Detective Krauss sits in front of his laptop, finger poised over the mouse button, ready to open an email.

The email contains a department-wide message: “RE: Tolten/Martinez Body Cam Footage.” Not his case and won’t ever be his case. Truth. Krauss smiles, glad a task force is forming; it will take the Cherries’ Massacre off his hands.

He thinks, Too fucking big, too fucking weird, too much media attention.

But two decapitated cops meant every detective and sergeant gets the same email.

A rash of disappearances and beheadings in Oak Grove, then the slaughterhouse at the strip club; panic spreads through the city.

All the victims had ties to the Oak Grove gang in some way. Christ, even two city officials! Two patrol officers, though…

Station house rumors of a lot of officers in the Grove being on the take echo through Krauss’ mind.

No surprise, the department is under a federal consent decree. Who the fuck does this? Someone big enough and willing to go head-to-head against a major city police force.

And the feds.

He clicks to download the two videos. The video player pops up.

Footage plays of a figure on a lamppost holding a human arm. It is dark even with the high definition cameras. Krauss keeps his sang-froid at the sight of it holding an arm. Manlike, yet so inhuman. Krauss stops the video and looks the picture.

If that arm is from an average-sized man…

The gaunt thing is long-limbed; each of its arms are twice the length of the one it is holding.

Gotta mean it is seven or eight feet tall.

It wears something that could be a dark tattered trench coat, with spider-like fingers clutching meat. It has a face almost ancient, desiccated but supple, and haunting in familiarity, but Krauss can’t place it.  

Looks mummified. The expression. Reminds me of Afghanistan, like what guys would get near the end of deployment.

Dark, sunken eyes—boreholes to Hell—jump at Krauss when he zooms in on the frame. He clicks the play button and continues watching Tolten’s body cam.

An order shouted, shots, a scream, more shots, then a view of the night sky as the body is dragged for three seconds.

The final image before Krauss has his “fuck it” moment is gore-covered spider-like fingers holding Tolten’s head in front of the body cam. Someone whistles the Dragnet theme.

Krauss slams the laptop shut. He paces his apartment living room a few times before pouring himself a coffee.

Fuck sleep.

He forces himself to watch Martinez’ footage. The same thing from a different angle, except for the close up shots when the thing pounces on Martinez. Krauss pauses and backups up the video three times. He focuses, intent hardening on his face, brows furrowed in concentration.

The speed. Instantaneous. Even at 60 FPS, it takes two frames for the fucker to clear the car and be on top of Martinez.

The final bit of gunplay of the video and dragging again. Krauss kills the video when he hears the sounds of mutilation once more.

The idea of vomiting is appealing right now, as well as downing a fifth of bourbon, an old vice kicked five years ago.

Instead, Krauss sets up a bench facing the bay window in the living room overlooking the city. Raising the backrest, he sets his dumbbells to fifty pounds, each click lowering the thermostat boiling in his soul. Two more horrors sink into his mind.

He sits and chambers the dumbbells at his shoulders. Exhaling hard, Krauss presses them overhead, each rep driving down the rage, pushing the demonic image further back into his mind, right down there with the faces of the murder victims, the corpses of junkies in alleyways, the twisted wreckage of dead battle buddies. He locks them down with the memories of a wife who left him, taking little Jimmy. Down there with the memories of a fatherless childhood, a father he can’t recall.

Until they become almost fantastical.

Krauss pounds them down with high reps until he finishes three sets of twelve, before doing dumbbell rows and ab work.


Krauss is halfway through a set of leg raises when a loud knock sounds at the door. Launching to his feet, Krauss hears the knocking again and someone on the other side shouting, “FBI. Detective Krauss, we need a word with you.”

Grabbing a Colt Cobra .38 from the kitchen counter, Krauss checks out who is at the door. Sure enough, two men in FBI jackets wait outside his apartment. He tucks the revolver into the small of his back and opens the door.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” Krauss asks.

“Detective Krauss?” A fair-complexioned agent with blow-dried hair flashes his FBI ID. “We understand the department sent out an email containing sensitive material pertaining to a federal case.”

“Wasn’t aware the feds took jurisdiction in the killing of local cops.”

“In this case, we do.”

The two agents press closer to the doorway.

“We need to confiscate any devices you may have downloaded the video onto.”

They push their way into the apartment.

“Hey, motherfuckers! I’m a city detective, you can’t just—”

“Hands where I can see them.” The short bald agent has his gun out and trained on Krauss.

Krauss complies.

“Let’s not have any further problems. City cop or not, we do what we need to do,” Blow-Dry says.

Baldy checks Krauss.

“Gun,” he says, taking possession of the weapon. “Don’t move, stay right here.”

Blow-Dry moves further into the apartment and comes back with the laptop. “We’ll take this for now. You’ll get it back in a couple of days. Now, I’ll remind you if you have the videos saved to the cloud or your phone, delete them immediately or we’ll bring illegal distribution of sensitive materials charges.”

“What the fuck is this about? You can’t impede the department’s investigation!” Krauss says.

“We aren’t impeding anything. We’ll have something for the investigating team in a few days. But we’re in charge now,” Blow-Dry says in a firm tone.

Baldy opens the cylinder on the Colt, dumps the cartridges on the hall table, and hands the gun back to Krauss.

“Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice night,” Blow-Dry says.

And they are gone.


After a quick shower and change, Detective Krauss gets out of his apartment. He needs to prowl the city streets in his Ford Mustang, a Colt in a shoulder holster and one in the glove box. His night off, he drives aimless and pissed. Not the first time the feds bullied him; any cop in the department knows.

At first, he cruises the highways before heading up out of the valley into the hills. The late evening sun reaches a few rays of light into the sky still as it sinks into the distant ocean. Battered flesh purple stains the sky, giving way to black and stars.

The city glimmers like cybernetic jewelry set with fiery diamonds, white arteries buzzing with electricity. From the wild hills, the view takes Krauss back to fond memories when the city was an accomplishment.

George Strait sings something about drinking and women on the radio. A thought flits through his mind: Keep going. Open her up and make a run out past the suburbs, out there into the country. Find a honky tonk, drink some Maker’s Mark. Find some bumpkin gal in low-rise jeans and cowboy boots. Maybe she is newly divorced. Click, dance to some hokey tune, and then fuck each others’ brains out.

He cuts a hard U-turn. NO!

Memories come hammering back harder than a shotgun slug. Krauss speeds off for the city. Driving deeper back into town, he rides the streets where he first patrolled, the streets where the neighborhood bullies chased him, the bars he drank at in college. Past monuments built by great men, past sites of great history, past buildings built by men hopeful for the future.

Still avoiding the thinning crowds, he slips along darkened side streets where secrets hide behind every locked door and broken window. Speeding by alleys where deals of substances and flesh are made and betrayed.

Shadows flit all around and a face peers from every dark portal, the face of an inhuman demon. Dead white with hollow eyes and snapping teeth, it stays in the corner of his vision.

I see you. Do you see me? Are you going to take a run at me? Come on fucker, finish it. Eat this whole city where gangsters and city officials plot and the feds play their games. Where neighborhoods sink into decay only to be raised up by gentrification to rot away again. Where wives cheat and lie, where sons hate their fathers.


3AM. After hours of driving, Krauss returns to his first beat. Of all the places in his life, this Boulevard made him. John’s Pizza and Subs stays open 24 hours. Krauss parks and walks in.

“Hey, Dan!” he says.

“Whoa! Look who it is. Officer Krauss back on the beat,” Dan says with a laugh. Dan is a veritable veteran; he’s been at John’s for decades and been held up enough times to qualify for a Purple Heart.

“Nah, just dropping by for a visit and some pie.”

“You want a coffee with that?” Dan says.


Dan joins Krauss; the joint is dead. They talk while sipping coffee and munching pizza.

“Man, you got the Cherries massacre? Was it as bad as they say?” Dan asks.

“You know I can’t give you any details. But yeah, beyond belief, and keep this on the down low, but it’s connected to those killings in the Grove,” Krauss says.

“People are talking: baddest ghetto in town and punks disappearing left and right. Lot of people don’t give a shit. But I’ll tell you, business has dropped off at night.” Dan takes a long sip of his coffee. “Sometimes I get this feeling: hairs standing up on the back of neck. I swear, ya know, ever since that Peary kid got killed two blocks over.”

“Supposedly killed Dan, supposedly. The kid disappeared from the morgue, just like…that…girl…oh God,” Krauss trails off a realization settling over him. He grabs his coffee and heads for the door. “Thanks again, I gotta go. Just thought of something.”

Two bodies disappeared from the morgue, one of them a girl found dead at the scene of a decapitated gangbanger.


Krauss drives calling Sergeant Dowd; Dowd picks up on the second ring, “Hey Dowd, can you meet me down at the 7Eleven on Victory Avenue?”

“Sure, you got something? What’s this ‘bout?” Dowd asks.

“Bodies.” And hangs up.

Half an hour later, Krauss meets Dowd outside the 7Eleven. Krauss offers him a coffee.

“Okay, remember that kid Peary Fuller, gets killed in a gang initiation. We’ve got video, shell casings, forensics, the works. D-O-fucking-A! But the body up and disappears, no body, no case, still open. Shit happens, we’ll get to it later.” Krauss paces back and forth. “Then a couple months later, some Oak Park baby banger gets his head ripped off and the girl he’s with gets her face bashed in: Missy Shaw. And then her body disappears from the morgue that night, too.”

“Yeah, so? What are you getting at? Bodies disappear. Maybe we got a grave robber or someone down at the morgue who is in with the Oak Grove.”

“But why snatch the bodies?”

“I don’t know. Sell the parts, or someone is a necrophilliac.” Dowd shrugs.

“C’mon man, this isn’t the 19th century. No one snatches bodies for medical science, plenty of donations, and the organs are worthless for transplants. I think they got up and walked away. Did you get Totlen and Martinez’s body cam videos?”

“No, the feds deleted it off the servers by the time I woke up. Heard about it. Supremely weird shit,” Dowd says.

“I saw it, and it didn’t hit me until now: Tolten and Martinez’s attacker’s resemblance to that Peary kid. I come in here regularly enough that I knew what he looked like. Two bodies disappear, both crossing paths with Oak Grove, then the beheadings. Fuck!” Krauss stomps.

“You think the feds know?”

“I do. I think they know exactly what this X-Files shit is and they’re keeping us in the dark. That’s why he takes the heads: to stop his victims from rising from the dead.” Krauss pauses, not quite believing what he is saying. “I think he fucked up somehow with Missy. Like his first for something. The question is if our Washington friends know the connection,” Krauss goes on.

“Probably not. What are we supposed to do? I mean if this is some sort of zombie or something, we just let the feds bag it.”

“While they keep up in the dark? And everything gets flushed down the toilet?”

“Yes. Let them deal with this shit. I’m a beat cop, not a monster hunter. And I know damn well we can’t press the feds into letting us get some payback for Tolten and Martinez,” Dowd says as he spreads his hands wide. “Drop it. If it were some mook, yeah, sure, we could beat the feds to it. But the brass wants to keep this shit quiet and the feds want to do whatever black bag shit they have in mind. We don’t have any idea what the fuck this is. We can’t deal with it.”

“Someone has to know how. I figure in the morning I call the universities, talk to some folklore, mythology experts. Someone who might have an idea. Like how to take it down,” Krauss says.

“Again, drop it. Don’t ask, don’t tell, you never saw no video. I wouldn’t even Google that shit, just in case the suits are watching.”

“Alright. It’s going to be hard to let go. I don’t think I’ve been able to close my eyes for the last week without seeing those bodies at Cherries. And you know Tolten had a wife and two kids, Martinez a mother.”
Dowd looks down. “Shit happens; this town’s rough all over. In the end, it is get home at the end of your shift and keep doing it until you retire and fuck off to die in South Carolina.”

“That’s what you’re going to do?” Krauss says.

“No. I think one day I just won’t come in because I’m dead.”

“I know the feeling.” Krauss peers up at the night stars. “I’m going to get going. See you later tonight.”


Cruising the downtown avenues and boulevards in an endless loop, Krauss thinks about the creatures of the night. Those men and women who work the convenience stores, the trash pickup, the hospitals, the after-hours clubs, the janitors, the newspaper delivery men, the security guards, the EMTs, the cops, himself. The invisible and little-regarded denizens of the night whose lives revolve around endless hours of darkness, cups of coffee, and trying to sleep during the day.

And me among them, always among them my whole adult life. How many hours of my life have I killed on the overnights waiting for something to happen, knowing if it does, it will be bad? I belong to it now, the deeper night. That part before dawn when the partiers disappear insensate or into the morgue. That darkest part of the day where you can be alone with your thoughts. How many of us are there here right now? A thousand? Two thousand? And one undead, some young guy who didn’t know he was supposed to go. Peary; that is his name, or was.

Do the dead keep their names?

Can any of us ever leave it? When we die, will it just be passing from one dark realm to another?

I already live with the faces of the dead. Will they be waiting for me when I get down there?


Krauss pulls into an abandoned industrial lot on the outskirts of the downtown. He watches a rosy-fingered dawn rise above the skyscrapers, heralding the sun’s searing white hot light to come.

How many times have I watched this? With no one to share it with, the shadows melting away, the silence dying a loud death.

Tears stream down Krauss’ face. Fuck the feds, fuck this city, fuck the department. I am going for this fucker.