The Chill in 90 Degree Heat
Detective Laura Kimber turned the corner in her unmarked cruiser, she reduced her speed, her hands slippery with sweat as they gripped the wheel. She looked toward an alley near Boston Avenue and she saw a homeless black guy looking through a woman's hand bag. He saw Kimber's cruiser so he stood upright and steadied himself with his feet apart. His hands fumbled as he tried to hide the handbag behind his back. He then stood frozen, not in fear, but in disbelief as he watched the cruiser speed away.
“I must be getting soft,” she whispered. “Crazy, but it'll be the last time I turn a blind eye. Besides, nobody reported a stolen hand bag yet.”
It was a quiet August night and Kimber hoped it'll stay that way. Bridgeport, the largest city in the state always had surprises, and Kimber half expected one to rear its ugly head.
Even before she opened her eyes, Miriam Ortiz was aware of two things. The 90 degree serial killer, and the smell of blood. Horror and fear made her lie perfectly still, eyes closed and head pounding. She was on her stomach and probably on the basement floor. Her hands tied behind her back and her feet tied with a strong chain wrapped in plastic. She opened her eyes just a slit, just enough to see. Dirty old furniture, stained broken down boxes and scattered pieces of Christmas decorations. She didn't recognize the basement, but she knew it was close to her neighborhood. Then she looked to the left side of the dirty basement and she saw a man standing near the corner taking a piss. The urine slapped the wall as if it was trying to penetrate the crumbling concrete.
There was a clock on the wall that also told the temperature. There was a glowing 88 for the high and a 62 for the low.
It never reached 90 degrees. It never reached 90 degrees. That was the only thing she could whisper and her heart started racing even faster. Of course there was the smell of blood, but she knew it wasn't coming from her. She was not harmed.
The man stopped and stared at the clock. He was whispering incoherently, but she knew he wouldn't kill her. He would only kill in 90 degree heat. That was his calling card. The news made it clear.
What was he going to do?
Miriam Ortiz concentrated on listening, she was feeling uneasy because of the ranting. She couldn't make anything out. She was wondering if he would change his own rules.
She then heard some normal words, but it was quickly masked by the high humming sound of the water heater. Fear concentrated right where she was tied. The smell of blood attacked her nostrils again, and then she saw the source. It was another woman who he had killed yesterday. She was tied the same way, and she had her throat slit with a crude dull knife.
Miriam knew it was a yesterday killing because the temperature had reached 92 for the high. She remembered seeing her there when she was dragged in. As far as Miriam could tell, there was no blood on the floor which meant all the blood around her had dried and became part of the dirty basement floor. Then everything went black when she was hit in the back of the head with a blunt object.
The serial killer moved slowly across the basement floor sniffing the air like a hound dog.
“88 degrees,” he allowed his voice just to rise a little. “88 degrees.”
With the rest of his body perfectly still, he slowly raised his right arm, keeping his hand limp, and his palm down with his index finger pointing to the clock. She jumped when she heard a cat screaming when it ran past the house.
He walked over to her and pulled a paper sack over her head. He held her face for a few moments in the palm of his hand, but then released it. She heard footsteps, and then the slamming of a door.
But nothing else. Try as she might, she couldn't hear anything else. She couldn't hear the water in the old plumbing nor the electricity humming in the lines not even the shifting and creaking of the old wood structure as fear pressed against the building.
Clip in, safety off, and a full round in the chamber. The action was quick and smooth after so many years of practice. Detective Laura Kimber walked into that basement and discovered two women tied on the floor. One dead and the other quivering in fear. She could see the dried blood on the floor as well as smell it.
Miriam Ortiz rolled and sat up all in a single motion her gaze darting around the basement warily. Something was recognized with a sense of familiarity, a person that was trained to protect her. She felt relief filling her senses, and dulling the throbbing pain in her head.
“Are you okay?” Kimber asked.
“It only reached 88 degrees,” she whispered.
© 2015 Frank Atanacio
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