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Blurb

Visions of blood and death haunt Richie England. A new serial killer is stalking the city, and Richie finds himself in the middle of a frightening pyschological battle with the killer and the spectres behind the evil.

As the detective in charge of the Vivisectionist case, the last thing Julian Anders needs is a damn psychic telling him about visions. When another body is found, Julian is forced to accept Richie's help. The killer has seen Richie, and with his life at stake, both Julian and Richie need to find the answers and the killer before it's too late.

Chapter 1

Rather pleased with his last attempt, and the fact he now had his next canvas in sight, he leaned against the bar counter, completely at ease. The young woman was no more than two feet away. He studied the symmetrical lines of her body in great detail. Already he envisioned the designs he would slice into her chest and abdomen. Definitely worthy of his genius.

He'd been there when she came in alone and joined her group of friends. Smiling confidently, he waited for his prospective canvas to leave the bar so he could follow her. He felt more than content to merely watch her behavior and had no urge to have any contact at all between them. She seemed to be a cheerful, upbeat person with her friends, and also danced with several of the men who approached her. She didn't appear at all adverse to dancing each time she was drawn out to the dance floor by a woman, either.

When she finally left the bar and got into her car, he moved for his own. It proved to be no problem following her, and he could detect no awareness on her part of being followed. After she pulled into her driveway, he parked the car not too far away and watched her walk up the stone path to her house and disappear inside. He noticed the majority of the houses on the street were dark. Obviously not a partying type of neighborhood, not at two AM on a Saturday morning, at any rate. A suburban haven from the drug-infested waters eight blocks away. When he returned home he would research information about his prospective canvas. He got out of the car and began walking down the street toward the back alley behind the houses.

Though he really wouldn't be able to obtain his canvas for at least a week, he still wanted to study her to make sure she was the perfect one he wanted. Creeping into the backyard, he moved to the one lit window. A small crack in the curtains gave him a restricted view of the room. Inside, his canvas stood near a bed as she undressed. The line of her waist and hip was a bit shorter proportioned than he liked, still he could probably work with it. Her back was a perfectly unmarred expanse of pale flesh. Something he definitely appreciated.

She would be a perfect masterpiece. He just knew it, could feel it in the depths of his soul. He wanted even more perfection after his last work. In that canvas, he'd excelled beyond his wildest expectations. Now he completely focused on creating his next work of art and surpassing his previous genius. He would return here several times until he was ready for her, he might even allow her a few glimpses of him before he took her. But for now he had to return home to prepare everything for her.

Originally he'd intended to use another, a journalist who had written a less than glowing article about his work. However, he decided he would save that one for his next time. The young lady had taken his fantasy this time around.

* * * *

Julian leaned against the counter, sipping his morning coffee. His kid brother, Leslie, danced acrobatically in the living room. On the TV, Leslie's digital twin mimicked his actions as it fought a team of assassins in some jungle scene.

If Leslie were ever faced with a true life situation like that, he wouldn't be able to fight his way out of a paper bag. Julian had bought the VRC for Leslie last Christmas, only after the prices of the equipment had dropped to a working man's pocket. In between his college classes and working part time, Leslie spent every free minute making his own movies, starring himself.

Julian still remembered the day of five thousand channels and not a damn thing on. He'd never felt the urge to start making movies with himself as the lead. Later tonight, he'd be forced to sit down with Leslie and watch this latest epic. It really didn't bother him, and Julian enjoyed the chance to unwind and talk with his brother. He just enjoyed kidding Leslie about it.

For Christmas Leslie wanted the 'On The High Seas' tape. Julian knew he'd give in and fork out the three hundred bucks for it. At least Leslie kept the porn tapes in his bedroom. Julian doubted he would ever understand the appeal of that one. Humping the carpet wasn't Julian's idea of a good time, no matter how real the VRC suit made everything feel.

When the heroine of the scene approached his brother on the screen, Julian just rolled his eyes and finished his coffee. Setting the cup down, he called out to Leslie, "I'll be home after midnight if I'm lucky. Don't hold dinner for me."

Grabbing his jacket, Julian put it on and headed out the front door.

Removing the dark glasses, Leslie quipped back. "It's lasagna tonight, and it better not be cold when you get home."

After closing the door behind him, Julian stepped off the porch and walked to the driveway. The neighborhood was already busy with kids returning from their school day, and trash cans lined the streets. Reminded of trash day, he walked back toward the garage and dragged out the trash can, setting it at the end of the drive.

It only took him ten minutes to get to work. Rush hour hadn't yet started in full swing, and he was able to drive through most of the lights straight to work. He didn't have the patience required for sitting in traffic for any serious length of time.

By the time he arrived at his office, Mooney was already waiting for him. Settled comfortably in a chair, his partner appeared completely at ease, grinning slyly at Julian. With his short cropped, gray hair and rumpled twenty-year-old suit, Mooney hardly looked the type to be a detective. The slight paunch under the pale blue shirt indicated Mooney was getting a bit too used to being behind a desk.

"Can't I even get a cup of coffee before you start in?" Julian eyed him morosely before he moved to the coffee maker.

"Why? And miss out on the best part of your day. Never let it be said I missed my chance."

Flipping the small switch started the coffee to brewing, and Julian watched the thin stream of black as it poured from the machine into his cup. "So what is it today? The CFFV and a new stream of bombings?"

"Hardly. They haven't done much since old Judge Riley put Nicholson away for a couple of lifetimes. Nope, it's a lot more exciting than that. The Bugle sent a letter they received to us. Apparently the Vivisectionist is shopping around for his next gift and sent his New Year's resolution to The Bugle. Means either we have a copycat, or the Vivisectionist is going to play in our backyard now. We'll know for sure in a few days if a body shows up."

"Oh, shit." Julian grabbed his cup and moved to sit behind his desk. "Is it me or are they getting loonier?"

"We're not the sane ones, and you know it." Mooney smirked at him before he continued, "Just thought I'd give you a jump on the program, Anders. Boss man is going to be through the door in less than five minutes. I figured you'd want to know what was going on before he starts breathing down your neck."

"I'm recommending you for the leg work. Just to show how much I appreciate you, Mooney."

"Thanks. I can feel the love, Anders."

"You're more than welcome."

As Julian read the note, Richards poked his head in. "Just the man I needed to see."

* * * *

Richie took a deep breath as he stared at the metal doors with the square glass windows in them. He hated cops. With a fucking passion. However, the visions were getting worse, and he had to tell them...something, whether they believed him or not. Steeling his nerves, he pulled open the door.

He ignored the odd looks from others waiting on wooden benches in the small room that doubled as a lobby. When he walked up to the desk, he knew it was now or never.

"I need to speak with one of the homicide detectives."

"That would be Detective Anders. Might I ask what this pertains to?"

Richie sighed. "You want it in plain English? I'm a psychic. I know where the next murder will take place. I've seen it in a vision."

Somewhere nearby, someone choked on their coffee, then several others chuckled. He hated this. They all knew him, and they all knew what he was. And not a damn one took him seriously.

"Y-yes, sir," the woman said as she picked up the phone. "Have a seat and he'll be with you shortly."

Richie nodded and found a bare patch of wall. Then he slid down to the cold tile floor.

* * * *

When the phone rang, Julian answered it, listening silently to Allison. After a moment, he covered the receiver and said, "Somebody wants to see you."

"Huh?" Mooney gave him a blank look.

"Our neighbor psychic is right outside, and he wants to talk to you."

"Yeah, right, Anders. You ain't dodging. Besides, if I were you, I'd listen to the guy. He's helped once or twice and been right."

"He hasn't helped me any." Sighing, he uncovered the receiver and said, "Send him back, Allison."

A moment later, the door opened and one of the officers held it for Richie. "Mr. England to see you, Detective."

Julian's features smoothed into an imperturbable mask as he nodded. "Come in, Mr. England, and take a seat."

Reaching for his coffee cup, Julian downed a healthy swallow as Mooney smirked at him. When Mooney turned to speak to the psychic, he asked, "What you got for us this time, England?"

"Stanton Park," Richie said as he sat down in the uncomfortable leather-covered chair in front of the desk. "That's where you'll find the next one, the next Vivisectionist victim. I've had visions all morning, since about four."

"Visions?" Julian wondered what this odd kid was doing in his office. He gauged him to be about his brother's age and most likely with similar interests. Especially since they seem to favor the same notion of dressing in unrelieved black, and not in a business suit.

"Anything else, England?" Mooney seemed to have no problem taking him seriously.

"Yes, visions," Richie shot back at him, rolling his eyes. "Good afternoon, Detective Mooney. As for when, the most I've been able to detect," he said, casting a sideways glare at Julian, "on a Friday, possibly this Friday. Dark."

A brow rose in amusement when Julian noticed Richie's bristling. Sudden pain jolted through Julian's leg as Mooney's foot connected with the front of his ankle. Julian didn't show by a wince that the hit had fucking hurt.

Mooney smiled back at Richie. "We'll see if we can round-up a bit of extra help. Anything in the visions to tell what area of the park? SP is a large park."

"I haven't been to Stanton since Samhain, but I think near the clump of trees behind the amphitheater. She'll be completely out in the open. It's always dark, maybe right before dawn if I'm judging right."

Turning in his seat, Julian moved his legs out of Mooney's range. His expression showed nothing but mild interest in what Richie had to say. "We appreciate the information, Mr. England."

Mooney busied himself hastily writing what Richie said in his notebook. "Yeah thanks, England. If you get any more just let us know."

"No problem." Richie stood and, just before walking out the door, turned to Julian. "That's a pretty nasty bruise on your right ankle, Detective Anders." Then he walked out, closing the door behind him.

Mooney looked startled before he turned back to Julian. Once the door was closed, he said, "So, let's see the leg."

With a roll of his eyes, Julian ignored the request. "It would be a very good assumption since you kicked me that I would probably have one." He gave Mooney an irritated look. "Do you think the captain is really going to pay overtime for anybody to hang around SP waiting for a body to show up? And on a lead from a psychic?"

"It's worth a shot. If the kid is right, we'd be able to catch the bastard."

"And if he's wrong, the captain would have our heads for being idiots. Psychic hunches are not adequate enough leads to cover that kind of overtime."

"I think you're wrong on this, Anders. I've worked with that kid before. You didn't see what I saw. And you know what else? I don't think he saw me kick you. From where he was sitting he couldn't have seen that close to the floor. Not unless he can see through wood."

"He's a psychic. I'm sure he can see through anything."

Mooney left the room, slamming the door behind him.

* * * *

He used the stark white sheet for a fitting contrast as he unfolded it and meticulously laid it on the grass. He worked quickly and efficiently to lay out his canvas on the sheet.

"You are nearly perfect, beautiful Melissa." Crouching down, he began manipulating the young woman's limbs. With loving care and attention to detail, his hands plied her cooling body to position her the way he wanted. All of the blood had been cleaned, leaving only the beauty of the work he had done on her. Though he wouldn't spend much time with her at this point, he still had to attend to those last minute annoying details to display his work of art to perfection. A latex gloved hand tugged lightly on her foot so it would lie correctly. The stiffness of rigor mortis hadn't yet taken hold but it would soon, and he would be long gone.

Remaining crouched, he paused for a moment, admiring his handiwork. The strokes of the cuts in their symmetrical lines across her torso had been a brilliant addition. The nearly lyrical flow of each incision blended into the cuts running the full length of each arm.

"An absolute masterpiece, my love." A light touch to one of the blonde curls positioned it properly over the young woman's shoulder. Standing, he remained there for a long moment, surveying the pattern of clean-cut marks on her pale white body.

Leaning over, he carefully place a single red rose on her chest so the petals touched her lips. As he moved back toward the street, he brushed away the footprints he left with a tree branch. Once on the sidewalk, he dragged the branch over the concrete behind him as he headed for his van.

In a short time, the quiet suburban street would soon awaken to his latest piece of art, but for now, the inhabitants slept safely in their beds. There were no lights on in any of the houses, no witnesses to catch his presence.

Soon the street would be filled with morning commuters heading to work, children going to school, and early morning joggers. He had made sure his canvas would be found, and hopefully shortly after the sun rose.

Pleased with the night's work, he continued down the street for several blocks until he reached his van. Soon he could turn his attention to his next canvas. He had a few weeks to find who he wanted and to begin his special preparations. It would be hard telling where he would find the next one. Perhaps this time it would be in a grocery store or even the library. He would know the moment he laid eyes on her. If necessary, he would use the journalist. It all really depended on his mood and whatever whim possessed him.

He fingered the small blue bottle lying on the passenger seat and smiled to himself. Ryder would be pleased with this one as well. As soon as he delivered Melissa's soul to Vincent, he could begin his search for his next work.

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