Well, we failed abjectly at getting a prompt submitted to Odd Prompts for this week, and we were days late posting our story for last week, but here we are. We’re working our tails off, and it looks like one or both of us may be doing it through at least January. That said, I (Anne, because I’m the one who actually posts this stuff) am actually off today and able to make a try at making this kind of on time, and contrary to expectations, Jim is the one who actually drove this week’s entry, which goes back to our world RIP meets the Supernatural. We picked “When they kicked the leg of the body laying in the underbrush, a swarm of flies flew up into the air.” from the spares. We haven’t quite figured out yet how we got from a bland, almost nondescript, male boss to a much flashier female one, but I’m sure it will show up in a story soon.
First Day Off
When Farrell kicked the leg of the body laying in the underbrush, a swarm of flies flew up into the air. That was when we knew our day off had just turned into a workday.
Damn, boss, Wade thought. She KNEW we liked to hike on our day off. She was the one who had suggested we try this trail out along the Parkway. We were tired, so we didn’t approach her happy suggestion with the caution it deserved. Damnit. Now we’ve got a case. Shit. Flies were first hatch so this was a couple weeks old, no immediate danger but long enough that the boss had to have noticed an increase in missing persons cases in the hikers and joggers if she sent us this way.
“Crap, Farrell. Now you’ve done it.” Sergeant Green sighed “All right. Work the scene guys, find me something….for a start.”
Judex called in the Blue Nun to see what Park Police had on their missings and then peered back under the bush, “Huh, dudes wearing a suit…not a hiker/jogger….dragged here.”
Wade thinks, “Crap, that means he was taken here out of view to feed or is a smart one hiding its kills to hunt longer….damnit. She loves surprising us to see what we figure out on our own. Sometimes I think that lady delights in the after action reports more than solving the problem.”
They all start chiming in now, “Got drag marks, boss. A little old but deep, maybe hauled through the fresh mud after that rain two weeks ago?” “Rain and flies gives us a decent guess on the time of death.” “…check for a wallet, creds, anything to work with.” “…huh, stole the money and cards….could be a flesh walker living as him.” “…look at the shoes….this guy drives everywhere not walks…if his car didn’t turn up the beastie might have grabbed his car.”
Farrell chimes back in with, “How do we know this isn’t a run of the mill crime, Boss?”
“We don’t, but the Chief suggested we hike here, that’s enough for….holy shit, are you taking steroids? Why the hell did you toss the body over there?!?
Judex said, “It’s not me boss, I just wanted to flip him over to get a look but he don’t weigh but nothin’!”
“Huh, no organs….and the skeleton doesn’t weigh shit… how the hell did whatever it was it suck the marrow out without breaking the bones?” Wade turned and faced Farrell and Garza, “See. One of ours. Now let’s work back an ID and find this guy’s car.”
After a bunch of work and a bunch of arguing with the parking enforcement people, we found the car, right where it ought to be, near the guy’s office…with a boot on it and a thick handful of parking tickets on the windshield. Over a dozen miles from where we found him.
No luck with the car services and taxis. Only trip out there any time close to when the guy was last seen was some old professor type who apparently goes out there all the time. The driver didn’t recognize the picture of the victim, either.
A few days later, U.S. Park found two more. Actually, they found one and went looking to see if they could find another in the same area, since one of the guys we asked about the first one was there when they found their first. Same story. Cars back at their offices, but not in their usual spot. Parking tickets. Only one of the two booted, and we got an idea of how long each had been dead from the tickets. Last charge on each one’s credit card was for a local coffee shop. No sign either had used Uber or Lyft…but the old guy had.
Knock. Knock. KNOCK. Wade couldn’t shake the habit of the police knock if he tried. “Dr. Willoughby?”
Muffled crashing sounds come from inside the apartment. “Hold your horses, I’m coming!”
The old man looks exactly the way you’d expect an emeritus professor to look. Rumpled tweeds and all. “Can I help you, young man? You don’t look like any of my former students…”
“Actually, professor, we’re here about your more recent work. I understand you’ve been observing something local, but nobody seems to know much about what you’re studying.”
“Ah! You’re here about my girls!” The old man’s face lit up. “I tried to tell those old farts at the lab about them, but they just kept saying that everything local that was that big had already been cataloged! I tried to explain how shy they were, and how I had to find just the right lures, but they wouldn’t listen!”
“Really? Huh. Well, my friend and I would like to hear about them.”
The professor started describing his find. It sounded like they were something like a cross between giant wasps and Tinkerbell, glittering and sleek. From his gestures, they looked to be about 4-5 inches long. They sounded like something that would cap his career, if they were real.
“So, about why we came. You’ve been in the park a lot lately, and we found some bodies there. We were wondering if you’d look at some pictures and tell us if you’ve seen any of these people.” Wade held out a stack of photographs and saw a change come over the professor. His demeanor closed up, and he moved uncomfortably and cleared his throat. He reached reluctantly for the pictures.
“I doubt if I can be of any help. I generally avoid people when I’m out observing. They disturb the wildlife.” He flipped through them rapidly, almost not looking at all. “No, no, no. I haven’t seen any of them.”
Interesting, thought Wade. He’s lying. I can’t tell why, though.
The next day, a couple of the guys were in the minivan, across the street from the professor’s house. A call to the lab had produced a gray hair on the headrest of one of the cars. We thought about putting teams in the coffee shops where the victims had last been seen, but they were all different, so we figured there wasn’t enough of a chance to catch whatever was happening that way, so, except for the team waiting to catch the professor leaving his apartment and the one waiting out in the park, we were all just waiting in the area to see what would happen.
Nothing happened the first day, but on the second, the professor scurried out, looking around and completely missing the guys in their beat up minivan. He got in the car we had determined was his, and went to a coffee shop. We were glad we hadn’t tried to figure out which one he would pick, because this one was in a different part of town than the previous one.
He was in there for a couple of hours, talking to different people, then bustled out, followed by the man he had just spoken to. They each got in their cars and started off, and the other man followed the professor.
The sergeant called the squad and arranged for them to head out to the area the bodies had been found separately, while the team in the minivan discreetly followed the second man.
Once they figured out which part of the park the pair was going to, Sergeant Green signaled to the guys who were standing by and melted into the brush. He hoped this would work, since he didn’t know what he was hiding from, but he was pretty sure the professor would come straight to where he was, and he was right.
The other man looked a little glassy-eyed and confused. He was swaying to music that nobody else could hear, and when the will-o-the-wisp rose out of the foliage, the look of wonder on his face was total. It didn’t even go away when the thing flew towards him, or when Wade thrust out a butterfly net made of silver and steel threads and caught it. Her. Because somehow it was obviously a female, and she was mad.
Fortunately, he’d planned for there to be more than one, because four more rose out of the foliage and headed his way. These were somehow less finished-looking, and were a little smaller. Wade guessed that these were her young. The other guys netted them without a problem…well, except for Farrell, who did a faceplant after catching his…but managed to hold onto his net.
Taunk ended up being the one to catch the professor, who tried to rush the sergeant once he realized what happened, babbling about not hurting his “prize specimen”.
Later, in the interrogation room, the professor broke down into tears, crying about not being able to bring more treats to his “insects” and not being able to show off his discovery. He told the story of first seeing the insect as she was attacking a jogger (whose body we found later based on his description) and when she noticed him, she bit him, too. Only she apparently decided he was more useful alive than dead…or maybe no more eggs were ready, since that was apparently what she needed people for. To feed her young.
So he started to bring people to her, so he could watch her lay her eggs. He would have them drive out to the park, then he’d drive their cars back and leave them, taking a ride-share back to his car. Their wallets went into the sewers.
Dr. Willoughby never recovered.