- "He was a myth and a ghost or at least that's what we liked to believe in the beginning. The things he did to those people, my friends, reminds me everyday that some nightmares really exist."
- —Unknown Indigo Heart Girl
He slept and the dream came to him again... He could see the Man, the one who had shown him he was pure, a faithful servant of Good while the idle rich around him were nothing...
He had heard the truth in those words, and though he had resisted them, the soft voice came to him in his dreams a hundred times a night for weeks, keeping him from sleep until he truly saw.
He gave up his evil acts, turning aside from all others but the one The Man allowed him to keep as a reward for his good deeds.
This dream was different. The soft voice spoke again. "You have done well... You will change the ways of Gallius but there is still work to be done..."
Gallius Slums 213.143M41
The Slums were dimly lit but what little light there was cast shadows as it danced off the gray rocks. She chided herself for being jumpy and assumed she would get used to it in time. She was new to Gallius, she had come here to flee crushing poverty and even these truly terrible conditions were a step up from her previous home. The lowest levels of any Hive City were a dangerous place, somewhere no one lived by choice.
She was being watched by a man who kept to the shadows, a knife held in his belt. For all of the physical pleasures Gallius offered there was one he savored above all others. For the man in the shadows this pleasure mixed with duty.
He saw his moment and silently came out from the shadows, three long strides and he was behind her. It was over quickly, He clamped a hand down over her mouth to muffle her screams and a single backstab drove the breath from her lungs. Again and again, a dozen times ending with a long slash across her throat that left her in a pool of red.
He vanished into the darkness, paying little attention to the screams and gasps rising up behind him. She was number twelve, the latest in a long line of nights divided across the artificial world’s four habitats. He was the only one who truly understood the evil that dwelt here, the only one who knew what He demanded of him, his loyal servant.
Gallius The Indigo Heart 215.143
The Indigo Heart offered large windows that always showed the stars, thundering music, rich food, and fine liquor but the nightclub’s true draw was the second floor where one could find private rooms where wealthy men indulged every physical desire with exotic women.
Andreus Mellas would never have been able to afford their services if not for the fact that he was a bouncer at the club below. A reserved time slot once a week was a part of his pay and he had found his female company over the last several years more than willing. He was a fourth generation Gallius native and his middle class life was something previous generations would never have dreamed of.
He could not hear the party below breaking up or the cleaning staff beginning their work. He was too wrapped up in his surroundings. Red leather furniture and silk sheets, walls made of real wood imported from Corbonis, a half empty bottle of Amasec on the bedside table but most importantly the company. He still held her, running a hand through the hair trailing down her back, still savoring the feel of her bare skin against his.
The night before had been fantastic as it always was, just because he knew all her tricks already did not mean he enjoyed them any less and he knew that even after all this time she still enjoyed the time they spent together.
He didn't think her beautiful, 'cute' was a better word. She was a small woman, only 5'4" and 110 pounds with dark hair usually held back in an long ponytail. Her round face, dark eyes with long lashes and button nose only added to that image.
He was roughly eight inches taller and a hundred pounds heavier than she was but he was always careful with her.
“That monster in the Slums is up to twelve now and security still can't catch him...” She spoke in a calm casual voice, reaching for her robe.
“God-Emperor is that tragic or what? Gallius is supposed to be safe."
She rolled out of the bed heading off to the suite’s bathroom not waiting for a response from him. He just dressed in the previous night's clothes and headed on his way.
Mellas stood whilst stretching his arms and then proceeded to comb his hands through his blonde hair. He gave himself a quick look in the mirror to see if there was any residual lipstick from the previous night's events. He looked as he usually did with a dead eyed stare, square jaw, and undercut hair. Deciding he had been admiring his own reflection too much he set off on his daily routine.
Mellas saw the habitat waking up around him as he headed toward his modest apartment. He dropped a single coin for a newspaper at a stand nearby. Actual paper, a subtle luxury here in a world of excess but a luxury all the same. The front page caught his eye, another lurid headline detailing another murder two nights earlier.
The details were the same as always. Witness reports were vague and conflicting but agreed on a few points: a mask, possibly an opera house castoff, a long coat with a turned up collar and long black gloves, fine clothing, and shoes. The most important detail of all was his knife often described as untraceable, silent and deadly, serrated, eight inches long judging by the wounds left behind. He wasn't surprised his companion had heard this news before everyone else did. Off duty security officers liked the Indigo Heart too, even receiving a discount for the girls upstairs.
He turned to the sports section, checking the scores on a Corbonis sports league he followed. He just carried on, stopping briefly for an overpriced cup of caffeine and a sweetroll on his way home. He walked into his apartment, slicing into a loaf of bread with a serrated knife to make toast before getting some sleep. He had a few errands to run tonight before work and he wanted to be well rested.
Eastern Habitat 310.143
The masked man was hunting elsewhere tonight. The wealthier areas proved to be more of a challenge, they were more crowded and security patrols were much more frequent. He had a low opinion of them but even the servants of corruption and decadence could get lucky.
The loutish guards stumbled in the dimly lit streets and he wondered if he should claim one of their lives as well. He sat in the dark waiting for the patrolling security officers to go elsewhere while simultaneously watching his prey. She was a plump woman adorned with fine garments and jewelry. From what he could tell this was a noblewoman from Syprios as her clothes reeked of the planet's signature scent, grain and livestock.
The noblewoman set off accompanied by her personal bodyguard much to the hunter's dismay. This complicates things but it is too late to find another. I will have to end this one's life too- no great loss. he thought. He stalked the foreigners through the dark streets waiting for his opportunity. He heard the guard speak to the noblewoman requesting a moment of leave so he may visit the latrine. Perfect! He reflected on his sudden good luck.
He slid his blade out of its sheathe as he crept out from the shadows. His footsteps fell silent as he closed in on his next victim. I wonder if she'll prove to be more sporting...
But wealthy women died just as easily as poor ones. His thirteenth victim died alone, her pearls scattering from her broken necklace to bounce across the tiles. She would not be alone in death. That night would be his most productive yet, two more met the Emperor at the end of his knife.
Security came no closer to finding him despite the triple murder. The people of Syprios mourned and prayed for justice but in time she and the others that night were all but forgotten as well.
Indigo Heart 344.143
Calandra Vassos moved well for a self-proclaimed “Syprios farm girl." He watched from a dark corner unknown without his mask and unnoticed beneath the pulsing lights. He watched her dance across the floor on high heels and a very tight, very short strapless dress dared all eyes to turn to her. His did but for an entirely different reason, he watched her as a hunter watched his prey.
He saw a man come up behind her, place his hands on her hips and whisper in her ear. She took his hand, led him upstairs and the man in the shadows returned his gaze to the rest of the club’s patrons, just waiting for his moment.
This will be her last night and it will be ended by your hands. He didn't react to the whispering voice only he heard but he knew what was to come next.
Vassos left the next morning thinking only of what do with her night off and unaware of what was coming.
He crept through the streets avoiding rubbish on the ground which might have given away his position. He could hear everything as though he had been gifted with the ears of a hound; He could hear her gentle footsteps through the stale recycled air and the faint noise of her breathe under the sounds of the night. His breathing slowed but his heart beat faster as he slipped on his mask.
He called out her name, destroying the silence. The sound of a blade being drawn from a leather sheathe filled the void of the long gone quiet and moments after the steel had been revealed the dull sound of blows landing echoed off the walls of the alley.
Vassos would not see the next sunset, her lifeless body was found only three blocks from the Indigo Heart bearing the same knife wounds so many others had received.
"We cannot let this monster win, we mourn for Calandra but do as she would have wanted us to. We continue on. She was a joyful soul in life and so we cannot be overcome by grief.” Alysha Nulaati spoke from the second floor balcony addressing her staff. Suellen Maedke stood beside her but deferred to her business partner.
Andreus Mellas was there as well wearing a black band on his arm as a sign of mourning and listening intently to her every word. “We celebrate her life, we mourn her death, pray that her killer is soon brought to justice and that she finds peace."
Mellas noticed that she didn't mentioned The Emperor when she talked about prayer, he also noticed the edge in her voice, something angry, defiant and just a little bit sad.
With Nulaati's words about peace and justice still in his ears he adjusted the black band on his arm and took his place at the doors, listening to the music inside and the nightly party slowly coming to life. After the ocean of people jostling for entry became a trickle he headed inside watching the dance floor. He looked across the room, keeping an eye on the shadows and more than a few shady characters in the corners.
His bosses insisted on keeping the place drug free and he didn't see anyone peddling such things, no need to ban anyone tonight. He didn't see anyone getting too grabby without paying, all in all a boring night. He liked those on occasion since they gave him time to think on his life and how things had turned out more or less alright for him. Laera gave him a warm smile as she walked by, leading another man to her room upstairs. He gave her a polite nod and went back to his job...
Southern Habitat 011.144 M41
He was an angry man, he had always known that, but he reflected that Father had use for all men, especially those angry at evil and impurity. He could not help but be sympathetic for these women; they were victims of a corrupt system, willing victims but victims all the same. If he had to send them into the next life to save them from their wickedness in this one so be it. Let him be remembered as a killer for his Keeper knows the truth.
Tonight would be a busy one for him. Tourist girls were arriving in droves from all over the system to audition for jobs across the planet and he could smell their perfume from quite a distance. He had not hunted for months, there had been too much risk and the fools around him had thought he was finished. Tonight would mark his triumphant return and he would strike another blow against corruption.
The next morning two women were found stabbed to death in a way all too familiar to the security forces of the city. He woke the next morning as he did after every hunt. He donned his normal attire to hide in plain sight among the crowds.
Adeptus Arbites Necro Precinct House 050.144
"Alright everyone listen up. We have recently learned that the situation on Gallius still remains unresolved. As you can guess this isn't a good thing for the people of Gallius or our reputation as peacekeepers. We will be dispatching a team to find a solution to this issue." The head Arbitrator spoke.
Claudius Mojaro stared down at his feet averting his attention from the orator but was still actively listening if only ever so slightly at times. Most of the words being said were typical jargon to be expected of a pre deployment briefing but he quickly turned his gaze to the head Arbitrator as he heard his name called.
"You paying attention? You better be because I'm sending you out there as the lead investigator." the chief addressed him directly.
He replied "Are you sure that's a smart move sir? I'm not a sufficient rank to be the commanding officer on this case."
"Well that's what I'm hoping to change. If you can find this cretin and put him behind bars there will be a swift promotion headed your way." the head Arbitrator spoke.
The chief went back to continuing his briefing with the rest of the Arbites whilst he pondered the idea of the lead officer on the case. After the briefing was over he decided he would rise to the task and set off to gather his kit, case files and a few personal items.
He looked at himself in his bathroom mirror for a moment, noting that dressed as he was he would stand out.
He was a large man, while relatively slim it was all heavy muscle. He kept his naturally dark hair cut short and it offset the skin turned pale by Necro's lack of sunlight. His heavily armored uniform only added to the illusion of size while the scars, a shade lighter than the already pale skin around them would make him even more threatening, assuming anyone actually noticed. He couldn't help but think about those scars or how he had come by them, this was almost personal, the memory of an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire between the Arbites and one of Necro's crime syndicates had never left his mind.
Threatening wasn't the approach he was going for just yet, though he would if he had no other choice. No more innocents, no more crossfire casualties if he could avoid it. He bowed his head in prayer for the souls of the dead on both Necro and Gallius for his men and lastly for himself
Northern Habitat - 052.144
A single nondescript vessel appeared in orbit over Gallius more than a month after the most recent murders were forgotten. An Aquila Lander made an unscheduled landing at the Northern Habitat. The manager, already surprised by the unannounced guests almost fell out of his office chair when a harsh voice buzzed over his private comm channel.
"I demand to speak to the manager by the authority of the Adeptus Arbites." The voice sounded young but it carried an immense weight in it.
"And who do I have the honor of addressing?" He asked after taking a moment to calm himself.
"We speak in your office. Not negotiable." The harsh voice demanded again.
"Of course, I will send you an escort." He kept his tone polite but carefully neutral.
"We know the way."
The comm channel went silent. A few moments later He arrived. A pale man dressed in a rumpled suit, an old battered coat, sunglasses and a hat - no doubt intending to blend in with the tourists. He pulled a badge from a pocket, showing the Manager his shoulder holster and combat knife, a gesture meant to look accidental but really a subtle threat.
"Arbitrator Claudius Mojaro." He introduced himself without taking his eyes off the Manager. The "Indigo Killer" is Arbites business now. Since you clearly cannot manage you own affairs it falls to us. Get me and my men a room."
Unwilling to argue with the highest law of the Imperium The Manager complied, afraid to speak against the man suddenly in his office. Three minutes later and the newly arrived Arbites had a location to work from, first class accommodations in a nearby hotel and its conference room, free of charge. The Arbites swore the staff to complete secrecy, threatening to press charges should word of their presence spread.
The threats did nothing, rumors traveled anyway.
Indigo Heart - 055.144
Laera Hessman heard those rumors when they reached the Indigo Heart only three days later. The man she was with at time had received the news third hand, a man who knew a man who knew a dock worker. The young woman liked to talk, putting her customers at ease with a pleasant alto voice but she was not known for her discretion, what she knew all others at the Indigo Heart soon did too.
Mellas heard the same stories through her when he joined her upstairs for a couple of hours as the night wound down.
"The Arbites are investigating this, Calandra and all those poor women can rest in peace, this is almost over!" Her excitement was obvious from her rapid words and intensely cheerful tone.
He reacted to the news with some annoyance and his voice took on a harsh edge his frequent companion had never heard. "You really think the Arbites care?" He growled through ground together teeth at a woman who didn't deserve his anger.
"You need to relax Andreus. What's going on with you? Maybe I can help?" her alto voice dropped to a husky tenor. She placed her hands on his shoulders, starting to massage his tight muscles.
"Arbites, mad dogs, drunk with power. All of them." He grumbled, still in a foul mood for reasons he hadn't discussed with her.
She moved her hands up to his neck, leaning in to nibble on one of his ears. She took a deep breath, readying herself for what was inevitably coming next.
Normally this would have driven him crazy, given him a need only she could satisfy, but not tonight. Tonight he turned around in the chair favoring her with a look that could kill and slapped her as hard as he could.
It didn't take much to knock her to the floor. She was shocked by both the impact and his sudden out of character moment. He had always been gentle with her, she had never even heard him raise his voice before.
She managed to let out a short scream, loud enough to be heard by everyone on the second floor before his hands clamped down around her throat. She struggled against him, kicking out and clawing at his hands but he was too strong, her vision went black at the corners and she tried to make her peace with The Emperor but no words came, only gasps as she struggled for air.
Alysha Nulaati threw the door open and stepped in flanked by a pair of his fellow bouncers.
She gave him her full attention, her normally kind brown eyes radiated anger and her voice was low, tight and cold.
"Go. home. Now. I knew you're a hot tempered man but I never thought you would do this. You're suspended without pay for the next two days. I'm also revoking your reservations from now on. You are to stay on the first floor at all times unless someone pulls some stunt like you just did."
Mellas respected that she could be quite imposing when the need arose. She stood at 5'8", 5'10" in the right pair of shoes and he had once seen her stare down an armed drug dealer.
The Obscura merchant hadn't returned.
She drew up to her full height, tapping her fingers on her crossed arms just daring him to argue with her. He knew if he did he would be fired on the spot and the fact that her black clothing reminded him faintly of a judge's robe did not help matters. He just stared back for a moment before grabbing his jacket and walking out the back door hoping to avoid further humiliation.
Nulaati entered the room, closing and locking the door behind her. "Laera, what happened?" The anger faded into concern for her employee, she took off her shoes to look her in the eyes a little better.
"All I did was tell him the Arbites were getting involved... He got upset so I tried to calm him down..." Hessman rasped out a reply before she smoothed out her wrinkled robe, pulled a few loose strands of hair back into the braid and tried make herself slightly more presentable. Her boss gave her the time she needed and when she had heard what she needed to know she said
"I'll have security take you back to your apartment. I'm not going to make you work after something like this- take a few nights off if that's what you need. I assume you want to press charges? In any case he'll never touch you or any of the girls again."
"He was my last for the night anyway, I would like to go home. I don't want to press charges, I think what you did to him was enough. We all know he's an angry man but he's never hurt me. " She answered slowly, fighting off another urge to cough.
That left Alysha Nulaati slightly suspicious. "Laera- keep your feelings in check. You cannot allow yourself to fall for him, any other customer or coworker. it's unprofessional."
"I'm just being kind. that's all. There's enough anger and hatred here already about what happened to Calandra. She wouldn't want that."
Hessman replied, keeping her voice even.
There was nothing more to say so each of the women went about their own business. But they each had the same thought. Could it be him?
While Hessman dismissed her concerns Nulaati passed the incident along to her co-owner.
Northern Habitat Night of 0.57
He was quite enjoying his evening until some drunk, a man he didn’t know crashed into him with an empty bottle in hand and smelling of whatever it contained, clearly drinking to forget. “Watch where yer goin'...” He slurred “Yu ow' me 'n apologee…”
“You ran into me. You should apologize right before you go home to sober up.” He would not stoop to this man’s level. He had the far superior mind and he had proven that eluding capture for as long as he had. The other man was clearly an angry drunk, he swung the empty bottle at head height and only a hand brought up at just the right moment saved him from serious injury. The cheap glass broke, slicing into his knuckles.
He deftly caught a large fragment of it on the way down and swung, opening up the man’s palm. Neither had a weapon anymore and so they started trading body blows. Neither was particularly coordinated, both were large men both more used to force than finesse. There was no winner and they both fled at the sound of security's booted footsteps nearing them.
Indigo Heart Early Morning 0.58
She was from Corbonis, a tall blonde dancing under flashing lights showing off long legs and swaying hips with a short silver dress. A man held her close, almost quivering with excitement and desire. He had reserved this time with her more than a week ago, booking her last slot for the night. He knew the man he watched was an unarmed security officer who had left his weapons at the door.
She was due to leave in a couple of hours and they would likely exit together forcing him to face an armed guard. This hardly matters. Security is no threat to me. Nothing more than cheap mercenaries. Enjoy tonight, it will be your last.
He watched them leave together and the off duty officer did indeed walk beside her. He could hear their low chatter as he kept his distance silently gliding from shadow to shadow. He could hear her chuckle and say "Ever the Gentleman..." as he nervously scanned the area, fumbling with his weapons at every sound. The only one he needed to be concerned with was the sound of footfalls.
He shoved his blade into the girl's neck; She died instantly in total silence.
The guard saw nothing, heard nothing, it had taken a second, the one second he had turned away. He turned back and saw only a knife blade as it plunged toward his throat. The guard fell to the ground gasping for air with blood seeping from his gashed throat. In the still night, in a dirty street, the only person with him in his final moments was the Killer who looked down with disgust.
Having completed his task for the night he shed his finery replacing it in one of his caches. He was nothing and no one, another face in a crowd, this crowd was leaving the opera house and his working class clothing stood out among their finery. That was all they would notice about him, they wouldn't bother to look at his face.
Scarlet Plaza Hotel, Northern Habitat 0.58
"There were two more a few hours ago, one was an Indigo Heart girl, name of Cebrina Ulyan, and the other was a security officer walking her home."
Mojaro had almost fallen asleep, he had spent his night with a large stack of woefully inadequate case files and a now empty pot of caffeine. "Where?" He growled at the subordinate bringing him this new report.
"Not far from the Indigo Heart." He took his boss's foul mood in stride.
"Gear up. We're speaking to the owners tonight. That's two now, they have to know something." He reached for his now empty mug and his bottle of Vitamin D pills. "And get me some more caffeine."
"Why tonight? Why not go now?" The other officer asked.
He received a tired sounding explanation.
"Today, we examine the crime scene and speak to the locals. Tonight we speak to the staff in full equipment. It's time to change tactics, subtlety won't work anymore. Fear can motivate a person to action but also to inaction. I hope for the latter, I hope we can keep him from killing again once he knows we're here."
He stood from his seat reluctantly as he looked down at the stained mug on his temporary desk. He let out a sigh as he prepared himself for the undoubtedly macabre day ahead of him. He reached over to slip on his pistol holster and overcoat. He wiped his face and set out with his fellow officers ready to perhaps make progress in this mystery.
"I've seen his handiwork. Make no mistake as he isn't your average perp but a primal beast acting out on his base urges. If you encounter him it is recommended you shoot on sight. "
The Arbitrator was impressed, the Security officer giving the briefing spoke without letting the anger in his voice overwhelm his words. They came out short, clipped and precise.
"We're beefing up patrols all across the habitats and are putting more pict sensors up as well. We have to find this bastard before he claims any more innocent lives. Now get out there and do your jobs!"
The security officer was now finished with his speech and Mojaro finished his few moments of rest before rising from his seat to personally talk with the officer. As he walked to the officer's desk he could see a face down photo and several empty bottles of fermented grains. Mojaro could quickly see why the officer was so passionate about finally capturing the Killer.
"Sorry to bother you but I have some questions pertaining to the case."
"Read the frakking files. I just finished explaining the details to the entire station."
"Look I understand you aren't in top shape." He pointed to the downed photo and empty bottles. "But you can help me catch this guy for all the victims. Then again you could remain non compliant and face charges for obstructing the progress of an Arbiter."
The security officer's posture stiffened and he cleared his throat.
"Sorry sir, I'm just having a rough time coping with everything. The psycho has killed over a dozen people at this point. What questions do you have?"
The crowd parted for the newly arrived Arbites, falling silent with awe and fear. One brave soul started to slowly clap and the crowd joined in after a couple more seconds of silence.
Mojaro kept his head down so no one would see the smile forming on his face or the pride swelling up in him. He entered an office while his men remained on guard outside.
"Please sit." Suellen Maedke indicated a comfortable looking chair in front of her desk. Mojaro noted that the whole room was paneled in real wood most likely imported from Corbonis, as was the bottle on her desk. "Would you care for a drink Arbitrator, something to eat?"
He politely refused and carried on with business. "Thank you for your cooperation. What can you tell me?" The Arbitrator kept his helmet on so she wouldn't see him studying her reactions,maybe a bit of paranoia on his part but it had served him well in the past.
"We have lost two of our own to this monster- we want him found and brought to justice." Her voice was hard and cold, He noted that not reading any deception in her voice or body language and seeing a combination of anger and sadness in her blue-gray eyes.
He had learned to read people well in his years stationed on Necro, their stiff formal natures had taught him to see the little things people couldn't control, the smallest of gestures could reveal whatever they were hiding.
"While we maintain discretion we must also keep records." She pushed a folder across her desk. "Everything you could need, a brief personal history and records of Cebrina's customers for the last several months. All properly vetted, nothing pointing to anyone who would do this to her."
He noted the bitterness and frustration in her tone.
"It is also worth noting: there is a man my staff is growing suspicious of. He assaulted one of them a couple nights ago and he arrived to work tonight with an injured hand. He said he got into a fight on his way home last night. We have no reason not to believe him but the question of who he fought remains unanswered.
Alysha and I believed his temper, which he kept under control, would make him a good bouncer. We would have dismissed him but the woman in question, one Laera Hessman, did not press charges acting on compassion we don't understand but respect. His name is Andreus Mellas, you may wish to speak to him, even if this event is unrelated to the "Indigo Killer" a visit from you may keep him from further abuse. Last I saw him he was in the main room."
"Thank you miss Maedke. You've been very helpful."
He finished entering notes in his dataslate. "Where is Miss Hessman now?"
Maedke folded a panel out of her desk revealing a pad with numbered keys and a speaker grill.
"Private vox channels to each room." she explained. "In case of emergency or an unannounced request- I believe you fall in the latter category." She pressed one of those buttons sending a voice signal upstairs.
"Laera- there's an Arbitrator here named Claudius Mojaro. He wishes to speak to you about what happened."
"Just a moment..." The Arbitrator heard the response come from one of the speakers.
He didn't wait for permission. He stood up and crossed the first floor, forcing the crowd to part around him and thundered up the stairs. He arrived at her room, knocking on the sliding wooden door with an armored glove.
"I'm not what you were expecting am I?" She answered the door wearing nothing but a robe short enough to leave her legs mostly bare. He ignored the question, suspicious of her already. He brushed past her studying the room for a moment before finding a seat one of a pair of red leather chairs flanking a low table.
"Honestly Miss Hessman I had no expectations. I've never met a joygirl before." He kept his tone polite, using the least offensive term he could think of.
Her voice was tight and cold and her eyes were hard as she answered the question.
"Laera. No need to be formal officer. I prefer 'courtesan'. The other implies something commonplace, some common woman living in a gutter. You'll find me anything but common. We're selective about we spend our nights with. Only a certain type of man is welcome here."
"There's some you've had to turn away then?" he had his opening, time to go to work.
Her voice leveled out, returning to its pleasant alto and free of the anger he had heard a second ago. "Some. Lower and middle class types, rough men. Those who could never afford to show their appreciation. The exception of course is those rough men Alysha and Suellen hire as bouncers."
"Men like Andreus Mellas? I understand he attacked you recently but you did not press charges against him. Why is that?" Mojaro continued to take notes.
"I never judge anyone by their worst nights. We all have secrets that come out the worst times and make us do foolish things. Andreus may have more than most,he has a troubled past and a foul temper but before two nights ago he had ever hurt me. As you can see I'm quite a small woman, he was afraid of crushing me the first time we..."
Mojaro held a hand up, stopping her from telling him more than he needed or wanted to know.
"You have some affection for the man?" he asked, thinking the answer might be relevant.
Her expression didn't change. "I provide a service, that's all, we're friendly with each other but our relationship is strictly business and we both understand that. I enjoy my work and its benefits. I quite like the power I have over men, especially Andreus Mellas. He worked his way through the others before he finally realized just what he was missing and he's come back to me every week since. I don't have to share him and knowing that he still enjoys my "company" after being together so often is a powerful thing. He knows me better than any other man..."
She let the subtext speak for her before finishing.
"His reputation is an unstated threat, and no one has ever dared take advantage of me. I can forgive one moment of anger in exchange."
Her pleasant alto tone never wavered even as she revealed all this. Could this information be his motive for attacking her? Could he possibly feel more for her than she did for him, only to lash out when the truth was revealed? Had she made some "strictly business" speech to another man, driving him to kill?
He filed these ideas away for further use but another thought struck him Clearly a Sociopath. She may be happy we're here she's thinking about only her own safety. She might sympathize with the first victims in the wrong place and time but unlikely. There's no way she's killing these women but perhaps these last two... Could she be controlling him? Using him against her rivals?
That was a thought worth investigating further, he made a mental note to search her apartment.
"Enough about Mellas. Any jealously toward Calandra or Cebrina from either a guest or one of you?"
"If I can't have her no one can?" Hessman asked a hypothetical question of her own. "None I know of. They had regulars but Cebrina made it clear, share or get nothing at all. attempt to force the issue and go to prison. Calandra was the same, we have to be in this business. You'll get the same answer from any of us."
He kept his voice level, focusing on the one potential lead. "Thank you Miss Hessman if I have ay further questions I will contact your employers."
He stood and walked to the door just as there was a knock.
Laera raced up to answer and the man outside froze as he came face to face with Mojaro. Mojaro took that eternal second to study him. He knew the face from the case files- an early suspect, long since cleared since he had an alibi for every murder and witnesses to support it.
"I won't keep you sir." Mojaro told him and left the room.
"Arcastos... how wonderful to see you again...how long has it been now?" He heard her voice drop to a husky tenor as he headed back down the stairs...
Andreus Mellas looked down at his bandage wrapped hand. No one had asked about it or his new bruises. He had lost his temper again, getting into a fight when he went out walking the night before.
He looked up to see the Arbitrator walking toward him.
Mojaro noted his odd behavior, nervous glances around the room as if searching for an exit and quick looks at his injured hand. He was clearly guilty of something, that was not how an innocent man acted... but had he committed any other crimes besides attacking Laera Hessman two nights before?
Mellas saw the Arbitrator closing in on him leaving him with few options. He had gotten in a fight, no doubt they would want to speak to him about that. It was one of many things in his past that could ruin him if they ever came to light and speaking to an Arbites would ensure that they did. He weighed his choices- which would he rather give up? a job or his life?
Work was easy to find, he might have to leave Gallius but there were other places where he could run. Syprios- work as a farm hand? Corbonis-construction? He knew he needed to decide that later. He just ran, knocking aside patrons and accidentally catching his injured hand on the edge of a table.
The Arbitrator was a split second behind him and a split second too late to speak to him. He looked down at the table edge and saw several drops of fresh blood. He snatched up a napkin and collected a DNA sample.
He waved one of his men over "Get this looked at as soon as possible. I think we've got our first suspect. " He would run down the other names himself.
Golden House Apartments - Northern Habitat
Space was at a premium on Gallius, forcing everyone to live in hotel rooms or apartments. The same was true of Laera Hessman,whose small but lavish apartment was on the third floor of a very exclusive building reserved for the wealthy.
He had tasked local security with interviewing the latest victim's most recent customers. They're capable of that at least, he thought with some bitterness. A search of her home and interviews with the most likely culprits had given them nothing.
Now that Hessman was a suspect he had his own men searching her home looking for anything that might point to her as an accomplice.
They found nothing, making their visit to The Indigo Heart useless. She kept the place cleaner and more orderly than Mojaro liked but there was nothing criminal about that nor the keepsakes she kept in plain view. She was a sociopath but not a criminal so there was no need to treat her like one, she would never even know they were there, he had his men return things to their original state.
He looked out one of the large windows at the sea of neon lights. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes to combat the migraine he knew was coming. He kept them closed when he received a report, a man had visited a clinic two nights earlier and had the medicae on call close up a deep cut in one of his hands. He filed a report with security about a fight and the man he described matched Andreus Mellas. The pieces began to come together in his mind, So this is the other man...
He resolved to speak to the victim himself.
He walked past the guards at the door, flashing his ID as he did. He wore simple clothes, no need for the armor, no need to scare him. He sat across from the man in a beat up plastic chair with his dataslate in hand, taking notes.
'I didn't really see his face, honestly I was so drunk I barely remember. That's not illegal is it?" He was understandably jittery about all this.
"Well I could fine you for vagrancy and public drunkenness." Claudius said in a joking manner.
The jest seemed to put the man across from the Arbiter on edge. Claudius cleared his voice and spoke up again in a more professional tone.
"Why were you drinking so much?" The Arbitrator looked the other man in the eyes.
It might be useful to know... any information was good information at this point.
"I just lost my job sir... I've been a faithful employee, five years and never missed a day, then new management comes in and I just get tossed out. That's just not right."
Mojaro had to agree. Sad, but there was no reason to think it made him a criminal, especially not one of the Indigo Killer's caliber but he had been wrong before. He would not gamble with lives at stake. It was easy to get a DNA sample. The suspect freely gave the Arbiter a few drops of blood from his still injured hand. Mojaro handed the sample off to one of his colleagues and headed back to work.
Scarlet Plaza Hotel
"I told you checking out the Indigo Heart wasn't a fruitless venture." One officer chuckled.
"You were only half right about that. If I hadn't been so attentive toward the fleeing suspect you would've completely missed him." Mojaro replied.
There was a trade off of laughter as the whole room made bad jokes to pass the time before the results came back. The Arbitrator nearly fell into a well deserved sleep before the results were brought to his desk. He rose up to position himself to thoroughly study the information before him. He cracked open the folder that contained the test results. The injured man's DNA was not in their criminal files, nor was Mellas. All of that for nothing... However if one of them was he had something to compare any future samples against. That was something, not much but something.
Moldy Hotel Room 0.61
The Killer crept into his rent by the week hotel room in the worst parts of the slums. It had been quite the length of time since he had last visited this one. The smell of mold and dust was enough to conjure up a cough from him as he walked over to the closet with a key in hand. He slid the door open and knelt down moving some boxes out of the way. With a quick turn of the key he cracked open the built in floor safe retrieved some of his belongings wrapped in a sheet of silk.
Unveiling the stored items filled him with delight. First was the mask which had become his other face which he had not donned in far too long. Next were his luxurious clothes with exquisite stitching and thread counts. Lastly was his favorite part of the collection, one of his favorite blades. Polished to a high sheen and sharper than a surgeon's scalpel it reflected the dim lights on the ceiling perfectly. With what he came for in hand he put everything back as it was and walked out into the night once more.
He kept to the shadows, tracking a group of young women. There was one who caught his eye; She was prime prey, young, pretty, and foolish. She fell behind the rest of the group, just for a moment, but that was all he needed.
Yes, her. The voice confirmed and he faded into the dark.
Northern Habitat - Abandoned Bunker 0.61
She woke up hanging from the ceiling,held in place by ropes that bit into her wrists. She struggled against the restraints but He ignored her.
An Imperial priest spoke to him though only he saw and heard. Your name will not be remembered- you will be forever known as The Indigo Killer- that is the price you pay for your place at His side. You must do as I say for the message comes from our master.
She spat something, or tried to from behind the gag stuffed in her mouth. Her defiance vanished when she felt the cold touch of steel against her naked flesh. She screamed at the first cut, tears pouring down her face. All she knew was pain, she had no idea what unholy words He wrote in blood. He finished with her back, looking her in the eyes as he carved an Aquila into her bare chest.
He ended it with a single long cut, dragging the serrated blade across her throat.
"I do what I must."
He walked away, leaving her drenched in crimson.
Abandoned Bunker 0.62
"Oh Throne..." The security officer stumbled across something he never should have seen. He fought the urge to vomit and called Headquarters. The Arbites arrived in less than an hour, wearing full armor.
Mojaro entered the room, seeing the worst one yet. He made the sign of the Aquila and whispered a prayer before walking over to the latest victim.
One of his fellow officers was already examining her and gave Mojaro some bad news.
"Took his time- we can't find any DNA. She doesn't have any defensive wounds. Best we can tell is that he drugged her and dragged her down here. Carved High Gothic into her back. None of us can read it."
"Do we know who she is?" Mojaro started taking notes again.
"We don't know yet. We don't have any DNA from whoever killed her but there's plenty of hers around here." His tone was level but it was obvious he was holding back anger.
"Get what you can- then cut her down." He ordered, not bothering to hide his own rage and frustation.
They did as they were told, cutting the latest victim out of her restraints, covering her with a sheet and taking her away...
He sat at his desk, head down trying to fight the migraine clawing its way through his skull. For the moment he ignored his old case files and just tried to rest, there was nothing else he could really do.
There was something about this last one that ratted them all- far more than all the others. He didn't know what it was...
Another officer walked in with new information.
"Her name was Stella Vallas- a wealthy heiress from Syprios. We don't have much on her- no connection to the Indigo Heart. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. "
That made it so much worse.
"Do we have anything?" Mojaro's frustrations boiled over, he swept his papers from the desk, threw his mug at the wall and screamed before falling to his knees in prayer.
Palace Resort, Northern Habitat
Andreus Mellas thought about the name of his hotel with some bitterness. A palace maybe but only for the rats scrabbling behind the too thin walls. He looked around the room, frustrated with the circumstances and disgusted by what he had come to. The room was little more than four walls and a hard bed. But it was anonymous, he had secrets that would come to light if the Arbites dug into his past and he couldn't allow that.
No one here cared about him or his secrets so long as he could pay his bills. He had no problem with that, he had paid for three weeks up front, long enough for him to use the last of his savings and flee to elsewhere in the Nerio System.
The more he thought about it the more he realized he wouldn't miss anyone he would be leaving behind, except maybe Laera Hessman but he could find another woman easily enough.
The voice came to him, unbidden but encouraging.
"Laera was unworthy of you! She did not understand your mission. He is with you and so you must continue on... you have not yet changed the ways."
Gallius Alleyway - 70.144
It had been a thrilling night for The Indigo Killer, he no longer really thought of himself a Andreus Mellas in moments like this, and he could now tally another soul to his gruesome collection. He stalked ever so quietly behind his prey. She was carrying the scent of a candy shop. He could hardly contain himself as he thought of what was to come. He impatiently ran out from the shadows as she turned the corner. He lunged forth from the corner with a loud thunk as his heavy boots hit the ground. The prey swiveled around with a shriek. The blade slid forth from the interior of his coat.
Something new happened this time. He, in his disregard for the typical stealthy approach, forgot about the guards in the area. One now stood before him as the lucky girl ran off screaming for help at the top of her lungs. The Butcher and the guard that would deny him his deserved kill locked eyes.
They both shifted to fighting stances observing one another. The guard reached for his side to a series of empty holsters. The Indigo Killer grinned underneath his mask. Left his weapons behind he thought. The Butcher drew near with blade in hand to collect at least one kill for the night.
The Guard got in a lucky shot, slamming an open hand into the mask and forcing it back into his face. He didn't even feel it, he was running on adrenaline. The Guard snarled at him "I grew up in the hills. My brother is in the Ruffians. I know how to fight..."
"Bold words for a dead man..." He snarled back, his first wild swing connected hard enough to loosen two of the Guard's teeth. The self proclaimed god of death was not about to let this challenge pass.
The Guard surprised him, this man wasn't just bluster. The much smaller man was faster and used his speed well, letting his armor take any knife strikes he couldn't dodge. Not even the knife cuts or the twin stabs that tore through his fatigues and left his midsection bleeding slowed him down all that much. The Guard ground his teeth together and kept going. The strike aimed at the underarm gap was off enough for him to move one last time,dropping his arm and taking the blade on the edge of his shoulder plate.
The knife snapped and both men froze. One blink later and the Killer's mask was gone, ripped off his face. It forced him to pull his collar up, turn away and run. The now exhausted guard sat down where he was and called for a medic, still cradling his new prize and trying to remember the details aloud. "Short blonde hair- not quite two meters tall..."
Security Headquarters Infirmary - 71.144
Claudius walked into the guard's room and picked up the patient chart to inspect his injuries. Multiple light lacerations, two deep stab wounds, a broken nose, three cracked ribs, and two missing teeth. "Emperor's Mercy! How is he still alive?!" Claudius softly said aloud.
"Quite the achievement eh?" the injured guard said with a slight chuckle, obviously still groggy from heavy medication.
"Certainly. You'll have quite the story to tell at the pub some day. I'm sorry for waking you but I have some questions for you about the suspect." the arbiter replied.
"That's to be expected. What would you like to know? By the way you never did ask my name. Surely you weren't going to skip out on pleasantries . ." he grinned a little " The name's Alex Raedkin." he finished.
"Well Mr. Raedkin I'd like a accurate description of the Killer's face and anything else you can remember." Claudius replied.
The questions would go on all night as Mojaro tried to gain every scrap of information he could. several hours, several cups of caffeine and a Vitamin D pill later. later the investigator had gathered al he could from the somewhat punch-drunk guard. With case files in hand he went back to headquarters to get the DNA analysis results back.
Security Headquarters - 71.144
Mojaro walked into a pale faced attendant officer at his desk. The nervous officer muttered "Sir, you're not going to be thrilled."
"Oh don't tell me the lab results were inconclusive." Claudius replied with a sigh.
"I'm afraid it's quite the opposite sir. The results state that it's Mellas. You know the bouncer at that whorehouse err . . I mean dance club." The guard informed the Arbiter.
"Why the hell are you standing here then?!" Claudius yelled.
The sheepish officer almost silently replied "We already searched his home and Miss Hessman's room at the club. They were both completely empty save for a set of bloodied robes hidden in his wall. We've dispatched search teams all over the planet but nothing's turned up thus far."
Fit to burst with rage Claudius donned his helmet and readied his weapons before rushing out of the Security Office.
Gallius Streets - 72.144
Sleep deprived and highly frustrated Claudius continued in his effort of finding the Killer. From asking street urchins if they'd seen Mellas to breaching suspected safe houses, the past twelve hours had been very busy for the Arbiter. With a infuriated sigh he stepped up to a vending machine with a loud thud of his boots against the paved street beneath him.
As he lifted his hands to make his choice from the selection of unhealthy deserts he heard a scream in the distance. The already alert Claudius wasted no time in inspecting the source of the screams hopeful that it was indeed the Killer and not just some petty mugging. Turning the corner he seen the Butcher himself standing there beneath a streetlamp clutching a woman's shirt trying to hold her still as he drew a glimmering blade.
Claudius pulled out his pistol and yelled in a calm and official voice "Mellas, drop it or I will drop you!
The Killer turned his head still holding on to his victim. Even under the mask it was obvious he was grinning.
"So you finally figured it out. Took you long enough." The voice was calm but dripped arrogance.
"I said put the knife down or I'm going to turn you into a cloud of pink mist." Claudius said, his patience wearing thin.
Without a word Mellas let the woman go. She quickly scurried off in tears screaming for help as the Butcher and the Arbiter locked eyes. Mellas stood there silent as Claudius took a step forward. At three steps Mellas flung his knife into the Arbiter's side ripping open the surface of his body armor.
Closing the distance Mellas pulled the gun straight out of his hands. The pistol was tossed swiftly into a sewer grate and it made a loud splash as it landed at the bottom. Mellas thumped his fist against the thick armored helmet and nearly broke his own hand.
The Arbiter regained his senses and grabbed Mellas swiftly delivering a solid punch to his face. In a panic the Killer kicked Claudius' leg at the joint nearly dislocating it. Distracted by the wound he just suffered the Arbiter loosened his grip by a seemingly immeasurable amount but it was just enough for the Butcher to slip free. Reaching out at the fleeing Killer Mellas grabbed the band holding the opera mask to Mellas' face.
It slowed him down only for a moment before he flung it off in order to escape. Mellas ran like the coward he was as Claudius inspected his leg. Upon discovering he was fit to continue the Arbiter began sprinting down the alleyways looking for signs of Mellas.
A series of screams caught his attention. Turning the corner he realized that Mellas had led him to the Indigo Heart. In front of the entrance lay two bloodied women. The Arbiter walked up slowly, staying wary in case off an ambush.
With a raspy voice one of the injured women said "He went inside . . . He's got a knife . ."
It was already too late for the infirm woman as she let out her last breath.
A stream of people ran out in yells and screams of panic. The entrance to the club swiveled on its hinges as the last person fled from it. Claudius crept through the door and covered his eyes as he winced.The walls were a natural crimson tone which was accentuated even more by scarlet lighting. As the Arbiter crept through the hallway he spotted risque paintings and photos which lined the walls. A thud broke the suspenseful silence and Claudius froze in place. He heard nothing more so he tiptoed to the end of the hallway which brought him to the edge of the dance floor.
Strobe lights, reflective floor tiles, and the same blood red tone decorated the room. He entered the room swiveling his head to stay aware of his surroundings.Before him lay two dead women whom were freshly slain. He became even more alert and continued walking. As he reached the center of the dance floor he was assaulted with both sound and light. Loud primal sounds pounded his ears and lights of all colors blinded his eyes. Shielding himself from the sudden wave of sound and light Claudius was unable to keep his senses focused on the task at hand.
This gave Mellas an opening. He brandished a large butcher's blade and struck the Arbiter in the back. Caught by surprise Claudius fell to the floor grasping at the new injury He turned over to see the Killer standing over him with a sinister grin and a demonic visage. With a primal snarl Mellas swung his arm down attempting to split Claudius open but he rolled out of the way just in time. The blade nearly cut Mellas as he overswung while Claudius jumped to his feet.
He rushed Mellas and delivered a solid blow to his abdomen and threw him onto a table bordering the dance floor. Claudius with no time to spare looked for a cudgel of some sort and resorted to snapping a leg off of a chair. The Killer brought himself up with the blade still in hand. The two stood there observing one another as the lights and music continued to pulse.
Mellas charged Cladius and nearly knocked him over. Regaining his balance whilst dodging knife thrusts the Arbiter smacked the Butcher in the face with the end of his makeshift club. Grabbing at his face the Killer left himself undefended for only a moment which was more than enough time for Claudius. He swung his chair leg with such force it cracked on impact with the side of Mellas's skull. Punch drunk from the impact Mellas stumbled while muttering until he backed up against the bar.
The Arbiter closed in to subdue the Butcher but was surprised to discover his foe still had the will to fight. Mellas still held his blade firmly as he grabbed a bottle off of the bar and flung it at Claudius. The bottle shattered on impact against the tattered armor of the Arbiter.
The lawman shouted "Listen Mellas, I'm not afraid to kill you so just surrender!" The Killer stood there silent with his expression unchanged. He maneuvered the blade in his hand to get a better grip and dashed forward slashing. Several swings caught Claudius on his arms and chest which resulted in a steady flow of blood.
Claudius ignored the fear of his own death, grabbed the Killer's arm and snapped it at the joint which freed the blade from his hand. The Butcher let out a terrible roar as he grasped onto Claudius. There was a series of loud thumps as the two traded blows. They were both getting tired and weak until the Arbiter managed to grapple Mellas and proceeded to choke him into submission. The Killer flailed around and grunted until he went limp.
The two sat there for a moment in the club in apparent peace. The lights still flickered in odd patterns and music still churned out of the speakers but the sounds of conflict were absent. Claudius stood up and put shackles on the bloodied and beaten Butcher. He dragged the murderer with him over to the bar and poured himself a drink. He sipped on it for a while before simply grabbing the whole bottle.
Terrified workers crept out from the balconies and rooms to spot the lawman and his foe situated over at the bar. A crowd began to amass behind Claudius as he finished off his bottle of Syrpian brandy. He got up from his seat and addressed the crowd in an official tone
"Everyone go home. There's nothing to see here."
The crowd began to converge on Mellas and pushed him out of the way. The sound of cracking ribs and curse words was audible as Mojaro yelled orders at the crowd. They began to back off as he threatened to press charges against them all. All but one backed away revealing Laera standing over Mellas. She was weeping and swearing, her fear giving way to rage as she aimed a series of kicks at his ribs. Claudius walked over and picked her up,ignoring her continued raving "Calm down. Go home." he ordered in a strict tone and set her down.
She gave him a look of blind rage tinged with total despair. "I trusted him... Every Week... How did I not see it? I thought I knew him..." There was nothing more to say and she simply walked.
Claudius spotted several vehicles and members of the security force waiting for him as he dragged Mellas outside "We'll take it from here sir." Raedkin said to the Arbiter.
"It's a bit early for you to be out of the Infirmary isn't it?" Claudius asked.
"That it is. I just had to see if it was true. That someone had actually caught the bastard." Raedkin replied with a grin on his face.
Both Claudius and Raedkin escorted the Killer through the crowd of reporters and civilians. They brought him to an armored car and tossed him in the back. Mellas opened his eyes and tried to speak but only managed to make a weak groan.
Kri-os East Ridge Prison 079.144
Mellas found himself being pulled about by a member of the Kri-os prison staff and looked outside of the window to see the dust covered barren planet which he would now call home. Glancing up he spotted the man who stopped him and his mission.
"I have one more question for you." Claudius Mojaro addressed Andreus Mellas, now strapped to a gurney for the final stage of his journey. "Why? Why throw your life away?"
He had been given a trial in accordance with Gallius law but the results were inevitable, he made no effort to defend himself, he refused legal representation and was openly insulting and dismissive of his victims and the people of Gallius.
"I serve the Golden Throne. I have nothing else to say."
There was no more defiance in the Indigo Killer's words,nor any other emotion. Neither man had any emotion left, they were both completely spent.
"I can leave here. Think about this during the endless days you have coming. 'Was all this worth it?" Mojaro could not resist one last comment as he walked away, his heavy footfalls echoing off the steel grate floor.
There was nothing more final than the sound of an iron door closing. Even if said iron door was only the infirmary and not to the mines where he would work the rest of his life.
"You are Prisoner ER 118769, you gave up your identity as soon as you entered the Citadel. You are nothing, no one. You are here to serve out the remainder of your life atoning for your sins against humanity and The God-Emperor through hard labor. May He have mercy on your soul. We will not."
The automated voice still rang in his ears as he stared up at the gray rockcrete ceiling. He could hardly walk but eight weeks from now that would change. His injuries would heal and from there he would die slowly, in the presence of men who used his lord's name in vain. He said nothing, just looked out the window at the desolate landscape, uttering a quiet prayer for strength.
His name would be forgotten, replaced by one of two words, based on who told his story. "Butcher" to the men he would make his own and to others who wished him forgotten he became "Indigo".