Doctor Sariah Khan shook her head in fear and frustration. She’d already spent several hours studying the records of the three kids, and she wasn’t any closer to understanding this situation than when she started. The documents were all sprawled across her desk and even littered the floor: transcripts of their sessions, drawings from therapy prompts, reactions to various stimuli, frequency of unscheduled meetings — everything she could possibly think of.
Tyson, Bailey, and Grace were all sent to her by their parents describing the same night terrors: sudden sleepwalking, mumbling and moaning in their sleep, wetting the bed long after that should have ceased to be a problem, and jerky bodily movements.
Despite the glaring similarities, Sariah could still chalk that all up to a big coincidence. What she could not ignore was the description each kid gave of their imaginary friend. Every description, despite the children never having met each other in their lives, and even though thing they had in common was that they all came to her, eerily matched the likeness of Sam Rooney, a paedophile and serial killer who was sentenced to death five years ago.
“Oh, oh my god — this…” she shook her head and reached for her phone, about to call in the local precinct when she thought of a better idea. She had Detective Paolo Denis’ personal phone number (on account of having assisted him with Rooney all those years ago). Denis been the ranking officer on the Rooney case, so she called him up instead.
He didn’t answer (she hadn’t really expected a reply at ten in the night), so she left a message on the fourth ring.
“Good evening Detective Denis, it’s Doctor Sariah Khan from the psych floor of Edmunds Children’s Hospital. I understand you worked on the Sam Rooney case…I-I need to speak to you about it. Please call me back?”
She left an alternate number at the end in case this one couldn’t be reached and hung up the phone. Then Doctor Khan did she did something she hadn’t done in a very long time — she prayed.
Paolo Denis was generally not one to rise early. He booked late flights, so he didn’t have to rush in the morning, and preferred getting stuck in traffic to getting up half an hour early. The earliest he woke up was eight o’clock, by the time Marcy had left for work and Jake was probably seated in class at boarding school.
He always ground up fresh coffee beans as he checked his phone for messages he missed while asleep (email, text, then calls and voicemail), followed by a typical “getting ready” routine. This time though, he didn’t make it all the way through his coffee.
Normally, he’d listen to his voicemail on the way to work, but Sariah Khan’s was a message he would not put off. They shared a strictly professional relationship, so she would have no reason to reach out unless something was wrong. He also greatly respected her ever since she managed to make quick work of piecing together Sam Rooney’s psychological profile within mere days — something no one at the precinct had managed to do.
Upon hearing the message, he called her immediately. The worry in her usually steely voice was clear. Rooney’s name had obviously contributed to his own urgency — the bastard may be dead, but you could never be too careful when it comes to Sam Rooney.
“Hello, Doctor? Paolo Denis here, you said you wanted to talk?” She picked up on the first ring itself.
“Detective, thank you for calling me back. I’ll get right to it.” Paolo had always appreciated her frankness. She went on, “Over the past two weeks, I’ve had three new patients, all coming in with the same ticks: bed wetting, jerky movements, sleep talking, and sleepwalking. That’s not why I called you though; I could actually still chalk all that up to a beefy coincidence. The part of concern is this: all three of those children described an imaginary friend, each of which bears an unmistakable likeness to Sam Rooney.” She stopped, waiting for a response, but Paolo wasn’t too sure what to say. This was a strange case indeed, but Rooney was long dead, and with his death, his menace had come to an end. There were no followers that took up his mantle. The case was closed. Finally, she continued,
“I could show you the documents I have on each child if you could come down here sometime today. I wouldn’t mind coming to you, either, but I feel the fewer the people who knew about this the better; it would only cause panic. My schedule is quite packed today, but this problem cannot wait so I’ll make sure to make some time whenever you can come down. It’s like no other I’ve seen…and I’ve seen some pretty unnerving things.”
Paolo thought for a moment. On one hand, he could very well dismiss their entire deal as a coincidence and a scared mind coming together to produce a monstrous conclusion. However, Doctor Khan was not one to allow her fears to come in the way of her judgement and always kept a clear head. This time though, the fright was evident in her voice — her pitch, her speed, everything about her short briefing was indicative of fear.
“I could come over around ten, Doctor. I’ve got to clear up a few cases that came in during the night shift, but I’ll come up right after.”
Sariah breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank you, Detective. I know this sounds farfetched, but I don’t think you’d find it quite as absurd once I give you all the information I have.”
“You’re quite welcome, see you then.” He ended the call and headed back upstairs to shower and get dressed, leaving his coffee on the counter — something he hadn’t done for five years. Sam Rooney was once again in his head.
57th Precinct, five years ago
Paolo Denis stared at the three-panel board in front of him, all the evidence they had collected on the Rooney case over the past six months pinned up. Right in the centre, where a side-by-side examination of two of his victims used to hang (since moved to the right), a note that said BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, DETECTIVE DENIS was pinned up. The note was found on top of the body of Rooney’s latest victim.
The note enraged Paolo. It was curt, personal, and targeted, and made him feel like a fool. How could one person be so much smarter than the entire team combined? Rooney had always been a step ahead. He’d fled the scene of the crime much before it could even be reported; he had only once left a trace of DNA (a red strand of hair), and even that was too contaminated to stand in court; the murder weapon was inevitably left at the scene of the crime, but it never led to anything. Oh, and the bodies. The bodies were by far the worst part of the entire ordeal. The poor children had been violated in ways Paolo never thought possible, but more important to the case, ways that should have left DNA evidence. However, forensics could never extract anything useful from the victims. Paolo was sure this time wouldn’t be any different but still held onto some hope.
In the same spirit, he had sent the note from Rooney down to forensics too, hoping for a chromatogram or UV-exposure test to yield something, but it too had come back negative.
Paolo hadn’t slept properly in weeks, only taking quick naps to keep his cognitive functions operating, and his system was being fuelled almost entirely by Red Bull. They needed to solve this, and needed to solve this fast, before Rooney claimed another victim, before he left another note, before he added to the cloud of confusion already hanging over this case.
That was what went through Paolo’s head as he rode the elevator up to his floor in the precinct. He wasn’t sure why this particular memory resurfaced, but it bothered Paolo. Maybe Sariah was onto something, but he just didn’t recognise it yet. Or maybe it was just Rooney getting in his head again. Sam Fucking Rooney, ladies and gentlemen — five years dead, but still getting in his head at every possible turn.
Paolo ended up heading down to Sariah’s office much sooner than planned though.
The moment he got to his desk, he knew something was wrong. The dust pattern on his files was uneven, and his mug was resting slightly lower down on one of the stacks of papers than he had left it. Everyone at the precinct had been instructed not to touch a thing on his desk, janitors included. Paolo had a system, and he needed that system to be respected to be able to work. Part of that system was that his things remain just as he left them.
Curious, angry, and worried at the same time, Paolo began sifting through his papers, sorting them into new piles as he did so. He started with the pile with the mug on it because that seemed the most likely to be the one where whatever it is that happened, happened. He worked through each sheet, examining it and then setting it aside when he found nothing. He was very near the end when he finally found what he was looking for. And when he did, Paolo staggered backwards in shock. Right there, sitting innocently was a quaint little card, about the dimensions of the business cards Marcy kept on her person at all times (“You never know when you could meet a client, Paolo”). It wasn’t white like most others though, it was pure black. The darkest black Paolo had ever seen. In the centre, lettered in a fading, but also very much still there, sinister yellow were two words — MISS ME? He clutched it in confusion, fear seeping into his system bit by bit. Paolo turned the card over in his hand, and sure enough, the letters SR were signed off, with the two letters staggered on top of each other so that the S was slightly above the R.
Pitch black, one-of-a-kind yellow, staggered SR sign off. Those were all indicative of Sam Rooney. Only he’d been gone five years. Not gone, dead. Dead! A person can’t come back from the dead, it wasn’t possible. Nothing had ever made sense with Sam Rooney (ferocious guard dogs suddenly fell silent at his arrival, security cameras were conveniently always out of order whenever he struck — the list goes on), but this was a whole new level. Paolo saw him die. He saw the needle pierce his skin, breach the upper layer and continue to push through. He watched as the orange-brown substance flowed from the syringe, through the needle, and into Rooney’s system. He was there when consciousness slipped his form, when his muscles tightened and refused to move. He watched as Rooney went into respiratory arrest, and impassively watched on as life itself dripped from the fiend’s body. And it wasn’t just him, there were at least twenty other people present. Sure, some of them looked away at different points, but Paolo was sure there were at least ten sets of eyeballs on the dying man during the entirety of the execution.
He didn’t want to tell the captain about the note just yet though. It was possible that his brain was just jumping to conclusions, making associations that didn’t exist. Perhaps it was drawing on the fact that Rooney had been brought up just that morning. He needed to be sure before he went and made a big fuss over what potentially could be nothing. A copycat killer, perhaps? He’d read about people mirroring their “idols” before, and the old precinct captain had told him stories of his own encounters with people like this.
Even as he was thinking this though, he knew it wasn’t true. He had a sickening gut feeling that he hadn’t dealt with for five years now. It was Rooney. He decided the best course of action probably lay with Doctor Khan, so he grabbed the card began towards the elevator, heading for his car, phone out and already dialling Doctor Khan.
Paolo faced Doctor Khan’s door, straightened his tie, and rapped at the wood thrice, announcing his name as he did so. A faint “One moment” was heard in response, as Paolo heard her cross the room and come to the door.
“Detective! Thank you for coming so early. I’m with someone right now, but you can come in and make yourself comfortable.” Paolo thanked her and walked in, now frightened to his core. Doctor Khan had always prioritised her patients. Even when he originally came to her with the Rooney case, she made him wait outside until she was done. This time though, not only was he allowed in, she seemed to be wrapping up early too.
“Sorry Timothy, Detective Denis is here, and I really must discuss a matter with him. You know I’d never cut our session short if it wasn’t of the utmost importance. We’ll pick up another time, if that’s okay with you.” The kid’s face fell, but he collected himself and said it was alright. Before leaving, he shook Paolo’s hand and his eyes shone at his badge.
“Kid wants to be a detective, you know. I think that’s part of the reason he was so accepting.”
“Yeah, I saw some sort of a spark in his eyes when he shook my hand.” Sariah gave a little chuckle before suggesting they get down to business right away.
“Before I show you what I have, I understand he made you a little visit?” Paolo gingerly pulled out the card from his pocket and lay it on the table between them. Sariah picked it up and examined it, finally coming to the same conclusion as he had. Fear flashed across her face, and although it was soon gone, Paolo recognised it. “So, you think it’s from him too?”
“Undoubtedly.” She shuddered. “What the fuck is going on?”
“That is the question, isn’t?
Now, could I have a look at what you have?”
Sariah got out all the evidence she had amassed and lay it out, covering the entire table. There were notebooks filled with extensive notes, stills of sessions (Sariah was one of the only people in the world to take pictures of her sessions — like the few others, she kept them to be able to look back on physical changes in her patients), drawings that each of the children had made, and an attendance sheet of sorts for each child. “This is it. I’ve highlighted the parts of the notebook that are relevant; they’re copies, of course. I’d never tamper with the originals.” But Paolo had stopped listening. He was staring at the drawings the kids had made and the descriptions that Sariah had attached underneath. Most, naturally, weren’t very well-drawn (it seemed like each child had made more than one), but one of them stood out from the rest and stared at him right in the eye. There was no mistaking it, he was looking right at Sam Rooney.
This is part one of a larger series called Sam Rooney. So, if you liked this part, subscribe now to be kept in the loop!
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