There were a whole group of them, twelve at least. Young adults that had apparently gotten together for some kind of party. There was a whole stash of beer out back but none of it had been touched.
The urge to retch was almost overwhelming again. Jonathen forced himself to take in the gory details.
The group of them were laying all together, within a twenty foot circle. All of their heads were shaven clean from their bodies. The bodies were split open like on the others, but the specialists had guessed the necks had been severed first. It was like a gruesome execution.
Jon quickly filled out the last details on a report his Lieutenant was going to file and took a walk, suggesting the younger man do the same when he was done. Anything to get the picture out of his head.
Nerves were high in town -- understandably, so. More people moved away every day, but there were many more who couldnít or were just too stubborn to leave their homes in fear. Jon was feeling a growing urgency to get to the bottom of these cases. They were increasing in frequency, sometimes there would be two or three separate murders a day.
His feet led him to the river without conscious thought. He needed to think. He needed to get inside the enemyís mind and figure out how he worked. They had discussed forming a kind of emergency meeting at city hall, requiring all citizens to remain gathered for twenty-four hours, as if that would somehow make the killer back off.
Jon had a terrible feeling that the killer would strike regardless. That he would only see the gathered people as an easier target. He shivered and not because of the late November chill. How could he stop an enemy so strong it could kill more than a dozen people simultaneously. What could do that?
The detective jerked out of his thoughts at the sound of raised voices. He glanced around until he saw a group of children gathered not far from the riverís edge. He watched them for a moment before increasing his pace.
"Michael!" He snapped as he approached, seeing that the boy had punched another boy.
All the children turned at his voice and Michael looked at the ground sullenly while the others shifted guiltily. The boy who had been punched made no effort to rise from the ground and Jon felt another chill wash over him as he recognized him.
"What do you think youíre doing?" Jon demanded, crossing into the group of children and looking imposing in his police gear.
None of the children answered and none of them met his gaze.
"Well?" Jon prompted again, crossing his arms impatiently across his chest.
Michael finally met his eyes, "This is all his fault!" The boy explained, pointing an accusatory finger at the boy he had punched.
A cold pit settled in Jonís stomach. "Thatís ridiculous." He said.
"Nothing like this ever happened before he showed up!" Michael defended.
"Michael, look at him," Jon directed, "Heís only a boy, heís only your age. Could you do something like this?"
Sullenly, Michael shook his head and muttered, "I wouldnít want to."
"How can you think he could, then?" Jon asked.
Michael shrugged but still didnít look convinced.
Jon sighed, "All right, thatís enough from all of you." He said, "Go home, your parents are probably worried with all thatís been happening. Go on."
Reluctantly, the children parted ways, a few of them casting suspicious glances at the last boy before they left.
"Iím sorry about that," Jon said, walking over to the boyís side. "You know how children are, they can be very superstitious." He offered the boy his hand.
Banan took it and allowed the man to haul him to his feet. "Children arenít the only ones."
Jon nodded solemnly and started leading the boy back home. "Thatís true enough. Some adults can be just as bad as children."
"Your doctor-friend thinks itís my fault, too," Banan said.
"Tom?" Jon asked in surprise, he hadnít mentioned that to him when theyíd talked.
Banan nodded, "He thinks itís my father, stalking me."
Jon frowned, "If it were, that would hardly be your fault, Banan."
"What if youíre next." Banan said abruptly.
"What do you mean?" Jon asked, his frown deepening.
Banan frowned thoughtfully, "Do you hate me, Jon?"
Jon blinked in surprise, "No, I donít hate you."
Banan was silent for a long moment. Then, "Do you... like me, Jon?"
A slight smile pulled at Jonís lips, "Yeah... yeah, I like you, Banan. Youíre a good kid."
Bananís frown deepened slightly, "Do you..."
"Do I?" Jon asked when Banan didnít finish his thought.
"Never mind." The boy said, looking away.
A silence stretched between them, lasting them until Jonís house was in sight. Then, at last, the policeman broke it. "You know, Banan," he said. Banan looked up.
"Iíve never had a son before," Jon continued, "Itís, uh, kind of nice. Having someone to come home to..."
"Iím not your son," Banan pointed out, staring at the man intently.
"Uh... no," Jon admitted awkwardly. He hastily unlocked the door to let Banan in before heading back to the station.
"Banan, could you tell me about your father?" Jon asked, taking a seat on the couch next to the boy with his TV dinner.
"What do you want to know?" Banan asked.
Jon considered for a moment. "What does he look like? What are his tendencies? Is it at all possible that he might be the one behind these killings?"
"My father... last time I saw him, at least, had shoulder length black hair, black eyes, and tan skin. He was taller than me by... about two feet, and he was broad shouldered." Banan replied thoughtfully.
Banan frowned slightly, "I donít know much about his tendencies... only how he acted towards me, my sisters, and my mother. He was violent, arrogant, and self-assured."
His frown deepened further, "My father is not behind these killings."
Jon frowned, "What makes you so sure?"
"Heís dead," Banan replied.
Jon raised an eyebrow, "I see. You failed to mention that to Tom."
Banan shrugged, "He never asked."
"Oh..." Jon said. He frowned, thinking for a long while before finally asking awkwardly, "Do you mind if I ask how it happened?"
"Old age, I guess," Banan said, shrugging again, "I never heard differently, at least."
Jon frowned, "Old age?" He repeated, "How old was he?"
"My oldest sister was thirty," Banan said, "And I have reason to believe we had some half-sisters or brothers even older than her. My father was well over fifty when my sisters were killed. I donít know exactly, but I am sure that heís dead."
Slightly disgruntled, the man nodded, "Alright, alright. You donít happen to have any other ideas of who could do something like this, do you? Because Iím out of leads."
Banan shifted uncomfortably and didnít reply right away. "Are you any good at riddles, Jon?"
Jon shrugged, "I like to think Iím pretty good at them." He replied, mystified at the sudden change of subject.
"When I was little I learned the riddle," Banan said, "Nobody has ever guessed what it means."
"Well, what is it?" Jon asked, resigned that he wouldnít get anything useful out of the boy.
Banan hesitated before reciting.
Plain in sight,
To quell, to quell, to quell...
The Fear of Death."
Jon frowned, "Thatís a riddle?"
"Thatís the riddle." Banan said.
"Whatís it supposed to be about?" Jon asked.
Banan frowned slightly, "Thatís what you need to find out."
"Well... do you know the answer?" Jon asked.
"No," Banan replied softly.
"Then how will you know if Iím right?" Jon asked.
A small smile pulled at the boyís lips, "Iíll know," he said enigmatically, "Everyone will know."
"So..." Jon frowned, trying to work out the riddle despite himself, "Itís something that man fears and women long for... Something about hiding masked in plain sight... Fruit heals... Bitter rallies...? And... it quells the fear of death?"
Banan didnít say anything.
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