Flash Fiction Story 034: The Last Resort

Contrary to what most might think, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit 5 (BAU-5, which included elements of what had been the Bureau’s famed Behavioral Science Unit) doesn’t strictly rule out the option of using self-professed psychics—or other individuals claiming some degree of paranormal abilities—to assist in the investigation of serial or other violent crime. 

This is not to give one the image of a David Duchovny-type reaching out to ever Tom, Dick, and Professor X with a gift for three-card monte. Bureau guidance does not acknowledge the usefulness or even the existence of any paranormal abilities. They do acknowledge that some people with “the gift” are possessed of an unusually high degree of intuitive thinking and a keen sense of observation. This is what allows them—that is, the best of them—to appear to pull eerie details from the ether. It is what also might allow them to be of some help in resolving otherwise intractable cases.

Psychics are not to be used in place of traditional investigative techniques. They are only to be used as a last resort.

All of this Detective Dewine tried to explain to her partner, Detective Corsano. As one might expect, the latter was still skeptical. But they were truly at their wit’s end when it came to the “Origami Flower” killings. Of course, only the police—and even then, those that actually worked on the case—called it that, referring to the folded-paper representations of brightly-colored corolla found on the bodies. Everyone outside of the building referred to it as the “Park Bench” killings, for where the bodies had been found. Most police had long since decided that the bodies were dead by the time they had been placed at parks around the city. This might have led to a quick capture, if only the perp had been less methodical. The killings paused after the second body was found at a park, and didn’t start up again until after the department could no longer justify the stakeouts at every local park into the wee hours of the morning. The last three bodies had been found nowhere near a park, but the flowers had remained. Police work would be a hell of a lot easier if there wasn’t freedom of the press.

“Okay,” Corsano relented, only because he could come up with no other appeals to reason that weren’t immediately countered with the reality that they were out of ideas. “Bring the lunatic in.”

Dewine moved toward the station waiting area and brought the “expert” she had enlisted. The psychic was an older woman, with the kind of grey streaking in her hair that was clearly not on purpose through any sort of dye job. She wore deep black lipstick. A faint whiff of sage accompanied her, and Corsano couldn’t help but wonder if the aroma was a perfume, or the lingering essence of some ritual she thought could help her commune with the future.

“Okay, Miss…?” Corsano began. He would have forgone the introductions entirely, but realized any nickname he would have used to refer to their new consultant would have been deemed as “insensitive” or “inappropriate” by their Lieutenant.

“I am called Mistress Starfire by enlightened souls, Detective Corsano,” the psychic replied.

“And what do the unenlightened souls get to call you?” 

Dewine shot Caruso a look, but this was as close to halfway as they were going to get. 

“Nevermind,” he ceded. “Now what can you tell us about the murders?”

Starfire furrowed her brow in an attempt to commune with the great beyond, or gently accept an ongoing wave of flatulence. “The person you seek is a man, a young man. No older than you. He is intelligent, but underachieving. He has either dropped out of High School, or College. He is a loner, unable to maintain any kind of healthy relationship either with his family or traditional romantic partners.” She paused for a moment, as if reaching for the highest peak of inspiration for her next thought. “He… Yes, he may have an obsession with either the military or law enforcement, and may have been turned down or rebuffed by either or both.”

Silence hung in the air as Dewine tried to avoid Corsano’s glare. For his own part, Corsano didn’t much care if Dewine felt embarrassed for the turn this consultation had taken. “Listen lady. You just described 95% of all serial murderers, ever. You no doubt have read some of the popular books by some of the retired FBI guys who have studied these sickos, but unless you’ve got anything else, Detective Dewine and I are very busy.”

Dewine offered no protest, and neither did the woman called Starfire. Corsano didn’t need to lead the latter out; she was already on her way.

Starfire stopped at the door. “Tell me, Detective Corsano. Does he only leave chrysanthemums? Or other kinds of Origami flowers?”

“What did you just say?” Corsano asked.

Starfire smiled. “I can see him,” she proclaimed. “But not all of him. He’s a garbage worker. That’s how he picks them. And his last name begins with the letter “M.” She then left without any further word.

Corsano looked askance at Dewine. “I guess we ought to check it out,” he admitted.

The lead went nowhere, although the insight had been spooky. At the end of the day, Dewine saw a styrofoam coffee cup sitting on her desk, complete with a dark black lipstick ring, and a purple origami chrysanthemum set inside. She and Corsano went into quick action, but by then, the woman known as Starfire was gone without a trace. Corsano didn’t say much about their screw up, though. For one thing, how could they have put it all together in the time they had with Starfire? For another, Dewine had been ultimately right: the psychic had been their best and only lead in the case of the Origami Flower Murders.

Art by Eris O’Reilly

Art by Eris O’Reilly