The town of Stellium was a small community, and within its borders, even the most trivial news seemed to spread like wildfire. So when a murder turned into two, then three, then more, locals were transfixed by the news, held in thrall by a combination of morbid fascination and fear of the unknown. The targets were women, attacked in their own homes, no trace of the killer left behind. There were no broken locks on doors or windows–which implied familiarity with the murderer–but none of the families were connected to one another.
The police had been working on it for months now. The first murder took place on a chilly night in December, a woman strangled to death while she was home alone. A piece of paper left near her body described her death as the result of her heinous act of treachery. Accordingly, her husband had been the first person interrogated, as the suspect with the strongest motive and most likely access.
Police had found no fingerprints on the note or body; or if they had (Robin was not sure). they did not match those of the husband. And anyway, he had had a strong alibi. The same was true of nearly all the men whose wives had met with premature deaths at the hands of The Tempest. It probably meant that whoever was carrying these acts out either did it mindlessly, selecting victims at random or that he had another method of selecting the women he believed did not deserve to live–a twisted savior complex.
Robin set down the case files in front of him, photographs of ten women so far, none them similar to one another. Not in their outward appearances anyway. Cummings was right behind him, looking over his shoulder. He had insisted on staying in the office, and seeing the despondent look on his face, Robin had complied. They wrote down the names of the deceased now, marking them on a map.
“It doesn’t form a pattern, does it? Bloody smart killer, whoever it is.” Robin spoke now, eyes straining to find meaning in the documents in front of him.
“It won’t. Not like this,” Cummings murmured.
“What do you mean?” Robin looked back.
“Not without the whole picture,” he said, and shoved Robin aside. “They’re not all here,” he continued. “There are people who don’t want the press meddling in their grief, or the police swarming all over their homes. Gross misconduct by withholding information, but I know them. I run a small business in this town, Mr. Robin. Around seven murders have gone unreported.”
“Mark them.” Robin ordered, anxiety making his nerves tingle. He wasn’t insulted to learn that Cummings knew something he didn’t. Merely intimidated. Something told him the man wasn’t lying.
Grabbing a pencil, Cummings started indicating the unreported murders, marking off seven crosses in locations around the small town.
Finally, “Oh,” he whispered, drawing a cross at his own home, his hand trembling.
It was all coming together now. They weren’t close to finding the killer, but for the first time they had a lead. The deaths formed a pattern: an incomplete infinity symbol, with a blank space two blocks long. It made predicting the next target easy; it was going to be one of the homes along the line that would complete the symbol, only a few choices. But as Robin stared, he saw one of the buildings was the one where his office was located, with his apartment right upstairs.
A shrill scream echoed around the office, pulling the two men out of their thoughts. Grabbing a gun from his desk drawer as fast as he could, Robin rushed upstairs, his heart beating violently in his chest.
Throwing the door open, he saw his wife standing in the kitchen, a man tiptoeing toward her. Without hesitating or even thinking it through, adrenaline rushing through his veins, he aimed at the man and pulled the trigger. The loud sound echoed in the hallway. The man’s body staggered before falling with a thump.
Robin stepped into the room and over to the body. He stared at the face of the man who had been standing near his wife. Robin froze in place, staring at the man he had just killed in a moment of weakness. The face of the Stellium Police chief stared back at him blankly.
After that day, there were no more mysterious deaths in Stellium. With Cummings’ help, Robin managed to bury the body, taking all the evidence with it. He could understand now why a town as small as Stellium might need a private detective investigating this crime. The police would never be competent enough to solve it, not with a chief who always misdirected them.
The chief had approached the residents at home, at a time when he knew they would be alone, and welcomed himself inside, explaining that he needed help with an investigation. Who would you trust more than a man who had sworn his life to law and justice?
Why he had done it, Robin could not be sure. His history was unknown, and they couldn’t ask him now. Certainly a man would have to be twisted in the head to assault people, and leave a note blaming their actions for it.
The bodies had been examined by an independent organization, and the press had released details of the crimes in an attempt to increase readership. It was big news now, but soon the news would fade, replaced by the next big story. The town’s notoriety would fade along with the memories of the murdered women who would never again be able to walk the roads of the haunted town.
Kissing his wife on the forehead, Robin exhaled a sigh of relief, thinking about all the men who would never be able to do that again.
Robin still had so many questions about what had led the chief to commit these crimes, what led him to believe the women had it coming, why the infinity symbol. But the Tempest, the Infinity Killer, was the only one with the answers. And they had been buried along with him.