The Touch of Fear

A Short Story

Photo By Canva

In the dead of night, at approximately three in the morning, murder was in the air and blood was drying on the ground. The smell of death floated around the city of Chicago.

Eighteen Hours Prior

Detective Adler Kennedy arrived to work. His golden brown hair gelled back to perfection, his expensive starchy suit on point. His amber eyes studied the crime scene around him. A dead body on the cold December concrete, in the midst of a parking lot. And blood. Lots of blood.

Walking under the yellow tape, he walked straight to the first responders. “Hey. Give me the low-down.”

“Right. Well, first of all, she was already deader than a fat buck durin’ huntin’ season by the time we arrived,” the first young man said, his accent revealing a southern origin.

“Crude,” Kennedy noted.

“Sorry,” the second man apologized, clearly embarrassed by his friend’s lack of tact. “We checked for a pulse and found nothing. Looks like she was stabbed to death. She’s still got the knife in her stomach.”

“Wow,” Kennedy said in slight awe. At thirty-two, he’d been on the force for seven years and had spent four of them as a detective in homicide. He knew as well as anyone that murderers were rarely so blunt as to leave the weapon behind. Blunt... or messy, Kennedy speculated as an afterthought. “Anything else?”

“Well, I’ll tell ya,” the first guy answered. “Just for your general knowledge, this place,” he gestured at the building behind them, “ya oughta know, it’s a Lakeview Athletic Club.”

Kennedy squinted and turned his head to the side, not identifying the oddity. Clearly, he was not picking up on something. “So?”

The second guy elucidated, “Lakeview Athletic Club is, usually, very packed. They should've opened at five today, but, when we arrived around eight, not one car was in the lot.”

Kennedy looked around, just now noticing the vacant lot. “So, who called you?” he asked, curiosity piqued.

“Anonymous. Called from a payphone, I reckon,” the first guy chipped in.

“Who still uses a payphone? We are in the twenty-first century, right?” Kennedy quipped with a straight face.

The first guy answered, “Well, I reckon a murderer might find it useful as a—”

“Let me guess. As a babe during mating season?” Kennedy finished wittily.

“Hey, you said it, brother, not me. I’m just saying, you can’t trace a payphone call back to the caller. You need eyewitnesses, which ain’t always reliable, or a print.”

“Fair enough,” Kennedy took a deep breath. “Alright. Thanks.”

The two nodded and both shook his hand.

So, no one saw anything? Kennedy thought. They all just coincidentally decided to skip the gym today? No. Something shady was most definitely going on.

He walked over to the body. A young girl, chestnut hair, eyes closed.

“About time you got here,” Kennedy said, as he stared at the victim melancholically.

His partner, a young stud called Zak Lauren, came up behind him, wearing his trademark semi-formal suit. “Very observant, Adler. And I was quiet as a mouse. How do you do it? Are you some sort of a, uh, a ninja?”

“If I was a ninja, I would be surprising you.” As Lauren rolled his eyes, Kennedy failed to suppress an amused smile. “Easy,” he decided to answer his partner’s question, “I could smell your cologne fifty miles away.”

Lauren raised his eyebrows as his lips flickered in a slightly cocky smile, obviously entertained by his friend’s jest. “That’d do it, wouldn’t it?”

Kennedy nodded down in an effectual cease to the banter. Then, again, towards the girl, who couldn’t be over nineteen. “Stabbed in the abdomen.”

“Yeah, I see. She’s got a knife in her tummy,” Lauren noticed. “I don’t think that’s supposed to be there.”

Kennedy smirked slightly at the younger man’s childlike terminology. “Yes,” he agreed, “in her tummy. And, no. No, it’s not supposed to be there.”

Noting the condescending tone his partner was taking, he quipped, “You’re very patronizing.”

To which, Kennedy responded with an insolent yet nonetheless charismatic smile, “And you, my friend, are too sensitive.”

As Lauren rolled his eyes in slight irritation, obviously having heard this one too many times, Kennedy turned at the tap on his shoulder. “Yes?” he asked, in a polite manner.

“May I take her?” the elderly Chicago Medical Examiner asked, shakily.

“Why, yes, certainly,” Kennedy said with a smile. “Will you make sure that that knife is delivered to us as soon as possible?”

“Of course, yes,” the man said, nodding vigorously.

“Then, she’s all yours,” Kennedy said, motioning towards the girl.

Sixteen Hours Prior

“Why would someone kill a girl like that?” Lauren asked after they had arrived back at the station.

“Why would someone kill anyone? Maybe it’s a first date gone wrong,” Kennedy suggested, lazily, as he studied an arbitrary file.

“Well, that was morbid,” Lauren noticed. “Are you okay, man?”

Kennedy looked up, tilting his head, pretending he didn’t know why he was being asked this question. “Fine,” was all he said.

“Really? Because if you need more time, I can hold down the fort. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”

“I’m fine, okay? That... that was nothing, okay? It happens,” Kennedy claimed.

Lauren exclaimed back, emphatically, “Being skewered like a kabob isn’t nothing! And it does not happen to everyone, Adler! Just you! And you know why that is? Because you don’t wait for backup! No, you just go in, hoping that—!”

“Zak!” Kennedy warned as he simultaneously silenced the other man. He stood up to quiet Lauren, who now stood directly in front of the desk. “Would you settle down?! And shut up!” Kennedy told him fiercely, through clenched teeth, glancing around. He didn’t want anyone overhearing his very verbose partner who was seemingly very upset. “Besides,” he began after he himself had calmed down. “it doesn’t concern you.” After he finished, he sat back down.

“How—?”

“I’m done talking about this—especially with you. You don’t need to worry yourself. If I tell you I’m fine, I’m fine,” Kennedy said.

Not one to give up, Lauren said softly, “Adler—”

And then the phone rang. Kennedy’s phone.

“Yeah, it’s Kennedy,” he answered, lackadaisically.

Lauren sighed, dismally, before promptly plopping onto his chair. That is, until Kennedy sat up straight, consternation on his suddenly pale face.

“What is it?” Lauren whispered, so as to prohibit the being on the other line from overhearing.

In response, Kennedy instantaneously slid the arbitrary file he was earlier studying towards Lauren.

Lauren, confused but disconcerted as hell, quickly opened the file before him and almost immediately, his eyes widened in shock. He made eye contact with his partner. ‘Him?’ Lauren mouthed, pointing at the phone.

Kennedy nodded back. “Long time, no see. How’ve you been, Damon?”

Kennedy seemed to be taking in what was being said on the other line. Lauren didn’t know if he’d be that calm if their positions were reversed. He wasn’t even calm now. His hands were shaking. His breathing was coming out in long ragged breaths, in a failed attempt to regain his composure.

“Damon, what do you mean?” Kennedy attempted a negotiation tactic on the phone. “Explain it to me.”

Someone was speaking on the other line, Lauren guessed, as his partner silenced.

“Damon, no, don’t—” Kennedy sighed a wretched sigh as he placed the phone back in its place. “He hung up,” he told Lauren.

“What’d he say?” Lauren asked, perhaps a bit too quickly, but his curiosity, and perchance, his ire, got the better of him.

“That it was my fault Dianne had to die. Because I wouldn’t give up my pride and die like he intended me to.”

“And?”

“And nothing, Zak. He told me I knew what I needed to do—which I don’t—and he hung up. End of story,” Kennedy said, sounding a bit exasperated, as he logged into his computer.

“Uh, aren’t you going to, oh, I don’t know, do something about this? Because, I mean, he’s a fugitive, Adler! Not to mention, he tried to carve you like a Thanksgiving turkey!”

Kennedy shook his head and chortled slightly in an amused fashion as he told Lauren, a small smile playing on his lips, “It was just my hip, first of all. And, second of all, what do you think I’m doing? I’m tracing the number.”

“It may have been ‘just your hip’, but he’d of killed you if—”

“I know. Thank you,” Kennedy told him, sincerely. “You probably saved my life, Zak. Okay? But, as of right now, I’m not the concern. He is.”

Lauren nodded in agreement. “Yeah, okay. You’re right. I’ll, uh, put out a fresh BOLO on Damon Kane.”

Kennedy gulped inwardly. He hadn’t told Lauren, a man he trusted more than anyone, the last thing Kane had said before he abruptly hung up.

“You think one death is bad? Well, I’ll tell you this plain and simple: I will kill again tomorrow if you don’t meet me tonight. And, this time, it won’t be just one worthless girl. I won’t stop until I see you face to face. Until you’re dead.”

Thirteen Hours Prior

“Adler, did you know anything special about Kane from... the previous investigation. Anything you didn’t mention? What his favorite color is? Anything?”

“Uh, no, sorry. Didn’t find out what his favorite color was. Why? Were you, uh, were you gonna make him a cake? Throw his favorite color of frosting on top?” he teased Lauren. At the ‘You know what I mean’ look from his partner, he added, “No, I... I told you everything basically. All I had on Kane were his parents, Johnson and Cassandra, who both committed suicide in ‘90, and an older sister who died in ‘96. Her death was ruled a suicide as well,” Kennedy repeated, for what felt like the thousandth time, what he had learned about Kane.

“And was that a coincidence?”

“Well, in April, I talked to the detectives who ran the case back in the ‘90’s, but no dice. They told me they had ‘no probable cause to assume it was a murder.’ Which, I naturally assumed was BS, but, supposedly, that was all they could tell me without a Captain signing off,” Kennedy remembered. “But, uh, something was hinky. You can trust me on that.”

“Wait, so why didn’t you just get the Cap’n to sign off?” Lauren asked as this seemed like a simple thing to do, considering their Captain was quite lenient (as long as a good reason was given and whatever was requested was being done to achieve justice).

“You’re forgetting, Zak,” Kennedy reminded him, “I was doing this... on the down low. Remember? FBI took over after the murder in Hoboken crossed state lines.”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I remember,” Lauren recalled, then, to himself, “Well, I should remember. It was only eight and a half months ago.” He looked up at Adler before he said in awe, “I couldn’t and still can’t believe you’d risk your career for one dude.”

Kennedy shrugged. “He’d already killed thirty-two women, Zak. Now, thirty-three. But, I thought that was more than enough. You disagree?” At the negative shake of the head from Lauren, he continued, “Anyway, I had to go with coincidence because I never found anything on the contrary. I did consider, however, that it could’ve also been a trigger, why he became a murderer. Or maybe he was a murderer and that’s why they all killed themselves. Or maybe—”

“—he killed them?” Lauren finished, knowing where his partner was heading.

Kennedy nodded. “But, I mean, that’s all I had before I got the tip telling me his location. I tailed him, albeit rather ignorantly considering. He went, on foot, ‘round a corner, and me, being the superb detective that I am, I followed him, on foot. But, unbeknownst to me, he knew he was being followed, so when I turned the corner, pow! That sorry excuse for a man struck me, harder than necessary, in my nose area! Broke it, in fact, if you’ll remember! And, then, you know, we brawled a bit before, and at this point, I’m already on my knees, he whipped out the knife and placed it, damned dastardly if you ask me, into my hip, so all you could make of it was the haft. Then, before he could successfully murder me by slitting my throat, truly serendipitously, you showed up with back up and Kane, predictably, ran, knowing he was outnumbered.”

“Serendipitously? That on your Word of the Day calendar?” Lauren kidded.

Kennedy threw an entertained smile at his partner, before he uttered, “Oh, you think you’re funny. That—Shut up, Zak.”

The lighthearted smile seemed to literally fall from his face as Lauren tried to take all that in. It was a lot. Kennedy had never told him what had led him to that abandoned ally nor what had happened before rescue came. The truth most definitely was: Adler Kennedy would’ve been dead that night had Lauren not traced his phone. And tracing his phone may have been an underhanded move, but, after two weeks of his disappearing without any form of excuse, Lauren felt it was warranted.

“Why didn’t you tell me any of that?” Lauren asked, slightly hurt.

Kennedy’s eyes widened at this out of the blue question, as this was not the response he was expecting at all. Then, he understood the distress in the sapphire eyes that looked at him dejectedly. “Zak, it wasn’t about trust,” Kennedy explained slowly. “It was me. I wasn’t ready. Okay?”

After a few seconds, Lauren nodded. “I, uh, I understand, I suppose,” he admitted softly.

“Okay,” Kennedy said, with a nod, slightly unsure if the other man was telling the truth or if he was just appeasing him. “Okay.”

Nine Hours Prior

“Adler?” Lauren said to Kennedy, who looked busy with his computer.

After a minute, Kennedy looked up at him. “Yeah?”

“We got a name for our Jane Doe... or, I guess, Dianne Doe,” Lauren reported.

“Yeah? Nice work, Zak!” Kennedy told him demonstratively. “Who is she?”

“Well, the, uh, the ME did most of the work, along with the forensic team. I just relayed the information. But, thank you. Name’s Dianne Corey. She is eighteen, a high school senior. Her parents are coming in to talk—Actually, they should be here any minute. I, uh, I called them about thirty, maybe forty minutes ago?”

“That’s good,” Kennedy told him, unfazed. “Let me know when they arrive, Zak.”

“Uh,” Lauren noticed, looking up and pointing, “I think they just did.”

Kennedy looked over and stood forthwith. “Come on, Zak,” he told him, absently.

Before they could say anything, Mrs. Corey asked uneasily, “Where’s Dianne? A policeman called. He said you found our daughter? Where is she?”

“Mrs. Corey. This morning, we found your daughter in an empty parking lot. It seems as though someone attacked her last night,” Kennedy told them in a calm but not uncompassionate way.

“What do you mean ‘found’?” Mr. Corey spoke up. “Where is she?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Corey, we’re so sorry to have to tell you this. Dianne, she died before—”

Kennedy was cut off by the most agonizing scream he'd ever heard.

“NO!” Mrs. Corey screamed. She instinctively pushed away her husband who attempted to console her. Then, she collapsed to the floor, sobbing and whimpering, “No...no...no…” as she emotionally broke down.

Because the detectives could do nothing but offer their condolences and sympathy, which meant nothing to the grieving parents, Mr. Corey sat on the floor next to his wife, his own tears flowing down his cheeks. He attempted to whisper something in her ear as she pushed him away again. He tried again to whisper something incomprehensible to the detectives in her ear, this time succeeding.

After a few minutes of looking deep in thought, she stood up and straightened out her blouse. As she began to speak, the sound of her voice cracking in despair and of near-future tears crippled every happy thought from anyone who overheard. “Did you find the person who did this?”

As Lauren’s breath caught in his throat, Kennedy slowly shook his head in the negative. “Not... yet,” he spoke carefully, not wanting to get the distressed parents’ hopes up.

“Well, then, I want to help, Detectives. What can I do?”

Since Lauren looked about ready to sit on the floor and cry with them, Kennedy took the initiative. “Uh, if you wouldn’t mind coming with us, we’ll just ask you some questions?”

Mr. Corey nodded and, after a bit so did Mrs. Corey.

“Alright,” Kennedy said, leading them all to an enclosed area near their division’s refrigerator. On the way, he whispered to Lauren, so quietly that the couple that walked behind them couldn’t hear, “Either control your emotions or walk away. Alright? You can cry later when you’re not with the victim’s parents.”

At the nod of understanding from his partner, Kennedy began, “Okay, when was the last time you remember seeing your daughter?”

“Last night, around seven,” Mr. Corey answered assuredly. “She was going to study at her friend’s house.”

“Alright,” Kennedy said as Lauren noted it on his pad.

“I know what you’re thinking, Detective, and she wasn’t like that. Dianne... Dianne is... was a straight shooter,” Mr. Corey declared earnestly.

Kennedy, along with Lauren, nodded sincerely. “We believe you, Mr. Corey,” Lauren told him honestly.

“This may sound weird, but do you, by any chance, know the Lakeview Athletic Club?” Kennedy asked, trying assiduously to connect the pieces, to find out why Kane left the girl to be found in a parking lot of a popular gym.

“Yeah. That big building? That was on Di’s way to study group,” Mrs. Corey told them. “Is that important?”

“Could be,” Lauren told her, obviously on the same page as his partner. “Thank you for coming in.”

Four Hours Prior

“Zak, I need to tell you something,” Kennedy told his partner, guilt and fear eating him alive.

“What?” Lauren asked distracted, as he stared at the victim’s background, which was basically her high school career, and Kane’s background, trying to find something that the two had in common. How they related and why he picked her out of everyone.

“Never mind,” he told him. He knew if he disclosed to him the truth, Lauren would want to come with him. And, he couldn’t let him. Not after everything Lauren had done for him. He’d saved his life for heaven’s sake!

“Hmm? Okay,” Lauren said, slamming his hands on the table in slight frustration. “You hungry?”

“Um, I’m actually meeting someone tonight. You mind covering for me?” Kennedy inquired, underhandedly.

“Yeah, sure. No problem,” Lauren answered immediately, which, unfortunately, made Kennedy feel all the more contemptible.

“Thanks,” he said, hurriedly standing and pulling on his jacket, before Lauren, who essentially knew him better than anyone, saw the deceit in his eyes, which he assumed was plain as day.

“Ad, you okay?” Lauren asked, evidently concerned, when Kennedy faced away from him quickly to hide his expression.

“Yeah.”

“Then, why are you in such a rush?”

“Oh, you wanna know? You really wanna know? It is a date. Okay. I’m meeting this woman that my sister-in-law knows for dinner. Now, do you wanna pay for my dinner, or can I go?” he said as the first thing that came to his mind popped out of his mouth. Kennedy closed his eyes in self-abasement. In all his thirty-two years, he’d never told such a bald-faced lie, especially to someone he respected, trusted as much as Lauren.

“Oh, well, then! Do what you gotta do, man! I will cover for you! Now, are ya gonna tap her or is that a little too promiscuous for you?” Lauren asked him, mockery thick in his voice, a joyous smile plastered on his face.

“Oh, you’re having fun with this. Okay. And I almost thought you had matured,” Kennedy teased before walking toward the door. “That was close!” he called back.

Lauren rolled his eyes in artificial annoyance.

***

Walking by himself, with no one to back him up, it was safe to say Adler Kennedy felt naked. Not in that he wasn't wearing any clothes—he was!—But in that no one was there to cover him if things went south. And it was not a good feeling. But, with that in mind, he had to do this alone. No one else was going to get killed.

He walked along the sidewalk in silence, save for the sound of his shoes clicking on the pavement. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. But, in his head, it was far from silent. He had thoughts and worries ranging from Why am I doing this? all the way to Who’s going to find my rotting corpse...and how?

He kept walking, subconsciously, until his feet hit the grass of the destination at which he was to be meeting Kane: Garfield Park.

As his heart rate picked up, his feet, as though with a mind of their own, kept walking across the grass.

And, then, suddenly, he stopped at the sound of a voice, a very familiar voice.

“I didn’t think you were so foolish, Kennedy. Yet here you are.”

And Kennedy froze as an icy breeze blew through him. And it had nothing to do with the ferocious gale of the Windy City.

***

Back at the Chicago Police Department, focused at his desk in search of an answer, sat Zak Lauren, who was still incognizant to the goings-on in Garfield Park.

“Detective Kennedy!” came a loud voice, which interrupted the man’s thoughts.

“He’s out,” he called back, looking behind him. “Can I take a message, help you with something?”

The frazzled elderly face of the Chicago Medical Examiner stared back at him. “I’d assume. You were with Detective Kennedy when we briefly conversed earlier, yes?”

“Yeah, I’m, uh…” he said, minimizing Kane’s background on his computer, and standing to face the noticeably shorter man. “I’m Adler’s partner, Detective Zakary Lauren. Did you find something?”

“The knife,” he told him, excitedly. “I took the knife, myself, to Dr. Alton—the forensic specialist downstairs—to save you and Detective Kennedy some time.”

“Yeah? Did he find anything?”

“Yes. Obviously, blood matching the victim’s, but also...fingerprints!” he told Lauren. “They matched a man, who by the way has an extensive criminal record,” Lauren nodded his acknowledgment of this fact as the older man continued, “It matched a Damon Kane.”

Lauren took a deep breath before he thanked the old ME. “Happy to help,” he replied before exiting, most likely, to go back down to the building’s morgue.

After his departure, Lauren muttered, quite apoplectically, “SOB was too smug to wear gloves? Freakin’ despicable!” Then, something on the opposite desk caught his eye.

He walked over to his partner’s desk. A Post-It note lay atop it, upon which was a handwritten address. He recognized the scrawl to be Kennedy’s less-than-neat handwriting.

100 N Central Park Ave,

Chicago, Il 60624

He typed it into the computer before him to find out what it was an address for.

Garfield Park? he thought as the results popped onto the screen. Why would Adler feel the sudden urge to go to Garfield Park? Suddenly, he had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he knew he needed to get down to Garfield Park. And fast.

***

Kennedy took a deep breath to feign nonchalance. “Damon?”

A man appeared then from the shadows. Dressed in inky black from neck to toe, the only thing Kennedy could see in the gloomy chill of the December night was the ghostly pale face of the man walking towards him.

“I honestly thought you’d skip out. Let everyone else die as long as you were spared,” the mysterious man told him nastily.

“I’m not that shallow. Or cold-hearted,” Kennedy answered.

The man smiled an evil smile. “Of course you are. Every human is. Anybody will kill anyone as long as their own life is saved.”

“Let me ask you a question then, sir. You say all humans are superficial and uncaring. Now, nevermind my disagreement. What does it take to step over the line of materialism into cruel murderous territory in one single moment?”

Ignoring his question, the man asked instead, “What do you think humans are if not ‘superficial and uncaring’? They want everything for themselves! What would you call that?”

“Self-preservation! In what you have encountered, in what you’ve caused, all those women, that girl this morning, they’re scared, fearing, for their life!”

“And that gives them the right to be callous, to be downright cold?!”

“More so than you. You act like you’re God! One who can take any life you so choose and do with it what you will! You’re not Him though. You’re a sadist! A cold-blooded swine!”

“NO!” the man bellowed as he swiped something sharp across Kennedy’s left cheekbone. Kennedy staggered back, clutching his face. A knife! he realized as he felt the liquid he recognized as blood touch his hand.

“You do not disrespect me!”

“Damon,” Kennedy attempted, standing up straight, ignoring the blood dripping from his face, and pretending to be brave. The goal was to distract him. “You never answered my question. What makes you so righteous to be able to strip people of their lives?”

“You mean Dianne?” he laughed maliciously.

“Among the others that you killed last April,” Kennedy told him.

“Why, I was putting them out of their misery!”

“How do you figure?”

“She was filled with greed and pride! Two of the seven! I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t let that slide. She was a monster! She wanted everything and thought the world of herself. I saved her,” he explained, in a low voice.

“Which one?” Kennedy asked, confused about the singular source of which the man standing directly in his path was perturbed by.

“ADELIA!” he roared as if it was obvious.

Adelia? Adelia something. Someone from Kane’s background. Kennedy thought. He remembered hearing the name ‘Adelia’ recently because it was an older, rarer name. But, he couldn’t recall where from.

“It’s time for you to go now. You’ve upset me.” And the man pulled out a gun from a hidden holster and aimed it at Kennedy’s chest.

Kennedy said quickly, whilst raising both hands in surrender, “I’m sorry. Sorry, Damon. I lost my temper. I didn’t mean to... didn’t mean to upset you. You don’t wanna do this.”

“Now you’re my friend?!” the man shrieked. “You’re wrong! I do want to do this. I’ve ached to do this! Since I failed in April.”

“Damon, don’t—!”

Kennedy dropped to the ground as Kane fired. Fortunately, he had training for this kind of thing in the academy. Stupid then, valuable now. He pulled his own gun from his holster and fired from his position on the ground.

Two bullets, to be exact, each with a deafening BANG! They both struck Kane; one in his right shoulder, the other in the left side of his chest. He fell, bleeding profusely, to the ground. As the fast clicks of shoes hitting the pavement came closer to their location, Kennedy fired a third bullet between Kane’s eyes. BANG!

Zak Lauren ran over to his partner’s side and gasped. “Oh God.” As he vaguely saw the bleeding figure in the dark of the night. He pulled out his radio and spoke clearly into it, “I, uh, I think we’re gonna need a bus.”

“Roger that, detective,” came the response. “What’s your location?”

“‘Kay,” he said back distractedly. “Uh, sorry. We’re in Garfield Park,” Lauren said, overwhelmed, before dropping the radio to his feet in awe.

He swallowed before saying to his partner without looking up, “Your doing?”

“Mmm hmm,” Kennedy nodded back.

“He dead?” Lauren asked.

“I’d assume so. He’s got bullet holes through his heart and brain. And his clavicle, but that’s only because I was startled.”

“He draw first?”

“Of course.”

“He tell you anything?” Lauren asked, suddenly filled with curiosity as he stared at the corpse.

“Only a name. I know I’ve heard it, but I can’t place it,” Kennedy told him.

“Well, what’s the name?”

“Zak!” He said all of a sudden.

“What?” Lauren said, in alarm, before spinning around towards Kennedy and unholstering his weapon.

“Whoa. Zak, chill out. Are we a little excitable right now or what?”

“Sorry,” Lauren said, resecuring his weapon. “You scared me. Why did you shout? And why are you so chill?”

“Because I have an answer. After all this time. It’s his sister.”

“What?” Lauren asked, his brain still running on adrenaline.

“They remind him of his sister. Adelia Kane,” Kennedy relayed, clearly having gotten the closure he needed.

“Didn't she die in ‘96?” Lauren recalled.

“He thought he was saving her,” Kennedy discerned.

In the distance, sirens of help could be heard coming towards the scene.

“You’re a good partner, kid,” Kennedy said with a smile. “You got here in record time.”

“Yeah, no thanks to you,” Lauren declared. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me what was going on?”

“Hey, it could’ve easily been me lying on the ground!” Kennedy reminded him. “I wasn’t gonna risk your life to get one guy.”

“I thought you’d do and give anything to get him?”

Kennedy thought about his words before he spoke. “Not you. You’re too rare. Too unique.”

“In what way?” Lauren asked nervously, not knowing where Kennedy was going with this.

“Just do me a favor, Zak.” At Lauren’s nod, he continued, “Share your heart as often as you can. Not everyone has enough to share. It’s what makes you stand out.”

“And that is really what you think?” Lauren asked, a little bit skeptically.

“Oh yeah,” Kennedy told him. “And I was wrong before. Well, no, I wasn’t. But, the way I said it? Anyway, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to be too sensitive. It brought you to my aid, didn’t it?”

“Well, that was mostly vexation,” Lauren explained jokingly, which probed Kennedy to punch him in the arm playfully, feigning hurt.

“Uh, where’s the body?” the EMT asked them after the ambulance arrived.

“Uh, it is right over... here,” Lauren finished rather disquietingly as he turned around to look where the body had been. “Adler?”

“What?” Kennedy asked, noticing the apprehensiveness in his partner’s voice.

“Are you sure you shot him...and...killed him?”

“Wha—Ye—Yeah?” Kennedy asked, confused now. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“Um, he’s not here,” Lauren told him quietly.

“What?”

“Look for yourself.”

Borrowing a flashlight off the EMT that stood in front of him, he turned back to look for himself. And what he saw chilled him to his very core. Or perhaps what he didn’t see. There was blood, lots of blood. But, the supposed corpse that had supposedly caused all the blood, gone. Nowhere to be seen. Impossibly gone. And Kennedy didn’t know how he’d survived or where he’d went. But, something in his gut told him, this wasn’t over. In fact, it was far from over.

Fifteen miles away, hidden between two buildings, kneeled Damon Kane, wounds wrapped in cloth to stop the bleeding. He’d have to stop by the ER later to make sure he wasn’t dying. He’d have to change his looks first. After all, he didn’t wanna be caught so soon. That’d be a bummer. He laughed aloud at the extreme stupidity of the CPD before promptly thrusting the knife up to the hilt into the chest of his thirty-fourth victim. And he laughed again as she screamed in agony. Yes, it was far from over.

***

In the dead of night, at approximately three in the morning, murder was in the air and blood was drying on the ground. The smell of death floated around the city of Chicago.

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The Touch of Fear