“Watching Longmire,” I replied, taking a sip of my coffee. “It’s one of my favorite shows.” I heard the gravely chuckle on the other end of the phone, then my partner got serious.
“We’ve got another one, Justice.” she said. “Another omega went crazy and shot up his loved ones.” Sherry was a pill, a hard-nosed detective who cut her teeth on New York crime scene, before retiring to the Midwest where supposedly serious crime was rare and a life of writing citations for noise pollution or the occasional drunk was the norm. Even though we’d known each other for over twelve years, she still called me by my last name, Justice. I couldn’t remember the number of times I had told her my name was Tom, and that it was okay for her to call me that.
“It just feels strange,” she had replied noncommittally then she went back to calling me by my last name. After a few times of that, I had given up, so while most of the other detectives in our unit called me Tom, Sherry wasn’t one of them. I assumed that part of it was a coastal thing: she was from the East; I was from the West coast. East coasters could be more formal, but somehow I didn’t think that had much to do with it. She had once laughed that having the name Justice was ironic in law enforcement, and when she met my brother Gunner, my name was complete.
“Gunner Justice?” she had asked me once. “And you’re Thomas Justice — the Justice brothers. I’m a New Yorker so I thought I’d seen everything, but this one’s a first.” Her laughter reminded him gravel being pushed across the ground, deep and the victim of too many smoke-filled rooms. She’d left his office without another word.
“That’ll be the fifth one this month,” I sighed. What the hell was happening in the omega population. The only thing that tied them together besides being omegas is that they went crazy before their first heat. These killers are young men and teenage boys. “There has got to be something we’re missing.”
“Well, this one called 911 and then hung up.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Something odd. ‘They shot my dad.’ I think. We can’t be sure about the first word, because it’s so muddled. We’re not sure if he meant he shot his father or somebody else did, so we sent it to the audio boys to clean it up.”
“That’s the first time any of these omegas called the cops.” I flipped off my television, and grabbed my hat and coat. “Text me where I’m going.”
We hung up as I shrugged on my coat, donned my fedora and took a moment to look in the mirror, before walking briskly out the door. My hair looked disheveled; it always looked slightly askew, but the Fedora squashed it into a semblance of neatness. I could’ve worn a baseball hat, but I felt the dark, raincoat and hat fit the scene I was headed into. Detective gear was by definition conservative and boring. It reflected the occupation of the wearer, a finder of explanations and truth in a grim, crime scene where the deceased were always center stage.
My phone bleeped, and I looked down at the address. “Hmmm, the affluent section of town.” Not that it mattered. The well-to-do were no more immune than the poorest family.
I hopped into my jeep and headed towards Melrose Heights. The words ‘They’ or ‘I’ made this homicide worlds apart. If the omega was confessing, then it was a straight homicide and another warrant needed to be issued. If the omega was asking for help, then we had been barking up the wrong tree all along.
As I raced through the back roads to my destination, I turned over the facts in my mind. All of the deaths were due to gunshots. But omegas are normally docile. The appearance of gun wielding omegas was unusual. Also, we had never caught any of them, and with five warrants out, one would suppose that after eight months of pursuit without one capture would defy logic. Our crack police force was either a bad homage to the Keystone cops, or something was definitely afoot.
I turned the corner onto the street of the latest homicide. It was easy to find the house; just follow the group of parked police cars and yellow tape. I exited my Jeep, walked past a cadre of curious neighbors who up on the porch and into the house. It was beautiful inside: lots of glass and mirrors, fine wood and marble in the kitchen. It could’ve appeared in Homes and Gardens magazine, but it barely made an impression on me. I went up the steps and towards the master bedroom, where I heard my partner talking.
I walked to where she was overseeing one of the CSI team taking samples from the body of a male of approximately forty years of age. Next to him, laying under the comforter with a blood stain on her pillow, eyes wide open and mouth formed as if to scream, lay who I assumed was the dead wife. My partner looked up at me, her face reflecting the scene, grim and businesslike.
“He was shot twice, neither of them fatal if he’d gotten to the hospital. The gut shot is what I think did him in. Now, his wife was shot twice, once in the neck and a kill shot in the forehead.”
“It took some time for him to die, but the wife was killed immediately,” I said. She nodded in agreement.
“Gut shots are brutal, but people rarely survive shots to the head.”
I started to walk out into the hallway when Sherry touched my arm, bringing me up short.
“I wanted to show you something. She started down the steps, and I followed close behind. There were bloody footprints on each step which we carefully avoided. At the front door, there were footprints going forward then stepping backwards. The footprints going backwards were smudged while the one leading from the staircase were cleaner.
“It looks like he was running and then came up short. His feet were bloody, and they left a mark where he stopped suddenly, then backed up.”
“Like somebody pushed him backwards and came in?”
“Exactly,” Sherry said, “however, all of the initial clues point to another omega gone mad.”
“Hmm….” I said rubbing the stubble on my chin. I hadn’t had time to shave before departing. Oh well, I wasn’t here for my good looks, although if that dream I’d had last night were any indicator, I should try to look my best at all times. I sighed for a moment, my mind drifting back to a happier time. I cleared my throat and refocused on the event at hand.
“Also, CSI also found another footprint, larger than the omega boy who lived here. It is bigger than the omega’s print. I asked the CSI people to get a shoe from his bedroom and measure it against that print. They’re also going to make a cast, of course.”
“The omega who allegedly did this was their 22-year-old son,” Sherry continued. “According to everything we’ve picked up so far, he was a nice kid. No run-ins with the law, and if it’s like that last omega who disappeared after killing his parents, we will find out that he was a nice, average young man liked by everyone.” She handed him a photo of the boy. “This is Landon Michael Knight.”
Without realizing it, I sagged against the wall. My heart started beating rapidly; my mouth suddenly felt like the Sahara Desert was blowing through, and my eyes watered. It wasn’t something I would normally do; not even in the presence of corpses, ripped to shreds and left like garbage by the side of the road. I used to work a big city, so not much surprised me.
This was, however, not like that. Light hair, green eyes, boyish smiling visage — Landon Knight was the man I loved more than life itself. I had been dreaming about him the night before. Now he was gone — disappeared like other alleged lunatic omegas. Sherry helped me stand back up.
“What is it?” Sherry looked at the picture, then back at me. “Do you know him?”
“No, not exactly,” I stammered. How could I share with my beta partner that Landon Knight was the love my life. I couldn’t even believe it. I’d always thought the soulmate thing was an exaggeration. Something you only saw in movies. But the photo of Landon stared at me, smiling and happy, and I knew he was the one. It scared me how strongly I felt for a young man I’d only ever touched in a dream.
Me, a soulmate?
Gunnar wouldn’t believe it. As much in love as he’d been with his first husband, he’d never mentioned them sharing dreams. And though he’d claimed to have a bad feeling when his new man, a nice omega who, according to mom, kept their house like a mini petting zoo, was kidnapped by his crazy ex, Gunnar wouldn’t have dreamed of calling it a soulmate bond.
Maybe this was something else. Some alphas and omegas had telepathic powers. It was rare, and I’d never shown any sign of it at all. But our grand aunt Nancy had. She’d also collected cats and tiny elephant figurines.
Truthfully, Aunt Nancy had been a little bit nuts. Maybe I was nuts too.
“I just drank half a pot of Kicking Horse coffee this morning.” I lied. “It just caught up with me.
My partner nodded sympathetically. “Your stomach should settle down on the ride,” she said.
I nodded, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to her. As surely as I lived and breathed, there was no way my Landon could have committed patricide. And, with that surety, I realized that all the missing omegas were not deranged; they were victims. Someone had killed their loved ones and kidnapped them. Whoever it was now had my soulmate.
And I had to get him back before they killed him. If it wasn’t already too late.