After weeks of searching and scratching, calling in favors, and being all-around nuisances, we finally caught a lead on Darryl’s trail. I was elated, or as close to that particular emotion as I tend to get, that we finally had a breakthrough. Days spent wandering from town to town,waiting for word, had started to get to us all. It felt good to have tangible proof that the bastard hadn’t fallen off the edge of the world.
I just wish that proof had taken a different form than a room full of dead women.
“He was out of his mind,” a lady of the evening who called herself Rose was telling Molly. She’d survived Darryl’s rampage, but he’d left a savage scar down her face as a trophy. She’d have a hard time finding work after this. “At first he was normal, even charming, but when he’d get us into a room...get us alone...he’d change.”
We’d come into town on a whim, Seamus had said he was running low on some kind of oil or something, and almost missed everything. What we found when we got here was a whole town grieving. People were just wandering the streets, looking shocked and appalled, like the world changed overnight on them and they found that to be profoundly unfair. And these weren’t soft folk. Out here you got used to violence and blood as you got used to the sun and the wind.
But everyone has a limit.
“We told Marty that he’d been creepy with us,” Rose continued, Molly resting a comforting hand on her shoulder. Seamus and Felix were down the hall, looking over the aftermath. “He’d even hit little Clara. So Marty and some of the boys hauled him out of town and none too gently. Though I wish now they’d maybe been a little less gentle.”
I didn’t want to walk into that room, but I knew I had to. The sounds I was getting from it, through the thin walls of the bordello, were horrifying enough. Shrill screams of terror, the shuddering saw of a blade hitting bone, all being repeated over and over. The smell of flowery perfume and iron-thick blood forced their way past my sewn nostrils and wouldn’t leave. It would take a long time for the stain of Darryl’s actions to leave this place.
“He came back in the night. Just waltzed into our sitting room after the last guest had gone. He was talking gibberish, saying that monsters were following him and that he had to cover his trail. He had a knife. He just locked the door, all casual, and then started cutting.”
I left the room, though I could still hear Rose pour her heart out. The hallway was covered in gaudy floral-print wallpaper, the same kind I’d swear I’d seen in about a dozen other whorehouses throughout the west. Bloody boot prints, Darryl’s, stained the wood floor. To my weird, damned eyes each print was a cacophony of auras and sounds, each unique to its previous owner.
“He let me live,” I could hear Rose say. “He said to keep an eye out for the ones been hunting him. He said that he’d stop, that this would be the last time he did something like this, if they would stop following him. But if they kept on, he’d keep killing. ‘Until a wall of bodies separates me from them’, was what he said.”
The sitting room was somehow worse than I’d imagined. The bodies had been removed - you don’t leave them sitting out for too long in this kind of climate - but nobody had cleaned the place up yet. Pools of dried blood had collected at the room’s low points, getting between the floorboards and turning the grain a deep crimson. Couches and chairs lay smashed and scattered, feathers and stuffing poking out of gouges where Darryl had occasionally missed his victims.
And mixed through it all, in a riot of color and smell, were the remnants that only I could see.
One of the girls must have had a kind soul; her aura was like a silky, lavender cord that floated around the room and seemed anchored to an old looking hand mirror. Another girl left behind a jagged smell, like hot metal, that seemed to come pouring out of a pearl-handled hair brush. The last one was musical, something stringed like a violin, that I could hear only faintly over the phantom screams. It came mostly from a pair of shoes that rested carefully, undisturbed during the slaughter, under a footstool.
Perversely, coiling in and around everything in the room, was what Darryl had left behind. A thin, reddish snake filled with rage and, I got the sense, shame or humiliation. It disrupted everything in the room and distracted me, made me want to have a good old fashioned rage of my own. It spent most of its time wrapped around a discarded knife, the blade broken and bent from ill use.
Looking around the room, at the somber expressions of my friends and the beloved items of the departed, I knew what I had to do.
And it sure as hell wasn’t going to be letting Darryl Farnsworth go free.