Bob Morris yawned and took a bite out of his grape jelly donut. It had been sitting on his desk since morning, and it was stale. Bob had barely made it to his desk when the call came in. A hiker had stumbled across two bodies in the woods. Bob had been at the scene all day, and was now buried in paperwork related to the murder/suicide.

Ann Marks was walking briskly toward Bob’s desk; she was clearly agitated about something.

“The ME is still working on the autopsy, but he noticed something immediately,” she said. “Although the stab wounds were made by very similar knives, they were not made by the same knife. “

“There is an imperfection in the blade of the knife we found on the scene,” she continued. “This imperfection is present in the girl’s wound, but not in the man’s”

“What are you saying, Ann? That he stabbed her with one knife, then stabbed himself with a second knife and then tossed it into the woods before he died? That seems rather unlikely.”

“Or perhaps the perp took the knife with him,” she responded.

Bob spit out his coffee. “The WHAT?” he exclaimed. “The guy’s hands were clenched around the bloody knife. It seems pretty unlikely that someone could have planted it there. Obviously he is the perp.”

“Oh, I agree that he killed the girl, Bob. I just don’t think he committed suicide. Doc also thinks the that trajectory of the wound would have been an unlikely path for a self inflicted stabbing.”

“Ah, shit” muttered Bob.  “This one seemed so nice and clean.  Sounds like his partner might have killed him after they stalked and killed the girl.  Sick bastards.  Heck, he probably did the world a favor by killing Hepner.  It hardly seems worth the effort to track him down.”

“The only problem with that, Bob, is that Hepner probably won’t be his last kill.”

“OK, we need to track down all the known associates of this Hepner asshole.  Maybe someone will have an idea who his accomplice might have been.”

“Hepner doesn’t have much of a criminal record, but I’ve also put in a request with the IRS.  The guys have a file on everyone.”

A short while later, Ann’s IRS contact got back to them.  Hepner had been a bit of a drifter – he had lived in eighteen cities in seven states in his life.  The IRS file contained information on a multitude of different employers over the years.  Bob sighed.  This day was about to get even longer.  He split the list with Ann and they began the tedious task of calling each employer to track down people who may have known Hepner, beginning with the most recent.  The progress was slow – Hepner had been a real loner with no close friends.  Many employers had difficulty remembering that he was employed at their business.

Hundreds of miles away, the lion was sharpening his claws and focusing on his next prey – another predator who was about to fall within his grasp.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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