Serial Perfect -1Detective Halifax strode with purpose down the street.

It was still early in the morning, and the soon to be congested pedestrian walkways were relatively clear. Though the detective was not alone in his walk, he did not need to walk at an uncomfortable pace or with an awkward stride in order to avoid others. He held a foam cup of fresh brewed Coojie coffee in his right hand and every now and then would delicately sip the steaming liquid. The early morning sun dipped and dived between the towering structures that surrounded the detective, now and again the light would flash brightly in his eyes, causing him to squint. Though it did annoy him, he took up no initiative to prevent the inconvenience; he had more important things to think about. Detective Halifax was a homicide detective. That morning he had been called to investigate the death of a man named Doctor Richard A. Sankson. Doctor Sankson was one of the lead designers of new algorithmic software that would make all forms of Artificial Intelligence more human. His body was found by a mail clerk who checked into work a few minutes early and found him lying in a pool of blood and broken glass. This was all the information Detective Halifax had been given thus far. Turning a corner, he sped up his pace to a slow jog, trying to catch one of the open transmission elevators before someone else did. As he approached the vast wall of gleaming silver doors, one nearby opened and two men in green janitor’s outfits filed out. They looked worn and tired and were shuffling on uneven paces that suggested long hours of arduous work. Detective Halifax slipped into the elevator as soon as they passed.

Serial Perfect -2The metallic doors slid silently shut, blocking his view of the streets and replacing it with a reflection of his own visage. Detective Halifax had been in the investigation business for thirteen years now, and it showed. Though still young and spry, his job had taken a light toll on him. The skin on his face was scarred here and there from violent contact with murderers and convicts. If you were to look at Halifax, your eyes would immediately be drawn to a long, deep, red hued gash across the top of his head. He received this scar, as well as three weeks treatment at the nearest emergency room when he became part of a gunfight with the serial killer “The Eraser.” The Eraser had fired off an archaic .50 caliber rifle randomly at Halifax and the two county police officers he was with. Normally, an action like this had a one in ten billion chance of being effective, but detective Halifax had poked the top of his head out from behind the old refrigerator at the wrong time. The bullet tore off a solid strip of skin and some fragments of bone, but had luckily not gone deep enough into his skull so as to cause serious damage to his brain. Still, the healing process wasn’t pleasant. Halifax was of pure, 100% Norwegian descent. Though Halifax was not a Norwegian name, he had it changed as part of a witness protection program; he still bore the trademark blue eyes of all Norsemen. He would have the blonde hair, but he preferred to have a shaved head. “Good morning,” a robotic male voice chimed. “Please select a destination.” Its tone wavered violently as the AI struggled to imitate human speech and proper pitch. “Grand Light Technologies Headquarters,” Halifax sighed. ‘Over three hundred years and they still sounded fake,’ the exasperated detective thought. The weight of the elevator shifted and soft music clicked on its speaker. Cars had long ago been phased out

Serial Perfect -3of society, regarded as noisy, inefficient and dangerously pollutant. They had since been replaced by transmission elevators, which could travel greater distances much swifter than cars and with less noise and damage to the environment. Though not truly elevators, as they were not limited to upward and downward travel, they had been designed to look, sound and feel exactly like elevators. This design was for older generations that adjusted more slowly to new technology. Detective Halifax was not entirely sure how they worked, but he did know that they were limited to a network of stations of which to travel to. You could not, for instance, travel out into the middle of the Sahara desert, because there was no transmission elevator station out there. You could, however, travel to downtown Moscow, because there were several stations there. The detective also knew that the elevators worked by super-compressing mass on a molecular level and propelling that mass along a route towards a specific goal. The process sounds painful, it actually only gives the slight dipping or rising sensation when riding in a normal elevator. Common sense would dictate that occasionally one’s elevator may collide with another’s if the two had selected the same destination, but to detective Halifax’s knowledge, this has yet to happen. The elevator came to a halt and the music clicked off. Halifax sipped at his now cooled coffee, as the robotic voice spoke to him again. “Destination, Grand Light Technologies Headquarters…is this correct?” “Yes,” Halifax replied, his deep voice sharpened slightly with a faint hoarseness that never went away. “Thank you, have a nice day.” Halifax shook his head at the irony. ‘Did homicide detectives ever have a nice day?’ he thought sarcastically.

Serial Perfect -4The metallic doors slid open at the sounding of a small bell. Detective Halifax stepped out into the dark marble foyer of the Grand Light Technologies Headquarters antechamber. The room was large; wide enough to be considered a spacious ball room and twice as long as it was wide. The ceiling towered to the top floor, fifty six stories, where a pyramidal glass ceiling capped the slightly conic shaped skyscraper. Each level had a main hallway that wrapped around the open center, allowing easy access from branch to branch to stairway to branch. At the far end of the room, an entire wall was replaced by massive windows, which allowed the sunlight to pour in at an astronomical level. There was only one main desk, which was stationed right before the windows, but it was large enough for seven secretaries to work in. Detective Halifax strode down the middle of the room, his steps echoing off the mirror-like floors and pillars. A few witnesses or stranded workers sat and chattered swiftly on couches and chairs on either side of the room. An odd shaped plant that stood robustly next to a pillar caught the detective’s gaze and caused him to stop. He stared, puzzled at how a plant could look so much like a polar bear standing on its hind legs. Snapping his gaze to the task at hand, he approached the small crowd of police and building security. Before he had been asked for identification, he held up his badge, stepping through the transparent crime scene police barrier. In the center of the squared off area, a few people were bent over a bloody corpse. Off to the side, clothed head to toe in dark cloth stood a shorter man, who immediately upon seeing Detective Halifax waved him over. “’Morning Haji,” Detective Halifax said before taking another sip on his coffee. “Good morning Detective,” Haji said, “how are you today?”

Serial Perfect -5“Fine. Just enjoying one of your race’s chief imports.” Detective Halifax took one last sip of his Coojie coffee. The Coojies were the only alien race close enough to interact directly with humans. They had been the same race that had flown in on flying saucers and used crop fields as cushioning against the dense soil of the earth. Coojies were the stereotypical “little green men” that society had populated for decades. The Coojie averaged at around 4’ 3”, had large dark colored eyes and were of a pale, greygreen hue. They had evolved in such a way on a planet slightly larger than Earth that received little natural light. Though the Coojie did have pupils larger than humans, their eyes were not totally pupil; it only appeared as such, because their irises were of a dark brown that was difficult to differentiate from the pupils. Typically, Coojies lived to see their eighties. Relations with the Coojie were peaceful, but abnormally quiet. It was as if they had come to an agreement on “you stay out of our business and we’ll stay out of your business.” What little trade and communication that was made, was made over the trade of valuable resources that the respective races lacked. The humans had vast amounts of granite and iron, while the Coojie planet was composed of mostly elemental titanium. The Coojie also brewed the most popular coffee. There was little interspecies mingling. What little humans influenced on the Coojie was through a building that doubled as a governmental diplomacy center and scientific research facility. There had been a few Coojie immigrants that assimilated themselves into human society, but typically it was the same lack of influence on Earth. Detective Halifax shook his head in enjoyment, “You Coojies make one hell of a cup of coffee.” Halifax had known Haji ever since he had joined the force. The two of

Serial Perfect -6them had often worked on the same cases, and over the years the two developed a bond. Professionally, Haji was not directly affiliated with Halifax, but he might as well have been. Haji bowed his head in gratitude, “Thank you Detective.” Detective Halifax tossed the empty cup into a nearby trashcan. “So what’s the situation Haji?” The two of them turned and looked at the corpse that lay a few feet away. “Dr. Richard A. Sankson. Age fifty-four. Suspected homicide, possible suicide.” “They’re already considering suicide?” “When we asked a few witnesses what they had seen, they practically told us his life story. The good doctor’s wife had died three weeks ago and he hadn’t been the same since. Never left his office; his only communication being the call button to his secretary for three meals a day. Up until now he had been heading a project on algorithmic A.I. emotion. No one saw anything happen, just heard the crash and saw him hit the ground.” Detective Halifax sighed and traced his gaze up and down the corpse of the doctor. Besides the pool of blood, the corpse was mostly clean. Here and there a small lump stuck up under his clothing where bone had pierced the flesh. Sprinkled around the corpse were tiny fragments of what appeared to be glass. “What do you think it is Haji?” detective Halifax asked, sticking his hands in his pockets. Haji closed his eyes and shook his head. “Oh, detective I’ve never been right.” “You were right about the O’ Mally case.”

Serial Perfect -7“That case screamed third degree murder and you and I both know it! Everyone down at the station was just too dumb to notice.” “Haji, whether you’re right or wrong, I always want your opinion. I respect it, and it always helps my case, whether it’s right or not.” Haji sighed. “Well, to be honest, I think its suicide. I mean, the guy fits the bill pretty damn well.” Detective Halifax, scratched his chin softly, an act he committed when in deep thought. “Hmm,” he declared, “well I’m going to reserve any decision until I interview some people.” *** Detective Halifax peered about in Dr. Sankson’s office. Everything was neat and orderly. All of his tools, storage units, utensils, everything was neatly and properly labeled, some even with a few scrawls of service reminders. Dominating the far wall of the spacious yet maze-like office was a large broken pane of glass. As he stepped closer to examine the jagged hole, he stepped on a small piece, which snapped and broke with a warped and distorted sound. “Type One shielding material,” the detective mumbled. Puzzled, the doctor pulled out his PDA and held down the PTT button on its microphone. “Karin?” Karin was his PDA’s built in artificial intelligence. She made the task of finding files quick and easy. “Yes detective?” Karin’s overly fake voice replied. “How old was Dr. Richard Sankson?”

Serial Perfect -8“Richard Sankson. Age fifty-four years, thirteen weeks, two days, six hours, twenty-seven minutes, forty-four seconds.” “Thank you, Karin.” The Detective switched off the PDA and stowed it in his coat pocket. Halifax stood and took a step away from the glass, sighing as he tried to fix the loose end. *** “Thank you for meeting with me, Miss…” the detective gestured to the plump young woman sitting across from the desk from him. He had set up shop for interviews in the office of Dr. Sankson’s secretary. “Duvald, detective; and you’re very welcome.” Miss Duvald blinked two and a half more times than the average human being. Though she was larger than average, weight wise, she wasn’t terribly overweight. She had frizzy blonde hair that she kept cut short. “Miss Duvald, what is your position here at the company?” Detective Halifax cupped his fist in his right hand and leaned it on the table. “I work in Customer support. Hardware division.” “Miss Duvald, describe your relationship to Dr. Sankson.” “Well, we had known each other well, but not outside of work. He was very business like,” she shook her head in reassurance, “always serious at work, focusing only at the task at hand. I had only found him discussing things non-work related when his family would telephone him at work.” “Did this happen often,” Halifax inquired.

Serial Perfect -9Miss Duvald drew a shaky breath, but it wasn’t out of nervousness, just out of her own nature. “Not as often as the other workers, no, but often enough to consider him a good communicator.” “I see. Did his family ever visit him at work?” “Does anybody’s?” Miss Duvald begged. “I mean like children, or young nephews…?” Halifax made a rolling motion with his hands to emphasize his question. “Oh…no. To my knowledge he never had any children. As far as other, younger, relatives, he had never been visited. The only communication he held during work hours with family, were his occasional phone calls to his wife.” “Can you describe Dr. Sankson’s change in behavior after his wife’s death?” “Oh,” Miss Duvald sighed as if she were to cry, “he became very distant. He would shut himself in his office, only emerging to call to his secretary to bring him lunch, or to leave. But that was only the first few days. After that he never left his office, and would buzz his secretary when he grew hungry.” “Did Dr. Sankson eat three meals a day?” “W-well,” Miss Duvald hesitated. The question was very unusual to her, and she was unsure of the answer. “He-uh. I suppose so. My office was not close enough to his to really tell. Nobody’s was.” “Dr. Sankson was heading up a project on algorithmic A.I. emotion, was he not?” “Yes.” “Did this job required direct interaction with other workers?”

Serial Perfect - 10 “Only occasionally. It was Dr. Sankson’s job to evaluate the algorithm, and it was up to the rest of us to make the hardware work.” “So, no one directly interacted with Dr. Sankson during the work day?” “Aside from his secretary, and his boss on rare occasions, yes.” “If I may ask, then how do you and the other workers know so much about his depression?” “His secretary was kind of a blabber mouth,” Miss Duvald confessed. “Hmm, did Dr. Sankson have any enemies?” “Oh, my no!” she declared eyes wide, head pivoting left and right slowly, “he was a very polite and considerate man. Besides, I don’t think he ever got to know anyone personally enough, besides his wife, to make an enemy.” “I see, well that’s all the questions I have for you today Miss Duvald. Thank you for your time.” “You’re welcome Detective.” Halifax followed her out and spoke to one of the officers outside the door. “I want to interview his boss next.” Within the next half-hour, Detective Halifax sat across the table from Dr. Sankson’s boss. “Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Klayton.” “No trouble at all detective.” Mr. Klayton was a very small man. Short and thin. His voice was also thin, but soothing to the ears, similar to an aphrodisiac. He was balding and wore a black, pinstriped suit. “How would you describe the quality of Dr. Sankson’s work,” Detective Halifax asked, leaning back causing his chair to creak.

Serial Perfect - 11 “Above average. Consistently,” Mr. Klayton blinked slowly to emphasize his point, “above average.” “How would you describe his interaction with the other workers?” “Minimal, but not excessively minimal.” Detective Halifax cleared his throat and leaned forward. “Did you ever meet with Dr. Sankson personally?” “Only the occasional visit to his office. I try to visit all of my workers throughout the day to ensure that they have no issues with their work environment.” “I see.” Detective Halifax bowed his head in brief thought, the office light gleaming off the skin of his head. “Would you describe Dr. Sankson as a notably strong man?” “Not particularly. He was of average strength, as his job does require the occasional heavy lifting.” A bell went off in the detective’s head. He showed no indication of his inner workings and pressed on with the interview. “Why did you feel the need to utilized Type One shielding material, instead of glass?” Mr. Klayton paused before he spoke. “To deter incidents such as this.” “Thank you, Mr. Klayton, that’s all.” Detective Halifax interviewed Dr. Sankson’s secretary and several others of his co-workers, most of whom worked on the same project as he did. None of them told him anything new. ***

Serial Perfect - 12 Back in his office, Halifax flipped the final page in his seven page crime scene report. He came to the very last section, a box containing several lines providing writing space, with one simple word in which to respond to: “Conclusion?” In the end, this was the single most important part of his report. The first six pages were nothing but red tape and protocol. His conclusion sealed the case, his conclusion determined the obituary, his conclusion convicted or freed suspects, and his conclusion made the news. Detective Halifax bent his hand down and touched the tip of his pen to the paper, but stopped. He looked up over his fluorescent desk light at the red oak clock hanging on his far wall. It was late, and he could barely make out the angle of the minute and hour hands, but he could determine that it was 11:37. Licking his lips, he picked up the cordless phone, a thin sliver rectangle that rested within an even smaller black rectangle, at the corner of his desk and held down the PTT button. “Call D-,” his voice was horse, and caught on itself. Halifax cleared his throat. “Call David Meer, Onondaga County Police Agency, Lab, Evidence Processing.” “One moment please,” the disturbingly happy male voice requested. Halifax bent his head down in front and closed his eyes, waiting for the infamous sudden cut-off of the ringing and the quintessential“Hello?” David Meer’s voice always sounded as if he had just had a few drinks…not drunk, but overly relaxed. “David, its Halifax.” “Oh, hey,” David carrying the “hey” on for much longer than needed, “Halifax, what can I do for you at 11:38 at night?”

Serial Perfect - 13 “I want your opinion on something,” Halifax said, unsure. “Shoot.” “Do you think the average man in his early fifties could throw himself threw Type One shielding material?” “The Sankson case, huh?” “Yeah. Apparently he fell, but do so would require him to break Type One shielding material. What’re your thoughts?” “Well,” David mused, “I suppose he could.” David emphasized his uncertainty heavily. “I mean, Type One’s tough stuff, but I guess if he had a good running start he might be able to.” Halifax sighed in resignation; it wasn’t the answer he was looking for. “Alright,” Halifax rubbed his eyes, “thanks for the input.” “Hey man,” Meer carried the “man” on for longer than needed, “anytime. Look, don’t strain a brain muscle on this one, OK? Just go with it.” Halifax knew that “it” was his gut instinct, but he knew that he had no way to suggest homicide. “OK, thanks Meer. Have a good one.” Halifax clicked the phone off and plopped it back into its cradle, missed, and tried again, but more carefully. Looking back at his reports, he sighed once more. He picked up his pen, and scratched out, “Suicide” on the first line. *** “Sweet Jesus Haji, I just had lunch,” detective Halifax complained. The gruesome scene before him was not the worst he had ever seen, but it was not something he wished to stomach after eating lasagna. Haji and Halifax stood next to each other as

Serial Perfect - 14 they watched three men in white coats and skin tight latex gloves gather evidence off the bloody mess that was once a living human. “I’m sorry detective, but I had to call you,” Haji was looking on forlornly; his balding, bulbous head was also unclothed and exposed to the elements, something his species didn’t normally do outside. “It’s not like I’m stomaching it well either.” “Haji, you don’t have gag reflexes.” “Detective, you don’t leak thick bodily fluid out the top of your head.” “Only when I’m pissed off,” Halifax said sarcastically. A cool breeze kicked up some dry leaves and flung them out of the shade of the high pine trees and into the logging facility parking lot. Detective Halifax had been called to the scene of the death of a Mr. Flodden, a former lumberjack who was found dead not two hours earlier. “So,” Halifax began, “tell me what you know that I don’t.” “Mr. Calvin I. Flodden, age thirty three, no wife, no girlfriend, no living relatives to speak of. He worked as a regular here at the South Onondaga Logging Mill.” “Private mill?” Halifax inquired. Private logging mills were an extreme rarity, as they were very inefficient in the present day and age. There were several large logging corporations, but no tiny setups. “No, part of East Canadian logging.” “Ah.” “He was found,” Haji gestured with his hand “as is this morning. The huge gash in his forehead and the blood on his chainsaw suggest that he killed himself with his saw. Blood tests and kill cutting patterns confirm that hypothesis.” “Jesus…”

Serial Perfect - 15 “Only one witness, the girl who found him, we’ve got her over by the-” Haji stopped, covered his left ear and tilted his head, listening closely to his radio earpiece. Eyes darting back and forth, he held up a finger in declaration, “Scratch that, there’s another one. My god, this one saw him do it.” “Let me see him first.” “Yes detective.” Detective Halifax sat forward in the uncomfortable metal stool he had been offered in the police van. Three feet from him, Mr. James Nolan did the same. “Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Nolan,” Halifax began, offering the man a cup of coffee. He refused it. Halifax narrowed his eyes a millimeter, out of sympathy. “I know this is difficult for you, but you will be helping us a great deal.” James Nolan seemed distant, staring at the floor of the van. “Well, I might as well get started.” Halifax said, both to himself and to James. “How did Mr. Flodden die, Mr. Nolan? Describe the event in its entirety, if you can.” It felt cruel to the detective to ask such a question, but he needed to. “We…” James hesitated, his voice was hoarse, his gaze remained on the floor of the van, “we were working over at the…the place where he….” “Gimme a MT and a body bag here…” an officer with a radio walked past the van. James blinked several times in rapid succession. “We were going to cut down a few sample trees. Ya know, to test the wood, to see if it was good material. He seemed depressed that whole morning. We cut down one tree okay, but right when we were going to the next one…he started crying. When I asked him what was wrong, he just…

Serial Perfect - 16 killed himself.” James paused. “I didn’t know what to think, or to do, so I went back to the locker room and…sat there.” Detective Halifax waited a polite length of time before asking his next question. “Would you describe Mr. Flodden as suicidal?” “Normally…no. But in the past few weeks he hasn’t been himself. Depressed… uninterested…distant.” “Would you happen to know the cause of it?” “Well…Cal was the only one of us who was a Zionist.” In the past fifty years a new sect of Christianity called Zionism had sprung up. Despite the confliction in names between it and the Jewish movement of people to their homeland, Zionism was a fast growing religion. It was the most peaceful of the sects, denouncing all forms of violence what-so-ever. “And one of the guys was curious, so he asked, ‘Hey Cal, are Zionists against violence towards nature?’ That got him thinking, and I guess Zionists were… which made him a sinner.” There was an uncomfortable pause. Suddenly James spoke. “I don’t care what any religious leader says, Cal was a good man! He never hurt anybody, he was always around to help, he never said a bad word to anyone, he never said a bad word period! He was a logger, because his family had been loggers for over thirty generations, it was in his blood.” Detective Halifax nodded. “That’s all I need, thank you Mr. Nolan.” *** Stepping out of the van and into the afternoon son, he was startled by a man in a priest’s outfit standing over the closed body bag of Calvin Flodden. He was reading out

Serial Perfect - 17 of a book and making sacred gestures with his hands. Annoyed, Halifax approached the man. “Excuse me, Reverend.” The priest looked to him over the tiniest pair of glasses the detective had ever seen. His faint green eyes looked at the detective in shock that he would disturb such a sacred ritual. With a flurry of rushed hand signals and spoken prayer, the priest closed his bible and turned to the detective. “Can I be of assistance?” His voice was the overly clear type, perfect for speaking to a congregation. “Yes, what are you doing with that body?” “Why, blessing it for the journey,” the priest said it as if he could not possibly be doing anything else. “Well, do you have to do it right now? We have to take it into be autopsied very soon.” “I appreciate your concern, officer, but being Mr. Flodden’s spiritual leader, and a member of the Zionist church, I must do my duty.” Zionists required that a body be blessed as soon as possible after death. “I’m sorry, but you need to come to me first, or at least send someone to inform me.” “And you are?” “Detective Halifax,” the detective pulled out his badge and ID. “I’m so sorry detective, but you need not worry, I’m finished.” The priest smiled, bowed his head and left. Detective Halifax felt bad that he rebuked the holy man, but he didn’t like it when people messed with his dead bodies and he didn’t know about it.

Serial Perfect - 18 *** Detective Halifax leaned unpleasantly close to the hole in Mrs. Torero’s head. Halifax had been called into the scene late, and heavy decomposition had already started to take place. Grimacing against the stench, he pulled himself back and looked over the scene as a whole. Mrs. Torero had been found around noon by her neighbor, who was immediately alerted when he saw dark red stains on her bedroom window. Mrs. Torero had placed a gun firmly under her chin and pulled the trigger, spraying the window, ceiling and plush white couch she sat upon with blood, bone and brains. Curiously enough, the gun was equipped with a silencer; the neighbor didn’t happen upon the scene until several hours after the fact. “OK Haji, give me the scoop,” Halifax strained. Haji looked at the gun which had been plucked from Mrs. Torero’s right hand and dumped into a plastic bag. Without looking up at Halifax, the Coojie said, “Mrs. Jane B. Finn Torero. Age twenty seven, one husband, no children and no other immediate family in the area. Husband is a Mr. Michael E. Torero. Suspected suicide.” “Not even a suspicion of homicide? What about the husband?” Halifax coughed just after finishing his question. “There was a note found,” Haji gestured to the small Teak desk to his left, where a crumpled piece of paper had been flattened and shoved in a plastic bag. With two strides detective Halifax approached the desk and gingerly picked up the bag. The combination of poor lighting, crumpled paper and somewhat clear plastic made the note difficult to read, but the detective squinted and managed to make it out.

Serial Perfect - 19 ‘Michael, I know times have been tough for us, but please, come home. I miss you. I need you. I’ve been too lonely here without you. Each day that goes by without you is just too much to bear. Please, I’m begging you, come home. We can make this right. I know it wasn’t your fault, it was an accident. I still love you and am willing to forgive you. Come home, Jane’ Pursing his lips, he turned his head to face Haji. His view was momentarily blocked by a camera toting police officer. “So Haji,” the detective called, “what happened between Mr. and Mrs. Torero?” Haji handed the bagged pistol to an officer nearby and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Mr. Torero had been caught having sex with his secretary in his office one day,” Haji’s large eyes remained fixed on the body. “This was three months prior to today. Two months prior, Mr. Torero transferred himself to a foreign branch of his advertising company. Some divorce papers had been filed by Mrs. Torero, but full action had never been taken.” Haji shrugged, “I guess she just gave up and decided that she really wanted him.” Halifax turned back to the note, sighing in disappointment. He pulled a small LED flashlight out of his pocket and clicked it on. While he was observing some small drip stains, tears he suspected, a graying man in a black cloak bounded into the room. With a few quick steps he parked himself before the body of Mrs. Torero and moaned in grief. Halifax stood up straighter and smoothed out his jacket. A pang of annoyance

Serial Perfect - 20 traced itself across his temple, the priest from the Flodden case now began to read Latin from a leather-bound book and gesture fancifully in the air over Mrs. Torero. Halifax reached out to stop the priest, but hesitated. He questioned himself for a moment whether, out of common courtesy, he should just let the priest do his duty. Deciding that the priest could do the blessing at the morgue, Detective Halifax tapped on the priest’s shoulder. Surprised that he had been interrupted, the priest stared at Halifax slack-jawed for a moment. “O-Detective?” “I’m sorry to do this to you Reverend, but we need to take the body to a morgue.” The priest blinked. “This instant?” “I was actually about to begin the move process when you walked in. I know that this could be sacrilegious for you, but-” “Its not sacrilegious, but it is disrespectful.” The priest’s gaze grew icy. Halifax paused and licked his lips, restraining his temper. “Like I was saying, I’m sorry to do this to you, but we have to take the body to the morgue right now.” Halifax through extra emphasis onto “right.” “Then I shall perform this blessing on the way to the morgue,” the stern priest proclaimed. “As you wish, Reverend, just let us load the body onto the van.” Halifax turned to walk out to the “meat wagon” as his department called it, but the priest stopped him short. “Ah, detective.” Halifax turned his head. “I’m not a reverend. My name is Father Mordenkein.” A moment of silence passed in which Haji’s eyes flipped rapidly

Serial Perfect - 21 between Halifax and Father Mordenkein. Halifax slowly turned his head, as if it were stiff and rusted, and walked heavily out of the room. ‘Its times like these,’ Halifax thought, ‘that I’m glad I’m atheist.’ *** Detective Halifax’s pen traced out his knowledge onto the crime scene report. He was just going through the motions, not really paying much attention to what he was writing down. Though the information that he recorded was accurate, his mind was elsewhere. He could not, for the life of him, figure out why the sudden new rash of suicides. Sankson, Flodden, Torero, just this week. On previous weeks, Coolidge, Krause, Edinger, Stark, Youssef; it was all just too much to bear. Especially the Torero and Flodden cases, after all they were deeply religious. Halifax’s pen froze half-way through the “n” in Zionist. His pulse quickened as the epiphany cleared his thoughts like an archaic windshield wiper. “Karin?” “Yes detective?” Karin had been in sleep mode and had required a moment’s hesitation as the PDA kicked back on. “Search my records for suicides within the last week, key words “Stark, Youssef, Krause and Sankson.” The PDA remained silent for a moment. “Search complete, sixteen resu-” “What were the reported religious faiths recorded on those crime scene reports?” “Zionist.” Detective Halifax slowly looked up to the clock hanging on the far

wall of his office. The dimming twilight enabled him to just barely see that the clock read “8:35.” Halifax grabbed his coat and holstered his pistol.

Serial Perfect - 22 “Church is still open.” he said to no one in particular. *** Halifax skipped over a few of the concrete steps up to the church, running his hand gently but swiftly along the poorly painted metal handrail. He entered into the church crying room and stood still for a second. The room, for some strange reason, made his ears ring. Shaking his head to dismiss any dangerously creative thoughts, he leapt up the last few steps and entered into the church’s main area. The inside was lit by candles, the soft light giving the cavernous inside a homey feel. The carpeted floor greatly muffled his steps, but his breathing was amplified. Even inhalations and exhalations through his nose seemed to echo out of every corner. Reflexively he reached out a hand to dip his fingers into the basin of holy water, but withdrew them shyly. ‘Haven’t done that in a long time…’ mused Halifax. Reaching the end of the pews he looked up to the wood crucifix, which bore a ceramic Jesus. Out of all the Christian sects, Zionism was the only one, in which any statue or portrait of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ eyes were open. Not only were they open, they were rife with pain, and stared down at all who passed by. Halifax had seen a few where the eyes were lifted skyward in reverence or hope, but only Zionists insisted that the eyes look down. Halifax and the ceramic Jesus stared each other down for a moment, but then a quiet, but carrying voice broke their trance.

Serial Perfect - 23 “Have you come to pray or confess?” Father Mordenkein stood shadowed in the doorway to his office. “Detective,” he added resolutely after a pause. The detective looked back once more at the crucifix then shook his head. “No,” he rasped. Clearing his throat he spoke again. “I’ve come to ask you some questions.” The priest stepped smoothly out of the shadow, striding slowly towards the detective. His fingers were intertwined just below his navel. “Regarding, what?” The priest spoke softly, but deliberately, as if he had been expecting the detective’s unannounced interview. “The recent suicides.” Halifax stopped before the priest, one of his feet on the raised platform that was the rear of the church. The priest cocked his head slightly. His glasses, which Halifax did not notice until now, reflected a brief flash of dim candlelight. “I know not how I may be of assistance. But I shall accommodate you. Follow me, please.” The priest turned his body as one and strode back into his office, Halifax in tow. The office was more brightly lit than the church. It was Spartan. A single, faded dark wood desk sat at the far end of the room, just under the one light fixture in the ceiling. On either wall flanking the desk were two book shelves that rose from floor to ceiling. They were each overfilled with a plethora of books, old and new. The priest gestured to a worn wooden chair that sat at an angle in front of his desk. Halifax sat down and waited for the priest to sit himself. The priest moved slowly, confidently, in no hurry as he straightened his shirt before finally leaning back and lacing his fingers together across his chest. Before he began the Detective noted to himself how perfectly

Serial Perfect - 24 neat everything was in the priest’s office. The books were arranged in picturesque neatness, his desk neat and orderly, as if done by a machine; now that the thought occurred to him, everything about the priest was neat and orderly. His hair was perfectly symmetrical, the glasses were clean to being transparent and his clothes were absent of even the slightest wrinkle. “As you are aware, there have been a recent series of suicides, eight in the past two weeks.” The priest stared at Halifax. He gave no indication that he was listening, but Halifax knew that every ounce of focus was upon him. “All of these suicides have been committed by members of your congregation.” “If you are suggesting,” the priest interjected, blinking slowly, “that my teachings have encouraged suicide then I suggest you leave.” “That is not what I am suggesting,” Halifax held up a hand in a claming motion. “I am not going to suggest anything; I just want to ask a few questions. The first of which is, did these individuals act in similar ways before they died?” “I have many sheep in my flock; you will have to be specific with names.” “Right, I apologize.” Halifax rubbed his eyes, remembering the first and last names. “Richard Sankson, Jane Torero, Calvin Flodden, Robert Edinger, Otto Youssef, Mark Krause, Michael Coolidge, and Luke Stark.” The priest tilted his head back slightly, looking at his ceiling. “Ah yes,” he said quietly, “I remember them.” “Did they exhibit any shared or common behavior before their suicide?”

Serial Perfect - 25 “Yes, they all came and confessed to me, weeping uncharacteristically. They would turn up dead within the next day or so.” It disturbed Halifax how utterly cold Father Mordenkein’s tone was, and how perfectly enunciated his words were. “You did not feel that it was pertinent to contact the authorities about the suspicious behavior?” “No?” Halifax grew warm with anger. “Why not?” he asked, his words slowed with rage. The priest did not reply, instead he stood and walked promptly to his bookshelf. Grasping a book gingerly, he slid the tomb in an indiscernible amount. Producing a small cerulean handkerchief, he wiped the shelf bottom with the corner and replaced it carefully in his pocket. Briefly inspecting the sight he turned and again sat down behind the desk. “Because, according to my faith, if an individual chooses to kill themselves no institution may prevent them from doing so. Only god and his extensions may intervene.” Halifax ground his tongue against his teeth, fighting back his growing distaste for the priest. Sighing, the detective leaned back in the chair informally. “Very well.” Halifax was crazy to think that a priest could ever possibly kill someone, the idea was just absurd. To put the thought behind him, he posed one more question for the priest. Smiling playfully, he asked, “Did you kill them.” “Yes.” At Halifax’s reflex was to laugh, but his humor was slain by the utterly serious and unblinking look upon father Mordenkein’s face. “You….what?”

Serial Perfect - 26 The priest leaned forward in his chair. “I killed them Detective. Had they been allowed to kill themselves, they would have been damned to Hell. I am an extension of god, I am allowed to intervene.” Halifax was dumbstruck. “You…are a servant of god. You’re not allowed to sin!” “Is it a sin to save souls?” Father Mordenkein’s tone grew passionate, as if he were addressing the church on Sunday morning. “No, Detective, I have not sinned. I have done god’s miracle work and rescued these poor souls from the forest of the suicides.” “No…you couldn’t have done it Reverend…” Halifax was still in a haze, searching for anything that he may have missed. This must have been a joke that he just didn’t get. “But I have.” “No, you haven’t, there is no evidence.” Halifax’s eyes widened. It all made sense now. He looked to the priest. “There’s no evidence.” “Yes. The perfect murder.” The priest smiled. “Everything I do is perfect, Detective,” his addressing the Detective was dripping with dark sarcasm, “why do something if you’re not going to do it perfectly? Though I am, mortal, the church makes a lot of money. I used some of it to assist me with my work. Devices that cloaked my body with transparency, hid its heat, quieted my steps and concealed my breath. Halifax stood and looked grimly down at the priest. “You’ll have to come with me Reverend.”

Serial Perfect - 27 Father Mordenkein stood slowly, but did not move from behind his desk. “You will not interfere with the work of god.” Detective Halifax drew his pistol. “Reverend Mordenkein, you are under arrest for multiple homicides. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” “You will not interfere with the work of god,” he said with a slight increase in force. “You forget that I’m the one with the gun here,” Halifax growled. “Now let’s just take a little trip down town.” The priest suddenly dove at the Detective with ferocious speed. His surprisingly strong hands gripped the Detective’s pistol while his body weight threw the two of them to the ground. Arms shaking the two struggled, grunting and bearing their teeth as each of them tried to point the gun at the other. “Detective Halifax,” the priest grunted slowly. “Shot himself in front of a Zionist pastor, because he could not bear the shame of accusing him of murder.” The pistol’s barrel slowly shifted towards Halifax. Groaning with effort Halifax shifted it back towards the priest. Suddenly the priest let go and flung himself to his feet. The sudden loss of resistance caused Halifax to spin on spot. He looked up to Father Mordenkein, in time to see him draw a pistol of his own out of the inside of his shirt. The priest’s eyes were emotionless.

Serial Perfect - 28 Without hesitation Halifax pulled the trigger. With a sudden burst of noise that seemed to dim the lights, the gun spat out a bullet, which landed itself deep within the priest’s skull. His head tilted back from impact, he toppled slowly to the floor of his office; the archaic revolver slipped gracefully out of his fingers and plopped to the floor at his side. Slowly, a crimson pool began to form around the priest’s head, in a perfect circle. Halifax got to his feet and stared down at Father Mordenkein. The smell of blood suddenly came over him and the detective blinked away. “Karin,” he said as he holstered his pistol. “Yes detective?” the muffled, but still overly fake voice called from his pocket. “Call an EMT and a patrol unit to my location. I’ve got a dead body on my hands.” “Yes detective.” Halifax looked down solemnly upon Father Mordenkein’s corpse. He wondered to himself what the perfectionist serial killer was saying to god at that moment.

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