Ten years had passed since the murders, ten years in which captain McCormick had not been able to get proper sleep. She had gotten a divorce and her children preferred to be away from her, although they called her sometimes. She thought that was more out of respect than because they actually cared about what happened to her. They were living their lives far away, with their own families and jobs. Her former husband had remarried and her children seemed to like their stepmother more than they liked her.
Or maybe it was the town. Maybe it was the things that had happened there and her youngest son had seen some of them with his own eyes. She didn’t blame him for not coming back. Oddly enough, of her three children, he was the only one who called her regularly and not only on the holidays. She knew that he called out of fear of the past, thinking that what had happened may happen again one day.
Captain McCormick still worked with the county police and she was proud too. After those horrible days, security had been strengthened and her county became an example for many others around the state. Samantha McCormick was proud that her work had done so much good but there’s always a case that hunts a policeman. There’s always that one unsolved case that hunts you to your death.
It had begun during the state fair, when the bodies of two schoolteachers, both women, were found one morning in the middle of the rodeo ring. The corpses had been left in perfect state except for the eyes, which had been taken out. Besides that, everything seemed to be fine with them: no signs of extreme violence, no signs of rape or torture.
Samantha looked for the murderer for at least a month until they found three more bodies, in the forest north of town. They were all male, various ages. They appeared to have been hanged but the heavy rain had made the tree branches weak and they had broken due to the weight of the dead men. At the moment, they thought both series of murders were not related but it was very uncommon for such a small county to have two murderers on the loose.
Besides, because of the media, everyone got scared into thinking the streets were filled with murderers waiting for them to take a wrong step on the street. Some people left town and others barricaded them inside their houses. Some time later, a family was found burned to death inside their home and it was determined someone had initiated the fire by using the gas installation. It was then when Samantha began to think the murders were all related.
It was impossible that three people were doing so much damage. Specially here, in a community were everyone knew each other and were strange behavior was easy to spot. Samantha had seen that private eye spirit in people before and it had never failed. She had been summoned many times by people thinking that their neighbor was a killer when in reality they were hiding affairs or just happened to be stealing money from their jobs.
But this was different and, although many of her companions did not believe her, she was sure it was a mass murderer. Then, she was personally attacked. A man had taken her son and two other boys from outside the movie theater. She put every single policeman to work, scouting through the woods and the farmland to the south. Finally, they located tow of the boys still alive. The third one had been killed with a gun in front of them and they claimed the murderer had told them he was going to eat them.
Samantha sent all members of her family out of town, with her mother who lived in a big city far away. Only her husband stayed because he thought she was becoming increasingly obsessed with everything around the case and she was: that man had attacked her personally and she wasn’t going to let anyone to that to her. She couldn’t shake out the memory of her son trembling like mad, his eyes filled with tears and the blood covered shack where he and a his friends had been held hostage.
Weeks after her children left town, police found the body of two elderly women. They had been left on one side of the road leading to some hot springs, which were really popular with tourists around the region. Then, everything stopped. They checked everyone’s house, every inch of the forest and the files, of the hot springs and every single public and private building in the county. Not only they did not found one more body, but also they didn’t found any suspects they could interrogate.
Samantha got obsessed in the search for the culprits and would often drive all night around town to check on things, believing the murder or murderers might come out late at night to escape or kill again. But nothing happened. The only real change in her life was that her husband got fed up with her obsession and left her alone in town. She didn’t really care, at least not at the moment.
She interrogated the kid that had been rescued with her son and, although she learned some new details about the kidnapping, she happened to be extremely harsh on the poor boy that kept weeping and was about to pass out by the end of her interview. The kid’s mother chased Samantha out, telling her to look for those mad men instead of harassing the only victims that happened to be alive.
The head of the state police came to town to check on the mass killings investigation and decided to put someone else on the case and give Samantha a leave of absence to be with her family and get away from it all, at least for a few weeks. But she just couldn’t. She visited her children at her mother’s but it was then when they all realized nothing was going to be the same again.
Her children were scared of her as she only sat on the living room, checking every single data on the killings on her computer. She did that every single day she stayed with her children and when her mother quarreled with her, telling Samantha she was no real mother if she cared mother about dead people than about her own children. Samantha responded that her job was to see that no one’s children; no one’s relatives will never be killed again. She stated that her job was first.
This affirmation was hard on her children who decided to stop insisting on getting their mother back. To them, it was like her mother had been one more victim of the killings. They stayed behind when she went back to town and her mother only asked of her the necessary money to take care of the three children. Samantha did not argue and for the next seven years she sent money to her mother, no argument, no questions.
She went back to solve the case, or so she thought, but she never got really far with it. Some of the evidence suddenly pointed towards a cult, a satanic group that had decided to settle in town and kill randomly and then leave, leaving no trace. It was the theory she backed after so many years, but the killings became a cold case, and unsolvable one.
Every year Samantha attended a remembrance of the victims of the killings and many of the family members thanked her for never letting go of it all. They knew it had all been very hard on her too but they appreciated the fact that she was still looking for the person or persons that had committed such awful crimes.
After ten years of the killings, people had begun to forget about it all. The county had become one of the safest places in the whole country and tourists poured in often to check out the hot springs, the food and the hospitality. She knew that some small groups came to visit the places were the murders took place but she didn’t mind, although she always suspected the murder could come back.
But if he or they did, it never became obvious. People came and went and Samantha stood there for many more years. Even after her retirement, she would still try to solve the puzzle but she was never able to. She often cried, alone in her house. Not only because she felt so frustrated, not being able to go any far into the case. She also cried because the killer had not only killed those people but because he (or they) had destroyed many families, the spirit of a place and their hopes for the future. Samantha knew this to be a fact, from personal experience.