Chapter 5

The mortician was overrun with dead bodies. There werenít enough coffins to hold them all. There were never enough shovels digging up new graves. The bodies were starting to pile up, almost literally. There just wasnít enough room to put them all.

The population of Millesville was down about half its original size. Well over four hundred people had up and left. The death count was quickly nearing one hundred. The healthy town of twelve hundred was down to just over seven hundred.

Jon left the police station irritated. The Federal Government had finally gotten involved. They didnít know anything about the case and thought Jonís people had done a poor job dealing with the murderer. But that was the problem. There didnít seem to be a murderer to deal with. It was more like the victims up and decided to fall apart for no good reason.

Jon walked quickly, eager to get away from the constant arguing and noise the station had become. In the five days since the Feds had arrived thereíd been another sixteen murders and they werenít any closer to solving the case. Jon was going to investigate the most recent murder, estimated to have taken place at no later than seven that morning. This case was unusual.

Jon knocked on the door to the house he approached and it was answered by an older woman. Jon smiled.

"Good morning, Mrs. Gisby," he said politely.

The woman didnít smile back, "I was expecting your people hours ago," she said pointedly.

Jon sighed, "Well, you know the Federal types, they have to fill out a hundred forms about everything before they actually do anything." He shook his head in exasperation then returned his attention to the present. "I apologize for the delay, Mrs. Gisby, but could I talk with Hanna, please?"

The woman nodded and opened the door to let him in, "Hannaís in the playroom," she explained, "She doesnít understand whatís happened, Jon, please donít upset her."

Jon nodded, "Iíll try not to." He promised before she pointed him back to the playroom.

This case was unusual because this case had a survivor. Hanna Gisbyís parents had both been murdered sometime between 6:15 and 7:00 this morning while Hanna was eating breakfast in the kitchen. The Feds had pursued a routine questioning of the three year old but they claimed she hadnít seen or heard anything unusual. They also claimed that her testimony couldnít be used since she was so young.

Jon didnít believe any of it. He didnít think theyíd given her much of a chance to share what she knew. He planned to get the whole story of what she saw and heard out of the little girl. He hoped to learn why she had been spared out of the ninety-four already dead.

He paused at the door as he heard humming. A different voice, but a familiar tune. He frowned, pushing the door open a crack wider and peering in silently.

Hanna Gibsy was an adorable three year old with dark, shoulder length hair. She was sitting on the floor, playing with a couple of dolls and humming. Then she started to sing, her childish voice slightly off-tune.

"It stared at the dawn of age,

when man and woman wed.

Robbing souls of wee babies

until its need was fed."

"It grew without mortal limits

feeding on rage and pain.

Yet still man fought against it,

though slaughtered and in shame."

Jon listened as if hypnotized, recognizing the morbid lyrics of Bananís song. But where had Hanna learned it?

"It began before the sage sang

its destiny to fill.

Tied with broken, bleeding lives

When best man thought his will."

"The cursed life of a monster,

forever it hath bore.

Demon deep inside manís flesh,

man consumed to the core.

ĎTil one would solve the riddle,

and break death of its hold."

Hanna began humming again. Jon stood frozen for a little longer before he managed to pull himself out of it. He knocked lightly on the door before entering. Hanna looked up, startled out of her song. She smiled a little when she saw Jon.

"Hello, Mr. Jon," she said.

Jon forced a smile in return, "Hello, Hanna. Was that you I heard singing just now? You have a very lovely voice."

Hanna blushed slightly and giggled, "Itís an easy song. Want me to teach you?"

"Not right now, thank you," Jon said politely, "But, I was wondering, who did you hear that song from?"

"From the boy," Hanna replied, toying with the hair on her dollís head.

Jon felt a cold pit settle into his stomach again. "What boy?"

"The boy with the dark hair and eyes," Hanna answered, "He didnít say his name."

Jon had to make a point to swallow before he could ask his next question, "Hanna, when did you see the boy?"

"This morning," Hanna replied lightly, "He said that part was most important and I should remember it.

"The cursed life of a monster,

forever it hath bore.

Demon deep inside manís flesh,

man consumed to the core.

ĎTil one would solve the riddle,

and break death of its hold."

"The riddle," Jon said, recalling his conversation with Banan a few days before. "He called it the riddle," he muttered to himself. Louder, he said, "Hanna, this is very important. When did you see him?"

"This morning," the little girl repeated, "He saidó"

"That it was very important," Jon interrupted, "I know, you told me. Thank you. But when this morning did you see him?"

"During breakfast," Hanna said, "Before all those people came to my house."

Jon felt his heart racing in his chest. Did this really mean what he thought it meant? But why hadnít Hanna been killed? There was still so much he didnít know. Could the boy really be the murderer? None of the murders had started until he showed up. But it seemed impossible. Maybe he was being stalked by something, after all.

"Did... did the boy say anything else?" Jon asked, his voice catching slightly, "Did he say or do anything else?"

Hanna shook her head. "He just wanted to play with me," she said innocently, "To teach me his song."

"Nothing else?" Jon pressed, "Are you sure he didnít do anything else?"

"Like what?" Hanna asked in confusion.

Jon shook his head, "Never mind. Thank you for talking with me, Hanna, I have to go."

"You donít want to play with me, first?" Hanna asked, pouting slightly.

Jon forced another smile, "Iím sorry, Hanna, but I really have to go. Iíll come back and play with you later."

"Do you promise?" The little girl asked.

"Yes, of course," Jon said.

"Okay," Hanna replied reluctantly, "Bye."

"Bye," Jon said, "Iíll see you later, okay?"

Jon slammed out of the house without even looking for Mrs. Gisby to tell her he was leaving. He hurried down to his house but found the door locked and cursed to realize he had left his keys at the station.

Running, now, Jon reached the station. He almost turned back then, loathe to go back into that noisy place again, but he moved forward nonetheless. This was more important than bickering men and women. Jon followed the hall around to the main offices and froze.

He hadnít noticed immediately, but everything was silent. Dead silent. Now he could see why. The entire room, with all its open office cubicles and desks, was silent, but occupied. Occupied by dozens of dead bodies.

It was worse than before and Jon didnít even have time to go for a toilet before he was sick all over the floor. There was blood everywhere and Jon was convinced that he was the only living being in the building.

He was struggling for breath and every time he looked at all those bodies his vision swam. Jon took a few forced breaths and hurried back to his desk, trying to look at as few of the bodies as possible.

A man had fallen across his desk. His body blocked the way to Jonís drawers. Reluctantly, he pushed it aside and was startled to feel that it was still a little warm. It couldnít have been half an hour since the man died. Maybe as little as ten minutes passed.

Jon grabbed his keys as well as his gun and left the station grimly. He had to find Banan. He knew the boy was involved somehow, without a doubt. He had been at the Gisby house at the time of murder, but whether he was an accomplice or another victim wasnít clear. Jon feared the former, though.

The streets were empty, but since the Feds arrived in town that had become normal. The early December clouds were thick overhead and a slow snow was beginning to fall. Jon didnít go towards his house, for some reason he didnít think Banan would be there. He went towards the river.

The banks were iced over and only the middle of the river wasnít yet frozen, the water still flowing in an attempt to hold back the winter ice a little longer. Jon looked around anxiously but didnít see anyone. A find dusting of snow was beginning to cover the ground and his feet left prints.

"Are you looking for me?"

The cold in the pit of Jonís stomach solidified at the sound of the voice and the urge to retch rose up in Jon again. He forced it down and his knuckles tightened on his gun. Slowly, he turned around.

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