Poe Story One
Poe is a blind common raven who lives at a bird rescue center. He has a secret life as a writer.
They can take my eyesight but not my memories and not my stories
As soon as he was sure all the handlers had left for the day, Poe got busy. He mentally thanked whoever designed the mews with gravel floors 4 feet deep. He unearthed his typewriter and dug a little deeper for the stub of his cigar. He’d have to ask the free birds who brought him scraps of paper and smuggled out his manuscripts to bring him another stogie soon.
Jazz and Vihar were arguing, as usual. The great horned owls were sisters, but they couldn’t agree on anything. “I was out of the nest first,” Jazz claimed. “That’s because you fell,” Vihar countered. The same argument, every night. Hoot, hoot, hoot, was all he heard as they bickered back and forth. But, they were paying him in mice to write their story, so he would put up with them.
Jumping up on his typewriter, his stogie in his beak, he swiped the cigar back and forth against the side of his mews until it lit. He took a deep breath and got ready to type
“Stop arguing, you two,” Poe croaked around the cigar in his beak. “Jazz tell me how you came here to the rescue center. Vihar, you can add your details after Jazz is finished. I can’t understand you when you both hoot at once.”
Vihar clicked her beak. She was annoyed, but she let Jazz speak first.
“We were living in a nest in a tall tree. Our parents were away a lot, hunting. Vihar and I were trying out our wings, seeing if we could fly. I jumped up and flapped my wings, then a gust of wind caught me, and I couldn’t get back to the nest. I kept flapping my wings, but I ended up on the ground. Some humans saw me and bought me food. I decided I had a good thing going,” Jazz went on. “Humans brought me food. Why should I learn to hunt when I had a ready supply of food delivered at my feet? But after a few days another human came and put me in a box and brought me here.”
Vihar hooted, “I landed on the ground a couple of days after Jazz did. “But I knew what I was doing!” It’s not my fault the wind gusted again.”
“I sat at the base of the tree waiting for our parents. Then some humans walked by and saw me. They brought me food, too. It was much easier to eat the food they brought than to try to fly back up to the nest,” Vihar explained.
“Our parents flew back and saw me sitting on the ground. They waited for a few days for me to fly back up to the next, but those other humans came and took me away in a box, too.” Vihar added.
“Now we live at the bird rescue center. We lived together in the same mews for a long time,” said Jazz. “Then, we started arguing and the humans separated us. Now, Vihar lives next door. That’s fine with me,” she said, clicking her beak.
“If I were living in the wild, I’d stay up in my favorite tree all day. I’d hunt at dawn and dusk. When I got hungry, I’d use my big asymmetrical ears to hear a squirrel skittering through the leaves on its way to its nest. I can see really well, too, so I’d know exactly where to swoop down to catch that squirrel for dinner, grasping it and killing it with my strong talons. They’re much stronger than any human’s. I eat just about anything I can catch.” Vihar added. “So does Jazz. She caught and ate a skunk once.”
“Hey, look what I can do,” Jazz piped in. She turned her head three quarters of the way around her body. “I bet you can’t do that,” she told Poe.
“I can’t see what you just did,” said Poe. “I’m blind, remember?”
“Oh, sorry,” Jazz said. “I just turned my head 270 degrees. I can’t move my eyes, so I move my head instead when I want to see to the side or behind me.”
“Cool,” Poe answered, dancing on his typewriter keys. “I think I’ve got this. I’ll finish typing it and push it through the slit in my wall to my friends on the outside. They’ll take it to my publisher.”
“Pipe down!” Star, a red-tailed hawk, called. “Some of us sleep at night.”
“We’re done for the night,” Poe replied. “You’ll get your turn to tell your story.”
Serial Killer Ten - Remembering
Maggie couldn’t get the night when she and her friends snuck away from their beds out of her head while she drove home. They were sleeping over at Maggie’s family’s house. She lived close to a tight grove of trees and the girls decided to sneak out to try to see one of the great horned owls who lived there. They had heard the owls hooting while they were getting ready for bed. It must have been a full moon, Maggie thought, because the ground was bathed in a white light.
As she turned into the parking garage below her building, her headlights shone on a woman with short black hair standing in the corner. Maggie didn’t think anything of it. Just another person waiting for the valet to bring her car.
Kestrel smiled as Maggie drove by. She didn’t even recognize me, she thought. Perfect. She watched as Maggie parked and walked to the elevator. Kestrel thought about how easy it would be to catch Maggie in the elevator, then shook her head. Too easy, she thought.
Maggie was still thinking about that long-ago night as she rode the elevator to her floor. The five of them had held hands as they walked through the trees. Then they saw strange lights in a clearing. Stormi had stopped and held her hand up to shush them. They looked at each other and nodded, holding back their giggles as they crept towards the strange lights in single file. Black candles set in a circle. A stone in the middle of a small clearing. A woman and a girl dressed in black cloaks. The girl held a knife dripping with blood. Lots of blood. They knew the girl. She was in their class at school. Her name was Kestrel.
Maggie didn’t remember screaming or running back through the trees. Or slamming her back door shut and locking it. Or calling the police. She remembered sitting on her bed next to her friends, all of them shaking and sobbing as their words tumbled over each other, telling her parents and the police what they had seen. She didn’t want to remember it all now, but that night came back in heart pounding detail. Maggie shuddered and checked the locks on her door.
Serial Killer 9 - Maggie
Maggie had a headache and her heart was hurting. She had spent the afternoon visiting her best friends’ families. She loved them all and felt loved by them, but she also carried their grief and their worries that she would be next. Why? Why was this happening? She had no clue. She pulled into the small parking lot of the police station and got out of her car. One more thing to do today, then she could go home and collapse.
Molly met Maggie in the lobby after she was rung in by the receptionist. “Come back to my office,” she said. “We can talk there.”
Maggie nodded and followed the detective down the hall to a small and dreary office. “Not very stylish,” Maggie explained, “but I get by.”
Maggie decided to take control of the interview. “Why were they killed? They were my best friends since kindergarten. What is happening? Do you know anything about the killings?”
“We know that each of them was killed with a knife and there was a lot of blood on scene. We think the killer collected their blood. The killer has left very little evidence, but there may be a clue at the scene of Skye’s murder. We’re working on that. We’ve interviewed teachers, neighbors, parents, friends; anyone and everyone who knew them. No one has any idea why they were killed. Mrs. Jensen told me you were good friends with them; one of five forever friends.”
“We were friends since the first day we met,” Maggie said with a sigh. “We’ve shared everything with each other. Forever friends.”
“Can you think of anything that would link you all together with someone who would want to kill you?” Molly asked.
“Maggie leaned on her elbows and put her hands over her face. “No. I don’t know why anyone would want to kill them.”
Molly glanced down at her notes. “There’s a police report from (need[KG1] year) that states you and your friends saw something in the wood nearby. You followed a classmate and saw some sort of ritual.”
Maggie looked through her fingers. “I had forgotten about that. It was Kestrel. Do you think she’s involved in this? I haven’t thought about her for years. I don’t even know what happened to her after she was taken away by the police.”
“We don’t know,” Molly replied, “but we’re following up on every detail. Please call me if you think of anything; remember anything.”
[KG1]Decide how old they are now and how old they were when they made the report about Kestrel
Serial Killer - Molly
Detective Molly Burns sat at her desk rubbing her eyes. Everyone else had gone home, but she couldn’t get this case off her mind. It was her first murder case. As a newly promoted detective, and a woman, Molly was determined to solve it. There was a pattern. There was always a pattern to serial killings. She just had to find it.
She stared at the bulletin board with the photos of the four victims. Push pins marked the places where their bodies were found. They were all local. They went to school together. They probably knew each other. But, why were they killed? And, more importantly, how many more would be murdered?
Those women weren’t random victims. Something tied them together. Molly felt it in her bones. She was also sure they knew their killer. All she had to do was figure out the tie and she’d find the killer. Molly was pretty sure the killer was a woman; another feeling in her bones. Molly trusted her bones. She hoped the blood the officers found on the sidewalk a few yards away from the most recent victim belonged to the killer. She hoped they would find a DNA match with someone in their database, but she knew it was a long shot.
Mrs. Jensen offered Molly an armful of ripe tomatoes. Their spicy, warm scent made Molly’s mouth water. “You’ll be doing me a favor, my dear,” Mrs. Jensen said, “by taking these tomatoes. I have too many to use.” Mrs. Jensen had retired from teaching at Valley Vista School after 30 years. Now she spent her time babying her plants.
Molly was interviewing everyone she could find who worked at the school when the murdered women were there. Mrs. Jensen remembered them. “They were nice girls, always kind to others, and always laughing. There was a fifth friend. Her name was Maggie. Those girls were never out of each other’s sight. They were such good friends.”
Molly heart beat faster as she jotted down Maggie’s name in her notebook. “Another potential victim,” she thought.
Later that afternoon, Molly tracked Maggie down and made an appointment to talk with her in person. “I can come to Petaluma,” Maggie told the detective. “I want to visit my best friends’ families. I’ll stop by the police station afterwards.”
Satisfied with her phone call; Molly reviewed the officers’ notes from each killing. “There’s always blood, but the killer is meticulous,” she said to herself. “She doesn’t leave clues. No fingerprints. The only shoe prints are from hospital style booties. What is she doing with the blood? Is it some sort of ritual?” Then she re-read the notes from the most recent killing. A neighbor insisted that she saw two great horned owls and a peregrine falcon attack a woman getting into her car. It sounded crazy, but something made Molly look at the description the neighbor gave of the woman being attacked. Could she be the killer? Molly pushed a new pin into the bulletin board where the bird attack took place and added the description the neighbor had given. Maybe it was a clue.
I played Reverse Mouse Jenga yesterday. It’s a game I made up to take my mind off of what I was really doing. The point of Reverse Mouse Jenga is to gently manipulate a pile of frozen mice until you find the keystone mouse. The one, that, once dislodged, causes all the other frozen mice to separate so they can be weighted and sorted into gallon-sized zip lock bags to be fed to the raptors living at the bird rescue center.
These mice didn’t run away. Or, if they did, they didn’t run fast enough. Now they’re bird food.
Frozen, dead mice stink. They stink even more when thawed. I wear gloves when I sort mice, but the gloves don’t help much. I wear Eau de Dead Mouse for the rest of the day after I sort mice. Cats love me.
I avoid handling the resident raptors on mouse-sorting day. I don’t want them to find the scent of dead mice so irresistible that they take a bite out of my ungloved hand.
A glove is only worn on the left hand when handling raptors. Raptors stand on a handler’s left fist and the glove protects the handler’s fist from their talons as well as providing a surface for the bird to grip and balance. The other hand needs to be ungloved so the handler can jess the bird and tie off the leash.
My ungloved hand is vulnerable, and raptors have very sharp beaks. I am not a mouse. And I can’t run away.
Maggie jolted awake when the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac and the pilot started to bring the behemoth to a stop. Maggie envisioned him slamming on the brakes and gripping the steering wheel hard to keep from fishtailing down the runway. Actually, she didn’t know if planes had brakes or steering wheels. And, she didn’t care, as long as they got her where she needed to go safely.
Rolling her shoulders and stretching to ease the cramps in her lower back from slouching in the uncomfortable seat for hours, Maggie yawned. “How did I manage to sleep in this seat anyway?” she asked herself. She was exhausted after two months of trekking in Nepal. Climbing Mt. Everest was on her bucket list. Now she could say that she had stood on top of the world and looked down.
Winding her way to the luggage carousels, Maggie ordered up an Uber to take her home. “A hot shower, a glass of wine, and my own bed,” she thought. “Heaven.”
Forty minutes later, she turned the key in her lock and sighed. Her apartment was spotless, her plants had been watered, and fresh flowers were on the table next to today’s newspaper. She picked up the note from her neighbors:
Welcome home, world traveler. We took care of your place while you were standing on top of the world. There is a rotisserie chicken in the fridge along with some veggies and a bottle of your favorite chardonnay. Tonight, enjoy a bubble bath in that big soaking tub of yours. Tomorrow, we’ll bring over a wheelbarrow of mail and a pizza. We want to hear all about your trip. You know we live vicariously through your adventures.
Love, Damon and Jon
Smiling, Maggie opened the wine and poured a glass. She looked down at the newspaper and her world shattered.
Splashed across the top of the front page were photos of her four best friends since kindergarten. They met on their first day at Valley Vista School in Petaluma when they discovered they each had the same pink, sparkly backpack. Maggie was the only one who moved away, but she was in San Francisco, close enough to meet for dinner or to see a show, which they did at least once a month. Now they were dead.
Maggie’s legs gave out and she sat, hard, on a kitchen chair. She couldn’t stop staring at the photos.
Stormi. Victim One. Found in a pool of blood in her kitchen. A cup of cold coffee on the table. Stabbed through the ribs.
Jess. Victim Two. Found laying on a sidewalk along B Street, her tights and shoes splattered with blood. Stabbed through the ribs while on her morning run.
Peri. Victim Three. Found at the top of the rise in Penry Park, her throat slit, the grass stained red around her body.
Skye. Victim Four. Found on the sidewalk outside her house with her head bashed in. A small pinprick wound in her neck oozed blood. Police had found more spatters of blood a few feet away.
The article continued with theories and speculation about the killer’s motives and how victims were selected. The last paragraph summarized an interview with one of Skye’s neighbors, an old woman ranting about seeing two great horned owls and a peregrine falcon attacking a tall, slim woman with short, dark hair as she tried to get into her car. “Those birds were watching that woman,” she insisted. “Then they attacked. I’m telling you; it wasn’t normal. Those birds knew something.”
“Crazy,” Maggie decided.
Victim Four was late for work. She ran out the door, bending down to pick up the newspaper from the sidewalk on her way to her car. Then she was on the ground as Kestrel swung a length a piece of pipe against the back of her head. She felt like she was floating when Kestrel knelt and pierced her neck with a knife, holding a vial up to the wound to collect the blood. Then it was dark.
Kestrel collected the blood and turned to stride back towards her car parked down the block. Four down, she thought. This is so easy. The police would be expecting lots of blood from the media’s favorite serial killer. Not this time.
Kestrel heard a whoosh of wings. She had time to throw her arms over her head before two Great Horned Owls and a Peregrine Falcon attacked, swooping down from the sky, screaming, talons spread. Three sets of talons scraped her scalp before the birds wheeled away, turned, and came back for another run. Kestrel ran, too. Towards her car. She fumbled the keys as the birds attacked again. Drops of blood spattered on the sidewalk. Kestrel threw herself into the car and slammed the door shut. She didn’t see her own blood on the sidewalk as she drove away.
Victim Three - Serial Killer 3
There is a special significance to being in the middle. Number three of five. A perfect symmetry.
Kestrel thought about symmetry as she meticulously planned her next killing. How should she honor this middle victim? There had to be blood, so it would be a knife. And, it wouldn’t be the kitchen like Victim One. Nor on a sidewalk like Victim Two. Victim Three didn’t go out for early morning jogs. Neither does Victim Two any longer, Kestrel thought with a smirk.
Kestrel had killed her first two victims in the morning. This one would be at night, under a full moon. Full of ritual. Of light turned dark. And book-ended by two more morning killings. A perfect symmetry.
The morning of the full moon brought freezing fog and mist. Drops of water clung to bare branches of trees, looking like precious jewels. Victim Three gazed out the window, admiring the beauty of the frosty landscape from beneath the warm blankets on her bed. A snatch of a dream, a nightmare full of terror and blood, lingered at the edges of her consciousness. The dream seemed important, but she couldn’t quite capture its wispy threads. An owl hooted, its eerie call breaking the silence of the morning. Another answered.
Kestrel finished breaking down a pomegranate. Her kitchen was spattered with red juice. Her sink covered with pips. Like blood. Splatter and gore and those bright beautiful red drops. She licked her lips and wondered what fresh blood tasted like. Maybe next time, she thought.
Victim Three was glad her day was done. Everything she had done had gone wrong and taken longer than it should. She hated having to re-do her work. But, she had done that today. What is it, she thought, about a full moon that makes people so crazy?
Victim Three loved the full moon. She liked to think the cold white light shone a blessing down on her. Deep in thought, she pulled her scarf closer around her neck as she detoured through the park. The moon was just starting to peek over the hills. Victim Three wanted to watch it rise from her favorite place in the park; a small clearing with a perfect view of the sky. She didn’t notice the woman sitting on a bench next to the path.
Kestrel waited until the full moon was high in the sky. I’ll let Victim Three perform her silly ritual, raising her arms high, her face towards the moon. It won’t do her any good.
When the time was right, Kestrel stood up and crept silently towards the clearing. She kept to the shadows even though she knew Victim Three didn’t see her or hear her. Kestrel approached from behind, her knife in her right hand, ready. Victim Three sensed movement and turned just as Kestrel struck, her knife piercing into Victim Three’s carotid artery. Like Victim One, Victim Three saw the face of her killer.
Blood spurted over Kestrel’s hands. Pressing her wet palms to her cheeks, Kestrel drew in the tang of Victim Three’s blood. I have enough, she though, for my plans, and turned to walk back home.
Another bird rose into the sky to circle with the others. Watching, always watching.
It was time. Kestrel felt it in her blood. Time for the second witness to become a sacrifice.
She didn’t want to kill them all in their kitchens. That was too predictable. And, why do they all hang out in their kitchens, she wondered. She knew they had lives. She had studied their habits for years. There had been five of them. Now four. Soon to be three. Silly young girls. They had sounded like chirping birds playing in the woods. They saw what they shouldn’t have seen. Reported it. Now they would pay. They would sacrifice their lives, and their blood would cleanse what they had seen. Expunge the wrong that was done to her own mother.
Victim Four groaned as the alarm rang at 5 am. She wanted to get a run in before work, but now her warm bed pulled at her. Reluctantly she pushed down the blanket and slowly got out of bed. Her running gear was waiting for her on the chair. She dressed and laced her shoes, wishing for a few more minutes of sleep but knowing she’d be energized when she finished her morning run. She pushed her key into the side of her shoe and walked out the door, stretching as she went. She breathed in the misty morning air. Bliss, she thought as she started a slow warm up jog.
An owl rushed by her, hooting. That’s odd, she thought. Why is a great horned owl dive bombing me? She ducked her head and started running.
Kestrel had trained hard for this moment. She waited until her victim was in her running zone, breathing rhythmically with her steps. Aware of her breathing and her steps, her thoughts turning inward; relaxed. Kestrel ran hard at an angle towards Victim Four and stabbed hard between her ribs and her heart. She felt her blade hit its target. Victim Four collapsed, gasping for breath, blood everywhere. Kestrel took a final look around to make sure her kill was clean, bent over to gather up a bit of blood, and ran.
Back home, Kestrel stripped off her clothes and stepped into the shower. Hot water pounded over her, washing away the blood. She’d have to burn her clothes. But, this time she remembered to take blood from her victim. Last time, she had to gather it from her blood-soaked clothes.
On the bloody sidewalk another spirit became a bird. To watch.
She, who called herself Kestrel, woke with a start. She had been dreaming about an owl. It was stalking her. Its yellow eyes had stared through her. It knew.
Padding down to the kitchen, she started on her daily list while she heated water for coffee. She always started her day with coffee, freshly brewed in a French press. She would move to tea in the afternoon.
She needed new candles. More honing oil for her knives. And bleach for cleaning up blood.
Her next victim was calling. It would be soon. Not yet. She would know when it was time.
An owl sat on a branch outside her kitchen window, staring at her through the glass. In the daytime. It hooted, pulling her from her thoughts. She shivered.
The sacrifice, which is how she thought of her, was sitting at her own kitchen table enjoying her morning coffee while scanning the newspaper headlines. She felt safe in her warm, cozy kitchen. She had no idea the killer was waiting, planning. It wouldn’t matter.
Kestrel shrugged off the shiver. It’s just an owl, she thought. A bird. It doesn’t know anything. She grabbed her list, her bag, and her keys on her way out the door.
The owl blinked and dissolved into mist. I am the owl spirit of the Kestrel’s first victim. I vowed justice, and I will get it. I felt the frisson of fear in the killer when she saw the owl. It was enough for now.