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`Yeah, this is Patton', I mumbled, picking up the telephone. As my eyes became more focussed, growing accustomed to the darkness, the familiar outline of my bedroom furniture gave me little comfort. My heart sank as my worst fears were confirmed.
`Hey there, Detective,' I sat upright, trying to shake off the tiredness. `It's time to play. You want her back, you have to play!'
I recognised the eerie digitised voice straight away, despite only having heard it a couple of times before. For the last four and half weeks, my partner and I had been working a high-profile case that had been driving us insane. In my fifteen or so years working homicide in the LAPD, I had seen all kinds of crazy but nothing like this. I knew that Los Angeles had its fair share of sick bastards but this one must be close to the top of the pile.
So far the individual that the papers had nicknamed `The Chemist' had struck, and been successful, twice. Up until tonight, The Chemist had kidnapped two girls, injected them with an extremely high dose of a drug called Clozapone and then mailed us the antidote. All we had to do then was to `play the game' and find the girl. This was girl number three, and we hadn't found the first two in time. We hadn't even been close.
Clozapone, in its prescribed dosage is pretty harmless. It is commonly used to combat schizophrenia or as an anti-depressant. Sure, there are side effects but nothing major. In the dosages that this bastard was prescribing it would gradually decrease the number of white blood cells in the victim's bloodstream then systematically shut down their vital organs. It's not quick and it's not painless. A hell of a way to go - and trust me when I say - you don't want to be the one who finds the body. Not if you want to sleep anytime this century, anyway.
The phone went dead, but it didn't matter. I'd had two of these calls before and I knew the drill by now. Wearily I got out of bed, shivering as the cold night air cascaded over me. I walked to the bathroom and stood for a moment as I filled a glass with water; the alcohol I'd consumed last night had made my mouth dry. My head was pounding although I thought that this was as much to do with the beer last night as the phone call I'd just received. If we stood any chance of getting the girl back, we'd have to be on top of our game today, and would need more than a little luck alongside that. I looked in the mirror as I drank the water, and thought I looked older than my forty-five years. Maybe years of chasing psychopaths like The Chemist had aged me slightly, or just maybe I could no longer sink several beers then be ready to go again after little or no sleep.
For some reason, I was the one getting the initial call and that meant that The Chemist wanted me close to the case. I hadn't figured out why The Chemist wanted me specifically yet, but I knew it was crucial. Most of my first week on this case was spent searching through my past cases histories to see if any of my past `wins', had been released recently - seeing if it was personal. Nothing so far, but one thing was for certain, I was determined to make this one another win. I had no choice. For me, each case was either win or lose. In my experience no-one ever drew, and I wasn't about to start now.
Wearily, I went through the now all too familiar motions for the third time in just over a month. A call to my partner who sounded a lot worse than I felt, a call to my station captain, who sounded like he never slept whenever I'd had the misfortune to have to call him in the early hours of a morning and, finally, a call to the PD getting them to check for the fax I knew would have arrived seconds after I'd had the telephone call from The Chemist.
After I hung up the final call, I took a moment to savour the sound of absolute quiet. I knew in just about forty-five minutes, at one of the major incident rooms of the PD, I would be once again surrounded in chaos.