I didn’t know how boring digging through newspapers and obituaries were until it actually made my eyes feel numb (who knew that was a sensation?). Jeremy fell asleep after twenty minutes of searching, not that I was very surprised. Jeremy was dedicated to his job, but even at the mention of paperwork, he’d fall asleep. Not that I could blame him really.
“So, let me get this straight,” I muttered to Waverly after I read the same line three times. “You chose to do this. As your job?”
Waverly snickered and said, “Well, no one else was going to. All of this stuff wasn’t even organized when I got here. And I do normally like it. Sometimes it can be incredibly boring, sure. But look at all of this rich history. You don’t know how often I hear something about an Earp. Our family was so… involved.”
“Sorry,” I apologized bitterly. “I kinda fucked up our name.”
My sister, Haught, and Dolls looked up to look at me like I had three heads. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate self-deprecating jokes. Who the hell knew?
“Darlene Atkins,” Haught said, changing the subject. “I found her information. I can’t believe this. She was strangled and mutilated and no one looked into her case. The police just said that it was probably a drug deal gone wrong.”
I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading from. I skimmed it quickly and told her, “She’s a prostitute. They wouldn’t have investigated it at all.”
My eyes caught Dolls’ and I quickly looked away. I didn’t want his random pitiful stares. He didn’t always feel bad for me. He wasn’t necessarily sympathetic to the choices I had to make to stay alive. But there were random moments of… something. Where he looked at me like I was a helpless victim. Xavier Dolls, always the enigma.
“We can’t trust her,” Dolls commented grimly as we stared at the witness in the interrogation room. He looked at her like she was a criminal; a girl who chose to be in the position she was in. He was wrong. I didn’t know the girl, but I understood her. I knew girls like her. I was a girl like her. Being so desperate that you’d do anything to survive.
“We can,” I argued and watched the girl nibble at her fingers. “She thinks we’re going to arrest her for solicitation. She doesn’t know we’re looking for a client.”
He rolled his eyes and said, “She’s a willing participant who is paid by her client. Good money. Why would she give that up?”
I stared at him, annoyed of his ignorance, and told him, “Because her friends have been killed. Because even if she sells herself because she has to, she has morals. She has ethics. And she’d want to get a murderer off the street.”
He glared at me. Dolls and I weren’t the greatest teammates, always having differing opinions. He was logical and based all of his decisions on facts that made sense to him. I actually understood the world that he decided to dive into, but after six months of working together, he still thinks I’m that criminal that Lucado found a while ago.
“You didn’t want to get Hayes off the street,” He stated nastily, doing whatever he could to get under my skin.
“X--” His partner began before I interrupted her.
“Things aren’t always so black and white, Dolls. Garrett Hayes was a murderer, and so much more than that. You’re right. But he also saved my life, even if it was his goal to end it. Loyalty is hard to understand, but understand me when I say that this girl is not a monster. She’d do anything to put one away.”
The last thing I wanted was for Dolls (or even Chetri) to mention my past, even if it was prevalent to this case. I didn’t want Waverly (or even Haught) to know about what I did to survive. About the places I’ve been to, the people I worked with, and the things I let people do to me. Luckily, Dolls seemed to understand that. He might have been dense sometimes, but he was getting better at reading a room and understanding personal issues.
I was surprised that Haught barely even seemed to blink. Not only did she seem like she wasn’t bored out of her goddamn mind, she seemed like she was enjoying herself. Then again, she and my sister were chatting each others’ ears off, so they were distracted by the shit ton of stuff that we had to go through.
Dolls and I never talked to each other like the two of them were. I barely knew anything about him and the things he knew about me were in my case file or related to a case. It wasn’t like we couldn’t talk to each other. We did talk, but not about anything personal. We just didn’t really have that in us. Chetri tried to open us both up, but we couldn’t do it. I knew a few things about Jeremy, but while he wants us to think he’s open to talk about anything, I think there are a few things he wouldn’t talk about either. Surprisingly, though, I did find out that Jeremy and I had similar tastes in men.
But Haught and Waverly were talking about everything from the redhead’s cat to Waverly’s experience with veganism. I didn’t want to hear it. The last thing I wanted to do was get attached to either person, and they weren’t making it easy for me.
“Someone stab me,” I murmured under my breath so quietly that only Dolls heard me. At his stern look of disappointment, I shrugged and told him, “From experience, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as this.”
He rolled his eyes and said, “I don’t think that’s something you should be proud of, Earp. And please, don’t continue talking about your numerous wounds. We already determined that I have more scars than you do.”
I harrumphed and muttered, “Asshole.”
“What the hell are you two talking about?” Haught asked as we both realized the two girls had been looking at us the whole time.
Noticing the horrified look in Waverly’s eyes, I explained, “We’re joking. Okay, I’ve got the last one. Are we finally done yet?”
Waverly reluctantly nodded and we put all the information together. These cases weren’t necessarily that similar to the current case, there were different methods of killing and a longer resting period between each kill, but there was an undeniable sense that this could not be a coincidence.
A sudden horrific thought came to me and I could tell my eyes widened. I nudged Jeremy awake and looked at him and Dolls and said, “Can I speak to you both outside?”
They nodded and followed me outside (as I ignored the annoyed looks of Waverly and Haught). The thought was hard to swallow and even harder to say out loud.
“Whoever killed those girls aren’t killing the girls today. I mean, it’s impossible. He can’t be immortal or 130. So obviously, it’s more than one person.” When I realized they didn’t disagree, I theorized, “What if there are two killers? Or maybe three? And what if the current killer was one of the first or second killer’s students? What if this is more organized than we had even thought?”
Chetri was gaping at me while Dolls barely blinked.
“Killers creating killers…” Dolls muttered as if he was trying to see if the words made sense with his lips. “It’s not unheard of. There are plenty of copycat killers and people that persuade others to kill. In the right situation, it’s certainly possible.”
He didn’t seem to outright say no. In fact, he seemed to think that it wasn’t crazy.
Jeremy groaned and said, “If we had the police and autopsy reports we could probably figure out how many killers there were. How are we going to be able to solve this?”
“We catch the current sickos and hope that they can lead us to the people that let them act on their sick thoughts. Though, we do have to keep in mind that if this is bigger than we thought, we’re going to have to interview a lot of people who won’t be happy talking to us.”
Dolls nodded in agreement and added, “We’ll be lucky if we get out of here without pitchforks and death threats.”
“Should we get back to the station? We have a long night coming up.”
Jeremy frowned and said, “We have to tell them, Wynonna. They just spent hours helping us when they didn’t have to. We can’t just blow them off.”
I could . I’d be fucking happy to. Besides, they seemed happy enough with each other. But Jeremy was giving me puppy dog eyes and I didn’t want him to think that I was the literal devil. Not that to us that was a bad thing. Jeremy and I began binging shows together (he thought it would help with trying to be sober) and we watched all four seasons of Lucifer . He was a little geek, but he did pick a show with a really hot cast. I could give him that.
“Fine,” I gave in. “But I’m not happy about it.”
Haught and Waverly were still engulfed in a conversation when we met back up with them. My sister looked surprised as if she didn’t think we’d come back either. She was used to me leaving and I couldn’t blame her.
“I don’t know what you two are thinking,” I told them with a shrug. “But we’re thinking that this is an organization that has been going on for decades. We think that the teacher today might have been a student of the past. We’re not sure how many teachers there have been, but if this is bigger than we thought, it’ll be easier to catch.”
“I hope that’s good news,” Waverly replied with an anxious frown. “What can we do to help?”
“Nothing,” I answered immediately. “This is our job. We get in, we get out. We already shouldn’t have come to you two for help.”
Haught glared at me and said, “So, you ask us for help when you need it, but when we offer to help, you won’t let us? What the hell are we supposed to do with that, Earp?”
I understood her anger. Not being able to solve a case always sucked, but the last thing I wanted was to include Haught and Waverly into this. Black Badge was used to the danger, but a town cop and a historian/anthropologist didn’t know what they were getting into. This was worse than having one killer. These people must have had connections if they were able to get away with it for so long. Connections that could get either of them fired or hurt. I wouldn’t risk it, even if they both had been very helpful.
“You’re supposed to let professionals deal with it,” I told her coldly. “And pretend like you never heard any of this. We’ve got to go. But uh… see you later.”
I turned around as quickly as I could, but it didn’t stop Waverly from asking, “Can we talk later, Wyn--”
“Maybe later,” I interrupted, without looking around to see the inevitable disappointment in her face. I didn’t know if I could handle it again.
It was nearing midnight and we had been at it for hours, pouring over all the information that we had just received and old information. We wanted to make our final list; we wanted to be sure of who exactly was a victim of such a brutal organization.
“Altogether, there are about fifty-two victims from 1929 to well… today,” I stated as Dolls drew another line on yet another board. “Ninety fucking years of getting away with it.”
Dolls stared at the wall and explained, “In the last five years, there have been seventeen victims, which is a steep rise. From 1973 to 2014, there were another seventeen victims. Around one girl was killed every two years. But these girls were much more brutally killed and tortured. They kept them longer. They hid the bodies better. And from 1929 to 1973, there were another eighteen bodies over forty-four years. This new teacher is very cocky, very demanding. Egotistical. Narcissistic.”
“He’s God,” I agreed with a nod. “He wants people to know it too. Unlike the others, he needs the attention. He doesn't just get off by getting away with it, he wants everyone to know there’s a serial killer. He wants the fear. This guy started five years ago. And he’s so different from the rest. I wonder if his own mentors are disappointed in him.”
“They should be,” Dolls argued with a snort. “He’s arrogant and dramatic. The others weren’t. They took pride in the silence, in the honor of it all. They killed the prostitutes, the drug users. They killed the scum of the streets. This UnSub is killing any girl that walks past him. He’s doing the exact opposite of his elders.”
“He might be young,” Jeremy pointed out with a shrug. “Immature. Maybe his teacher died before being able to teach him everything. And know he’s fully out of his cage and doing damage.”
I nodded in agreement. “His students are really young too. Novices. But the UnSub likes it that way. He wants to show them the right way to do it. He likes being in charge.”
“It takes a lot of energy and strength to kill girls, especially girls in the age range we’re looking at,” Dolls said, still staring at the timeline (and probably wasn’t blinking). “Most likely, the teacher stops killing from age fifty to sixty. And most killers start from age twenty-five to thirty-five. That’s a fifteen to thirty year range. From 1927 to 2014, there could be three to five teachers.”
I let that sink in. At the beginning of this, I thought there were only a few monsters: the teacher and the students. Now, I knew there were many teachers and probably multiple students per teacher. I felt like throwing up.
“I’ve been looking at the autopsy reports of the girls of the last five years,” Jeremy said as he pointed to pictures of the bodies. “I can match some of the stab marks together. Trajectory and force are very specific. I’m confident I’ll be able to pinpoint how many students there are based on these marks.”
Sometimes there were these moments where people surprised me. After years of what seemed like hell, I didn’t think that there was anything that could startle me. But the brilliance of Jeremy Chetri was sometimes so strong it was like a slap on the face. I wouldn’t tell him that of course (wouldn’t want to let that go to his head) and I certainly didn’t want him to think that I liked him or enjoyed his presence.
“Good,” Dolls responded professionally. “But we should get back to the motel. We won’t be able to work diligently if we’re exhausted.”
That was an understatement. I normally stayed up for hours, but this case was draining (physically and emotionally). I really, really , wanted to go to sleep. The only problem was my fucking insomnia. I missed drinking. At least then, I could pass out.
Once again, I found myself sitting outside of the room, looking out from the balcony. Motels were the worst fucking places because literally everyone was doing something illegal or morally wrong and it was hard to look away and not remember myself doing those things. It felt like a different life, but one that no matter how far I ran, I kept returning to.
“Hey,” Jeremy said as he opened the door. It was interesting that he came out to talk to me. When he first joined, he was terrified to be in the same room as me. Which, was my fault. I’m not a big fan of newbies.
I could help but stare at the boy who was supposed to be replacing her. His knees were practically wobbling as his worried face seemed to match the rest of him. He was younger (not that it was necessarily a problem) which meant he was most likely inexperienced.
“He’s top of his class,” Lucado explained to me and Dolls as if she understood our shocked faces and took pleasure in them. “And he’s passed all the necessary tests.”
Dolls reached out his hand for Jeremy to shake and introduced himself politely. Very different than our first introduction.
“J-Jeremy Chetri,” The young boy told him with a frazzled smile. “I’m so honored to have this opportunity--”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupted as rudely as possible. “You’re three-years-old. How in hell are you qualified to be working with us?”
Jeremy looked beyond startled and I felt my heart sink into my ass. I got the reaction I wanted.
Dolls gave me this look. I was surprised, he wasn’t angry. If anything, he looked sympathetic. As if he somehow understood how I felt about the whole goddamn thing. How she was gone and this little child was replacing her.
“No. Fuck. This. Shit.”
Jeremy stared at me with sadness and comfort like he wanted to help but just didn’t know how. I felt bad. It wasn’t his responsibility to keep me sane.
“You don’t have to check up on me,” I told him bitterly and with a long sigh afterward.
“I know,” He replied honestly. “But you know me. I gotta make sure all my people are okay. Is there… anything I can do?”
The first thing that came to mind was: leave me alone . The words were so close to spilling out and I think he knew that I wanted to say them. But I couldn’t. Not to him. Not when everything else was so fucked up.
I needed to get away from him.
“I’m going to go take a walk. I’ll be back in an hour or so, okay?”
Jeremy nodded and frowned slightly like he was disappointed (he always thought that I was capable of being a much better person).
“Be careful,” He warned.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, yeah. The next one will be brunette.”
He shook his head and countered, “Not of the killers. But of yourself. I don’t know if you know this about yourself, Wynonna, but you are sorta self-destructive.”
A bark of laughter fell out of my mouth before I could stop it. He grinned with pride and I could tell that he was happy to see me laugh.
“Thanks for the heads up, Chetri. I’ll see you in a bit.”
I got up and headed out, fading into the darkness of the night like the angsty person I am. The moon was bright tonight, so I was able to see where I was going. I felt like it was maybe a sign that I wasn’t being completely stupid. Though, I think everyone else would argue.
I didn’t know what to focus my thoughts on. The case (which I was quickly getting obsessed with) or my team or Haught or Waverly (I wouldn’t allow my thoughts to fall into the dangers of the past).
When a car pulled up next to me, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t someone like Tucker Gardner. Instead, Nicole Haught was right there, looking up at me with… concern?
I couldn’t believe that she was talking to me again, especially after what I said to her. I kept being rude to her and she wasn’t taking the hint. Or maybe she had (she was smart after all) and didn’t care.
“Crazy doesn’t stop after one night, nosey Haught. You still doing that ‘town guardian’ thing?”
Haught narrowed her eyes at me and said, “I am. But I was also looking out for you. There’s someone that you should talk to.”
I raised an eyebrow. Normally, I wouldn’t have been interested in whatever person she wanted me to meet. But there was a serious in her tone that I couldn’t ignore. Surprising her and myself, I got into her car.
She began to drive and the silence soon became overwhelming.
“Why are you trying to push everyone away?” She asked me eventually. I decided to play confused and ignorant. “Don’t give me that look, Earp. You know exactly what I’m talking about. One second, we are actually working well together and you seem to enjoy my company and in the next second, you’re doing everything you can to piss me off. Why?”
I shrugged and answered, “Because I’m a dick and I want everyone to be kept on their toes.”
“No,” She argued with the shake of her head. “I don’t think that’s it. You want me to hate you. You don’t want me to want to befriend you. And despite your team caring for you, you wouldn’t consider them your friends. Why don’t you want anyone to get close to you?”
I glared at her. I did not need a fucking therapist.
“You don’t know me, Haught. Stop pretending like you do.”
“Fine,” She responded with a sigh. “But I will get to know you. You might think you don’t deserve friendship, but I’m not really going to give you a choice in the matter.”
“In what matter?”
“In our inevitable friendship.” She stopped the car and I noticed that she parked in front of a bar I used to know so well. “We’re here.”
Ignoring what she had said, I muttered, “Great. Bring an alcoholic to a bar.”
Haught looked startled. “Oh. Shit. Um…”
“It’s fine,” I told her with an eye roll. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
The bar was exactly how I remembered it. As a kid, mama worked here and I spent many nights hanging out with her. When I was older, I came here to drink and forget and drink and pass out. Shorty had a soft spot for me and let me hang around, despite my bad attitude and horrible manners. I think he preferred me to drink at his bar rather than somewhere else where people couldn’t keep their eye on me. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but he probably saved my life.
I was expecting to see Shorty bartending, but instead, I found a man with a ridiculous hat that matched his equally ridiculous mustache. He didn’t really seem to fit in our time.
“Officer Haught,” He greeted as he tipped his hat. “It’s a pleasure seeing you again. Now, who is this pretty lady you’ve brought with you?”
I tried to give him the ‘I’m not interested’ look while Haught told him, “This is Wynonna Earp. She’s with--”
“Black Badge,” He finished for her, grinning. “I’ve heard all about you. And truly, the pleasure’s all mine. Not what can I do for you lovely ladies?”
I stared at Haught with confusion and annoyance. This jackass was the guy she wanted me to meet? I could hardly believe what was happening. Haught had an informant (which I could only guess her boss didn’t know about). I was somewhat proud.
“Behave, Holliday,” She told him with a warning glare. “I’ll only pay you if you’re appropriate. I don’t have to come to see you.”
He nodded and poured a couple of drinks. Three, to be exact. Whiskey, my devil drink. He took a sip and watched carefully as I stared at my glass.
“You don’t, Officer,” He agreed slyly. “But you and I both know that my information is too good to pass up. Besides, I wouldn’t want you girls coming all the way here for nothing. That drink’s on the house by the way, darlin.”
He wanted me to drink it. He wanted to see the chaos that would unfold if the drink met my lips like he somehow knew the monsters deep in my head.
“We’re not playing games tonight, Doc,” Haught told him stiffly. “You know what we’re looking for.”
He chuckled and replied, “Of course, ma’am. Have a sip, Wynonna. It looks like you need it.”
I felt like the only way he’d talk was if I took a sip of poison. And so I did. And oh, did the birds sing in my ears. When the glass was empty and I started to feel the world wash away, I stared into his consuming eyes.
“So tell me, Doc Holliday. What do you know?”