The First Day
The shrill, old-fashioned ringtone woke him from the troubled slumber he’d finally slipped into. Nick had tossed and turned for several hours, sleep proving to be as elusive as the suspect in his latest case. It had been a long ass day, part of a long ass week of tiring detective footwork on a half-baked tip that had ended up leading nowhere. Being a cop wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Still, it was what he wanted to do, despite the less than productive times. He was glad there were not too many of those particularly frustrating weeks.
Nick stretched, yawned, and rubbed his eyes, for a moment not sure why he had awakened. His cell rang again, and he grabbed it from the nightstand. He tried to read the caller I.D. but his eyes wouldn’t focus. In fact, he thought maybe one eye wasn’t quite open at all.
“Cotter,” he croaked as he answered the phone.
“Turn on the TV, dude. You’ve got to see this.”
“The fuck?” Nick fumbled for the remote, knocking it to the floor as his large hands swept the nightstand. “Why are you watching TV and not sleeping? It’s got to be two in the morning.”
“It’s five, and D’Angelo called,” his partner, Sam Longstaff, replied. “This is big.”
Nick grunted as he bent and retrieved the wayward remote, flicking on the television. “What channel?”
“All,” Sam answered. “I told you, it’s big.”
Nick flicked through a couple of channels, infomercials, and music before finding the news report.
The newscast showed a plane crash … or at least something that resembled a plane crash. He raised the volume up.
“…so far there has been no official word about what the 747 hit, but it is clear, at this stage, that it wasn’t another plane…” the unseen newscaster said over the vision of devastation: burning, twisted parts of a clearly destroyed airplane at the edge of a wooded field. “…there appear to be no survivors, although emergency crews haven’t given up hope…”
“What am I seeing here?” Nick asked.
He heard Sam draw in an excited breath. “You won’t believe this one, man.” Sam paused for dramatic effect. “The plane hit a UFO.”
“You’re shitting me.”
Sam laughed with unmitigated glee. “No shit dude, a UFO. Pilot called it in just before they collided.”
“You know it’s going to turn out to be a helicopter or a weather balloon.”
“This time, man, you’re wrong. Turns out the news guys were already filming in the area; they caught most of it on film. This can’t be a weather balloon. Get dressed. D’Angelo wants us at the station.”
Nick swung his long legs over the side of the bed. “Where can I see the shots of the UFO?” he asked, but the line was dead. He showered quickly and dressed.
A real UFO? The thought creased his brow and made his heart beat a touch faster.
Surely they were wrong. Had to be some experimental craft, or one of those spy planes that looked like a bat plane. Or something. But what if it really was a space craft? He shook his head. No, couldn’t be. I mean, this is every geek’s dream, every science fiction movie plot.
He sat on the sofa and pulled on his shoes, tying each lace methodically.
Still, it would be cool. Really cool. It’d be like being on X-files or something. Then again, it could be like ‘war of the worlds’ and everybody dies…
Nick slammed his front door and climbed into the squad car. He wasn’t a car enthusiast like Sam; he just took home whichever car was free or waited for his partner to pick him up. He had more important things to do on the weekend than spend every spare minute polishing chrome and buffing the detail. Well, he liked to tell himself he had more important things to do, but in reality, all he did was work on his never-ending renovation of his old two-bedder three streets over that he’d bought a few years ago as an investment. If he ever finished the renovations, he would finally be able to sell the damn place, and his investment might pay off. If he was honest with himself, he’d admit that he liked to renovate, and if he did ever finish and sell the place, he would probably just buy another and start renovating all over again. Though if this thing turned out to be a real UFO maybe he would take up more interests closer to align to his partner, and best friend. Sam was the one who watched all the science fiction movies and TV shows.
Nick flicked off the radio as he pulled out of the drive and took the backstreets to the station. He was glad he didn’t come in the front when he arrived, the station was a hive of activity, media staff and vehicles were blocking the street, public crowding around, and barriers set up to control the whole thing. Nick had to turn the siren on more than once to clear the milling crowd and gain access to the underground parking lot.
Sam greeted him at the elevator doors, a large takeaway coffee in one hand, and a bagel in the other. Nick accepted them without a word, just a raised brow of curiosity.
Right on queue the floor sergeant, Conrad D’Angelo, a middle aged, stocky man poked his head out of his office.
“Boss is looking for us,” Sam quietly told Nick.
“Best we get our asses in there, then,” Nick grinned.
“He’s been like a premenstrual housewife since I got here,” said Sam, and smiled back.
They started to walk to the office, shoulder to shoulder. Nick was about three inches shorter than Sam, his close-cropped blonde hair framed a very handsome face, his broad shoulders and athletic body making him look more like a male model than a cop. Sam’s hair was darker, though he was just as handsome, his six-foot two frame and longish hair giving him a roguish appearance. Both men were single, in their thirties, and were known in the precinct as the ‘the pin-up boys,’ a title which they begrudgingly accepted with embarrassed good humor.
They had been detectives for nearly five years now, partners for much longer. They both met on their first assignment at a small suburban police station and had immediately taken to each other. Though their interests were chalk and cheese, they at least shared the same sense of humor, if not the same taste in food, movies and music. They did not look alike, however were often asked if they were brothers, such was their easy camaraderie. After so long together they talked the same, they thought the same, they even finished each other’s sentences.
Sam was younger by about four years; the police force was his first job out of college. He was from good, working class folk, his parents had all been honest, salt of the earth people, his father a carpenter and his mother a dressmaker, happily married and very proud of their children. Their older son just started working with his father and their tall, handsome, youngest boy was set to follow in his footsteps. The two girls were following their mother in her trade. All in all, they led a happy, no frills life, yearly camping vacation, public schools, smallish house and a single car.
The night Sam’s family was mugged on the street, his father killed, his mother attacked, and his older brother beaten senseless, Sam changed his mind on his future career. He saw the way the police helped, how they rescued his family and how they brought the offenders to justice. In his heart he knew that was something he wanted to do. He wanted to help people in the same way he had been helped. He enrolled in the police academy the day after he graduated college and he never looked back.
Cotter was different. He was the only son of a wealthy lawyer, his father a partner in a successful law firm, his mother a debutante and a finishing school graduate. He was raised in private schools, holidayed overseas or in the Hamptons, and never wanted for anything. He may have been blessed with blue blood, but he was hardly cut from the same cloth. After four years of watching the wheeling and dealings of his father’s practice he started to question his career path.
The final straw for Nick Cotter was watching his father win the case of a man who had been accused of murdering his wife and one of his children. Acquitted, the man had gone on to kill his wife’s family and his remaining child the day after he walked free from court. His parents were bitterly disappointed when Nick walked out of his father’s law practice to join the police force.
Nick’s first glance of the gangly, mop-haired young Sam standing in the lunchroom, filling his mouth with powdered doughnuts, made him laugh out loud. He was pleasantly surprised when the young man laughed along with him, and a friendship was made. They were paired up to walk the beat together and the friendship was cemented for all time.
No one looked twice as the tall men walked together now, side by side, in step, coffees in hand as they marched towards their desks. They were dressed nearly identically in jeans and button downs, black casual boots and their IDs clipped to their pockets.
“So why were you up watching TV at this ungodly hour?” Nick asked in between bites of his bagel.
Sam ran a hand through his long dark hair, sweeping it away from his face. “I wasn’t up at four. Was up at two, just finished…um…entertaining.” He grinned lasciviously. “Anyway, the TV was on when the news report broke through the program and, well, all shit broke loose. I watched it for ages. Then, the boss called.”
D’Angelo spotted the two detectives and beckoned them into his office. “Did Sam fill you in?” he asked Nick.
Nick shrugged. “I’m not getting much of this. He’s telling me a UFO crashed into a plane. Seriously, I’m thinking someone is taking the mickey.”
D’Angelo shook his head. “This is as serious as a heart attack. The plane was a passenger plane carrying one hundred and seventy-five souls. Here, look at the news report.”
Sam sat on the edge of the desk, Nick beside him as he took a large mouthful of the bagel.
D’Angelo turned the TV that was balancing precariously on his filing cabinet around so they could all see it. The report started with the news crew who were filming a large recreational area at night to highlight the growing homeless situation, when bright lights in the sky caught the lens of the camera. The cameraman’s arm flashed in front of the image, directing everyone’s attention to the spectacle in the sky. He focused up onto the lights and followed their erratic behavior, moving in a way that did not seem physically possible for anything other than a video game. D’Angelo stopped the report and pressed play on a large camera hooked up to the television monitor.
“This is the same camera from the same news crew,” he explained. “This is where things get interesting.”
The second cameraman started to film the dancing lights in the sky. They were bright, almost resembling two fireflies darting around each other. Until it became obvious that these were not, in fact, insects, but two aircraft, as they descended closer to the ground and started firing on each other. They maneuvered like no aircraft that Nick had ever seen, and as they got closer to the cameraman it was clear that they were something very unfamiliar. They were like something straight from a science fiction movie: two ships, sleek, dark, similar, but not the same, the only lights were the jets and the weapons ports as they fired, sparks flying and arcing as the beams of power hit the opponent’s ship, though little damage could be seen.
The cameraman was highly skilled; he kept the ships in focus as they darted about, battling for who knew what. One ship seemed to gain the advantage as it fired on the other; a flare of fire appeared, and flames broke out across the rear of the second ship as it started to climb in a haphazard way. The first ship broke off and sped away and the damaged one tried to follow. A gasp from the cameraman signaled the terrifying sight of a before unnoticed low flying commercial airliner about to cross the path of the damaged second ship. The airliner was coming in very low; it was preparing to land at the airport close by. The strange craft seemed to try to avoid it, but the damage must have limited it from turning as sharply as before and it listed to one side.
The airplane and the damaged craft collided.
The collision was loud, fiery, and horrific. The commercial plane exploded as the strange craft sheared into it, cutting it in half just in front of the engines. The explosion rained fire and debris across the park, people watching the display ran screaming from the path of destruction as the nose of the plane, separated now, hit the ground.
The camera caught it all.
Nick watched, mesmerized, unable to look away as the chunks of wreckage hit the ground, killing anyone unlucky enough to be in their path. A homeless man previously seen sheltering in a cardboard box now ran screaming, as his clothes burnt into bubbling skin peeled from him. A woman who had been pushing a shopping trolley ran as fast as she could as a large hunk of metal sheared her in half, her lower torso falling and her upper body slamming to the ground in a bloody heap at the camera man’s feet.
“What happened to the other ship?” Nick breathed.
“Keep watching.” D’Angelo didn’t take his eyes off the screen.
There, the camera tilted back, the other craft spun drunkenly as it fell, you could almost feel the effort it was making to stay airborne; but it sustained too much damage and finally hit the ground with a white explosion. The camera went dark for a moment while it adjusted to the sudden flash, then the picture came back. People were screaming, some on fire, the rest of the film crew were trying to help the injured while the unseen cameraman continued to film. He started walking forward, towards the place the smaller craft crashed, filming the whole time. Surrounding him were bodies, pieces of the plane, seats, baggage, fuselage, most burning or burnt. The cameraman continued, the further he got into the park the more devastating the scene became. Trees and shrubs were blasted out, there were pieces of bodies here rather than intact victims, and the wreckage was in chunks of smoldering, unrecognizable pieces.
He stepped over a man sliced perfectly in half, his severed intestines dangling between the halves. A woman turned to grab at his foot before she lay still, one eye hanging from its socket, her lower jaw ripped away, most of her throat gone, and where her chest had been, a gaping opening filled with blood. The camera took it all in as the unseen operator stepped forward, holding his camera on the devastation, walking forward, pausing to stop and check the pulse of a man who, once the camera man’s hand touched him, tilted to one side revealing a faceless skull separated from his body, his brain spilled out onto the scorched ground.
The camera tipped back up as the man continued forward. It was incredibly dark, only the flickering of flames from burning foliage lit the cameraman’s path, and it became almost silent, the distant screams and horror far behind him, only his breath and footsteps could be clearly heard. This picture froze as D’Angelo leaned forward and hit the pause button.
“Was that weird enough for you? Just wait, it gets even weirder.” He pressed play and leaned back.
The cameraman stumbled, briefly, and then righted himself. He gasped. The camera swung for a moment, and then pointed at the downed mysterious aircraft. It was damaged, but still surprisingly almost in one piece. It was about thirty feet long and about sixteen feet high, matt black and almost featureless. No windows were obvious, no doors or portals, either. The damage to the craft was easily seen. The top was peeled back, torn like a discarded can, and fire burned in and around it. On the ground around the UFO were two bodies, mangled, but still recognizable as human.
They were clothed in dark uniforms, but too damaged to tell if they were male or female. They were torn open like gutted fish, intestines and internal organs spilling forth, faces smashed beyond recognition. The camera panned around and found pieces of what were most likely two or three more similarly clad bodies.
Sirens could now be heard in the background as the cameraman moved closer; the heat of the flames prevented him from getting much nearer the ship than he was. Sparks arced and leapt from the hole in the top and electric wires spun wildly, blue flames tinged the red and orange fire that billowed from the craft. He circled the ship, filming as he went.
On the far side were more bodies. There was a young male, jeans, t-shirt, half of his chest and right arm were gone. A young woman was beside him, she was on her stomach, the skin on her back was torn away to reveal her spine and ribs, the top of her pelvis could be seen poking bloodily through her skin.
Another body in a dark uniform, missing a head, was otherwise intact. The camera panned up and down, it was a male, and the dark uniform, made of a fabric like vinyl, was more clearly revealed. It looked like something from a science fiction show. There was metal insignia on the shoulders and chest, knee high boots and a large belt with a silver buckle.
The camera panned over and picked up another ruined body. This one was also clad in a dark uniform but slightly different from the others’ attire. There was blood everywhere and the body was ripped from groin to sternum, ribs and muscle exposed. Blood covered the lower pelvis and several large loops of intestines spilled out onto the ground beside them.
Legs clearly were broken as they twisted off into weird angles, on one the bone sheared through the skin and it pointed up towards the sky, sinew and muscle stretched and pulled through the tear in the membrane. The devastation was much the same with both arms, and one hand was torn almost completely away.
The throat was deeply slashed, and it oozed dark blood onto the scorched ground. The camera zoomed in showing a helmet partially torn off the body; now seen more clearly it looked to be a woman. Her hair was white; most of her face was still covered in pieces of the helmet.
The arm of the cameramen could be seen coming into frame as he pulled at the remaining helmet, removing it to reveal a face that was covered in blood and soot, it was cut, ripped and burned, lit only by the reflected light of the burning craft. Small metal pieces caught the reflected firelight, they looked to be piercings.
The camera continued to film her body, showing again her injuries, and panning back to her face. A chunk of fuselage sliced into one side of her face and protruded through one eye. It had torn through her cheek and stopped at the corner of her mouth. Her lips were stretched into a rictus grin, some teeth exposed, others crushed in half. The cameraman cried out in shock as the good eye snapped open, the bright green iris moved and then stopped when it hit the camera. The lips parted; a gasp of pain released as blood flowed freely from her mouth. She took a shuddering breath, the ripped chest catching the cameraman’s attention as he zoomed out. Her lungs, exposed to the night through the massive chest wound, could clearly be seen inflating as she struggled to draw breath.
He set the camera on the ground, still filming, and for the first time the cameraman entered the shot as he leant over the woman to try to render her aide. A young man, slightly built with a trucker’s cap worn backward over a tousle of red hair, he kneeled beside the woman as he pushed up the sleeves of his sweatshirt. Her gaze didn’t follow him, and as he waved his hand past her eye, she did not track his hand. He lifted her helmet off and blood splashed from it, a large chunk of skull staying in the helmet as he pulled it off. Her brain could be clearly seen, the cameraman hesitated, not sure what to do as his hand hovered over the exposed organ, then he tried to place the helmet back on, covering the bloody wound.
The woman lifted one arm, the hand hanging by a strip of sinew as she waved the broken, clearly visible bone in the air. She seemed to be trying to speak, blood splashed from her mouth as well as her throat. The cameraman was at a loss as to what to do so he touched her face, then her shoulder, making soothing sounds that could not be understood by the viewers. The woman stopped moving and laid her arm back down. Each ragged breath she drew raised and lowered her ribs as they pointed to the sky like bloody fingers.
The fire from the broken craft was growing in intensity and the cameraman grabbed the back of the woman’s collar and dragged her away, picking up his camera as he passed it. His grunts and steps could be heard but were being drowned out now by a loud buzzing noise. The sound grew louder as the cameraman once again placed the camera on the ground before he straddled the body of the woman, trying to pull her uniform across her exposed ribs.
“How are we seeing this?” asked Nick, his face a mask of shock. “I mean, how did you get this footage?”
“Cameraman just left the camera on the ground,” D’Angelo told him. “One of our uniforms picked it up, brought it into me not fifteen minutes before you got here. We don’t know what exactly happened next, but look, you can see him collapse.”
The cameraman started using a handkerchief to wipe the blood from the side of the woman’s cheek when he stopped, his hands paused in mid-air. His eyes rolled upwards in their sockets and he fell backwards, and although he was mostly obscured by the injured woman you could see he was having a seizure. After a few moments he stopped and lay still. The woman’s ravaged chest just continued to rise and fall as she struggled to pull in breaths. She didn’t move away, and the camera just kept filming. In the background the buzzing sound grew so loud that the camera started to shake, and the craft exploded in a violent rush of white light.
It took several seconds before the camera adjusted after the flash and it revealed the scorched ground where the ship had been, though now the wreckage was mostly destroyed in the bright explosion, taking the surrounding bodies with it. In the foreground the woman continued her slow labored breaths, her chest rising and falling, but no other movement could be seen.
“What happens next?” Sam asked his sergeant.
“Not much really. You see EMT guys all over the place, and a uniform guy picks up the camera and turns it off.”
Nick drained the last of his coffee, cold now, and stood, confused and concerned. “What did we just see here?” he asked, his voice not quite steady. A rational man, this was something his sanity was fighting to believe, something that he was finding difficult to understand.
Sam folded his arms across his chest. His mind was a little more open than his partner’s, though the idea that this was all real had not fully filled his reality yet. “She was ripped up, that girl. Head to toe. How could she be alive?”
Nick scratched his head. “I’ve seen it before, people go on for half an hour or more till their brain finally realizes they’re dead.”
Sam stood again. “And what killed the camera guy, some E.T. virus? And what the hell was that ship?”
Nick shook his head. “I must ask, how did we get assigned to this event? Isn’t this something the feds would take over, or the military; surely not the Police Department?”
D’Angelo leaned back against the closed door; his hands tucked into the front loops of his pants. “No one knows we got the camera. The men filming with the cameraman just know he died, they probably think he got killed in the explosion. I have found out that the woman is still alive, in the E.R.”
Sam’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re shittin’ me. She’d clocked out, she just didn’t know it.” He pulled himself up onto the desk and sat cross legged. “You reckon she was from the plane, or E.T.’s station wagon?”
D’Angelo and Nick turned to him. “That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, my boy,” D’Angelo told him. “I’m thinking you two get your asses down to the hospital and see what the fuck you can find out. Before Uncle Sam gets hold of her.”
Sam slid off the desk. “This is epic. I can’t believe this! UFOs, people keeling over with E.T. disease, others staying alive when they’re minced, it’s like we’re in a movie!”
Nick shook his head. “Dude, it’s serious, not a Disney adventure.”
D’Angelo moved away from the door. “Just be careful. We don’t have jurisdiction here, really, and we don’t know what killed that cameraman. Just, don’t touch anything, okay?”
Nick nodded. “This is all very surreal.”
D’Angelo gave him a half grin. “Just pretend you’re in the movie that’s playing in Longstaff’s head.” He unplugged the camera. “Don’t mention this camera to anyone. Understand?” he placed the camera in a drawer of the cabinet and locked it. “As far as you know, it doesn’t exist.”
The two tall men made their way to the underground car park. Both were silent as they mulled over the strange occurrences. Neither could believe what they just witnessed. Sam hit the door to the parking lot with his elbow, smacking it against the wall as they marched through.
“I’m driving,” Sam stated.
Nick shrugged. “Of course you’re driving, you dick. I hate driving.”
“Well, we’re taking a squad car. Easier access in and out.”
“Makes sense.” He turned and gave his partner a grin. “Be a nice break from those Japanese plastic cars you like to drive.”
Sam punched him in the arm. “At least I drive. I swear one day I’m forcing you to get a license.”
Nick climbed into the squad car. “I have a license. I just like to be chauffeured around.”
“Yeah, I’m laughing.”
Find out more about Caroline on her website.
Origin of Evil is now available for Kindle and in paperback here. Coming soon to Audible.