Roses from My Killer
The sun was just setting over the sound as Officer Cindy Smith made her way up South Croatan Highway in her patrol car. Just past the Dairy Queen, she could see the rosy colors peeking over the rooftops of the vacation homes that lined the horizon, the brilliant hues lighting up the overcast sky.
Maybe she could take in a real sunset once in a while if she wasn’t stuck on second shift patrol every Saturday night.
Her job as a low level Nags Head police officer had turned out to be pretty boring. Oh, she’d processed a few B&E’s. She’d brought in a guy on drug charges a few months ago. But most of the time the work was dull and monotonous. Especially in the off season.
But then, that was her own fault. With a sigh, she wondered what she’d be doing now if she hadn’t quit the Parker Agency a year and a half ago.
She’d been near the end of her training when the instructor, Detective Judd, had started talking about final examinations. At the very sound of the words, she’d frozen and started looking for a way out. Then her father got sick, and she’d used his illness as an excuse to go home to North Carolina’s Outer Banks where she’d grown up.
Three months later her father succumbed to lung cancer, and she told herself she had to take care of her grieving mother. Instead of going back to the Parker Agency and finishing her training, she’d looked for a job at a local police department.
And here she was.
What would she be doing now if she’d stayed at the Agency?
She’d wondered that a lot since she’d come back home. All her life she’d wanted to be a hot shot detective, facing down scary killers, solving crimes others couldn’t figure out.
As a kid, she’d watched all the cop shows on TV she could. Her father used to watch them with her, while her mother fussed at him, saying he was encouraging their daughter to pursue a life of danger.
Her mother hadn’t needed to worry. Cindy had discovered she didn’t have the stomach for danger. Every time she’d had the chance to go for her dream, she couldn’t do it. Still, she longed for adventure. At times, she’d thought about going back to Atlanta, but she could never work up the courage to do it.
Besides, there was another reason why she’d left the Parker Agency.
Nobody knew who she was or where she came from, though Dave Becker told her once he thought she’d been with the FBI. She was so good. She’d solved the murders of two young girls and an heiress before she was halfway through training. And she had a thing with Wade Parker.
Cindy knew she didn’t stand a chance. Out of insecurity, she’d been nasty to Steele. She could admit that now. But to be truthful, the woman intimidated her.
Cindy knew she’d never be a detective like that. No, for her it was giving out DUIs, checking abandoned vehicles, and driving up and down her designated portion of this narrow two-hundred-mile-long strip of islands.
Today’s feature was a four-fifteen—disturbing the peace. One of the residents in the oceanfront homes had complained someone had left a loud radio on.
Real excitement there.
With a heavy sigh, Cindy turned off the highway and into the quiet neighborhood. Rolling past the expensive rentals, she looked for activity in the yards. There was none.
Some of the owners had come in to do repairs and get their places ready for sale, others to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families on the beach. But unlike the summer months, when vacationers came in and out of the houses like people going through a revolving door, this time of year most of the homes were empty.
Cindy pulled up to the residence of the woman who’d made the complaint and rolled down her window.
The neighbor was right. She could hear the music from the street.
She rolled her squad car along the curb until she reached its source two doors down. She looked up at the big yellow house with the white trim. There were no cars in the driveway or parked along the street. Didn’t look like there was a party going on.
She got out of the car, pulled her jacket around her and made her way across the lawn and up the dozen or so steps to the front door.
She rang the doorbell and waited. No response. She gave the doorframe a loud rap and waited again. Still nothing.
The owner might be cleaning and couldn’t hear. Though she didn’t hear a vacuum.
For a moment she stared at an empty rocking chair on the porch, then turned to make her way around to the back. The deck ran all the way around to the ocean side of the house, where a long strip of beach and the choppy water bordered the property.
Cindy knocked on one of the sliding doors and waited again. Still no answer.
She put her hands to the glass and tried to peer inside. All she could see was a blue carpet and a neatly-made bed. Like most of the homes in the area, this one had a reverse floor plan with the bedrooms on the main floor and the living room and kitchen above. Vacationers preferred the maximized view.
The renter must be on the top floor.
She found another stair to the second deck and made her way up. She had to be right. The music was louder here. She could make it out now.
“Red Roses for a Blue Lady.”
That song was ancient. She only knew it because her mother liked it. The renter must be an old guy.
A deaf old guy.
She made her way to a wide set of sliding glass doors. The blinds were drawn. That was unusual. The view was what you paid for.
She knocked, waited, and once again got no answer. Feeling frustrated she tried the handle.
The door slid open easily.
“Sir? Ma’am?” she called out as loudly as she could.
No one answered.
She stepped onto the light-colored hardwood floor and looked around at a large open living room done in ocean pastels. Multi-colored light flickered in time to speakers in the corner, shooting strange shapes on the walls of the dimly lit space. The music was deafening, but it was the strange odor that caught Cindy’s attention.
“Sir? Ma’am?” she shouted again as she came around an armchair and switched on a light.
And then she stopped in her tracks.
The foul air in her nose, she stared down at the body of a woman. A young woman. She had to be about her own age. She’d been spread out naked over a soft-hued throw rug, as if she were sunbathing on the beach outside. Her long blond hair had been arranged over her head to form a halo-like shape. Purple roses had been strewn around her like some sort of homage.
Her eyes were closed and her mouth was tight, as if she were in pain. No wonder. Her whole body was covered with bloody, gaping wounds.
Cindy began to shiver. And then her gaze rose to the wall, and she saw the horrifying words written in the woman’s blood.
Her head began to spin. Her knees turned to jelly. Suddenly she was overcome with the urge to vomit. Slapping a hand over her mouth she bent over.