The names in this story are of Celtic origin and so can be unintelligible to the average English-speaker. As such, I take pity on you, the reader, and save myself the trouble of doing so later on after you flood me with e-mails asking how to pronounce the names. Here is a pronunciation guide for this story.
Caitlain (kāt-lăn/ kāt-lawn)
Cathrach Dorcha (käth-räkh dor-chä/kăth-răk dor-chă)
They watched him out of the corners of their eyes as he stalked up to the sheet covered lump in the middle of the rain-slick pavement, his long, black coat and hood being tugged by the wind whistling between the three-story buildings. The stench of putrid garbage and rotting flesh was a miasma almost thick enough to cut with a knife. Add in the other scents of stale vomit, urine, and the kimchi from the Korean Restaurant that made up the western wall of the alley and you had to blink pretty fast to keep your eyes from watering. Everyone was breathing through their mouths and taking shallow breaths. And despite that, they all watched him warily.
He would have smiled to himself if he were here for work. They were reacting to him on a subconscious level and probably could not tell you why he gave them the willies, even if they knew why he was there.
And then he was at the sheet. It had been white when they placed it, but now most of it was the deep, deep red of a spilt life. He had seen enough of these scenes that it would normally be nothing for him to be there. He was used to seeing the results of crime and, as a reporter for the Cathrach Dorcha News' crime desk, he thought he had seen everything. Until he got the call that night.
He knew the detective at his shoulder well; a tall, burly man with salt and pepper hair, merry green eyes that were cheerless, and a clean shaven face with its share of wrinkles after twenty-five years in the Cathrach Dorcha PD. He nodded brusquely at the coroner's assistant who lifted the corner of the sheet just enough to show the once beautiful face and coppery hair now a grimace of frozen horror and pain and rain-wet hair the color of dried blood. That there was so much blood in the alley told them that she was dead only a few hours, since the rain had come with sunset and dawn was hours to go. He stepped forward and lifted the sheet farther and saw the raw meat mess the killer left of his sister, only leaving the face and neck unmarked. It was a scene he had seen twice in the last month.
"And you know no more tonight than you did three weeks ago or ten days ago?" he asked the detective who was using every ounce of will power to hold himself together. He was present at Caitlain's birth, her christening, her confirmation, and both her wedding and divorce.
Detective Sean Cassidy could look no more upon the body of his goddaughter and so only shook his head as he turned his back on the body. "Nothing," he rasped, his breath shuddering as he came close to falling apart and the sheet was laid back across her face. "The sicko doesn't have a pattern other than picking pretty, young woman. The ages are a decade apart, the features are random, the areas they live are different, and, until tonight, we had no overlapping shopping or living habits. The first victim also worked at the Cathrach Dorcha University, but then so do fifteen thousand other citizens of our fair city. As far as we know from talking to friends of the first girl, Caitlain and Maeve MacShane never crossed paths. MacShane was part of the housekeeping staff in the female dorms while Caty was an assistant professor."
The detective covered a sob with a cough, pulling out a handkerchief and wiping his eyes and nose. "We don't know yet. Last anyone saw her was when she left the university at five. She doesn't have a boyfriend, so that is out, and her ex is still in Dorcha State finishing his fifteen-to-life."
The other man tugged his hood closer and shoved his hands into his pockets. "He will kill again, Sean," he whispered direly. "He will do this again and unless he fucks up, he will keep doing it."
"The FBI thinks he will screw up and make a mistake, Seosamh," Sean said earnestly, trying not to sound like he was more convincing himself than comforting a crime victim's brother.
"The FBI thinks he will screw up ... eventually," Seosamh replied sourly, turning away from the sheet-covered lump to glare at his uncle.
Cassidy looked shocked. "How do you know that is what they said?" he demanded.
Seosamh simply smiled mysteriously, his eyes bleak. "I have my sources, Uncle Sean," was his snide reply as he looked down at what remained of his big sister, the person he loved most in this world, and the icy anger spread to engulf him. "Let me know when I can make arrangements for the ... you know." With that he walked away, ignoring whatever it was Detective Cassidy was saying.
"Mr. O'Niall, Mr. O'Niall!"
"Seosamh, Seosamh! Is it true that this latest victim is your sister, Dr. Caitlain O'Niall?"
"Do you have anything to say to the killer, Seosamh?"
He normally was contemptuous of those who scorned what the media did, those who considered them nothing but vultures, feeding on the carrion of society. As he looked up at his colleagues, some of whom he had considered friends, with eyes dangerous enough to shut them up and make them step back, the thought that perhaps those people were correct flitted through his brain. There were a score of his fellow reporters, all with cameras and microphones pointed at him with breathless anticipation, nothing at all on their eager faces to suggest that they had even considered that his lovely, vivacious sister was lying mangled in the alley behind him.
Brushing past them all, Seosamh strode to his car, silence reigning behind him.
It was a long drive to his condo. Longer than he could ever remembering it being. There was nobody to call. Caitlain and Uncle Sean were all he had in the world and one of them was dead and the other would be sidelined because he was related to the third victim, despite the fact that he was one of the best detectives CDPD had. And there was little hope he would not be reading about another victim in a week or so. And a week or so after that. This particular sicko had visited four other cities, each one had no fewer than sixteen victims before the killing stopped and another city was chosen to play host to some of the most vicious murders the FBI had seen. The task force had arrived last week, after it was confirmed that victim number two was killed by the same guy who did Maeve MacShane.
And nothing would be done. Caitlain would simply join the list of victims.
Seosamh could not... would not stand by and watch the bodies continue to drop and then let the bastard vanish again.
A screeching of tires on wet pavement, honking horns, and shouted curses greeted his decision as he turned around and headed for his priestess' house on the edge of Cathrach Dorcha. Behind that house was the grove that had been cared for since the founders of the city landed. The Catholics and Anglicans had followed, but the druids were still the power brokers of the city and the grove was the center of that power. Protected by magic and well-paid for federal laws, the grove was several acres of oak bordered by ash and hawthorn trees, the center of which was a clearing and spring that pooled and formed a stream that eventually ran down into the Hudson River. A large colonial mansion backed up onto the grove and was also protected by magic and state law, being on the historical registry.
The lights were all out but as he drove up the unpaved drive, the porch light went on and the door opened on a large man wearing a black loin cloth and holding a shillelagh. His chiseled features were grim and foreboding even as he turned his head back into the house and said something. More lights flared in the windows of the living room and one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Seosamh brought the car to a stop and was climbing out when a woman shrouded in a white, ankle-length robe appeared at the door behind the man, her fiery hair mussed. Just the sight of her eased the pain in his chest that he did not realize was there until it lessened.
"Seosamh," she said in her lyrical voice, tinged with a hint of Ireland, where she was born. "Oh, Seosamh, I cannot tell you how sorry I am."
That stopped Seosamh in his tracks. "You knew?" he demanded angrily, causing the man with the staff to step sideways, half blocking her.
"Arghus, gently," she murmured, laying a hand on his massively muscled arm and pushing him back out of her way. "I was awakened an hour or so ago. Arghus almost had me calm enough to sleep when he felt you coming. Niamh is getting the tea ready, come and tell us while we wait."
.... There is more of this story ...