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Author's note: This is the third installment to the Locklear series. If you're new to the series, start at Good Doctor Locklear.

I'm not going to lie. When I first accepted this case I thought I had lost my damn mind. The name's Bernadette Devereaux, or Detective Devereaux, now that I'm officially in with the station. It's crazy just saying that. You see, ever since I was in middle school I've known this is what I wanted to do with my life. I'm not really sure how to word it without sounding stupid, but the main driving factor for this desire was morality.

Before you roll your eyes too hard, let me explain. I can remember all the way back to when I was a little kid that I had a "clear as crystal" sense of what was right and wrong. And boy was I passionate about it. I still am. That's part of why I wasn't sure whether I'd really be cut out for working with the police. I've heard of things going down that alert every fiber to my being about being totally and completely wrong, evil even. And I questioned whether or not I'd be able to handle it. But ultimately, I decided to follow this path because I could use the authority to try to bring more good into my city.

I wanted to solve crimes. To catch bad people. At least that was the plan. But apparently, it's going to be a while before I can make any more difference than sorting through old cases and generally being kept busy. As a fresh graduate into the ranks, I get that this is the norm, but God was I eager to REALLY get started. Because of this childish impatience, I stepped into something way over my head.

Discontent scanning and digitizing the hundredth old case file, I was feeling particularly ballsy and decided to see if I could cheat the system a bit. The other detectives had just returned from some sort of important meeting and looked rather pleased with themselves, so I figured it would be a good time to test my luck.

Our department had a pretty damn good case record. I knew this from excessive research while still in the academy. Only a handful of cases in the modern years had ever evaded them. It was one in particular, though, that really caught my eye back then. I remember it well. I was only in my first year of the academy when it was still fresh in the news. The infamous case of the disgraced Dr. Evander Locklear.

The breakout was hot news for months. The local station made a big show of their confidence in catching him, but days turned into weeks without strong leads, and eventually, those weeks became months until the case went fully cold. I was outraged at the end of my Freshman year when I heard that the case had officially been abandoned. I couldn't understand it. Such an evil man responsible for so much death, and yet they just dropped it without a second thought.

That was the first time I ever argued with my professor. When I brought up my disgust, he insisted it was the correct decision. That since Locklear's escape, there were no spikes in murders or any local disasters. To quote the famous line: he vanished like a fart in the wind.

I didn't see this as strong enough reasoning to abandon the case though. The initial investigation went way too quickly. It seemed more like they were concerned with covering their own asses and reputations than actually focusing on solving the case. Though I wasn't surprised, seeing as it was a big election year. However, I was certain that if they just picked it up again and looked it over more thoroughly, they were bound to find something.

Now that I'm in the force though, I understand all the layers to the problem. Despite his egregious crimes, this Locklear had built some kind of a cult following in the city. While he was a vicious murderer, he also saved the lives of many children who could not otherwise afford it as a sort of day job. And because of this, some people saw his him as morally grey. Arguing that the amount of good he put in the world balanced out the bad he did. I fully disagree with this notion. Killing is wrong, and no matter how you try to justify it, that fact remains carved into stone.

But I digress; with the small movement of people in support of Dr. Locklear's actions, it became a politically ugly case. To take it head-on would likely endanger the political career of whoever was in charge. And with the political landscape still being the same, I'm afraid they're eager to slide this case out of everyone's memory. Locklear's long gone by now, so that makes it someone else's nightmare, right?

So, that's what brings me back to my current dilemma. In a moment of impassionment, I swallowed the knot in my throat and charged up to Senior Detective Callaway.

"Ah, Devereaux. Did you finish organizing those files for me?" he said with an air of amusement.

"Yes sir." I breathed, hesitating a moment before getting to my real point. "Sir, I've been thinking. Lately, you've had me doing nothing more than office work. And I think I'd honestly have a lot more to offer if I was working on cases."

Callaway chuckled and raised a brow.

"I appreciate the eagerness, but you've got to work your way up to that, kid. Everyone's done it. It's just a part of the system here. You'll get there in time though."

"But what if I could prove my skills? Show you that the department's really missing out not using me to my full potential!" I cried, letting a little more emotion slip in than I would have liked.

Callaway frowned for a moment, then he chuckled again, harder this time.

"I like your spirit, kiddo. So, just for curiosity's sake, what exactly would you do to show off your skills you deem worthy of jumping the ranks? Organize the whole office? Track down some lost pets?"

"Let me reopen the Locklear case and I'll find him," I spat without thinking.

He froze, eyes wide for a moment. Just as I thought I might have crossed some sort of line, Callaway burst into the deepest belly laugh I've heard.

"Oh Devereaux, you're kick!" he said, now wiping away tears, "Alright, alright. Sure. Tell you what. You finish your filing duties and you're free to open that old case. And if you crack it, consider yourself a main player in the rest of our cases from now on. No more office work."

At this, he continued to laugh heartily, and before walking away, he winked at me and issued a joking order.

"Just keep it on the down low. Can't have the press finding out we've got an ace detective closing in on the mad Doctor."

It was painfully obvious that he didn't take the request seriously. But he had granted me permission and next time instead of giving him laughter, I'd plant a look of shock and amazement on his face he'd never forget.

Well that was much easier said than done, I discovered. After several days of pouring through the files (which were pitifully done for a case this size, mind you) I had just about given up and accepted my time on office duties. It made no sense. A man with his body count vanishes, but no murder streak followed. With the profile of a murderous psychopath, it just didn't fit. I was beginning to understand why besides the political element, detectives were eager to just drop it.

It was when my patience and willpower were on their last straws that I decided to visit the institution where he had been kept before his escape. If anything, I figured talking to the staff that cared for him would in the very least help me understand him a bit more, and maybe lead to a different stream of thought for the case.

I headed out bright and early to the sanatorium, hopes high for what I might learn. The building was massive and looming, like a gothic monolith from a Stephen King novel. From appearances alone it looked to be impenetrable, so the thought of a single man armed only with a scalpel escaping without a trace seemed nearly unbelievable.

Upon walking through the threshold, I spotted a tired-looking woman behind a nurses station. She was on the phone, and only raised her eyes to glance at me a moment before looking back down to a file lying in front of her. After waiting for her to finish her call, she finally acknowledged me.

"Can I help you?" she asked in a bored voice.

I fumbled to pull out my badge. Upon successfully retrieving it, her brow instantly furrowed.

"Hello, I'm Detective Devereaux. I was wondering if you might be willing to talk to me about a patient you once treated here. His name was Evander Locklear."

"We've already answered all the questions the police had. It's taken several years to put that whole fiasco behind us, so we'd appreciate it if you didn't go digging up bad memories," the nurse spat rather bitterly.

"Miss, I'm not trying to cause any trouble. As far as we're concerned, this information is just between us. Please, I'm just trying to get an understanding on who this man was. Are there any doctors or nurses who treated him that are still working here?" I nearly begged.

For once, I think my small stature benefitted me. Had I looked like a big burly police stereotype, she probably would have held firm in denying me. But being as I instead looked like a desperate young girl, I think I may have tugged at the last shreds of what remained of her beat to hell sympathy.

With an exhausted sigh, she massaged her temple and pointed down the hall to an elevator.

"Floor six, office 612. You're looking for Doctor Harrison. He treated... that man. I'm telling you there isn't anything he can tell you that he didn't already tell the police, but you can try. And listen, Detective, you gotta make it quick. If you haven't noticed, we've got a hospital to run."

I sprang up, thanking her profusely before dashing to the elevator and impatiently pushing the button. Finally, the old elevator arrived and I climbed in. It was only as the doors were closing that a chilling thought hit me. I could be standing in the very same elevator in which that madman had escaped. Nervously, I drank in the details until the bell dinged and the doors slid open to floor six.

It seemed I was in the clinical part of the hospital, as the halls were empty and sterile, with no signs of patients' cells. In fact, the only other sign of life was a woman dressed in a janitorial uniform, mopping the floor outside of an office. I counted the numbers as I passed the doors, and soon realized that she was standing outside of office 612. As she looked up from her mop, she greeted me with a timid smile.

"Uh hi there," I said a bit awkwardly, "Is doctor Harrison in?"

"Oh yes, ma'am. He should be right in there," she said warmly as she continued to mop.

"Thanks," I responded gratefully before reaching out a hand to knock on the door.

A gruff voice from within called for me to come in, so I cautiously stepped into what appeared to be some sort of exam room. The doctor was arched over a counter, quickly writing notes about something that appeared to be important. Looking up and not recognizing me, his expression quickly soured.

"Can I help you?" he growled.

"I hope so," I nearly whimpered, "I was told you were the physician of Evander Locklear."

Before I could finish, he slammed his pen down and stood up straight.

"How many times do I have to tell you people? I had no way of knowing what he would do! Why the hell is this being drug up again? I thought we had finally moved beyond that ugly incident?" he raged.

"I... I'm not here to question you! I'm just trying to build a better profile of Locklear- figure out what he was like, what made him tick! Perhaps you still have some records of him here?" I shot back nervously.

"I've got nothing else to say than what is already on file. Now if you'll kindly leave my office, I have important work to do," he spat, pointing back to the door.

Feeling utterly defeated, I slowly turned and headed back out the door. What the hell was wrong with the medical staff here? They practically acted like they had something to hide.

Just as I reached for the elevator button after quickly darting back down the hall, I heard a soft voice call for me.

"Excuse me, ma'am?"

It was the janitor from before. She looked quite nervous, and seemed intent on keeping her voice down while she called me.

"Yes?" I responded weakly.

"I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I heard a bit of your conversation back there. If I had realized what you were going to ask him, I'd have warned you. Ever since that Locklear man escaped, Dr. Harrison has been a lot harsher, and has a very short fuse with that topic," she said, averting her eyes.

"But I think I might be able to help you."

I instantly perked up at these words.

"I'm friends with a woman named Gertrude who used to be a night nurse here. She quit after that sweet young intern was murdered. I can't blame her. It wasn't her fault, but she feels so much guilt. I could ask her for any information she might have on him if you'd like."

"I'd appreciate that so much!" I sang, "Thank you so, so much!"

I made sure to give her my card before happily trotting my way back out of the hospital. It was in my elation that I accidentally pressed the wrong button and got off on the wrong floor. The mazelike hallways within hospitals always confuse me, so it took a moment for me to realize my mistake. And by the time I pressed the elevator button again, it was already gone to another floor.

Turning back around, curiosity overtook me while I waited. I slowly walked down the surprisingly eerie hallway, passing door after door. Seeing the tiny wired glass windows embedded, I realized I was in a patient ward. I walked a few more doors down before getting a strange urge to peer through the windows of one of the cells.

What met my eyes was an empty, fully padded room. However, I breathed in sharply and took a step back when I noticed a large, rusty stain on the floor. I know very well it could have been the result of any number of accidents, but the stain was so very large. And immediately images of the beautiful young redhead the news had declared murdered via a slashed throat flooded my mind.

Suddenly, the atmosphere in the hallway felt dark and heavy. I turned on my heel and broke into a jog as I heard the elevator ding. Like a frightened child, I peered back over my shoulder. For a moment, I could have sworn a dark figure just darted out of view. I did a double-take, but there was nothing there. But still, my crushing sense of unease didn't fade until I pushed through the front doors once more and made my way to my car.

That night was not a good one. I tossed and turned for hours, and when I finally fell asleep, I had nightmares for the first time since high school. Dark, horrible nightmares. I woke up naked and strapped to a dirty operating table. I struggled with the restraints, but they wouldn't give. Suddenly, a large silhouette appeared from the dark like a misty wraith.

As the creature stepped forward, I could make out a ragged, hooded cloak, and a horrifying patchwork plague doctor's mask. I realized it must be Locklear. He had come for me because I had been digging around where I shouldn't have. I begged him to spare me, but his only response was primal, unfeeling laughter. From under his cloak, he pulled out a nightmarish surgical instrument. He brought it lightly down to my flesh. Hot tears began to spill down my cheeks as I realized this is how I was going to die.  

Before he pierced my quivering skin, he raised his other hand to his face. Slowly, he pulled away his mask to reveal a ghostly visage. A putrid, rotting face, with deep black pits instead of eyes. And a lipless mouth full of sharp, scissor like teeth. Just as he began to tear through my flesh, I sat bolt upright in my bed, panting and wiping tears away from my eyes.

It took several minutes before I could even manage to slow my breathing and begin to calm down. Slowly as I began to come back to my senses, I could hear the soft murmur of the T.V. I had left on before going to bed. The soft background noise soothed me a bit more. It was some news report. It seemed as though some man accused of murder had just been acquitted due to a screw up on the arresting officer's part. A bloody travesty.

Wait...

Suddenly, I found myself even wider awake, my mind buzzing. That's it. That was it! Holy crap I found the pattern! Criminals who escaped the law...

My thoughts were rushing faster than I could keep up. The reason this case file was going nowhere was because his profile had no listed pattern of killing. There had been suspicions of him targeting unsavory sorts, but he also killed that young intern at the hospital, and as far as all records were concerned, she was practically a saint.

But what if... what if she was an exception? If she was his night nurse, she was standing between him and his freedom. He may have seen it as being the only option. And if that was the case, all his other confirmed kills were criminals. Or I should say, alleged... All had been either unsuccessfully accused, or acquitted from extremely heinous crimes. Could it be that Locklear was... hunting "bad guys"?

There was no way no one had pieced this together before me. So why wasn't this in the report? Is our political system really so corrupt as to hinder the open investigation of a serial killer to save face for running politicians?

I shuddered, knowing full well the answer to that question.

But still. This was a serious break in the case. Callaway gave me the go ahead to pursue this, so if I were to go to him with this information, he'd have to acknowledge it. Perhaps we could throw together a full team and hunt down this piece of trash once and for all.

Having entirely forgotten my nightmare from before, I drifted back to an extremely calm slumber for the rest of the night. I was so relieved and elated for the day to follow.

I didn't sleep for long, however, as within only a few short hours the sun began to rise. I could have slept for another hour or two being as my shift didn't start until quite a bit later, but my eagerness pulled me out of bed.

I realized that my hunch alone was simply a hunch until I had some sort of facts or evidence to back it up. Despite being a clear breakthrough, I wanted my case to Callaway to be as strong and airtight as possible. Because of this, I decided to head into the department early. I'd dig through the records from the time of Locklear's escape until present day before my shift started. My hope was find what I needed to get on the fast track to officially joining the investigation team.

I poured myself some coffee to go, and made the short drive to work. As I walked through the front doors a full two hours before my shift, the receptionist looked far too sleepy to even bat an eye. I gave a friendly wave before darting down the hall to my cubicle.

I shook my mouse until my computer woke up, then dove into work. There were so many cases. It seemed as though there would be no way I'd find what I needed before Callaway came back into the office. Thinking hard, I decided to change my search up a bit. Instead of searching in crimes, I decided to only look into acquittals. This would have been just as unhelpful if I didn't recognize many of the names. The ones who had particularly ugly and violent cases, but still managed to escape conviction.

Making a list of a good number of names, I exited the records and began to do individual searches on the names. I had only gotten through the first six by the time my shift officially began, but I figured it would be more than enough. After all, what I had discovered more than backed up my hunch.

Over the course of looking into these individuals, there seemed to be a disturbing pattern. Ranging anywhere from a day to two weeks after their acquittal, they just seemed to up and disappear. One or two doing this might not spark suspicion, being as the court of public opinion could make it hard for them to live under their current identity, but six? And I was willing to bet that if I kept looking into more names, I'd find more vanishings.

It was at this point that I heard Callaway's booming laughter as he entered the building. Still incredibly nervous, I gathered my nerve and ran out to greet him.

"Good morning Sir!" I called out as I entered the lobby.

"Morning Devereaux! You're here early!" Callaway chuckled.

"Yes! About that! I actually wanted to discuss something with you! You know... That case we discussed last week?" I said, eyes full of excitement.

"Case?" he responded, a chuckle still in his voice "What case is that?"

"Remember Sir? You said I could look into the Locklear file," I said with determination.

"The Locklear... wait, don't tell me you're still on about that? I didn't think you'd hold onto it this long. Come on now, there's more important work to be done than play around with an old cold case," Callaway finished with a tone of dismissal.

"But Sir! It may not actually be all that cold!" I cut in, "I've figured out his M.O., and I've even found what could be his hunting pattern! Sir, I don't think he ever left the city! I think he's still here, and we can catch him!"

For a moment, the color in Callaway's face drained. He looked around before leaning closer to me, an extremely stern expression plastered on his face.

"Listen to me, kid, I only let you chase that fancy because I had expected you to see how bare the case file was and give up on it."

His voice dropped to just above a whisper as he continued.

"Now, that you're in the force, you should understand that sometimes there are too many moving parts involved in certain things. Too many important people with things at stake involved. Do you really think you've found something that a fully trained investigation team hasn't already?"

"But none of this was in the file," I nearly whispered back.

"Do you think that's by accident? Listen kid, you've got a bright future here. Just drop the Locklear case. This little mission of proving yourself was never meant to step on any important toes. This game needs to end now."

"But Sir! That's not right! We might actually be able to catch him! Are you really just going to let him keep prowling as he pleases just because some ambitious politician doesn't want to deal with the publicity?" I shot back, starting to get upset.

"That's enough, Detective. You're dropping the case. That's an order," Callaway ordered with a calm severity before turning on his heel, and continuing through the lobby.

I was devastated. I had always known there was a certain level of corruption in the force, but I had always thought Callaway was one of those true stand-up men that were above it. This is what I had been worried about when considering this pathway. This was wrong. This whole thing was so wrong.

Getting through the rest of the shift was incredibly difficult. Immediately after our talk, Callaway jumped back into his usual cheery demeanor and acted as though nothing had happened. I couldn’t get to my car fast enough when the clock struck six. The whole ordeal left me feeling sick, and I didn’t know what I should do. It was as I was contemplating options that my phone began ringing. Snapping back from my thoughts, I answered the call. At first, I thought it might have been a wrong number, as there was silence for a moment, but then a soft voice began to speak.

“H-hello? Is this Detective Devereaux? This is Pam Sinclair. We spoke the other day; I was the janitor outside of Dr. Harrison’s office. I had the chance to speak with my friend about that case you’re looking into,” she finished rather timidly.

Suddenly, snapping to attention, I answered eagerly.

“Hello there! You’ve got the right number. Please, tell me what you’ve learned!”

“As I expected, Gertrude was a little sore on the subject, but she said she’d recall what she could if it had the chance of sparing someone else of her sweet little intern’s fate,” Pam said softly.

“She actually spent a good deal of time around him. She was the night nurse in charge of his wing. He was a very strange man. Not the kind of strange you’d expect from someone institutionalized in a place like that, mind you. Despite being held there against his will, he always had a way of making the staff feel as though he were the one in control. It was only when he was highly sedated that anyone truly felt they were safe around him, because when he was in full control of his senses, he was an incredible manipulator and mastermind.”

I sat in silence, absorbing her words with anticipation.

“Everyone knew of the things he had done. What he was capable of. But you wouldn’t have ever guessed it if you were on his good side. Though the staff members who often treated the patients poorly received a lot of frightening aggression from him, all those who were at least moderately respectful found him to be a strangely civilized gentleman. She was rather ashamed to tell me this, but before the night of the incident, he was actually one of her favorite patients. He had this strange way of making you forget what he was, and that made him dangerous.”

So many thoughts rushed through my mind, but there was still more to be said.

“Before our conversation was over, she told me one last thing that might help you,” Pam hesitantly started.

“Really?” I shot back eagerly.

“She said that she heard it from another friend, a nurse from a different hospital- I’m sorry but she didn’t want to give any names.”

“That’s alright! Go on ahead anyways!” I urged gently.

“Apparently, the topic is a big taboo over at her friend’s hospital. That’s because that hospital is the location where Locklear worked when he was still a practicing surgeon. He was actually their top surgeon while he was there. The whole thing was a publicity nightmare for them. It almost destroyed their reputation entirely, despite him not even working there when the crimes happened. The year before the murders started, he resigned and started his own private practice. They couldn’t have known what he was really doing.”

“So, he just quit a successful career to be a serial killer?” I murmured, furrowing my brow.

“Not quite. You see, he only resigned after the terrible incident with his wife. She was pretty far along in her pregnancy. One night Dr. Locklear was performing an intense surgery on a man who had been shot. He had no access to a phone or his pager, and he couldn’t be interrupted for fear of the man dying in the extremely delicate procedure. And because of this, he wasn’t able to be alerted that his wife had gone into premature labor, and had suffered from some severe complications. The doctor who treated her tried his best, but ultimately neither she nor the baby survived the complications. So when Dr. Locklear finally completed his surgery and exited the operating room, he had to be informed that just like that, he had lost everything. He quit shortly after, and the rest is history, sadly,” Pam finished quietly.

I was a bit in shock after hearing this information. Suddenly, everything was starting to make sense and his motives were becoming more clear to me. I nearly whispered a shaky thank you to Pam for her help, and when the call ended I was left with an even more tangled web of thoughts than before.

I had a decision to make. I could use this new information to track him down myself, even if no one else on the team would help me. Or I could do as Callaway said and bury it, keeping this information to myself, and ensuring my future with the department. The better option for myself and my career was obvious. But morally, it was the wrong thing to do. The thought burned my stomach like a hot coal. Knowing full well I was being a self-righteous idiot, I swallowed hard and resolved that I wasn’t going to let this go.

Finally, kicking my car into gear, I pulled out of the lot and started making my way back home. Not wanting to sit in silence anymore, I switched on the radio. I had left it on some talk show, and they seemed to be heatedly discussing some recent news. One man was loudly yelling about people needing to accept the rulings of our legal system, while another was shouting back about clear guilt going unpunished.

Thoroughly worn out from the long day I had just gone through, I reached to change the station to something more pleasant. However, my hand froze as the memory of the news story playing softly on the T.V. flashed back into my mind. That’s right. A man accused of murdering his pregnant wife had just been acquitted due to an error, despite clearly appearing to be guilty. Not only did this perfectly fit the criteria for one of Locklear’s victims, but due to the nature of this crime and what I had just learned about him, this was a target I don’t think he’d possibly be able to pass up. If I played my cards right, I’d have him.

So, I made my plan. I decided the best way to catch Locklear was to keep an eye on his “prey”, and catch him before he could get away. It was fortunate that the weekend was coming up, because I could dedicate my time to tailing him, given Locklear usually struck within a week of acquittals, so I was in the middle of a delicate window of opportunity. I’d have to work quickly, and bend a few rules, but ultimately, I believed what I was doing was the right thing, so it was worth it.

The next three days, however, left me beginning to wonder if I had miscalculated the situation. I began tailing the man on Thursday after work, continued on through Friday, and even though I had all day Saturday instead of just after work, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He went to work at his job at construction down at the docks, in a highly populated area, went directly to his car after work, then headed home. And during this entire period of tailing him, I saw no signs of Locklear whatsoever.

By Sunday evening when he was just working on the docks without incident, just like all the other days, I began to lose faith that this was a solid plan. Perhaps Locklear had finally had his share of victims from our city and decided to move on elsewhere? Or perhaps this case was so personal, that he’d rather just ignore it all together? I was still determined to do the right thing, but maybe I needed to new plan-of-attack.

It was while I was lost in this train-of-thought that I missed my target exiting the worksite. I reeled around in my car seat, straining my neck trying to see if he was already back to his car. But it still sat there untouched. Frantically, I looked up and down the docks among the small groups of construction workers making their ways home. Suddenly, I spotted him again. However, instead of heading back away from the docks in the direction of his car like normal, he was walking down the docks, away from both his car and the worksite. He was moving in a hurry. Almost like he had spotted something he was trying to catch up to.

I realized that if I didn’t give chase, I’d lose sight of him completely as he would soon leave the industrial zone all together. Pangs of nervousness and excitement shot through me. I knew I was going to have to follow on foot. Climbing out of my car, I made sure I had both my gun and my radio. My gut told me to call for back-up right then, but since I was technically banned from working the Locklear case, and I had been illegally following a man around, I needed to wait until I was 100% certain it was indeed Locklear himself.

So, I continued to follow, on foot now. He was moving at a very quick pace, but I couldn’t see what he was after. We had left the industrial part of the docks, and had moved into a more derelict area full of abandoned warehouses and dilapidated old beams. This is the part where my gut REALLY told me things weren’t going to be good. Once again my hand hovered over my radio, but I had not seen hide nor hair of Locklear, and had no idea what the man was determinedly chasing.

That was at least until the man broke into a dead run. That moment, a good distance ahead I saw the form of a man emerge from the shadows. Even as the man I had been following charged him, he did not move though. He simply stood there while the other man grabbed him by his collar. I had no idea just what was going on by this point. They were both far enough away and in the shadows that I couldn’t see anything more than silhouettes.

The man from the shadows still did not move, even as the other raised his clenched fist and swung it into his jaw bone. However, within a moment, the man I’d been tracking strangely started to slump down. Within seconds, he had gone limp as a ragdoll, and would have hit the ground if not for the other man now hoisting him over his shoulder. That’s when our eyes finally met.

There, nearly 200 meters in front of me was Evander Locklear himself. The sun reflected menacingly off of the glass goggles of his nightmarish plague mask. He gave a wicked, taunting laugh and then darted into the nearby building. I broke into a dead run, giving chase, but he was incredibly fast despite carrying a large unconscious man.

The moment I walked through the doors of the building, I realized it was an old slaughterhouse. By this point, every horror movie I had ever seen flashed through my mind and I stopped in my tracks. The building was dark and quiet with the exception of the sound of some distant chains softly rattling. There was no sign of Locklear, or the man, so I decided it was beyond time to finally call in for back-up. The rules I broke be damned, this was worth the trouble I’d get in.

However, no sooner than I had pulled my radio out of my pocket did I feel a breeze behind me and a sharp prick in my neck. I fumbled for my gun, but within seconds everything had gone black.

By the time I came back to, night had fallen. My eyes were blurry, and for a few moments I tried to focus them. I was laying down on something hard and cold. Immediately, visions from my nightmare earlier that week flooded my mind and my pulse began to race. However, my limbs were unrestrained, and when my eyes finally focused, I realized I was not on a cold operating table. In fact, I wasn’t anywhere new at all. Sitting up, I saw not a horrifying torture chamber, but the same rusty old, abandoned building. I sat right beyond the entrance, just where I had been before I lost consciousness.

I might have thought the whole thing some violent fever dream if I wasn’t out on the docks during nightfall. I felt around my pockets, searching for my radio and gun. Of course he had taken them, but one could hope.

My elbow seared with pain as I stood up. It must have hit the ground hard when I went down. It wasn’t unbearable though, so I massaged it until the pain died down a bit. At least the good doctor was kind enough to leave me my tiny pocket flashlight. I clicked the button and a narrow stream of light illuminated a portion of the room around me. Shadows danced around rusted old loading equipment, making me even more uneasy than before.

What was his angle? Was this some kind of game to him? Why would he leave me there but take my badge, radio, and gun? Had he already fled? Was he going to hunt me down after this since he now knew my name and workplace? My mind buzzed with these disturbing thoughts until I was snatched back to focus as a chilling sound echoed through the darkness beyond.

It was the voice of a man, screeching out in agony. It drifted from somewhere distant, deeper into the bowels of the slaughterhouse. All the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and for a brief moment I felt like a child in a scary story. After shaking out of it though, I began to take a step in the direction of the sound. Before I could get more than a few feet, however, I stopped myself. I needed back-up. I couldn’t do this alone and unarmed. I needed to be smart about this.

The agonized whimper echoed again, and I shivered, trying my best to ignore it. Weakly, I spun on my heel and headed back out the entrance. Outside, the moon was bright enough that I no longer needed my little flashlight, so I began to stuff it back into the little pocket on my shirt again. However, while doing so it bumped into something. Digging into the pocket, I realized there was a little piece of paper. I snatched it out and held it close enough to my eyes to see despite the dim light. In small and incredibly smooth cursive script was a single sentence that made me feel sick to my stomach.

“Will you let him die?”

I froze in my tracks. So, he was playing a game. I knew I shouldn’t give-in, that I should just go back to town and get help. But his words haunted me. Would I let him die? The fact of the matter was that I had a choice to make. If I went for help, he’d surely be dead by the time it arrived. My radio was gone, and my car was all the way at the other end of the docks. And even then, since it was my personal vehicle and not a cruiser with a built in radio, I would have to drive to the nearest payphone which could be miles from here. It was literally get help or try to save the man’s life. Just one or the other.

Slowly, I started moving away from the building once more. That man was a murder after all. If Locklear was in there, preoccupied with him, there might be time for back-up to arrive and catch him at the scene. The life of a murderer wasn’t too much of a price to pay, was it?

I froze again. What was I thinking? It didn’t matter who that man was. To just leave him at the mercy of a madman was inexcusably wrong. I was better than that. I was always better than that. My whole guiding principles in life were better than that. If I let myself justify his murder, everything that defined me as who I was would be out the window. No. I couldn’t let him die. I wouldn’t.

Wanting to slap myself for being so stupid and blatantly playing Locklear’s game, I turned around and headed back to the looming old building. I had no idea what he had planned, but he had the perfect opportunity to hurt me before and didn’t, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I still didn’t know what I was going to do, but perhaps I could outwit him and turn the tables.

Using my little flashlight once more, I looked around the dusty old loading bay. I spotted what looked like an old crowbar and dashed over to it. Though it was rusted and covered in cobwebs, it would still make a perfectly effective weapon. After all, Locklear specialized in knives, not guns. I doubted he was trained in them and I could possibly disarm him and knock him out with the crowbar. It was a bit of a stretch, but it was the best plan I could come up with in the heat of the moment.

Taking a deep breath and readying myself, I headed to the doorway at the back of the room. Carefully, I poked my head through and peered about. Seeing no signs of danger, I proceeded. I was now in the processing part of the old factory. There were large old windows in various stages of disrepair lining the area, letting bright moonlight floor the path ahead. This was fortunate, as I realized that I would have to put away my flashlight so as to not give away my position.

It had been a while since I had heard any cries of pain from the man, and I was beginning to worry. It was possible that in the few minutes I had considered leaving the area, Locklear could have killed him or even left the area. I tried not to think about these worst case scenarios as I continued to trek onward.

The building around me was that of a hellish nightmare landscape. A labyrinth of old conveyer belts running through frightening mechanical contraptions. There were large sawblades and hooks on chains hanging from a track lining the ceiling. Several times I nearly panicked, thinking I heard clangs from off in the dark, or saw a heavy chain swinging slightly. The room was cold and the air tasted sour, like this was an unholy sort of place.

I was nearly through the ghoulish maze of equipment when I saw him. Dead ahead through yet another threshold was the man Locklear had dragged off. It was hard to make out much detail, as the room ahead didn’t seem to have any windows. But I could make out his form from his pale skin shining from sweat in the darkness. He was slouched over, his head hanging down. He appeared to be suspended in the air though, as his feet were not touching the ground. Holding my breath, I looked around frantically for any signs of Locklear. I couldn’t see or hear any signs of him, so I decided to inch a bit closer.

As I approached the doorway, I noticed the heavy insulated door. Suddenly, I recognized the room ahead as what was once a functioning meat freezer. It appeared to be broken now though, the heavy door that was supposed to be airtight had holes rusted into it, and the temperature control panel smashed.

Now closer, I could see the man a bit clearer. He still did not move or make a sound. I had no idea if he was still alive or not. I hesitated on the thought about entering to check. Seeing as the meat locker was a dead end, if Locklear was in there, it was possible that I might be able to lock him in with the heavy door. Deciding this was the best course of action, I pulled out my pocket flashlight once more and illuminated the chamber ahead. I had my hand at the ready to slam the heavy door, but other than the man, the chamber was empty.

With the light of my flashlight now filling the locker, I could see the full extent of the man’s suffering. He was indeed suspended off of the ground. He was hoisted into the air by vicious old meat hooks sunken into the flesh of his back. He was soaked in blood, and his head lay limp in front of him. I had no idea if I was looking at a severely injured man, or a corpse. So I jolted forward to inspect him. I tried to take his pulse, but had trouble locating it. I was in such a focused state of panic that I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a soft voice coo from behind me.

“He’s not dead, if that’s what you’re worried about, love.”

I recoiled, nearly dropping my flashlight and raising my crowbar, knowing full well it was now all but useless since he had gotten the jump on me.

“Doctor Evander Locklear, you are under arrest for charges of both murder and kidnapping. You have the right-” I started shakily, but he cut me off quickly.

“Doctor? You’re referring to me by my proper prefix? Usually they just call me Locklear. How refreshing your manners are,” he chimed, his voice slightly muffled by his eerie mask.

His demeanor was bizarre. I couldn’t get a read on him and had no idea what he was going to do. Trying not to let the all-consuming fear that was now filling me seep into my voice, I tried again.

“You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent-”

“Oh, you’re really going to arrest me?” he mockingly said with a chuckle, “Now that’s really precious. But pray tell dearie, how do you plan to do so when I’m the one with the gun and I see you chose to come here instead of getting back-up. Interesting choice my dear, very interesting.”

I shuddered. His calm and I daresay pleasant demeanor threw me off. It was incredibly unnerving. I believe I would have been far less frightened if he had just screeched at me in an aggressive tone that matched his monstrous visage. Not knowing what else I could do, I decided to try talking to him.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked, failing to keep my voice from quivering.

“Because he deserves it,” he responded, this time cold and savage, no signs of his previous warmness.

“My turn!” he exclaimed, immediately returning to his pleasant voice almost as quickly as he had become savage the moment before.

“Why did you choose to come here alone? Going off for back-up was clearly the right decision. Yet you chose to put your own life at risk for that filthy thing. Why?” he inquired, tilting his head, looking like a nightmarish bird with his mask.

“If you want to talk to me, you’re going to have to take that thing off,” I said pointing to his mask, shocked at my own brazenness.

To my surprise, he didn’t shout at me or remind me that he was the one in possession of the gun so he made the demands. He simple chuckled softly and pulled his hood down, removing the mask as I had requested.

“Fair enough.” He laughed, finally his voice was clear without the mask muffling it.

I was a bit taken aback. He didn’t look like a madman that had been on the run for several years. He was clean and he appeared well cared for. His light olive skin didn’t sink into his cheeks like someone underfed, and his long black hair was neatly tied behind him. If he weren’t the most wanted man in the city, he could have waltzed back into a hospital, masquerading as a doctor and no one would think him out of place.

He noticed my baffled staring and broke into an amused grin, his strangely blue eyes piercing into me like an icy knife. Everything about the man in front of me made me uneasy.

“There. No more mask. Now, answer my question,” he chimed in his eerily cheerful voice.

I swallowed hard, still not knowing what his angle was. Odds were that he was just playing cat and mouse, toying with me before killing me along with the man. I would have to find a way to disarm him before it got to that. What I needed now was to stall for time, so I’d answer his question and play his game for now.

“If I’m honest, I knew this was the dumb decision. But if I just abandoned him here while I ran off into town, he’d die. I don’t care what he’s done. It would still be wrong. And I would have to live with his blood on my hands,” I finished honestly, knowing I might as well be truthful for fear of him rooting out a lie and getting angry.

He stared at me in seeming fascination. A slight smirk danced on his lips before he responded.

“You’re an interesting one, Bernadette.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when he said my name. It took a moment with my pulse raising in my ears, wondering how he knew my name before I remembered that he had taken my badge. I sincerely hoped that he hadn’t seen the momentary panic in my eyes, but his smirk growing into a predatory grin told me he had indeed picked up on it. He was reveling in the power imbalance of our situation.

Before he could speak again, the silence was broken by the man on the meat hook seemingly regaining consciousness. Whatever he was on was clearly a much stronger dose than I had received, as his eyes were glazed over and he was drooling on himself. However, he still seemed to be in an immense amount of pain. As he pathetically tried to lift his head, he released the most pitiful moan. Wet tears dripped from his face and I immediately began to feel sick.

“You have to let him go,” I said again, more insistent this time, “He doesn’t deserve this.”

A dark shadow overtook Locklear’s face. Once again his voice had lost all traces of warmth as he spoke.

“Does he now?” he spat unsympathetically.

I hesitated to respond, as he was beginning to look quite agitated.

“Doesn’t deserve this? Him? This worm didn’t think it was a problem to knock his wife around. I’m sure it made him feel real powerful. He got a little carried away though this last time. Smashed her face in with a wrench. Never mind that she was four months pregnant. It must have been an honest mistake. He’s a good guy though, really. He doesn’t deserve it.” Locklear finished, his voice raising with each sentence until he was shouting like a mad man.

He went silent for a moment, before shifting on a dime to a soft, gentle voice as he looked at me.

“You see how silly you sound?”

Tears at the verge of rising up in my eyes, I weakly responded before I could stop myself.

“Killing him isn’t going to bring your wife back.”

I immediately knew I had crossed a line. His icy eyes flashed with rage and he pointed a shaking finger at me before bellowing.

“You know nothing about Evangeline!”

I recoiled, closing my eyes, certain he would charge me that moment. But a few seconds passed and all I could hear was heavy breathing. Looking up, his face no longer looked enraged, but filled with intense sorrow.

“You have no idea what it’s like. One minute you have everything you could have ever dreamed of; a radiant wife, a healthy child on the way. And then in the blink of an eye you’ve lost it all,” he said, voice barely hanging above a whisper.

“I’ll never forget that day. I should have been at home with her. But I got called in for an emergency surgery. A young man had been shot and needed an extremely delicate procedure as soon as possible or he would certainly have died. I left her there and went to the man instead. I never keep my phone on me in the OR, and no one is allowed to interrupt highly sensitive operations, so I couldn’t have known. I had no idea that while I was working to save the young man, my wife had gone into premature labor. They told me that they did everything they possibly could have to save her and the child, but the complications claimed them both.”

I couldn’t make eye contact with him while he spoke. Despite the tension, there was now a heavy, melancholic aura weighing down on the room. He continued to speak, his voice cold and dry.

“I saved the man, of course. I’m an excellent surgeon, the best at what I do. But the sick irony that awaited me, nothing could have prepared me for. You see, I got out of the operating room ready to celebrate a grand success, only to find myself mourning the loss of my whole world.

“That alone is enough to destroy a man. But the real kicker though, was that the man I had just saved was shot for a reason. He had just been acquitted for the rape and murder of a high school girl. Her father hunted him down and shot him. And I saved him.” Locklear’s voice now filled with rage once more.

“You see Ms. Devereaux, once upon a time I too tried to take the high road, choosing to save a man because ‘he didn’t deserve it’. And LOOK WHAT IT GOT ME. The world is not so black and white, dearie. Sometimes, bad people do evil things and go unpunished. So because they bested the legal system, it's alright? Or some childish mantra of ‘killing them making you no better’? That’s garbage and we both know it. Can you really compare killing a violent murderer with slaughtering an innocent victim? Forget your holier than thou moral code for a moment and answer honestly. These people need to atone for their sins, and I’m making sure they do. Disagree with my methods, but can you really say I’m wrong?”

By this point I was extremely shaken. I tried to gather myself before responding.

“Y-yes. I still think it’s wrong. You don’t get to decide who lives and dies.”

“Why am I wrong? And why not? This sham of a legal system certainly isn’t doing a bang-up job of it. You’ve seen the evidence of this case. You KNOW this man is guilty. Are you really okay with him murdering his wife and child, and going back to his life like nothing happened?” Locklear pressed, cutting into me with his accusing eyes.

“I’m not okay with it! But we have a legal system for a reason. Sometimes, it fails but that doesn’t mean we can just write off the whole thing,” I shot back, my voice shaking.

“So, this murderer just gets to skip off into the sunset? Is that was your little moral codes deems as right?” he whispered, eyes narrowing.

“No it’s- I don’t know!” I responded, not sure how to answer his questions at this point.

“So what is it? Do you think it’s acceptable for him to murder innocence as he pleases without consequences, or is it better to snuff that evil out of the world before it can harm another?”

“It’s not like- you don’t understand!” I shouted back.

“I think it’s you who doesn’t understand. You don’t even know what you believe in,” Locklear cooed at me.

“That’s not true! I’ve based my whole life on my beliefs! You’re just using word play to try to convolute my thoughts!” I shouted back in defiance.

“Well, perhaps you should look for a new direction to lead your life. It doesn’t seem like a very solid belief system if you can’t even tell me what’s right or wrong.” He shrugged.

“But killing him WOULD be wrong! Regardless of the type of man he is, you’re adding more hate and violence to the world,” I shot back at his dismissal.

“That’s where you’re wrong, dear girl. You’ve been following my case, haven’t you? I don’t just kill for the sake of killing! I’m going to take his organs. There are a great deal of good innocent people who are dying because the donor lists are too long, and they’re not rich enough to get preferential treatment. Through various contacts of mine, I make sure they get the organs they need. The death of one evil man can save multiple innocents. Is that really so wrong?”

It must have been a combination of the strange atmosphere of the meat locker, and my lack of sleep because my thoughts were starting to drift. I knew that however he tried to justify it, it didn’t make his actions right… But I couldn’t stop that tiny invasive thought growing in the back of my mind. His actions may not be right, but they also may not be entirely wrong…

No. What was I thinking? Was I really letting his mind games get to me? My eyes shifted to the man on the hook. Memories of footage of the court case flooded my mind. At his acquittal, he showed no signs of remorse or even sadness. He had worn a smug, triumphant expression as his name was cleared. Meanwhile his pregnant wife would never be able to smile again. Anger started to fill my chest, and that ever intrusive little thought continued to chip away at me.

Suddenly, Locklear’s now soft voice cut through my thoughts.

“It’s getting late, Bernadette. You really should run along now. There’s not much time left.”

Baffled and honestly irritated at his suggestion, I regained my fire and shot back.

“I can’t just leave,” I said stubbornly, “What if I try to stop you?”

“Then I’ll have to tranquilize you again.”

“Wait- wouldn’t it make more sense to kill me too?”

“No.”

“No? But I’ve figured out your pattern! I know you don’t work alone with the organs now! What if I take that information right back to the station and a whole swat team comes for you?”

“You won’t do that. And I’m not killing you. You are neither guilty of a heinous crime nor a necessity.”

“You’re willing to risk that?”

Locklear closed his eyes and calmly replied once more.

“I’m not going to kill you, and you’re not going to tell. We both know this.”

I burned with an indignant rage.

“I am a COP, dammit!”

“It’s time for you to go,” he said calmly, ignoring my outburst completely.

I froze for a moment, staring at him numbly. What was happening to me? He read the look in my eyes and stepped to the side, unblocking the entrance to the meat locker, and motioning me to leave. My pulse pounded in my ears, and I slowly lifted my feet, drifting in the direction he indicated.

My footsteps echoed throughout the otherwise silent building. I grew closer and closer to the doorway and Locklear himself. His icy blue eyes locked on to me the entire time. For the first time his face was devoid of emotion, as if intently waiting to see what I would do. I was now only a few feet from the infamous mad man, yet he did not strike. He simply continued to watch me. I swallowed hard, seeing my firearm sticking loosely out of his cloak pocket.

When I was but a foot away, the man on the hook began to fuss again. For just a second Locklear looked away from me and to his victim, but that second was enough for me to pounce. In a flash, I wrenched my hand into his cloak pocket and reclaimed my gun. However, no sooner did I make contact with my weapon, I felt a strong grip enclose my shoulder, yanking me forward.

Suddenly, I found myself face to face with the doctor. With only inches between us, I pressed the gun tight into his chest. There was a moment of silence where we simply stared into each other’s eyes. Despite the barrel of my weapon against his very flesh, he didn’t look the slightest concerned, or even shocked for that matter. Once again, it felt as though he were playing with my mind. His mouth stretched into one last sadistic grin before the deafening bang resounded within the rusty old chamber.

I slowly exited the slaughterhouse and stumbled back to my car. My ears rang and countless thoughts and visions flashed through my mind. I felt sick to my stomach, yet numb at the same time.

I couldn’t go into work the next day. I couldn’t go back at all. Callaway was heartbroken that I was leaving, but I can’t do it anymore. I should have listened to him when he told me to drop it. Even though I had solved the mystery, it was at way too great a price. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what I believe. Locklear managed to get into my head, and I don’t think it can ever be fixed.

I know he was just trying to get me to question my morals and belief system that has guided me my whole life as a means of toying with me. I know this, yet the damage is still done. Because despite his intent, I am ashamed to admit that some of the things he said actually made sense to me, on at least some level, even if I could not condone it. I can’t continue to serve when I’ve become compromised in such a way. I know many police do, but out of respect for the woman I was, I can’t do that. Not with a clean conscience.

More than any other reason, however, is what I did. I cannot continue to serve my city with this blood on my hands. It will forever haunt me. Even now I still hear the ringing in my ears. The sound of my unfired pistol slamming into the bitterly cold concrete of the slaughterhouse floor.

I had no idea exactly what horrors awaited the man suspended on the hook. But I knew he was going to die, and most likely in a horrible and gruesome manner. And in that moment I chose to walk away, I consciously condemned him to it and was now just as responsible for his fate as Locklear himself.

The good doctor had given me the most peculiar expression as I dropped the gun. Gently releasing me from his grip, he watched me walk through the doorway and out of the locker. I turned back one last time as he called out to me.

“See Bernadette? I told you you wouldn’t tell.”

His face broke into the warmest, most genuine smile, and it left me feeling utterly sick to my stomach. I walked away, not responding and letting him fade into the shadows.

It is now in hindsight that I believe he planned this whole thing out. Like the scientist he was, creating an elaborate maze for a rat. He knew I had been investigating him. For how long, I don’t know. In the very least, I believe he discovered me also tailing his prey. The pieces all fit. Why else would he lure his victim some place SO close to where I was stationed? He wanted me to see him. Wanted me to follow him.

I don’t know what he wanted from the encounter. Perhaps it was just a game to mess with my head? If so, he seems to have won. But I’m still struggling to understand. He never laid a finger on me, yet I feel so deeply violated. God, I was such an idiot.

I have trouble sleeping now. My thoughts don’t give me much rest. There are some nights where a shiver runs down my spine and I swear I can feel those piercing blue eyes boring into me from some unseen place. I’m not afraid of him coming back to get me. He’s not a boogeyman that’s waiting to kill me. He made this clear at the warehouse.

No. I’m no longer afraid of that man. The thing that has me utterly horrified… Is that I think I’m starting to believe that he’s right.



Credited to Madame Macabre 

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