The Cured - Book cover

The Cured

Nicole Gavel

Chapter One


My hands whisper across the peeling paint of the damp walls while I feel my way blindly down the halls. The incessant drip dropping of water and the stench of mold and mildew assuage my nostrils. I smile.

I’m getting closer.

His fear is palpable as he whimpers in the darkness. Soon he shall worry no more, for I shall bring him out of the darkness into the all-consuming light. All dark deeds shall have their day in the sun.

Regretfully, today is not that day. Now is a time for learning, a time for change. We are as a teacher to student or as a parent to child and I will correct his behavior accordingly.

Reaching up, I pull the chain overhead. It is the singular light in the room where he is held captive. The slimy green moss covered brick walls of his personal hell have now been illuminated. Dark pupils turn to pinpoints.

Like an animal, he huddles as deep as he can into the iron chair he’s bound to. Fear is reflected in his eyes. A surge of power courses through me. Smiling, I lick my lips

I grab his cheeks roughly between my fingers causing his lips to purse as I stare into his red-rimmed eyes. Yes, you thought you were going to defile me.

To control me, but it is you who will become the defiled, the damaged and tormented; begging for my mercy my eyes scream at him. My mouth remains silent.

Slowly, I pull the scalpel from my leather jacket and hold it up to his right eye. He really does have lovely, striking blue eyes.

Those beguiling orbs are useless to him here. I run the edge of the blade swiftly over the top of his eyelid. Turning to the other eye, I quickly do the same, removing both eyelids before he comprehends what I’ve done.

Grinning, I survey my handiwork with pride. I’ve become quite adept at this.

The man begins to squirm. He screams around the black ball-gag in his mouth as realization sets in. His wrists begin to bleed from the handcuffs biting into his skin as he fights against them.

Clicking my tongue, I shake my head at him in disappointment. Leaning, I place my face next to his.

“Now, now Harold.” My voice is low, my warm breath against his cheek. “Save your energy for later. This is only the beginning.”

Turning my head toward him, I lick a stream of salty tears mingled with blood from his soft cheek.


Straightening, I remove a small bottle of vinegar from my jacket. Grabbing a few cotton balls from a tray, I saturate them with the vinegar and apply it to his severed eyelids.

The bastard goes wild, like a rabid dog.

“Hold still.” I grab him by his hair to immobilize his head. “I’m doing you a favor,” I growl. “This will staunch the bleeding. You need to see or else what’s the point?”

Harold stops bucking. Foam-like saliva covers the ball, sliding down his chin like a child’s bubble-bath beard.

Tears run steadily down his ruddy cheeks. That’s to be expected from someone with no eyelids to blink them away.

I pat his jaw with my black leather-gloved hand and kiss him lightly on the forehead. He is my child after all and after every punishment comes a little clemency.

I walk over to the flat screen T.V. and DVD player, brought down and set up just for special occasions like this. Putting in the DVD, I press play. The device is programmed to play the DVD in a loop.

“Enjoy the show, Harold. I’ll be back for more fun later.”

Whistling my favorite tune, I turn off the light. It’s a fun game I play, finding my way out of the darkness of Harold’s personal hell, and into the light from above.


“We’ve got another one Sanchez,” Critchfield says. Against my will a sound disgust escapes me.

“Do we have to?” I ask, unable to keep the whine out of my voice. Brown eyes narrow at me. “Can I at least, finish my coffee and bagel? You know I won’t get to eat again once we get started on this.”

“Fine, you eat. I’ll give you the intel we have so far,” he says. Compromise. That’s what makes us a good team. I nod my head in agreement, my mouth already full of cream-cheese-covered bagel.

“A body was found in an abandoned car in the Civic City Mall parking lot. Mall security had seen the same blue four-door sedan in the parking lot for the past three days and called a tow company to remove it.

“When the tow-truck driver went to slim-jim his way into damn thing he got a whiff of something so raunchy he lost his breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

“If you’re trying to make me lose my appetite,” I say, taking another bite of my breakfast. “It’s not working.” Picking up my coffee cup I take a few sips to wash down the bread. Critchfield smiles.

“Fine. The body was identified as forty-year-old Harold Banks from St. Louis, Missouri. He’s 5’9 with receding brown hair and blue eyes.

“He’s single, no children, worked as a computer tech and was reported missing….,” Critch pauses looking at me in expectation.

“Two weeks ago,” I say, completing his sentence, following it with a sigh.

“This guy is consistent, if he’s anything. Let me guess. His eyelids were removed along with his hands, and his genitalia is mutilated beyond recognition?” Thus far this has been the killer’s modus operandi.

“Yep, he’s still on sick son of a bitch. But—” Critch pauses for affect. “This time, that’s not all.” He’s got my attention. I put down my coffee and lean forward in anticipation.

“There were three tiny drill holes in the skull. One above each eye and one in between the eyes. The word ‘cured’ was stamped on his forehead in red,” Critch says.

He leans back in his chair crossing his arms as he allows me to process this new information.

“This is our guy’s fourth kill. Why would he change his M.O. now?” Getting up from my chair, I begin to pace. This doesn’t make sense.

Serial killers have signature moves, like famous wrestlers, they don’t go changing their moves in the middle of a world championship match. “Do you think it could be a copycat?”

“No. The CSA, Charlie, assured me that the killer left his signature. You know small toxic symbol branded on the victim’s tongue post mortem?”

“Of course. It’s the only thing not mentioned in all the news reports so that it wouldn’t public knowledge.

“Harold Banks has it.” Critch runs a hand over his dark hair.

He looks more run-down than usual with at least three days worth of stubble on his cheeks, and the gray at his temples more pronounced, showcasing his need for a haircut.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Quit your lollygagging and let’s hop to it,” I say, as I grab my black leather jacket off the back of my chair and brush past him.

“Hey,” he calls out. I turn just in time to catch the car keys as he lobs at my head.

“What do I need these for, Critch?” I say, jingling the keys in my hand. He scowls at me. He hates it when I call him Critch, but Critchfield’s too damn long and we don’t go by first names around here.

“I’m eating, you’re driving,” he says. That’s fine by me, I already ate. We’ve been partners for almost five years and I’ve probably driven a handful of times in those years.

Critch always complains that I drive like a bat-out-of-hell.

With a shrug, I lead the way out of the precinct and over to the black unmarked four-door sedan assigned to us.

As I buckle my seatbelt and start the car, Critch unwraps a Snicker’s and pops open an energy drink. Turning in my seat, I arch an eyebrow at him.

“Really? A candy bar and an energy drink? What’s going on here, Andrew?” He knows I mean business now, using his first name, not even his nickname.

“This is serious. Drew Critchfield does not do energy drinks. Especially one’s chocked full of sugar.” I snatch the can from his hand reading the label. Yep, pure sugar, and 300 calories in it too.

“Alright, besides our vic, who died?” At forty-two, Detective Andrew Critchfield looks good for his age. Regular workouts and a healthy diet keep him that way.

I attributed his less than pristine appearance to long days and nights on this case, but now I’m not so sure.

“Spit it out,” I demand, backing the car out of its parking spot. Critch lets out a heavy sigh. Looking out the passenger side window, he rubs the back of his neck.

“It’s Julia. She’s divorcing me.”

“What?” My foot almost tap on the brakes. “You’re kidding me. When did this happen?”

Critch and Julia seem insanely happy. The kind of happy I wish I could contrive in a relationship.

After several attempts, they haven’t had any children in their seven years of marriage, but they still seemed content. But what the hell do I know about love or contentment?

“Same sad story that happens to all of us cops who fall in love and get married, thinking we won’t be another statistic,” he says.

“She says I’m married to my work. I don’t spend enough time with her. I’m also the reason we can’t have a baby.”

“Is that true? The baby part?”

“No,” Critch lets out a deep breath. “We’ve both been checked. She’s good. I’m good. We just haven’t conceived. Julia is lonely. She’s hurt. Blaming me is easier.”

He gives me a sidelong glance. “Hell, you know how you women get.” The grin playing at the corners of his mouth is shaky.

Playing along, I give him a sharp look and hold up my hand to silence anything else stupid or sexist that he feels he might want to impart.

“I’ll chalk that up to you having a bad day,” I say. The smile I give him is that of a mother humoring her child.

“Besides, we’re here. We’ll talk about you and Julia later.” I pull up outside of the cordoned crime scene. Charlie Booth, our usual Crime Scene Analyst is already photographing the area.

“You go talk to Charlie. I’ll go speak with the Patrol Officer that was first on scene.”

Not waiting for a response, I head toward the cordon checkpoint. Critch is definitely not on his game today.

As the senior officer between us, with seventeen years on the force, he usually takes command and control of the investigations.

“Good morning, I’m Detective Sanchez and this is my partner Detective Critchfield. We’ll be the homicide detectives on this case,” I inform the cordon officer.

The officer looks familiar because we work in the same precinct but I don’t know his name.

“Morning Ma’am I’m Officer Brenham, Robert Brenham,” he introduces himself as I write down his name in my notebook.

“Were you the first officer on scene, Officer Brenham?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I arrived on scene at approximately zero seven hundred. After witnessing the body in the trunk of the vehicle, I immediately cordoned the area and took witness statements.

“I obtained statements from both the security guard, and the guy driving the tow truck,” he says, pointing to the two gentlemen in question.

“Thank you, Officer Brenham. I’ll be getting those written statements from you later. Tell me something.

“Did you happen to ask the security guard if they have video surveillance of the parking lot?” He shakes his head no, a flush creeps up his neck.

“I didn’t think to ask,” he reluctantly admits. Years of working with men as the majority has made me a master at smoothing feathers, of the ruffled variety.

No man likes to have his mistakes point out to him, especially by a woman.

“No problem.” Giving him my famous smile, I pat Officer Brenham lightly on the shoulder and take the clipboard from him to sign into the crime scene.

“Come on Critch let’s get the bad part over and view the body.”

“That was low,” Critch laughs.

“What? I didn’t do anything.” I look at him with wide-eyed innocence.

“Oh so you didn’t use the Sweet Sanchez on that poor schmuck? A smile, a friendly pat,” he says, batting his eyelashes at me.

I give him a little shove on the arm as we walk over to the back of the blue sedan. All teasing ceases. There’s a nude corpse in the trunk posed in a fetal position like the others that came before him.

His unlidded eyes stare blankly at the dark gray interior. His hands appear to have been cut off at the wrists and cauterized.

Prior experience tells me that his genitalia has been horrifically mangled, possibly butchered. From this angle the only thing I can tell for sure is that his testicles are missing.

His tongue is out so that the toxic symbol branded onto it can be seen. That’s the only procedure the killer has the decency to do post mortem.

Leaning in to get a better view, I see the three tiny holes in his head that Critch told me about. They’re about the size of the tip of a ball point pen. Amazing.

Even more amazing is the fact that every crime scene is always devoid of blood. I resist the temptation to run my latex gloved finger across the word ‘cured’ in red on his forehead. Is it ink or blood?

“From the looks of it the only thing he was cured of is breathing,” I say under my breath.

“Poor bastard,” Critch mutters. “And just look at these vultures, they make me sick.” Curious bystanders gather around the crime scene. They’re kept a good distance away, but they can still be aggravating.

“Hey Charlie,” I call out to the CSA. Do me a favor and make sure you get a few shots of the looky-loos for me.” I motion toward the small crowd. You never know when you might catch a killer returning to the scene of the crime.

In this case, where the body was dumped. We know for a fact that the murder didn’t take place in this parking lot. Our killer likes to play with his victims, which takes time and privacy.

Critch gets to work collecting fingerprints and fibers from the vehicle. Not a shred of evidence has been found in the previous vehicles. There’s always hope that the killer will become eventually slip up.

The victim’s bodies have all been found in the trunk of their car. No sign of a struggle or forced entry into the vehicle.

So, how is how the killer getting the victims to willingly hand over the keys to their cars?

Sighing, I pull out some evidence bags. This part is tedious but absolutely necessary. At least we’ll kill some time while we wait for the corpse to be sent to the coroner’s office.

It could be hours or days, before we hear from the Medical Examiner telling us what she found. Getting down on my haunches, I join Critch in the laborious hunt for evidence.

Next chapter

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