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The Ashen Horse

by Daryl Benson about a year ago in slasher
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Fibbies in Atlanta

(Stock Internet Photo. Images may be subject to copyright.)

They landed in ATL; the landing so slick it was like glancing on ice. Tim was so impressed he almost clapped. He didn’t travel too much, but he traveled enough to appreciate the pilot’s skill. Check off flying expertise for this guy. He grouped up with the rest of the team at baggage claim.

“I can’t believe you are still checking luggage Josh,” Ellie retorted as they stood and waited. “How are you not taking carry-on for everything, we are now just sitting here waiting.”

“Equipment, Ellie. Equipment. I can’t carry-on the good stuff. I got strip searched after trying it the first time. The TSA didn’t even take into account the FBI credentials. You would think that would count for something, but no, they went right to probing. Yeh, so it’s getting checked. Bloody TSA agents.”

Tim chuckled at the discourse. “I’m good with it, allows me to get caught up emails while we wait. You can go grab the car if you want to speed up the process Ellie. We can catch up with you.”

Ellie was already on her phone as well though and made no move to speed up the process of exiting the airport. “You guys reading this?” She asked and looked around, all three of them staring at their phones. Additional information had come in either overnight or while they were on the early morning flight. Apparently, they were all sucked into the same email.

Tim spoke up, “They are throwing knives. The Atlanta police put it together. That’s what the small blades and wounds are. We should have seen that. The killer took off the bishop’s head. This guy is brutal, who takes the time to… sheesh.”

The equipment that was checked had went around the carousel twice while they read the email. Josh finally looking up from his smartphone finally went and grabbed the two pieces of luggage that contained specialized equipment to collect evidence at the scene.

Ellie, couldn’t resist yet another retort, “You know the Atlanta office of the Atlanta police will have all that right?” Josh’s blank look at her was either proof enough he hadn’t considered it, or that he wouldn’t admit one way or another. Perhaps he just didn’t care, but he had his own personal department equipment to gather evidence either way.

“Let’s get to the scene guys, looks like they are holding it all for us. The Cathedral personnel are getting a little cagey about it. That can’t look good in the news, or within the Catholic Church’s internal organization. People have to be going crazy right now.”

They quickly got the rental car, got everything piled in, and were driving out of the Atlanta airport and on their way to the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. “Are we going to grab food on the way? I’m starving.” To accent his words, Josh’s stomach grumbled. “You see.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want your stomach upset at us, now would we?” Tim commented, “But it’ll have to be quick, drive-thru it is, we really do need to get to the scene.”

They arrived at the cathedral shortly after, Josh still stuffing burritos into his face at an alarming rate.

“It is somewhat spooky that you can eat like that and not either gain weight, or just die, or something. Where does it go? How are you able to move after eating that much?”

“It’s a skill Ellie, a skill. A rare talent of exceptionalism. I possess it, everyone else envies it.”

“It’s something, that’s for sure.”

An Atlanta official was heading for their car, he could have been a detective, maybe a lieutenant, it wasn’t entirely obvious. “You must be the FBI agents from Washington? Let’s get right to it, let me run down what we have done already, and what you should look at.” They all started walking toward the door as he explained they had detailed the scene, taken pictures of everything, had completed initial medical examinations, and logged and marked all the evidence. They hadn’t bagged anything yet, waiting for the now special agents on the national case to survey the scene first.

Josh posed the question, “I guess we are the special agents?”

“You’ve always been special Josh.” It was something Ellie would normally say, but this time it came from Tim.

“That cuts deep boss. Deep.”

Ellie probably would have come up with the same retort if she wasn’t distracted at the moment. She appeared diverted for the time being, it looked like she was accounting for all the exists and entries as she entered the building. If you didn’t know her well, you probably wouldn’t realize that is what she was doing, but as she walked in the building she surveyed the entire scene quickly and calculated all the available paths to vacate or at least possible exit points in the building. It was always unnerving her focus as they moved throughout structures. Tim wondered how she would handle herself in tight spaces. What would she do if there weren’t readily available exits?

The Atlanta agent, turns out he was a local FBI agent pulled into the debacle, pointed to the bishop. “This is the bishop. He was the target. As far as we can tell, the other two were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“How do you figure that? That wasn’t in the report email we got when we landed.”

“Yeh, not everything went into that. The killer left a letter on top of his body.”

Thomas, the local FBI agent was turning out to have better intel than they had gotten from some time on the case, he was munching on one of Josh’s burritos. It turned out that he couldn’t finish them all after all, and he had handed a bag off to several of the contacts at the scene. Josh and Ellie walked up to the body and removed the white cloth that was covering it as Tim and Thomas continued the conversation.

“The team left the letter to, huh? This is it?” Josh saw it, near the feet of the victim.

“Yeh, that’s it. We got detailed photos of it but thought we’d leave it. We covered the bodies with the sheets though. We didn’t want to even do that honestly, but we weren’t sure about the reporters or news people in the area. Those vultures, they swarm like the black death, you never know when they’ll try to get some footage or photos, they can plaster all over the internet or television.”

“Your crime scene guys are going to bag everything right?” Josh inquired.

“Yeh. As soon as your team gives the thumbs up, they’ll start picking up everything. The Church really wants us out of here. The Atlanta police dodged the entire thing by blaming us, the FBI always takes the hit for this kind of stuff. Can’t blame them though, they get to just say that the FBI is doing the investigation and their hands on tied. But my boss is now getting calls from senior members in the Catholic Church, which means I’m getting calls from him. This shit always flows downhill. Let’s just say we are all looking to pack it up.”

Ellie couldn’t resist this time, “And to think we have a trunk full of equipment.” Josh’s blank stare again looked at Ellie. He was certain bringing the equipment still had been a grand idea.

Tim interjected, “What’s the letter guys, given it’s the piece of evidence we think makes the bishop the target.”

“It’s an affidavit, signed in court. Apparently ‘unnamed children’ had reported sexual abuse to police against the bishop, when he was still a priest, and did it under oath and got an affidavit signed. The police, and apparently, the Church, didn’t do anything about it. We did some research and it appears he got promoted from priest to bishop shortly after the incident.”

Tim whistled, “Well. That changes things. I definitely understand the sheets now. We definitely can’t have that information leak to the press.”

Ellie, looking at the front entrance commented, “They sleuth it out anyway. There’s probably a reporter that already knew or knows about his history. It’ll be a story.”

“Only if they connect the dots,” commented Josh. “Know one knows Ash’s motives here but us on this one. If no one talks or mentions this affidavit, we might keep it out the press. The press can know that we suspect Ash is the killer, but no what we think his motives are.”

“You know,” Tim called as he approached one of the priests who had been contorted oddly on the ground, “this does match the other killings in that sense.”

“How’s that boss?”

“They all appear to be dodgy individuals. Everyone of them has something dark in their past. Criminal activity, lurid behavior, angry or cheated business partners, and now apparently a suspected child molester. What’s with this body? Why is it, did you guys move it?”

“Nope, found it like that,” said Thomas.

“It looks all contorted. The killer rolled it over, maybe half rolled it. Why?” It didn’t make much sense to Tim why the body was half flipped over.

“Knives.” Tim startled as he found Ellie standing directly over him. She continued, “The throwing knives. The killer recovered the blades. The killer has always recovered the blades, that why we never connected that they were throwing knives. The body was partially rolled over to get to the blades. I don’t necessarily see the wounds right now, but we’ll find wounds in his back. Yeh, look there at that tear in the jacket, that’s blood. Ashen dropped him on his back, and then had to partially roll him over to get the knives. Which also means Ash probably killed him from the front, and he fell backwards, then he later rolled him over. Looks like efficient work, no energy wasted here.”

Josh, still examining the bishop, “There was energy invested here though. And this isn’t the work of the katana.” His face went a little pale examining the stump of the neck. “This is spine-tingling.” He waited a second glancing up, looking for a response. It didn’t come. “And that was a good pun. Wasted apparently. This is morbid though. His head was, well, might not be hacked off, but, well… Ugh.” He audibly swallowed and paused a second. Taking control again, he went on, “Look, it was a different blade used, it didn’t severe the head clean, like the katana would have. Okay?”

Tim was walking to the third and last body, “Got it Josh, take a minute man. Maybe don’t keep staring at that.” All four of them descended on the third body. “This one looks barely marked.”

Thomas, licking his fingers after finishing the burrito, “Yep. Granted we haven’t done full medical examinations, but the only mark on this one that we could initially detect is wound in the face. Looks like he took a blade directly in the eye.”

Josh got a little paler looking at Thomas smacking his fingers, “Same blade if I had to guess. We can do detailed forensics on the wounds, and I’m guessing it’s the same blade used on both of them. Let’s make a note to make sure we get the forensic and medical teams do that leg work.”

Tim had got a good survey of the scene at this point and was getting ready to maybe do some deeper investigation. “So, Thomas. Anything else we really need to know?”

“Well, the only other thing is the bomb.”

“Wait, the bomb?”

“Yeh, outside.”

The three Washington agents looked at each other. That definitely wasn’t in the morning email.

“Alright. Josh, Ellie, you have this right? Review it all, take a minute. Let’s spend an hour trying to model out what we think happened, sequence of events, order it up. We’ll mock it out back at the lab and connect as many dots as we can. Thomas, you sure your team has photos of everything?”

“Yep, one of the best guys in the business.”

“Ellie, do a video anyway, capture everything you can, full walk through on how everything is right now. We’ll get it on a USB stick and put that in a file, it’s after the fact and stuff, but it’ll give us good context reviewing it later with all the details. Let’s lay it all out. Let’s get to work in here. That’s its guys, let’s get to it.”

Ellie and Josh went to the makeshift table that had been setup by the Atlanta team and started talking and making notes. “Now Thomas,” Tim said, “bomb?”

“Yeh, I better just show you. That’s why we have the lighting setup in here the way it is, all the lights are out. I mean the stained-glass lights this place up pretty good in the day, but last night, it would have been pitch black in here. The bomb cut the power entirely. Another thing the Church is complaining about. We wouldn’t let the electrical company, or the electricians get anywhere near it until we have a bomb expert go over the whole thing.”

Tim commented, “Alright, let’s go take a look…,” as they both started heading for the rear exit.

Ellie glanced up, checking off in her mind that the rear right door did in fact exit the cathedral.

Image Credit:

Pinterest Upload by Amy Burger



About the author

Daryl Benson

Just trying to write a little on the side to see if anything can come of it.

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