Part 2: Sheep to Be Slaughtered
Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Psalms 44:22
Later that night
Sister Sarah Elizabeth left the veteran’s hospice, heading back to her room. The convent was on the other side of the garden from the building that housed the patients. The night was cool and pleasant so she took her time. She walked by the flowers, still beautiful in the moonlight. It was the perfect night to clear away the cobwebs from working in the hospice all day. It was hard to tend to those at death’s door, but it was worth it to hear them laugh at her jokes or smile at her silly stories. Sarah Elizabeth was doing exactly what she was called to do and felt blessed to have such an opportunity.
She was young and pretty and she knew it. She had no right to call herself a nun, despoiling the others with her presence. The way she teased the men in the hospice with her eyes, the way she bent low to them, whispering things in their ears that made them grin like animals. She was a temptress, using a nun’s habit to disguise her filthy desires. The other two had been filled with evil, too. One poisoning others with her hateful lies, the other stealing from those who trusted her. But they had been judged and punished, their sins bared so all would know them. Sister Sarah Elizabeth was like them—full of deceit. She had the others fooled. They thought she was selfless and sweet. But one person could see through her disguise. One person knew what she really was. And soon, the whole world would know.
Sister Sarah jumped at a noise behind her. “Who..? Who’s there?”
A figure emerged from the shadows.
Sarah’s tense shoulders relaxed. “Oh. It’s you. It's nice to see you again.”
“Chief, come on! I want to get back to the station some time this morning.”
Blair shoved another bite of toast into his mouth. “I’m trying to finish my breakfast here, Jim. I don’t eat like a vacuum cleaner like some people.”
“If you hadn’t taken so long in the shower, you’d have been able to eat two breakfasts. It’s not my fault you move like the dead lice is falling off you.”
“‘The dead lice..?’ Does anybody say that anymore? And can I tell you, that is really not an image I want in my head while I’m eating.”
“Sally used to say that to Stephen and me when we were running late for school. It means you’re slow, Sandburg.”
“I kinda figured that one out. Thanks anyway.” Blair grabbed his jacket, shoving the rest of the toast in his mouth as he headed to the door.
As they were about to go down the stairs, Jim turned his head as if he heard something.
“What is it, Jim?”
“I’ll tell you outside.”
Gladys Kravitz stared out the peephole, watching her neighbors leave. “There they go again.”
Her husband Abner looked up from his scrambled eggs. “What are you talking about?”
“Mr. Ellison and that Blair Sandburg. They’re always running out of their loft like a couple of crazy people.”
“Maybe they’re on their way to an emergency. Jim is a police officer, you know, and Blair rides with him.”
“Hmph! If you ask me…”
Abner mumbled to low for her to hear. “No one did ask you.”
“…it’s that Mr. Sandburg’s doing. Mr. Ellison was such a nice, quiet neighbor before he let that long-haired hippie move in. He always kept to himself and never bothered anyone.”
“Not like some people I could mention.”
“Nothing, dear. You know, lots of men have long hair these days. It doesn’t mean anything. He’s a very friendly, polite young man.”
“He’s a bad influence on Mr. Ellison, is what he is. Now he has strange people at the loft at all hours…”
“They’re called friends, Gladys. Maybe you should get out more.”
“Abner! I’m serious! Odd things happen over there. Do you know how many times the ambulance and police have been to the loft since that Blair Sandburg moved in?”
“No I don’t, but I’m sure you do. What do you want me to do about it? Call the police?”
“Abner! You’re making fun of me. One of these days I’m going to go to my sister’s and leave you here to fend for yourself.”
“If that’s the sister in Florida, tell her I said hello. Now eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”
Gladys sat down with a huff and took an angry bite out of her bagel.
As Jim and Blair hopped in the truck, Jim looked up at one of the windows of their building. A hand pulled back, letting the curtain fall over the window. Jim drew Blair’s attention to it. “Have you ever noticed how strange our neighbors are?”
“What do you mean? The Kravitz’s? They’re nice people.”
“Every time I turn around, Mrs. Kravitz is watching us. She was spying on us again just now. You don’t think that’s strange?”
“Nah. To tell you the truth, I think she’s got a crush on me.”
Jim had overheard enough conversations between Abner and Gladys to know that she didn’t approve of Blair, but he didn’t want to burst his friend’s bubble by telling him that. “I knew you were a table leg kind of guy, Sandburg, but I didn’t think you were into antique furniture.”
“That is so mean, man. And this from the guy who drools over his roommate’s mother.”
Jim’s cell phone started ringing. “Ellison. Where? We’ll be right there.” He gripped the steering wheel like a vise. “That was Simon. We’ve got another one.”
“Oh, man. I know there are a lot of sick people out there, but nuns? Why a bunch of harmless nuns?”
Jim had no answer.
Ten minutes later they were at the Veteran’s Memorial Gardens. The Gardens were part of a hospice for veterans run by the Sisters of Mercy. The two of them spotted Simon and headed over to join him. Blair saw the corpse’s feet as they approached the scene and tried not to look any more closely than that.
“Ellison, Sandburg. Three nuns out for a stroll this morning found her laying here in a pile of mulch.”
“Got a name yet?”
“Sister Sarah Elizabeth, Sisters of Mercy. She visited the patients in the hospice wing yesterday evening—read to them, made them comfortable. She didn’t go back to her room last night. No one thought anything was wrong because she often volunteered to work late or even work through the night to help out.”
Jim and Simon approached the body, Blair following nervously. Jim looked her over carefully. From the condition of her skin, he could tell she’d been dead since about nine, ten o’clock. She was laying face up, her arms spread out. She’d been stabbed from the front just like the other two dead nuns, one word carved into her forehead—“Harlot”. The first two had been labeled “Liar” and “Thief”. And just like them, there was no sign of struggle. She was either completely surprised, or she knew her attacker. Same angle and thrust of the blade, too. Jim figured the killer to be about 5’ 9”, 5’10”.
He sniffed the air around her, trying to pick up anything besides the strong odor of decomposing plants. There was a hint of blood in the air—with the viciousness of the attack the killer would’ve had a hard time keeping any of it from splattering onto his own clothes. Unfortunately, it had been too long since the murder for him to track the scent of it more than a few feet from the body. Jim couldn’t find any other unusual aromas that you wouldn’t ordinarily find on a nun, either. To the right of the body, however, he saw something strange—an odd pattern to the grass. It reminded him of something he’d learned as a Ranger. The enemy would use leafy branches to obliterate his trail. If you knew what to look for and the person you were tracking were sloppy, you could spot the brushed patches with a little effort. The grass had a similar disturbed look, as if something had lightly brushed across it. He’d seen something like it recently, but he couldn’t remember where. “Sandburg. Do you see that?”
“That slightly flattened area of grass. I think our serial killer went that way.”
“It just looks like grass to me, man, but I don’t have heightened eyesight. Can you follow it?”
Jim focused more intently on the ground. He could see that the brushed area led away from the body. He followed it through the garden until it came to a cobblestone path. The pattern of the grass did not continue on the other side. He looked up and down the path, not picking up any more brushed patches on either side. The killer must have taken the walkway up to the drive. Jim stared at the cobblestones, trying to find a trace of blood, hair, anything. He started to lose himself in the fine textures of the stones.
“Jim! Come on, big guy. Listen to my voice. Dial down your sight. You’re zoning out. Dial it down. That’s it. Come on back.”
Jim rubbed a hand across his short hair as he tried to clear his head. He was getting better at not zoning, but every time he seemed to get a handle on his sight, it would jump to a new level. Sometimes he worried that if he stared hard enough, he’d be able to see on the microscopic level. Sandburg would have a field day, but that was definitely territory Jim didn’t want to go into.
“What did you see, Jim.”
“Something I can’t place yet. But I will.”