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Interlude Five point Two, The Wanderer at the Docks

The Wanderer was down on the docks, travelling with no particular aim, just keeping an eye out for trouble. A movement caught his eye. Out from between two warehouses, a figure staggered into view.

Cautiously The Wanderer crept toward the staggering figure, taking care to remain hidden by the nighttime shadows. Was this some fellow who had one too many? Is he injured? There must be more to the story that a patient, watchful eye can glean -- from a closer distance, thought The Wanderer.

The Wanderer saw a nearer vantage point and with soft inrush of air, vanished from where he stood and reappeared at that point. From there he saw the man stumble and down to one knee. When the man fell, the Wanderer could see a weapon of some type, a dagger perhaps, protruding from his back.

Covering the distance in the blink of an eye, The Wanderer was beside the fallen figure checking him for vital signs and scouring from whence the man came looking for anything which could explain this violent act.

The man was dressed like a typical dock worker of the rougher sort, with a cap pulled down over his head. He was perhaps thirty years of age, but with a face and body that suggested hard use. The dagger protruding from his back was of an unusual design and was clearly a throwing dagger. The blade was coated with a dark viscous substance.

Even as the Wanderer checked the blade, the man gave a cry and spasmed before collapsing dead.

The Wanderer gave the body a cursory examination, sniffing for the scent of alcohol but finding none. He listened, but heard no interesting sounds -- not of work nor of violence.

"It appears my friend, that your ship has come in," whispered The Wanderer in solemn respect. The Wanderer cautiously retraced the man's death walk keeping a sharp eye out for signs of a struggle, a trail of blood (or this mysterious substance), and anyone who could have seen or caused this tragedy.

Following the man's trail was fairly easy, since he had bled copiously. The trail led up into an alley, and ended with a pool of blood, probably the point of injury. Lying on the ground just in front of the blood was a small cheap handgun, a "Saturday Night Special".

'Hmm,' thought The Wanderer, 'perhaps my friend was not as innocent as one would initially think. To be struck from behind and to have a handgun nearby could very well mean he was the aggressor. And then, in his withdrawal came to the painful conclusion that he chose the wrong target. A point well taken, obviously.' The Wanderer hadn't heard a gunshot in the still night, which meant that there was no time to fire. 'Then again, perhaps he pulled the pistol in defense of an attack, yet getting hit in the back is still troublesome.'

The Wanderer searched the alley for more clues, taking notice of hiding places, nearby buildings, escape routes, and other information which may shed some light on what occurred moments ago.

The street that the alley opened on was a little more of thoroughfare that the streets nearby. A few restaurants and nightspots attracted some more affluent patrons, who could easily be accosted and driven back into the alley by an assailant. Working on that assumption the Wanderer examined the scene more closely. If the assailant had cornered his victims there, where the pool of blood indicated, someone who was going to throw a knife and hit him in the back would have to have been ... there by those crates. Examination of the crates revealed nothing exceptional.

Looking for escape routes, the Wanderer found an embarrasment of riches: the crates stacked against the wall would allow a reasonably athletic person access to the roofs, there were doors into the warehouses on either side of the alley -- one close by the crates, not to mention the end opening onto the thoroughfare and the opposite end which opened onto a smaller side street.

Playing a hunch, the Wanderer surmised that the presence of that unusually designed dagger spoke of a certain pinache and style by it's wielder. Naturally, that arrogance would cause the assailant to do what The Wanderer himself would have done --- make a grand exit to the roof. The Wanderer climbed up the crate tower to gain access to the roofline to look for clues, also affording him a birds-eye view of the block. Perhaps there was some street level movement this vantage point could lend.

From his position on the rooftop, the Wanderer could see up and down the streets. Nothing untoward caught his eye. A small group of well-dressed men and women were laughing and talking as they entered "The Bay Scallop", a trendy sea-food restaurant.

'A life is lost and still joy can find a home...what a strange world this is,' thought The Wanderer. Concluding that the trail had run cold, The Wanderer climbed back down to the alley and carefully approached the body, making sure that they were still alone. What was the motivation for this slaying? did this man have identification? money? and what about that knife? was its design a clue?

The man had an id which showed him to be one Brian Donnelly, but had little else of interest: a few dollars, no credit cards, a few loose .38 bullets in his pocket, a pack of cigarettes, a few matchbooks and that was nearly all.

The Wanderer took a closer look at the knife. The weapon was shaped loosely like a hollow triangle in shape, with no strange protrusions to hinder its flight. The metal was blued so that the knife appeared almost black in the dim light. The hollow of the triangle was filled with the gooey black substance the Wanderer had noticed before. The weapon did not appear to have any great appearance of age, looking almost aggressively modern in design.

Satisifed that he had seen all there was to see, the Wanderer phoned the police from a nearby pay phone, then returned to the roof to watch the "Bay Scallop" and think.

The crisp night air invigorated mind and with it, a torrent of questions and speculation. 'It appears Mr. Donnelly was the one armed, albeit too slow on the draw...That knife is certainly uncommonly modern, yet used in a common crime as old as this world...And that substance does add a mystery to the mix, is it poison? that would be overkill, wouldn't it? Or is it part of some propulsion device? the design would seem to dictate an aerodynamic design to slice through the air instead of tumble through it. Is it some kind of massive dart? and if so, what device could launch such a large missile, or better yet, who? And that is the question, isn't it?' contemplated The Wanderer with elbow on knee as he propped himself at the roof edge, strangely resembling Auguste Rodin's masterpiece.

Shortly thereafter, Port Alexander's finest showed up to begin the ritual of casualty disposal and righting whatever wrongs could be identified. The Wanderer watched the homicide detectives arrive on the scene to observe what tactics, means, and conclusions they may draw from the late Mr. Donnelly. Taking great care to be inobtrusive, The Wanderer silently watched the police cordon off the area and follow the blood to the pool in the alley.

The Wanderer watched until the circus began it's three ring act of coroner, crowds, and media and then paid close attention to the growing crowd. Would the perpetrator return to the scene of the crime? did anyone look suspicious? At this hour of the night just who would be entertained by this macabre sight?

The denizens of this area seemed content to keep to themselves and hurried past the police with heads down. The patrons of the "The Bay Scallop" on the other hand usually had some reaction; some crossed the street and hurried past, some tarried for a few moments and watched the proceedings, one group asked the policemen guarding the cordon what had happened.

The Wanderer, from his position on the roof, heard snatches of conversation from below. "Poison? Looks like ... Who phoned in? Anonymous ... Looks like Donnely finally tried mugging the wrong guy ..."

Slowly, the business drew to its conclusion. Donnelly was loaded in a wagon and sent to the coroner's office. The photo teams packed up their lights and went off to develop their pictures. The detectives shook their heads and went to their cars.

"It appears that justice was indeed served, only by a vigilante," sighed The Wanderer. One thing Port Alexander did not need was a vigilante roaming the street looking for, or inviting, trouble; especially one armed with a particularly nasty choice of weapon poisoned for good measure. From the knowing voices below, The Wanderer gathered that Donnelly was a bad egg who had tried this before, which means he was experienced, and perhaps careless. But deep inside The Wanderer knew that the bad element tended to prey on the weak, or at least the perceived weak; so Donnelly wasn't one to take any risks. Whoever did this probably looked like an easy mark, unassuming and vulnerable; this could prove beneficial for whoever wanted to be a target would make themselves too easy to pass up --- just the kind of person The Wanderer would be looking for from here on out, alone, incredulous to his (or her) surroundings, and seemingly vulnerable, like a coiled viper.

The crowd thinned out, until only one detective remained, seemingly lost in thought.

The crackle of dimensional planes shifting propelled The Wanderer to the shadows of the alley, "Penny for your thoughts, constable," said The Wanderer in a reassuring tone so as to not startle the detective.

The detective turned slowly, although whether that was due to a laconic nature or a desire to appear non-hostile in the face of an unknown and potentially hostile arrival the Wanderer could not tell. He looked into the shadowy area where the Wanderer stood and asked, "Who's paying?"

"You may call me The Wanderer, as that is my name," said The Wanderer as he stepped out of the shadows. "I see the events of this evening have us both puzzled, Detective..." questioned the man in black.

"McNally," replied the man. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but who the hell are you and why do you care?"

"I could invoke the cliched line that I'm a citizen who cares about this fine city, but let's just say the late Mr. Donnelly got his own fine point on my watch and expired in my arms. Whoever did this is dangerous and needs to be apprehended...this was no ordinary homicide," stated The Wanderer.

"No, and you appear to be no ordinary concerned citizen," commented McNally wryly. "Is it possible that Mr. Donnelly received his come-uppance not only on your watch, but at your, ah, hands? Would you mind, by the by, keeping those hands where I can see them, sir?"

"You don't appear to be an ordinary doughnut eater either," said The Wanderer holding his hands aloft. "Certainly if I had done the deed, I could have found a much better forum to fuel my ego than an honest, no-nonsense cop that cares enough to stay at the scene on his own time."

"Who says I'm on my own time? It's only quarter-past, and I'm on duty till midnight. This place is more interesting than the precinct house." McNally looked the Wanderer over carefully, "As for your forum ... we both know this whacko is not your garden variety serial killer, who knows what might make sense to him. Maybe returning to the scene and accosting a poor cop is right up his alley."

"It may very well be, lucky for you I'm here to throw a monkey wrench in his plans." The Wanderer paced around a bit taking care to avoid the chalk outline,"you said 'serial' killer, this isn't his first victim?"

"Unless, you are him," replied the detective. "Tell me again why I should trust you?"

"We have a common goal here McNally. Simply because you want to catch the animal that did this, and so do I. You know this guy is like nothing Port Alexander's finest has dealt with before and because of that you can't afford *not* to trust me. If you want to play the Lone Ranger fine, but you know you're going to need help. When I catch him, just remember whose collar it could have been," sneered the black clad hero before disappearing.

The Wanderer materialized several yards behind Detective McNally in the shadows to await his answer and to gauge if this detective was more paranoid than justice bound.

McNally sucked in ihs breath, then looked around quickly. He advanced a few careful steps and waved his hand through the space where the Wanderer had been.

"I do detest parlour tricks, so what about it McNally?" questioned The Wanderer. "Do we forge a partnership to catch this butcher, or do we give him the upper hand by working independently?" stated the man in black while walking out from the shadows. With arms outstretched in a non-threatening manner, "I got skills homey, can ya dig it?" he mused.

McNally whirled to face the Wanderer. A slow grin crossed his face, "I guess you don't want me dead, 'cause you had me dead to rights there." He became serious again. "You still look like a suspect though: that little trick of yours would explain how you got behind Donnelly. And who knows what else you might have up your sleeve. Still, better a suspect in front of me than no suspect at all, which is what I've got right now."

"Do you drink coffee, Wanderer?"

"Yes, my wardrobe," said The Wanderer through a grin proposing, "Unfortunately, I'm not exactly dressed to frequent most establishments but I'll tell you what...get the joe-to-go and then we can compare notes."

"You think that outfit will raise an eyebrow around here?" asked the detective. "Most of the people here wouldn't see a crime if it was comitted in front of them. To their mother. By their worst enemy. It's like Hogan's Heroes ..." he waited for the Wanderer to finish the line.

"...they see nothingk, hear nothingk, eh?," approached The Wanderer.

"So come on, there's a spot around the corner we can go. It's not the Bay Scallop, but the coffee is drinkable." The detective set off.

The Wanderer fell into step behind the detective with a watchful eye toward the surroundings, still not convinced that they were alone. These were streets that had witnessed an event of evil and therefore were never deserted, forever harboring the unrest caused by injustice.

If there were hostile eyes watching them, they kept their peace. The pair walked a block or so to a small restaurant whose name appeared to be either "Diner" or "Waitress Wanted". McNally slid into a booth and waved a hand with the familiarity of a regular. Two cups of coffee appeared soon after. After ladling his full of "cream" and sugar, McNally spoke, "All right, you first. What have you got that might help."

"Not much beyond speculation at this point. We have a stiff who liked to make his money the easy way and came upon the wrong mark," The Wanderer paused as he blew on his coffee. "As to whether this was a set-up or not by the killer I'm not sure, but shooting him in the back with some kind of Buck Rogers weapon looks to me like he came prepared for trouble. Most safety concerned citizens I know don't goop things up with poison." The Wanderer shifted deep into the booth and tugged his wide brim lower before tossing the ball back into McNally's court, "Earlier you said 'serial killer,' you and the press been keeping something from the public?"

"Not really, at least not actively," replied McNally. "For some reason, though, it's not getting much press. Maybe it's just because the victims are all like Donnelly -- three time losers and street punks that no one will miss. The knives are all pretty much the same, though they aren't always poisoned. We don't have much more to go on than you do."

"Is there a pattern of sorts? perhaps we could predict his next strike. Could you tell me when these similar killings occurred?" asked The Wanderer. The man in black then seemed to stare off in thought, thinking aloud, "By focusing on society's lost and unnoticed it could be a game of sorts. Or even worse, perhaps these aren't just thrill killings but practice for something bigger, once he works the kinks out of his methodology."

"There's no pattern that we've been able to deduce ... except this," replied McNally. "All the killings do seem to have been of criminals caught more or less in the act: Donnelly had a gun out we think, Jenkins had a knife in his hand when we found him, it's hard to tell with Hall since he was a big bruiser who used his bare hands, but it seems likely that he was in the process of a mugging. You get the idea."

"The odds of the killer just stumbling upon a mugging and robbery are too great, besides the 'saved' victims would surely be vocal in their gratitude and the inability of the police force to protect them," offered The Wanderer. "Therefore, I think we can be safe to conclude that our man is playing the helpless decoy or at least employing one. Has there been any physical evidence indicating more than one assailant? Did this Hall get ahold of his target?"

"No, no evidence that we found. We think Hall did get his hands on the killer. He was found with the dagger stuck up through his belly and into his heart. No poison on that one -- and none needed."

"Did most of these occur around here?"The Wanderer swept his arm around indicating the current neighborhood. "Also, since the stiffs all had a history of robbery, what do you know about their victims? our killer may be a female if these guys had a thing for the ladies. A woman walking these streets would really pique the interest of a scumbag."

"The killings have taken place all over. Well, not exactly. They've all been in areas where the street crime level is high. They're also areas where people tend to mind their own business, so there might not have been a report even if there was a victim other than our boy. Or girl. It might be a girl, we really don't have much."

"Hopefully we can get more info without adding to the coroner's burden. I'll be sure to let you know what I see and hear," said The Wanderer while standing. "I'll be in touch. Next time the eats are on me," trailed off into the void as The Wanderer vanished from sight causing McNally to jump. His incredulity was stifled as a tap at the window revealed The Wanderer standing outside, a smart salute and a smile, and he was gone again.

Last Updated 4 May 2000