Why is it that the essence of evil can linger, unhindered and free in a space where its physical existence had never been present? Like the thick stench of damp cigar smoke, darkness hung in the stale air throughout the well-appointed office of the ten-year president of North Texas Industrial Bank, James Rosin. Even the faint glow emulating from the LCD computer monitor situated in the center of the massive African mahogany desk was not enough to cut through the black pitch. But it was enough to highlight Rosin’s cold distorted face. At least what was left of it. There was neither movement nor sound inside the executive’s office, just a still, cold, deadly silence that wasn’t going to depart anytime soon.
Outside the sixty-eight story office tower, the thick Texas humidity and searing heat was almost unbearable, despite the late hour. It felt like one was forced to breath in water. Eighteen stories below Rosin’s office, on a dark, deserted, downtown Dallas street, the aging homeless man, almost twenty years younger than his appearance, thrust his dirty arm deep inside the over filled trash can. Black flies scattered in the air as his cracked weathered fingers frantically searched through the nauseous remains of the day. His find was to be his last meal before retiring to the cardboard bed he had set out down the adjacent alley. His mind, so preoccupied with his empty stomach, was completely unaware of the momentary bright light that flashed just moments before, high above his head and inside the bank president’s office.
In an instant, the atmosphere around the derelict changed. His body shook as a bitter cold wave came from somewhere behind him. But without a thought and without removing his arm from the filthy trashcan, his head frantically turned from side to side trying to find the origin of the cold. But that was only for a brief moment. The deathly cold disappeared as quickly as it came and he returned to the undertaking of finding his last morsel before retiring for the night.
While eighteen stories above, inside James Rosin’s office, evil still hung in the air. The rancid smell of discharged gunpowder and body excrement burned through the darkness. The only light evident was still the eerie glow from the monitor in the center of the large desk. The screen emulated just enough light, acting as a spotlight to emphasize the right side of the bank president’s distorted face. The left side of his head was all but gone. His bloody remains were splayed along the bookcase behind his thick leather chair. His leather bound, first edition collection of the classics that was once neatly displayed along the shelves was now covered in pieces of brain matter that were once the financial genus’s intellectual mind. They clung in little bits to the leather bound journals. The empty Glock handgun hung a few inches above the plush carpet. Rosin’s lifeless index finger still tangled in the trigger.
Suddenly, without assistance or command, the glow disappeared. The monitor went black and the entire system powered down. The darkness became even more intense and the evil remained, waiting patiently inside the room for its next command.
She hated cats. They always did what they pleased and never had to answer to anyone. To Danica Harris, a thirty-five year old Dallas Police detective, the most maddening of all the characteristics of a feline was the fact that they slept whenever and wherever they desired. Nothing ever interfered with their peace of mind. They answered to no one and cared only for themselves. The spiteful, selfish animals could find a sense of peace and contentment at any time, despite their surroundings. And that was the most infuriating attribute of them all, especially at that moment when she couldn’t sleep again. She had lost count of how many nights in a row it had been but there were too many hours of staring at the ceiling.
It was now after two o’clock in the morning and she could hear the satisfied purr from the sleeping cat coming from the foot of her bed. The irritation vibrated all the way up her uncovered legs, along her spine and dominated the thoughts inside her head. Like almost every night for the past few weeks, she stared at the ceiling, then tossed and turned in frustration for what seemed like endless hours. And really, she thought, why should this night be any different from the others?
Danica Harris just could not sleep again and it was the cat’s fault. She even refused to name the egocentric animal. A name would have only symbolized attachment and that was the last thing she wanted in her life at this point.
Lying in bed, staring wide eyed at ceiling, she recalled the exact moment her mother delivered the well-intentioned pet as a housewarming gift the day after Danica had moved into her Lemmon Ave loft. “You need something to come home to,” her mother insisted. “You shouldn’t be alone so much. It’s not healthy for a young woman.” Her voice could be grating to the point of extreme irritation at times. But lately Danica was starting to miss that sound. She missed her mother most on those long restless nights. She wasn’t ready to admit it, but loneliness was just one of the many voids in her life.
It had been just over a year since Eve Harris had passed away suddenly from a massive brain aneurism. From what her father had told her and later confirmed by the family physician, her death had been quick and painless. David Harris’ wife of forty-two years had been tending to her rose bushes one minute, then gone the next. One minute Danica Harris had a loving mother, the next she didn’t, but now she had the cat.
It was similar to her relationship with Paul Andrews, her fiancé of eight months; one minute she was engaged, the next she wasn’t. And like her mother’s death, Danica had no control over the end of that relationship as well. Paul had never been comfortable with her career choice. She insisted, making it quite clear that it was her choice and she wasn’t going to compromise. But in the end, Paul made his own choice and refused to compromise as well. It had been and continued to be a hard year for Danica Harris.
The unnamed cat wasn’t the only gift she had received from her parents. The loft had been their big one. The exclusive area of Uptown Dallas was not affordable for most, but it definitely was a desire for many. Prices were set high enough to attract the right kind of residents while keeping the wrong kind away. The restaurants were eclectic, the shops expensive, the clubs exclusive and Starbucks was always crowded.
The condominium had been her father’s idea. The retired oil executive just couldn’t come to grips with his daughter’s career choice. After all, she was their only child and David Harris had wanted more for her all along, almost demanding better. That was the reason he had paid the full tuition at Southern Methodist University without so much as a flinch. In high school, Danica’s grades and athletic ability had qualified her for several scholarships at some of the nation’s top schools, but no daughter of David Harris’ was going to be educated on someone else’s dollar. To make matters even worse, a scholarship student at SMU was never really fully accepted and certainly could never fit in with the right crowd. His daughter deserved more than that and he would use his hard-earned money and power to ensure her future.
At the end of her sophomore year, Danica quietly and privately made a decision. She had known for sometime that the academic life wasn’t for her. She felt a different calling, law enforcement. Her mind was set and she enrolled in the Dallas Police Academy before anyone knew.
She was well into her sixth week at the academy before she announced her decision around the Harris’ dining table. Her father was speechless. He slammed the crystal wine glass against the antique wood and stormed from the room while her mother cried.
It wasn’t until after the academy graduation ceremony that the Harris’ even acknowledged their daughter’s decision. But even the fact that she had graduated in the top five percent class was still not enough to impress them.
Danica rose through the ranks quickly. She made detective, first grade in almost record time. But it still took the entire seven years of her career before her father acceptance. And even that was a quiet, “How’s the job?”
She never regretted her decision but still felt something was missing in her life. There always seemed to be an emptiness she never could quite identify, but it was there. For the most part, she had been content and when Paul came along, she felt her life would soon be complete. But still something was…
The purring seemed to be getting louder. It was even more irritating now. She kicked the thin sheet off her legs again, hoping to wake the cat. She kicked even harder until the displeased animal jumped from the bed and disappeared down the hall in search of peace somewhere else in the loft.
Minutes later, a similar noise returned and it wasn’t long before Danica understood the sound wasn’t from the cat. She turned over and looked at the nightstand beside the bed. Her Blackberry was lit up and vibrating. She jolted up, rubbed her eyes, and reached for the cell phone. The message displayed an unfamiliar downtown address followed by the numbers “911.”