I Am the Darkness by Brian J. Jarrett by Brian J. Jarrett - Read Online

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Summary

A KILLER LURKS IN THE SHADOWS

Months after he tracked down a killer of children, Tom Miller has settled into a new life of relative sobriety with a semblance of a future.

When another murderer strikes, Tom must make good on his promise to a distraught mother and find the man who killed her daughter.

But to stop a killer who lives in the darkness, Tom must journey to his own dark place. A dangerous place. A place where demons live.

A place from which he knows he might never return

Published: Elegy Publishing, LLC on
ISBN: 9781386505235
List price: $2.99
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Acknowledgements

I Am the Darkness

a novella

Brian J. Jarrett

Copyright © 2016 Brian J. Jarrett

Elegy Publishing, LLC

St. Louis, MO

All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted by any means without the written consent of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Any names, people, locales, or events are purely a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to any person (either living or dead), to any event, or to any locale is coincidental or used fictitiously.

2016.IATD.1.0

For my old friend, Shaun Fox.

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Chapter One

A bell attached to the door of Old Man Joe’s bar jingled as Tom Miller stepped inside, drawing the attention of a few regulars seated at the bar. He also got the attention of the owner, Joe Renfro himself. Close that goddamn door before you give us all pneumonia, Joe croaked, his voice gruff from a combination of years and too many cigarettes.

Tom closed the door behind him. Cold air doesn’t give you pneumonia, but huddling up together in this bar will. You do know that pneumonia is bacterial, don’t you?

Joe frowned. Are you a doctor now?

Tom grinned. Maybe in the next life.

You go out for breakfast or something? You’re out and about pretty early.

Nah, just coffee.

That so? Where’s mine then?

Feeling a little entitled today, are we?

No more entitled than the millennials that roll in here and drink their parents’ money away.

Can’t argue with you there. Tom made his way across the room as the rummies went back to their drinks. He hung his coat behind the bar before picking up a towel and getting to work on wiping the bar down for possibly his thousandth time.

Drop that towel, Joe said. He picked up a manila folder from behind the bar. Follow me. We need to talk.

Sure, Tom replied, tossing the towel down on the bar before following Joe to an empty table along the wall on the opposite side of the bar. There he took a seat across from his boss and landlord.

You make any more progress on that Shimano case? Joe asked.

Tom shook his head. I didn’t get anything more than what the cops had.

Did you spend enough time on it?

Of course I did. All I have is time.

What did you find then?

Three victims, including Karen Shimano’s daughter, Lisa. All killed in their apartments, all college students, and all three one year apart from one another. Tom paused. And the calling card, of course.

I am the darkness, Joe said.

Tom nodded. Written on the wall at all three crime scenes. Blocky letters, all caps, written in black magic marker.

It’s a weird phrase. Did you make anything out of it?

I couldn’t find any references to the phrase that had any meaning. But it’s the strongest tie between the murders that the cops can find, and I tend to agree with them. The problem is, the cases are pretty cold by now, and without access to a crime scene, I can’t really get any new leads. I’ve pored over those files hoping that I can find some connection nobody else has noticed, but the cops have done a pretty good job on it. I can’t find any gaps.

Harry’s done a damn good job since I left. He’s got some fine detectives working for him.

Harry? Tom said, smiling. Like Dirty Harry Callahan?

Don’t call him that, Joe said. It’s thanks to him that we got these files at all. He sends me stuff from time to time, and I look it over.

This is the first time you’ve mentioned your source. I guess you trust me now?

Joe rolled his eyes.

Does he know you’re sharing with me? Tom asked.

You don’t worry about that. You just focus on the facts.

Tom decided to leave it at that. Joe was the real cop here, after all.

Joe opened the folder and removed a photograph. He handed it to Tom. Take a gander at that.

Tom took the photo and stared at it. In the picture, he saw a white wall, the same drab color one might find on any generic apartment across the country. But what was written on that wall was anything but common.

I am the darkness, Joe said. Our killer is back in business.

Is this recent?

Joe nodded.

When did it happen?

Two days ago, Joe said. Harry sent me the file this morning. Another young girl, roughly the same age as the others. Stabbed to death in her apartment, one year after Lisa Shimano’s murder.

Tom handed the photo back to Joe. What I can’t seem to figure out with this guy is why he kills them using different methods each time. All his other patterns are the same. He breaks in, rapes and murders them, writing that weird message on the wall before he leaves. But he beat the first girl to death and injected the second girl with barbiturates. And he strangled Lisa Shimano. But now he’s stabbing them? It doesn’t make sense.

Joe shrugged. Could be that he’s experimenting, trying to figure out which way he likes best.

Could be, Tom said. Or maybe there’s significance in the way he’s killing them that we can’t see yet. Some method to his madness.

It’s possible. The calling card is for the cops, though. He wants us to know that it’s him. It’s his signature.

Like signing a painting, Tom said.

Sick, but yeah. Same basic thing.

Tom sighed. Looks like my cold case just warmed up. I assume I’ll need to put in for some vacation?

You got it, Joe said. You should leave tonight. Don’t waste any time. Your leads are cooling as we speak.

Tom picked up the photo again and stared at the words written on the apartment wall in magic marker.

I am the darkness.

Tom didn’t know what that phrase meant, but he was sure it was the lynchpin that tied everything together.

You’re ready for this, Joe said.

I’m glad you’re so sure, Joe, because I’m not convinced.

The only thing you can be completely sure about is the past, Joe said. But you can’t wait for the past to convince you you’re right. It’s too late then. Trust your gut, Tom. It’ll know before your brain catches up.

Chapter Two

Three hours later, Tom checked into the Bayliss Motel, a mom-and-pop roadside set of units that harkened back to the days of Route 66 and cars the size of boats. Set at the back of a cracked and faded parking lot, it smacked of bonafide Americana, none of that second-edition nonsense. The only thing that assured Tom that he hadn’t been transported back to the Kennedy era was the sign in the lobby stating the motel provided Wi-Fi at no extra charge.

A hazy fog of cigarette smoke and a man as weathered as the motel’s parking lot greeted Tom at the front desk. The clerk was seventy if he was a day; deep wrinkles lined the old man’s face, and a snow-white five o’clock shadow sprouted from his jawline. His smoky pale blue eyes remained fixed on a tube television manufactured during the Clinton/Gore era as he watched a college basketball game on the blurry screen, the sound turned down to only a whisper. A cigarette burned in an ashtray, producing tendrils of gray smoke that turned into a cloud circling the old man’s head.

Tom didn’t know if the guy owned this roach motel or if he’d done a poor job at planning for his retirement. Either way, the clerk didn’t seem like he wanted small talk and that suited Tom just fine. Joe had taught him that as a PI it was better to fly under the radar and not draw attention to yourself. Private eyes worked in the shadows whenever possible.

Without taking his eyes off the television, the clerk shoved a paper ledger at Tom and pointed at it. Put your John Hancock there, he said, his voice like gravel on sandpaper.

Tom signed his name as J. Reynolds. As far as anonymity went, it was hard to beat a paper ledger and a cash transaction.

How long you staying? the clerk asked.

A week, Tom replied, handing the man an envelope with enough cash to cover the room, plus a ten percent tip.

Finally taking his eyes from the screen, the clerk reached for the money. Turning toward Tom, he revealed a name tag that read Stanley. Stanley counted the cash and grinned when he noticed the tip Tom had added. Jagged teeth jutted up from his bright red gums. One of the yellowing stumps was missing, front and center, but Tom figured that Stanley wasn’t the kind of guy who cared about shit like that.

Stanley handed Tom a key; a real key, not one of those electronic keycards. From the mildew smell in the office and the circa 1975 telephone on the desk, Tom expected no less.

No pets, no smoking, no doubling up, Stanley said, picking up the cigarette and taking a deep drag. He blew the smoke out, turning his head slightly to the side to keep it out of Tom’s face. It did little good. Read me?

Tom nodded. Got it.

Stanley returned the nod along with a slight smile. Have a pleasant stay, he said, already going back to the basketball game.

Tom picked up his suitcase and headed toward his room, leaving Stanley to his game.

Chapter Three

Tom wheeled the suitcase into the room and placed it on the foot of the queen-sized bed. He closed and locked the door