by Linda Mooney
Lt. Deea Walsh rubbed the grittiness from her tired eyes and tried to focus on the front door of the dark building where they believed their suspect was hiding out. The nearest light in the area was a distant streetlamp, which puddled its yellow glow directly beneath it. Otherwise, a one-quarter moon was the only other source.
“Yo, Deea. Say something. I’m so tired, I’m hallucinating. I’m thinking every shadow I spot in the windows or hovering around this back door is our unsub.”
She smiled and keyed her mic. “Do any of them wear a skirt?”
“Skirts, bikinis, jock straps, you name it. I wouldn’t put it past this guy to put on any kind of disguise in order to slip past us. Hell, he could be anyone. It’ll be a miracle if we manage to catch him. How much longer are we gonna hafta remain here?”
She checked her watch. “Two more hours, Dunlevy. I promise. Just hold tight.”
“Copy that. I’m out.”
She replaced the mic on its hook and stretched her legs to relieve the charley horse developing in her right calf. Dunlevy was right. It would be a miracle if they managed to snag this chameleon. The self-proclaimed vigilante was a master of disguise, able to move in and out of situations like a phantom. Enacting revenge on those he felt deserved punishment because he felt the law hadn’t dealt harshly enough.
Personally, Deea couldn’t fault him. His last two victims were, what she privately considered to be, the sickest of the sick. But because they had the money and the pull, their high-paid lawyers managed to get them off with little more than a slap on the wrist, a fine, and probation because someone at the department mishandled evidence.
But in every case where the vigilante was involved, two days later, those criminals were found dead. And, eerily enough, their deaths mirrored those of their own crimes. So far there had been six such cases in all, with no clues and no way to figure out who was responsible, until a single word was left at the third crime scene.
Then, at the fourth murder scene, another clue.
At the fifth, there had been nothing. At least, they hadn’t found anything if there had been one left behind. But at the sixth, a number and street name.
414 Acrobat Avenue.
It was almost too easy. SWAT stormed what turned out to be an abandoned textile mill to find no evidence whatsoever that anyone had ever been there. Captain Gammercy chose to pull back and focus their investigation on the warehouses by the docks, but Deea couldn’t shake the feeling that this was where they’d find the mysterious man. Which was why she was using her off time to stake out the location with the reluctant help of her partner, Lt. Mike Dunlevy.
“Tell me again why you think he’s here?” Her partner’s voice broke the silence again.
“The clues he left us,” she replied in a whisper. Was her imagination starting to play tricks on her, too? After a moment, the shadow she thought she saw at one of the doors turned out to be nothing, and she breathed easier.
“I know that.” Dunlevy sighed wearily. “What I want to know is why you think you’ve figured it out, when every other law enforcement officer disagrees with you.”
“The clues he left us,” she repeated. Actually, the clues were about twenty percent of her reasoning. The other eighty was pure gut instinct. “There used to be a Cobra Fabrics in this building back in the sixties. It was bought out by Oceana Industries in ’72 before it folded in ’98. Then, of course, there’s this address.” She gave a half-hearted laugh. “Maybe our perp got tired of us being unable to put two and two together, and finally decided to send us an invitation.”
Something definitely moved, and this time she knew it wasn’t a shadow. “I think I’ve spotted him!” she tersely said and dropped the mic. She heard her partner’s reply that he was on his way to back her as she cautiously eased out the open window of her car and began advancing toward the building, her Sig Sauer held out in front of her.
She moved slowly and as silently as possible as she tried to keep the dark form in view. Although she knew how dangerous this guy was, she felt somewhat confident he wouldn’t kill her. Harm her, most likely, but not kill her, because she wasn’t on his revenge radar.
She got as far as the walkway leading up to the set of double doors when the figure suddenly appeared in front of her. He was so close, she felt as if he’d thrown an invisible blanket around her and was holding her in his grasp. Deea tried to breathe, when his scent filled her head. His woodsy, unusual, and peculiar scent.
“I know you’ve been searching for me,” he whispered. His voice was unusually gentle, with its strange lilt. “I came to tell you I am done here.”
“Of course you’re done. You’re under arrest,” she finally managed to say.
The man smiled. He was tall, and had a rugged, almost sculpted face. Moonlight glinted off his jet black hair. He wore a dark shirt and jeans, but something about him didn’t add up. Something she couldn’t put her finger on, but would swear to on a Bible.
“No,” he rebuked her. “I am done here…and I am taking you with me.”
“What? No! Wait!” Where the hell was Dunlevy? Fear made her tremble as the man drew closer.
Then, as the stranger advanced, his face changed. His eyes began to glow as his body shifted form and shape. The shirt and jeans were absorbed into his skin, and she realized they hadn’t been real.
“What...” She gasped as he stopped less than a yard away. Naked and glorious, with an aura that made him shine from within. With a start, she knew he wasn’t human.
“What kind of abomination are you?” Deea asked.
“My name is Tavlos. My mother is Nemesis, goddess of retribution.”
“Nemesis? As in Greek goddess?”
He smiled, and his eyes lit up like the stars. “It is a long story. But, in short, there are those of us minor gods and goddesses, and our offspring, who did not choose to live their lives in the heavens. But their decision did not lessen their ancestry or their worth. When they are killed by such ruthless and shallow humans, it is my duty to bring those responsible to justice if your own courts fail to render due punishment.”
Deea shook her head, unable to comprehend what he was telling her. “Why are you telling me this? You do realize that everything you say can and will be used in a court of law.” Her mind fluttered as she grasped at the Miranda. She couldn’t let this monster slip from between her fingers because of a technicality!
Tavlos reached out and took her hand. Calmness washed through her. His touch soothed and comforted, and she lowered her weapon as he laced his fingers through hers.
“Come. My work here is done. We must go.”
“We? Go where? Why are you taking me with you?”
“Because you are strong, and therefore worthy to join us. Come. Let me show you.”
“No. No!” She shook her head and tried to pull away, but his gaze was mesmerizing. She was vaguely aware of her partner running around the side of the building, searching for her, but for some reason he couldn’t see them standing mere feet away.
She turned to look at Dunlevy, but it no longer mattered. “What will happen to me where you’re taking me? Are you going to kill me?”
Tavlos laughed softly and lifted her empty hand to kiss it. “No, I will not kill you. I plan to love you, Deea.”
“Will we ever return?” she managed to ask as a sweet lassitude filled her.
“Only if another one of us is victimized,” he replied.
She nodded, and peered down once more. The last thing she saw as they ascended toward the heavens was her partner frantically searching for her as he called out her name.