Chapter 1: Prologue
“Another?” Jones called out, as he ducked down under the yellow crime scene tape that was already in place, to make his way over to where David was already kneeling next to the medical examiner.
“Looks like it,” Gold replied for him. “There are ligature marks on the wrists and ankles, which suggest that the victim was bound with cable ties. The same wounds have been inflicted here, here and here…” Gold lifted the simple white sheet covering the body, to indicate the deep cuts that had been made in the torso. They were in almost identical spots to the last two victims Jones had examined. “They seem to suggest that the victim was once again tortured, before she was killed. And of course,” he paused to pick up the young woman’s left hand, which was missing her ring finger. “The same trophy was taken.”
Jones sighed as he dropped down next to the two men, and lifted the sheet that had been placed over the victim to conceal her identity from the flock of reporters who had already descended on the scene. The rumors of a possible American serial killer had them out in droves, eager for the next instalment of the saga to sell to the terrified public.
“Have you checked inside of her mouth yet?” he asked, as he dropped the sheet back down. The young woman looked to be in her early twenties, and had probably been very pretty, before her face was slashed multiple times, to the point of disfigurement. Another signature of what Jones was hoping wouldn’t turn into a hunt for the country’s biggest serial killer.
“We were waiting for you, Agent Jones,” Gold admitted, as he peeled back a corner of the white sheet to gently pry open the victim’s mouth. Sure enough, inside sat a balled up piece of paper that Jones knew would have been stuffed inside post-mortem. He watched as Gold gently wiggled it free with a pair of tweezers, before covering the victim once more, and holding out the slightly soggy paper to the two FBI agents that were gathered around him.
David took it from him with a huff of his own, as he flattened it out to read what had been written on it.
Jones didn’t need to look.
He already knew what that note would say.
They’d found exactly the same one on their last two victims, written in exactly the same handwriting, using exactly the same pen, on exactly the same type of paper.
“Look what you made me do,” David read stoically, as Gold held out an evidence bag for him to slip the page inside of.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Thanks for your wonderful response to the prologue.
“So, I am appealing for anyone with any information to come forward, no matter how insignificant you may feel it to be. Thank you.”
Emma shut off the television as the press conference came to an end, and began to pace once more in front of the fire roaring away in her lounge.
“We have to call that number,” she stated.
“Oh no we don’t,” Regina objected. “This could ruin you Emma. I thought you wanted to be known as one of the best in the industry, not someone a serial killer decided to go on a murder spree for?”
“Innocent people are dying,” she protested, whirling on her lawyer. “I can’t just sit here and do nothing.”
“You can and you will if you want to keep your career,” Regina threatened. “I have to go. Some of us have work to do tomorrow. But if you know what’s good for you, you’ll burn that package just like you did the last two.” She stormed from the room before Emma had a chance to object, leaving the younger woman alone with her own thoughts.
Logically, she knew that Regina was right. By coming forward with what she knew, if the authorities leaked the information to the media, her career would be ruined. She’d always be known as the girl who caused a spree of brutal killings in America.
But her conscience wouldn’t allow her to sit on what she knew any longer.
So with Regina gone, Emma reached for her phone and quickly tapped in the number that had been scrolling across the bottom of the screen, as the FBI gave their press conference.
“Hello, FBI tip line,” answered an overly-cheery voice, considering the nature of the calls she fielded. “How may I direct your call today?”
“I um… I need to speak with the lead on the potential serial killer case, please?”
“I’m afraid all of our agents are busy right now,” the overly-cheery voice replied. “But if you leave the information you have with me, it will be assessed by the relevant people, who will be back in touch with you when they have determined its validity.”
Emma didn’t like the idea of passing her information on to a middle-man. The information she held was sensitive, and she knew that the more people who knew her name in relation to it, the greater chance it had of leaking.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” she told the call handler. “Can you please just instruct someone to call me back?”
“I’m afraid we can’t do that without more information.” The overly-cheery voice hardened slightly at Emma’s refusal to cooperate, and she sighed as she brought a hand up to massage the headache that was beginning to form.
“I’m sure you already have this number,” she replied instead. “So instruct your lead investigator to call me back. I assume he or she will want to talk to the only other person who knows that this killer has been cutting the ring fingers off their victims.” Emma didn’t bother to wait for a reply. She wasn’t in the mood for more bullshit. Instead, she simply ended the call and tossed her phone down onto her sofa, before making her way over to the small liquor cabinet in the corner of the room, to find the whiskey hidden inside.
Ever since the first package had arrived, she’d been using it to try and drown out the mental images of the pictures she’d been forced to look at. Thankfully, the shrill ringing of her cellphone stopped her before she could down the glass she’d poured for herself. Emma had to admit, she was worried that she was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic with the amount of liquor she had consumed since the parcels had started arriving. But it was the only thing that seemed to help her sleep these days.
“Yes?” she asked, answering it without bothering to check the caller ID.
“This is Special Agent Jones with the FBI. I was asked to call you about some information you had.”
Emma sat down with a heavy sigh as she contemplated how to word what she knew. She didn’t want to sound like a crazy person, but she also didn’t want to just blurt it all out. She knew there was no chance of being believed in either of those situations. And her years of binge-watching crime dramas were yelling at her not to make herself a suspect in this huge mess.
“Is um… is there any way we could do this in person?” she asked eventually. “I think it might be easier to show you what I have.”
“You could come down to the Wilshire Federal Building, and we could speak here,” he suggested.
“I can’t do that,” she replied quickly. The moment the media caught wind of her at the FBI field office, she’d be in the center of a shit show. And that would definitely spell out the end of her career. “Can you come to me?”
“I’d need some kind of assurance that I was not walking into a trap, and that this is not an elaborate prank,” he sighed heavily. Emma knew she was being difficult. She just hoped that he would realize why when they eventually met.
“He blames me,” she whispered into the handset. “He says he’s doing it all to protect me. But he ends all of his letters the same way.” The tears she had been fighting to hold back spilled over as she reached for the package that she hadn’t yet opened.
She hated the thought of innocent people losing their lives because of her.
“What do they say?” Agent Jones interjected softly.
It took Emma a few moments to steady her breathing enough to be able to croak out the words.
“Look what you made me do.”
The gasping sob that followed was all the confirmation Agent Jones needed that he wasn’t being played. “Text me your address. I’m leaving the office now.”
“Thank you,” she sobbed. “Thank you for believing me.” She hung up the phone before she could say anything else, and with trembling hands tapped out her address to send to the number he had called from.
Emma paced in front of her door as she waited for his arrival, using the nervous energy to keep her away from the call of oblivion offered to her by the whiskey. Thankfully, the buzz from her front gate sounded before she could reach for the bottle.
“Yes?” she asked, her voice shaking slightly from the fear and exhaustion caused by the events of the last few weeks.
“It’s Special Agent Jones, with the FBI.”
Emma took a few deep breaths in before she buzzed him through, and then continued her pacing until he rang her doorbell.
She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but when she pulled open the door, the man she saw standing on the other side was not it. Instead of a gruff, middle-aged man, she was face-to-face with what was possibly the most beautiful man she’d ever seen in her entire life.
“Emma Swan?” he asked, his brow crinkling in confusion.
“H… How… how did you know my name?” she gasped, as the fear and worry flooding her veins made her tighten her grip on the door.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments on this story. I'm blown away by the response it has received.
I should point out that I was perhaps a little unclear in the prologue. David is Killian's partner. Gold is the medical examiner. I hope that helps.
Killian seemed to sense the rapidly building panic within Emma, as he quickly raised his hands in submission and explained, “My niece is a big fan of yours. She has your posters on her bedroom walls.”
“Oh, um… thanks,” she told him, as she stepped back to pull the door open wider in invitation. “Come in. I’m sorry. I guess this whole thing has just made me a little jumpy.”
“That’s completely understandable.” Killian took a good look around at the obvious luxury the rather nervous looking Emma Swan lived in. He knew it wasn’t exactly her fault, but in that moment, he couldn’t help but feel a little resentment towards her for it. Emma Swan had probably never worked a full-time job in her life. And yet there she was, living in a house that was far too big for just her, without the worry of how she was going to pay her bills for the rest of the month.
He, on the other hand, had worked hard to get to the position he held with the FBI. He usually put in more hours in the average week than he imagined Emma Swan ever had before, during her busiest working times. And while he was finally in a somewhat comfortable position in life, he’d had to watch as his big brother struggled daily in his own. Liam was a single father, attempting to balance the raising of his daughter with the need to hold down a steady job that would keep them both fed and housed.
“So, what is it that you wanted to show me?” he asked, attempting to shake off the negativity he could feel building within him.
“This.” Emma nodded her head to the package that was sat on her sofa, and Agent Jones quirked a brow in her direction. “I couldn’t bring myself to open it,” she explained.
“So how do you know it’s relevant to the case?”
“It’s the same. Everything’s the same.”
Agent Jones reached into a pocket of his black woolen jacket to pull out a pair of latex gloves, that he quickly slipped on, before he picked up the innocent looking box from the sofa. As he turned it over in his hands, the first thing that caught his attention was the familiar, elegant handwriting that had addressed the package to, My Darling, Emma Swan.
“There’s no address,” he noted, as he continued to examine every inch of the box. “Were the others the same?”
“Um… I can’t remember,” she replied honestly. “I still have them, though.”
“I’d like to see them, please?” Emma nodded her agreement and quickly scampered from the room, as Killian pulled out a pocket knife, sliced easily through the tape on the package, and opened it up.
On top was a letter written in the same handwriting as the notes they had found stuffed inside each victim’s mouth. While the letter was written on bigger stationary, Killian would be willing to bet his car on the fact that the lab would confirm it to be the same type of paper, and the same brand of ink, as those they had taken from inside their victim’s mouths.
My Darling Emma,
I saw you again yesterday.
You still look so sad.
I wish you would smile for me again. You look beautiful when you smile. I miss that.
I hope that my gifts are helping to achieve this. I have another one for you today. I tracked down that stuck-up little bitch who thought she was better than you. She won’t be rambling on to all of her idiotic followers any more.
Now she’s as ugly on the outside, as she is on the inside.
I hope you like my gift.
Why don’t they make you smile, Emma?
I do it all for you. All to make you happy again. I just want to make you happy. Is that really such a bad thing? Why don’t you ever let me know that you’re receiving these? Why won’t you smile for me? Is that really too much to ask for?
I just want to make the woman I love happy again.
Look what you made me do!
“Wow,” he mumbled to himself, as he read the note over again, and then once more. Whoever was behind the attacks was clearly unstable. Their letter had gone from showing their obsessive love for Emma, to blaming her for the crimes they had committed.
“Here,” Emma interrupted, setting two identical packages down next to him on the sofa, before she turned away from them to pace in front of her fire. “My lawyer said I should burn them. But… I couldn’t bring myself to do that.”
“Your lawyer needs to be disbarred,” Agent Jones mumbled, as he pushed the letter aside to pull out the large envelope underneath it. “Oh God.”
The pictures in his hands were perhaps more disturbing than the actual crime scene had been. They flicked from showing a clearly terrified young woman, bound to a steel chair; to showing her horror and pain as the killer inflicted his torture upon her; all the way through to the actual act of strangulation itself, and then, the mutilation to her body that had taken place post-mortem.
Killian was starting to feel less resentful and more sorry for the woman who was clearly suffering in front of him. He’d seen some crazy shit over the years, and some of that still haunted his dreams. But Emma Swan didn’t have the years of training, or the experience behind her that he did, to help her deal with what was currently happening.
He had no idea how she hadn’t yet buckled under the pressure of it all.
In that moment, Killian saw her more as a scared young woman, than he did as an international pop star who didn’t deserve all of the wealth and luxury life had blessed her with.
“What’s this?” he asked, as he fished through the boxes of chocolates, rose petals, and the soft, stuffed bear that had also been placed into the package, to pull out what appeared to be a jewelry box.
Emma turned back to see what he was holding before she turned away again quickly. He didn’t wait for her to answer. Instead, he flicked the catch on the lid, and carefully peeled back the white satin fabric that was inside.
“Jesus Christ,” he blurted out, the moment his eyes landed on the severed finger underneath it all. He slammed the lid down quickly, before placing it, and everything else, back into the cardboard box it had been sent in. “Did the rest of these packages contain the same items?” he asked, his voice hardening as he turned his full attention up to the young woman pacing before him.
“Yes,” she whispered, reaching for the warm glass of whiskey that was still stood on top of her liquor cabinet.
“And you didn’t think to call the police?”
“I was going to, but Regina said that it was just an elaborate prank, and that I didn’t need to get tangled up in that kind of mess for someone with a sick sense of humor. It wasn’t until I saw the news tonight that I realized what was happening.” Her voice trailed off as she realized just how stupid she had been.
“Someone sent you a severed finger and you thought it was a prank?” he asked, his voice ringing with disbelief. “You do know that I could charge you right now for withholding evidence, right? Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t?”
“Because I was scared,” she admitted softly. “I wanted to believe it was prank, because if it’s not, then some whack-job really is out there, murdering people because he thinks it will make me happy. And they have my address! When does he stop killing other people and start killing me?”
Killian swallowed hard as she turned large, watery eyes his way that screamed of her helplessness and fear. “You should have come forward sooner,” he told her forcefully. “We can protect you.”
Emma laughed a little bitterly as she drained what was left in her glass, and moved to pour herself another. “Yeah, I doubt that,” she mumbled. “If this homicidal maniac doesn’t kill me first, I might drink myself to death just to get those fucking images out of my mind.”
Killian took the three steps forward he needed to put himself in reach of the young woman, and pulled the crystal glass from her hand, tipping the contents of it into the nearest potted plant. “We can protect you,” he stated again firmly. “You made a mistake by not coming forward sooner, but now that you have, we can protect you, Miss Swan.”
He wasn’t entirely sure what happened next.
One minute he was looking at Emma Swan as tears ran down her face, smudging her perfect makeup, while her shoulders shook with her fear. The next, he had an armful of the popstar as she cried into his chest.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
When Killian finally managed to calm Emma down, he gently eased her onto the sofa before telling her, “I’m gonna go and grab you a glass of water. I need to call this in too, okay?”
“No, you can’t,” she begged, her hand shooting out to latch onto his arm once more.
“I have to. It’s procedure,” he explained softly. “This is evidence in three separate homicides, which now proves our theory that they’re linked. I have to follow procedure here, Miss Swan. If I don’t, then when we catch this creepy bastard, he could walk free because of it. Is that something you could live with?”
Emma’s lip trembled softly with a fresh wave of tears. “It’ll ruin my career,” she whispered.
Killian gently pried her hand off his arm to crouch down in front of her. “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re getting no choice in this matter,” he told her firmly. “Three people have died, Miss Swan. I’m sorry that their loss of life might ruin yours, but at least you still have one. They weren’t quite as lucky. Now, I’m gonna go and fetch you a glass of water and call this in, do you understand me?”
“You think I don’t know that?” she shot back. “You think their deaths aren’t constantly on my mind? That I don’t wake up every morning and hate myself for being the reason that they’re dead? Do you honestly think I’ll ever get those fucking images out of my head? I know this is my fault. He makes that pretty fucking obvious with every letter and goddamned finger he sends me. And I know I’ve probably made things worse by trying to convince myself that it was all some kind of sick joke. But I’m just doing my best to protect my career. Because right now, it’s the only thing that’s stopping me from ending my own life.”
Killian’s ire calmed a little at the haunted look in Emma’s eyes. He could see the way her fingers twitched, as her eyes darted over to the liquor cabinet in the corner of the room, before settling back on his face. And he hated himself a little for what he’d said. He didn’t know much about Emma Swan, beyond her choice of career. He would wager that Ellie knew more about her than he did. But in that moment, she looked so much like a lost little girl.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” he offered. “This case is just getting under my skin and I shouldn’t have taken that out on you. Or implied that you didn’t care. But I have to call this in. I’ll make sure the department is as discreet as they can be, though. I promised we’d keep you safe. That means concealing your identity too. Okay?”
Emma finally nodded her agreement and Killian offered her arm a gentle squeeze before he stood once more. “Which direction is your kitchen?” he asked. He wouldn’t be surprised if the damned house was like a TARDIS – bigger on the inside than it looked from outside.
“Through there,” she replied tonelessly, as she nodded her head over her shoulder.
Killian smiled softly down at her to show that he’d heard what she’d said, before he set off to find the room. As he did, he pulled out his phone to call in what had happened. It took him as long as the call he’d placed to locate Emma Swan’s kitchen. He passed what appeared to be a music room; along with a bathroom; and another lounge, before he finally stepped into the marble and cherry wood of her kitchen.
“Jesus, how many rooms does one girl need?” he mumbled to himself, before he started pulling open cabinets in his hunt for a glass. He had to admit, she kept the place pretty clean and orderly. Although, he was willing to bet that was more likely a result of her cleaner, or her mother’s actions, rather than her own. Emma Swan didn’t look like the kind of girl who would enjoy getting down on her hands and knees to scrub the floor.
He finally found the crystal glasses that matched the tumbler he’d taken from her earlier that evening, on the other side of the kitchen. The fridge was easy enough to locate, and there were small bottles of water inside of it that he assumed she would prefer over tap water. Emma Swan didn’t look like a tap water kinda girl either. Killian tucked two of them into the crook of his arm, before he made his way out of the room and back through the maze of corridors to find the lounge once more.
Emma was no longer sat on the sofa when he finally made it back. She’d returned to pacing in front of the fire once more, with another glass of amber liquid in her hand.
“Hey,” he declared firmly.
She jumped a little at the sound of his voice, but continued her pacing. Killian sighed as he sat the bottles and glass onto the small coffee table, before he approached her again. “This,” he explained, pulling the glass out of her hand, “doesn’t help.”
“You’re wrong,” she shot back, reaching for the drink he’d taken from her. But before she could touch it, Killian upturned it into the same potted plant as had the last time. He sat the empty glass down on top of the cabinet, while she continued to glare daggers into the side of his head.
“You only think it does,” he countered. “Trust me, the bottom of the bottle isn’t as satisfying as you think it is. I know you’ve been through a lot recently, but this isn’t the answer.”
“And how would you know that?”
“I’ve been doing this job long enough,” was all he told her.
Emma didn’t have time to say anything else, as they were interrupted by a sharp buzz from her front gate, and she jumped a little at the sudden noise.
Killian found himself wondering if she’d been jumping every time someone rang that bell, since the first package had arrived. And like before, he found his anger calming a little at the thought of her being so scared in her own home.
“Wait here,” he told her, as his hand dropped down to cover the gun that was sat on his hip. He assumed that it was the crime scene team that had arrived, ready to collect the evidence. But given what he’d learned that evening, he was taking no chances.
Thankfully, Killian recognized the voice of his own people, and their van, when he saw it on Emma’s security monitor. He also identified the dark SUV following behind it as David’s, so he didn’t hesitate to buzz them through the gate, before making his way into the hall to wait for them by the front door.
“Wow, we are definitely in Hollywood now,” David whistled, as he made his way up the drive and over to the open door his partner was holding for him. “Whose place is this?”
“Do you remember that singer that Ellie loves?” Killian asked softly, casting a look over his shoulder to see if Emma had decided to follow him out. At David’s nod of agreement he added, “Her.”
“Shit! What the hell is she doing caught up in all of this?”
“The killer seems to be some kind of crazed super fan,” Killian whispered. “His letters go from declaring his love for her, to blaming her for making him kill the victims. And he’s targeting people that he believes have hurt her.”
“Shit,” David cursed again, as he slipped through the door. “Nice place, though.”
“Too fucking nice,” Killian snorted. He waited for the crime scene techs to get their stuff together before he guided everyone through the hall and into the lounge once more.
Emma was pacing in front of the fire again. But this time, she was sipping from a bottle of water, instead of a glass of whiskey.
“Miss Swan?” Killian called out softly, in an attempt not to spook her.
It didn’t work.
Emma almost covered herself in the water with the way she jumped.
“It’s okay,” he reassured her. “This is my partner, Special Agent David Nolan. And these are our crime scene techs. They’re gonna take a look at the packages you’ve received, okay?”
“Okay,” she whispered back, before downing the contents of her bottle in one long pull.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback on this story so far. I'm completely blown away by it all.
The crime scene techs left the house almost two hours after their arrival.
Killian had guided Emma through to the other lounge he’d seen earlier that evening, on his way to the kitchen, to allow their team to go through each of the boxes thoroughly. The techs had taken their time removing every item one-by-one to photograph from each possible angle, before forensically securing them for transportation back to the lab. One of the technicians had been tasked with taking some pictures of the general layout of the ground floor of the house, and in particular, the way in which mail made its way onto the property. Others spent their time dusting for prints at the front gate and around Emma’s doorway, in the vague hopes that something might come up when they run them through the system.
Their final task for the evening had been taking Emma’s own prints, to rule them out of whatever may have been found. Killian had been sure that it would be the breaking point for the young popstar, but he watched as Emma swallowed back her tears just long enough to give them what was needed, before she escaped to the sanctuary of one of the bathrooms in her home.
“Miss Swan,” he called out softly, as his knuckles rapped on the door she’d disappeared behind. “I know this is difficult for you, but my partner and I just need to go over a few more things before we can leave.”
He heard what sounded like someone blowing their nose, followed by the distinct flush of the toilet, before the lock on the door clicked open a few moments later. Emma’s eyes were ringed in red, betraying the tears that had fallen in private, but Killian decided not to mention them unless she chose to bring them up.
“Pardon me?” he asked, a little confused by that one word statement.
“My name. It’s Emma. You don’t have to keep calling me, ‘Miss Swan.’”
“Thank you, Emma. I’ll try and keep that in mind.” Killian smiled softly down at her before letting her lead the way back to the lounge. David was already there waiting for the two of them, and had parked himself in one of the chairs around the small table which stood in the corner of the room.
“I’m sorry about this, Miss Swan,” he offered, standing to gesture for her to take a seat in one of the free chairs. “We just need to be as thorough as we possibly can be. We don’t want to miss anything that could help us catch this guy before he hurts someone else.”
Emma nodded her understanding as she lowered her body to sit stiffly in one of the leather-padded seats. She pulled down on the sleeves on her sweater, almost as if the physical shield of the cotton would help keep her safe. She looked so young and innocent in that moment, that Killian’s heart broke a little for her.
“How old are you, Emma?” he asked, before he could think the question through. David cocked a brow in his direction, but Killian played it off as no big deal by pulling out his own pad and pen, ready to take some notes.
“Twenty-four,” she replied easily. She didn’t even look startled by the oddness of the question, although he assumed that was because she’d never been questioned by the authorities before.
Killian scribbled the number at the top of his page, circling it a few times for added effect, before he dived straight in with the questions he knew he should be asking. “Okay. I’ll need you to start at the beginning for me. Before the first package arrived, had you ever received any other parcels or letters written in a similar hand? Or anything professing the same kind of love for you?”
Emma snorted a laugh and for a brief moment, Killian was worried that she had cracked completely under the stress of recent events. “I get letters like that every day, Agent Jones. As for the handwriting… I don’t know. I don’t tend to spend my time analyzing it, I’m afraid.”
“Anything in particular that struck you as strange?” David pressed.
“Having men twice your age describe to you in a letter exactly how they wanna fuck you is everyone’s definition of strange. I stopped reading a lot of it a long time ago.”
“What happens to all of your fan mail?” Killian wondered. He knew that many celebrities kept the less crazy stuff they received, and he’d kind of assumed that Emma Swan would be the same. At least, he hoped that she was, given that Ellie had written to her favorite popstar a few times over the last couple of years. While she’d always gotten a letter and a signed picture back, Killian knew that his niece would be crushed if she thought her own letters simply ended up in the trash before ever reaching the hands of their intended recipient.
“It’s sorted by the security people that work here, before it comes to me. I only see the good stuff like the pictures kids draw for me, or the letters thanking me for helping them through difficult times.” Emma fidgeted a little more and Killian reached for the second bottle of water he’d brought through to the room with him, to give her something to keep her hands occupied with.
“Do you think your team would have kept the bad?” he asked gently.
“I honestly don’t know,” she sighed. “You can ask them. But I just…. I can’t help you there. I’m sorry.”
“No, no,” David assured her, “You’re already helping us.”
When Emma cocked a brow in disbelief, Killian jumped in to supply an explanation. “You’ve just told us that all of your mail is sorted before you get it. Which means whoever sent those boxes has been watching you long enough to know that. And they also know how to get around the issue too. So that’s something to start with.”
Emma shivered a little at the thought of some stranger knowing the inner workings of her home so well, but once again, Special Agent Jones seemed to know exactly where her thoughts had gone.
“David’s going to place a quick call back to our office,” he told her. He risked a glance over to his partner, who already had his phone out to bring up the number, before turning his full attention back to the scared, young woman sat opposite him. “We’re gonna ask for a protective detail to be put on your home. Hopefully that way, we’ll see whoever it is that’s watching the house.”
Emma nodded her understanding but she didn’t look overly reassured. As David excused himself to call in the request, Killian leaned over the small table to rest his hand comfortingly on her arm. “You’ll be safe here, Emma. We know that at the moment, this person doesn’t want to hurt you. It’s unlikely that they’ll try and get into the house anytime soon. Most of these kinds of perpetrators prefer to watch the object of their affection from a distance. They do these awful things to get your attention, because they’re too shy to confront you about how they feel. They get their kicks from voyeurism, because it seems like some kind of grand romantic gesture to them. The detail outside will be there to watch, but they will also be armed, just in case you need them. Okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed softly. “What um… what about when I need to leave the house? I have a tour starting in less than forty days. I can’t let those fans down.”
“I’m confident that by the time your tour starts, we’ll have this guy in custody and ready to face trial,” he promised. “You coming forward the way you have, has really helped us to connect some dots with this case.”
They sat in a slightly awkward silence for a moment longer, before David made his way back into the room to confirm that the security detail were already on their way, and would be in place by the time the two senior agents left that evening.
Unfortunately, there were still many more questions that needed to be answered before either David or Killian could even think of leaving the luxury home they had been called out to.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
“You just know your day’s gonna be shit when you start it in the morgue,” David sighed, as he slipped into the room to stand beside his partner. Killian was already staring down at the mutilated body on the gurney in front of them.
“All of my days start in the morgue, Special Agent Nolan,” Gold declared, as he made his way out of his office, and over to the table with a file in hand. “Very few of them turn out to be shit.”
“Point taken,” David conceded.
“This one, however, just might live up to your beliefs,” the medical examiner continued. “I am here to officially confirm to you both that you are indeed dealing with a serial murderer.”
“Of course we are.”
Killian had known it was coming. David had known it was coming. Hell, most of the department had known it was coming. But Gold making it official meant that things were about to become a lot tighter for their case. The Bureau hated to use the term serial offender. They hated the press terrifying the American population with the news that a serial killer was loose on the streets. And Killian knew that this meant his day would soon involve a trip to his supervisor’s office, to listen to the guy yell all of that at him for a few hours.
“As we noted at the scene, the M.O is the same for this victim as the previous two. She was tortured prior to her death. The aim seeming to be more disfigurement, than to cause extensive pain. She suffered the same pattern of wounds to the torso.” Gold paused in his explanation to note the cuts made, which were almost identically placed to their first two victims. “Her left ring finger was removed post-mortem, and the injuries to her face were also made after her death. The lab has already confirmed that the note placed into her mouth was written on the same paper, in the same hand, using the same ink as your previous victims. The cause of death is once more exsanguination due to a singular wound at the throat.”
Killian and David had been expecting that too. The large gash on her neck had been incredibly telling.
“I’ll need more time with the body to be certain, but my preliminary examinations suggest the wounds inflicted to the body were all made with the same instrument as your first two victims, and by the same hand. Which all leads me to conclude that you have three victims whose lives have been taken by the same individual.”
“Thanks, Gold. Any news yet on what weapon we’re looking for?” Jones asked hopefully, as the older man passed along the file containing his current findings.
“I’d guess a standard kitchen knife, but I can’t be sure, I’m afraid. The weapon was used to slash, not to stab. So we don’t have a clear impression of the blade.” Gold looked a little disappointed in himself for not having the answers the two agents needed, but they both knew it wasn’t his fault.
“No worries, Doc. You’re already given us more than enough to go on,” David assured him. “A couple more things before we go...”
Gold cut him off before David could get his remaining questions out. “No, I don’t have an ID yet, and no, there was no foreign DNA traces on the body. Enjoy the rest of your day, Agents”
“So, what are we thinking?” David asked, as he placed two mugs of coffee onto Killian’s desk, and kicked the office door closed behind himself.
His friend looked up from where he had been tapping away on his computer, and released a hefty sigh. “Obsessive fan seems to be the best bet,” Killian suggested, as he reached forward to grab his drink. “But I don’t know… something about this doesn’t sit right with me.”
“In what way?” David had been working with Killian since he had joined the Bureau, and throughout that time, he’d come to trust his partner. If Killian suspected that something was off, David would back him up as he followed through the investigation. “Do you think the Swan girl is responsible?”
“No. I don’t. She’s far too vulnerable and emotional for all of this to have been an act.” When David raised a brow in question, Killian added, “If she’s the one committing these murders, she’s one hell of an actor. And I’ll resign on the spot.”
“Okay. Then what are we thinking?”
“I don’t know…. yet. Have we heard back from the security team?” he asked instead.
“Yeah. That’s actually what I’m here for,” David chuckled, as he set the file that he’d brought through with him down in front of his friend. “They said that we can have access to everything that they haven’t been through yet. But they also warned that every day, they get bags of stuff to sort through, so there’s a lot of it.”
Killian nodded his head in understanding. He assumed that like most celebrities, Emma would get her fair share of fan mail. Thankfully, the FBI had far more staff to sort through it, and at a much faster rate, than she did.
“As we expected, they reported back that they pass along everything friendly to Miss. Swan, but everything deemed inappropriate is destroyed. They burn it, so there’s no traces of it left.”
“Of course they do,” Jones sighed. Nobody ever recycled the stuff they needed. “Well… send a team to go and pick it up as inconspicuously as they can, and let’s hope that maybe this guy decided to be nice before he went down the murder-for-love route.”
“What about the stuff Miss. Swan has kept?” David asked.
Killian paused what he was doing to think his partner’s question through. Emma had suggested that she kept a portion the pleasant fan mail that had been sent to her. And maybe, if they were lucky, their killer had sent her something sweet in the past that just might have some kind of identifying information on it.
“I’ll stop by later tomorrow morning and pick it up. She’ll probably appreciate a friendly face over complete strangers, given what she’s been through. I’m just waiting for Isaacs to chew me out over this shit first.”
David chuckled a little as he stood up to head back to his own desk. “I don’t envy you that, Mate.” He paused at the doorway, lingering for a moment before he finally asked, “Hey, Killian… do you find her attractive?”
“Find who attractive?” Killian asked, lifting his head to cock a brow up at his friend.
“The Swan girl. I mean, last time I checked, her age wasn’t a necessary requirement for this investigation. You could have Googled that.”
“What do you want me to say?” he defended, a little too fiercely. “She’s a pretty girl. I have eyes. Of course I find her attractive. Are you saying that you don’t?”
“I’m married,” David countered.
“Yeah. And you also have eyes. Being married doesn’t mean you automatically stop finding other people attractive.”
David conceded that point with a sharp bob of his head, before opening his mouth to ask something else. Unfortunately for him, their supervisor beat him to it with a yell of, “Jones. My office. Now!” from the other side of the bullpen.
“And there it is,” Killian sighed, as he gathered up everything that he had so far on the investigation.
“Good luck, Mate,” David said instead, as he moved aside to let Killian pass.
He was halfway around the room before a thought suddenly occurred to him, and he called out, “Hey, Dave? Find out who her lawyer is for me? I want him or her brought in for questioning.”
“You think the lawyer did it?” David asked.
“No. I just wanna know what law school in this country thinks that they should be teaching their students to advise their clients to destroy evidence in a criminal case.”
David nodded his agreement as he watched his friend knock once on the door to the office of their supervisor, before heading inside to present their case so far.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
“Well, you look like shit,” Ariel declared, as she swept into Emma’s home the next morning.
“You would too, if you were living my life right now,” Emma mumbled back, while she closed the door behind her assistant.
She’d been awake half the night - again. Every time she closed her eyes, the images of those bodies flashed behind them once more. It had taken her one-and-a-half bottles of her best whiskey, and three hours, before she’d finally fallen asleep. But as the alcohol had worn off, the dreams had started, and Emma had once again bolted awake as her nightmares returned.
“You need to shower before the team gets here,” Ariel instructed, while making herself comfortable on the sofa. “We have two interviews to record this morning, and a live performance to get through. Do you think you can manage that?”
“I’m perfectly capable of that, thank you.” Emma knew that everyone thought she was going through some kind of breakdown. She also knew that because of her age, they all seemed to think that they knew what was best for her. But Emma’s patience was at its limit, and she was in no mood to be treated like the stupid child everyone assumed her to be.
“We don’t have all day.”
She bit down on her tongue as she turned on her heels to head for the comfort of her shower. The last thing she wanted to do that day was promotional work. She wasn’t ready to deal with people after everything that had happened recently. But Emma also didn’t want to let her fans down. She knew that they were excited about the new single she was releasing at the start of the following week. And they were even more excited about the tour that would soon be following it. If she cancelled all of her promotional work this close to the opening date, they would begin to worry.
And that was not how Emma wanted to repay her fans for all of their support.
Before she could leave her lounge, there was a sharp buzz from her front gate that signalled someone else’s arrival at the house.
“I’ll get that,” Ariel declared, as she rose from her seat. “It’s probably just the stylists arriving a little early. Go and shower.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Emma mocked, as she rolled her eyes in her assistant’s direction, and headed for the privacy of her bathroom. As much as she wasn’t looking forward to spending the majority of her morning pretending that everything was normal, the idea of washing off last night’s dream was highly appealing to her.
When Emma eventually left her bathroom, she was dressed the way she always was, when she knew a team of stylists would be waiting for her. She’d left her hair damp, to hang in loose waves around her shoulders, and she’d pulled on a pair of nude panties, before wrapping a white fluffy robe around her body.
“Okay. I fucking showered,” she declared to Ariel, as she made her way through to the lounge. “Are you happy now?” But Emma stopped dead in her tracks when her eyes fell on the man sitting next to her assistant on the sofa. He was certainly not part of her glam squad.
“Um, Emma… there’s an FBI Agent here to see you,” Ariel explained, as she looked between the two of them curiously. Emma could already see the questions forming in the redhead’s mind.
“Special Agent Jones,” she greeted. “Has something happened?”
“Good morning, Emma. Do you think we could maybe speak in private?” he asked, as he rose to his feet.
Killian flicked a brief look over to where Ariel was still sat, before bringing his eyes back to the young woman he had come to see. Her assistant didn’t look too happy to be dismissed so easily, but she left anyway, closing the door to the lounge behind her as she went.
Killian gestured for Emma to take a seat on the couch he’d just risen from, and waited until she had carefully arranged herself, and the robe she was wearing, before he took his own. “I know this isn’t the best timing,” he began, as he picked a spot on the wall just over her left shoulder, and fixed his eyes on it.
Of course the pretty young popstar would be walking around her house in nothing but a short bathrobe when he arrived.
That was just his luck.
“But we’d like to see the fan mail that you’ve kept, if at all possible?”
“The good stuff?” Emma wondered. “Why?”
“There’s a small chance that our offender could have begun his obsession by sending you sweet messages, and then progressed into the more aggressive and unstable ones you’ve recently been receiving, when he felt he wasn’t getting enough of your attention. If that’s happened, then we can use those letter to build up a clearer image of the mentality of the person we’re looking for. We’re also hoping that in the past, this individual might have been a little more careless with their correspondence, and left some kind of clue as to their identity in their messages.”
“They’re um… they’re in my studio,” she explained, pointing to one of the doors behind her shoulder that Killian hadn’t been through, the last time he’d visited the house. “Do you want them now?”
“If I could.”
Emma watched as Agent Jones averted his eyes while she stood and tightened the belt on her robe, before he followed her down the hall to her studio.
“I um… I have some promotional work to do today,” she told him, feeling the need to explain why she was dressed the way she was. “I thought you were my team of stylists. There’s no point getting dressed for them when they’re just gonna undress you as soon as you get in the room.”
“I wouldn’t know that. I’m probably the least stylish person in the world,” he joked, hoping to keep the tone light.
Although he’d never say it, Killian could see the haunted look that still lingered behind Emma Swan’s eyes. Without makeup, the circles underneath them looked deeper and darker. And he had spotted the two empty bottles on top of the liquor cabinet in the lounge too.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she teased, as she turned back to look at him over her shoulder. “That black sweater’s doing a lot for you right now.”
Killian looked down at himself and frowned. The sweater he was wearing was nothing special. It probably cost less than anything Emma had ever owned in her entire lifetime. But it was easy to move in, and cheap to replace if he ended up putting holes in it. For that reason alone, he had an entire closet full of them for work.
As Emma pushed open a heavy looking wooden door, he snapped his mind away from fashion, and back to the job he was supposed to be doing. “Jesus fuck,” he muttered to himself, as he took in the soundproofed room he was now stood inside of. Killian would be willing to bet that the recording equipment alone cost more than everything he owned, including his beloved car. It didn’t seem fair to him that a twenty-four-year-old woman had managed to build such a top-of-the-range recording studio, in her multi-million-dollar mansion, while his brother was struggling to decide between paying his rent or buying food for his daughter that week.
“This is everything I’ve kept,” she told him, as she pointed to one large wall that had been covered in letters, drawings and pictures.
Killian was rather touched to see the amount that she had pinned to it, after his initial thoughts about her approach to fan mail. There were well over a thousand items on that wall, and it was going to take him a while to get them all down, and bagged for evidence.
“I’ll um… I’ll get these back, won’t I?” Emma asked nervously, as her eyes flew over the shrine she’d built to her fans.
“Yes, of course. As soon as the investigation is over, we’ll bring them back to you.”
“Good.” Emma nodded her head decisively, but said nothing else as she watched Agent Jones browse the top layer of letters and pictures. “I um, I should probably go and start getting ready. Will you be okay here?”
“Yeah. I’ll take good care of everything and get it all down as quickly as I can for you,” he promised.
“Thanks.” Emma left without another word, closing the door softly behind herself as she did.
Killian sighed as he brought a hand up to massage his temples. Fucking David had been teasing him all morning about his supposed crush on Emma Swan. Killian was a twenty-nine-year-old man, he was too old to have a crush on a pretty blonde popstar.
Especially one that was caught up in the middle of what could become one of the country’s worst serial killing sprees in modern history.
“Focus on the job, and not on the girl,” he told himself, as he reached into his pocket for the stash of evidence bags he always carried, and another set of latex gloves.
“Special Agent Jones?”
Killian turned at the sound of his title to find Emma lingering in the doorway to the studio. She had changed out of the small bathrobe she’d been wearing before, and was now dressed in a bright orange skirt that fell to the middle of her thighs; and a white t-shirt with thin, black, horizontal stripes, embellished with two birds made from gold sequins. A black blazer and a pair of black studded pumps completed her look, along with the trademark bold red lipstick she was never seen without. The outfit was every inch business casual, and yet still managed to reflect the young and bubbly personality that he’d seen shining through in all of Ellie’s posters of the popstar.
“Yes, sorry?” he asked, pulling his eyes away from the long expanse of her bare legs.
“I just wanted to let you know that I was headed out now. Do you know how much longer you’ll be?”
“I can come back when you’re not busy,” he offered. Killian knew that he would be uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger in his home, while he wasn’t present. And he didn’t want to be the cause of any more distress for Emma, given what she had already been through.
“It’s okay. You can finish here. I mean, it’s not like you’re planning to go through my underwear drawer and sell my panties on eBay, or anything.” She forced a laugh but he could tell from the sound of it that something wasn’t quite right with the joke she had made.
“Has someone actually done that to you before?”
Emma flicked her glance down to the shiny points of her shoes, before bringing her eyes back up to meet his gaze once more. “Yeah. I was on tour in Brazil at the time. Some guy broke into my hotel room and stole all of my dirty laundry. My underwear turned up on eBay a few days later.”
Killian’s stomach twisted a little at her confession. The more he learned about Emma Swan, the more she surprised him. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how violated she must have felt after such an incident.
“Did you report it to the police?” he pushed.
“Yeah. They found the guy responsible. I have a restraining order against him that’s still in effect.”
Killian nodded his understanding but pulled out a small notepad nonetheless. “Do you mind if I take his name?”
“Do you think he’s behind all of this?” Emma wondered.
“Honestly, probably not,” he admitted. “But I’d rather explore every avenue we have and rule the obvious out, than leave something uninvestigated that comes back to bite us in the ass.”
Emma nodded her head in agreement as she said, “That makes sense. My um, my lawyer is coming over to lock up when you’re finished, and can give you the name then?”
“That’s perfect. I actually need to speak with him when he’s available.”
“She,” Emma chuckled. “Regina Mills. My lawyer’s a she.”
Emma stood in silence for a moment and Killian followed suit, just watching as her eyes darted around the room, seeing nothing and everything all at once. He suspected that there was something more she wanted to say, but before she could voice her opinion, someone called her name from another room in the house.
“I should go,” she told him unnecessarily. “Thanks for coming to do this, Agent Jones.”
“I promise I’ll make sure everything is returned in the condition that it left this room in.”
Killian wasn’t a handwriting expert, but from what he’d seen so far, none of the fan mail on Emma’s wall matched the writing on the packages she had been sent. But the content of some of the letters he had seen so far had his mind forming a different image of Emma Swan, than the one he’d first built when he’d pulled up to her home. Some messages spoke of encounters from previous years, or even personal correspondence the star had exchanged with people who had reached out to her. From everything he’d seen that morning, Killian was starting to realize that Emma’s fan base meant a lot to her, and not just because of the money they made her.
Emma lingered for a moment longer before she turned gracefully on her heels and left the room. Killian waited until he could no longer hear the click of her shoes on the wooden flooring, before he returned to carefully removing each piece of paper from the wall, and depositing them into secure evidence bags.
Emma knew that she shouldn’t, but as everyone in the living room began clearing out of the space, she turned to her liquor cabinet and poured herself a small glass of vodka. The burn of the alcohol was sharp and harsh, exactly what she needed to get her mind away from the images it liked to keep at the very front of her focus, and on the day she had ahead of her.
Their first stop was at the Good Morning America studios, where she would be giving a live interview to promote her new single, the up-coming album it was taken from, and the tour she had planned.
It wasn’t the first live televised interview she had given, and Emma knew that it wouldn’t be her last. But she couldn’t stop the fear from creeping in as she climbed into the back of her car for the drive to the studio. The media hadn’t yet made the connection between the murder spree currently taking place in the country, and herself. But she wasn’t naïve enough to believe they never would.
She also wouldn’t put it past them to spring it on her in a live televised interview either.
“Are we gonna talk about it?” Ariel asked suddenly, startling Emma out of her thoughts and back to the present.
“Talk about what?” she asked.
“The FBI agent in your home. What the hell was all of that about? Is there something going on that I need to be aware of?” she demanded.
Emma knew that the right thing to do would be to confess to Ariel everything that had happened in the last few weeks. When the connection was eventually made, she knew that her assistant would be in the best position to deal with the fallout. And if she was caught off guard, that wouldn’t help Emma’s situation.
But she couldn’t bring herself to admit that she was the one responsible for the deaths of the people currently being attributed to a serial killer. Saying it out loud again would make it more real, and she wasn’t ready to deal with everything that came from that confession.
Emma was barely holding herself together as it was.
So instead she told Ariel, “It’s nothing important. And nothing I can speak of, I’m afraid. I’ll let you know if that changes, though.”
Ariel didn’t look convinced, but she had been working with Emma long enough to know not to push the issue. “You’d tell me if you were in trouble, right?” she asked instead.
“Of course I would. I’m not about to be arrested anytime soon,” Emma assured the redhead. “So you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
“I wouldn’t be so certain of that,” Ariel mumbled quietly, but she quickly changed the subject to the list of pre-approved questions that had been negotiated with the studio already. That way, Emma would have the perfect answers to them fresh in her mind, when she sat down in front of the cameras.
Emma's look here is based on Jen's look for the December 2012 Lucky Magazine shoot
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
Of course the show was reporting on the murders when Emma arrived on set, ready for her own segment. It was all the media seemed to be talking about these days, so she really should have expected it. But that didn’t stop the nerves from kicking in as she listened to the anchors explain what little they knew to the public, and the advice that had been issued from the FBI to anyone with information.
Thankfully, over the years since she’d signed with Sony Music, Emma had gotten better at putting on a brave face. So when she was called on to the set, ready for her interview, she walked on confidently, with a smile and wave for the audience and cameras.
“It’s lovely to see you again,” Jennie greeted, as she leaned in to press a kiss to Emma’s cheek, before inviting her to take a seat. “How are you?”
Inside, Emma’s mind was screaming, I’m scared and alone and I don’t know how to cope. But instead, what she said was, “I’m good, thanks. It’s a beautiful day in Los Angeles, and I know there are some fans outside waiting to say hi when I’m done here. So it’s all good. How are you?”
She tried her best to listen to whatever it was Jennie was saying, but Emma’s mind was reeling once more. Agent Jones had suggested that whoever was behind the attacks could have once been a loyal fan of hers. He could be in the small crowd of people outside waiting to speak with her, and she would never know it. How was she ever expected to interact with her fans normally again, knowing that one of them was a serial killer?
She reached for the glass of water that had been set on the small table for her, in an attempt to cover her nerves, and shake off those unwelcome and intrusive thoughts.
“So, tell us about the album,” Jennie encouraged.
At least this was something Emma was good at. She liked talking about her music. She just wished interviewers would focus on that more than on other aspects of her life. “It’s um, it’s a little different to what I’ve done in the past,” she admitted. “It feels more mature than my last album, and I’m really proud of how it’s turned out. For me, it’s a musical representation of the changes I’ve been through since recording Wake Up Call.”
“And you have the title track from the album releasing this Friday, with most experts predicting it will chart in the top three. How does that kind of support feel?”
“It never really stops feeling surreal,” she chuckled. “I hate to admit this, but I’m the kind of music listener who only buys what interests me. So I purchase lots of singles and very few albums from my favorite acts. I hardly ever pre-order anything. Knowing that I have fans who believe so much in me that they’re willing to place pre-orders before they’ve even heard the music, is just astounding. I feel really lucky to have so many wonderful people in my corner.”
“That truly does sound overwhelming,” Jennie chimed in, although Emma assumed that the woman had no idea how astounding and humbling that kind of support could be. “Are you doing anything over the weekend to celebrate, assuming that the track does chart well?”
Emma laughed a little awkwardly. In the past, her team had insisted on throwing parties for her to celebrate landing the Billboard top spot. But this time around, nobody had suggested any kind of celebration, and Emma wasn’t in the mood to create her own. “No, not this time,” she replied diplomatically. “We’re preparing for a world tour, so most of our efforts have been focused on making that as fantastic as it possibly can be.”
“Of course. You’re beginning that in May, right? Tell us a little more about what we can expect to see.”
These were the types of questions Emma much preferred to answer. While she had a whole team of people who were busy planning the tour to perfection, she had been involved in every single stage of that process, and she knew it well. Performing on stage, while terrifying, was also electrifying. It was her favorite part of her job, unlike the countless repetitive interviews she was expected to give.
“Yes, our first date is the eighth of May, in Glendale. From there we have fifty-eight dates spanning North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, ending in November in New Zealand. A lot of work has gone into the shows, so we really hope the fans enjoy them as much as we’ve enjoyed preparing for them.”
“Doing that many shows, does it ever get boring or lonely?” Jennie pressed.
Emma chewed on her bottom lip for a moment as she thought through her answer, before she gave it. “It never gets boring. Even though the set list is the same for each show, every one is different. The fans all give each stadium a different feel and atmosphere to perform in. That’s what I love most about the tours. You never really know what’s gonna happen until you’re up on that stage. Of course, there are always moments where you feel lonely. I think that applies to every human being, regardless of what they’re doing in life. But I’m blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful team of people who help keep me from feeling too homesick. And I enjoy travelling, so that’s an added bonus to the tours for me.”
Jennie nodded her head as if she could possibly understand what performing to hundreds of thousands of people felt like. Emma doubted that her comfortable job as a talk-show host, based in a television studio, felt anywhere near the same way.
“Before we let you go, I just have to ask… is there anyone special in your life right now?”
Emma had known the question was coming, even though it wasn’t on the preapproved list. It had been asked at pretty much every interview she’d ever given, since splitting up with her ex, Graham. And while she and Graham had remained good friends, Emma wasn’t at all interested in getting back together with him the way the media seemed to be.
“Nope. Not right now.” She fixed what she hoped was a pleasant smile onto her face, as she explained, “With the release and tour dates fast approaching, I don’t have time to eat some days, let alone to date anybody new. I just want to focus on my career right now. When I meet the right person, I’m sure it will be at the right time.”
“Well, that’s about all we have time for today. Thanks for joining us, Emma. I know you have a busy day ahead of you.” Jennie turned her attention back to the camera in front of her, reeling off the information about Emma’s album release and tour dates, before giving a quick rundown on what was left for the program.
Emma waited patiently until the director called cut on their section before making her escape as calmly as she possibly could.
“That went well,” Ariel told her, handing over a bottle of water for Emma to take a sip from.
God how she wished it was vodka.
“The fans outside are waiting to see you, so we’ll stop there for a moment so you can sign and take a few pictures, and then it’s off to the next appointment.”
Emma swallowed back everything left in the bottle, hoping that if she pretended hard enough that it was something stronger, it would give her the confidence to face those fans like she used to. Because right then, she couldn’t stop wondering if one of them was out there killing people in her name.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
“Yes?” Regina asked, as she turned towards the strange man standing in the center of her friend’s living room.
“Special Agent Jones with the FBI. I’d like to ask you to accompany me back to the office, if you would?” Killian flashed her his badge for inspection before pocketing it once more. He fixed a look on his face that told the other woman his question was more of an order than a request.
“And what’s this about?” Regina Mills asked. “Has my client been charged with a federal offense?”
“No, Miss Swan has done nothing wrong. We just have a few questions we’d like to ask you about an ongoing investigation.” He offered her the sweetest smile he could manage, as he made a move to head for the front door.
“I can find my own way to your office, Agent Jones. There are some documents here that I need to collect before locking up. As I’m sure you can imagine, in this industry, wasted time can be costly.”
“That’s fine,” he assured her. “Just make sure you arrive no later than an hour after I leave this house. I have a series of homicides to investigate, so while I appreciate your deadlines, I’d ask you to respect my own.”
Killian left the house before Regina could say anything else. He’d seen plenty of her type before, during his time with the FBI. She was the kind of woman that could come across as sweet and innocent when she needed to be, but was really only interested in one thing in life.
Protecting her cash flow.
When Regina arrived at the office, Killian felt absolutely no remorse for having one of the other agents escort her down to the interrogation room and leave her there, while he spoke with the team in the labs.
“Whatcha got for me?” he asked, as he pushed his way into the large room.
“Not much, I’m afraid,” Victor sighed, standing up to make his way over to where the agent was standing. “The fingers are all positive matches for your victims, but I think we were all expecting that.”
A number of heads inside the room bobbed in agreement, before Victor added, “We’ve dusted the boxes for prints. The same two sets appear on each one. One matched the sample that Emma Swan provided us with, and the other is currently unknown. But given Miss Swan’s statement, I assume that they will match with the lawyer.”
“Nothing else?” Killian asked. He knew that he was grasping at straws. The killer had left the scene forensically immaculate, so it was unlikely that he’d have been careless when it came down to the packages he’d sent to Emma.
But Killian needed some kind of hope, because as things currently stood, the FBI was nowhere near landing on a suspect for their newest serial killer.
“As you predicted, the notes were written on the same kind of paper, with the same ink, in the same hand as those found inside of your victims’ mouths. But as you know, both the pens and the paper are sold in virtually every store all over the country, so we can’t trace those back to anyone. Sorry, Jones.”
“Don’t be,” Killian sighed. “Keep up the good work, Vic.”
“You too, Jones,” he told the agent, handing over his reports before he turned to make his way back to whatever it was that he’d been working on, before Killian had interrupted him.
“Finally. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been sitting here, Agent Jones? I should bill you for my time,” Regina snapped, as she folded her arms over her chest.
“I’m sorry that my murder investigation is interrupting your day,” he threw back at her, before calmly taking his seat on the opposite side of the table. Killian carefully arranged the files he had in front of him before reaching over to start the audio recording of the interview.
“Okay, Miss Mills. I am obligated to inform you that you are not being charged with anything. You’ve been asked to give this interview today just to help aid our investigation. If at any time you wish to stop, we can do so. But I must warn you that should you refuse to cooperate with us, and our investigation finds any evidence of illegal activity on your part, I will be forced to have you charged so we can begin this interview all over again, on the record. Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” she sighed, offering the agent one of her best fake smiles.
“Do you recognize this package, Miss Mills?” he asked. Killian pulled out one of the evidence images of the most recent parcel Emma Swan had received, before he slid it across the table for her to see.
“Should I?” she countered.
“Let me rephrase that for you. If I asked a judge for a warrant for your finger prints right now, and compared them to the second set found on this box,” he began, tapping his finger on the image. “Would they match?”
“That’s what this is all about?” she scoffed. “Some elaborate prank? Doesn’t the FBI have better things to do with their time?”
“You call a severed finger in a box an elaborate prank? We’ve already run the tests, Miss Mills. We know they were real. And I think you know that too. So what I’m wondering is why you’d advise your client to destroy evidence in a potential criminal case, when you know the Bar will have your license for doing so.”
“You have no way to prove that I knew that,” Regina reminded him. “All I did was advise my client on how best to deal with what I believed to be an elaborate prank. Miss Swan is a multi-million dollar recording artist. She’s been on the receiving end of pranks before, Agent Jones. I didn’t want to see her damage that impeccable reputation she has, or the future of her career, at the expense of someone who believes themselves to be a joker.”
“And that would have nothing to do with how much she pays you, right?” he asked. Because the lawyer’s answers absolutely reeked of her own greed, even if she was covering it well.
“There’s nothing wrong with protecting my own interests in my client, is there?”
“There is when it involves the destruction of evidence in a criminal case,” he reminded her.
“As I said before, Agent Jones, I was unaware that it was an actual severed finger inside of that box. I certainly never touched the thing. Now… is that all you need from me today? Because as I informed you earlier, I’m incredibly busy and my time is very valuable.”
“We’ll need your finger prints before you go, just to confirm that they match the ones found on the box,” he told her.
“And I assume one of your lackeys will do that for you.” Regina stood from her chair with another of her fake smiles, as she shot a condescending look down to the FBI agent. “Oh, and the next time you wish to question my client, call me first,” she told him, before tossing her card down onto the table and storming out of the room, in a whirlwind of expensive pant suit and flowery perfume.
David found his partner still sitting in the interrogation room fourteen minutes later, reviewing the recording from the interview with Regina Mills.
“How’d it go?” he asked, cringing a little as he did.
“I don’t like that woman.”
“You think she’s behind all of this?” David wondered.
“No. I just think she’s a greedy, self-serving, terrible excuse for a human being, who isn’t at all interested in protecting her clients, but instead, in protecting her bank balance.”
“Doesn’t that description fit most of the lawyers in this town?” David chuckled.
Killian laughed along with him as he gathered up his files and stood to head back to his office.
“This is why I keep you around, Dave.”
Killian sighed as he pushed away from his desk and threw a look down to the clock on his computer screen. He’d been reviewing all of the different reports that had landed on his desk, while he’d been interviewing Regina Mills. But there was still nothing that would even hint in the direction of a viable suspect.
He stood up to stretch his legs for a moment, aware that he’d probably been at his desk for far too long. The slight rumbling of his tummy had him leaving the comfort of his office, to run down to the vending machines on the first floor, and he hoped that a little distance might help him come back to his work with fresher eyes.
With an energy bar and a can of soda in hand, he made his way slowly back up to his department, before dropping down into his chair once more. Killian still wasn’t quite in the mood for going back to his reports though, so he decided to do something else productive, and typed Emma Swan into Google to see what kind of results it would give him.
Maybe the obsessive psychopath had been professing his love for her on social media?
His first hit was her official Twitter account, but a brief scroll through her replies showed that most of them were to others in the industry that she was obviously friends with, and the occasional question and answer session that she’d taken part in. He still made a note to have their tech team go through everything just to be safe, though.
The next link Google provided him with was for her Facebook account. The very first thing posted to the top of the page appeared to be live video that was about to begin. Killian pulled his chair a little closer to his desk as he hit the button to make the video full screen, and then waited to see what it was that she’d felt the need to share live with her fans.
In hindsight, he should have known that it would be coverage of one of the interviews she’d given that day. After all, he’d known that she had a busy morning ahead of her, promoting her new tour. But it wasn’t until the video began that he realized what was going on. And by then, it was too late for him to navigate away from the page. She already had him completely enthralled.
Emma had clearly changed between her appearances, as the orange skirt and black blazer were gone, and in their place was a black satin dress, covered in silver and purple flowers. A sheer layer of white tulle added a few inches to the bottom of the hemline, making the dress fall to the middle of her thighs. But the three-quarter length sleeves and high neckline added an air of modesty to the look, which helped to showcase her unexpected maturity.
She’d swapped her shoes for a different pair of black leather pumps, and had released her hair from the ponytail it had originally been pulled back into, allowing it to flow in slightly messy waves around her shoulders.
Killian tried hard to tell himself that her hair absolutely wouldn’t look the same way, after a night spent in the arms of her lover.
As she made her way over to the small stage that had been set in her honor, he found his eyes draw back to her trademark red lips once more. Emma pulled one between her teeth to bite down on gently, before she released it to take her place in front of the audience.
She looked absolutely stunning, and she hadn’t even opened her mouth to start her set yet.
But when she did, Killian knew that he was done for.
He’d heard Ellie wax poetic before about just how talented her favorite singer was, but he’d never really gone out of his way to hunt down Emma’s music to listen to it himself. So hearing her perform her new single that morning, live on national television, left him completely mesmerized. Her voice was stunning against the musical accompaniment that she’d paired with the track, rising and falling effortlessly without missing a note. The lyrics themselves were much deeper than he’d expected from the person he’d initially believed to be nothing more than a materialistic young woman.
Every little part of Emma Swan was completely enchanting, but when the pieces came together to make a whole, Killian could suddenly see why she’d become one of the biggest selling recording artists of the decade.
And why she’d attracted such an obsessive following.
He also finally understood why Ellie had been so devastated and angry, when she’d been unable to convince her father to buy her a ticket for one of Emma’s tour dates. Because Killian would definitely pay good money to see Emma Swan perform live.
The sound of his office phone ringing cut through the room, and Killian jumped a little in surprise as it did. He’d been so caught up in watching Emma perform, he’d completely forgotten that he was still at work.
“Jones,” he spoke into the handset, as he answered the call.
“Hey, it’s Victor. I just wanted to let you know that your lawyer’s prints matched the second set we pulled from the boxes. I’ll put it into my official reports, of course, but I know how big this case is for you.”
“Thanks, Vic. That’s brilliant.”
Killian disconnected the call as he clicked away from Emma’s Facebook page and turned his attention back to the reports on his desk. Lusting over the key witness in their case wasn’t going to get him anywhere, especially when there was someone still out there, killing innocent people.
He really needed to get his head in the game.
And possibly find someone willing to help him work out some of the sexual frustration, that was clearly building inside of him.
When he left work that evening, Special Agent Jones was still no closer to landing on a suspect than he had been that morning. The tech team had been sent details of Emma Swan’s social media accounts, and were busy going through those to search for clues.
A quick scan of her Wikipedia page had also given him a few names of past boyfriends to bring in for questioning, but Killian wasn’t hopeful that they would provide him with anything solid. Every single one of them had been pictured at some event or another, during the time of death for at least one of their victims. And Gold was certain that the murders had been the work of a single individual. But he didn’t want to leave any stone unturned during his investigation.
The universe had apparently seen fit to taunt him that evening, as the moment he started the engine in his car, the radio came on playing Emma Swan’s new single, and Killian couldn’t bring himself to change the station.
It would feel like such a betrayal to an incredible talent.
Thankfully, his commute was not a very long one, and soon enough he was pulling into the parking garage of his building, and the spot that had been reserved for his car.
He wasn’t much in the mood for food that evening, so after quickly sorting through the mail that had arrived that morning, Killian stripped down and jumped into his shower, hoping that the hot water would help to wash away all of the stress from the day. It used to work, before he’d been placed in charge of an investigation involving a series of homicides. But these days, it seemed like nothing could touch the guilt that was beginning to build in the bottom of his gut, every time another body dropped.
Killian turned off the water and toweled himself off, before making his way through to the bedroom. After pulling on a pair of shorts he climbed between the cool sheets on his bed and turned off the lights, hoping that sleep would claim him quickly.
The sound of his cellphone cut through the silence of the apartment, startling Killian awake and out of his dreams. He couldn’t quite remember what they had been about, but he was pretty sure they had featured long, blonde sex hair.
“Yeah?” he croaked into the device, as he reached for the light on his bedside table.
“Special Agent Jones?”
“Yeah. Who’s this?”
“It’s Agent Styles, Sir. Local PD has just placed a call requesting your presence at a crime scene in Santa Monica. They’ve found another body.”
“Send the address to my phone. I’m on my way,” he told the rookie, as he disconnected the call with a sigh.
It was only three seventeen am, and Killian already knew that he was in for a shit day.
Emma's look here is based on Jen's look for a NY Post photoshoot in 2014.
Killian flashed his credentials at the uniformed cop that had been tasked with watching the perimeter, before ducking down under the obnoxious yellow crime scene tape, and into the alley where the latest body had been found.
All of the way over to the scene he’d been praying that the MO wouldn’t match their killer. As horrendous as it sounded, he’d wanted the body to be that of a regular homicide, and worthy of its own investigation. Not just another name to add to a list of victims for his own serial killer.
But the moment Gold’s eyes met his, he knew that he was shit out of luck.
“Good morning, Special Agent Jones.”
“Do you ever sleep?” Killian wondered, as he dropped down to a crouch beside the body. It had once again been covered with a simple white sheet, to protect the victim’s identity.
“I could ask the same of you,” Gold threw back, before he removed a thermometer from the body between them. He hummed a little at the reading on the display, before making a note of the numbers on a sheet of paper to his left. When he was finished, he gently covered the section of the victim’s torso once more, and then turned his attention up to the FBI agent.
“Female. If I had to guess, I’d estimate mid-to-late twenties. Wounds inflicted to both the chest and face. Cause of death appears to be exsanguination due to a single cut to her throat. Liver temp indicates she’d been dead for roughly six hours. Her left ring finger’s missing.”
Killian sighed as he scrubbed a harsh hand over his face. “And let me guess, a note balled up and placed in the mouth post mortem?”
“I was just getting to that part,” Gold told him, as he reached into his kit for a pair of tweezers. He pulled back the sheet covering the young woman’s face, and Killian cringed a little at the sight of it. Whoever had attacked their victim had done so with a great deal of rage. The cuts across her face looked deeper, causing some of the skin on her cheeks to peel back from the bone.
It was a brutal attack, and one that he was absolutely certain she wouldn’t have deserved.
Gold gently pried her mouth open while Killian pulled out an evidence bag, ready for the medical examiner to drop the ball of wet paper into.
“I think that confirms it,” he said. The guy always seemed so detached from his work, and Killian envied him that ability.
“Yeah. We haven’t told the media about those notes.” It was the best way for them to filter out any potential cases that may arise from copycats taking advantage of the situation. But thankfully, none had so far.
Killian hoped to God that it would stay that way.
With his preliminary examination over, Gold placed all of his equipment and folders back into his bag. He pulled off his gloves and then beckoned over his rather terrified looking assistants. “Be as careful as you can with her,” he instructed, meeting each of their eyes. “I want her prepped and ready for autopsy at nine. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Sir,” they both replied quickly, before turning their attention down to the body on the ground of the dirty alley.
Killian could already see the crime scene techs lingering just behind them, waiting for the moment the body was removed so that they could begin combing the space for some kind of clue.
“I’ll see you in a few hours, Jones,” Gold called out, clapping him on the shoulder as he took off in the direction of where his Jaguar had been parked.
“Yeah. See you then,” Killian replied, already turning to head for the small group of officers that were gathered in the space. “Which one of you was the first on the scene?” he asked loudly, interrupting their conversations.
Killian knew that the LAPD usually hated having to share their crime scenes with the FBI. They often felt that it was unfair to have some agent swoop in and claim the glory for solving their cases, when they’d put in all of the work. So he made sure that his tone, when addressing the gathered men, would make it clear that he had absolutely no time for political bullshit that morning.
“I was,” one of the guys in uniform replied, stepping forward a little.
Killian inclined his head back towards the alley where he knew it would be quieter, as he asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Of course not.” The officer passed his hat off to the guy standing to his left, before following Killian down to a place in the alley, close to the spot where the body had been found. It was quiet enough for them to speak, and offered privacy from the lingering press, but still provided a vantage point for Agent Jones to watch the activity around him.
“Can you start at the beginning for me please?” Killian pulled out a pen and his notepad, and then dropped his back to the wall behind him, as he listened to what the young officer had to say.
It was the usual story, that he’d heard time and time again.
The call had come in at a little after two-thirty from an anonymous source, reporting a woman’s body in the alley. As the officer closest to the area, Adams had responded. He hadn’t gotten close to the body. He’d been able to see from a distance that the woman was already dead, and had called it in as soon as he’d made that discovery. It was Gold who had suggested contacting the FBI. The chief medical examiner had known as soon as he’d gotten close enough that they were dealing with another victim of their serial killer, and he hadn’t wanted to slow the investigation down.
Killian made a note to request a copy of the call that had been placed to report the body, and another to ask for audio comparisons to be run against the previous calls they’d received. Maybe, if he were lucky, they’d find out that their killer was the one making them.
After thanking Officer Adams for his time, he headed back to check in with the lead tech out in the field. But as he’d been expecting, so far, they’d found nothing worthy of sharing with him.
By the time Killian finally climbed into his Camaro to head back home, the sun was beginning to rise in California, and he knew that he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep that morning. Hopefully he’d have time for a shower, to wash away the dirt and grime from the alley he’d spent the last three hours standing around in, before he headed back to the office.
Emma groaned as she pulled herself out of bed and stumbled her way through to the bathroom. She didn’t need to check her phone to know that it was late. The bright light spilling through the windows in the room told her that she’d slept her way through to the afternoon once more. (Of course, she'd had a lot of help from a bottle of Jack, when she’d woken up shaking and terrified at a little after three).
She avoided looking at her reflection in the mirrors as she turned on the shower and cranked up the heat, before stepping out of her sleep shorts and pulling off the tank top she’d slept in. The scalding hot water helped to wash away what lingered from her dreams, and cleared the fogginess around the edges of her mind.
By the time she stepped out with one large fluffy towel wrapped around her body, and another over her hair, she could almost pretend that she felt human once more.
Back in her bedroom, Emma pulled on a pair of leggings and an old band shirt, before heading down to the kitchen to start some coffee. It was only after she’d taken her first sip that she allowed herself to unlock the sliding doors in the room, and stepped outside onto her deck to enjoy the beautiful weather.
But when her foot kicked something on the ground in front of her, Emma’s mug smashed to the floor, splashing hot coffee up the front of her shins.
Happy New Year