He never needed ghosts to haunt him. He had murder scene pictures. He had cold cases. There were enough real things in the world to provide horror so that all those stupid otherwordly things that made everyone else jump didn’t even get a rise out of him.

He liked non-fiction because all of the stories they tried to tell rang hollow.

There’s always one case that won’t leave you alone. That is what he had always been told. One unsolved case. At least one unsolved case. They really did cancel out all the good work he’d done — for him at least. The PR-minded bunch who pulled the strings had no such considerations — they played the numbers game,not the feelings game. They also didn’t want people hung up on losses.

When her remains were discovered, after they had floated loose from their tetherings, he had suspected that it was not a coincidence — that the timing was carefully chosen. The reason for that was something he had not yet worked out. But the reason was there.

He paid him a visit. Parvel was all smiles. Were the smiles an admission? Not exactly. But they might be taken that way. No denial was forthcoming.

Hentel laid it out for him, all the similarities with his other victims, the time element, which Parvel had always been a master at pulling off. The fact that this murder had eluded the police for so long was a way for him to score some serious points with his fans and his enemies. The hook was baited.

Hentel had often found that buttering up these arrogant types was more effective than treating them like steak that needed to be tenderised. The prick had a boner. The thing was, Hentel knew that the way Parvel operated meant that this body popping up was a distraction from something else that was going on. They had long suspected that there was a copycat network out there, using key parts of the Parvel signature to further his aims while he was locked up. Sure, it sounded a little like super villain bullshit, but if there was one person who he had come across in all his years of investigating murder that might have the mind to be a super villain, Parvel was the man.

Hentel liked one piece of fiction and that was Columbo. He liked to be underestimated by those he was trying to ensnare, and it kind of came with the territory. All it took was a little bit to get most people talking, and if they were arrogant and liked to show off it came even easier. Parvel liked to show off. Parvel had never had a chance of getting any leniency from the moment they caught him. He didn’t care, by the time he had let them catch him he had been good and ready for a rest. So he spilled all the details of what he had done to the body — they didn’t bother with names because Hentel was trying to not make it personal and Parvel didn’t care. But the story was unravelling.

All it took was a little bit more pushing and the real story came tripping after. One of his acolytes was pulling off something audacious — he was going after someone famous. Not a killing, but an attack. The attack would overshadow the remains. He knew it. The next day the remains would get shunted to a side column buried inside the paper and the attack would take the front page. He got up. he had enough from this piece of shit. You had to be able to make it through the story, but then you wanted to exit as quickly as you could, otherwise the psychic stain would be just another thing to hang around and trouble you.

The sit down with the mother was not something he was looking forward to, but he had to do it. He was trying to be sparing on the details, but she had wanted to know it — to know the full horror. As far as she was concerned it couldn’t be any worse than what she’d been imagining. She liked that he had cared enough to come. She didn’t care that the story wasn’t front page. She was very realistic about things and never expected justice, but closure would suffice. She felt like she might now be able to get a little more rest at night. Hentel arranged his face in a smile.

He left. The image of the girl and the images of her desecration didn’t. It all remained.

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