by Brian Nuckols
Okay, look… One thing you should know about me is that I hate introspection. Another thing you should know is that I’m no storyteller. I don’t know where, when, or how to kick this thing off. For that reason, I’m starting with the school board mandated therapy session I was forced to attend to escape expulsion from high school. It’s not the most natural launching point as it’s after three of the murders and the blood ritual that got me sent to therapy in the first place, so let’s agree not to get disoriented and frustrated. We’ll just chalk it up to “unconventional narrative structure” and proclaim post modern, ftw
We’ll start with a sigh.
Sighing, I considered the question. “Just to clarify, doc you’re asking me if my interest in flesh sacrifice and blood ritual is related to my research skills?”
Surprisingly he ignored me and said “Lilly, I’m going to ask you a favor. From now would you mind calling me Buck?”
I paused slightly taken off guard realizing that controlling this conversation would be a challenge. Time to pivot. “Look Doc before we get into me there is a major concern I have.” Pausing I gazed at him expectantly.
Almost instantaneously he replied “Why don’t you tell me more, Lilly.”
“Okay, I’m not entering into the relationship of my own volition they didn’t let me choose it was you or expulsion. I’m just feeling a little threatened and persecuted like a scarlet letter and crucible mashed up into a gross modern bureaucratic soup. Do you honestly expect me to lower my boundaries and talk about my feelings?”
The doctor responded “Lilly you are just a child in the eyes of the law. The school has a job to make sure you don’t hurt yourself or someone else. Tell me should we be worried about that?”
Nodding I said “What you really want to know is why I broke into my school, tore out a chunk of my shoulder, burned it, and spread the blood and ashes into ritualized patterns on the wall?”
Now, maybe you can see why I needed to be so careful with this conversation. The blunt truth is that in todays world getting caught doing the ritual I performed contacting a spirit that many in the orthodoxy might call “a demon” is a sure way to get committed.
“Yes, Lilly. I’ve seen the tape, and some of your teachers who talked to me are really horrified about the scar. Help me understand why you made this choice.”
“Honestly, doc I’m proud of that ritual. It’s not something I would do if there weren’t real lives at stake, and if you would of told me when I began on my studies into witchcraft that I could tap into the power I accessed that night…”
“How about we start there” interjected the doctor “when you began these studies”
“Sure, so since you’ve been checking in on me with teachers you probably know about my background with that disappearance case two years ago?” He gestured with hands to continue. “Okay, so 16 first graders disappear into thin air. Poof. Teacher knocked out on the floor. Cameras blank. No forensic evidence. I thought computer skills, some elbow grease, and determination would be enough. They weren’t, so I turned to the spirit world.”
Buck nodded. “So, you’re saying these practices helped you once to solve a crime now another one has surfaced it makes sense that you would go back to what helped you.”
“Yup, logic is an important skill in life.” I replied.
Something strange happened at this point. I briefly saw Buck flash a look of pure rage. It was quite shocking for such a measured, plain, controlled man to show such passion even for a short time. Collecting himself he said “Look, Lilly. It wasn’t logical to start practicing witchcraft. You are an extremely intelligent young woman who solved that case with abnormal research talent. The reason you turned to witchcraft is because you hit a snag. You’ve been so good at this skill from a young age that any such snag iss a direct assault against your self worth. So, you picked up a new hobby and convinced yourself that it was the thing that would help you. Not because you were being logical, but because you wanted a scapecoat that was not directly attached to the thing that gives you confidence.”
This statement hit me like a sledgehammer in the gut. He reacted by saying “I understand that was hard for you to hear. Almost everyone I work with in your generation needs to learn this lesson.”
This was just what I needed to snap me back into the battle. The patronizing baby boomer trope is a speciality for me. A few well placed disparaging remarks about kids these days coupled with a fake epiphany was enough to escape with a recommendation to continue school with a follow up meeting in 90 days.
With that out of the way I was able to get back to work on the case. First, I checked the mail.
Lieutenant Rose let me get this straight 3 dead bodies all left outside in the same dumpster outside of a school. The bodies are all in various states of dismemberment but the only patterns you’ve found so far are 1.The victims are students from three schools unrelated to each other 2. They all have organs missing, but never the same organ 3. each student disappeared on a day they had some sort of detention. THIS IS A NIGHTMARE. Every night we’re bombarded on the news with more speculation about who the press has so creatively dubbed “The Breakfast Club Killer.” FIND A SUSPECT
I grimaced and continued to scan my Mamma’s email while sipping my coffee. Mostly from press some with provocative subject lines like Are you even trying, or How many more will die because of you? Just a day in the life in the head of major crimes when a serial killer is running around killing students.
So, why was I so rudely picking through her private communication? Well, it’s because I’d been 100% cut off from anything to do with cases since the incident at the school and I was feeling pretty loose about her right to privacy.
Soon I realized it was time to get back to the little project that the spirits were whispering about after the ritual and before I got busted.
Opening a folder on my computer labeled “data about killings” I started to read the most recent addition to my files. The good mayor was right that patterns were sparse in this case, but law enforcement had all missed a few that I found by breaking into the first two victims social media and google accounts. It was fairly easy to scrape all the data using a handy python script that I whipped up.
After parsing through mounds of meaningless noise I found out from a few tweets that two frequented an escape room attraction. Also, through facebook groups it appeared that they had both been to a small music festival last summer, and lastly both had posted pictures from a youth community center that they apparently visited.
This would not mean much if the connection were not corroborated with the third victim. Gathering data on him had been more challenging because as he was annoyingly secure with his accounts. I devised a workaround, but it was at the expense of vast amounts of computing power and worst of all time.
But now it was finally complete, and as I gazed at the folder my scar began to tingle. That was the first good omen, but I ignored it as it subsided while I was scanning his various social media content searching for cross references with the previous victims. Growing frustrated quickly I opened the last file titled emails.
At this point the scar on my shoulder exploded in pain and I cried out. Minutes later my pain was of little concern because the connection I had been searching for materialized with an added shock.
Yes, the third victim visited the community center. He went there for school mandated therapy. His doctor was named Buck. Writing a script to cross reference this new information with the previous two victims I found that yes victim one was subscribed to his newsletter on self esteem. Nothing on the second, but I just knew and smiled remembering a smell on Buck that was so clearly guilt.
I’ll never forget the text I sent to Mamma
I found the killer.