I had planned to provide a sneak peek at what’s rattling around in my brain as the basis for my novel-to-be, but I’ve just spent the last two hours writing because I didn’t take a lunch break at work today (don’t worry, I ate plenty after leaving work) and I’m just a wee bit burned out right now and I want to play a little Burnout: Revenge before bed. So I’m going to postpone the behind the scenes stuff until tomorrow and present a short excerpt from today’s efforts. It’s rough and unedited and I make no apologies for it. I’m trying to get the story told and I’m trying to use a lot of words while doing so.
“Mind your step, sir,” Shaughnessey said, and Remington looked down at his feet. An uneven trail of sickly yellow spatters colored the snow on the front stoop, leading to a large, similarly colored spot beside the path where someone had clearly vomited. Remington stepped around the mess and nodded to the two constables, and now the fellow on the left had some color in his cheeks, though it was surely embarrassment that had caused the blood to rise, and not the harsh winter chill.
Shaugnessey opened the front door and Remington felt a wave of welcome heat wash over him, but an instant later the coppery scent of blood—carrying with it the pungent odor of menses—assailed his nostrils, threatening to bring the bile again to the back of his throat. The heat issuing from the open door was oppressive, its effects intensified by the cold air outside.
“Good lord, Michael,” Remington gasped, stepping into the small foyer, “why is it so damned hot in here?” He fought to keep from gagging on the putrid air, sympathizing with the constable who had clearly been overwhelmed with nausea.
Shaugnessey had covered his mouth and nose with a scarf, and gestured for Remington to follow suit. When he spoke, his voice was somewhat muffled. “There are two fireplaces,” he explained, “and both were full ablaze when we arrived, the house closed up tight. It was hot enough to send Old Scratch hisself running to the snow, and the smell…”
Remington nodded, lifting his own scarf to cover his face. “Wretched,” he muttered, and followed Shaughnessey deeper into the house.
The sergeant led him up a narrow staircase to the house’s second floor, and through a door at the top of the stairs. A lamp burned in the hallway and both men cast long shadows into the dark room. Shaughnessey held up his own lantern, and as the light filled the room, Remington once again only just barely managed to keep from vomiting.
The lantern cast a flickering light over the four poster bed and its two occupants. The two women were both nude, lying in what appeared to be a tender embrace. Remington had seen far worse in the past three months; there didn’t appear to be any blood on either body. The walls of the small bedroom were another matter, covered with hundreds, perhaps thousands of bizarre symbols and cryptic diagrams, all written in dark, glistening, still-red blood. The stench of it was overpowering, and Remington clutched the scarf tightly against his mouth and nose.
“The windows are nailed shut,” Shaugnessey explained grimly, “and the panes are all covered with some manner of tar. That’s different from the others, as well, to say nothing of the blasted heat. The second story fireplace is in the next room. He gestured to the door on the wall to his left. “The door is nailed shut, like the windows. Bastard had plenty of time, it seems.”
Remington swallowed hard and blinked away the hot tears that had welled up in the corners of his eyes. As Shaughnessey moved around the room, the deep shadows shifted, throwing the pale, naked corpses into sharp contrast with the deep red of the blood covering the walls. “Mother of Christ,” the Chief Inspector said, “surely this can’t all be their blood!”
Shaughenssey shook his head. “I don’t expect it is, sir,” he said, “and that’s different, too. I think he must have…brought the blood with him. Human or animal, I don’t know.”
“Let me have your light, Michael,” Remington said. Sergeant Shaugnessey handed the Chief Inspector his lantern, then stood beside him while Remington peered at the grisly writing. After a moment, Remington said, “You were right. This is…different, somehow. It’s cleaner. Whoever wrote these symbols is fastidious and careful, much more so than we’ve seen before. It’s almost certainly another person.” He paused, frowning at something the sergeant had said in the carriage.
“You said I’d gotten it backwards,” Remington said thoughtfully.
Shaughnessey nodded. “Aye,” he said. “This isn’t an imitation of the murders we’ve seen over the past three months; whoever done the other four was imitating the person who did this.”
“Mother of Christ,” Remington said again, “that means there are more of these we haven’t seen yet.”