Monday, October 27, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (a Serial): Part III

The chattering had increased in volume, and more persons forced their way into the room, some heading for the punch bowl, and others searching out acquaintances.

"Inspector Ackerman," said a booming voice that caused half the room to stop and stare.

Mr. Ackerman winced. How'd he know it was I?

"Oh, right, Mr. Ackerman. Forgive me," said the friar, who now stood beside him. "You perhaps don't remember, but I'm Reverend Martin Vervain. I administered the Last Rites right here, in this room, ten years ago—to the day, come to think of it. Sad business, really sad business."

Inclining his head, Ackerman smiled and took a sip of punch.

"And I haven't noticed you in church since." The man shot him a stern look, then broke down in laughter. "It's all right; we all lose our faith at some point along the way. It's understandable in your case."

Ackerman raised both his eyebrows. "Is that so?"

Reverend Vervain gave a wry smile. "Well, what I mean to say is, the X Murderer has given you quite a bit of trouble."

"That he did. But no more. I am retired." Ackerman returned the smile and waved the matter away. "So, has the ministry been keeping you busy?"

"Busy? I should daresay it's been running me all over the place. I just returned from a missions trip to Africa with a group of volunteers. A few of them are at the party this evening, in fact."

"Still fighting for souls?"

"Oh, yes." The reverend rubbed his hands together and laughed. "The harvest is ripe for picking."

"Leave me alone!"

"Ethne, are you all right?" asked the gentleman dressed as a peacock. He pursued his partner across the room.

As the lady passed, Ackerman noted that she was rather pale in the face, and her blue gown was stained with perspiration marks.

"I'm not Ethne," she gasped, then dropped to the ground. She convulsed several times and was still.

"Out of the way!" Ackerman yelled. He pushed through the throng of people and dropped next to the girl.

"I don't understand," said the peacock, ripping his mask away. "She left for the punch bowl a few minutes ago, and came back looking like—"

"Quiet!" Ackerman listened for the girl's breathing and felt for a pulse; nothing. "Does anyone here know how to perform chest compressions?"

There was more murmuring.

"Never mind," he snapped. He pressed one hand over the other on the woman's chest and proceeded to apply and remove direct, hard pressure to the ribcage. For nearly five minutes he went on like this, until…

"I've just rung for the doctor," cried a middle-aged woman.

"You're too late," Ackerman panted, looking at his watch. It was five thirty-nine. "She's dead."

The silence was broken at once.




Ackerman rose. "Do not touch the body," he roared at the dead woman's beau. "And do not leave this house. That goes for everyone."

"Erik? What's going on?" someone cried.

A woman wearing a blue gown and a feline-esque mask pushed her way through the crowd.

"Ethne?" said the beau, whose gaze flitted between the woman on the floor and the woman in the crowd.

Ackerman looked at the X scratched into the floor. He blinked. “Of course,” he thought. “Of course.”

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1 comment:

  1. Oh, my! It sounds like the killer from ten years ago has returned. Will have to keep reading to see what happens next.