Excerpt from IMMORTAL REMAINS

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Halifax – Present Day

I like cats.

They have a calming effect on me even though I know full well every feline out there has an agenda and they pull stupid crap like knocking a half-full glass of water off the coffee table and onto your hardwood floor at three in the morning. I’ve tried to keep a cat or two over the years, but because of what I am or possibly what I’ve done, whenever I get within ten feet of a cat, it’ll go into a violent display of hissing and spitting and stress shedding.

A few even shit themselves.

I’m serious.

There are reasons why this happens and I’m not going to get into that right now because despite the fact cats generally dislike me, I still retain a measure of admiration for them due to their uncomplicated nature.

Human beings, on the other hand? Well, that’s another story.

I’m going to throw out a word you might consider archaic. But I can’t find a better term to describe the true nature of those who slink about in the shadows, brandishing a shining steel blade or a garrotting wire. Those twisted individuals that like to prey on women with the same predatory qualities as the best killing machines in the animal kingdom. Let’s just call them, evildoers. I make it my business to hunt those without a soul because the evil they carry with them is a cosmic abomination and all those assholes in heaven above and hell below know it. It’s open season on serial killers and really, it should be for everyone when you think about it. No manner of psychiatric treatment or chemical castration is going to stop them from doing what they do, so why not hit them before they hit you? Don’t get me wrong either; I enjoy removing their stain from this earth not because of any personal sense of duty to protect women or to mete out justice – far from it.

Most of the time women piss me off; freak me out, or both.

That’s why in addition to cats, I also retain a certain fondness for hookers. I get what I want, they get paid and everyone’s happy, right? It’s a simple business transaction.

Still, someone has to put soulless serial killing assholes down because they truly are monsters. So when it comes to dealing with monsters, I like to think of myself as the guy at the grocery store produce department who sifts through hundreds of wax covered crates of red peppers, separating the cosmetically perfect ones from those that look like some kind of weird-ass genetic mutation. (The vast majority of humanity is far from perfect, incidentally, but whack-job serial killers like to think they’re perfect in every conceivable way, and nobody likes a narcissist, especially if he or she’s armed.)

No, I’m not like that blood spatter analyst who used to be on cable TV. If he were, in fact, a real human being, I’d pay him a visit, too. I’d probably show up when he’s about to kill one of his own kind because there are few things better in this world than a two-for-one deal, am I right?

My name’s Tim Reaper by the way, so, by now you’ve figured out what I am. I’ve been carrying out my little hobby for nearly a century and I’m good at it. I’m good at a lot of things you might frown on so I’ll make it easy for you: try to think of me as a guy who does odd jobs for money. You may be in need of my services one day, so don’t get all judgemental by what I do because a guy has to make a living.

The murderous prick I’d been alerted to had an interesting modus operandi. While asshole killers such as Ted Bundy liked to fake an injury to get their victim close enough to bash on the head and stuff into the back of a van, this monster liked to use cats to lure his prey, and more precisely, kittens.

I cannot abide anyone hurting a frigging kitten. If I see cat abuse, I’ll open a can of elemental whoop-ass all over the abuser. My concern for the overall welfare of local felines had intensified after I read in the paper about some maimed kittens that had been found alongside the dismembered remains of a pair of women. The cops weren’t yet ready to say a serial killer was on the loose, but the press sure as hell was. Normally, I let these kinds of things find resolution without my involvement when I know there are cops already on the case. While I knew I would have little difficulty in finding the bastard who committed these heinous acts, there’s this old saying you might be familiar with that governs my actions for better or worse. While it sucks in the human scheme of things, it’s a necessary element in the cosmic grand design. In a nutshell: everyone has their time.

I’ll throw another one out for you to chew on: fate determines your ultimate destiny. Cue creepy organ music.

So, why do I target serial killing pricks? Because I have to do something productive with my spare time, that and it’s also probable on some residual level, I’m trying to make amends for the biggest cock-up in the history of reaperdom. Still not sure what it was?

Google Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918.

Yeah, that was me. I caused it – long story.

The cosmic powers that be moved swiftly after that one, and I got the old heave-ho from my order. De vita exir – my ability to claim souls was stripped from me. I still possess my innate ability to find most human beings if the need arises, but that’s it. I was blacklisted.

So I make my own order of things. To hell with what the rest of the elementals have to say about it. I’m here for a long time, not a good one.

I kicked at the still blood-stained soil beneath a massive chestnut tree with the heel of my boot. There was a faint hint of autumn in the air and a damp breeze carried the scent of rain falling somewhere in the city a few miles away.

This was where he did it.

The bastard.

Some mountain bikers found fifteen year-old Bonnie Teller’s disemboweled corpse here less than two days ago. She’d been cut wide open from between her legs right up to her sternum and a three month old Tabby was tied to Bonnie’s left wrist by a two foot length of braided cotton. The kitten’s hind legs were broken and it was still alive (barely) and the coroner said the girl had been dead for about a day. Amazingly, coyotes and other scavengers had steered clear of her remains.

All right, listen.

You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this was the work of a twisted bastard because the body was laid out on a well-used bike trail. The killer wanted someone to find the body about a thousand kinds of fast because gruesome crime scenes were always the lead story on the nightly news. Sociopaths revel in their own news coverage – another reason I hated them.

Two weeks before Bonnie, a family of three found twenty year-old Elaine Lahey’s internal organs in a blue bag hanging from a spruce tree. Her hollowed-out torso was discovered about thirty feet away, lying against a twelve-foot length of driftwood out at Cow Bay. She too had been cut from stem to stern and there was a three-month old dead Calico, again with two broken rear legs, lashed to Elaine’s left wrist.

I clenched my jaw and drew in a breath as I collected a handful of soil from where Bonnie met another one of my kind. It was her time, unfortunately. The whirring, spinning clockwork mechanism that runs our universe had already chosen to end her before her first cries in the delivery room. Her death had already been determined before she was even a thought in her horny father’s brain as he slammed the nuts to his girlfriend in the back of a minivan on their third date.

How fair is that, right? Conceived on a bench seat in the back of a 1996 Dodge Caravan only to be gutted by a knife-wielding cat abuser before she made it to legal drinking age. I couldn’t explain the workings of the universe, the meaning of life, or even the meaning in Bonnie’s murder. I couldn’t question why out of six billion people inhabiting the planet, she was selected to meet her gruesome and terrifying end at the hands of a sick bastard who broke the legs of kittens to lure his prey.

I knew how to find the guy who did it, though, and I was going to make damned sure he’d pay for killing those two girls. Soon.

I came to him in the darkness, my black trench coat billowing back over my heels as a gust of supernatural force blew a scattering of litter against a garbage bin outside the old warehouse on Bayer’s Road. Yeah, I wore a trench coat. Lots of people in my business wore trench coats. They look cool; they’re good for hiding everything from a sawed-off shotgun to shoulder holsters and hand grenades. I even knew of one guy in England who kept a pocket dimension in his trench coat.

I heard the mewling of a kitten in the back of the cargo van parked adjacent to the bin. I knew the soulless prick was probably moments away from breaking its legs, before turning his attention to the girl he’d taken.

I ran a leather-clad sleeve across my brow as I reached into my trench coat and clasped my hand across the pistol grip of my nine-millimeter Beretta. I slid it out, silencer and all, as I gripped the door handle and pulled up. The door swung open with a loud creak and there he was, hunched over a pretty blonde whose legs were bound together with silver duct tape. Her outstretched arms were taped over her head, and her eyes were a pair of enormous white Os. She would have screamed save for the fact there was a sock in her mouth, and her would-be killer?

If I could have packaged the look on his face and posted it online, I’d be the proud author of the greatest Internet meme in human history. They could put it on a t-shirt, sell it and send me a royalty check each month. Oh to dream a little.

He stared at me, his jaw hanging open as if it were on a hinge. In his left hand was a tiny Siamese kitten, and in his right hand he brandished a pair of blood stained vice-grip pliers.

Pliers! The prick was hurting kitties with fucking pliers! That pissed me off even more.

“Daniel Mackie Hooper,” I rumbled, as I aimed my weapon. “How fucked are you?”

Both the vice grip pliers and the kitten slipped out of his hands. The kitten, of course, took one look at me, hissed, and then promptly shit all over the floor of the van. It arched its back and puffed out its white and black fur until the tiny creature appeared twice its size.

W-Who are you? Hooper croaked, as a large wet spot slowly appeared on his jeans. How did you find me?

I cocked an eyebrow as my eyes bore right through his.

“Two things led me to you. The first is that you’re a soulless anomaly in the world of the living and people without souls don’t get to live – that’s my rule. The second is I heard the kitty.” I said, as I began squeezing the trigger. “Have fun in hell, prick.”

My Beretta emitted a muffled pop, then the back of his skull along with a bright red mixture of blood and brain matter splattered against the back of the passenger seat. He fell back, the rest of his head thumping against the sidewall of the van. The kitten tore past me at something close to Mach One as I climbed inside.

Perfect. I was rejected yet again by a cat – the story of my life. I pulled the sock out of the girl’s mouth and cut the tape he’d used to bind her hands and legs.

“Kelly Jameson, you get to live another day,” I said calmly, as I slid my Beretta back into its holster. “You’re three months shy of your nineteenth birthday so, you know, maybe in the future you might want to avoid climbing into vehicles with psychopathic kitten-maiming assholes.”

What happened next was kind of awkward.

The pretty blonde threw herself at my chest and started bawling. “H-He was going to kill me just like he killed those two other girls!” she blubbered.

I placed both hands firmly on the girl’s shoulders and gave her a slight push. She dropped to her knees and sobbed as I pulled out my wallet and slipped her a twenty-dollar bill.

“Maybe, you know – uh… call a cab or something, huh?” I said as I stuffed the note into her clenched fist.

She gazed up at me, wide-eyed. “But the police will want to talk to you – you’re not leaving are you? I don’t want to wait here all by myself. Please, just stay with me … please?”

Well, crap.

See, this is why women bugged the hell out of me. I mean, I’d just killed the living shit out of the guy who’d planned on gutting her and now she wanted me to baby-sit her until the cops showed up. I glanced over my shoulder to where my pickup was parked around the corner from the warehouse. If I was going to hang around, I’d definitely wind up being hauled in for questioning about precisely how I was able to locate Danny-boy. Then there was the issue of why the back of his head had been splashed all over the passenger seat, and with my luck, I’d probably wind up charged with manslaughter. I pursed my lips and looked down at Kelly who’d managed to get the tape off her legs. I decided I needed Sparks if the cops were going to be involved and she fucking hated me.

“Give me my twenty bucks back,” I said flatly, holding out my hand.

She blinked a couple of times and handed me the twenty-dollar bill. “Here,” she said, almost in a whisper.

“You okay to walk?” I asked, as I crawled out of the van.

She sniffled back a big gob of snot as she started rifling through her purse. “Yeah – are you going to hang here with me while I call the police?”

“Looks that way,” I said, handing her a business card. “Here’s the number for the homicide division. Ask for Detective Sergeant Sparks. When she answers, tell her Tim Reaper told you to call and that I’ve solved her cat abuse problem.”

The girl nodded and gave me one of those looks that told me exactly what she was thinking.

“Yeah-yeah,” I groaned, as I slipped a cigarette between my lips. “My name really is Tim Reaper … just make the call.”

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