Written by Erin Nust
Art by Pixabay
Gillan set her foot firmly on the hard soil and got out of the car. The red and blue lights on its roof created a party on the serene grounds of the monastery. Apart from the olive trees and the vibrant grass, in the court, scattered black-wearing monks were chatting with each other, they were praying silently with closed eyes, they were crossing themselves. Amongst the olive trees and vibrant grass, scattered black-wearing monks were chatting with each other as others prayed silently with closed eyes, crossing themselves. Gillan, Usher and a team of ten officers arrived with two more cars.
“Oh my,” Gillan said when she realized she had to face the monks. People of religion made her uncomfortable.
“I know. Just do your job, honey.” Usher’s voice patted her gently as he rolled out of the police car as well. Despite her original protest of their partnership, his reassuring words and loving touch gave her strength. It was the hardest case of her career.
Gillan sighed and walked towards a monk. “Good morning, I’m Detective Jade.” Gillan took out her badge, but put it back in her belt quickly when she noticed the old man’s confusion. “I’m searching for Father Macarius.”
He didn’t reply, only nodded and walked to the other side of the monastery, where even more of the monks swarmed in malaise. The old man pointed to the side of a tall, thin man with a big wooden cross hanging from his neck. “Thank you,” she said, smiling at the helpful monk who only bowed before walking away. Gillan wondered if all men of the Church were this talkative, but she doubted it.
“Father Macarius?” She stopped when he saw the man stretching out his hand like a medieval princess, ready to be kissed. Gillian, remembering Usher’s words—Just do your job, honey—obeyed. “I’m Detective Jade” “God bless you’re here, my child.” His voice was sober, but trustful. Gillan finally regained hope that she would manage.
“Can you take me to the crime scene? And ask some questions of course?”
Father Macarius left the rest of the monks with a few words and a touch of reassurance before leading Gillan to the central door of the monastery. The rest of the policemen had taken the appropriate measures of security, without much disturbance. With no inquisiting citizens around who just want to take a sniff of adventure, to have a story to tell later in dinner, their work was so much easier.
“We are not used to visitors. Only in the summer. The scene had caused great turmoil in the monastery’s soul.”
Gillian left the Father to lead and talk. She gave a quick glance to Usher back to the police car, wearing his reading glasses and filling in some reports. His job couldn’t really begin until they witnessed the crime scene.
She was scared of what she was going to face, but she had already gotten her feet wet two months ago. That man on the mountain with a hole in his chest, dressed in ragged clothes tied up on a pole, with a stick on his back, marked her nightmares. Gillan had witnessed many crime scenes during her career. But killing a person and leaving them on the floor like it was a piece of a plastic wrap was only human in her eyes; putting them up as if they were puppies to make an actual theatrical scene was not. It was sick.
Usher was working day and night to create a full profile of the man (or the woman, don’t forget it can be a woman) they were searching for. Gillan admired him and his co-workers for the way they used their minds, like locksmiths trying to unlock the impossible: the mind of a serial killer. She could only use her mind to make strategies, and hunt. She was a huntress.
“It’s not as hard as you think,” he had tried to explain while eating dinner in front of the TV. “ Actually, serial killers, like other human beings, work with mental patterns.” Gillan had begged him not to compare the average human mind with that of a serial killer’s. It made her uneasy. To her surprise, the monastery didn’t smell of sage, but of heavy wood. A few sunbeams penetrated the darkness, entering from the small windows. Monks didn’t seem to like light very much. Father Macarius led the way through narrow corridors with wet walls and double wooden doors that opened their way to all kinds of different rooms decorated with simple, wooden furniture.
Gillan, Usher, and three officers stopped when Father Macarius paused in front of a locked door. He crossed himself and used his key to unlock it. Usher touched Gillan’s lower back as if he was preparing her for the worst.
The doors opened. The smell of wood was still strong but now mingled with something raw, unnatural and metallic. Father didn’t enter, he stepped aside and put his knotted hands on his heart and mumbled praying words. As if hypnotized, Gillian took step after step, deeper into the crime scene. The empty row of pews passed behind her until she reached the central stage with locking eyes.
Gillan gasped and grabbed her belly, as if closing the eyes of her unborn baby.
Three people were murdered.
One of them was standing tall, tied around the gigantic cross that decorated the room with rope. His eyes were still open and pointy horns decorated his head. Someone had drawn an upside-down star on his forehead with blood. He looked like a goat with a red tattoo. His right hand saluted with the palm open, the left hung loosely facing the floor. In front of him stood two more dead monks, totally naked, both tied up in wooden poles. Their necks were connected with a chained shackle. The blood formed a pool on the floor.
“Oh my God,” Gillan said, feeling for the first time the need to cross herself.
She looked behind her. Usher was taking notes. The other officers passed her to get closer to the crime scene. They were already taking photos, doing their job as they were supposed to. Since when had Gillan found it so hard to be sober in the sights of a gruesome scene like the ones she was facing the past two months? What changed?
I’m becoming a mother, Gillan thought, and it was true.
Not just externally, seen by the bump of her stomach, but internally too, where all her thoughts, all her stimuli are related to the protection of the child.
A deep wish to catch the monster who committed all these miscreations brought her closer to Usher, who was putting his pencil on a piece of paper, drawing lines, copying a rough draft of the crime scene.
“Have you been sketching all of the crime scenes?” She asked after peeking at his work.
Usher shrugged. “Just the recent ones.”
“Can I see the others?”
Usher reached for his black, leathered backpack—it was her present and she loved that he never left the house without it—and fetched a handful of A4 papers.
Gillan looked through them. After a quick glance, she could recall with details every one of them. She liked to have titles for every case of hers in the same way Sherlock Holmes did. She was a big fan. She saw the man with a dog and a bag on his shoulders; the man with a table and an infinity symbol on his head; the woman in white sitting between two columns, one white, one black; the woman in the middle of a field wearing a crown; the man whose body was sitting on a throne with a sceptre in his hand… She spread them on the floor in the right order. As she and Usher examined them, the room lit up periodically by the officers’ photos.
“Why don’t we use the actual pictures?” Usher asked.
“No. This is better. This is human. Your hand, your perception of the scene. It’s helping me think.”
Usher didn’t respond. He pushed his glasses on his nose and did what Gillan was doing—thinking.
“Wait a minute,” he said, nodding his head, as if he was searching for his reading glasses and they were left on the top of his head the whole time. “It’s Tarot.”
Gillan frowned, listening to Usherwithout taking her eyes away from the sheets of paper on the floor.
“Major Arcana. Look,” he pointed at his drawings in order. “The Fool. The Magician. The Empress. The Emperor.”
“How do you know about Tarot?” Gillan’s voice was surprised, but excited.
Gillan pierced him with one arched eyebrow.
“All right. Some nights I work with the TV on. I have seen the cards in a show.”
“Ok, maybe I Googled them as well.”
“What card is next?” Gillan asked, being a detective and not Usher’s wife now.
“What does the card look like?”
“It’s a tower being hit by a lighting bolt. It means destruction.”
Gillan put her thumb on her lip. She thought of all the possible buildings in Astus. What could be used or seen as a tower? They didn’t have a real one, none of the medieval buildings in town managed to be maintained, so what-
The thought was clear and lit up like a neon sign.
“He’s going to Valor.”
There was only silence between them and the officers’ light chatting. Valor was the only big corporate skyscraper, just outside Astus, but thousands of people worked there.
“I’m going to catch that sick son of a bitch,” Gillan said, caressing her belly.