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The Downtown Murders


On February 10th a dead body was found near the corner of 8th Street and Christie Avenue. We set up a dragnet around there and an adjacent street corner, but found nothing useful. Just another day in downtown Noirleans. No one thought much of it until three days later, two more stiffs turned up: One in Northwest by 2nd Street and Aoyama, the other in Central East by 5th and Innes. Same murder weapon, similar wounds. We had a serial killer on our hands, and they were looking to cover their tracks.

Two days later another victim showed up in South Central, around 7th and Flynn. The next day gave us a corpse just one block east, plus a bonus body at the western end of 9th Street. On the 17th there was one more body found at 2nd Street and Brown, and then… Nothing. Nothing for days. The public breathed a sigh of relief, but the killer was still at large and the precinct was still on alert.

Sure enough, we found another dearly departed on March 6th, just one block north of the original body. Our killer was back. In case anyone thought it was a fluke, there was another the next day on 9th and Flynn. On March 9th they left us a present on 4th and Aoyama, then in Mid-Downtown the day after that, at 6th and Flynn. The more news came out about the murders, the more eyewitness reports we got about suspected sightings near the bodies. You’d think that would be a good sign, but in practice it just meant that each month we set up bigger and bigger dragnets around each body. With no dragnets overlapping, downtown was starting to get crowded. Still, no clues, no motives, no killer.

On the 14th we found one more unlucky victim three blocks south and one block west from the previous. Three days later, the bodies really started piling up. There were two on St. Patrick’s Day, one on 7th and Hammett and one on 5th and Grafton. Two blocks north from the latter, a body showed up the next day. On each of the next four days we found another victim: First in Central West, at 6th and Aoyama; then on 1st and Innes; then eight blocks south of that; and finally at 5th and Brown on March 22nd. Then, once again, nothing until the end of the month. Maybe the killer decided to give the city a break; maybe they skipped town. We sure as hell didn’t catch them. Whatever had happened, I had a hunch they’d be back.

April turned out to be the kindest month: Only two victims. One was found on the 10th by 2nd and Christie. The other, two days later, six blocks east and one block south.

Another month went by as the city held its breath. Even in the precinct some folks wondered if the killer was finally gone for good. We found out on May 19th, when a homicide matching the same M.O. showed up at 4th and Doyle, and another the next day in the middle of Southeast, at 8th and Hammett. By this point every one of our new dragnets covered five contiguous street corners, and was just as fruitless as the first. The last body of the month showed up on the 28th, at 2nd and Flynn, just as mysterious as all the ones before.

My partner dealt out the hands. “Usual rules: Ace high, no combinations.”

“What the hell are you doing!” came a bellow from the door. It was the lieutenant, barging into the room with a scowl on his face.

“It’s a type of three-card Poker,” said my partner. “Ace-high means…”

“Don’t be a smartass. You just got your first lead in months to the Downtown Murders and here you are playing cards.”

I was incredulous. “What lead?”

“Oh, right,” said my partner, fishing a piece of paper out of her pocket. “Some constable got an anonymous tip on patrol.” She placed it on the table in front of me. It said:

Got this while on shift patrolling east along 9th street.

Got this while on shift patrolling east along 9th street.

“I don’t have the slightest idea what it means,“ said my partner.

“Well, you better figure it out,” said the lieutenant. “Find me where that killer is hiding!”