1 Chapter 1: Welcome the Predator

The cold snowy night seemed normal in Winterwich, just like its name the core of this city is filled with the cold-blooded crime while its face is nicely coated with hot celebrities, rich politicians, lavish skyscrapers and supercars parked everywhere.

After a long tiring day at work, I reached my apartment at two in the morning, I realised that the whole apartment was sleeping,

I slowly opened the lift door and managed to enter the lift, without triggering the annoying request to close the door.

With all the paperwork resulting from the heavy amount of crime in the city, my shoulders were strained and I had to put my bag down to touch the button that would lead to my floor, as the lift ascended to the last floor of the apartment, my mind started to whisper about the case.

It all started before eight days with the disappearance of two middle-aged couple, John and Lynda, from then many people started disappearing, we didn’t know where they were going, no call demanded money in return for their lives, nor did we find the bodies, everything remained like an unsolvable mystery, not that all the crime in the city was solved and sorted, but I felt some weird connection with this, also with the number of missing people burgeoning, the department had to take the case seriously.

With all these thoughts revolving in my mind, I reached my floor, I closed the door immediately and walked towards my flat, I stopped at the shoe-rest and bent down to remove my shoes, then I realised I left my bag in the lift, after finding my bag resting at a corner in the lift, I walked towards the lift tiringly and shunning myself.

As I was about to open the door I heard a small rumble and the lift started going down, but I had never seen the lift being used at that time in the night, the LED said that the lift was going to the ground floor, without any voluminous thoughts in my mind, I ran down the stairs to catch the lift on the ground floor, but the lift was too fast. When I was on the 5th floor, it was on the 3rd floor. I managed to reach the ground floor, panting like a dog and struggling for a breath, I stood there for a second with hands on my knees and then I looked up and noticed a faint shadow on the opposite wall which disappeared when I heard some steps entering the lift, I was probably ten feet away from the lift, there I saw a person about to enter the lift, he was tall, I could not see his face, he was wearing a thick black coat hanging till his feet and a classic detective hat, he seemed like someone who came to investigate a crime scene.

Expecting him to stop, I let out a huge “hey”, my sleepy husky voice echoed all over the floor, that man increased his pace and closed the lift door.

As the lift started moving up, I ran towards it to try and open the door before it lifted off. I reached the door, but it already left the ground floor. Holding the bars, I looked up and called for my bag, assuming he would stop on the first floor, but he did not.

I just moved back from the lift door and when I was about to turn towards the stairs, I saw bloodstains on my palms, it was definitely not mine. Sweat ran down my cheeks, I wasn’t scared, but just hoped that it shouldn’t be related to the case. Around four hundred people went missing in a span of eight days, not even a little clue about how they were lost.

I looked at the lift LED, he was going to the fifth floor. I had no clue about who was living on which floor, I started running upstairs, but this time not for the bag. I managed to reach the fifth floor and there I witnessed a terrible sight, footmarks in blood walking from the lift door to the shoe rest, I could sense my heart thumping against my chest and my head getting hotter, I walked towards the footrest maintaining my stealth.

I kneeled and took a mouchoir from my pocket and picked up the shoe that left those horrific marks on the floor, the shoe is made of fine white fibre, and it is completely drenched in blood, it seemed like they are painted red, but I could smell the gore, being a very fine fibre it absorbed a lot of it, the sight of my blood-drenched handkerchief made my adrenaline race up and down my body, my mind was filled with fear, confusion and suspicions.

I took my gun out of my pocket and I had to hold it with both hands, I went to the door and peeped inside through the glass slab beside the door, I saw two people talking to each other, I took a deep breath and knocked on the door, while still peeping through the window to analyse their reaction on hearing the knock, I sensed a little confusion in their movement but they weren’t afraid, one of the two stood up to open the door.

On hearing the drag of the door, I had put my gun in the pocket but retained my hand on it.

A short, thin guy opened the door, his hair was extremely curly, he pushed his nerdy glasses up into position using his middle finger.

“Hey Leo ”, he said very politely, I don’t even remember seeing his face yet he knew my name, but his tone was not even close to a cold-blooded murderer, it might seem like I was judging the book by its cover but anyone would assume the same thing once they see him.

"How did you know my name?" I asked him, my hand still on the gun,

“Cause I am the reason behind missing people”, he said mimicking my deep voice, I opened my eyes wide to signal him that it wasn’t funny.

“I was just kidding. I saw your name and picture in the apartment register and I was curious about someone who reaches his home at two in the morning every day”. He said as he let out a broad smile while he rubbed his hand gently on his neck, “I need some water to drink”. I said and I held on to the gun in my pocket,

"My name is Freddy and don’t worry I didn’t know much about you," he said as he winked at me, I ignored the wink and followed him into their flat, the other person in the room was also a male. He was tall, bald, dark and has tattoos all over his body.

"Isn’t it weird two dudes, staying wide awake at this time", I said letting out an uncanny smile, for which Freddy replied from the fridge door that they were having a movie night, I was expecting a reply from the dark guy, but he seemed as if he didn’t even acknowledge my presence, I took the bottle and as I was drinking, I noticed they were watching Shawshank Redemption and they were almost halfway through the movie, without a second thought I threw the bottle down and pointed my gun at the dark guy, this scared the shit out of Freddy, he dropped the snacks in his hand and was shaking his hands as if he was trying to tell me that he has nothing to give me, the dark guy raised his hands,

“Man, what are you up to, this ain’t cool,” he said as he put both his hands behind his head and kneeled,

“Why are you here and what’s with those bloody shoes out there?” I asked him as I tightened my grip on the gun,

”Shoes!...what shoes man?” he exclaimed,

“I saw you boarding the lift 15 minutes earlier with blood drained shoes...now confess,” I said, raising my voice.

“But we were in the flat since morning,” said Freddy trembling, for a split second I liked the sight of him being scared.

”Tell me the truth” I roared at Freddy.

He lifted his hands in the air "please, we don’t know any bloody shoes, leave my boyfriend alone".

He started weeping, and the dark guy remained in his place mumbling something, the gay couple didn’t seem like they killed someone, nor did they seem like they were lying, I couldn’t scare them any more, the dark guy looked a little tough, but Freddy was scared to death, I had put the gun in my pocket, and when I was about to leave, the dark guy raised in a flash and locked my neck from back using his forearm and while I was locked, Freddy took my gun and pointed at me.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

I was almost choking under the pressure of the black guy's arm and with great difficulty “I am a Cop,” I said, showing the tag hanging from my trouser pocket.

The dark one withdrew his hand and Freddy gave my gun back, they had a shade of guilt on their faces, respect a Cop gets in a city like Winterwich is priceless.

They wanted to assist me while I investigated the blood-drenched shoes, the second they saw the shoes they were petrified and took aback with terrified faces, the shoes were not like the man committed a murder, they were more like he took a swim in a river filled with blood, I just reconsidered the fact that it might not be blood, so I licked the kerchief with which I previously picked up one of the shoes, it was blood.

I picked up both the shoes and told the gay couple to stay in their flat, and when I was taking a closer look at the shoes, a blood-drenched note fell from inside one of the shoes, things started to get interesting, I picked up the note, though the paper was drenched in blood the message written on it was readable, it said ” zuhause ist kein sicherer ort ” the words were not even pronounceable.

The guy in the coat might have taken the stairs and gone to the next floor, but to which floor I had no idea. I took my mobile out and sent a pic of the note to the ASID(Abnormal objects Study & Identification Department.).

This guy in the coat must have gone upstairs leaving this note on the 5th floor, maybe to kill someone on the 6th or 7th floor, He might have done this to scare Freddy or his boyfriend or it might be a note for me, maybe his plan would have been completely different if he didn't see me in the ground floor.

I knocked the door in sixth floor three times and shouted a loud “hello”, a single mom, named Vanessa living along with her toddler opened the door, I apologised them like a gentleman and told them a thief escaped towards this apartment while showing my tag so that I could be permitted to check their house, I had no other possible reason at that time.

The apartment was built for the middle class and lower-middle-class part of the population, the rooms are small both in size and number. All the flats have the same dimensions, the same paints and the same number of rooms, just that our furniture and appliances differ.

it’s almost similar to mine, it had three rooms and one bathroom, I looked into each room, the mother and child were watching me curiously, but I didn’t see hatred in their eyes, I thanked God that they were not annoyed, they seemed sleepy, maybe because I woke them up in mid-sleep and they didn’t seem to be hiding a tall probably a psycho guy inside their little home, I walked out of their house politely and thanked them for letting me in, she told me it wasn’t a problem and closed the door behind me and I headed to the seventh floor, the final possibility, cause the last floor is my flat.

An old woman opened the door yawning, she seemed to be around sixty’s and yelled at me for disturbing them at that time in the night, I told the same reason again and she let me in totally annoyed, she sat in the sofa and soon started snoring, lights were switched off in their bedroom, and I could see a man sleeping inside, I was going in there and the old lady woke up, came to me mumbling something and told me that it’s her husband and she didn’t want me to disturb his sleep, I saw a picture of her husband in the photo frame located in the hall, his wrinkles covered his eyes, he seemed too old like around ninetys, the old woman didn’t seem trustworthy, but if I barge into the bedroom and disturb the oldman’s sleep, they would panic, so I politely asked her if I can see her husband, and told her that it was okay even if he was sleeping, she looked at me annoyingly and took me to the bedroom, she said she was doing that out of respect for the nation, I thanked her, she switched on the light, the old man was far asleep, he didn’t even sense our presence, from the picture I could see that he was shorter than the old woman, and no where comparable to the guy in coat.

I walked out, thinking what else could be another possibility that a mysterious tall guy broke into an apartment probably after taking a nice bath in a pool filled with gore. The old hag closed the door behind me with a bang, relieving all her anger on the door. I sat on one of the steps and took a deep breath, I was feeling tired and my head was aching so bad that my vision started to fade away, I couldn’t think of any other way, I stood up curbing all my fatigue and when I was about to walk down the stairs to check the floors below the fifth floor, my mobile vibrated, it was a message from ASID, it said ‘the note was written in German, the English translation is “HOME IS NOT A SAFE PLACE”.’

I couldn’t stop thinking about the word HOME in the sentence, I sensed it to be a trap for me, I changed my mind and started walking upstairs, my door seemed to be closer than usual, as I climbed each step, my adrenaline was gushing in my veins, my legs were trembling and drops of sweat rolled down my forehead, I took my pistol out and proceeded step after step, I felt like my mind was whispering to me the words "home is not a safe place". I managed to reach the door with utmost struggle, the doorknob had blood all over it, my heart was thumping against my chest and I felt like my veins were being torn by the pressure, I blew out my cheeks and texted for reinforcements, it would take a minimum of ten minutes for the reinforcements to arrive, I knew it was only one man, so I picked up some courage and kicked the door open.

My couch was destroyed completely, and I could see blood all over the floor, my television had a hammer stuck on its face, some of the tiles on the floor were broken, and not even one appliance was left intact,

I walked through all the mess like a cat and reached my bedroom. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him, sitting on the wall of the balcony, looking at the city and swinging his legs. I pointed the gun towards him and tightened my grip over it.

“Surrender now or I will have to shoot you”, I yelled as I managed to put the gun pointed towards him, he shifted his face to look at me, his presence was demonic and chills travelled along my spine, his face was covered with a black metal mask with a red coloured reverse cross painted on it, The city lights were reflecting from his mask and that lit up the whole room, even when the lights were blinding me I could feel his monstrous stare, it was like a katana pushed straight into my body, he waved his hand at me and jumped off the building, I ran towards the balcony to see if he is fine, but he disappeared into the city lights, I didn’t see his body on the ground, I took out my mobile and looked at the notification bar, it was empty. My heart slowed down, I let out a relaxing sigh and turned back, there I saw a huge note written on my bedroom wall. My heart increased its pace again and the adrenaline rush returned, it was written in the same handwriting as the previous one, “Angst Haben!!!” I opened the Translate on my mobile and it said: “BE SCARED”.

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