“You were the one who found the body?” Charles McAllister asked, holding his notebook before him, jotting down in his own form of shorthand everything the girl had to say.
“Yes, I had left my bag here after work and came to pick it up on my way to the movies.” Dana Turner spoke.
For a young girl who had just found her boss savagely beaten to death she seemed remarkably calm. But then again shock can have that effect Charles thought to himself as he decided not to note her manner down.
“Ok, well here is a number for the police victims support line. If you need to talk to someone just give them a call. It’s a free number.” He said handing her a page torn out of his notebook.
“Thank you. Can I go now?” She asked turning as she did so. There was unsurprisingly a small crowd gathered already at the front of the store, including he had been informed a group of Dana’s colleagues who had been waiting for her at the movies.
“Yes, if we have any further questions we will be in touch. Thank you.” She walked away and Charles, a normally happily married man with two kids not much younger than Dana couldn’t help but stare almost forlornly as she walked away. He felt suddenly tired and slight light headed.
With a strangely heavy heart Charles turned his attention back to the crime scene itself. The body was in the storeroom of the Foot Locker in the centre of the local shopping mall. The forensics lab were busy collecting as much as they could, but it was hard work, as far as anybody could tell the store manager had been beaten to death, although it looked more like he had been run over by a truck. The floor was almost completely covered in blood and his both his skull and ribcage had been crushed almost flat.
“Have you found anything?” Charles asked Alexandra Talbot the current lead forensic pathologist in the absence of their regular chief who was taking his first vacation in ten years.
Alexandra stood up from her position crouched over the flattened head of the man and shook her head. “Nothing concrete, a few small hairs, definitely animal in origin and that’s it. We’ll analyze them back at the lab and let you know but other than that we’ve got nothing. No fingerprints, no sign of forced entry, no obvious murder weapon. A few strange marks have been found on the body but we’ll need to have him moved and cleaned up before I can tell you anything else.”
“Thanks Alex.” Charles offered.
There was a strange atmosphere to the room, a strong scent unlike that of any normal murder scene. The air almost seemed thick and slightly unreal. Too much coffee and cigarettes Charles told himself.
By the time the body was moved and the Foot Locker had been both locked and taped up the mall was deserted. The crowd had begun to disperse not long after the uniformed police had set up the tape and cordoned off the area. The closing of the mall had also helped although even then some people had remained.
Charles was back at the station; his wife long since in bed and his children long passed the age where he needed to set them curfews. In his left hand he held both a cigarette and a coffee and he alternated between the two without even breaking his focus on the pieces of paper in front of him.
He had pulled up the records on the Dana Turner, just a hunch he had told himself. She had only been working there a week.
Nothing strange about that Charles old boy
He then looked at the company records that they had obtained at the scene and realized that out of the seven members of staff, six had only been there a week.
The station was empty, even the janitor had gone home by the time Charles stood up from his desk to take a leak and get another cup of coffee. There was no point going home now, he lived a good hour drive away and was expecting the autopsy results first thing the next morning anyway.
His footsteps echoed in the linoleum lined halls, but that wasn’t it, there was something else. A steady clacking sound that tried hard to fall in time with his steps but the stride wasn’t long enough. Charles turned around, but the hallway was empty, the majority of the lights on his floor were turned off, in fact only the light in his section of the office burned. He started walking again, and again the clacking sound of horse’s hooves followed him again like a pre-emptive echo. A warm breeze came washed down the hallways, stiff enough to rustle the various posters and advertisements on the cork boarding that lined the corridors.
“Charles” His name seemed to be carried on the breeze. He turned around and saw nothing, for the light in his office and those in the hallway (which had been dim but enough to give some visibility before) had been extinguished.
The sound of hooves started again, only faster this time. Running away, and a happy giggling laugh followed close behind, swiftly followed by the sound of the double doors at the end of the hallway closing.
“This is a police station. Stop.” Charles called out as he instinctively gave chase drawing his weapon as he did.
The darkness was momentarily disorientating and Charles ran into the double doors before he had expected to. Luckily they swung outwards in the direction he was moving and he crashed into the communal hallway. The lights here were also extinguished.
He felt something move behind him. He spun around,
Another round of girly giggles bounded around the building. More than one laugh this time.
“Show yourselves.” Charles called out, releasing the safety on his raised weapon as he gave the command.
The giggles became louder, and the hooves started up again. Behind him, approaching fast, they thundered towards him, the sound intensified until it was like a rolling thunder making its way towards him.
Suddenly Charles was thrown to the floor, shoulder barged in fact and the group of intruders stampeded away, crashing through the doors at the entrance of the station, sending a shower of glass and wood splinters into the street. Their frolicsome laughter remained in Charles head long after their shod steps had faded to black.
When Charles got back to his desk, he turned on the main overhead lights and cried out when he saw the message that had been left for him.
BILL RAMIS GOT WHAT HE DESERVED the words were written in block letters across the large evidence board at the end of the room. Beneath it were a series of Horseshoe impressions. It wasn’t until he got closer that Charles realized that the message had been written in blood.
He knew he should call the captain, if not about the message, certainly about the damage to the station, but it all revolved it seemed around the Foot Locker murder and that was his case and as far as he was concerned it was his job to solve it.
Until then nobody had known the name of the dead man, no formal identification had been possible due to the extent of the injuries he had suffered. The circumstances may have been unusual but at least there was now a lead to follow.
Charles ran a quick search through the police system and was surprised when he got a near instant result. Bill Ramis was had been questioned and suspected in a number of sexual harassment and rape allegations none of which had been proven or had been dropped before trial could begin. He had been the manger of the Foot Locker since it had opened nearly eight years ago. All of the complaints had been made by employees of the company, and all of them had withdrawn their complaints and resigned from their jobs.
The more Charles read into it the clearer the picture became, Ramis seemed to make it a policy to only hire young women. Thinking back to the young girl Dana who had found the body, all of the colleagues who had been waiting for her outside had looked the same. They were young, attractive; all brunettes with shapely figures, even Charles remembered how he had felt attracted to the girl as she was giving her statement. There was no way that any of the girls could have inflicted the damage on a large heavy set man like Bill Ramis, but it was the best lead that he had and it was about a solid motive as he had seen in recent months. Ramis had simply tried his luck one too many times. Of course it could have been any one of the ex-employees but at least the list of suspects was now being defined.
“Help me.” A broken desperate voice cried out in little more than a whisper.
Already on edge, Charles leapt to his feet and spun around, drawing his weapon as he moved. He was surprised to see he was shaking.
“Please” The girls spoke but her words were drowned by the blood that was filling her lungs. She staggered forwards a few steps into the light, her face a beaten pulp, one eyeball had exploded the other was swollen shut, the socket around it shattered, her hair clung to the scalp which flapped like a poorly fitted toupee against her skill. Her clothes were ripped and bloodied, and before she could say anything else she staggered a final two paces and collapsed to the floor.
Charles ran to her, his weapon holstered once more. “Miss, hello Miss, stay awake for me. Who did this to you? Don’t worry. I’m going to get you some help.” He was already dialing 911 on his radio but knew it wouldn’t be enough.
“The ne….new…gir….” The young lady started to speak but her breath gave out before she could finish and she died on the floor of the local police station.
Charles stared at her, trying to understand what she was trying to say. It was then that he saw the black and white (and largely red) shirt she wore, and slowly it began to fit together. He rose to his feet and ran from the station.
The streets were empty so there was no need for the siren as Charles raced the streets to the Mall. He wasn’t surprised to see the entrance way doors had been smashed open and the two security guards on duty lying dead just inside, both of them trampled in similar bloody fashion to the other two victims.
Charles made straight for the Foot Locker where he found the tape had been pulled down and the security door had suffered a similar fate. With his weapon raised and the safety off he entered the shop. It was dark; he groped on the wall for the light switch.
The six young women were standing together in the far corner huddled together, and when the lights came on their heads all snapped up in union. Eyes wide with fear.
Charles froze, and for a second all he saw was their beauty, these poor girls, they were helpless, there was no way that they could have been responsible.
“Are you ok?” He asked “What happened here?” He continued, his brain suddenly intoxicated by their beauty, their scent, his mind sang a happy chorus and he felt giddy, like a schoolboy in love.
One of the girls, Dana he thought, although now he saw just how alike they all looked. “I don’t know. You saved us.” Her voice was strangely high pitched.
They all moved out of the corner, encircling Charles, staring at him with large brown eyes, smiling at him. They walked in a circle, it was dizzying to watch and soon Charles found himself feeling sea sick, nauseated. “Please, stand still.” He asked as a retch began to bubble in his stomach. He leant forward, hands on his knees. It was then that he saw it… their legs.
“What…” He began just as the first black and white striped leg shot out and kicked him in the centre of his spine.
With a crisp cracking sound his spine broke and Charles McAlister fell to the floor. The beautiful women continued to walk around him, their bodies perfect, their legs all the same, thick and muscular, hoofed and covered in a unmistakable black and white striped pattern.
“He got what he deserved. Justice was dealt and all those who stand in the way must be dealt with.” The Zebra-woman Dana spoke. Her voice now deep and gravelly.
“Who are you?” Charles stuttered
“We are called upon by the scorned women who were done so wrong. That man needed punishment for his crimes.” Dana continued to speak.
“Why the girl?” He coughed and spat a mouthful of blood onto the shop floor.
The girls stopped walking and stared at him. “She accepted him, she let him touch her, father her child and take her whenever he wanted. We offered her the chance to take vengeance but she refused.”
“She was scared” Charles somehow found the energy to shout. This shocked the girls and seemed to spook them the way a loud noise can cause a horse to bolt.
“She stood in our, as do you, you would have saved him, you would have locked his killer away, you will stop us if you could. We have been around for centuries and we will continue until the world is an equal place.” Dana spoke
In the distance the sound of police sirens grew louder, all six of them heard it. Their eyes widened, nostrils flared, and still they were beautiful, or so Charles thought.
By the time to police arrived the girls were long gone, disappeared into the night with no trace left behind besides a few bloody hoof prints beside the crushed body of Detective Charles McAlister.