The Harbinger

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​Curiously, Officer Ramos noted in his report, it all happened in broad daylight. That made it seem worse somehow, as there was nowhere safe if not a clear open field bathed in the protection of the sun, every dark corner made bright, every secret exposed. Based on the blood splatter analysis, the muddy squick of bloody bootprints, the careless festooning of fingernails, the only secret left seemed to be why the killer was in such a hurry to finish a job that normally took him hours. Ramos left the clearing to follow the final set of tracks from the only victim unaccounted for. They split up, as they often do, he chuckled darkly in his head. Each one only made it as far as the killer’s traps would let them, be it a hanging bear trap that dug into Victim 1’s temples and then kept going, an arrow that pinned Victim 2’s hand to the eye, the eye to the back of the skull, the skull to the bark of a tree, or a trace of poison in the weeds that raised Victim 3’s blood pressure the more he ran, the more he screamed, until the vessels burst and he gurgled his remains face down in the clearing. This set of tracks, however, had promise. This one, Ramos thought in soft admiration, made it far. Finally, after a trip that took him to the banks of the river - and presumably, the salvation the victim thought he’d receive upon diving in - Ramos saw the end of it all. The tracks, previously four feet apart from each other in a tremendous sprint, ended in a flurry of scattered prints, a kicking of dirt, a struggling. A drop of fresh blood landed in the middle of the spiral of tracks. Ramos looked up. Razor wire wove around the body like a cocoon, cinching steel wrapping Victim 4 to the sturdy branch of the redwood above, warping his flesh with every struggle. He was still alive. Help me, he said to Ramos, with the shreds of tongue he had left brushing against his remaining teeth, just enough air coming out of the mouth instead of the gash in his neck. Officer Ramos politely turned and walked away. The rules were, you don’t disturb the scene until the kill is complete. That’s how things were done in this town. And Officer Ramos knew the rules. “It’s not right - it was supposed to be at night,” Bill told Ramos later that afternoon in exasperated gasps as the Officer donned his hat and entered his vehicle. “I know. They arrived early. It’s not my job to question how the thing is done.” “No. He’s been acting different. My brother.” Ramos closed his door, fingers still gripping the handle. He froze in realization. The Harbinger wasn’t telling. He was pleading. “I wouldn’t be here now if I was you, Officer.” Indeed, as he saw in his rear view mirror, the sun was setting. Early, at 3:45 PM. Early even for winter. “I wouldn’t be here now. In the dark.” Officer Ramos calmly locked the doors, turned the key in the ignition. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it. And turned it.


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