Max stepped out into the cool September air and lit his cigarette. The concrete of his porch was cool on his bare feet as he closed his eyes. The moon shined down on him when he heard a blood curdling scream from the house next door.
Max immediately broke into a run towards the house; his badge and gun still on his belt, despite him being off duty. He grabbed at his radio, but realized he had set it down on the kitchen table without thinking.
When he reached the house, he found the door had been blown off its hinges, so he raced right in. A second scream echoed from the nearest bedroom and he scrambled to navigate through the moving boxes on the ground. He finally reached the door to the bedroom, but he saw he was too late.
The couple lay dead on the ground with their mouths still open in shock and their throats torn out. Max turned to see a person jump up onto the window sill. The small figure was draped in a grey cloak. Small eyes burned with hatred from under the hood. They stared Max down before the figure leaped out the window into the dark.
“They are invading our land and stealing our jobs! They don’t respect our traditions or our culture! We must close our town’s borders, or crimes like those of last night will continue to occur. They are a poison to our people.”
The Mayor had called for the press conference at three in the morning. This was exactly the crime he needed to prove that the flood of new citizens was hurting their city. Monopolis had been closed off from the outside world for nearly seventy years now. Only their oldest citizens even slightly remembered the ideals of freedom from discrimination that had spawned their revolt from their corrupt government. Monopolis was supposed to be a safe haven, but these ideas had been lost to time.
“This murder proves that these newcomers bring bad things! The murderer was most definitely not a Monopolian. There is significant evidence that the killer is from one of our neighboring cities, some of which have the highest crime rates in the world!”
The Mayor’s old, chiseled features seemed to contort as he raised his voice to a roar.
“Our top notch forensic scientists are on the case now, and we will have definitive evidence within days. These invaders must--”
Max turned off the TV and set the remote down on his sofa table. While he didn’t agree with the Mayor’s views, he wasn’t in charge. The Mayor made the rules. That was why when Max was instructed by his superiors to never speak about the previous night’s events ever again, he agreed. Who was he to disrespect authority?
“Your Excellency, Mr. Mayor, sir... You are aware that the deceased couple were both recent additions to our population, yes?”
“Yes, but I don’t seem to understand your point.”
“You don’t understand how your push for anti-immigration policy and the murder of two recent immigrants looks bad for you, sir?”
“They are completely unrelated and that is my final answer. No more questions.”
The reporters had been getting increasingly pushy with the Mayor as he continued to refuse to comment on the relation between him and the murders. As the Mayor turned to leave, a voice spoke up from the back of the room.
“Mr. Mayor, why did you send them?”
The Mayor turned. “What did you say?”
Ben Charisman rose from his seat and walked toward the stage. “Mr. Mayor, my colleagues and I received a call this morning from an anonymous source saying that you sent the killer to the house. Why did you send them, Mr. Mayor?” He spoke in a voice laced with venom as the Mayor’s face turned beat red.
“You think I did what?!? No matter how I feel about another person, I would never revert to violence. I would never hurt another person to get what I want. Do you want to know how you get what you want, Charisman? You lie. I wouldn’t be surprised if your anonymous source was one of the board members of your silly, little non-profit. Go crawl back to your hole, you little worm.”
With that, the Mayor turned and left, but it didn’t matter. Charisman had gotten what he wanted. His young face turned to a slight smirk. He was able to publicly accuse the Mayor of murder and got him to blow up in front of a bunch of reporters as a bonus. Not bad for a day’s work, thought Ben Charisman as he walked out of the press hall. Not bad.
With October came the wind, and Max was wishing he had worn his jacket. It was warm in his car, but his job sometimes required getting out of it, unfortunately.
The killing continued to haunt Max’s every waking moment. He couldn’t stop telling himself he could have done more. There had been three more murders in the past two weeks, all of them outsiders. There had been no witnesses to any of the killings, but that didn’t stop Ben Charisman and his pro-immigration non-profit, EVERY1HOME, from blaming the killings on the Mayor.
Max didn’t know who to believe. He trusted the Mayor to tell the truth, even if his views were quite radical, but Charisman was very convincing. There were even rumors of him running for Mayor in November. For now, Max was content to do his job and not get sucked into politics. He had just pulled up to a house to look into a lead on a missing dog, when his radio piped up.
“Max”--cshh--“Max, come in, over.”
“Max here, over.”
“We need you”--cshh--“back at the station, ASAP, over.”
“Alright, on my way. Over and out.”
When Max walked into the station, he was greeted by two of the most well known faces in Monopolis, besides the Mayor. Chief Duncliffe and Ben Charisman stood in the lobby of the police station looking over a case file. When Max walked into the room, they both looked up, quickly hid the papers, and smoothed their jackets down.
“Mr. Parks, my name is Ben Charisman, it’s so good to finally meet you in person. Chief Duncliffe here has told me so much about you. Please, pull up a chair and we’ll show you what we’ve been working on.”
Seeing the apprehension on his face, Chief Duncliffe said, “Take a seat, Max.”
Max dragged a chair across the linoleum and sat down in front of the map that had been laid out on the table. There were red tokens on top of what Max realized were the four houses where the murders had occurred. The other two men each took a seat on either side of him and looked at him with expecting eyes.
“These are the murder scenes, right?” he asked, hoping he wasn’t making a complete fool of himself.
“Yes,” responded the chief. “Do you notice anything strange?”
Max checked again. The first marker was on his now deceased neighbor’s house at 41, Maple Street. The second was right below that at 56, Lexington Road. The third and fourth formed a direct line right under those two. “They make a line?” he asked, again hoping he wasn’t ruining any chance he had of continuing with whatever opportunity he was being given here.
“Exactly!” responded Charisman. “They form a straight line. It’s logical to assume that the killer will continue in this pattern until they reach the end of the neighborhood. That means we can post officers at the most likely murder scenes and catch this killer once and for all.”
The feeling of Deja Vu that crawled up Max’s spine was uncontrollable. The dark permeated every corner of the street and the unease that he and his fellow officers shared was almost tangible.
The street lights flickered on at the appointed time, but the stress of the situation never left their bodies. The three most likely target homes had all been notified of the danger they were in, but they had been told to go about their days as normal. This was the third night that Max’s team had stood stoically outside these houses, gripping their tase-guns with white knuckles, waiting for the screams to begin.
When it came, they were ready. The scream echoed down the street from the center house and Max and his team raced forward. The cigarette fell from Max’s mouth as he pushed forward to head up the group.
They opened the door with ease, having been given access to the house’s key card by the police department. Their headlamps cast an eerie glow on the living room of the small house. The scream echoed a second time from the bedroom and they all rushed to the couple’s aid.
The figure had them both by their throats against the wall. The person’s head turned almost inhumanly to stare at them. The face smiled and the figure snapped the couple’s neck.
The crack of their necks was accompanied by the ringing shot of Max’s tase-gun. Two members of his team rushed to restrain the now unconscious man, as he was later found out to be. The rest of his team calmly approached the dead couple and began to bag the bodies.
“You did well, Max,” said the voice of Ben Charisman as he seemed to materialize behind him. “You did everything you could.”
“I can’t help but feel like I could have done more,” Max responded. “We told them they were gonna be okay.”
“I know, I know. But this is just how things are sometimes. Sometimes we must make sacrifices for the common good. Do you understand?”
“...Yes sir, I do.”
“What is your name?”
Max paced back and forth in front of the man, twirling a knife in his hand.
The blade reflected the deadness in his eyes.
“And how long have you lived in Monopolis?”
Ned nodded his head as Max scribbled some things down on a clipboard that had been set on the wood table.
“Who do you work for?”
Ned opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. A single tear rolled down his cheek.
“WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?!”
Max stabbed the knife into the table and punched Ned across the face. There was a sickening crunch as his fist collided with the man’s nose. Ned simply stared up into the other man’s face and said one word.
“The Mayor has resorted to what could have resulted in a mass genocide, just because these people were from outside our city. Our society was built on the idea of accepting everyone for who they are as people. The Mayor wants to erase that from our history. This is why I am officially declaring my candidacy for Mayor this November.”
Ben Charisman had been picking up plenty of followers in the past week, and this was the tipping point to turn this political battle into an electoral war. The Mayor had denied any relation to the man, whose identity had been kept secret, but the police had recorded evidence against him.
It was now widely accepted that Charisman controlled the police force and the Mayor controlled the legislators. This seemingly made for quite balanced odds for the upcoming election.
Max had become the head of security for Charisman’s campaign. The amount of attackers he had to stop seemed impossible. It was as if every one of the Mayor’s supporters had rioted outside Charisman’s office at least once.
When Max went home in the evening, he would lie awake in bed for hours. When he closed his eyes, all he could see were the empty eyes of the families he had failed to save. Charisman tried to console him, saying that nothing like that would ever happen again because they had the killer behind bars, and he would stay that way.
Still, Max only ever felt alive when he knew he was protecting someone else. It would fill the void, if only for a second.
With Halloween having just ended, the children of Monopolis ran home to rummage through their stashes of candy. The last jack-o-lantern had just been blown out by the wind when the sirens sounded.
A team of police officers raced into city hall to find the Mayor dead on the ground in his office. A man was found lying next to him, cradling his body, crying. It was Ned Roberts.
His identity was finally revealed, and Ned Roberts was publicly executed for homicide. De facto Mayor Ben Charisman carried out the execution himself. Before pulling the trigger on the pistol he held to Roberts’ head, he bent down to whisper in his ear.
“Thank you for your service.”
With that, the new Mayor pulled the trigger and the man’s head fell forward, the bullet having gone straight through.
Not bad for a day’s work, Ben. Not bad.