Ok folks. It’s done…FINALLY. Well not completely still have edits before it may be submitted for publication. With that said, please check out my completed story of “The Case of The Caged Killer.” I realize you were promised a musical montage at the end, but I ended up nixing the idea from the suggestion of using an opera and giving it a twist instead. Please read through and let me know what you think. I am primarily looking for critiques pertaining to grammatical structure and use of vocabulary, since this writing thing is a new practice. However, any and all comments are welcome. Enjoy!
The Case of the Caged Killer
Part One: A Rough Day at Work
It was 11:45am according to the scrolling, digital marquee outside the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Fifteen minutes until Hell, the place Alice called work, would be open for business. Alice, a young ginger woman in her late-twenties, was pushing through the crowd gathered near the zoo’s main entrance. Her freckled face was flush from the run down the block, coming from her morning commute which ended at the Pearl Road line of the RTA. She was running behind, already late for her shift at the Cape Cafe; the third time this week. The last time Alice didn’t show up to work as scheduled, Raul, her boss, promised that no excuse would be acceptable if she wanted to keep her job to pay for her classes at CIM. Alice twinged at the thought of that encounter.
Raul was standing before her in the kitchen as Alice was preparing an enormous pile of potato salad for tomorrow’s menu. Raul, there, with his arms crossed and the end of a long, stainless steel spatula sticking out from under an armpit. His hair net pulled tightly down over his stringy, balding head, beaded with sweat
“Alice”, Raul crowed in his deeply thick, turkish accent. “If you want to make money, you have to do your job. If you want to do your job you need to be at the Cafe”. Raul paused and then raised his voice, with emphasis,”You need to be at the cafe, ON TIME”! His intonation was supplemented with a gob of sweat, plunging from the tip of his nose like a cliff diver leaping into the sea below. But instead of hitting the sea, the glob splashed into the potato salad Alice was attempting to mix.
Alice made her way through the throng and headed down a non-descript corridor beyond the ticket tellers. A few paces down the hall and around a corner, Alice entered an area filled with various consumables and foodstuff. Boxes of SOLO cups, straws and plastic cutlery were stacked to the ceiling. Cans of tomato paste, beans and peaches were neatly contained on a wired racks to the sides. The dough mixer was present and empty. For the moment, the rest of the kitchen was also empty. Alice was thrilled at this discovery and quickly stashed her belongings under one of the stainless steel countertops, covered with various containers of spices and other food mixings. Just as she popped up from beneath the counter and began wrapping an apron around her waist, Toni appeared from around the dish-washing machine on the opposite side of the kitchen.
“Hey stranger”, Toni proclaimed. A thin, young african woman, with dark mocha skin was standing prostrate before her. It had been several months since Alice had seen Toni, as her co-worker had been away on maternity leave. Rather than make her way around the table, Alice moved close enough to Toni, reaching over the spice-topped counter to give her a hug.
“Hey back at you, momma. I wasn’t expecting you for another two weeks”, Alice declared! Where’s Raul”?
“I dunno”, Toni replied, “I haven’t seen him since yesterday”.
This news was disarming to Alice because Raul was at the Cafe, every weekday, from early morning until mid-afternoon. He was the Cafe manager and it was his responsibility to ensure the Cape Cafe was ready for action, especially since this was peak season. Even though summer was coming to a close, the zoo was as busy as ever. Families were attempting to squeeze in one last day trip before kids went off to school in the fall. And where there were large gatherings people, food was surely to be in toe.
While Cleveland Metroparks Zoo possessed many areas to obtain some sort of refreshment, the Cafe was busiest since it was near the main entrance and provided the largest variety of food. With this in mind and since it was nearly noon, Alice dismissed her thoughts and began the processes of turning on all of the equipment she would soon be using.
Later that evening, the zoo was quiet, as it had been closed for several hours. Most of the general staff had already gone for the day and the noises and movements that could be witnessed were created by the animals of the park. The elephants began to settle in since they were located near the main entrance and the activity of people crossing had died off, allowing them to nestle down in the hay plots for the night. The Bornean orangutans were making their way to their nests now that the evening feeding had been concluded and they could perform some last minute grooming on each other before the lights were turned off around the bulk of the park, rendering the zoo in blackness.
In contrast to these conscious efforts to retire activity, a slight commotion was found in the northern section of the park. This commotion wasn’t being caused by the bears, reindeer or wolves of the “Northern Trek” section of the zoo. This commotion was occurring as a result of a two-legged, variety of animal; a human.
Out from the bush line above the man-made caves where the bears were housed, a figure emerged, dragging a large bundle behind it. The bundle was a dead-still, heavy weight, being pulled by a fairly tall person, whose features were cloaked by dark clothing and balaclava. Furthermore, the sun was almost set, so it was providing very little light at this point. The figure and bundle came to a halt at the edge of the cave cliffs.
Almost immediately, the stranger kneeled and began unbinding the opening of a large bag. It was the kind of bag most parents would recognize in a hockey family. A kind of bag that was so big, it could hold an amazing amount of gear for their children’s athletic pursuits. But instead of holding gear, the stranger revealed the contents of a quivering, trembling, wreck of a being.
The person being unwrapped from the bag was sobbing, although their noises were muffled due to the ballgag situated in their mouth. Upon closer inspection, the person could be made out as a male, slightly obese, wearing what seemed to be a uniform of someone that worked in the food industry adorned with a hairnet, albeit an unnecessary device since this person had very little hair to begin with. Even more startling, however, was the condition of this person.
This portly, hairy man, still wearing his work-clothes, was covered in blood and caked with dirt. He winced as the dark figured lifted up the end of the bag, forcing its contents to slip out onto the ground. The dark figure then dropped to knee again, starting to remove the gag as the man covered in blood and dirt continued to sob. The prisoner was then situated upright so that he could see where he was now located, peering out through horribly swollen eyes that had been pounded repeatedly during his abduction earlier that day.
”I brought you back home”, the dark figure began. Silence was the prisoners reply. “I brought you back, to where you belong”, spoke the stranger. Still more silence as the prisoner’s whimpering began to trail off. The silence was quickly broken by the sudden movements of the strangers arms as he reached down and slit the throat of the now convulsing prisoner. A spray of gore coated the top of the caves, coloring it in a crimson hue. As the convulsions stopped, the stranger produced a coil of rope from the athletic bag, returning to the side of the now dead captive. Bears could be heard shuffling below as the stranger began wrapping rope around the ankles of the corpse, turning over as they hunkered down for the night’s sleep.
Part Two: Open Season
It was just after five in the morning. Curtis, one of the junior animal handlers, was wheeling the cart of bear food to the den behind the artificial caves. The Andeans were first on the route. His food cart was filled with pails of dog biscuits, apples and sweet potato. Alfred and Nora, the park’s two Andean bears, could be heard rustling behind the wall panels near the food drop. Their bellies were finely tuned instruments, so the bears were fully aware of the incoming meal.
Curtis pulled back the large hatch that fed the food drop. From the open hatch, the animal caretaker could dump the contents of the food pails down a slide that fed into the food troughs. Metal grating was fastened over the enclosure to separate the caretakers, not that these bears were known for violence, but mainly to protect the bears from nosing into work areas that could cause accident or injury.
Curtis had a direct view into the bear den from this vantage point. As he began dumping sweet potatoes into the drop, Curtis took notice that the bears, while shuffling around, were not nosing at the grate at the incoming food like they usually did. Instead, Alfred’s back could be seen as the animal was hunched over, picking away at some object while he was vigorously lapping his jowls. Nora could be heard as well, but sounded like she was located further out near the entrance of the cave.
Without a second thought, Curtis assumed the bears probably found some pumpkins from the night feed and were finishing their left-overs. The discovery of any left-over food wasn’t welcoming because it meant the night crew probably overfed the animals again. Cynthia, the head keeper, would be enraged when she caught wind of this news. The bears had been put on a strict diet because their weight had increased to a point that was borderline obese. Rather than suffer the ilks related to weight induced diabetes, Cynthia had requested the food portions to be cut back. Whoever pulled shift the night before was due for a hide tanning. No one messed around with Cynthia’s babies.
As soon as Curtis dumped the contents of the first pail into the drop, he closed the hatch and skirted around the food prep area to the rear access door of the den. Curtis keyed in the access code on the pad next to the knob and a green LED illuminated, acknowledging that the door could be opened. Curtis pulled the knob, opening the door when his mouth immediately dropped agape. Before him sat Alfred. Instead of the sweet pulp of the pumpkin dripping from his mouth, sinew and gore strung from the bear’s jaw to the top of his chest and his blood drenched paws. Between his legs and pressed down on the floor, was not a ripe pumpkin, anchored for ease of access. Alfred had the remnants of a hollowed out chest cavity with bits of detached bone and entrails swathed around his feeding area. It was a nightmarish mess.
Doubled over with nausea, Curtis vomited outside of the rear entrance to the den. All Curtis heard, were the gentle lapping sounds made by Alfred as he continued to enjoy his meal. Nora was still unaccounted for, but he could hear another animal making similar sounds beyond Alfred. It was shortly after this point that panic set in and Curtis quickly scrambled. Slipping on his vomit, Curtis attempted to overcome his “fight or flight” response and rose from his haunched pose to get back to his feet. The horrific scene was too much to process for the young keeper and just as he reach standing height, he immediately buckled, folding over again as blackness flashed over his perception and Curtis fell to the ground, unconscious.
Alice, received a phone call as she was riding in to her shift at work. She’s was only a few blocks away when the phone started vibrating, signaling an incoming call.
“Hello?”, Alice asked.
“Alice, it’s Toni”, the recognizable voice announced from the other side of the line.
“Hey, lady!”, Alice returned. “What’s up? I’m almost to the zoo.” She paused, looked at the phone’s clock and continued, “I should be there in about five minutes”.
“Don’t get off the bus”, followed Toni. “It’s crazy here, the park is closed and cops are everywhere”. Toni continued to explain, “I was instructed to call all the staff and tell them they had the day off. No other information was given.”
“WTF?!?!”, Alice shouted in her mind. She was on time for once and was ready to gloat at Raul when their paths crossed. “Wow, Toni. What’s going on?”, inquired Alice.
“Not a clue,” Toni replied. “There are a bunch of police cars and firetrucks up by the Northern Trek. I saw the commotion as I was coming in from the employee lot, but couldn’t make anything out. Just a bunch of people milling about and lights flashing”, she said to further elaborate on the situation.
“Well this is dumb. Lame and dumb.” Alice expressed. “Are we, at least, getting paid?”, she inquired.
“No clue”, Toni responed. “If I hear anything, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, I’ll catch you later, Alice.”
“Ok”, she replied. “Take care”, Alice ended and she hung up the line.
Alice remained on the bus and made the return trip back to her apartment. She had eaten before she left for work, so she wasn’t hungry. Alice decided to make a stop at the video store next to her place as she got off the bus at her stop. She had a DVD to return, and nothing else planned for the day. As Alice approached the entrance to RST Video, she was quickly thrown back as a mother, dragging her child behind, rampaged out of the store, muttering obscenities under her breath. “Guess it’s going to be one of those days”, Alice thought to herself. She recovered from the near collision and made her way into the video store.
RST Video was a modest storefront. Only slightly larger than a hallway, videos lined the wall to the left which was countered by the checkout area on the right. Standing behind the counter with his back to Alice, the store clerk was finishing up a conversation on the phone.
“Yeah, that’ll be all”, the clerk mentioned in his nasally voice. “The old broad took her kid out of the store in a hurry, so I guess we won’t need that copy of Happy Scrappy Hero Pup. I’ll just take the skin films this time around”, the clerk continued. “Yeah, that was RST Video, customer number 4352. Thanks”, he closed and hung the phone on the reciever. Alice put the rental copy of “Whispers in the Wind” on top of the counter.
“I’d like to return this and I’ll probably check something out too”, Alice mentioned as she passed by the counter. The clerk quickly spun around and looked Alice in the eye. His name tag read, Randle.
“Look, miss thinks she owns the place and does what she wants”, the clerk proclaimed in his nasal pitched, whiny voice. “Can’t you see I was on the phone? Do I go into your house and drop things on your counter, demanding service? Bunch of savages in this town,” he murmured under his breath as she walked away.
The clerk looked down at the DVD and immediately twinged. His eyes bulged open and shot back in Alice’s direction. “Whispers in the Wind?!?! Damnit, I just ordered a copy of this because it was out for so long!” Alice was notorious for hanging on to DVDs for much longer than she needed. The video store was convenient and she just couldn’t bring herself to use one of those online services.
“Sorry, man”, she reflexively riposte Randle’s announcement.
“Sorry?” “Sorry?!” “SORRY?!?!”, he repeated over and over and over again. Shuddering with the last apologetic mockery. “I’ll show you what SORRY means, lady”, he said, only to immediately turn around and go through a doorway located behind the counter. It was in that moment Alice, made a similar movement, quickly made for the entrance to the shop, and left the video store before she found out what the clerk meant by his definition of the apology.
Alice continued down the street and rounded the corner before her apartment complex. Hurrying up the stairs, Alice entered her building through the turnstile and continued up to her apartment. Just as she entered the building, Randle turned the corner and stopped where he stood, spying at Alice as she disappeared.
“Don’t worry, lady”, Randle spoke under his breath. “We’ll talk again, real soon, now that I know where you live.” And with that the clerk returned to his shop, grimacing under his breath as he walked through the door to RST Video.
Part Three: Too Close to Home
Toni opened her eyes. Searing pain ripped through the left side of her face, as she attempted to focus her mind on her whereabouts. Shortly after regaining consciousness, Toni realized that she had suffered a fairly severe facial wound and was unable to open her left eye. Furthermore, her right eye was horribly swollen which prevented her from gathering much detail. From what she could tell, the new mother was tied to a chair inside a storage closet. The room was dimly lit, save the light pouring through the transom window above the door frame. However, as time progressed, her senses acclimated to the near darkness. While her vision was mostly a blur, Toni was able to identify what appeared to be videocassettes and DVDs, lining the shelves in various states of arrangement.
Sound began waning into the closet, through the cracked window. Toni had difficulty distinguishing what she could hear, but she thought she could make out make out some of the details of the noises entering from outside of the closet. It was music. She sampled and parsed the music a little more. It sounded like an accordion or a pipe organ, some trumpets, a trombone and maybe the gentle dulcet of a tambourine. Consciousness left Toni quickly, as she began to entered a dream-like state. Toni was now alone and back in the Metroparks Zoo. It was dark and the park was empty. As Toni began to gather her thoughts, she began to hear crying. It was an infant. It was her baby!
Toni quickly began to panic as she quickly headed towards the sounds of her wildly crying child. Being at the entrance to the park, she ran past the Cape Cafe and headed into the zoo. On her right was the Lions den. To her left was a pen for elephants. No movement was seen in either area as the animals were already back in their respective homes, tucked away for the night. With nothing but silence around her immediate vicinity, Toni could instantly make out music leading from ahead in the direction of the carousel complex known as “The Circle of Wildlife”. Even though it was late and the park was closed, as Toni entered the carousel complex, she immediately noticed the ride was fully powered and slowly began to turn as eerie carnival music played though the cool evening.
As Toni approached the spinning carousel, she could identify the once playful and vibrant, but now hideous and contorted faces of various animals mounted to the spinning ride. First passed a grim looking ocelot with anger on its face and blood dripping from its maw. Then came a horrific lemur, whose eyes were wide saucers, but bloodshot like those of a junky. A normal tetra followed suite, but it wasn’t until it passed that Tori saw the exposed rear of the animal which shown of entrails and organs, spilling a trail of gore. Finally, an majestic Emperor Penguin drifted by, its sadistic grin was accented by a maniacal chortle leaving Toni in a highly anxious state. And then the baby was spotted!
From the carousel’s center-pole compartment, a sinister form emerged and began to creep across the slowly spinning carousel platform. The figure ambled closer to the exterior wall of the carousel with every step it took. The form, now halfway across the platform, appeared to be wearing the garments of a typical circus clown that was created from the deepest, darkest frights generated by a child’s nightmares. The cloth was patterned in dark reds and blacks instead of the typical cheerfulness observed from rainbowed patterns. Rusty coppered trim and bells dangled from cloth protrusions instead of their polished brass counterparts. What could have been joyous stars and animal caricatures were instead replaced with pentagrams and bloodied goats heads. The face. His face. The clowns face, was the worst.
The clown wore a face, drenched of terror incarnate. Long, grotesque fangs protruded from a rotten mouth. Tangles of hair drooped down either side of a pointed head. Smeared make-up covered very visible scars over the demons face. And the eyes…eyes of deep glowing red embers sunk within a deeply socket skull. The look of horror was so overpowering, Toni forgot about the baby. Her baby, a now silent form, hanging from the grip of the clown, swinging along side, as he paced closer and closer to Toni near the edge of the carousel. Toni quickly clambered back, clawing at the ground she had somehow ended crouching upon during this new exchange of fright. She no longer wanted to be in the presence of this harbinger of fear, quickly spun around and tore away from the scene, screaming in terror as the dark entity drew near.
Just as Toni rounded exited the carousel complex and rounded the corner heading back to the main gate, she felt a crushing grip to her left shoulder and was brought to a hault. The grip was painful and tore into her flesh. Toni quickly realised that she was being lifted from her feet and lost traction as her legs ran with little effect, rhythmically scissoring in the open air. Suddenly, Toni was hurled. She was thrown from her place on one side of the walkway directly into the side of a African Mopane tree opposite of her origin on the path. Her bones crunched as she crumbled to the ground, again losing consciousness as blackness consumed her mind.
When she awoke, Toni was again found captive in the seat of the storage closet. The carnival music continued to drift into the room through the transom window…and suddenly stopped. Toni heard steps approach her makeshift prison as they quickly thudded towards the closet door. The door swung open, revealing a humanoid figure shrouded by the glare of light suddenly hitting her retinas. Her focus returned and Toni immediate recognized the sadistic form of the dark clown she had dreamt of earlier. It stood before her, taking up most of the doorway and began to speak.
“I’ve finished my project”, the raspy voice announced almost with a timbre of triumph. “Now it’s your turn” he declared, as he raised a large stainless tenderizing mallet, which he quickly and powerfully brought down onto Toni’s head. The echoing the crack of bone followed by the gush of cranial fluid in a brief spray across the face of the clown. Toni’s whimpering ceased as her body went limp.
Alice was preparing for work when her cell phone began to ring. She quickly reached for the phone on her nightstand next to the bed and grasped for the small, familiar object.
“Hello”, Alice announced to the voice on the other end of the line.
“Is this Ms. DeVous? This is Detective Saunders, of the Cleveland Police Department”, the voice claimed. Detective Saunders then continued, “We need you to come down to the police department. We are sending a squad car with a patrolman to pick you up.” Silence. “It’s for your safety and protection, ma’am”, he continued. “They should arrive in about ten minutes. Will you be ready by then?”
“What’s this about”, Alice quickly muttered? “What’s wrong”, she asked with a frantic query?
“We need you to identify a body and have a few questions for you”, the detective replied. “We’ll fill you in as soon as you arrive, Ms. DeVous.” And with that the detective silenced the line.
Alice rolled up to the police station in the cruiser and was escorted up to Homicide. Once she reached Detective Saunders’ office. They exchanged greetings and sat down. Alice looked at the clock on the wall near Saunders’ desk. It was 11:46am. She guessed being at the police station was a good excuse as any for being late to work.
“Thank you for coming in on such short notice, Ms. DeVous”, Saunders’ began. “You are acquainted with a Ms. Toni Lassiter, correct?” Saunders slid a picture of Toni across the desk as he questioned Alice. It was Toni’s ID photo from work. Toni was posed, smiling. She always carried a cheerful demeanor. Her attitude was probably the one thing that kept Alice motivated at work.
“Yes”, Alice replied, “Has anything happened to her? I just talked to her yesterday!” Panic began to creep into the back of Alice’s mind.
“I’m sorry to bring you this news, Alice, but Ms. Lassiter has passed away”, Saunders made an attempt at a compassionate visage. His face immediately darkened as he continued to speak, ”Ms. Lassiter was discovered around 3:30am this morning by maintenance staff at the Metroparks Zoo. I’m sorry to have to show you this, but can you please identify the remains and confirm whether or not this is Ms. Lassiter?” Saunders slid another picture across the table. Alice glanced away, almost immediately. Before her was a new image of Toni or, at least, what was left of her.
“Her corpse was found in the Boa pen of Amazon Exhibit.”, Saunders commented. “The pregnant boa, was attempting to consume the remains of Ms. Lassiter, when she was discovered during a maintenance sweep”. Alice grimaced and turned to look at the photograph again. Toni was facing out from the image, her face was caved into her left eye socket. Dried blood and brain matter covered patches of the remaining skin of her face. Below and beside her dismembered head were pieces of, what appeared to be, her torso, an arm, and part of an upper thigh. It was an absolute nightmare.
Trying to remain composed, Alice pushed the photo back at Saunders and sniffed as she began to speak, “Who or what did this? This is crazy! I just spoke to her on my way to work yesterday!
Saunders spoke in a low and calm manner, “This is the second body we found at the zoo in two days. The MO appears that someone, or someones, are stalking various employees of the park, abducting them to an off site location, torturing and possibly killing them, then returning to the zoo, dumping the bodies in an animal pen for disposal.” Saunders continued, “The only clues we have found are some partial prints and another person’s blood. Forensics is telling us there is a match from this third party between the crimes, which leads us to believe these murders are related.” Silence. Saunders continued again, “No evidence suggests a pattern for killings other than the killer’s choice of victims. Both people died of different causes.”
“Can you tell me who the other victim was?”, Alice implored, desperate to know if this was related to the parks closing yesterday.
“Yes”, Saunders remarked. “It was your boss, Raul Selçuk. Alice immediately blanched, tipped over to her right side and feel to the floor, unconscious.
Part Four: You’ve been served
Alice was revived on the office floor and after a quick check by an EMT, continued to be questioned by Detective Saunders. Several hours later, after a dinner break and more questioning, Saunders took her closing statement and Alice was excused. The questioning was rigorous, but Saunders expressed great thanks as he escorted Alice down to the squad car for her return trip home.
“We’ll have a watch detail on you for the time being, Alice.” Saunders explained, “Just a safety precaution until we find the perp.”
Back at Alice’s apartment, it was now 9:43. The recent news of both her employer and friend’s deaths continued to grip her in an unsettling manner. Nothing happens in Cleveland. Nothing to Alice, at least. Aside from her job at Metroparks, Alice lived a fairly “low-key” life. Most of her spare time was spent at home, plowing through streamed episodes of britcoms on Netflix or reading the latest top sellers on her eReader.
Alice padded over to the fridge. Her throat was parched from talking all evening and all she wanted was to drink a beer before she allowed her mind to reflect on this whole debacle. Just as Alice opened the refrigerator door, her cellphone began to ring.
Jarred and quickly turning since she was still riding a slight adrenaline high, Alice grimaced towards the phone while Culture Club’s “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” continued to drone as her ringtone. The gingered woman picked up her phone and noticed it was the animal tech, Curtis, calling. She clicked to receive the call and spoke, “Hey Curtis, now’s not a good time. Is it an emergency?”
“Hrphrphmrohmemr…hrmhmhmhmmr”, was the reply from the other end of the line.
“Curtis…is that you? Are you ok?”, stammered Alice. Another voice immediately chimed to the response of Alice’s query. With a subdued, but deep and raspy voice, the caller spoke.
“Nedda. I grow tired of this charade.” The voice stops but the originator could still be heard breathing, steadily. Waiting for Alice to respond.
Alice was caught with a deadpan expression on her face. Could this be him? Could this be the killer? Her mind began to race as she consider her courses of action. The voice quickly interrupted her processes of thought.
“NEDDA”, he shouted! “You have brought great disappointment to both our love and for our commitment to each other. I can understand having weaknesses of the flesh”, the voice continued, “however, your unceasing capacity to ignore my plights and refusal to make your presence known, give me great offense!” Reflexively, Alice replied to the voice with a quick apology and the breathing continued.
Alice returned to her thoughts. Should she ask about Curtis? Should she hang up and report to the police in hopes they could intervene if the killer called again? Should she confront the killer about his accusations to attempt sorting through this madness? “Who is Nedda, anyway?!?!?”, she pondered.
The deep voice began to speak again. “Nedda. I know you have been cheating on me, so there is no reason to deny it”, proclaimed the killer. “Your behavior has changed drastically over the past few weeks. You consorted with that balding and repulsive, Turkish beast. You have continued to placate the whims of that nubian harlot. These are historical details of little consequence though, since I have taken care of them both. You will never see or be tempted by the mischiefs of Beppe or Tonio again.”
“Beppe and Tonio? I do not know a Beppe or a Tonio. And who is Nedda?” Alice questioned her enigmatic caller.
“Again, with the coyness”, the killer’s rasp become even more exacerbated as the excitement in his voice increased! “Do not treat me as a newborn babe”, he continued. “Their confessions were revealed after a little coercion. It can be amazing what a person will disclose if proper questioning techniques are employed. Tonio, was the stronger of the pair. However, she quickly folded as I silenced her child’s cries.”
Alice was mortified at the news of the dead baby. She had forgotten about the new child Toni delivered just a few months previously. “This guy is a maniac”, she thought to herself. With this new information in mind, Alice presumed that the killer was referring to Toni, but instead identified her as Tonio. This only created more questions to the increasingly complex puzzle playing out before the young lunch woman.
“NEDDA”, the killer screamed!!! “Why do you continue this surrender to silence?” The killer gave a long pause and then continued to speak just above a murmur, “Fine. If you insist to continue with this lack of respect for your husband, I will continue to torment and torture until you admit to me you lover’s name! If you finally come to your wits and decide to give up this facade, you can find me with Silvio. We will be waiting for you at our Carnival!” The line became silent as the killer ended the conversation as Alice made for the door.
After Alice ran down from her apartment to street level and made her way outside, she couldn’t help but notice that the patrol car which was parked down the block earlier was now longer present. “So much for precautions”, Alice thought as she quickly made her way down the street to catch the RTA to the park.
It was 10:17. The park was still closed due to the investigation and no one was in sight when Alice arrived at the employee entrance adjacent to the front gate. As she keyed in her pass-code at the door, Alice couldn’t help but fixate on her closing words with Detective Saunders while she entered the complex. “Where the heck were the cops?”, she thought. She would have called when she left her apartment, but the battery of her phone died as she attempted to contact Saunders. Furthermore, since the Police Station was located several stops beyond the park, Alice was not able to find a phone during her ride on the bus, and time was critical, she decided to call Saunders from an office at the park as soon as she arrive.
Alice quickly made for the Cape Cafe since it was close to the entrance and there was a phone in the back of the restaurant. As she approached the service hallway to the employee areas, a stark scream echoed through the main court of the Zoo. “Curtis”, she thought to herself! Alice changed course and “B-lined” towards the scream. Her temples pounded as she headed into the park and the urgency of the matter became paramount. She desperately wanted to call the police, but no more time could be wasted if Curtis had any hope for survival.
As Alice continued her path towards the carousel, Curtis’s screams were intermixed with sounds of operatic accompaniment. Realization immediately materialized as Alice recognized the music playing through this macabre event. “Leoncavallo!”, she proclaimed out loud. Being a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Alice quickly recalled her MULI 424 course under Dr. Ruzicka last semester. One of the historical operas in the curriculum included Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci”.
“Pagliacci”, a story of jealousy and violence, is centered around the performance of a traveling comedy troupe. The troupe’s head, Canio, plays a clown named Pagliacci who becomes convinced that his wife has committed adultery. The play ends with the onstage after Canio, as Pagliacci, murders both his wife and her lover, Silvio. Everything suddenly made sense. Up to now, these events have all been part of a bizarre and twisted reproduction of Leoncavallo’s play. And then the horror unfolded.
Alice, now facing the carousel, was immediately disgusted by the display of pure sadism spread out before her. While it was fully powered and lit up, the carousel was not currently spinning. This unfortunate omission of movement only allowed Alice to more readily identify that her colleague Curtis was experiencing the maxima of physical pain and suffering. Curtis was currently being supported by piano wire strung throughout the rafters of the carousel. Upon closer inspection, Alice could see that the piano wire was actually threaded through various parts of Curtis’s limbs, suspending him like a diabolic marionette.
To further torture and harm her co-worker, Curtis’s chest was exposed to reveal long, bisecting incisions running from his gullet to the top of his pelvis and again with an intersecting cut applied across his abdomen. His skin-flaps were pierced by large fishhooks, strung with more piano wire, allowing Curtis’s torso to be opened and displayed like an animal about to be cleaned and prepared by a taxidermist. Strips of what Alice could only discern as muscle, where assumed to be removed from Curtis’s abdomen and chest, draped over the neighboring animals on the carousel. Even with the amount of trauma which Curtis had apparently suffered, Alice could seem the rhythmic pulsing of his lungs in his chest. He was alive!!!
Continuously observing her surroundings as she slowly approached the ride, it appeared that the park employees we alone and unattended. Knowing this, Alice quickly ran up to the side of the carousel to see what she could do to free Curtis. Once at his side, Alice could hear the shuddered and labored breaths Curtis struggled to make while he was tied to this carnival display piece. As Alice began to examine the bindings and pierced limbs to see if there was a way to remove Curtis from his anchored position, the PA connected to the carousel immediately came to life.
“Ah, I thought you were alone…but I see two places set”, the familiar, raspy voice began. Then the killer continued with excitement, “The devil take you, dearest Nedda. For what you have done is enough and I have the right to act, like every other man. Again I ask, his name?!” Alice could only assume the killer had placed her in the role of Nedda, and was seeking her admission for both committing adultery, but also the identity of her partner and lover. With this in mind, Alice decided to play along in hopes of delaying the machinations of evil that the killer was attempting to orchestrate.
“Whose name?”, Alice asked.
Pagliacci quickly responded, “I want your lovers name. Name me the villain to whom you gave yourself, base harlot!”
“Pagliaccio! Pagliaccio!” Alice declared. Hoping that by identifying the killer as her as lover, may derail him from his plan or snap him from this psychotic reenactment.
“No! I am not Pagliaccio!”, the killers voice declared. “Although my face is white, that is for shame and for the lust for vengeance! The man reclaims his right, the heart that bleeds blood to wash away the shame. damned woman! No, I am not Pagliaccio! I am he, I am that fool who found you, a starving orphan of the street, and took you in, and offered you a name, and the fever and folly of his love!”
Suddenly, from beyond the darkness provided by the shadows not bathed in the fluorescent lighting provided by the park, a tall, thin form emerged. Alice gasped as the form entered the light. A pale ghost of a face was all that could be seen of the human figure, as the rest of the killer was covered in the blood soaked garments of a dreadful, circus clown. The killer continued to approach as Alice became frozen and entranced by the heinous vision that stood before her.
“So blinded was I by my passion, that I had hoped…if not for love…at least for merciful compassion! And gladly every sacrifice I placed upon my heart, and trustful, I believed in you, more than in God Himself! But only evil dwells in your abandoned soul: yes, you are heartless and you know no law but of your senses. Go, you do not deserve my grief, woman without shame! In my disgust I will crush you beneath my feet!”
With a swift and rapid movement, the killer leaped to close the distance between Alice and himself. Raising his arm above him, Alice could see the flash of a metallic blade as it began its decent towards her head.
BAM! BAM!! BAM!!! The echoes of gunfire, riddled between the park structures and fauna surrounding the three participants in this gruesome scene. Alice opened her eyes to see the painful anguish, of the killer’s face as his arm slumped beside his body and his form slowly dropped backwards, away from Alice on the carousel.
A loud THUD could be heard as the killers, limp body hammered to the ground. Standing several paces beyond the fallen clown, Detective Saunders could be seen with his gun exposed and smoking, identifying him as the clowns assailant and Alice’s savior. Several patrolmen quickly swarmed around him as they spread across the crime scene, beginning their carefully trained process of collecting evidence to recreate and catalog the events that happened that night.