. The suspect could be armed, waiting for her. Slowly she panned around the corner until she had a full view of the small street. There was nobody in sight. At the left was parked pickup truck. The right side was clear except for a dumpster. Both perfect hiding places. Vojtek took a deep breath. She could always go back. Tell her partner she lost him. See the disappointment in his eyes, in the victim's. No. She could do this. Vojtek prioritized. The dumpster sat in a small alcove of the building. Perfect hiding spot. Too obvious. She approached the truck. Snow had built up around it. The snow looked untouched. Vojtek swept around to the side closet to the building. There set between the building and the truck was a metal hatch set in the ground. Those led to basements Soccorso had told her. Vojtek, gun at the ready inched towards it. Snow had been brushed off of it. Very recently. And there was a bloody hand print on the hatch. Got you bastard!
She pulled a rag from her jacket. There was no way she was taking a chance of fucking up this as evidence. Her service pistol ready, Vojtek pulled on the hatch. Locked. Of course. Damn! He was down there, somewhere. Looking up at the building. She'd have to find another way in. It appeared to be an abandoned theater of some kind. She was certain this was his hideout. Some kind of lair. There had to be a way in. She could try direct route. The front door. Though she didn't look like an Avon Lady. Chances were it was locked. And perhaps booby trapped. No, Vojtek would have to find another way in. In the rear of the building she found a large door locked. As she'd feared. There was no way in. Shit. He could be in there destroying evidence. You fucked up kid. Then she heard it. The rustle of wings. Vojtek looked up. Perched a on a rusty metal railing was a large white owl. It stared at her with its large luminous eyes. She stared at it transfixed. Then it struck her what it was sitting on. The railing of a fire escape. The bottom of the ladder was just out of reach. Frantically she looked around for something. Anything she could use to get up there. And there it was, sitting against the far wall of an adjacent building. An old plastic chair. For once she was glad for all the trash lying around. She carried the chair over. Sitting it down under the ladder. On tiptoes she reached and pulled herself up. All that tree climbing as a kid payed off. The fire escape led to a locked second story metal door. Not far from it was a window. There was barely a ledge there. She stepped over the metal railing. Stepping tentatively on to the ledge. Easing herself along the ledge. It was only a few feet, she thought. But it could have been miles. The wind howled. She feared a really strong gust might blow her off her perch on the ledge. Her feet knocked the snow off as she inched towards the window. Her front pressed against the building. Vojtek was cursing her breasts right now. A flat chest would have been handy right now. Finally she made it to the window. Using the flashlight from her belt Vojtek smashed through a second story window. Before she climbed in she stopped. Was this legal? Shit. Probable cause? Right? She had an attack, a victim, blood. Fuck it. Vojtek climbed through the window into the dark interior.
Vojtek played the beam of the flashlight over the floor and walls. Looked like this had been some kind of office at one time. The broken glass crumbled underfoot. She did a quick sweep of the room. Nothing. Vojtek crept into the hallway. A surprising amount of graffiti littered the walls. In big blue letters on read: SOMEBODY DIED HERE R.I.P. With a crude arrow pointing down.
"Might be more than one joining them." She said under her breath.
Exiting the hallway she entered the main theater area. Paint was chipping off the walls. The seats that hadn't been ripped out or defaced in some way were covered in years of dust. She headed towards the stage area. Her snow covered boots kicking up dust as she went. Leaving wet tracks on the dirty floor. Vojtek climbed onto the stage. This was a straight up theater. For stage productions. Not you watch a film in as she'd first thought. And ugly looking green couch sat by it's self at the center of the stage. The curtain was pulled shut behind it. She pulled the curtain open and entered the back stage. She shined her flashlight around. A blank white face made her heart nearly stop. A fucking mannequin. Her finger on the trigger, she'd almost fired.
She walked past the expressionless mannequin. Her heart racing. "Fuck you asshole."
There was a long dark hallway that lead off the backstage area. It was the only place to go from here. Not much of a choice. She thought about her partner. Soccorso was probably sweating it and cursing her name as he explained how she'd run off.
Old mattresses were stacked in a haphazard pile. Stained with god knows what. A musty smell permeated the backstage. There was the strong hint of urine as well. Lovely. A large wood wardrobe sat in the middle of the hall. Rotting where it stood, its doors hanging off. Too bad she couldn't climb through it into a fantasy land. Yeah, fat fucking chance. Past a pile of broken props and raggedy costumes on racks, she found a metal staircase leading to the basement.
The metal clanked under her boots. The basement hallway was lined with brick. It appeared to be in better shape then up above. A foul smell filled the air down here. The smell of something rotten. There was only a five doors down here. Come out, come out asshole. Vojtek gripped the Smith & Wesson Model 10, tight. A .38 wasn't her first choice for something like this, but right now it was all she had. Door number one: What are you hiding? Just boxes. Door number two? Whatever had been here before had been cleared out. A mattress lay on the floor. Next to it stacks of books and empty soup cans. Used candles littered the floor. Someone was living here. On the wall, crudely taped to it were newspaper clippings and excerpts from books and magazines. Taped above all of them was a recent headline. In bold letters it said: THE AXEMAN COMETH! This guy sure likes his own press. Most of the clippings dealt with various ax murders in the last hundred years or so. She turned to leave. Half expecting the occupant of the room to be standing there in the door. Vojtek crossed to the next door, opening it slowly. Wasn't many places he had left to go. Inside was a large boiler room. Long shut down. At the far end of the room was a metal door. A large rusty chain through the handles with a padlock. There was dried on the chain and lock. Most likely led to the hatch outside. Large pipes snaked through the room coming and going from the boiler. The room was clear. Two rooms left. Where was this guy? Vanished?
As Vojtek approached the fourth room the smell became almost too much. There was another smell too. Faint. Perfume and air fresheners. She took a deep breath and opened the door. What she saw inside she'd never forget. Hanging from the ceiling beams was Christmas tinsel. Suspending the severed arms of the "Annihilator." victims. Taped to the walls in various sizes were crosses made out paper clippings. Vojtek had to fight the urge to puke. She inspected on of the crosses on the wall closest to her. It was made from Bible pages. At the far end of the room was some kind of altar. She walked towards it. Weaving through the hanging arms. Trying her damnedest not to touch them. The altar had pictures of the victims from the newspapers. A large metal cross stood at its center. There appeared to be a candle burning for each victim.
"I've taken their sin." A deep voice said from behind her.
Startled Vojtek spun around. A largish man stood in the door way. Cradling an ax in his arms. Like it was a newborn baby. He was heavyset, about 6'2" with short curly black hair. He wore an olive green trench-coat over a sweater. His pants and hands were caked in dried blood. Around his right leg a rag was tied around where he'd been stabbed by Dorothy.
"I cut it from their bodies."
"You killed them."
"Freed them. They died without sin."
He walked forward towards her with a limp.
"Freeze you mother fucker!"
He stopped in his tracks.
"Put the ax on the ground and lace your fingers behind your head."
He stared at her as if not comprehending.
"Do it!" Vojtek screamed. Her anger tacking over.
He set the ax down gently as if it was a carton of eggs. He puts his hands together behind his head.
He did as he was told. Slowly kneeling on the ground. As if his knees bothered him somewhat.
She moved forward. Putting a foot on the ax to kick it away. There were strange runic markings on it that almost seemed luminescent as light hit them. They caught her eye and it was hard to turn away. The wind outside sounded like whispers in the air.
"I can't help but notice you’re left-handed." He said.
Too late she snapped out of whatever was happening to her. Still on his knees he lunged at her with a pocket knife. He caught her in the side stabbing her. The .38 and the flashlight fell from her hands as she instinctively touched her wounded side. Crying out in pain. She retreated back. The knife sticking from her side. Painfully he stood. Picking up the ax.
"Do you know what it's like to die the painful death of a million screams in silence every day?"
Vojtek fell against the wall. Leaving her own trail of blood as she slid down it.
"Then he came to me. Took my pain. Gave me this ax. God teaches us with pain. That's how we become worthy of his love. Through pain."
He walked forward. Limping. For Vojtek the world was spinning out of control. Like those damn spinning cars at the amusement park.
"Would you like to meet God?" He said. Raising the ax.
She felt the cold metal sticking in her side. The gun was too far away. This was the only chance. But it meant she'd most likely bleed out. Better then losing her arm. She kind of liked that arm. With all her remaining anger fueled strength Vojtek pulled the knife from her side. The pain was immeasurable. Her side was in agony. There was only one place to stab his bastard. Right where Dorothy had got him. She plunged his own blade into his leg. Causing him to howl in agony. Vojtek just didn't stab him once. No, she stabbed him repeatedly. Until finally he fell to his knees and then to the floor, lying there in a fetal position. Sobbing.
Vojtek crawled forward. She wasn't sure how long he'd be down. Dropping the knife, she grabbed her .38. The "Annihilator" started to rise. Using the ax to prop himself up.
"Don't you move." Vojtek said. Barely able to speak.
"I could have helped you."
He stood, in great pain. His legs shacking.
"I-I said don't move."
She took aim. Her arms felt like rubber.
"Cleanse the world of sin."
He limped towards her dragging the ax along the ground.
"Stop." She said. Her voice breaking.
"You see it, don't you?"
Vojtek squeezed the trigger, firing a round into his chest and another into his forehead. His brains exiting his head in a geyser. He fell to his knees. The ax clattering to the ground. Then he fell forward. His body shuddered and lie still.
She crawled over to the wall and slumped against it. She faded in and out. Seeing her parents playing with her as a child. She saw a great white owl, swooping down from the sky. Landing in a tree, watching her. As she started to black out she heard a familiar voice.
"Okie? Okie?" Soccorso called from somewhere out in the hall.
"He-Here!" She said. Vojtek wasn't sure if he'd hear her.
He stumbled into the room. "Fuuuuccckkkk me." He saw the body and then her. Running over to her.
"Hang on kid."
He put a hand over her wound. Pressing tight.
"Backups coming. Stay awake okay?"
She grabbed his arm, holding tight.
"God my corns are killing me. Tracking your damn ass all over town Okie."
"I'm dying. And he's bitching about his feet."
"Shut the fuck up. You’re not dying. You’re from Kentucky right?"
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