Derek felt his legs beginning to ache as he sprinted past another large redwood. The tops of the tree branches groaned and leaned against the growing wind. Dark clouds shifted across the dimming sunlight, sending shadows playing ahead of Derek’s feet. His pace was hard to keep but he had no choice.
A scream drifted in on the wind to his right. Mid-stride he changed direction, his feet slipping slightly in the undergrowth. There wasn’t a chance in hell he was going to let this son of a bitch get away, not again. Four days of little sleep and chasing leads had finally led Derek here to one of the Redwood State parks just outside Eureka, California.
The media was calling this guy the Golden State Rapist. It was a tame title for someone responsible for much more than rape. Images of the bodies not yet released to the press kept cycling through Derek’s mind. Each one with more stab wounds, more disfigurement than the others.
The latest victim had his internal organs rearranged. They had been carefully sutured into new spots with a steady hand.
Derek had been so close with the last one, too close. Air was burning his lungs and his legs felt like they were turning to pudding. Falling against the bark of a close tree he paused to catch his breath and think.
His job was as good as gone for this stunt. When the news came in that another victim had been snatched, Captain McKay had slapped Derek with desk duty. Disgruntled and confused, Derek had spent the better part of an hour surfing the web and watching a YouTube short film titled Intent sent over from his nephew before the news popped up on his computer screen.
The newest victim’s face was splashed all over the media. There she was, smiling away in her recent yearbook photo, the picture of happiness…his niece.
Within minutes he had ditched his cell phone, peeled out of the station and picked up his emergency stash of cash from his sister’s house. She never questioned him, never protested. Her eyes watched him calmly and she nodded as he left.
He would get her daughter back and he would kill the bastard. Sweat dripped into Derek’s right eye. The sting blurred his vision for a moment and brought him back to his feet. Nausea crept up his throat but he swallowed it back harshly.
His feet skipped back into a steady rhythm, slowly building speed through the trees. He had to be about seven miles in from where he parked. The map he had scanned on the way in indicated there should be a river coming up on his left.
Placing a hand on the gun clipped to his belt, he slowed before he hit the riverbank. Voices were coming in over the rumble of the water. Derek crouched low beside a tree, peering out through the bush beside him. He could see his niece Melissa sitting just a few yards away, her back to the river, her hands tied and resting on her lap.
From what he could make out her face was bruised and her clothes torn but there wasn’t any blood that he could see. His gut jumped in relief but just as quickly coiled at the sight of the figure standing above her. The man’s frame was slight, his light brown hair shifted in the wind to reveal ears with a gradual natural point.
Most of his back and his side were facing Derek but at the sight of those ears and his overall profile he knew instantly it was Melissa’s classmate Logan. Captain McKay didn’t want to include the sixteen year old in the list of suspects, “There’s no way he could have cut those people so cleanly. He doesn’t have the training.”
Derek knew though. There was more than one way someone could learn to use a scalpel well. All it really took was practice. Although he had placed Logan on his own personal list of suspects, Derek had not planned for this reality. He had never shot a kid before.
Taking a long ragged breath he raised his gun and took aim. Logan’s face turned as Derek squeezed the trigger.
Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.
This post was written in response to the SpeakEasy weekly writing challenge for this week! I wrote a few stories but I found I wasn’t as easily satisfied this time. This post wasn’t nearly there but I was going to drive myself nuts with rewriting so I’m p0sting this one like it or not (for me). Hopefully those of you who read it do enjoy it at least a little!
Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to see the other submissions for this week!