It all started on September 29th, 2035 in my hometown of Leicester, England. That day, I was sitting peacefully in my office at the news agency The Star, sipping my afternoon coffee when a man, coughing up blood charged into the building.
He was yelling and clutching his arm. He reminded me of a drunk man, screaming at the top of his lungs and bumping into things. Of course, drunks don’t usually have blood pouring out of their mouths.
He screamed one last time. I don’t think anybody called an ambulance, for he was obviously dead. When I approached him, I looked at the arm that he had been clutching so hard. There was nothing wrong with it. No blood had been drawn, there were no fractures, no nothing, just a plain arm. I looked down at his stomach. Everyone behind me either vomited or turned away. It looked as if someone had been dripping acid onto his stomach. Something had dissolved through his skin and his outer muscles leaving the intestines for all to see. The thing that frightened me the most was that this killing was right up my alley.
My name is Johnny Bagg. I am a news reporter. I report on homicides, but not just any homicides. I report on the ones not so easily explained. I am the researcher, the detective of the media. If they have a case that the police can’t solve right off the bat then they call me up and give me the the job of reporting on it and solving the case before the other news agencies figure it out.
When I inspected the man’s stomach, I first thought that it would be easy for the police to figure out who killed him. But, of course, this crazy killer had to leave a hint. He actually pinned a note to the dead man’s spleen! And from what I’ve seen, this will lead to another hint, then another, then another until either we find the guy, he gets bored, or we all die. The Star usually assigns me to report on these cases immediately.
I read the hint over once and left it there for the police to find.
You could call me a mystery nerd. All I read are mysteries, often books with serial killers in them. I loved the detectives in these books so much that I tried to become one. When that didn’t work out I decided to write my own novels. Apparently my mother took one of my better writings and turned it into The Star. They really liked my writing style, so they offered me a job as an assistant writer. I was placed in the music department. They told me that this was just to see how I would adapt to a higher-pressure work place. Being the stubborn kid I was, I refused to write anything related to music at all. When they would ask me to write a review for the latest opera or whatever, I would write about how midway through the show a man walked onto the stage and shot half the people in the audience.
They quickly tired of my jesting but loved my writing, so they asked me where I wanted to be placed. I told them the homicide department or they would get more of the same. I quickly rose in the ranks of the homicide writers. Early on I was given small cases, such as “a man gets shot at a failed robbery” or whatever, but I would peek at the other writers’ stories and suggest little things and sometimes piece together things they had missed, solving the case. The “higher-ups” as I like to call them were impressed with my work and after a year I was the head of the department. It was unheard of! The only bad thing about my new role was that it kicked my only real friend in The Star out of his job. His name was Sam O’Brian. He was very kind and very smart, but he was a bit angry at me for taking his job.
The Star won many awards because of my writing and I even solved some cases before the police could work them out. I became cocky, a bit too cocky for some of my co-workers. I probably still am, but at least people aren’t leaving The Star or complaining about me.
I went home and studied the riddle until I fell asleep. No dinner, no food, no drink. I think much better on an empty stomach. First of all, the man who left this slip of paper on a man’s spleen had balls. You have to have balls to reach into a man’s stomach. Second of all, he was very smart.
The hint was very short. I read it over and over again trying to catch onto anything that he might have given away on accident. One thing I had learned over my years of being a sort of detective was that you don’t follow the hint except as a last resort. Often times the person who wrote the note will give something away about themselves that will help you find them without having to play their twisted game. Unfortunately, this one was the odd one out.
I probably looked over it one hundred times but couldn’t come to any conclusions. I decided that I would have to follow this man’s clues, go where he wants me go, do what he wants me do until he gives something away that allows me or the cops to bust his ass.
I’m usually excited if I have to go out into the field, play the Sherlock Holmes that I’ve always wanted to be, but in this case I was a bit worried. I always found something that helps me piece the story together after the first murder, but not this time. This time, whoever this riddler is stumped me. I always hated people that were smarter than me, and this person certainly was. And, just to add to my fears, he was dangerous. If I ever got close to him he would probably do the same thing he did to that last man: Melt my stomach open.
I decided to go to sleep and work on the hint tomorrow. Maybe follow wherever it led me to. I got into my pajamas and brushed my teeth, even though I hadn’t eaten all day. Finally, I got into bed and slipped away into darkness.
I arrived at The Star at 12:00. I had eaten and drunk some coffee so I felt very much awake. I slipped quietly into my office and studied the clue again. I must have been very tired the night before because I realized what was different about this clue compared to all the other clues that maniacs had left for the cops. This one was short. So short that all there was room for were directions for people to follow. There wasn’t enough writing for him to give anything away. I suddenly held him in even higher regard than I did last night. This strategy was genius! He probably forced himself to fit it into a certain number of words!
After that realization struck me, I knew I would have no choice but to follow this man’s directions. I read the hint again, this time out loud as to see whether it sounded different coming out of someone’s mouth.
“I await at the place where 19 years ago our elite eleven brought fame to our humble city, only to have their dreams quenched as one man stumbled.”
I split the hint up into three phrases that I tried to decipher. The first was “our elite eleven.” I thought of everything in this town that had eleven anythings. I came up with… nothing.
The next phrase I examined was “19 years ago.” I searched on my computer for anything that happened in Leicester 19 years ago. Again there was nothing to be found other than something about football (and that’s real football. Not American football where you hardly use your feet!).
The third and final phrase was “brought fame to our humble city.” I scoured the depths of my memories and searched on the computer but I found nothing. I began pulling my hair out. I must’ve made some loud noises for one of my co-workers, Joshua James, came into check on me.
“Are you alright sir?” he asked in a soft voice.
“Yeah,” I replied, “I just can’t figure out this riddle!”
“Maybe I can help sir,” Joshua said, taking a seat on my desk. He put on his reading glasses and picked up the piece of paper that I had written the riddle on. He read through it once, turned to me and asked, “Do you watch sports?”
“No, not very much,” I said. “Why?”
“Well, if I’m correct,” Joshua began, “the elite eleven refers to Leicester City’s football team who led the Barclays Premier League 19 years ago. They brought fame to our humble city as it states in this riddle, and in their last game against Manchester City, the striker Jamie Vardy tripped and missed an open goal which would have tied the game. They lost the game by one goal and Manchester City jumped ahead of them in the table and won the league.” I just stared at him, jaw hanging open. Finally I said thank you and he left.
I swiveled in my chair and got directions to the soccer stadium. I felt under my desk for the pistol and ammunition I kept just in case something happened. I stuffed them into my bag and got some snacks from the vending machine before walking out of the building and driving off towards the football stadium.
I arrived at the stadium and got out of my car. I didn’t know where to start looking for this mysterious man or whatever clue he had left for me this time. I decided the best place to start would be the entrance.
After a few hours of scouring the outer areas of the stadium and persistently pleading with security guards to let me into the stadium, I was about ready to give up. I was walking around a small bush for about the third time when I spotted something that hadn’t been there earlier. A shoe, a rather big one at that, was sticking out from behind the bush, but only enough for someone who was looking hard to see it.
I stepped behind the bush and witnessed the exact same spectacle I had seen a day earlier in The Star. A security guard with his shirt torn apart lay face down on the ground. I turned him over with my shoe and looked into his stomach, still sizzling from whatever acid this maniac had used. Again, I could see a piece of paper pinned to the man’s spleen. I read it over and stuffed it in my pocket.
I ran over to a nearby security guard and told him that there was a body. When the man examined it, just like my co-workers, he nearly vomited. He thanked me for letting him know and warned me that there would be an investigation and I would be a prime suspect. I just shrugged, saying that I didn’t do it and that there was no evidence that suggested I did.
When I arrived at my house I went straight into my study and read the note over. This one was much easier for me to figure out mainly because it had nothing to do with sports.
“Meet me in the new Hall of the Romans as the bell strikes noon tomorrow. Thou shalt find this place near the wall that shielded unwanted eyes from watching them bathe, and in the grand Mansion where the Romans of Leicester and their artifacts are frozen in time.”
The line “in the grand Mansion where the Romans of Leicester and their artifacts are frozen in time” gave it away. Whoever this madman is wanted me to meet him or whatever dead body he left for me this time at Jewry Wall Museum, the local Roman and medieval history museum, tomorrow at 12:00, right when it opened. I decided to rest and build up my energy for tomorrow, hoping that I would finally be able to confront this man once and for all.
I was at the museum by 11:50. It opened at 12:00, so I sat in my car and thought over all the killings. I found it weird that both of the dead men appeared exactly where I was. The first one ran into my office building and died at my feet. The second one only appeared after I arrived at the football stadium. I had looked behind that very bush at least twice before the body appeared, which would mean that the maniac had been watching me while I searched for him. When I was on the other side of the stadium he must’ve placed the guard there for me to find.
Just then I also realized that the ink on that note was still wet when I picked it up, which meant that it had been written after I had reached the stadium. It was obvious that I was no policeman, so the man behind these killings must’ve been trying to draw me in for some reason. But why?
Two minutes before the museum opened a middle aged man with slicked back hair arrived. There was a bulge in his left back pocket, but it looked more like a wallet than a gun. I still fingered my pistol and kept my eye on him.
When they finally allowed us in, I followed the man until I was sure no security guards were around. I pulled out my pistol from my coat and shoved him against the wall, jamming my pistol into his ribcage. “This gun’s loaded mister, so I suggest you tell me why you killed those two people,” I said as fiercely as I could.
“What are you talking about?” He asked. “I haven’t killed nobody! In fact, I just arrived from the United States today! I can show you the ticket I bought on my phone if you want.” I recognized his drawl from the Southern United States. It was possible he wasn’t the one.
“Show me.” I ordered. He reached into his pocket and I readied to pull my trigger. Out came his phone and he quickly pulled up his ticket. “Shit!” I said. “That son of bitch played me! Very sorry sir. A few people were killed in the last couple days and I was assigned to find out who did it. I was expecting to find the man here.” He just looked at me like I was crazy and walked away.
I strolled through the museum and asked a few security guards if anyone else had entered the place, only to find myself disappointed. I was about ready to leave when I saw him. The man I had spoken to earlier was lying on the ground unconscious while a masked man stood over him. I saw the man dripping some clear, steaming liquid onto the unconscious man’s belly and I could hear it sizzling. I pulled out my pistol and crept up behind him. I lept at him, put him in a headlock and shoved my pistol into his back. “Freeze motherfucker!” I whispered into his ear, trying to imitate the cops in U.S. television shows.
“Even if I wanted to move I don’t think I could,” the man cackled. I recognized the voice.
“Y… You!” I stammered.
“That’s right. Me!” He removed his mask and lo and behold, before me stood the man I had once befriended at The Star, Sam O’Brian.
“What… How could you do this!? When we worked together you were so kind!”
“Losing a job can ruin your life pal. You have to take drastic measures. Of course, you wouldn’t know about that now would you. You go around ruining other people’s lives thinking that if you’re happy, then everyone else is happy. Well face the facts! It ain’t that way!” He cackled. I stepped away from him, still pointing my gun at him, but horrified at the monster that he had become.
“So you killed both those other men?” He just nodded. “Why?”
“Well, if you haven’t already figured it out, it’s because of you. You took my job and ruined my life. There is nothing left for me in this world other than to take revenge on the one who left me like this!” He kicked my leg. I thought I was out of his reach, but he was surprisingly quick. I grabbed my leg and dropped my gun. He dove for it, rolled over and pointed it at me, knocking the statue of a Roman behind him. “Well this turned out better than I had expected!” he cackled. “Maybe if I write a good enough story pinning you as the criminal for these killings then they’ll accept me back into The Star!”
Then the statue fell on him. He wailed in pain as I snatched the gun from him, pointing it back at him. “Well then,” he said. “I guess it’s goodnight for both of us.” He reached into his coat and pressed a button. I heard a loud sound and then passed out.
When I awoke in the hospital I was told that he was wearing a vest often used by suicide bombers. It had malfunctioned, not fully exploding, so it only killed him. All I thought was that he must have been really angry at me go that far.