The surgeon the luke tit.., p.1
The Surgeon: The Luke Titan Chronicles #1, page 1
The Luke Titan Chronicles
For Christian Windsor
On Purpose and Other Things
Also by David Beers
For Beverly. The first book I’ve published in years, without your eyes first looking at it. I hope it lives up to your standards.
The madness started with a young man and a mute—as near as anyone could later pinpoint, anyway. Madness has a special way of hiding until, all at once, everyone can see it.
Charles Ranger had lost the ability to speak three years earlier, and every day since had been a special kind of hell. He wouldn't have wished this on his worst enemy, or at least that's what he thought when his ability to speak first left him. It took him three years, but he finally found someone that he wished could also carry this affliction.
Charles Ranger was eighty-two years old, half-blind, mute, and living in a nursing home. The only thing he really had going for him was his hearing, but since meeting Bradley, he'd begun thinking he could go without that sense.
Bradley was one of the orderlies assigned to Charles's corridor. His kids threw him in here at seventy-five, and while they visited often, he hated the damn place. Or at least he thought he had; but once again, when he met Bradley, Charles came to a different understanding of things.
Bradley stood behind his wheelchair, pushing him toward his room. It was time for Charles's afternoon nap, and although he rarely fell asleep, he would do anything to get away from the people in this place. Since he couldn't talk, the other old farts all decided they would talk to him. Just babbling endlessly while Charles stared at the television screen. He didn't even bother nodding anymore, didn't care one bit whether the other 'inmates' thought he was rude.
"Well, Charlie," Bradley said, "here we are."
Charles hated that about Bradley Brown, too—the bastard kept calling him Charlie.
The orderly opened the bedroom door and pushed him inside. He closed the door and then began helping Charles into his bed.
"I think it's about time for me to start what we've been discussing."
God, no. Please don't talk about it anymore, Charles thought. It had been two weeks since the last time Bradley brought it up, and Charles simply couldn't handle it anymore. He had to tell someone.
Who's going to believe you, old man? And if they do, and they investigate the bastard, what happens if they don't find anything? Bradley will know who told them. What do you think will happen to you then?
Charles had talked to himself about this multiple times already. It always ended with visions of him lying in bed, and Bradley's tall body standing over him, both hands holding a pillow.
"Should have kept it our little secret, Charlie," Bradley would say before pressing the pillow over Charles's face.
He couldn't tell anyone, not if he wanted to keep living.
"I've found the perfect girl. Finally. Her eyes, Charlie ... if you could see them, you'd fall in love. Bright blue, like the sky on steroids. I hope I can show them to you." He pulled the blankets up to Charles's chin. "I'm thinking some time this week I'll do it. I can probably show you them the week after. You'll love 'em. I'm sure of it."
Charles looked up, Bradley standing over him—the only thing missing was the white pillow that he'd use to suffocate Charles.
"I know you're not going to tell anyone about this, right? I mean, you won't be writing any notes?"
Charles shook his head from side to side, wondering if the fear he felt in his gut had bled through to his face.
"I didn't think so. I imagine you like it a little bit, don't you? Given what your profession used to be? I imagine cutting all those people up, even as a surgeon ... well, you had to enjoy a bit of the blood and guts, right?"
Charles nodded, knowing that he didn't even see the blood when he'd been a surgeon—only focusing on the job of keeping patients alive.
"That's why I came to you, Charlie, because once I saw your patient file I knew you were someone I could confide in ... I can't wait to show you what I get."
Bradley turned and walked out of the room, leaving Charles Ranger feeling certain that his closest caretaker was a serial killer.
Bradley Brown understood that sooner or later he would kill Charlie Ranger. Not for his eyes, though. He had no desire for a man's eyes—no, he'd kill the old man because rules must be followed. Bradley was a big lover of rules, had been since his earliest memories.
He needed them.
Rules were the only reason he had made it this far in life (first his father's, then his own), and if he was going to continue doing as he pleased, then he would need even more of them.
Because Bradley definitely was going to continue doing as he pleased ... doing what pleased him.
Rule #1: No witnesses. Charlie wasn't exactly a witness, per se, but close enough, and sooner or later he'd have to go. Hopefully later, because Bradley did enjoy talking to the old man. He bounced a lot of ideas off the bald guy's dome, and even though Charlie couldn't speak back, it clarified Bradley's thinking.
Clarity was important for what came next.
And goodness, Charlie served that purpose well.
At first, Bradley thought he would take women that he knew. They would be the easiest. He would understand where they lived, their patterns, etc. Talking with Charlie, though, rid him of that notion. Well, talking and reading.
Bradley read a lot, though a very specific type of genre: true crime with a focus on serial killers. He was easily, as far as he was concerned, the most knowledgeable person in the United States on the subject. If they gave out PhDs on the subject, Bradley would certainly have one.
Reading about the killer Ed Kemper helped show Bradley how foolish it would be to abduct people he knew. Ed only killed hitchhikers—until he got to his mother.
Bradley would read and then he'd talk to Charlie, and in the end, his plan developed into something nearing perfection. He wouldn't be caught, not like Ed or Jeffrey or Ted.
Ed was caught because he turned himself in.
Jeffrey was caught because he was a fucking idiot. Same with Ted.
The cops, in every single case, were about as clueless as anyone could possibly be. In Jeffrey Dahmer's case, they actually sent an underage boy, who had a hole in his head (filled with acid), back to Dahmer. Old Jeffrey just told them they were boyfriends and the underage boy was drunk. Believable enough.
Ted Bundy escaped from jail.
Escaped. From. Jail.
When Bradley first realized that, it took a few minutes to fully sink in. The police, the FBI, they were all so incompetent that Bradley could do whatever he wanted, as long as he followed his rules
That was over, now, though.
Bradley's parents had his IQ tested as a boy, putting him at 145 and in the upper echelon of humans.
He was far too smart to be caught by people who would send someone with a goddamn hole in his head back to a cannibalistic serial killer.
No, it was time to start.
Crystal thought Liam was cute, for someone at this bar, at least.
Doesn't matter. Not like he ever hits on you anyway.
Liam had started coming to Crystal's restaurant (The Happiest Hour) about six weeks ago. He always came in later in the evening, when the bar had slowed down and the servers were beginning to clean their sections. He sat at the bar, drank a few beers while eating chips and salsa. He never ordered anything, and it wasn't until the second week that he really started talking to Crystal.
"How often are you up here?" she asked as she placed down a new basket of chips.
"Four or five nights a week."
"Don't want to go home?"
Liam smiled, which was when he was at his cutest. "I'm trying not to become an alcoholic. I feel drinking at home and eating chips out of a bag, instead of a basket in a restaurant, would certainly classify me as one."
"The basket is the line that separates you from them?" she asked, smiling as well.
"The basket and this place. They keep me at a safe distance from any classifications."
"Oh, goodness," she laughed. "I'm going to take a smoke break, okay? Need anything before I run out back?"
"Nope, I'm good."
Crystal walked through the kitchen, heading to the employee's entrance. She stepped outside.
"Aw, hell," she said.
The rain was pouring at such a heavy pace, that even the back alley was starting to flood. Crystal pulled the pack of smokes from her pocket and lit one, careful not to step off the small stoop with the overhang above it. She watched the rain fall and worried about how little money she'd made this week.
She wasn't going to get the car, not this month anyway. She would need an awesome weekend of tips just to make rent. And the goddamn Ubers were eating into her tips pretty heavily. It was a cycle she couldn't escape, not by bartending here anyway. She didn't have a car, so she had to use ride-sharing services, which took more money from her—so she couldn't save up for the car.
Fuck it, she thought and flicked the cigarette onto the soaked concrete.
Crystal walked back into the bar, trying to push her current financial predicament away. Pouting wouldn't bring in any extra tips, that was for sure.
"Rain's really coming down," Liam said, staring up at the television behind the bar.
"Yeah. Makes getting in an Uber even harder."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Well, I'm not getting in the car with just anyone that pulls up to the curb. I always check to make sure their license plate matches what the app says."
"You gotta do that, even in this rain?"
"It's either that or risk being cut up into little pieces."
The small smirk. "True. What time do you get off?"
"About thirty minutes after closing time. As soon as Bill checks me out."
"I could give you a ride tonight, save ya the trouble of checking license plates," Liam said.
Oh, wow, is he finally hitting on me?
Don't be silly. He's offering you a ride home so that you don't have to stand in the rain. He's being nice.
"I don't want to make you do that," Crystal said. "I'll be fine."
"It's really no problem. Let me finish this beer, I'll go fill up with gas, and by the time I'm back you should be just about done, k?" Liam looked down from the television to her, and Crystal definitely wanted to say yes. It would save her twenty bucks, keep her out of the rain ... and, she wanted to hang out with him a little bit longer.
"Sure, I'm sure," he said.
Bradley could have stared at Crystal Hembree's eyes forever, and in fact, that's what he planned to do. He told Charlie he knew it would happen soon, but he hadn't thought the opportunity would present itself this quickly.
Bradley wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth, though.
He did as he said, or as Liam had said. He finished his beer, went and put gas in his car, then pulled up to the front of the restaurant. The rain was still falling torrentially, which was good. Now that everything was in motion, he didn't know if he could shut it down just because she decided to use an Uber because the rain stopped.
Bradley hadn't asked for her number, just said he'd be out front. Even if she gave it to him, he wouldn't text her. That would have been far too dumb. No records would exist between him and Crystal. At best, her boss might know a guy named Liam took her home.
Five minutes passed before he saw her stick her head out the front door, holding a jacket above her head. Bradley flashed his lights.
She rushed across the concrete as he pushed open the passenger door. She nearly dove in.
"Thanks so much," she said, water dripping from her jacket. Her blue eyes met his and Bradley understood that he would have done anything for them—to just stare into them anytime he wanted, for the rest of his life.
"Who called it in?" Tommy Phillips asked.
"A maintenance man. The smell finally made its way through the walls, I suppose. Someone complained and when maintenance entered the premises ... Well, I suppose we'll see soon enough."
Tommy looked over at Luke Titan. "You haven't been in yet?"
"What the hell have you been doing?"
"Waiting on you."
Tommy looked up at the apartment. The door was closed with no one around it. The police had sealed it off and referred it to the FBI—which was happening more and more lately. Anything they didn't want to deal with, especially crimes of grotesque natures, they referred to the Exceptional Crimes Unit.
It was, in Tommy's opinion, getting a bit ridiculous.
Not every death that didn't have a simple bullet wound to the head made it an exceptional crime and worthy of FBI attention.
"Well, let's head on up."
The two took the stairs, Tommy pulling his small notepad out and Luke carrying nothing as usual. The man never wrote a thing down, and Tommy envied it. He envied a lot about Luke, but then again, so did most people.
Two yellow banners formed an X over the door, reading: POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS.
Tommy reached up and carefully pulled at the top of each banner, letting them float down to the ground.
"You smell it?" he asked, knowing he didn't need to.
"Yes," Luke said.
Tommy understood Luke's speech patterns now, though it'd taken him roughly six months as partners. The man talked like a professor, one that had been educated at the finest institutions throughout his entire life—indeed, almost like someone that was born two hundred years ago as an English noble. Luke told Tommy at one point that Americans had so successfully butchered the English language that he thought the country really should start calling their version the American language.
Both men pulled on sterile gloves and booties, after which Tommy turned the doorknob and pushed.
The lights were off and the clouds outside the apartment denied much sunlight from entering.
Tommy stepped further inside; he didn’t turn the lights on, not wanting to smudge possible fingerprints. They would rely on the sunlight filtering in the windows for now.
"Jesus," he said.
Luke was quiet.
The victim's head sat on the kitchen counter. Blood had dried across the counter; it had also dripped down to the floor, where it pooled.
Tommy reached into his pocket, pulling out the vapor rub which all agents carried on them for crime scenes like this. He rubbed it under his nose but didn't bother to offer Luke any. All agents except Luke carried
Tommy moved across the living room to the kitchen, staring at the severed head.
"Her eyes are missing," he said.
Luke was quiet, but Tommy heard him move to the couch on the right wall. Tommy turned and saw where the rest of the body sat.
On the sofa, arms spread out over the back as if the woman was simply sitting there watching a television show, except without a head.
Tommy squatted some, putting him eye to eyeless with the head.
"He left her mouth open."
"Might not be a he," Luke said from the living room.
"Always the fucking feminist, aren't you?"
"Don't want to get tunnel vision. Perhaps it was a scorned lover, and our victim here was a lesbian."
Tommy flipped back a few pages in his notebook and started scribbling what he saw. He went quiet at this stage in the game, resembling Luke. He needed to focus, to catch every detail. Luke's success in this business—as in every business he'd ever been in—stemmed from his intense intelligence. Tommy's, however, came from his work ethic.
He peered into the mouth and saw immediately that the tongue had been removed. Something else was inside instead.
"Jesus," Tommy said again. An eyeball stared out at him, lodged almost into the victim's throat. "We need to call FBI forensics in STAT.”
"Give me a minute, though, please, before we invite them."
Tommy knew what that meant; he stood, turned around, and went to the living room, where Luke was.
The body was completely naked, though the woman's legs had been crossed. While her breasts were visible, her genitalia had been covered.
"That was nice of him," Tommy said.
Luke sat down on the couch next to the corpse, underneath one of its arms. Something else Tommy was used to, the morbidity with which the man worked. He was, of course, careful not to disturb anything—his movements always done with a precision that Tommy thought Michael Jordan might have appreciated.
"What did the eye holes look like? Was there a lot of hacking involved, or is it pretty neat?"
by David Beers have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes