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Maya groaned as the alarm clock buzzed like a nest of angry hornets on her bedside table before slapping the device and rolling out of her bed. Not bothering to look at her reflection she slipped on a pair of trousers marked with the Chinese characters for ‘love, luck and fortune’ down the left leg and a crop-top emblazoned with the logo of the Denver Broncos on it before heading downstairs. Heading straight for the cupboard loaded with coffee she took a few moments to locate the strongest brew she could find, before placing it on the worktop. While she usually didn’t sleep well, a side-effect of having come back from the dead, last night’s dreams had been fairly vivid, and had involved Maya running up a slope from a grey river pursued by an unknown hunter. As she put on the kettle, the sound of boiling water was joined by the door-bell on the attached office buzzing.
“Who is it?” Maya asked, as walked to a wall mounted intercom.
“Officer Alistair Moody, we need to talk about the murder of Sonia Carter last night.” The voice of the police officer Maya had talked to last night replied.
“One second.” Maya answered before heading to the office and the front door, her mind racing as she processed the bombshell Moody had just thrown at her. The fact he had said ‘talk’ was reassuring, it meant that he wasn’t bearing an arrest warrant, at least not at the moment. Reaching the office front Maya pulled up the security shutter and unlocked the door to let Moody in. Like her, it looked like he hadn’t slept, his haggard face evident of this, as was the slept in slacks and white shirt. “Would you like some coffee Detective?” Maya asked politely.
“That would be brilliant.” Moody grumbled, as he followed Maya back to the kitchen. “Black, no sugar.”
“Great minds.” Maya replied as Moody sat down on a stool. “What happened to Sonia? When I left she was very much alive.”
“We know, her apartment building has a security camera, we saw you leave and the intruder enter.” Moody told her. “What we want to know about is the message that was burnt into the island in her kitchen. Tell me what does the name ‘Siwang’ mean to you?” He asked, the name causing Maya to flinch slightly, an obvious sign that she had been caught off guard by this question.
“I lived in El Paso prior to the troubles. Siwang or the Patron Saint of Crime was an urban legend, one who put arrows into cops. My brother was part of the taskforce that was hunting her.” Maya stated truthfully. “Some people even thought that she was a ghost of a dead enforcer come back from the grave to take revenge on the law.” She added, as she strained to remember some of the ridiculous stories people had told about her. “There was some proof she existed but what it was my brother never told me.”
“Well whoever out killer was, he burnt the name into the island around a business card you had left for Miss Carter. “Now perhaps it doesn’t mean anything, but I find it suspicious that you were in El Paso at the same time as this Patron Saint of Crime, and that the name has come up again in conjunction to a crime scene you were seen leaving minutes before an intruder killed a woman you were investigating, albeit indirectly.
“I don’t know what to say.” Maya replied calmly. “Except that I’m not the Patron Saint of Crime, I never was.” She lied as she handed Moody his coffee, before sitting down opposite him. “But if you need anything from me, I will be happy to cooperate with you.”
“That’s good to know.” Moody stated. “I really hope that this Patron Saint of Crime isn’t here, I remember the news reports, but then I don’t have to tell you I suppose.”
“You don’t.” Maya reassured him. “Just out of curiosity how did Sonia die?”
“I can’t say much but it looked like she was choked by someone who left burning handprints round her neck.” Moody sighed as he took a look at his coffee before taking a big sip. “At least that’s what it looked like.”
Maya watched as the gibbering technician was wheeled out on a gurney, his eyes rolling in his head, the bloody stump of his tongue barely poking out of his mouth. Hesitantly walking over to the office Moody had assigned the sketch artist, Maya sat down as she and the elderly officer wearing a chequered shirt and jeans watched the man taken away.
“Sorry for that Miss Grady.” The officer replied, his voice supporting the typical mid-western accent. “That poor kid, he was fine when he came in today, but then something triggered him. Detective Clint Holtz,” He added as he held out a hand in friendship.
“You obviously know me.” Maya replied as she shook Clint’s hand.
“Yeah I was there at Cameo when you helped capture that cultist and rescue those kids.” Clint replied as he removed a selection of pencils and a sketchpad from his desk. “Since our AV technician is no longer lucid enough to tell us about your mystery woman, it looks like it’s down to us to ID her.” He added, as a brown haired woman in her late thirties dressed in a slacks and a crop-top overlaid with a lab-coat got out of the lift, an evidence bag in her hand. “Hold on one moment.” Clint ordered as he waved the woman in. Maya recognised her as Tanya Reid, Grand Junction’s senior coroner from the morgue building across the street.
“Is Henry in, I have the blood samples he requested.” Tanya asked, as she shot a smile at Maya, her face haggard from what appeared to be lack of sleep. Obviously the doctor hadn’t forgotten he tip Maya had given her regarding a string of murders where the victim’s eyes had been scooped out of their head.
“CSI is currently on lock down, one of the technicians had...well he just plain went mad.” Clint told her, a sad look on his face. “My guess is those blood samples will need to be kept in the cool room until things get back to normal.”
“You look tired Doctor is everything alright?” Maya asked.
“Just a lot of weird cases coming in, on top of the two from last night I’m expecting the body from that shooting at a routine traffic stop from this morning to come through my door anytime now.” Tanya explained. “Still at least that one may be simple, the arrow sticking out of his chest kind of suggests so.” She added as she turned to leave.
“By the way Doctor, that’s some nice perfume you’re wearing.” Clint announced.
“Thanks its Aconitum.” Tanya replied, as she headed for the lift and the cool room in the basement of the police headquarters.
“So what do you want first?” Maya asked coyly as she watched Clint’s worried expression flicker off for a few seconds as he watched Tanya leave.
“What?” Clint grunted. “Oh eyes I guess, you can tell a lot of things about a person from their eyes.”
The time with Clint didn’t feel like it had been misspent, and the final composition of the woman was almost identical to her, although it somehow didn’t possess the same level of radiant beauty as the real thing did. Still, Maya thought as she drove her Suzuki motorcycle back to work, at least she could forget about the deaths of Ian Wilson and Sonia Carter. Her next case was already lined up, and as she pulled into the drive she saw a green MPV parked in-front of the building, a very old man and an old woman, albeit one slightly younger than her companion, standing at the entrance waiting for her.
“Sorry for keeping you and your father waiting Ms. Kowalski.” Maya apologised as soon as she had dismounted and removed her helmet. “I hope you haven’t been waiting long?”
“If you are as good as they say it doesn’t matter.” Ms Kowalski replied, a slightly annoyed tone to her voice as she watched Maya unlock the front door before holding it open for them.
“Can I get you some coffee for you?” Maya asked as Ms Kowalski and her father sat down on one side of her desk.
“No thank you.” Ms Kowalski answered. “My father and I have lived here for decades peacefully, but recently things have become very difficult. It started a few months back when our cat went missing. We called the police and they said that maybe a coyote had taken him. But when we came home from the shops we found him, and while I don’t know much about coyotes, I know they don’t skin their victims and place them on a fence post outside your house.”
“Tell them about the carving.” Mr Kowalski croaked.
“Yes Papa.” His daughter sighed. “A few days later we found…we found a swastika carved into our garage door. My father was a Polish refugee during the Second World War so you can understand how hurtful it was to see it here.”
“It would be hurtful for anyone.” Maya replied as she watched the old man shake his head. “I assume the police investigated but the matter wasn’t take too far.”
“You assume right.” Ms. Kowalski told her. “Over the next month we had more Nazi images carved into our property. It’s got so bad that last month my father had a heart attack, he would have died if it weren’t for the doctors.”
“Can you help us please?” Mr Kowalski asked quietly, his face showing the same tired look of stress Maya had seen on the faces of Moody, Reid and herself.
“Of course, I’ll set up some surveillance on your house and see if I can get an ID on who is behind this harassment. From there any evidence will be presented to the police, considering that your health is at risk because of the stress I suspect that they will take action.” Maya explained, her plan interrupted as Mr Kowalski let out a long rattling cough. “I’m going to need a down payment on my services and to cover equipment fees should I need to buy anything unfortunately, as well as a signature of guarantee of payment on job completion.” She added, as she removed a form from her desk drawer, just as Mr Kowalski continued to cough violently.
“Papa are you okay?” His daughter gasped, as her father struggled to stand up before collapsing to the floor, a thick black chemical leaking out of his mouth. Dashing round the desk, Maya slapped the man on the back, a torrent of black fluid leaking onto the floor.
“Call 911!” Maya ordered, as she stopped slapping the old man and began to administer the Heimlich, a seemingly never ending torrent of fluid sloshing onto the floor, the foul stench know filling the office.
“Mein Gott!!!” Ms Kowalski screamed as she pointed to the door, a hooded figure with blazing amber eyes standing outside on the street glowering in at them. “What is that?”
“Keep helping him.” Maya stated, as she gently placed Mr Kowalski against the desk and pulled open the bottom drawer to reveal a hand-bow and a small leg quiver of bolts. Wide eyed and terrified, Ms Kowalski took up position behind her choking father as she watched Maya dash to the door and slam the button to close the security shutters, the steel plated shield slamming down between the office and the outside world.
“I think he’s stopping!” Ms Kowalski called as Mr Kowalski cleared his throat. “What is this stuff?” She asked as she whipped some of the black fluid off her dress.
“Get into the next room and call the police.” Maya ordered as an orange glow engulfed the security shutter, almost as if a massive welding torch was cutting through the steel. Not bothering to argue the Kowalski’s retreated leaving Maya alone to face the intruder, the shutter already buckling under the heat of the attack it was under. The slam of the door behind Maya was joined with a loud clang as the attacker strode into the room.
“Are these your true colours?” The intruder hissed. “Or is there a darker colour to your soul Siwang?”
“You have me at a disadvantage.” Maya stated coldly as she scanned the attacker up and down.
“Oh come now Siwang, you don’t recognise me. Or remember that your actions led to me becoming this!!” The hooded man snarled as he removed his hood to reveal a burnt head, black road tar dripping from his eye sockets, streaks of oil running across what was left of his skin.
“Julian?” Maya gasped. “No you died, you can’t be…”
“Boccanegra?” The man suggested. “That name is more apt then ever!” He hissed, drips of tar flying out as he spoke. “And yes I was dead, and from what I heard so were you. Whatever the case I think you know what the arrangement here is,” He added, flames igniting from his hands and rolling up his arms. “Only one of us is leaving this room alive!!”