“He strangled them.”
“All of them?”
“All of them. Thirteen people strangled to death, and not one of them fought back.”
I fixed O’Malley with a hard eye. He didn’t back down.
“I’m telling you, I saw the tape.”
“And I’m telling you bullshit. Ain’t no way a guy gets on a bus, chokes the life out of everyone on said bus, and no one says, ‘Boo!’”
O’Malley shrugged his thin shoulders. “Well, Frank, I guess it’s a good thing the chief called you in.”
I watched him walk away. Chomped on my soggy toothpick some more, wishing it was a cigarette. The toothpick didn’t turn into a cigarette, and I didn’t see the waving flag saying this was all a joke on Frank Sandusky. Well, crap. I guess the rumors were true after all.
I was getting close to my pension. Another three weeks, then I could get the hell out of Cobalt City, move somewhere warm, somewhere with fewer freaks. But freak jobs were my department here. And this baker’s dozen of death meant that I was on the clock.
I picked up the file O’Malley had left for me. He had written “Basilisk” on a blue sticky note on the front. I scanned the squad room and saw his head just the other side of the water cooler. “O’Malley! Why Basilisk?”
“Jesus, you lazy son of a bitch! Read the report!” Mick bastard didn’t even bother coming out from behind his hidey hole. Good thing, or I would have winged an apple his direction.
With a sigh, I flipped open the file and started reading.
At around ten in the morning, the killer boarded a number 3 bus for Downtown somewhere in the vicinity of The Hollows. He sat up front. A few people got on and off for a few stops, then something triggered him. The file didn’t say what. Said there was “a marked change of attitude.” Great. That was helpful. Then he stood up, said something to the driver, then calmly strangled him to death. All eyes were on him. No one moved.
Then he went through the bus, strangling each of the twelve passengers. Again. No one moved. They sat there and let him do it. When the last victim croaked, the killer walked to the front of the bus, opened the door, and stepped out into the street and was gone. Metro was working on getting traffic and security video from the street to see where he went.
The sicko called the murders into the station himself. Said he was sorry, but that the Basilisk took him over, that he had to do it. Said he tried to be peaceful, but the anger boiled over, and he couldn’t be held responsible.
Brass wanted to kick this thing out of the department, maybe to the feds, maybe to someone in the cape and cowl community. This wasn’t some guy with a knife or gun. This was a guy with something else.
Somehow the file made it to my desk. A last chance to prove the merits of my position on the force, maybe? Some officer somewhere in the chain who wanted this handled inside, by the police, the way things used to be done.
I felt the corner of my lips twitch nervously. Did I think I had what it took to bring this guy in? You’re goddamned right I did. Did it scare me? Yeah, maybe a little. But I’d be damned if I punted this one and live the rest of my life knowing I phoned it in at the end of my career.
“Ok, Basilisk, you sick twist. You’ve done and made me interested.”
It was almost disappointing when we found him so quick. He had used his bus pass when he boarded the bus. Cobalt Transit had his name to me twenty minutes after I asked. Martin Millinos, two arrests for aggravated assault, both dropped. Current address was at the edge of The Hollows, three blocks from where he boarded. He worked at Stardust Communication doing something technical involving micro-chips. Etching or engraving or something.
We had the son of a bitch nailed. If felt too easy.
I rounded up a few squad cars, told them to be prepared to shoot to kill if he so much as looked at them funny. The younger blue looked at me like I was a crazy old uncle telling tales of the boogey-men. The older officers who had been there when the whole Jeremy Red mess went down would correct that attitude on the car ride over. Moral of the story, you listen to Frank, you come home alive.
We made the grab after work. He had to change in a clean-room, and we could isolate him then. Keeping him away from more innocents was key. Had to control the situation. I had four officers, guns at the ready, stationed near the door he would come in through. I waited with four more officers, also armed. I carried a little something special – a scrambler that had saved my life once or twice. If he tried using any mojo or powers on us, all I had to do was push a button. The resulting psychic waves would drop everyone in the room, but it would drop him as well.
Martin Millinos didn’t look like much when he stepped into the clean room. 5’ 8”, bushy eyebrows over dark eyes, maybe decently strong, but no weight-lifter. He smiled when he saw us.
“Afternoon, officers. Did you want to talk to me?”
“We’re here for Basilisk,” one of the blues said. I hadn’t given them leave to address the suspect. I should have expressly told them to keep their mouths shut. But now it was out there.
“We’re here to talk to you about Basilisk,” I clarified.
His smile faltered a bit.
Got you, you son of a bitch, I thought.
He sighed, raised his hands as he lowered his head. “What did he do?”
“He killed a bus driver and a dozen innocent passengers this morning,” I said.
“Not innocent,” he said. He looked up and the timidity in his eyes was gone. Instead, his eyes were full of hate. “Mr. Carlotti beat his wife nightly. I could hear them in the apartment above mine. Ask her. Her husband is no innocent. Sammy, the teenager? He peddles drugs on the doorstep. I’ve called the police about it three times. They send a car around, he goes into hiding for a day, then he’s right back out there. Mrs. Taylor has been having affairs with at least three other men that I know about.”
“None of them deserved to die.”
“Maybe not,” he growled deep in the back of his throat. “But none of them were truly innocent, either. So they were meat for the Basilisk.”
“Shoot him,” I ordered.
No one shot. No one moved.
Calmly, Basilisk raised his thick hands to the throat of the closest officer. Without a trace of emotion, his sinews tightened, and he choked off the airflow. He didn’t fight it. None of us fought it.
I’d been with the force a long time. Made a lot of enemies over the years. I have seen hate burn in someone’s eyes before, but not like this. NEVER like this. This was distilled, refined, purified. This was the high-octane Everclear of hatred. It was both captivating and terrifying all at once. I was locked in his gaze, and I slowly came to realize that I couldn’t move. Like a bird caught in a cobra’s stare, I was dead.
“What are you?”
“I’m the Basilisk,” he said. The first officer dropped and he moved on to the next. “I am the ugliness that kills ugliness.”
I blinked back tears, fighting to push the button on the scrambler in my pocket. I couldn’t even twitch. He moved one to another to another, saving me for last. I held his gaze and waited for the inevitable touch of his thick hands around my throat.