Chapter III: A small but perfectly curling twist of smoke
A small but perfectly curling twist of smoke drifted out of Ray's office as he rushed past Candy, who was chewing while wrapping something in neon red gift paper. He ignored her cursory greeting and headed toward the door, pulling it open to reveal the ample frame of Detective Donald P. Tannhauser.
“Ray,” came the equally laconic reply. Both men used their words as sparingly as they used their wallets. It came with the territory. “I came over as soon as you called me. The boys finished clearing up the mess downtown a couple hours ago, and I wanted you to take a look at something they found down there.” With that, Don pointed to something on Ray’s desk. Ray didn’t exactly spend much time pushing paper, so he could hardly miss the two inch-thick, brown, leather-bound book sitting in the middle of the otherwise bare desktop.
“Well Don…what’s the deal?” he asked. “You finally finished that novel you were always talking about?”
Don didn’t even crack a smile. He just pointed at the thing, saying, “take a look inside.” Ray opened it, and was, at first, taken aback by the smear of red on the inside of the cover. “We found it on the floor right next to Billy,” said Don. Ray flipped the pages till he came across something. There it was: a picture, in faded acrylic paint, somewhere around the middle of the bulky volume, and it was glaring right out at Ray with dark, almost pitch black eyes.
It was the figure of a man, but barely recognisable as such, since it was clothed in a vast, swirling cloak, leaving only the face wholly visible. In his right hand he held a large staff made from some sturdy looking wood, and from his left dangled a thick chain. The chain seemed to stop all of a sudden in the middle of an empty space off to the figure’s side, as though the picture were somehow incomplete. “And who the hell are you?” Ray muttered under his breath.
He put the book in one of his desk drawers and shut it carefully. It was the only lead he had until Don could get back to him about the coroner’s report on Billy.
Later that evening when the soft rain had begun to melt the snow, Ray stepped out of his office and locked the door. He had let Candy go home early since it was her mother’s fiftieth birthday. Though it was probably the least of his problems right now, Ray didn’t want to have Mrs Soosman dropping by to meet Candy at the end of the day because her ‘peculiar’ boss wouldn’t let her out early at least once this month.
As Ray left the building, however, there were two things he failed to notice. One was the rather mangy looking animal that had been waiting in the shadows of a side alley, and was now heading toward the steps leading up to the door of the building. The other was the steadily increasing rattling coming from inside. A rattling which originated in the top right hand drawer of Ray’s desk.