“Good morning, ladies.” Jeremy moved his head back and forth, admiring the view of a naked woman lying next to him on each side of his California King-sized bed. He’d been waking up the same way every morning for over six months now, but he still couldn’t get used to it.
Jenny, on his right, was a perky, petite blonde who was studying nursing at the University of Portland. Jeremy had bumped into her at one of the local pizza places near the University, and they immediately hit it off over beers and watching the Portland Trailblazers basketball game.
On his left was Angelica, a beautiful, dark-haired model who worked at a specialty lingerie boutique in Pioneer Place, the shopping mall located in downtown Portland. Jeremy had asked her out for coffee while shopping for one of his other lady friends, and much to his surprise, she had said ‘yes’.
Jeremy didn’t really understand what about his personality or his physical appearance that the ladies found so endearing, but he certainly wasn’t complaining.
“I am a lucky man!” he exclaimed as he jumped out of bed, turned on his stereo, and headed toward the shower to begin his usual morning routine. The sound of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” could be heard resonating throughout the entire mansion that Jeremy lived in.
He sang along for a few seconds and then turned his mind to the day that lay ahead. Jeremy had just put the finishing touches on a year-long project, and eagerly anticipated that today could be the day he would finally be recognized for all his hard work.
His father, rest in peace, had instilled in him a tremendous work ethic, “a trait that all Langston men must personify”, he remembered his father saying on numerous occasions. Jeremy was certain that his ‘masterpiece’, as he liked to refer to it, would have made his ol’ man proud.
After toweling off and throwing some hair gel into his wavy brown hair, Jeremy selected his favorite Levi’s jeans and a nice dress shirt from his walk-in closet. He then made his way downstairs, walking past a half-dozen empty bedrooms on the upper level before he reached the massive, winding staircase that lead to the open entryway below. The mansion, which Jeremy’s great-grandfather had built in the early 1900’s, featured a Neo-gothic architectural style, though Jeremy had updated the interior a few years ago to give it a more modern, 1980’s look.
As he walked toward the kitchen, located near the back of the main floor, he spotted Ashley waiting for him. She was in the breakfast nook wearing nothing but a pair of knee-high, argyle socks and a smile. Ashley had her fiery red hair tied in pig tails, and her body reflected all the hours she spent teaching Jazzercise at the local fitness club.
“You girls are going to kill me,” he chuckled, as he kissed Ashley on her cheek while giving her behind a quick squeeze. “Maybe later, Darlin, but I’ve got a little business I need to take care of first on this fine, beautiful morning.”
Jeremy strutted into the kitchen, grabbed his usual bagel with cream cheese along with a glass of orange juice, and then headed toward the study.
Up until a year ago, Jeremy had been living alone, spending the majority of his days in a haze brought on by excessive drug and alcohol use. On his occasional coherent days, he spent his time trying to find out more about the circumstances surrounding his father’s death. He was only 17 years old when his father, Dr. Gerald T. Langston, was shot and killed by the local authorities in 1962 for supposedly resisting arrest and pointing a firearm at a police officer.
After more than two decades of on-again, off-again investigation (and several bribes), Jeremy learned that there was never any gun entered into evidence. He even had one retired officer confess to him, off the record, that the lead detective on the case, Detective Arthur Harris, had given the order to “shoot first and ask questions later”. Jeremy uncovered other evidence as well, including his father’s supposed ties to a local crime organization and even some disturbing files indicating ‘unethical and sadistic medical practices’, but it was all circumstantial. As far as Jeremy was concerned his father had been a well-respected physician and business man who was murdered by the very police force that was supposed to protect people like him.
It had been a difficult tragedy to overcome, but on the 25th anniversary of his father’s death, Jeremy finally decided to turn his life around. He had now spent the past year working on something he knew would be remembered for decades to come, and that he anticipated would exceed every Langston achievement before him.
He pushed open the large door to the study and saw his faithful assistant, Mandy, dressed in a ‘naughty secretary’ ensemble, including high heels and an incredible short, black mini-skirt. Mandy had been a waitress when her and Jeremy met, but after only a couple of dates, he quickly determined that she was his ‘muse’ and that he needed her by his side if he was to accomplish anything. Whereas the other girls in the mansion were mostly just for fun, Mandy was truly special.
“Ahh, my dear. You are a vision to behold.” Jeremy gently grabbed Mandy by the waist, kissed her, and guided her over to his desk where he sat her on his lap while he tapped at his keyboard.
“I have a feeling today is the day we’ve been waiting for.” Jeremy pressed a few more keys on his computer to check the multiple security cameras that were installed throughout the ten-acre premises that the Langston Mansion was located on. There were about 30 cameras installed, though he could only check four at a time on his monitor.
“Look Mandy! They’re here!” Jeremy pointed to the screen with delight. “I want everything to be perfect when they come inside. Let’s get the presentation ready, shall we?”
Jeremy grabbed a VHS tape from his desk and placed it into the video recorder on top of the large box television located in the center of the room. There were three lush, brown leather couches that encircled the television, as well as a coffee table in the middle with refreshments. Jeremy had asked Mandy to ensure that only the best ‘top shelf’ liquor and cigars were readily available for his guests.
Detectives David Morris and Eugene Harris motioned the officers following behind them to spread out as they neared the Langston mansion. They had already spotted numerous security cameras, ruining any element of surprise, but the detectives hoped that by covering all the exits they could prevent their suspect from escaping.
“You ready for this, Harris?” Detective Morris asked, the red whiskers in his mustache twitching slightly as he nodded his head toward the front door.
Detective Harris reached out for the doorknob and found it was unlocked.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Morris said. He then radio’d the other officers to hold their positions. “This guy clearly wanted us to find him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have sent you that love letter this morning.”
Harris responded with an unamused smirk as the two detectives slowly entered Langston’s mansion, guns drawn. The ‘love letter’ Morris was referring to was a thick, manila envelope that had been delivered to the precinct that morning, addressed to ‘Detective Eugene Harris’.
In the envelope was an adult-themed calendar with Polaroids of eleven missing females, each one having been scotch-taped over the top of the nude model featured for that particular month. Whoever had sent the calendar had drawn a veil with a black marker over each of the missing women’s faces, assumed to be in reference to the “Harem’s Keeper” title that the press had been using to describe the mysterious kidnapper. The current month of December, however, had only a white piece of paper taped to it with the outline of a woman’s form and a large question mark within the woman’s torso, also drawn in black marker.
In addition to the calendar, an old newspaper clipping from 1962 regarding the shooting of the suspected serial killer Dr. Gerald Langston was included in the envelope. Forensics was able to confirm that Jeremy Langston’s fingerprints were all over both the calendar and newspaper clipping.
Morris and Harris had been working the “Harem’s Keeper” case for the past 11 months and had suspected Langston, but they had never been able to secure a warrant for him. Previous to that morning, the only clues the Harem’s Keeper had left was a sliver of white paper with the name of the missing woman and the words “I’ll love this one too”, mailed in an untraceable envelope on the 12th of every month (the same day of the month that Jeremy’s father, Dr. Langston, had been shot and killed).
“Jeremy Langston,” Morris bellowed, “this is the Portland Police Department. We have a warrant for your arrest. Show yourself immediately with your hands in the air!”
The detectives continued through the entryway and then split up as Morris walked through the parlor leading into one of the main entertaining areas, and Harris took the other way through the dining room. While the two detectives were among the best in the Department, they were complete opposites in both appearance and personality. Detective Harris was a tall, attractive man in his early 40’s, known for his calm demeanor and by-the-book approach. Detective Morris, on the other hand, was older and shorter than Harris, and had a reputation for being cavalier and temperamental.
“Morris!” Detective Harris shouted from the other side of the mansion. “Come here!”
Morris back-tracked to the entryway and then followed the path he had seen Harris take. The smell of rotting flesh hit Morris’ nostrils as he stopped a few feet from the breakfast nook where a young woman’s body was tied upright to one of the chairs. Her skin had turned green from decay, thought it appeared that her murderer had tried to perform some kind of taxidermy or embalming process in an effort to preserve her.
“I believe this is Ashley Johnson,” Harris said, examining the body from a crouched position.
“Damnit!” Morris picked up one of the chairs and proceeded to smash it against the wall. “Langston!” he cried out. “You son of a bitch!”
Harris continued to take notes of Ashley Johnson’s appearance while he waited for Morris to compose himself.
“You finished?” Harris asked after a couple of minutes.
“Sorry, I…I was really hoping this guy might have been keeping these girls alive this whole time. I mean, we hadn’t found any bodies or traces of violence…”
“And there’s a chance we’ll still find some of them alive.” Harris stood upright, unfazed by the scene in front of him. His father, the retired Captain Arthur Harris, had exposed Eugene to a fair amount of case work growing up, and after 15 years of being a detective himself, there wasn’t much left that could rattle him.
“We should continue, together,” Harris told Morris as he motioned toward the kitchen. Morris nodded in agreement.
The two detectives proceeded to conduct a thorough inspection of the kitchen and walk-in freezer, and then headed down the hallway, quickly approaching the study.
“All officers, stay alert,” Morris commanded over the radio. “Murder victim has been found inside the residence. Suspect is assumed to be armed and dangerous.”
As both men neared the closed door to the study, Harris got a chill down his back. On the door was a piece of white poster board with a message scrawled out in black marker: “Come on in Eugene.”
“My ex-wife used to leave my name off our Christmas cards too,” Morris quipped, trying to keep Harris from taking the circumstances any more personally then he already had. Morris was fully aware that it was Harris’s father that had shot and killed Jeremy’s father, but they never spoke about it.
“Jeremy Langston,” Morris shouted. “Come out…”
“Is that Detective Morris?” Jeremy gleefully shouted through the door. “I’m so glad you could make it, although I do fear that the message I left on the door requires that one be able to read. Is Eugene not with you? I’m positive I saw him smiling, er, frowning for the camera just a few minutes ago…”
“Open the door and come out slowly, Jeremy,” Harris said calmly. “We can make this very easy for you.”
“I appreciate the offer,” Jeremy responded, “but I don’t think that would be nearly as much fun as watching you both burst into the room like the cops do on T.V. Besides, you must come in. Mandy has prepared drinks for us all and I have some very special video entertainment that you definitely won’t want to miss. I promise you, I’m not armed.”
“What do you want to do?” Morris asked Harris. “You think he’s armed?”
“Probably,” Harris replied, dryly, “but I also think we need to assume that at least one of the victims could still be alive…and we might need Jeremy Langston alive in order to find them.”
“Agreed.” Morris said as he reached out for the knob on the door.
“We’re coming in Jeremy,” Morris announced. “Any sign of a weapon and we’ll put you down. Do you understand?”
“Completely,” Jeremy responded, joyfully.
Harris and Morris both stormed through the door, their weapons raised. Jeremy was standing next to the television with a glass of scotch in one hand and the VCR remote in the other.
“See, I’m completely unarmed.”
Harris looked over at Jeremy’s desk and saw what he believed was Mandy Jamison’s body seated in a chair, preserved similar to Ashley Johnson’s.
“Do you know Mandy, Eugene?” Jeremy asked, pointing at her.
“Don’t fucking move, Langston!” Morris began walking toward Jeremy, his gun pointed at Jeremy’s head.
“Now, now, detective Morris stop right there.” Jeremy presented his drink and tipped it slightly toward Morris. “There’s enough poison in this scotch to kill an elephant, and I’m likely to drink it if you come any closer. I’ve been planning this moment for a year now and I won’t have you ruining it.”
“What have you been planning, Jeremy?” Harris asked, turning his attention away from Mandy’s corpse.
“I’m so glad you asked, Eugene. See, I can talk to you. You’re intelligent, well spoken, good-looking…when I look at you, I see a reflection of myself.” Jeremy scratched the top of his head with the remote. “You know, I wonder if our fathers would have seen us as similar? I mean, other that the fact that I’m white and your black, of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with being black. I mean, I’m not a racist…”
“Jeremy,” Detective Harris interrupted Jeremy’s rambling, “what is it that you want?”
“Hmmm….that’s a great question,” Jeremy twirled the glass of scotch in his hand. “As I’m sure you know, Eugene, today is December 12th and…the 26th anniversary of my father’s death. Now, I know you had nothing to do with that tragedy; however, I believe the bible says something along the lines of ‘the father lays the sins upon the son’ blah, blah, blah.”
“You want me to just shoot him?” Detective Morris asked Harris as he raised his gun and pointed it at Jeremy’s head. “The lighting isn’t very good in here, and I’m pretty sure that VCR remote in his hand looks a lot like a gun.”
“You know the thing about Mandy over there,” Jeremy continued, ignoring Morris’ threat, “she went to David Douglas High School. I suppose she probably graduated a few years before, but…” Jeremy stared directly into Detective Harris’ dark brown eyes. “Doesn’t your daughter also attend David Douglas, Eugene?”
Harris’ mind raced as his thoughts turned to his 16-year old daughter, Christine. She had stayed over at a friend’s house the night before, and he hadn’t talked to her since the previous morning at breakfast.
“What the hell did you do, Jeremy?” Morris again started to approach Jeremy, but he quickly turned toward the detective and shook his drink in a taunting fashion. “Not so fast, detective. After all, we haven’t watched my film yet.”
Jeremy pointed the remote at the TV and pressed the ‘play’ button.
“Please, Detective Harris,” Jeremy motioned toward the couch, “have a seat. I want you to meet Ms. December.”
Harris walked toward the back of the center couch and watched as an image of his daughter appeared on the screen. She was tied up, naked and crying, in some kind of dark cellar or cave. Although he remained poised on the outside, Harris’ blood began to boil.
“So you see, Detective Morris,” Jeremy paused to look at his glass and then tipped its entire contents into the back of his throat in one gulp. “You can’t kill me because you need me to find Christine Harris.”
“You crazy mother fucker!” Morris shouted as Jeremy swallowed the scotch.
“Oh, I appreciate your concern,” Jeremy laughed, “but the scotch wasn’t really poisoned. I just couldn’t have you shooting me before I laid all my cards on the table, sort to speak.”
Harris calmed his heart and quickly processed the situation. Jeremy Langston, a lunatic who was clearly acting alone, had most likely murdered eleven women and kidnapped (and possibly killed) a twelfth in an elaborate scheme to exact revenge for his father who was also a psychopath. These were not the actions of a man who could be reasoned with, and any attempts Harris and the Portland P.D. took to exact information from Jeremy would surely result in a series of mind games that were unlikely to help them find Harris’ daughter. Therefore, Harris reasoned there was only one way to resolve this.
Eugene Harris raised his firearm toward Jeremy Langston and pulled the trigger.
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