2:17 a.m. Possibly one of the most thoughtless stakeouts I have ever been on. We were sitting in the car, with the rain tapping against the roof like needles on my ears. It put my partner to sleep. But he was put to sleep by anything, and kept asleep by anything else. I looked over at him. His breathing was slow, but it was loud. Probably by the way his neck was turned.

I put my gaze back out on the street. The streetlight ahead of us gave off that orange glow, the rain becoming tainted by its light as it came down. A sidewalk beside it, and a fence beyond. I think there was an abandoned construction site next to us. I didn’t really care to look over at it. My eyes had been fixated on the entrance to the little projects complex a little further down the street on the left. No one was coming in or out because of the rain tonight. Just as well since I didn’t feel like having anyone else interfere with my operation.

Her scent still lingered in my nose. Another girl dead, neck cut open, cut like the other two. She smoked pot before she died, and she only used a speed stick for deoderant. No perfume or anything. But there was a smell on her, like the other two, that carried evil man about it like a rotten fragrance. When I smelled it on her, I had enough. I opted for the stakeout. No warrants or anything. I just did my own hunting to find out who this guy was. Homicide didn’t care much for the case. It was just another death in the projects with gang-related carelessly tagged on it.

I opened my eyes again after taking a deep breath. The rain pattered on the windshield, and all around us. A faint snore erupted from my partners mouth. It was annoying. He’d been sleeping like that for over an hour. I gave him a small punch in the arm.

He jumped. “Shit… sorry, man. How long was I out for?”

“Ten minutes.”

“Oh, okay. Seen anything yet?”

I gave another look towards the complex. No motion whatsoever. Even the rats were staying in tonight. “No. Just the rain.”

“Yeah, figures. I’ve had a few people on my back about this case, Ty. What makes you think that this is a serial murderer?”

Hell, I couldn’t throw him the real reason. Nobody goes off of scent. “The cuts look like they were made with the same knife. Blood spatter could have found that out if they looked hard enough.”

He eased back into the corner of the passenger’s seat. “Well, that’s cool. I trust you, man. You seem to have a good nose on you.”

How ironic.

“You gonna go and fall asleep again?”

“Nah, I am just cozy. I think the humidity will keep me awake. It is a little stuffy in here.”

“It’s raining, Ed. Of course it is humid. I need you to keep an eye out behind us just in case. Use the rearview mirror.” It was a bunch of bullshit. I could keep my ears trained anywhere I wanted to and hear whatever was coming. I just wanted him to feel useful. At that, he readjusted himself so he could look out the passenger mirror.

The rain continued on for a moment. It felt good, though. It felt like the city was being cleansed of the shit and muck that was layered on top of it. At least, our part of town. It was the part of town that people wouldn’t pay attention to, like a port-a-potty sitting outside of a white tile restroom.

He tilted his head over a little bit, his body shifting with him. He wasn’t too stocky, but he was tall enough. Black man who grew up in the rough parts. He was a lot of talk sometimes, but when the business end of death’s stick was pointed at him, he reacted with such ease and smoothness, it was obvious where he grew up. “So, you seen any girls you like lately, Ty?”

Fuck. Here he goes again. “Not lately, no.” I didn’t even have to ask him.

“There’s this fine-ass girl working at the front of the station, man. She’s got curves..” of course the hourglass handmotion would come out next. He was much like a man who had all the right words for all the wrong ladies. His voice trailed out of my ears slowly. I liked the guy. But it got old.

I moved my head in such a manner that made me seem to listen closely while keeping my eyes in the direction of the complex. That smell was still in my nose. She was still in my nose. And this guy, whoever he was, lingered alongside her. His smell was an unwelcome virus in my mind, the girl’s scent hosting it.

“…like, this big man. Out to here.” I knew what was next. The big chest hand gesture. I looked over appreciatively to nod before turning my head back. “And the way she walked…”

There was something about this murderman. I smelled the evil behind it. He used the girls and dumped them, just not in the high school fashion where they complain to their friends and stupid drama bullshit happens. He dumped them in the trash. Various parts around here, but all within walking distance to where we were.

Someone came around the corner of the complex, on the far side from us. I stayed steady. Ed was still going on about whatever woman it was at the front. I gave his chest a small backhand slap and pointed towards the two walking hurriedly in the rain.

“Wha… oh, there. You think that’s him?”

I took a moment and rolled down my window to see past the glass. A man, mid thirties, hadn’t shaved in a few days. Wearing a hoodie and some jeans. I looked at who he was with. Someone else in a hoodie. My heart jumped a little bit.

“He’s with a girl.” I grabbed my gun from the armrest, holstered it under my arm.

“How the hell can you see… whatever man. Your lead on this. That means your head.” He sat himself up in the seat, keeping a hand near the doorhandle.

“Not yet, Ed. He’ll notice us getting out. We have to wait.” My hand eased towards my handle as well. The wind wasn’t blowing my way though. I couldn’t smell him. But I had to be sure. They took the steps two at a time to the small landing, and he opened the door with a key, looking behind him briefly before escorting her inside. The door shut. Mine opened. Ed followed suit, getting out of the car.

Our doors shut, and we made a decent trot towards the door. I motioned for him to go through the front. I went down the left side of the building towards the back, jumping over used toys and trash occasionally before arriving at the backside of the building. Door had been left cracked open. How fortunate.

I opened it up and stepped inside. I stopped, letting the door close behind me completely. I tilted my head down slightly, my breathing steadying so I could hear around me. TV’s were turned on. I heard Ed walking, his steps steady. That was ahead of me. It sounded like he had turned down a corridor on the first floor. The smell of piss permeated the place like a bad sewer. Then I heard two sets of steps, sounding like they were pushing up a set of stairs. The stairwell was just ahead of me, on my left. I went for it in a hurried walk, keeping my head straight ahead so I could use my peripheral vision to watch my sides. I got to the steps.

I smelled him.

I started up the steps two at a time, reaching the first landing and turning slowly to look up ahead of me. There were other smells here too. Other people, but I didn’t know right off hand if they lived here or if they were passing by. Peeling paint doesn’t let things stick to the walls as much. I got up to the second floor. I took a look down both directions of the corridor. I smelled some meth, some pot and more alcohol. Then I heard the footsteps above me. I went up the next flight.

I stopped again. This floor was a little quieter. Some coughing coming out of the small living spaces here, and a TV down my right playing a gameshow. I smelled him though. It trailed to the right. And as I looked, I heard the sound of a door closing. I followed it.

As I approached the offending door, I could hear several locks being put in place, including a bar that came down across it. Even for a slum like this, it was a little more defense than most would put in to protect from intruders. If I wanted to, I could knock it down in two or three hits, but by that time it might be too late. I stayed out of sight of the eyehole, stooping down to get a smell of the scents coming from underneath the door.

Pot. Him. The girl he had brought with him. Blood. The other two had been here. This was our guy. I could feel my teeth baring slightly as I stood up, and I corrected myself and looked back down the hall. Someone was coming up the flight of steps. I heard the breathing. It was Ed.

He came up around the corner cautiously and saw me. I pointed at the door, and he nodded. I met him halfway down the hallway.

“He went in there?” His hand came to his gun, drawing it out.

“Yeah.” I took a look again at the hallway more thoroughly. His room was second to last from the end where there was a fire escape. “Door’s pretty well locked, so I want you to stay out here and keep an eye. I am gonna see about coming in through another way.”

“Okay, man. Just don’t do anything stupid. I’ll watch from here.”

I nodded, walking past his door, taking a listen. There was some small laughter, and a lighter being flicked on. I kept going, looking at the last door on that side. I tugged at the door knob gently. It was locked. I proceeded to the window, lifting it up to get access to the fire escape outside.

The next building over wasn’t more than five feet across from the wall of the building I was on. The rain came down steadily against the metal tiering of the escape, and down below. Three stories up, this was the last one before the roof. The escape didn’t go up all the way, for some reason. I looked back in the window down the hall to see what Ed was doing. With his head turned away, I pressed myself against the brick wall.

I felt my muscles winding up. It was the greatest feeling. I pushed myself away, and it became very slow for me, in my mind. The rain fell much more slowly as my foot pushed against the rail, pushing me up and over the escape. I approached the solid face of the other building, and I could see where my fingers were going to meet in the grooves. My fingers dug in, my leg wound itself up against the wall as I turned around, my arms pulling me up vertically as I pushed away from the wall, ascending between the two buildings.

As my body turned, I saw the brick grooving on the other building. My body wound itself back up in mid-air, my fingers gripped, I turned and redid the motion, coming again to the other wall to push myself up. As I approached the wall, I saw the top of the building behind me that I needed to land on. It was another six feet up. Gritting my teeth and growling a little, I exerted a little more and found my hands on the lip of the building, where I pulled myself up. I hopped over the lip of it, coming down four feet onto the top of the building. I raised myself up, and time seemed to speed up for me again.

Flat surface. Some air conditioning units on top, none of them running. A door leading up to the roof from the stairwell. I suppose I could have gone that way, but my body was yearning for exercise at any point. I rolled my shoulder, and walked over to the side of the building facing the street.

I looked over the lip. The rain fell down three stories to the concrete and pavement below. The streetlight let me see the water running off the street, and it truly did look like shit being washed away. I grinned a little bit as I looked to the building itself. The rain started to pour over my face from my hair, which almost hung down to my eyebrows. I hated smelling like a wet dog.

Two windows over. Grating in front of it, bolted on. That had to be it. But the only way to scale down was by using the brick. I hopped over the lip of the retaining wall for the roof. and the water caused my right hand to slip, leaving my body hanging on by the left. I pulled myself up a little bit, finding the grooves in the wall again, planting my right hand there. My feet had no solid surfaces or grooves to hang from, so I relied on my hands to guide me down. I kept my legs rose up, and occasional grunts would emanate from my throat as I worked my way to the window, hanging beside it carefully on the right.

I stopped to listen again. I could hear some scuffling inside. My heart raced a little more as my grip tightened around the brick as it began to crumble. I grabbed the grating covering the window, pulled back on it hard and ripped it away from the face of the building. The momentum caused me to lose grip on the small amount of brick I had, and I let the grating go, grabbing the base of the window with my left hand. I brought my right one immediately over, and centered myself enough to pull myself through the window. With a crash, I was inside.

I looked up. I could hear pounding on the door from Ed on the outside. The man had a knife in his hand, and the frail girl was looking at me with complete fear and confusion in her eyes. I stood up. The man was still looking at the girl, his hand steady. The girl edged as much of herself against the wall of the room as she could, trying as much to distance herself from me as she was her assailant.

“…help me…” was all she could stammer out. With that, the man turned his head towards me, and I smelled his scent again consciously. He grinned as he turned his face to me. He had some facial hair, and what looked to be long hair coming from his hoodie. But his eyes were not right. He was tripping on something.

“Just back down,” I said, holding my hand forward. I didn’t bring my hand near my gun just yet. “We’ll deal with this situation together. No one has to be hurt.”

“Ty, you all right in there?” came from behind the locked door. As I looked at it, I realized there was even more to the locks than I initially thought. Maybe it would have been five or six hits.

“Yeah, Ed. Get backup here now, and an ambulance.” I turned back to the man, who was slowly pointing his knife towards me. My muscles tightened again. The girl spoke up.

“He tried to get me to try… some pcp with him… and I didn’t… I just wanted to smoke some pot…” she said between sobs. Grand, I thought to myself. Someone who won’t go down until they’re dead.

“You ain’t stopping me, she is mine to take!” he spit at me with his loose jaw. He started edging towards me again. I could hear the sirens in the distance through the window. I could hear the growls coming up from my throat again, rather audible this time. The girl’s eyes widened even more as I started to bare my teeth.

I looked to her. “I need you to face the corner, okay?” She sobbed still, giving little twitching nods as she turned herself to the corner and waited as quietly as she could. I turned my attention back on the man. “You really don’t want to do this.”

“I think I do…” he drooled. With that he took two quick steps towards me. I roared at him and I heard the girl scream as I did it. He lunged at me with his knife. I sidestepped it, grabbing his wrist and crushing it in my grip. I took my right hand and shoved it into his hip, pushing him up to the ceiling and pulled him back down to the floor as fast as I could. I stepped back to see what he would do.

He got back up, his body ignoring all the pain, protected by the pcp he had taken. There was blood coming out of his lips alongside his drool, and he only grinned a little more. He stooped down to grab the knife with his other hand, advancing towards me.

“Don’t do this…” I said softly, closing my eyes. I heard him advance in range of me again. I opened my eyes, and he was a step away from me, making a motion up with his knife. I grabbed him by his throat with my left hand, holding his working arm with my right. Roaring, I spun around and slammed him into the corner where the wall met the window , the stud giving way slightly as his body went suddenly limp in my hands. I held him there for a second, my breathing sped up and my teeth gritting tightly. I started taking deeper breaths to control myself, and slowly I let his limp body slide to the floor.

I regained my composure, and I became aware of the world around me again. The cops were outside, making their way inside the building. I turned around to find the girl huddled down in the corner, her hands over her ears. I walked over to her, slowly. She heard me coming and turned around frightfully.

“Get away from me!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, scuddling away from me with her feet. I held out my hand for just a moment before standing back up, turning around and going to the door, unlocking each of the mechanisms and sliding the bar up and back, opening the door. Ed was standing there, his gun drawn and ready for a fight.

“Yall right man?” he asked, taking a look inside the room. “I heard some crazy shit coming from in here.”

“Yeah,” I countered. “I think the guy was on pcp, he was screaming at me and it sounded really weird. I had to stop him.”

“Sounded weird all right,” he said, walking in the room. “Drugs do the weirdest things to ya, man.” He continued in the room, letting out a whistle before seeing the girl. “Are you okay?” I didn’t turn to look, I just heard her sobbing and whimpering quietly. “Man, she must be trippin’ out too.”

“Probably,” I said as I saw some cops approaching the room. I flashed my badge to them and pointed inside, and they filed in accordingly. I took in a deep breath, rubbing my face with both hands before running them back through my hair, stressed out. I walked outside into the hall, where more people had come out of their rooms, talking to each other.

This one was going to be hard to cover up.