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Rated: 13+ · Other · Fantasy · #1915943
When a detective is given the truth, should he believe it?
A Gift of Time
Bertie Williams



There were things you would not know about Tancor Faluca at a first glance. After all, his general appearance would betray nothing of his knowledge. Scruffy to the point of being objectionable. Ragged clothing, stained and torn, a jacket that was a size too small for him, and sneakers held together with duct tape.  This was the first impression; the one that everyone saw. I first met Tancor, or "Fal" as he preferred to be called when he was brought into our station house for vagrancy. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was going to be incarcerated. I watched as he picked objects up from my desk, examined them minutely then settled them down again.

I looked at the report the arresting officer had made, nothing serious, just hanging around the wrong place at the wrong time. Charley, my partner ambled over, his thumbs in his belt like some out of place cowboy, "you want me to run his prints?"

"No, Charley, he's just a vagrant."

All the while Fal studied various possessions of mine, a photo of my ex-wife, the one of my son, the small Statue of Liberty replica that my son had given me; each item was scrutinized top to bottom as if he had never seen anything so interesting before. I didn't stop him, I had learned from previous experience how not to upset such individuals as Fal seemed to be.

Then, we began to talk.

"Your name is Tancor Faluca?"

"Tancor, is my name, yes."

"Only Tancor? What about Faluca?"

"I adopted it because I liked the sound. Someone once called me a "big faluca."

I smiled, hell, maybe the guy had a hearing problem, "no, I think they meant paluka, pa . . . with a p."

"Really? No wonder I had no reference in my dictive base to understand that word."

I sat back and looked at him, he seemed to be about 35 to 40 years of age, thin as a post and dark haired. His eyes were sharp as razors and bespoke his intelligence, but it wasn't strange to see this sort of dichotomy. Many intelligent folks ended up on the street. Some of them could no longer take the pressure of their jobs, family, what-have-you and wandered the alley ways of numerous cities after complete mental breakdowns. There were a multitude of smart people homeless and uncared for.

"Well, then, what is your last name?"

Fal shrugged, "I do not know. I have never had one."

I beckoned Charley over and turned my back on Fal to speak softly to my partner.

"Listen, Charley, ordinarily I wouldn't okay this. He's just a vagrant, but maybe you ought to run his prints after all."

Charley looked at Fal and shook his head.

"Okay, paley, let's go."

"Oh, am I going to be put into a jail cell?"

The guy seemed excited by this process.

"No, not yet. We just want your finger prints for now."

"Oh, well certainly. How exciting, just like on the television . . ."

"Yeah, right, come on," Charley said. He had been on the force a long time and had zero patience for anyone he deemed unworthy of his beneficence.

They disappeared and I continued the paper work on Fal.

When they returned, Charley sat Fal down at my desk and I asked, "would you like something to eat? Maybe some coffee?" My experience with derelicts told me that most of them were hungry, some on the point of starvation.

"No, thank you," he said and smiled. Good teeth, really good teeth, this guy hadn't been on the street too long.

"Okay, we have a little time before the report on the prints come back, come with me."

I walked him over to the tank, the cage where the detainees were kept until their prints were brought back.

Fal looked the tank up and down and smiled again at me.

"This is an interesting structure, not terribly secure, though."

I looked at they guy, "you planning an escape?"

He laughed, "no, I am enjoying your company."

I opened the door and he entered the cage.

"Would you mind, could I please have that magazine to read?"

He had pointed to a copy of People Magazine and I handed it to him. He sat down in the holding tank and crossed his legs, opening the magazine. He looked for all the world like a business man at a bus stop. I snorted and shook my head, guys like this never ceased to amaze me.

Ten minutes later Charley came to my desk with sheets of paper.

"This guy ain't wanted anywhere, he's not in the data base at all."

"Okay, so he has no priors, there's thousands of guys on the street with no priors."

"You want me to check him against nut houses?"

I looked over at Fal, he had laid the magazine aside and sat looking around at the place. He caught my eye and smiled. He didn't seem to be put out at all by the situation he was in.

"Yeah," I answered, "run his ID. Maybe he's an escapee."

Charley inhaled and stood up. He was one of those guys who liked the simple method. Take them in, put them in jail. He didn't like paper work, searching databases, any of the things that were procedure.

This process took another half hour. All the while Fal looked around himself with such an inquisitive nature you would swear that this was the first time he had ever seen half the things in the place. I couldn't tell why, but he piqued my interest.

Charley returned later with his results. "There's no record of this guy anywhere."

I shrugged, so he was clean. Living in unfortunate circumstances didn't make him a criminal, and he had been arrested for vagrancy, not any major offence.

Charley looked down on me and said, "you know . . . I don't like this guy. He's dirty as a garbage dump, but did you notice? He don't smell."

I considered this, he was unclean looking and usually these guys reeked so badly that every one in the place had turned stomachs. Fal did not smell.

"Okay, so he's a clean vagrant . . ."

"But look at those clothes! He should be paying off, Tommy. He ain't. That don't make no sense."

"Okay, so . . . we can't put him in the slammer cause he don't stink. He has no priors, no history of mental illness, we've gotta let him go."

As it turned out, Charley's fear of Fal's differences were not unfounded, though not for the reasons that my partner supposed.

***


The next time I saw Tancor Faluca it was two weeks later. I had just stepped out of the station house door and he was standing across the street, his arms at his sides, waiting. When he saw me, he crossed over and walked straight up to me.

"I want to thank you for your kindness," he said offering me his hand to shake.
I looked at him, shrugged and shook his hand.

"That's all right, Mr. Faluca. I was just helping the arresting officer with his paper work, that's all."

His hand was soft and warm and impeccably clean, though the rest of his appearance had not altered. In fact, his pants looked dirtier by far than previously.

"Are you staying at the shelter they took you to?"

Fal hung his head sheepishly and replied softly that "no, the people there were too rough."

"Look," I said, "you're just gonna get picked up again; authorities are tough on vagrants in this town."

Fal smiled and waved off the warning.

"Do you need some money? Something to eat, maybe?"

"No . . . I just wanted to thank you."

Then, he turned and walked off, disappearing into the crowds on West 32nd Street.

All that day I was preoccupied by thoughts of Fal. He was clever, I thought; intelligent in the most quiet way I had ever experienced. He seemed to know something that I did not. Something that kept him peaceful and centered even though he found himself in the worst of circumstances. There was some unseen force that he had tapped into; something beyond mere stoicism or stubbornness. Distracted all that day, Charley asked me what was the matter. I had no answer for I did not know myself.

At the time of these occurrences, I was a detective and detective's lives are littered with human refuse; murder, rape, kidnapping, you name it. Sometimes, the job becomes too much. Death comes part and parcel with the position but you never get used to things people do to one another no matter how long you wear a badge.

Charley and I had just finished collecting evidence at a particularly gruesome crime scene. A woman had been virtually butchered, her head nearly removed and her eyes taken out. Blood was spattered everywhere; across walls, floor and even the ceiling. The murderer had left his handprints on the wall in a circular pattern. Ridiculously, I was reminded of the kinds of pictures kids are encouraged to make for their parents in kindergarten using their hand prints to show how small they are. We thought we had lucked up, that the killer must be incredibly stupid until forensics told us that the killer was covering their hands not to leave any prints. It was that very evening when I saw Fal once again.

Charley and I had finished all the paperwork and processing and had headed home. I had just wished him good night and was walking toward my car. It was late, the night rainy and chill. Autumn was coming on fast and the Washington State air let us know that winter was close behind.

Fal was standing under a street light and when I saw him I stopped about 10 feet away. He had not been a nuisance, in truth although I had not seen him in three months I hesitated. Why was he turning up like this? Charley would have run him in, but I have a soft spot for folks down on their luck and sighing, I closed the gap between us.

"Hello, Mr. Faluca."

"Please, call me Fal."

"Okay, Fal, what can I do for you?"

Fal smiled, tossed me that sheepish look and answered, "you are a very intelligent and compassionate man, so, the question is, what can I do for you?"

This threw me, then I realized, okay, the guy see's a rapport, he wants to be a snitch.

"Okay . . . how much?"

"Pardon me?"

"Look, I get it, you want to be a snitch . . . you know hand me info on what's happening on the street, right? So, how much for the jive?"

This time, Fal laughed, "oh, good heavens no, Detective Andrews. But I do have a great deal of information to impart and you needn't pay me anything."

"Okay, Mr., er, Fal. Look, I've had a long day and . . ."

"Ah yes, that was a particularly grizzly scene, was it not?"

Now I was taken back. How did this guy know about what I had witnessed? The press hadn't even been told about what had happened in that apartment. I began to look at him in a different light and that was not a pleasant one.

Fal looked at me, then laughed once again, "you think I had something to do with that ghastly murder, don't you?"

"That, or you know who did."

Fal shook his head, "I only know what is in here," he said and reached up and lightly placed his forefinger at my temple.

I felt a chill run up my spine at his touch, as if he were wired for electricity.

"I see," he continued, "that this particular crime scene is worse than the Bellamy murders you investigated eight years ago . . ."

"Wait a minute . . " I was becoming unnerved now, "how did you know that was what I thought? I didn't even tell Charley about that?"

"I just told you, it is in your head, it is in my head."

I brushed past Fal and headed toward my car.

He called after me, "when you are ready, Detective Andrews, I will tell you something fascinating."

I walked hurriedly back to him, "tell me now. Tell me how you knew what I had been thinking?"

He studied me for a moment then said, "a handshake can tell worlds about a human being."

I narrowed my eyes and stepped back; this guy was nuts all right and I wanted to be rid of him, yet something propelled me toward him. Something piqued my interest in the way he spoke, in the way he acted. He was by far the strangest person I had ever met. It would be, I decided in the best interest of all concerned to bring him back in for further questioning.

I waved a hand at him and turned, heading toward my car to retrieve my handcuffs. I had taken about three steps, turned about and . . . he was gone. He was not in the street, up the block or across it. He had vanished. I walked back a bit in the direction in which he had been standing and looked in the door recesses, called his name, nothing. No sign of Tancor Faluca.

***


Time passed and it was Christmas Eve. The holidays mean little to me, my divorce two years ago took away family and friends and left me hollow. Sure, I saw my son on Christmas day, took presents for him and Ellie, my ex-wife. But, it isn't like living there, like actually being a part of a family. I was loading gifts into the trunk of my car when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

I turned to see Faluca standing behind me, a wide grin on his face.

"I believe the term is, Merry Christmas?"

"Yeah, that's the term."

"Good. Tell them you love them."

"What?"

"Tell your wife and son that you love them."

I stood up straight and said "what do you know about my ex-wife and son? Look, you better stop coming around me. I don't like the way you know things about me. How did you know about my wife and son?"

Fal clucked his tongue, "you have a short memory, Detective. There were pictures of them on your desk the day I was arrested, remember?" He gave me that disarming smile and I relaxed a bit.

"Okay, yeah, I remember. You need some money for food?"

He held a hand up as if to ward off the offer, "no, thank you."

"Well pickins must have been good from the Holiday, eh?"

"Pickins?"

"Begging, panhandling, asking for change?"

That laugh again as if I were some extraordinary, but naive child, "oh, no. I don't panhandle or beg. I have no need . . . I don't eat."

This was just too much. I had let him go after he had told me about the murders those months back, because he had disappeared so rapidly. This revelation about his not eating was just another spout of madness. I shook my head.
"Everybody eats, Fal."

"I have no need to, never have." He flashed that disarming smile once again.

"Okay, look, I gotta get going; they're waiting for me . . ."

"Of course! I would like to talk with you though. Could we arrange to meet after your New Year celebration?"

"I'll . . . I'll think about it, okay?"

"Always loved that word 'okay' it is a shortcut that humans use in almost every country in the world, did you know that?"

I shook my head no, closed my trunk and went to the driver's side of my car.

"Well, have a wonderful time," he said then turned and walked off.

***


After the holidays, life became exceedingly busy. The murderer had struck again, this time killing two women within one block of the other on the same night. Whoever this guy was he took a perverse pleasure in his dirty work, body parts and blood were everywhere and again, those handprints on the walls, furniture even on the victim's torsos, or what was left of them. I thought about Fal often after this double homicide. The trouble was Fal's fingerprints didn't match any priors. Well, one day he would slip up and we'd have prints. No criminal maintains perfect in their crimes forever.

As it turned out, I didn't see Fal again until the last week of February. My partner and I had stopped at a hotdog stand to get a few franks for lunch. Charley stayed in the car while I made the purchases. On the left side of the tiny hotdog shack there were tables at which a person could sit and eat. That's where I saw Fal. He was sitting there, looking up at the sky as if it were the only thing in the world and he had just laid eyes on it for the first time. At first I hoped he wouldn't see me, but feeling bad about that I walked over.

"Ah, Detective Andrews . . . how are you? Were your celebrations enjoyable?"

He wore different pants, khaki, though stained with a torn pocket in the front. He had a yellow ragged button down shirt on and a very light warm-up jacket. Just the look of him made me cold.

"Hey, Fal . . . aren't you cold?"

Fal looked at his arms, legs and chest, then said, "I do not appear to be, why?"

"Well, it's only 19 degrees out here and you're not dressed in the warmest clothes."

"Oh, I see. Did you know that warmth is relative to body temperature? Here, feel my hand."

I slid my fingers onto his palm and it was as warm as if he had been sitting inside all day.

"You just came from inside, right?"

Fal smiled, "no, my friend, they will not let me in."

The stand attendant called, "hey, buddy, you want these dogs, or not?"

I looked back at the stand then at Fal and said, "that's a neat trick. You should teach it to me sometime . . . you want some hotdogs? Oh, that's right . . ." I said as he held up an objecting palm, "you don't eat.” He nodded his head affirmatively and I went to the counter to collect my purchase.

"What the hell?" the attendant said, "It's cold as a witches' tit with the service window open."

"Yeah, yeah," I answered to the man's complaints.

He gave me the bag with the hotdogs inside and I stepped to the left to take another look at Fal and I'll be damned, but he was gone. Now, the tables were settled into a small cul de sac created by the side of a hardware store, a rear brick wall and the hotdog stand. The only way out was past me and I had not seen him leave.

"Did . . . did you see a guy come past me when I was paying you?"

"Naw, didn't see nobody . . . why?"

"Nothing."

I returned to the car and handed Charley the bag with the franks. He opened them hungrily, we had not had the opportunity to eat all day.

“Hey . . . Where the hell'd he go?” Charley asked pointing down the alley toward where Fal had been seated.

“I don't know, Pard . . . I don't know . . .”

I had an apartment on Culver Avenue. That night when I arrived at my front door, Fal was sitting on my stoop. I hesitated when I saw him there, he hadn't seemed to notice me, though for some reason I felt he knew I was there. He sat with his eyes closed as if he were listening to something faint and far away.

I walked up to the stoop and stood before him, he continued to look as if he were mentally concentrating on some fact, then he opened his eyes and gave me that wonderful smile.

"Detective Andrews, I have been waiting for you."

"Damn! You must be frozen through, come upstairs to my apartment and get warm."

"Oh, but I am warm, feel my hand."

Once again I did and once again it was as warm as a summer's day.

I shook my head and said, "the invitations still there, wanna come up?"

Fal stood and nodded, "I don't want you think I am a stalker. Wonderful word choice in that description, someone who hunts with mal intent."

It was strange but not one warning bell went off in my head. Even if Fal were the murderer, he liked to hunt women. I was the wrong sex. Serial killers often liked to build a rapport with the hunter hunting them. I figured keeping Fal close was the only way to catch him at his dirty work.

I unlocked the front door and we walked up the stairs. I lived on the third floor rear and I unlocked and opened my door. My apartment was a usual bachelor pad, left over food, dirty clothes, beer cans, a life time of litter cluttering the place.

"Sorry for the mess," I said as he walked in. I pushed some clothes off a chair and said "sit down. You want some coffee?"

"No, thank you."

I busied myself putting on the coffee pot for one and popped a frozen dinner in the microwave.

"You don't want anything to eat, do you?"

"No, thank you."

"Look," I said leaning against the door jamb between the living room and the kitchenette, "you don't have to keep up any charade for me. If you want some food, say so. It ain't steak, but it's good and nourishing."

Fal closed his eyes and took a deep breath the way you would when exasperated by the constant questioning of child.

"I am not posing a charade. I do not need to eat."

"Fal, everybody needs to eat, or they die."

At this Fal laughed.

"Let us just say," he answered, "that in my case that is untrue."

The microwave dinged and I walked over and retrieved my meal. I carried it inside, pushed some magazines to the side on my coffee table and sitting opposite Fal, I began to eat.

Fal sat there, his hands folded politely in his lap. He reached out and pulled a magazine off the table. I was a lover of science fiction; had been since I was boy and Fal had taken one of my sci-fi magazines and flipped through the pages.

"The third story is the best one," he pronounced as he replaced the magazine on the table.

"Oh yeah? What do you do? Take them off the newsstands when nobody's looking?"

He tilted his head and gave me a most curious look, "no, I just read it now."

I snorted a laugh, this was just too much. Fal made the most ridiculous claims and I felt that finally I had him at a disadvantage.

"Okay, wise apple, what happened in the story?"

"'Wise apple . . .'" he said, a brightness in his eye, "what a curious expression. If I tell you the story you won't read it yourself."

"Aha! I knew you didn't read it that fast . . . now . . ."

"Okay, as your prophet once said, 'lest thou seest thou doest not believe.' Page 54, column two was my favorite part . . ." and he proceeded to pronounce word for word the very text that was in my magazine.

"So, you memorized the magazine from the one you took from the news stand to impress me."

"And, how would I have known that you received this particular magazine? I did not know that you had this copy."

"I don't know, you knew where I lived."

"I knew because I followed you once months ago. I did not, however, go through your mail. You do receive this magazine as a subscription, do you not?"

"Yes," was all I could say. This guy was deep, and maybe he knew a few magic tricks but there was a logical explanation for this.

"Oh, you are very right," he said smiling, "there is a logical explanation for all of this."

I dropped my fork onto the dinner plate and said "wait a minute, I was just thinking that . . ."

"I told you once before, what is in your mind is in my mind."

"So, you're a down on the luck magician?"

Fal slapped the sides of the easy chair he sat in and laughed heartily.

"Oh dear, no!"

"Okay," I said exasperated, "you want to tell me your story? I'm very interested in what a guy like you is doing on the streets."

"A guy like me. Well, I hope you have a great deal of time because I have a long, long story to tell."

"I got all night, I'm off tomorrow."

"Well, then, do you mind if I remove my jacket? I am exceedingly warm and until my body adjusts properly I am uncomfortable."

I nodded and he slipped the jacket off.

"Where'd you get the new duds?"

"I love the English language it is a wonderful hodgepodge of so many others. I received these 'new duds' from a generous church on west 5th street."

"Saint Michaels."

"Yes, you were married there."

I was about to ask him how he knew that when I realized he would say it was in my head and his too and I stopped myself. Too many questions might tip my hand that I was on to him. Many serial killers did research on the detectives that investigated their crime scenes. With a little digging he could have found out anything he wanted about me.

Fal stretched and began his speech. “How shall we begin? Traditionally? Well, once upon a time, there was a very ambitious young man. His father, fully aware of this trait in his son sought to utilize this ability to further the family name. After all, the very seed of ambition had carried the family to its famous present and had established the family in it's illustrious past.

"His father offered him an assignment like no other. It meant that the young man would be far, very far from home; that he would make his bed with strangers and that his success could not be measured or lauded for a great many years. Still, ambition won over all, and perhaps the young man's father had counted on this fact, for he was ready with all the necessities for the assignment to begin long before the young man had acquiesced."

Fal smiled at me and I thought I saw through this story right away. So, his father had been an overbearing success driven man who had forced him into some family business. I smiled in return feeling at last I knew what had placed him on the street.

"The young man," Fal continued, "would be under the command of another. A woman of great importance. All that would be done, all that would be planned would come from her mind. He was there to follow her directions and none else. With this fact in mind the fellow agreed to take transport beneath her direction and perform as he was instructed.

"The place to which they were going was rough and unsettled, more like an uncut gem than anything else. The possibilities were enormous and the young man saw immediately what heights could be reached if those concerned could be manipulated properly. It did not take the team long to succeed; the subject's minds were fertile and easily influenced."

Now, I frowned. Had Fal been a big business man using some backward village as a way to make hard cash? Or, had he been caught up in some scam? I excused myself and fetched a beer from the fridge, removed my shoes and settled down once again on my couch. I was determined to sit this through. I wanted to know his story.

Fal continued, "In those days, in the beginning, every indigenous being thought that the tools we used were magic. Their fear of us restricted their entry into our space. So much the better, we thought. We were guiding them upwards, pulling out the best that they had to offer and influencing them toward progress. Indigenes can be unpredictable and it was not long before their fear caused panic and panic caused revolt. No matter, we were there to do a job and do the job we would. The directors had given their consent and backed the project with money and family names and that was all that was important to us."

So, he and his company had caused grief . . . an old story and I almost stopped him right there feeling I knew what would come next, but his story continued in a vein I could not have imagined.

"We taught the indigenes to build with stone. Taught them how to lift them, cut them, brought them out of the stick and mud huts and taught them to construct cities. They had a propensity for huge constructs and high altitudes. Star worshipers, they attempted to reach summits that they felt would place them closer to their god. We knew that they had evolved from the very planet on which they stood, that they were a part of all that lay beneath their feet yet these people, in their search to better themselves had long ago lost this connection. Oh, there were some among them who saw this, these we encouraged toward education. These became known as 'wizards' as 'sorcerers'; magicians who held secrets that the general populace were not exposed to. We fostered their knowledge believing that these chosen few would lead, direct and manage their people with wisdom and compassion. However, as I mentioned before, indigenes can be very unpredictable.

"Ambition is a fine thing. It creates great men and women if directed properly. When misused it creates tyrants and worse. The educated ones saw the opportunity for power and riches and though we tried to steer them away from such thoughts we saw that the Human mind is one that is at once not only inquisitive and inventive but greedy as well."

So, Fal and his group had bitten off more than they could chew . . . didn't explain this murderous rampage unless he hated serving under women, and she must have been one horrendous gal to have caused him to kill in such a fashion. I noted mentally that he never mentioned his mother, not even one time.

"These men, these magicians and sorcerers became kings, emperors self made gods among their own kind."

I stared at Fal. Kings? Emperors? What the heck was he talking about? Had they influenced a nation to that extent, the facts of his case would have made international headlines and stopping him.  I told him so.

"Well, you see, these things occurred before there were any printing presses or media, Detective Andrews."

So, Fal really was a loony. I smiled as he continued, closing my eyes to shake my head. Fal stopped his narrative and waited for me to make eye contact.

"I can see that you do not believe me. I feel the block that your mind has laid against me."

"Fal . . . there are all sorts of delusions. You can't be blamed for what you mind has constructed. Those ideas are safety nets that the mind sets up to catch a failing intellect."

Fal laughed, "you think I am mad, then?"

I shrugged and drank more of my beer.

"One of your writers, I believe it was Shakespeare said, 'there are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' He had the right mind set. Do you suppose that you know every thing there is to know about your planet's history?"

I shrugged once more.

"What would you say if I told you that this society in which you live now is but the tail end of a civilization that was so far in advance of this one, that it would be completely unrecognizable to you should you step back in time. Your great minds have hinted at it, found irrefutable proof for it and those minds have been ostracized into silence. There is a movement abroad on this planet to keep the present the pinnacle of creation. We laugh at this. It is absurd. The book called The Bible tells of a time when 'there were giants in the earth' the Vedic works of India speak of powerful vehicles which destroyed whole cities using nuclear weapons. There are tales of air born vehicles that aided in the conquest of cities. Such an account is told of Alexander the Great. How our ships crushed a wall so that he could invade and conquer. Then, there is Mars."

Now I laughed, "so, that is where you come from, huh?"

Fal clucked his tongue, "no, we are not from that planet. Although, once many, many years ago life thrived there. Beings only slightly different from yourselves covered Mars as densely as the population here does now. Mars was a beautiful world covered with verdant pastures and forests."

"Oh yeah? What happened?" I humored him.

"In the days accounted for in the Indian Vedic texts, there was an interplanetary war. What you call Mars, Earth and a third planet which circles your Earth in ruins joined in a power play that ultimately destroyed two of the three and set Earth back thousands and thousands of years. Your reckoning of history hinges on this point of destruction. Mistakenly your scientists believe that man began at the point of what you call Neanderthal and Homo Sapien Sapiensus."

Here Fal shook his head as if he were a father once again instructing a bright but mistaken child, "in truth, your history begins so far back that it is lost in the dust of time; clouded by misconception and doubt."

Whatever had happened to make Fal  the monster I was certain he had become, I could see that he was not uneducated. He perhaps had made his story real through his deluded mind, but they were as I had named them: constructs.

"Okay . . ." I said, holding my hand up palm outwards for him to stop his speech, "so, you claim to be one of the founders of this operation, right?"

"Yes, I am so."

"And . . . how old are you?"

"Why . . . I do not know exactly. We do not recon age. We are an immortal race."

I all but choked on my swallow of beer.

"Okay . . . that's enough. Now look, you seem to be what, thirty-five, forty years of age? Let's be reasonable, Fal."

Fal sat back in the armchair and looked at me then said, "I believe I have been reasonable with you; truthful as well. If I were permitted, I could prove it to you."

"Permitted?"

"Yes. However, I am not given that right and petitioning the directors to allow this would take more time than your life has left."

A convenient scapegoat seemed to be arising. He could not prove the facts because he was not allowed. I wasn't any sort of psychologist but I knew an insane mind when I saw one.

"Furthermore, to prove this to you beyond the shadow of a doubt would place you in grave jeopardy."

"How so?"

"There are many on this planet who seek the status quo for purposes of power. Control is essential to all who rule. Even your own President seeks to sway and influence rather than lead, and of all the Earthly leaders, your presidents display the most understanding of the Human condition. I will tell you one secret though, one that you can prove to yourself with a little research."

He paused here as if waiting for me to agree. I nodded and he continued.

"The nations of the Orient, China, India, Thailand, Japan, etcetera, are older by far than any other. It was where this all began. Of course you will get many disagreements on this fact. The scientists will argue for Africa as the cradle of evolution and Greece as the cradle of civilization and will not budge on this idea. But, I tell you that before the rest of mankind was wiping drool from its face the Orient held the secrets of the far past and utilized them to the maximum amount. Although, I will admit that they misused much of the ancient information and their leaders set themselves up as gods incarnate. They do still retain much of the ancient's wisdom. There are closely guarded texts in the Orient that detail methods of construction and healing that are only dreamt of on this side of the planet. At least they know that some things should not be common knowledge."

"So . . . why are you on the streets?"

I thought that this question would be a bombshell; a question that would completely befuddle Fal. That he would stop short and either have no explanation or at best offer some flimsy excuse.

"I am observing mankind. He is best observed by those who are not noticed. And the human heart does not acknowledge the ragged, the dirty, and underprivileged unless they are directed to do so."

I went to the refrigerator and pulled out another beer. I stood for a while behind my sofa and studied Fal. He looked up at me with bright eyes and that winning smile.

"You know that this is true, Detective Andrews. Your own eyes skip over vagrant persons unless you are involved in an arrest. You are a policeman, not a humanitarian though you may tell yourself you are a police officer because you wish to help others. It does not matter however. You are, shall we say, in a different cast than those on your level."

"Why, thank you Fal. I appreciate that compliment."

Once again I was humoring him and Fal tilted his head to the side and studied me for a moment.

"I see that there is still a large element of doubt concerning what I have just told you."

I snorted, he was sticking to his story. "Well," I said scratching my chin, "you must admit the story is one of the most far fetched to come along in my experience; and listening to far fetched stories is my stock and trade."

Fal suddenly stood up. I thought at first I had angered him, and I was thankful that my revolver was always within arms reach but he looked down on me with the most compassionate of expressions.

"I must go for now. I trust that you will attempt the research that I suggested?"

I shrugged.

"Of course," he said, "the human heart is always so very unpredictable. Good night, Detective Andrews."

And, with that he stepped to the door, looked back at me one last time and left, closing the door softly behind himself.

***


Time drifted by slowly and spring turned to summer. It's a funny thing but tragedy has a way of occurring just when you think things will be alright. My wife, or make that my ex-wife, Ellie, died. She never told me about the breast cancer, about the losing battle she was fighting. We were separated so I didn't see the toll the disease took or the way Chemotherapy cheated her of what health she had left. My former mother in law contacted me and told to go to the hospital and see her; that she didn't have long left; that she was asking for me.

Thin beyond recognition, a scarf tied around her head she forced a languid smile and reached a hand up to me. My shock was profound, why hadn't she told me?

“Why?” She asked her voice cracked and tired. “Just take care of our son . . .”

She closed her eyes and I sat there for a little while, waiting for her to open her eyes once more, but she didn't. To my knowledge she never opened them again.
Now, I can't say that I was devastated, bereft or any of the other euphemisms lovers use at the loss of a companion. She and I had not been companions for many years, yet something in me sank. I guess it was because of my son. I kept thinking how hard it would be for him. Had he known how sick she was? Had he been prepared for this? He would stay with his grandmother, I had no way of caring for him. Would he resent that? I couldn't know.

I was standing on a scenic overlook studying the Pacific Ocean when I suddenly thought of Fal. I hadn't thought about him for a long time but what he had told me at Christmas seemed very important right now. “'Tell them you love them . . .'” I had; I told both of them that when I visited. I was glad now that I did.

I had been spending time at the library researching some of the items Fal told me about. They seemed to be unusual, but standard history more or less.
The Pyramids were still huge heaps of rocks knocked into a pointed shape by the Egyptians and as far as I was concerned, the so called lost civilizations of Andean lore and South America seemed nothing more than energetic natives with a lot of time to kill and lots of stone to work with. Nothing stood out at me to make me feel that any other persons had compiled these megalithic wonders.

The air was turning chill with the evening. The night was sinking the temperature along the coast a sure sign that a rain storm was coming in. Out on the sea the sky was dark and heavy. Black clouds rode across the setting sun. The storm was from the west a usual situation though they could at times be the worst.

My cell phone rang. Charley's familiarly gruff voice spoke on the other end.

“There's been another one."

I must admit that when I stepped into that chamber of horrors, I lost my dinner.  It was embarrassing for a seasoned detective such as myself, but the poor woman's body was everywhere, strewn about like bits and pieces of a jig-saw puzzle.  Bloody hand prints lined the walls, blood spatter made crimson patterns across the ceiling and floors. And, something new had emerged in this psychopath's M.O.  The girl's head was no where to be found.

"He's taking trophies." Charley said.

I couldn't help myself.  I headed for the door and stepped outside onto the little stoop in front of the house.  I walked down the stairs and to the edge of the building where an alley way wound through to the next street.  A stairwell, led down the side of the building from the roof.  I heard a clatter on those stairs and looked up.

Tancor Faluca stood on the next to the lowest step.  He looked at me with eyes laden with sadness. 

"Hey . . . Fal . . . what are you . . ?"

He darted down the stairs and headed toward the back of the alley.  I shouted for him to stop, that I was drawing my gun, that I would shoot.  He reached the street end only seconds before me but, when I too reached the street Fal was gone.

A uniformed patrolman heard the shouting and followed me.  At the street we both stood looking up and down and neither of us saw Faluca in any direction.

I pushed past the patrolman and headed toward the house.  I wanted my partner, I wanted to post an "all points" on Faluca. 

Charley had come out onto the stoop to smoke a cigarette.  He looked weary and shaken, and who wouldn't be with something like this etched in their mind.

"Charley . . . it was Faluca!"

Charley hurried down the stairs.

"What?"

"I saw him on the service stairs beside the building, come on I'll show you."

I took Charley to the stairs and we called a team of forensic guys to check for blood or other tell tale signs.  Charley and I left them there and headed for our car.  We sat there for a while not saying anything.  I called Faluca's description in and told them what he was suspected of.

"It's gonna be another long night."  Charley said.  "Let's get some coffee."

As we pulled our car away from the curb a resounding roll of thunder shook the earth.  The storm had begun.

***


The station house was all but empty.  It seemed all the riff-raff of a Saturday night had taken a holiday in honor of the mass of work we had to process on the latest crime scene.  Charley and I sat at my desk listening to a guy from the FBI who was a profiler. 

Jack Parks said he had 20 years of training and knowledge and he could provide an outline of what the killer was like.  He could infer his habits, likes, dislikes, possible age, race and looks.

I listened and the more I listened, the more Jack pulled us away from our prime suspect, Tancor Faluca.

I finished my coffee, crushed my Styrofoam cup in my hand and stood up. I walked away to the other side of the room.  I paced backward and forward, eventually slamming my hand into a nearby wall. 

"It's been a really rough night," Charley explained to Jack.  "He's just uptight."

"Maybe we all need a break.  Want some coffee?  I'll go down to that deli on the corner, this stuff here could polish my shoes."

The FBI guy grinned, rose and put on his jacket and left.

I came over to Charley right away. 

"Anti-social?  Introvert?  Twenty to twenty-five years of age?  Charley . . . none of this fits Faluca."

"Maybe it's not him."

"I saw him there tonight, Charley.  I saw him coming down those side stairs."

"Well . . ."

"Why'd he run, huh?  Why'd he run?"

Charlie shrugged.

"I only know that this profiling stuff is supposed to be right.  They've caught other guys using this method."

I raised my arms and let them slap down at my sides.  I walked away to the other side of the room.  When Jack returned with Danish and coffees, I came over.

"Not one point on that profile of yours fits our prime suspect."

"Then, he might not be the guy."

"How can you be so sure?  You haven't worked this case since the beginning.  You don't know a thing about Faluca.  You've never seen him, or talked with him . . ."

"I don't need to see or talk with him.  Look, these points are all decided by the psychology of a twisted mind.  It took years of close study to come up with the  profiling method.  I'm not just pulling these ideas out of a hat.  These concepts are tried and true."

I looked at him, but I couldn't agree.  I grabbed my jacket and the cup of coffee and turned to leave.

"Tommy, wait." I heard Charley call.  I turned around, looked at them both and left.

It was already light outside, the morning was breaking under thick clouds.  There would be more rain later.  I got into my car and drove down Rucker street toward my apartment complex.  I was tired and though I new I wouldn't sleep, I needed a shower and some time to think on my own.


***


"Charley?  Anything new come in?  No?  Well, listen . . . I'm going to take a break today and go spend some time with Mickey.  I haven't had much time with him over the last few weeks.  Uh-huh, okay.  If anything comes up, call me.  Yeah, bye."

I hung up the phone receiver and grabbed my car keys.  I got into my car and headed toward ToyTown.  I wanted something for Mickey, I had not idea what.  I asked one of the young girls in the store what nine year olds were all raving over and she came back with an action hero from one of the latest movies.  I paid for it and got back into my car.

As I turned the corner at the block where my mother-in-law lived, I saw someone talking to Mickey.  I looked steadily at the guy for there was a marked familiarity about his actions.  As I pulled up I saw that it was Faluca.  I got out of my car and he turned.  Noticing me, he took off,  There aren't any alleys or places to duck out of sight on my mother-in-law's block and I followed him easily.

I gained on him.  Not really listening to Mickey who was running behind me calling, "Dad!  Dad!"

I reached out and caught Fal by the color of his jacket.  I held him securely.  He turned about and looked at me and in his eyes I saw shock and disbelief.  I could hear Mickey's footsteps pulling up behind me and his words, "Dad, Dad, he's my friend."

"I did not do what you think I did, Detective Andrews."

He reached out his arm and struck me hard with his elbow.  Still, I managed to hang on to him, struggling to pull my cell-phone from my pocket.  Mickey had a hold of my belt and was tugging at me.

"Mickey, go home, go to Grandma, now!"

He didn't listen and distracted, I let Faluca turn fully around.  He reached out a hand to me, and touched the flat of his palm to my chest.  I have never been hit by lightening, but I'll bet dollars to donuts that this is what it would feel like.  I was thrown off my feet into a neighbor's hedge row.

Faluca fled off, crossing the street into a thick copse of trees.

"Dad, Dad are you okay?"

I saw my son, his tear wet cheeks and his worried eyes.

"I'm fine, Mickey."

I struggled out of the bushes and called Charley.  He would be over quickly, that I knew.

"How long has has that guy he been coming around here talking with you?"

"That's my friend, Tancor.  He's nice, Dad.  Why did you run after him?"

"I . . . thought he was somebody else, okay, Buddy.  I had him confused with somebody else."

I began to walk back toward my mother-in-law's house, but Mickey lingered on the curb.

"I hope he comes back." Mickey said, a wistful expression on his face.

***


Mickey was in the living room playing with his new action figure.  Charley and me and Mickey's grandmother, Mae, were in the kitchen.  She kept filling our cups with more coffee.

"You've never seen the guy before, Mae?"

"No.  I don't know who he could be."

Charley and I exchanged glances.  This was what every homicide detective dreaded that the suspect would discover the identities of family members.  It was a blatant threat.

"I'm going to post a watch outside the house.  I want you to keep your eye on Mickey."

I felt helpless.  I told Charley about the way Faluca hit me and how it had felt. 

"Must be some kinda Kung Fu," was Charley's response.

"I gotta get back to the station," Charley said.  He stood up and walked to the door, "see ya later, Champ," he called to Mickey.

Mickey waved, completely distracted by his action hero.

I watched people pass by the house through the kitchen's bay window.  Women with their dogs, kids coming out to play as the day warmed up and sun peeked through the intermittent clouds.  I took Mickey out to the back yard and we tossed a ball to each other for a while.  I could see that he was troubled and opened the conversation.

"Mickey . . . about that man you were talking to this morning."

"Tancor."

"Yes, Tancor.  How long has he been talking to you?"

"Oh, since before Mom died."

That would mean months at least.

"What does he talk to you about?"

"Out of space and stuff."

"And stuff . . . what stuff?"

"Dinosaurs, volcanoes, he even knows about the Atom bomb." Mickey smiled and I could see that he held a true affection for Faluca.

"Now, listen to me, Mickey.  I don't want you to talk to him anymore."

"But, Dad, he's my friend."

"I know, I understand that, but I don't want you to talk to him anymore.  If he comes around you, I want you to skedaddle right straight to Grandma and tell her to call me.  You got that?"

Mickey hung his head.  I could see that he felt he would be betraying a friend.

"He may not be what he says he is, Mickey.  I'm worried about your safety, okay?"

"Okay." My son said,  although I could feel that his heart was not in the agreement.

After dinner with my mother-in-law and son, I drove home.  I kept hoping my cell would ring and Charley would tell me that they had finally picked up Faluca.

I pulled up in front of my apartment building, parked and walked up the short flight of stairs to the front door.  Unlocking the hall door, I walked into the vestibule.  Taped to the inside window was an envelope with my name hand written on the face.  I opened it, standing there reading.  The message said,
"Jack the Ripper killed five.  One more to go."

I took out my cell phone and called the station.  Charley was off but Jack Parks was there.  I told him I would bring the letter in and let him see it and hung up.  How did anyone get into the vestibule of my building?  There was no buzzer system, you had to have a key.  The outside door showed no signs of tampering, the lock was intact, I had just opened it.

I scratched my head and went back to my car.  I looked all around to see if Faluca was anywhere close.  He was not.  I drove off toward the station.

***


We were called in on a crime scene.  Complaints had come in on a horrid odor emanating from a basement apartment in South Strand.  When we arrived, uniformed officers were swarming all over the place.  Usually we were not called in if someone had died and rotted away in their apartment, but this was not the case.  When we entered the hallway leading to the apartment the stench of rot rose like a fog.  I gagged and covered my mouth with my hand.  Guys in hazmat suits dodged around us, carrying bottles and bags.  We were stopped, handed masks, booties and gloves, which we donned outside the apartment door.

Inside the scene was like the set of a horror film.  A head hung from wires.  It was no doubt the head belonging to the torso we had found weeks earlier.  Blood had been collected in bottles and jars lined up on shelves and a battered table.  Across the walls were handprints and scrawled symbols and sigils.  We stood awestruck. 

"What the hell . . .?"

I shook my head.  We had found the murderer's lair.  We had found where it was that Faluca fled to.

My heart froze.  He knew my son, my mother-in-law's house, my apartment, my life.  I felt a threat rise in me and fight grew in response.

I spent the next two hours with the uniformed cops gathering evidence and surveying the premises.  There was no sign of the person who had perpetrated this horror, but I knew, Charley knew, it had to be Tancor Faluca.

***


It was so hot, I thought the soles of my shoes would melt on the sidewalk.  It was unusual to get days as hot as these in Washington State.  We were almost in Canada and near the Cascade Mountains, so most of the time the air was crisp.  I put on a sleeveless shirt and shorts and sat on the porch.  It was my day off and the beer in my hand was cold, it's crisp sting on my throat a welcome relief.  Mickey played around with my mother-in-law's dog on the lawn and for a brief while, everything was as normal as any other household's afternoon.

My cell phone rang.  I flipped the receiver open, "yeah . . ."

Charley's voice rang through, "they got Faluca.  Their bringin' him in now."

"I'll be there in a few minutes."

I stood up and went inside where Mickey's grandmother was preparing lunch.

"Mae," I said to her, "I've got to go to the station.  Make sure Mickey eats lunch.  He's so fussy these days," and I smiled at her.

Mae looked up at me and laughed the way women do when they know something you don't.

"Oh, I've got my ways.  He always eats for me."

I hugged her and went upstairs to put on a dress shirt and pants.  A few minutes later I was in the car and headed west toward the station house.

Charley greeted me at the desk.  He was finishing paper work on another case and looked at me with a satisfied expression. 

"He's in the tank," he said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder toward the end of the hallway.

I followed his direction and went through.  There were several denizens inside the tank, and alone, in a corner, his hands clasped before him sat Faluca.  He rose when he saw me, his eyes shining brightly.

"Detective Anderson . . ."

But I passed him by and he followed along as far as he could.

I asked the arresting officer a few questions about his capture, then told the lieutenant on post I wanted to talk to Faluca in an interrogation room.  They set up the room and I waited, watching through the two way mirror as Faluca was led in to sit on one side of the table; the other chair empty for the interrogator.

I watched him.  He wasn't nervous or excited.  He folded his hands before him on the table top and looked for all the world like a school boy awaiting his first lesson.

I opened the door slowly and walked inside.  I closed the door behind me and stood looking at him for a few moments.  He met my gaze evenly, though his eyes showed sadness.  Not fear, anger or contempt; sadness.

"They said you didn't give any resistance."

"Why should I?"

"You are arrested on a serious charge"

"But . . . I have done nothing.  I need not fear retribution for innocence."

He smiled and I thought, a true psychopath.  Faluca sat across from me so calm that you would have thought we were sharing Sunday dinner.

I sat back in my chair and just studied this man for a moment.  He was still ragged, his clothing looked even worse that it had.  His hair had a shaggy look, though it wasn't dirty.  He was always clean shaven, too.  For all he wanted to appear homeless and blend in, he betrayed himself with the clean neatness that lay beneath his disguise.

"Tell me the truth, Fal," I began.  "We know what you've done, you know what you've done.  I saw you leaving the murder scene at South Strand.  You ran down the stairs and got away from me."

"I had nothing to do with that unfortunate woman's death.  I almost had Ailera that night.  But, she escaped me."

"Oh, just sightseeing, huh?"

"Sightseeing?"

"Look, let's not mince words.  Tell me about the murders, Fal.  It'll go a lot easier with you if you just confess."

"Confess?  Tell you I did something I did not?  Why would I do that?"

In anyone else, the question would have raised my hackles.  Fal, however, posed the query in such a way that it actually seemed he was unaware of the danger he was in.

"You are charged with that murder.  And, when we find the evidence, you'll be charged with the other three.

Now he leaned across the table, his arms stretched out to touch my hand.

"Detective Anderson, I had nothing to do with those murders.  Until now, I have not been permitted to tell you the true circumstances of my being here.  But, now, I see I must."

I looked at him with a wry smile.  He was so delusional, I knew he would end up in the nuthatch.

"You see, when Ailera escaped three of us were sent down to catch her . . ."

I held up my hand to stop his narrative.

"No more of your wild stories, Fal.  I want the truth."

"I am giving it to you.  Listen to me and you will hear the truth."

I thought to humor him just this one time.

"Okay, go ahead."

"When Ailera escaped the maximum cell, three of us were sent down."

"Down from where?"

"From the ship.  We came down to track her.  Me, Corella and Antimona.  She killed them quick enough.  They were the first girls that you found."

"So, you're telling me that some woman from outer space came down and killed two other women from outer space and left them for us to find?"

"Yes, that is just what I mean."

I hung my head and smiled.

"Fal . . . that's preposterous.  It's all made up in your head . . ."

"No, it isn't Detective Andrews and the longer you keep me here under mistaken precepts the longer she has to do what she loves.  Kill."

"Do you think for one minute that I haven't heard wild stories before from killers that think that an explanation will solve everything?  Why don't you just come clean and admit to these murders.  Then we can help you.  Get a doctor, a lawyer."

"Help me?  The only way you can help me is the same way you can help yourself and other women.  Let me go so I can catch her.  You don't believe me."

"How can I?  Don't you see how ridiculous this story is?"

"If you see this as ridiculous, Detective, I am certain that I cannot help you.  Shall I tell you about this killer?  She came down with us at the first.  She was part of the squad of immortals but quickly went astray.  She became enchanted with the male sex of your race.  Once Ailera had conquered them she sought to defame the female half.  It was she that spread the idea that human women led man into sin and evil and death.  She was responsible for the idea of the 'weaker sex'."

"I don't want any more of your fantasies.  Tell me about you.  You're the one that's been committing these atrocities, so tell me."

Fal sat back and placed his hands beneath the table.  He shifted just a bit in his chair then smiled at me.

"Ailera is what you would term, "criminally insane."  She went to your house and left you that note.  She taunted you with Jack the Ripper.  No matter what planet she would be on, she would kill.  She enjoys the act.  She hunts, kills and defiles.  She makes projects of her kills.  Sometimes she paints in their blood, sometimes she leaves hand-prints all over the floors and walls."

"Okay . . . just let's say for a minute that what you are telling me is true."

"Yes?"

"Where is this Ailera?"

"I don't know.  She blocks my intrusions into her consciousness.  It is what we all feared would happen."

"Oh, I see.  So, this woman, this Ailera committed the crimes, but you don't know where she is, or how to reach her."

"That is correct.  You people on this plane do not understand.  They come from everywhere to hunt on Earth.  You are all so . . . unaware of the true nature of the universe.  They come through time, dimensions, from other worlds, because as you might say, the picken's are ripe.  Then, you prosecute the ones influenced by these beings thinking it is all over with those unfortunate's executions, but it happens again and again.  It will continue to happen until you learn."

"Other dimensions, worlds, what the hell are you talking about?  This is all jibberish.  Foolish delusions that you've constructed.  Tell me the truth!

Fal sat there looking at me with a casual air as if he were in no trouble what-so-ever.  I ran my hands through my hair.  It was tedious trying to reason with a madman.

"Well, if that's all you have for me, we're going to book you on a charge of murder.  You have the right to remain silent.  If you give up the right to remain
si . . . "

Fal stood up quickly upending the table.  I was toppled behind the furniture.  He grabbed me by the collar and hoisted me to my feet.  He looked behind himself at the two-way mirror that lined one wall of the interrogation room.

"I suggest you let me leave, gentlemen," he said.  He was calm and not at all riled by the fact that the station was filled with armed police officers.  Two of them burst through the door yelling for Fal to let me go and get down on the floor with his hands behind his head.  Their guns were drawn and ready.

Fal merely smiled and held on to my collar.  He was not choking me, only restraining my movement.  The officer's aimed their guns and warned him two more times, then they fired.  With his free hand, Fal waved the air in the direction of the bullets.  They fell to the ground, their energy spent.  The officers stood and looked at Fal, their mouths hanging open in shock. 

He pulled me along with him as he shoved one officer's head into the wall, knocking him unconscious.  The other officer fired his pistol once more, but the bullet dropped from flight at the raising of Fal's hand.

Fal dragged me with him to the door, smiled at me and said, "of course you see that I cannot be held.  It is not that I do not respect your laws.  It is only that if you do not believe me, others will die.  I cannot permit another person to suffer at Ailera's hands."

He pushed me forward into two awestruck officers and went through the door.  I stood up and ran after him, but he had disappeared.

"Did you see that?  Did you see those bullets drop?  What the Hell's going on?"

A group of officers ran outside, searching for Fal.  I knew that they would not find him.  I went inside, grabbed my coat, patted Charley's shoulder and told him to come along and left.  I had to find Tancor Faluca.

***


Our search was fruitless.  We returned to the station, stumped. Even the FBI officer was scratching his head.  He had contacted his headquarters at Quantico.  They told him they were sending more agents and to treat it as a black-op.

I was sitting at my desk, running my finger around the lip of a cardboard coffee cup when my phone rang.

"Detective Anderson . . ."

"Faluca?  Where are you?"

"Go to 147 Leopold Highway.  Ailera is there now.  Hurry!"

I stood up and shouldered on my coat.  Charlie saw me and joined me at the exit.

"What's up?"

"Faluca just called me.  He's at 147 Leopold Highway.  He's probably killing again and wants us to have a front row seat."

"Boy! He's some weirdo."

We got into my car and sped off.  Leopold was at least twenty minutes to the south and I clicked on my siren.  We wove through traffic headed south, our siren blaring into the dark night.  We made it to the highway in 14 minutes. 

The house that was 147 was set back off the road on a hill.  The whole house was dark except for a lighted room on the upper floor.

"Let's hope he hasn't killed anyone yet," I said and exited the car.  With Charley close behind me we ascended the cement stairs up the hill and to the front door.  I leaned my ear against it and listened, but heard nothing.

"I don't want to pound on the door.  If the person's still alive, they may not be after that."

"Let's look for another way in," Charley answered.

We skirted the house.  An alley on the left side led to the back yard.  On the lower part of the wall, basement transom windows had been placed. 

Look,"  Charley said, "one of them is opened."

I squatted down and looked.

"I sure as hell can't get in through that,"  Charley said.

"I'll go in and get to the front door.  I'll let you in that way.  Go around and wait."

Even for me, the entrance through the transom was a tight squeeze.  I let myself in and slid down the wall to the floor.  With my gun in my right hand and my flashlight in my left, I scanned the basement for activity.  Nothing there but a washer dryer, water heater and furnace.  Across from the window a flight of stairs led up.  I took them two at a time and tried the door handle.  Luckily it was not locked.  I opened it onto a neat and modern kitchen.  I hurried through a small alcove that led to the front door.  I opened it and Charley rushed through.

"There's the stairs."

I looked behind me and we both plunged forward and up the stairs.  A hallway twisted to the right at the top and we crept along.  We could hear the muffled sounds of someone in distress.  On the left side of the hallway light shone beneath a closed door. 

We both stood to either side of the door.  I nodded at Charley who raised his .38 and leaned back against the wall.  I stood in front of it, raised my foot and kicked with all my might.  The door flew open to reveal the scene of horror inside.  A woman was tied down to a bed, her eyes wild and filled with pain.  Her arms had been tied above her head to the bed posts, her ankles tied to the foot posts.  In her mouth a brightly colored scarf secured her from screaming.  Long slices opened her arms; blood flowed liberally.  At the bedside another woman stood straight up.  She held a knife in her hands that gleamed ominously through the red liquid that dripped onto the victim's face.

The torturer smiled. 

"Drop the knife!" Charley shouted,  "drop it or I shoot!"

The woman raised her hand and waved it in a pushing gesture.  Charley's body shot back against the wall.  It thudded heavily and Charley lay slumped, unconscious.

I turned to the woman, and fired my gun.  Just as with Faluca, the bullets fell as she waved her hand.  She turned her back to me and sped toward the window.  She jumped, diving through the glass.

I ran over and looked outside.  She had landed on the pavement and was on the run toward the back of the alley.

I hadn't time to think.  I plunged down the hallway and stairs and outside to the front.  Around the corner of the house and into the alleyway.  I raised my gun and crept through the shadowed alley.  I was hopeful that she hadn't disappeared in the same manner that Faluca had managed.  So, he was telling the truth.  This was too bizarre for me to sort out now, so I kept my mind on finding this woman.

I did not have to search very far.  In a lawn chair beside a set of patio furniture the woman sat, rubbing her finger along the blade in her hand.  She took her finger and scribbled little circles on the top of the table she sat beside.  She tossed her head and her long silken black hair rippled in the porch light.  Her eyes were clear hazel.  She would have been beautiful but for her madness.  She smiled again and spoke.

"You have found me.  Now . . . what will you do with me?  You cannot hold me, you cannot shoot me.  What will you do with me, Po-lees-man?"

I held my gun steady with both hands.

"Drop the knife and lay down on the floor with your hands behind your head."

She laughed, a loud guffaw that made me angry.

"Get down on the floor with your hands behind your head!"

I stepped closer, my gun leveled on her head.  She stood up quickly and shot her hand out in front of her.  A streak of blue-white light dashed from her hand toward me. I felt something strike my right side and I was down on the ground.  I turned to see Faluca throw something that caught the woman in the throat.  A look of shock invaded her face as her head came cleanly away from her body which slumped back into the chair.  Her head rolled forward to land by my side.

I stood up quickly and looked at Tancor Faluca, standing before the woman's body.

"Fal . . ." I said as he slumped to the ground.

In Faluca's left side a wide angry gash oozed red.  He took my hand and held it.  It was obvious to me that he was severely injured.  In the distance I could hear the wail of sirens.  Apparently Charley had come to and called for backup and an ambulance.

"Detective . . . I told you . . . Ailera . . ."

"Don't talk, just stay calm.  An ambulance is on the way."

"It will do me no good.  This is but  a shell . . . a disguise useful for a little while . . ."

I lay Faluca down and turned to see Charley coming toward me.

"The woman upstairs is alive, though she's pretty cut up.  Faluca?"

"He saved my life, Charley.  I don't think he'll make it."

Charley looked down at the headless body slumped in the lawn chair and then at the head that still held that look of supreme surprise.

"Wow.  This has been one weird-assed case."

***


The bodies were hauled away, the injured woman taken to the hospital and though the mysteries of Fal and Ailera remained, the days settled down into their usual routine.

Two days after the incident Charley and I were sitting at our desks.  I was looking over the thing that Faluca had thrown at Ailera.  It was six inches of curved material sharp as any razor ever made.  It was made of some clear substance which looked like glass but was unbreakable.  It wasn't plastic, either.  The FBI had told us to bag all the evidence to be sent to Quantico.  Truthfully, I was glad to be rid of the stuff.

We were called into the captain's office.  He was a stony old bird.  A by-the-book officer that brooked no nonsense in his squad.  We could tell that something was affecting his usuall stoic manner.

"That guy you brought in with you?  That guy Tancor Faluca?"

"Yeah," I said feeling a twinge of sadness.

"His body's missing from the morgue."

"What?"

"I'm speaking English, ain't I?  His body's gone."

Charley and I exchanged glances.

"You both know it ain't easy to break into the morgue and take a dead body, right?  Must have been an inside job.  I don't want this thing blown out of proportion.  I'm telling you two because it was your case.  Keep it under your hat, okay?"

"Yessir," I answered and Charley nodded in agreement.

As we left we paused before the Captain's door.

"My money's on the Feds," Charley said, "that guy was too strange to be let go without some kind of exam."

"Mmm," I answered. 


***
         

I was watering my mother-in-law's lawn.  The summer had gone into full swing.  I turned around to look across the street because I had that uneasy feeling that someone was watching me.  There was. 

I dropped the hose and stood looking back.  There was something familiar about the guy.  The way he stood, the motion of his hand as he waved.  I crossed the street.

"Do I know you?"

"Not in this form, no."

"Fal?"

He smiled broadly and winked at me.

"But . . . I saw you dead.  They took you to the morgue . . ."

"They took the shell I inhabited to the morgue."

I felt my knees go weak.  Here was the man that saved my life.  Here was the man that I had seen die.  He had another face, lighter colored hair, but it was him.  It was Tancor Faluca.

"How?"

"You will learn, Detective Andrews.  The body is a transient bundle of nerves and cells, but the spirit?  Ahh, the spirit is eternal.  We are able, that is my race is able, to transfer out of one shell and into another.  Like your earthly snails."

This was too much.  I couldn't believe this man before me was really Fal.

"Once again, you doubt me.  Do you recall that conversation we had at your apartment?  Do you recall what I told you that night?  We are an immortal race, Detective. The only way that Ailera could have died was to detach her head.  Let the brain die.  You would never have known that and you would never have been rid of her threat. Once the brain is dead, our spirits are freed from bodily influence and we may never enter another shell again.  We die in body but live forever in spirit.  Her spirit flew to The Union and will be held until her penance is done.  I don't expect you to understand all this completely. But, entertain the thought.  One day, your race will realize this.  Then, all the fear you feel will cease."

He smiled and lay a hand on my shoulder.  That electric shock went through me and I knew that what he had told me was true.

"Thank you," I said.  "You saved my life."

"I saved a father, a son-in-law and a human being.  Thank you for being my friend."

I heard Mickey calling me from the front yard and turned.  When I looked back to Fal, he was gone.

***


We live in Southern California now.  I quit the force thirteen years ago, just after all those crazy incidents.  I went back to college and got a Bachelor's in history.  I taught for ten years, then bought this little place in a canyon near the Mexico border.  My mother-in-law lived with me and Mickey until she passed away last June.  Today, my son is getting married.  Soon there'll be grandkids and lots to do.

But . . . I think of Tancor Faluca every day.  I never saw him ever again.  I will never forget him.  He saved my life and gave me the perfect gift.  The gift of time.



Word Count 12916
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