Trigger Warning: Mention of violence
“Daddy, daddy, it finally happened! I got a supergirl doll!”
Traditions like this were why Ethan Foster liked living in a small town; children receiving surprise handmade toys with the morning newspaper, quarterly potlucks ending in impersonation contests, and his all-time personal favorite: Ducky Day. Something about the entire populace dressing up as waterfowl and playing duck-themed games really made Goeteian Springs feel like home. And it was precisely this feeling of community that pushed him through the toughest parts of his job.
It merely took Ethan his first day as a homicide detective to learn the darkest secret that plagued the town, and the next day to agree with the police department: the only logical course of action was to hide it.
Sitting down heavily at his desk, he faced another shift of deciphering the horrors.
For as long as anyone could remember, there had been a murder in G Springs every few months. Always gruesome. Always unsolvable. And not a single person had managed to track down a realistic theory. None of the victims were killed in the same way, or in the same location, or at the same time. The only string that tied them together was living in this town.
Now, Ethan went through his daily ritual of picking a file at random and trying to unearth reason. This time it was Buddy Furlough, the killing that made the previous guy quit and gave Ethan his promotion. Bud was found last year on his kitchen tile, dismembered. The coroner pronounced it a ‘giant animal attack’. Unspecified because the rest of the house was pristine, and the only fur and saliva found was that of a pomeranian. Not to mention, there are no large animals native to the area. Unexplainable.
The call came late at the end of the day, just as Ethan was packing up. His first actual case. Driving to the address, he hoped he’d be prepared to see the scene.
No. Never. Laying atop a crisply made bed was the latest fatality. Or, more accurately, half of her. Ethan took a moment to throw up. Then stalked back into the bedroom, determined.
It looked like the victim had been raggedly torn down the center, leaving the fresh linen a mess. Looking closer, he saw that her foot appeared to be burned, and mud and bruises covered most of the torso. Disturbed, Ethan decided to leave the rest of the observations to the autopsy.
The most pressing matter now was to find the left half before the public did.
They didn’t have to go far. Behind the fence, flashlights uncovered shiny black hair pouring out of an overturned garbage bin. Ethan swallowed bile as he composed himself to witness the monstrosity again. Except, that’s not what he saw. On the grass was the missing half, yes. But she looked almost peaceful. Stitched up and cleaned, she could’ve been mistaken for napping.
At his office the next day, exhausted, Ethan inspected the forensic results. The fingerprints gathered were that of the murdered Tamsin Ores, the same with all the other organic samples taken. The house showed no signs of forced entry or even a struggle. There were no trails found near either body. The post mortem report was similarly unfruitful. Careful interviews with neighbors and friends revealed nothing. Her history couldn’t suggest a motive. Once again, it was a homicide with no leads.
Exasperated, Ethan went through the several files that were now, piled up on his desk. Savannah, 17, flattened head to toe as if run over by a steamroller. But she was near the stream, sprawled over uneven stones. Abhilash, 36, drowned with coins in the mouth and covered in algae. However, the whole store was dry.
Cassius, 58, hollowed out into a bag of skin. Except there was only one tiny cut. On and on the list went. None of it makes any sense.
Ethan strode out, needing air. He was tempted to resign and convinced he should move. Passing by the town wishing well, familiar faces with their pets and kids smiling, the years of his life here could not be comprehended along with the carnage he now knew.
“Daddy, daddy, yay, you’re home!”
His son, still perfectly innocent, warmed and broke his heart simultaneously. It was time he focused on his family.
“Aden, come, let’s play, show me your new doll.”
“I don’t have it anymore, Dad… the other boys tried taking it, but I wouldn’t let go so then it ripped in the middle, and they ran away with the right side… and the cape!”
“And… what happened to the left half?”
“Mom tried to sew it up for me. I didn’t like it though, so I threw it in the bin.”
“When… When did this happen, Aden?”
“Last evening. I wanted to tell you before bed, but Momma said you were working late on your new case.”
Written by Namitha for MTTN
Edited by Anushka Das for MTTN
Featured Image by Rebecca Shieh
Artwork by Kurt Huggins