Murder in Cross: December 5, 1879

Anne and Harold Rodgers were Cross born and bred, as is said in town. Both came from moderately well to do families, and the union between them was considered beneficial to all.

In 1875, Harold rose to the position of chief engineer on one of the packets that operated out of Cross Marina, and with the subsequent raise in his salary, he was able to hire on some help for his wife. They brought on a young Irish woman, as was the custom, and her name was Siobhan O’Connor.

Little was seen of Siobhan, until the night of December 5th, 1879, when she was brought to my door by a group of the fey who lived on my lands. The young woman had been beaten severely, and when I tried to treat her wounds, the scars on her wasted flesh showed she had been abused for quite some time.

Despite my best efforts, Siobhan died in my house and in my arms.

From the fey, I learned who she was, and for whom she had been working.

From my private library, I searched through the gathered weapons and found an old warclub I had been given by an Iroquois when I was still a boy. It had seen violence before, and I intended for it to see it again before the evening was out.

I carried it with me as I walked through a storm to the Rodgers house, which faced the marina. I even used it to rap upon the door at almost ten at night. And when Harold Rodgers answered the door because he had not any help to do it for him, I smashed him across the jaw with the club.

I spent four hours beating Anne and Harold to death, and when I was finished, I burned their house to the ground.

Later that night, when I buried Siobhan in the family cemetery, I put the hearts of Anne and Harold in her coffin with her, so they might serve her in the next world.

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Murder in Cross: December 4, 1871

Vernon Green gave his left arm for his country, and part of his sanity as well as we found out on December 4th.

He arrived home in Cross by rail at 8:35 in the morning. Vernon had gone into Boston several days prior in order to visit friends from his regiment and to visit with his daughter and her husband. There had been some to-do up at one of the Grand Army of the Republic Chapters in Boston, and so Vernon had decided to travel home with his saber at his side.

I wish terribly that he had not.

Something about the train ride to Cross reminded him of the War of the Rebellion, and when he stepped out of the carriage, I saw him and realized something was wrong. I made my way directly toward him, but I was too late.

In an instant, he had drawn his sword and started to lay about the people around him.

The screams were ungodly, and more than one man took flight from that flashing blade.

Vernon killed a husband and wife traveling together from Cambridge. He slew their three-month-old daughter as well. A nun tried to intervene, but she lost her head when Vernon struck it from her neck with one smooth, well-placed blow.

As the nun collapsed, blood spewing from her neck, Vernon Green turned on me and raised his sword.

I drew my Colts from their holsters and put four rounds in his chest. Even as he struck the bodies on the platform, he was struggling to rise, forcing me to fire twice more, each round slamming into his forehead and blowing his brains out the back of his skull.

It is always difficult to kill a broken man.

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Murder in Cross: December 3, 1860

No one was happier for August Savage than myself when he was given the job of librarian at the Cross Library. He was a man who was passionate about books and the many forms in which they came. August was a decent man, one of the few I didn’t look down upon for attending Sunday services on a regular basis.

On the morning of December 3rd, I was on my way to pay him a visit at the library. I had heard there was a rumor about someone wishing to donate a large number of books to the library, and this was done through the hard work of August.

When I entered the library, I found August standing at the desk, throttling a man who was obviously dead.

August, who was almost always impeccably attired, was in a state of disarray. His hair was out of place, his eyes were wide, and he was, quite literally, foaming at the mouth.

I rushed to his side, fearful that he was in the grip of some hideous ailment or madness, and then shocked to find out he was not. August pushed his hair back into place, adjusted his attire, and grinned at me as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“He didn’t want to give me the books, Duncan, not after he learned that I would see most of them.” August laughed and shook his head. “But I wanted them. I wanted them. I just have to sign for him, and then the books will be mine. I’ll keep the best at home, mind you, and a few here. But the others, those I’ll sell.”

I looked down at the dead man, a man whose only crime was not wanting his gift of books to be sold.

I strangled August with his own tie and left the bodies where they lay.

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Murder in Cross: December 2, 1853

I came across the body of Thomas Sweet at 11:30 in the evening. He was dressed only in his nightshirt and spread-eagled in the middle of the road a short distance from his home. Thomas’ body was cold to the touch, and the snow falling was piling upon him. It took me a few moments to find the cause of his death, which was a deep knife wound in his left side. Due to the lack of blood, I suspected the blow was fatal and dealt there in the road.

A glance at his house showed the lights on and the front door open to the elements, and it sent a chill through my heart as I feared at what may have happened to Elizabeth, his wife.

I was armed with one of my double-barreled shotguns, and I primed both hammers as I went towards the house. It had been a difficult autumn, with strange and curious creatures drifting out of Gods’ Hollow, so I had taken to roaming at night on the off chance that there might be more unwelcomed visitors.

When I entered the home, I called out for Elizabeth, and the sense of relief I felt when I heard her response cannot be overstated. That relief vanished when I entered the sitting room and found her by the fire. A long butcher’s knife was on the table beside her sewing machine. As was Thomas’ Colt Dragoon pistol. From what I could see on the table, Elizabeth had loaded the weapon.

She smiled at me and whispered, “I killed him.”

I nodded and lowered my shotgun.

“I was going to shoot myself after, Duncan. But I cannot.”

“I’m sorry.”

“He wouldn’t stop talking,” she told me, staring down at the knife. “Not for a moment. At least, I don’t think he did. Is he still talking now?”

“No.”

“Good.”

I went to her, picked up the pistol, placed the barrel against her temple, and blew her brains out.

It was a cold walk home.

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Murder in Cross: December 1, 1840

Cross, Massachusetts, is afflicted by a great many ills. More often than not, those ills are directed outside of town. Our criminals tend not to pollute Cross. Occasionally, there are those who live in town and do not travel beyond the borders to commit their crimes.

On December 1st, 1840, Charles Raft committed a triple homicide.

He was a toymaker and peddler by trade. Charles lived off Main Street in a small house with his sister and her husband. Charles made a decent living traveling from town to town and occasionally returning to Cross to sort and prepare his stock. On the morning of the first, he left his sister’s house before dawn, as was his habit, but he was back before the clock had struck nine. He was in a fine mood, according to his sister, and whistled the entire time he was in his bedroom.

She told me this when I arrived at the home around noon, and she was more than happy to bring me up to his room to see him. Unbeknownst to her, I had tracked her brother from the farm of Jed and Maggie Smythe, who I had stopped in to see only a little past seven that morning.

I had found Jed and his wife dead, their infant son missing. Both the elder Smythes’ throats had been cut, and they sat dead at their kitchen table. There was a single boot-print in the blood, and a scrap of cloth that smelled faintly of whale oil, which Charles Raft used to lubricate some of the mechanical toys he sold.

When I entered the room, Charles Raft stopped whistling, and his sister started to scream. Her brother sat naked on the floor in front of his fireplace, the corpse of the Smythe baby vivisected on the rug in front of him.

Neither his sister nor his brother-in-law tried to stop me when I put out Charles’ eyes and thrust his head into the fire.

It took him several minutes to die, and it wasn’t long enough.

 

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Reapers’ Portraits: April 1964

On the second of April, there was a sharp knock at my door a little past eight in the morning. I had just settled down to a cup of coffee and a pipe, so I wasn’t in the best of moods as I answered the door. Seeing Wayne Aldrich on my porch did not improve my temperament, but the man beside him piqued my curiosity. It had been nearly a half-century since I’d last seen a Maori outside of New Zealand, and it took me a moment to realize that this Maori was a reaper.

The reaper looked to Aldrich and prodded him roughly from behind.

Aldrich cleared his throat, and when he spoke, his voice trembled. “This fine gentleman wishes to have his portrait taken here, Mr. Blood.”

“In my home?”

Aldrich shook his head. “He told me there is a barn a short distance from here.”

“So there is.” I set my pipe and coffee down and stepped out of my house. In silence, I led the way to the first barn, opened the door, and brought them both to a small saddle room, which was barren. It had been many years since I last kept horses in that building.

I nailed a section of canvas on one wall and stepped back as Aldrich opened a small bag and removed a camera from it. The man’s hands shook as he prepared his equipment. I peered into the bag and asked, “Did you bring the ledger?”

Aldrich shook his head. “He said there would be time for it later.”

I shrugged and waited as Aldrich took the portrait. When he finished and put away his camera, the reaper nodded to me. I stepped forward as the reaper spoke for the first time.

“Wayne Aldrich, we have had quite enough of you.”

The photographer still looked confused as I brought the hammer smashing down on his head. As I struck the man twice more in the skull, splitting it open at the temple, the reaper nodded his satisfaction.

“You’ll dispose of it?”

“I will,” I answered.

The reaper smiled, and when he left a moment later, I did too.

My coffee was getting cold and Aldrich’s corpse could wait.

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Reapers’ Portraits: March 1964

I forced myself to visit Aldrich’s studio today, much against my desire, but I am glad I did. When I arrived, I found Wayne Aldrich attempting to seduce a young woman. He was promising her fame and fortune, the ability to turn her into a star by capturing her beauty on film and sending it in to ‘film stars’ with whom he was familiar.

I can only imagine how many he has tried to do this with, and had the young woman not taken care of the situation herself, I would have been only too happy to beat him.

She was more than capable, however, as all reapers are.

The cold look she fixed upon him caused the words to die in his throat as he too understood with whom he was dealing.

Mortified at having me witness his depredation, and at having been emasculated so effectively by the reaper, Aldrich stormed about his studio, preparing for her portrait. She did not speak to me as we waited, and I took no umbrage with it. Reapers speak when they wish, not when we wish them to.

He scowled and grunted as he finished, then gestured impatiently for her to follow him in. She did so, and they were done in a few minutes. The reaper stood patiently by the desk as he dug out the ledger and slapped it down in front of her. She took a pen from the desk, opened the book to the proper page, and wrote down her information.

“March 27, Alaska.”

Setting the pen down, she smiled at me. “I am going to shake the world, Duncan Blood. Do you believe this?”

“Of course, I do,” I replied.

Her smile transformed into an expression of pure disgust as she looked upon Wayne Aldrich. In a voice colder than any I have heard, she spoke to him.

“You have outlived your usefulness.”

She left without another word, and only when the door closed did I realize that Wayne Aldrich had soiled himself.

I did not bother to hide my smile.

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