The department was aflame with activity once the autopsy made its way up the ranks. K had been able to confirm what the doctors discovered; there were two different plant remains at the last crime scene. Following the killers M.O., it was only natural to assume that a second corpse to accompany this second plant was out there waiting to be found. A nightmare for the department to deal with now that they knew, this corpse had to be located as soon as possible. Any later and the press would flock down like crows ready to feast. Someone was bound to be thrown under the bus.
It had already been a full day of covert searching, and Mon had pulled off an all-nighter. Along with her office partner Hayden Emerr, the two had called out early to get some much needed, and well-deserved rest. With her apartment not far from HQ, the pair made their way down the city blocks underneath the soon to be setting sun. An uncharacteristically sunny day, the overbearing clouds were instead a faint grey, spread sparsely across the vibrant sky. By the time they had reached her block, the light had already faded, returning the city to its glum state of mind.
“Best not keep you,” stated Hayden, “I’m keen to drop as soon as I get inside my apartment.”
Mon mumbled in agreement. Currently standing on the south-west corner of her block, this is where the pair’s paths would diverge. Hayden lived two blocks away, and still had some walking to do.
“Make sure you actually wake up in the morning,” she replied.
Hayden stood to attention and playfully saluted, before twirling around and marching off. He held his umbrella like a cane, tapping it into the pavement after each step with a casual demeanour. Mon turned down her street and sauntered to the front of her apartment building.
Outside, she spied an all too familiar food cart sitting just beside the front steps. Abed, a man whose sole purpose in life appeared to revolve around the sale of apples, was propped up against a stone fence, eyes focused on his phone. Mon was too tired to deal with his antics today, drawing her coat closer and keeping her face down as she approached. Only a few steps closer, and Abed came to life like clockwork, his head spinning round and greeting her with an almost disingenuous grin.
“Ahh my lady! You’ve arrived home early today!” he gleamed.
Mon frowned in return. “Keeping tabs on when I come and go, are you Abed?” Any other person would have stammered or denied such a statement, but Abed seemed proud of it.
“Of course! As my future wife, it’s only natural I I make sure I know you’re safe and sound.” He bowed, hands clasped together. “Might I offer you a basket? You look starving.”
“No, I’m fine. And stop it with the whole marriage thing, I already said no,” she said, jogging up the steps. She pulled a card out of her wallet and pressed it to the scanner beside the door. A loud clack was followed by the door propping forward a few inches.
“Give it time,” he chimed, likely still smiling behind her back. Just before she stepped inside, Abed piped up again. “Oh, your brother was here earlier. I let him in for you.”
“Ugh, Hayden’s not my brother. He’s said so himself. Besides, he didn’t even leave the office today.”
Abed had often mistaken Hayden to be a family member of hers, as had many others. There were some rather striking similarities between the two, after all. If anything, he closely resembled Mon’s own father than her, as the two shared many habits and quirks. He was often out of town on business but would sporadically visit her and her sister. Though he usually called first.
“Not Hayden, your other brother.” He slapped himself on his forehead. “Silly me, I really should focus more. He’s soon to be my brother-in-law, of course.”
This was confusing.
“I don’t have another brother- I don’t have any brothers! What did the guy look like?”
Abed shrugged. “Not sure, just said he was your brother. Kept his sunglasses, hat and jacket on the whole time. I think he didn’t like the sunlight very much.” He tossed an apple into the air and caught it behind his back. “He should eat more apples, Ma would say.”
“When did he leave?” Mon was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable about this.
“Hmmm, come to think of it… I don’t think he left. Must still be up there. Hey, let him know anyone from the K family gets one free, eh?”
Her blood ran cold. While Abed could be a little slow on the uptake, he was always hyper focused on anyone coming in and out of the building, especially if they had anything to do with her. There was no doubt in her mind that he wouldn’t have missed this man exiting the complex. Ignoring the next statement to leave Abed’s mouth, she stepped inside the lobby, pressed her back against a nearby wall, and took a deep breath.
Now out of sight of Abed, she slid her hand into her coat, fingers finding the grip of her handgun. With a quick motion of her thumb, the latch on her holster popped open. She gripped the gun firmly, removing it from her coat and keeping it held at the ready. The only way up to her floor was via a single elevator, now waiting for its next passenger. Stepping inside, Mon pressed in her floor number and stood back, watching the doors with focused intent.
What felt like minutes lasted only brief seconds as the elevator climbed upwards. Her blood now pumping rapidly, she could feel her heart slamming itself against her chest. The room maintained a brief pause at her level before opening its doors. Mon took this brief moment to prepare, aiming her firearm into the soon to be open doorway. They gave way to a well lit, empty hallway, though her heart still skipped a beat. Not all was well however. Further scanning the hallway, she noticed her doorway barely ajar, raising her hackles. Keeping a calm composure, she strode towards her apartment door, soft-footed and silent. Now beside the doorway, she focused once more before counting down from three.
Mon spun round and thrust her firearm through the door. Lights were off, curtains closed, and a cold breeze wafted through the apartment. To her left and right were doorways to her bathroom and bedroom. Both doors shut. Three foot beyond them was the living room and kitchen. She approached the two doors and, after some quick thought, decided to check the bedroom first. Mon burst in through the doorway, immediately checking her corners. Nothing immediately sprang to life, and nothing else appeared out of place once she elbowed the light switch on. Still in a rush, she turned and did the same to the bathroom. Empty yet again.
She had made plenty of noise now. If someone was here, they damn well knew it. Stepping back into the hallway, she kicked the front door behind her closed. Only one more room to go. With each careful step, she approached the end of the short hall, gun holding steady. Just before she made it to the end, Mon leapt forward into action, pivoting in a circle while she scanned the room. The shadows almost seemed to dance and jump at her as the curtains danced in the wind. Her heart felt ready to climb its way up her throat which each passing second. And yet…
The only place to hide was between the couch and TV, but there was no stranger lurking behind the pillows, only a coffee stained carpet. She continued to scan the room repeatedly, if only to assure herself of the lack of danger. Her nerves soon began to calm, and so too did her mind. With a newfound sense of relief, Mon hit the lightswitch.
On the kitchen bench, beside the window, was her gaze drawn. A housewarming gift from her father, a pot of lucky bamboo, began to cause her great distress. What was once a flourishing plant was now half of one. Midway up the stalk was a jagged cut, severing the bamboo in two. Whatever remained of its top half was long gone, not a trace remained within the apartment. Stunned, Mon could only collapse into the sink and empty her stomach.
As she continued to retch into the sink, a sound echoed through her window. The unmistakable sound of boots on metal. The cause of the cold breeze sank in; someone had bolted out the fire escape. Mon staggered to the window and thrust her head outwards. Despite her hair whipping into her eyes, she made out the shape of a man exiting the fire escape on the ground floor. Clad in a black coat and donning a wide-brimmed hat, she could only watch as the stranger vanished into the streets, taking her sense of safety along with them.