Questions, Prologue and Part 1

Here’s my entry to the Game Show challenge! Part of it, anyway. This is still a work in progress, but I figured one massive post will be too tiresome to read. Instead, I’ll be submitting several parts over the course of the next few days, adding links to each part when applicable. Whee!

Prologue and Part 1 | Part 2

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Prologue

To say that Steven Burcell was a fan of detective stories was an understatement; he devoured the works of Christie, Hammett, and Harris after moving on from the Stratemeyer collections in his youth. He idolized both the uncanny brilliance of Sherlock Holmes and the gritty, violent underworlds that spawned from Frank Miller’s mind. Their tales of crime and retribution captured him, holding his attention for ransom as he devoured books, television shows, and movies recounting their exploits.

More than anything, it was the mysteries that intrigued Steven the most. The discovery of the gruesome crime, the collection of evidence, the uncovering of clues to the perp’s identity and the inevitable pursuit – a cerebral cat-and-mouse that packed gunpowder into every page – all of it fascinated him to no end.

Why Steven thought it would be a good idea to pursue these tales in real life, he had no idea. In fact, becoming a detective seemed like a horrible decision now.

There were three qualities that, in Steven’s opinion, made a good mystery story. First, the clues had to be unheard-of in previous cases; the uniqueness of the evidence had to grab both the grizzled detective’s and readers’ curiosity. Second, the culprit’s motive should never be apparent until at least the story’s climax. Third, and most importantly, the culprit’s identity should have been revealed by the clues long before the detective pieces the puzzle together, making the book’s reveal a moment of awe for the reader, who looks back at the previous pages to finally realize that he should’ve known it all along. The detective, and by extension, the reader, must feel like a fool at this dawning.

Steven Burcell, both by choice and not, was in the best mystery he’d ever faced. He had amassed a great deal of clues, most of them courtesy of the demented mind he chased after, and yet there was this nagging feeling that he read something wrong, that one minor reconsideration of the evidence would unlock the mystery.

He took a look at the clock on his office, then at the files laid out on his desk. It was one in the morning, but he had a long way to go before sleeping.

Part 1

It started with fire.

The very first incident of the Quiz Show murders occurred on April 22, at 11:43a.m., in the center of Wharf City train station. The lunch rush filled the corridors with thousands of commuters. Alvin Beaker shoved his way through one of the busiest thoroughfares, fell to his knees, and burst into flames. By the time the panic subsided and authorities were able to clear the area, there was nothing left of Beaker but bone. Cleanly etched into his left tibia was the following question: “What animal can see both ultra-violet and infra-red light?”

Witnesses said Beaker looked intensely distressed as he made his way through the platform. He was speaking on a mobile phone; some believed he was in the middle of an argument.

The second killing occurred three days later, at 2:24p.m. The victim, Helena White, spontaneously combusted walking underneath the Payton Bridge located downtown. Like Beaker, the fire burned off most of White’s body, save for her bone. The message etched on her leg read “What name refers to the plane the Pope uses for travel?”

Victim number three, Scott Stuart, died in the exact same fashion on May 3, at 5:45p.m. It was then that authorities realized the connection between the crimes and the etchings on the victims’ bones. Stuart was killed while walking down Shepherd Street; the answer to the question on White’s remains was “Shepherd One”. A second examination into the first crime scene confirmed the pattern – prior to repainting that happened on the day of the first incident, the walls underneath the Payton Bridge were covered with graffiti, most of which were tagged by the artist “Goldfi$h.” The killer was sending clues on the whereabouts of his next murder etched on the bones of the dead.

It was then that Steven Burcell from homicide was assigned to the case. Investigators were unclear on whether or not the incidents were planned deaths or random acts of terrorism. With a clear pattern to the killings, it was apparent that they were dealing with the former.

It didn’t take long for the media to run away with the story. Christening the case the “Quiz Show Murders”, they captured the public’s attention with gruesome details and strange-but-true modus the killer practiced. It was something straight out of the comic books; a psychopath on the loose killing innocents as part of some macabre game.

Steven put the files down, leaned back on his seat, and allowed himself a moment’s meditation. He hadn’t had much sleep since taking over the case. He hadn’t had the chance to go home and do so. The media constantly hounded him for new details to sensationalize every time he stepped out of the station, and so the office was the only place he could concentrate. The makeshift bed he made out of three chairs wasn’t comfortable, but it sufficed for now. He glanced at the clock; it was past three in the morning.

He turned his attention back to the evidence at hand. Three walking effigies, a madman on the loose, and three questions imprinted on the victims’ remains; he rifled through the files for photos of what little was left of Stuart, the third victim. The question on his bones – “What is the sum of the first four Fibonacci numbers?” – was much easier to answer: seven. Steven felt sick in his stomach. Unlike the other etchings, this didn’t lead to any landmark in particular; it was too general, too open. The other questions all had the imprints of someone who wanted his crimes to be witnessed. The answer to the third question was more sinister. It wasn’t a clue; it was a warning.

Three victims. Seven more to go.

Continue to Part 2

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