The statue of the 17th century pirate DARIOUS ARNUS loomed tall above the town of LIVIA, a small island off the coast of Eastern shore. Packard was sent there by his editor to do a story for the Lifestyles section of the newspaper he had worked for ten years. In that ten years, Packard had never had a bad experience covering the crime beat in the Tr i-Cities area. Just four months ago, Packard had a small nervous breakdown.
It could have happened to anyone. He was doing a story on a serial killing in the Asian section of Liberty city, and he got too close to the suspect. The suspect was Lenard Bosely, a white male, aged sixty-one and had had a intense hatred of Asian women. He'd sent a message to Packard, requesting he visit his home. When Packard arrived, the man attacked Packard, dragged him to the basement. Leonard made Packard watch him dissect a young college student.
Anyone could have had a breakdown after that.
So, partly he was there in Livia to write the article on the town's history, but mostly for a vacation.
Take it easy. Take it light for six months. No crime, no alcohol, no bad vibes, or negative thoughts. Relax. Take it light.
First thing Packard noticed when he drove into the town from the ferry, was how much graffiti was written on everything. Especially on the statue of Dario Arius. Six scribes, all spray painted in different colors all over the weather-beaten statue.
All of it saying SCREWHEAD WAS HERE.
Very strange. Must be an art thing, Packard thought. Just like SAMEO in New York in the late seventies and early eighties. Packard even asked Mrs. Helms, the woman that rented the room to Packard.
She just shrugged, laughed. “I have no idea, Mr. Packard. I don't know anything about art.”
Packard became obsessed over the graffiti. He went out every night, different parts of the city to see if he could find the person writing SCREWHEAD WAS HERE. In spite of watching from his car all night, for two weeks, Packard saw little or no action save for a few homeless people and Johns with hookers.
On a Wednesday, the third week of his investigation, at three in the morning, Packard saw a six foot tall rabbit in a gray suit carrying black medical bag walking down an alley on sixth and Hyper ave. Packard quietly left his car and followed the rabbit. He saw the rabbit walk to a an apartment building, ring a doorbell. A woman in a robe opened the door and the rabbit forced himself inside, slammed the front door shut.
Packard watched through an open window.
The rabbit had dragged the screaming woman to the dining room table, held her with a hand, with a hypodermic needle in the other hand, introduced the woman to unconsciousness.
In less than ten minutes, the rabbit had the woman's chest open and removed her heart. It carefully placed her heart in a glass jar. For a minutes more, the rabbit gazed at the woman's heart in the glass jar, shaking the jar to watch the heart jump around. Then the rabbit pulled a new, shiny quarter from it's pocket and put it where the heart had been. He took a needle and surgical thread, sowed the deceased woman's chest in one nice long stitch.
All the while, this rabbit had a permanent smile on it's face.
The rabbit put the tools of it's trade back into the small black medical bag, washed it's hands in the kitchen sink, and left by the back door.. Before the rabbit left the woman's backyard, it spray painted it's message on her backdoor in hot pink. Then examined it's artwork and clapped it's hand. Packard was too petrified to follow this monster anymore that night.
He walked in a daze back to his car. As soon as he opened the door to his Ford Taurus, a police siren made it's presence and two cops had their weapons drawn on him, screaming for him to place his hands on the top of the car.
Packard sat at a plastic table too small for him or the police detective who sat across from him. The table looked like they had stolen it from a child's playhouse, right down to the colors of purple and green on the legs. The detective said nothing, just as the beat cop that stood by the door, both of them grinning at Packard from ear to ear. Whenever Packard tried to speak, the Detective would shush him.
At that moment, another Detective walked in carrying a plastic bag with two aerosol cans of spray paint. He sat the bag on the table. Leaned in, smiling. He was a large black man with no neck, and lots of chins.
“Would you like some coffee, Mr. Packard?” He said.
Packard nodded yes
The officer by the door left, giggling. Packard was already scared, traumatized by what happened earlier, but this, with the weird smiling, giggling, really threw him for a loop. Packard folded his hands in one another to keep them from shaking.
“My name is Jennings,” The large black man said. He pointed at the other Detective. “That's Miles, my partner.”
“I witnessed a murder---” Packard tried to say, Jennings held up his hands to quiet him.
“We know,” Jennings said. “We read your report.”
Packard nodded. “So why am I still here, three hours later?”
Jennings eyes became slits, anger rising up in him. “Your not screwing with me are you?”
“I'm sorry, I don't understand----”
“You know what I'm talking about!” Jennings voice boomed inside the small room. Packard felt his ears pop slightly. “You were at the scene of a viscous crime, boy. And we found these spray cans in your car. Got witnesses say that you were at the house of Mrs. Collen Furgh. That's the woman that was killed.”
“I didn't do it. I'm a journalist working on a story----”
“We know who you are. We know a lot of things. Nothing...and I mean nothing....get's by without us---the police dept. here in lovely Livia, city on the north beach----without us knowing about it.”
“I saw who did it!” Packard screamed, bawled up his fists.
Jennings shrugged. “Okay,” He said condescending. “Who was it? Who did you see?”
Packard looked away, sighed. It took him a minute to gather his thoughts. He was afraid to say it. So he said it in a burst of sputter, hoping they wouldn't understand him.
Jennings and miles looked at each other. The smiles were no longer on their faces.
Calm, almost blank faced, the two of them. Packard couldn't read their expressions. Jennings nodded.
“So,” He said slowly, his lips formed the words as if he were blowing a bubble. “You know the pattern. Why and who he kills?”
“Yes. I 've been reading the local paper. Tourists. Never a resident over a year. It's been reported a coin---a quarter--- is sewn inside the victim, where the heart used to be. The why is is the key to who he is, the killer.”
Jennings smiled. “The why is that he's crazy. Who he is, you say is a man in a rabbit suit.”
“No,” Packard’s brow narrowed. “I didn't say he was wearing a rabbit suit. It is a six foot rabbit. A real one. With a furry tail.....Large feet....”
“You were in a mental institution six months ago in Hampton roads, am I correct?” Jennings thumbed through a file.
“And?” Packard said with venom.
“That's why you saw a six foot rabbit cut out that woman's heart. A real furry rabbit, not a man in a rabbit suit.”
Packard was silent. His eyes met Jennings. The officer reentered carrying a pot of scalding hot coffee and no cups. Smiles returned to the faces of the policemen.
The officer walked over to Packard and Miles took Packard by his arms and Jennings held Placard’s nose. Packard’s mouth immediately opened wide. Thew officer began pouring the hot coffee down Packard’s throat.
“Here's your coffee, sir,” The officer laughed as Packard screamed tried to spit the steaming liquid out. Packard pulled from Miles, the rest of the coffee was dumped in his lap.
Miles kicked Packard so hard, his front tooth flew from his mouth, blood flowed from his mouth like a river. Jennings placed his size fourteen hush puppy on Packard’s throat, bore down half of his weight, making Packard gurgle loudly.
“Get out of my town,” Jennings grit his teeth. “And if I see any of this or your six foot rabbit murderer in the papers, I'm coming for you. We have an understanding.”
Packard wasn't given a choice to answer, because it wasn't a question, it was a statement.
Packard was dumped in his car after being cleaned up by the city jail guards. He wasn't kept there, just cleaned up enough to so the outside world wouldn't dream that their wonderful boys in blue would beat a suspect.
At this point, Packard had clearly lost his mind. He was sitting in his car, watching the street, the business district of Livia, proudly show her citizens as they truly were. Very large humanoid rabbits. He was not afraid anymore. Two nights in his car filled with nightmares of these large humanoid rabbits feasting on members of his family, dead or still living, was enough to make anyone's brain implode.
It was settled. He was going to rid the streets of Livia of these horrible creatures. He wanted revenge as well on the cops. He decided to confuse them. It was the best way. A copycat killing, or a few even. He was going to be the new SCREWHEAD.
He watched the bus station. Picking out his victims was not the easiest thing. But he saw a drifter who was perfect. Yes, a drifter, not a mother with two children, a business man, or a young woman hoping to make a new life. A drifter that obviously had no luggage and no intention of staying in this city by the Atlantic ocean
The drifter was a lean young man with short golden hair, not very well groomed. Possibly because he had been on the road for awhile. He was wearing the only thing of worth on his back, a vintage WWII bomber jacket. It was weather-beaten, several rips in the leather sleeves.
Packard followed the drifter all day, and well into the night. The drifter would often work an alley and street corner, accepting money for sexual favors. That's where Packard got the idea to lure the drifter to an abandoned alley by an old warehouse. The drifter was given three hundred dollars and more than willing to do the things he and Packard discussed. The drifter was actually happy. As he followed Packard, he told him he only made thirty dollars all day. He told Packard he was trying to raise enough money to get to Texas to live with his aunt. She owned a bar and was promised a manager's job.
They reached the end of the alley behind a trash container. He turned and smiled at Packard. “What do you want to do first?”
At that moment Packard had lift the tire iron high above his head. It came down on top of the drifter's head with such force, the top of his head sank in. The drifter's face was instant pain and shock. Blood oozed down his face. The drifter fell on his back, his lips parted, as if he were going to say something.
To Packard's surprise he actually enjoyed it. He bent down and touched the drifter's neck for a pulse. There was none. Packard took from his jacket a scalpel and immediately sliced the man's chest open. Before he could go further, he heard shuffling of feet on the pavement. Packard dropped his scalpel and ran. He hid behind the warehouse. What he thought was little beads of sweat rolling from his forehead, was blood from the drifter. He tried to wipe it with the sleeve of his jacket, but made it worse. A long red streak across his cheek appeared.
The rabbit was there, kneeling over the drifter's body. There was no reaction on it's face, a frozen, toothy grin on it's face. But somehow, by it's robotic movements, Packard could tell it was confused. The rabbit finished the job that Packard began. He opened the the drifter's chest more, reached inside and removed the heart with it's scalpel. It opened it's little black medical bag and extracted a jar. It opened the lid of the jar and dropped the heart inside. The rabbit gazed at the heart a moment. Before stitching up the drifter's chest, the rabbit pulled out a coin from it's jacket. It wasn't a quarter like Packard had read, but a gold coin, 17th century, with the queen of Spain representing her nation. Packard knew now.
A theory more or less, but just maybe, just maybe it was a spirit, a murderous spirit...the spirit of a pirate...the spirit of Darius Arnus... paying for the privilege to kill visitors to his port...just like he'd read a few months back about the pirate. The Spanish authorities looked the other way. Just like the cops in modern day Livia.
The rabbit got up, began waddling out of the alley. After a few steps, it turned to look around. Confident there wasn't anyone, it picked up it's pace to a speed walk.
Packard followed. He saw the rabbit turn on King's way, then left on Corinth street. Finally, the two of them ended up at a bungalow behind the preschool. Packard looked at the address on the mailbox. 332 Corinth and Main.
He watched the rabbit go through the front door of the bungalow. Packard stayed well hidden in the bushes. He was afraid to go further. But something was pushing him forward. Adrenaline, excitement.....pure mental inadequacy.
Packard quietly went through the unlocked front door of the bungalow. It was a neat and very tidy place. Lived in normalcy. With the exception no modern machines, no TV.'s or radios or computers. Everything was strangely decorated in the color white. Just like the pirate Darious Arnus fashioned all of his outfits in white.
Packard moved from tiny room to tiny room, den to bathroom to kitchen to bedroom. The rabbit was standing next to a bed, it's back to Packard. A head, a human head was laying on the bed beside the rabbit head. He was without a head attached to a metal round cylinder where it's neck should be.
Packard drew in air, held it a moment, then exhaled. He was stunned. Now he knew he really was crazy. How....how could this thing be alive, and walking without a head attached......? It was a fairy tale his brain made up.....his brain was definitely fucked.
The rabbit turned swiftly to face Packard. Packard's breathing alerted it. It took hold of Packard by his throat and squeezed. Then everything went black.
Miles and Jennings stood over top of the two bodies that lay disjointed at the end of the alley in front of the trash container. Miles shrugged, wrote something in his little notebook. Jennings turned over the first body with his left foot. It was the drifter. He turned and looked at Miles. Miles raised an eyebrow and shook his head, touching the cold lifeless body that belonged to Packard. On the trash container was spraypainted SCREWHEAD WAS HERRE.
“I bet we find a gold coin inside both of their chests.” Miles said.
“He's changed his M.O.,” Jennings said. “Two for one. Don't remember this happening. Ever.”
“Me either,” Miles scribbled something else. “ Now he's leaving wounds on the bodies?”
“No,” Jennings thought for a few seconds. “Nope, Detective. The male in the leather bomber is a copycat killing.”
Miles nodded. “You think so?”
Jennings smiled. “I know so.”
“Hey, you going to Farley's birthday party tonight?” Miles said, his face beaming.
“Sure,” Jennings headed to the unmarked vehicle. “Can you pick me up?”
“Yeah....what's the address again?”
Jennings turned swiftly to Miles. “332 Corinth and Main.”