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Stage 7 - ROE

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Jan 14th, 2019
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  5. "Night is coming."
  6. This was more than a smokescreen, a distarction. There was something deeper to it, something closer to the killer's intension.
  7. Gilbert's cult believed that Ymir was the wrath of their Glorious King upon the earth, and "Night is coming" a prophecy of His coming. If the killer picked the coming of Ymir to do his deed; if he was not a cultist, but a well-prepared outsider, then he did not do this out of religious fervor, but because it was expedient for him to evade the law.
  8. Because...
  10. "Sir," Tracy said as she walked in, "the snowstorm warning has escalated to the highest level. The observatory has issued an advisory to evacuate the local residents and tourists. "
  11. "I got the memo too." I pressed the bridge of my nose. "It wasn't an advisory. It's an order. "
  13. If the winter storm intensified, everyone in the mountains would be evacuated, in as little time as possible.
  14. This was the killer's golden chance to get away, the final touch on his master plan.
  15. For us, the timing could not have been worse.
  17. Once the evacuation order was given, all mountain passes and checkpoints would be wide-open - hard to get in, but very easy to get out unnoticed.
  18. But we had no choice.
  19. The department's manpower was almost fully committed to the evacuation. The evacuation plan called for most tourists and a few of the residents to gather at the evacuation center, to be taken away by busses. Locals with their own cars - which was most of them - and tourists who drove could evacuate on their own. The roads out of the mountains were few and the checkpoints operated as usual.
  20. I made it very clear that every single person was to be carefully checked, even during the evacuation. In particular, outsiders who had bandages that could be covering up a gunshot wound, as well as those with fever, diaphoresis or other symptoms associated with blood loss and infection, were to be detained for questioning by me personally. Joseph and I went to the evacuation center, while Tracy went to the southwest pass, which was short-handed.
  22. Things went orderly in the beginning. Residents who got the notice arrived one by one, while tourists sat on the bus, somewhat cooperatively.
  23. However, a sudden snowstorm in the afternoon changed everything.
  24. Survival instincts took over in the blizzard and the evacuation center became a scene of chaos. People were shouting, babies were crying, and altercations broke out between civilians and investigators. Some even tried to take over the bus, just to get out of this white hell as soon as possible.
  25. The loudspeakers reiterated, "We will make sure that everyone leaves here safely. Your cooperation with the investigation is appreciated." The announcement fell on deaf ears. In the evacuation center's office, we examined every possible suspect that was identified. In everyone's eyes I saw fear, confusion, and in more than a few cases, suppressed anger.
  27. At last, the line of suspects was cleared to leave. I looked outside and saw Joseph in the blizzard, running tirelessly between the busses and the evacuation center lobby, over and over again. I was about to leave the office to help with the evacuation when a voice came through from the radio on the wall. The storm had put a few power lines out of service, and the radio was the most reliable method of communication we had between the evacuation center and the checkpoints.
  28. "Sir?" Tracy's tone was hurried, "I think I might have found him. Somebody abandoned their car and fled on foot. I'm after him. Over. "
  29. "Where are you? Over. "
  30. "Elk forest. I think he's trying to go through it. Over. "
  31. "Be careful! Is anyone with you? Over. "
  32. "Yes, but we got separated in the poor visibility. Over. "
  33. "Do you have your flare gun? Repeat, DO YOU HAVE YOUR FLARE GUN? Answer me, Tracy! "
  34. I yelled at the radio but heard only static. Was it the snowstorm that disrupted the signal, or was it...I dared not think any further. I dashed out of the office and found Joseph.
  35. "You check the remaining suspects!"
  36. "What? What did you say?" Joseph's voice was hoarse and his face raw from the icy winds.
  37. "You check the suspects. I'm going to find Tracy. Call me if anything comes up."
  38. "Yes, sir."
  39. I ran to a patrol car, leaving Joseph behind.
  41. The snowstorm had almost fully obstructed the view outside the window. Day looked like night as buildings and cars swept past like ghosts in the snowstorm, and the wind howled and screeched. The world felt like it was coming down at me.
  42. I held my breath and gripped the wheel tightly with all the alertness I could muster. At least I was going in the same direction as the evacuation traffic, which provided some assistance.
  43. I felt like I aged a hundred years during the drive.
  44. Long queues had formed at the southern pass checkpoint. I got out of the car and ran. One of the officers saw me and took me to the checkpoint office on his snowmobile.
  45. Snowmobile?
  46. I grabbed the officer's collar and yelled, "Did she go in a snowmobile?"
  47. Confusion filled the officer's face and I yelled again, "Tracy. Did she go in a snowmobile? "
  48. "Er, yes, sir. The others are already back, but we haven't heard back from her. "
  49. "Get off!"
  50. "What? "
  51. "I said get off!"
  52. I turned and drove straight for Elk Forest.
  53. It was at this moment that I heard Joseph's voice on my radio, mixed with static:
  54. "Si...I fo...him...I'm...Sig...stle"
  55. As I tried to understand the message, a red light shot into the sky in the distance. A loud crack broke the howling of the winds, then the sky above the trees was filled with red.
  56. It was Tracy's flare. She had caught the fleeing man, who was so cold he could hardly speak. Turned out he was trying to smuggle a bunch of unregistered guns past the checkpoint.
  57. I kept trying to reach Joseph, but heard only silence from the radio. Driving against the flow of traffic in the snowstorm, I kept my foot on the gas, honking horns in the opposite lane came at me but I didn’t care. Next to me, Tracy gripped a handle next to the window, wordlessly staring outside.
  58. The evacuation center continued to be a scene of chaos, filled with people anxious and frustrated about not being able to leave.
  59. "Joseph! Where did Joseph go? Which direction? Anybody went with him? "
  60. I charged into the office, where the officer on duty was examining someone who had a fever.
  61. "He went with two or three others in a car, sir. I think he was headed towards Sigel Castle."
  62. We got back into the car. Tracy had the presence of mind to grab two search dogs. But I wished I could sprout wings and fly, rather than waste my time on this snow-filled road.
  63. We found the patrol car after about half an hour. The snow chains on one of the tyres were broken and the car left long skid marks on the snow before being stopped by a large rock. Two unconscious officers lay inside. As I opened the door I smelled a strong, sweet and sickening scent that made me light in the head.
  64. Joseph was nowhere to be found.
  66. "Where's Joseph?"
  67. I roused one of the officers. Slowly he awoke, looking at me with a confused and disoriented expression. "The snow chains broke so he got off to check, and then...are we back at the evacuation center? Sir? How did I fall asleep..."
  68. The snow was too deep to drive. Tracy had the search dogs sniff the driver's seat - we could only hope that whatever drug was in the car did not affect their noses. Led by the dogs, we struggled through the snow.
  69. The blizzard had passed. The temperature was still low, but the wind had quieted down, with snowflakes slowly falling like drifting feathers. In this white and pristine world, the hell-like scene that we just went through felt like a dream.
  70. The search dog stopped multiple times, digging and sniffing in the snow. My heart was beating so hard, it was a wonder it did not explode.
  71. Please, God, please.
  73. We found him in the snow. Joseph, the young and eager young man with a head of golden hair, who could be a little silly at times but was a good boy at heart.
  74. A lonely charred tree stood in the middle of the clearing, its thick branches dark as ashes. Joseph hung upside down from the tree by a rope tied to his left ankle like the Hanged Man in tarot. His right leg was bent and his hands were tied behind his back at an unusual angle. His golden hair shone in the sun brought by the storm's passing.
  75. He was no longer breathing.
  76. His left ear was removed and I could not fathom why, until Tracy reminded me that Joseph had a little red birthmark behind his ear.
  77. Tracy was so beside herself with grief that she could hardly stand. She knelt beneath his body, futilely trying to stop the blood from flowing out of the holes on his neck. A long trail of footprints, a jarring sight on the flat and even snow, all the way into the snowy mountains.
  78. The vampire, the phantom, the demon of Dione has once again disappeared beneath our noses, taking away our Joseph, bringing the never-ending night to Dione.
  79. I stood on the snowy plains, feeling chilled to the bone.
  81. Tracy will leave with the last group out of the area. She gave me Joseph's notebook before she left.
  82. The young man had meticulously recorded everything big and small in his daily work, marking key points with ink of different colors. The records of the serial killer investigations with me were particularly detailed, even accompanied with images.
  83. On one of the pages was a hexagram drawn with red ink. In the middle of the hexagram was a red circle with a question mark next to it.
  84. If one connected the locations where the six victims were discovered into a hexagram, then Joseph was in the very middle.
  85. The records stopped after Gilbert's death. It closed with two sentences:
  86. "He walketh into the snow, and the Glorious King shalt meeteth him in the storm."
  87. "Night is coming."
  89. I closed the notebook and made my decision.
  91. "Are you really going to stay here, sir?" Tracy looked at me with a worried expression.
  92. "He's still in Dione. I'm going to get him."
  93. Yes, I'm going to get him all right.
  94. The storm of murders began with the coming of Ymir, and I will put an end to all this before it leaves.
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