[Upstate New York.
He is painting again. He has been painting all day, but no matter how much time he spends on any one canvas, he can never seem to complete the picture. Two figures occupy his mind: an Eve, who commits the first sin and makes all men who descend from her sinful by nature, who must be punished for her unholy crime, and an Archangel, a vengeful servant of God come to cleanse mankind of its sins. And yet, even as they consume his every waking moment, they elude his vision. He sometimes sees them in his dreams, but as soon as he wakes, the clarity is gone. Sighing, he takes his latest attempt off the easel, and gingerly leans it up against the wall: Another faceless, colourless, vaguely feminine outline against an empty background, just like all the others. He hoists himself up out of his seat, despondent, and heads to his bedroom to pray for forgiveness and clarity. Before he gets there, however, there is a knock at his door.
He freezes. For a few moments, he remains still and silent, just listening. No one has ever come to visit him before, not since he built this house, so many years ago. The knocking comes again. He wanders over in a daze, and opens the door. He is greeted by the sight of a young woman.
“Hi, um, sorry to bother you,” she says. “My car broke down just up the road from here, and my phone doesn’t seem to get signal out here. Do you have a phone I could use?”
For a moment, he doesn’t say anything. The Lord, he thinks, has seen his struggle and sent him the clarity he needs. This girl shall be the Eve he has been searching for.
“Yes… Yes, of course. Come in.”
[Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Office: Albany, New York.
“6th Floor,” chimes the elevator. “General Assignment.”
The doors slide open, and Jill Carter steps out. A long, wide corridor greets her, with doors to various offices lining the wall to her left, while the wall to the right is austere and white, broken up only very occasionally by a window or an unremarkable painting. It is still early, and the place is quiet, but the buzz of activity – typing, walking, talking, and so on – grows at a slow-but-steady pace as more and more people file into work.
She brushes the blonde bangs of her short hair out of her face and makes her way to her office which, like every other special agent, she shares with a partner. She heads inside, and as she shuts the door behind her, she is surprised to find him waiting there, leaning against the far wall, leafing through a folder. “Miller?” she says. “What are you doing here?”
Kazuki Miller is a man somewhat older than herself, though he holds the same rank. He is tall and fit, with short black hair that is greying prematurely. His black suit is not unlike her own, but as always, he wears a rather conspicuous bright red tie along with it.
He looks up, and smiles wryly at her. “Pretty sure I work here, Carter.”
“Yeah, but you’re early,” she says. “You’re never early. Usually you’re in at the last minute,” she chuckles. “Did Sasha kick you out last night or something?” As she talks, she goes behind her desk and produces a key from her pocket, which she uses to unlock the top drawer. Opening it, she is met with the sight of her belongings: her sidearm, her badge, handcuffs and a small, semi-translucent Bluetooth device, built to sit comfortably in the ear.
Miller puts a hand to his chest and feigns offense. “Excuse me,” he says. “I got up early today because I’m as ambitious and dedicated as anyone else here.”
“Uh-huh,” says Carter, flatly, as she retrieves her weapon. The weight of the black, standard-issue handgun is comforting, and she tucks it into the shoulder-holster that rests by her left side, under her suit.
“The fact that my neighbour’s dog started barking its head off at 4 AM and didn’t shut up until 6 has nothing to do with it all.”
“Purely a coincidence, I’m sure.” She snaps the badge onto her belt, by her right hip. The handcuffs also clip onto her belt, at her back, and the Bluetooth device slides into her right ear, where it synchs up with the phone in her pocket.
“Anyway, unless you’re planning a one-woman raid of the Administration level, I assume you’ve already figured out that we’ve got a new case.” He shuts the folder and waves it at her.
“As much as that would be an interesting way to start the day…” she says. “Give me the details.”
“This is a suspected kidnapping,” he says, opening the folder back up. “Our victim is Natalie Marsh, 23, from Maine. Seems pretty ordinary: no record, no obvious connections to anyone with a record, decent attendance at school, lives at home with her folks… Says here she was taking a year off college, and planned to go on some road trips.” He flips through a few of the pages. “Doesn’t look like she went anywhere too interesting, though. Not on her last trip, anyway. The planned route she gave her family says she was only going to go as far as Wisconsin, though the last place she called her parents from was Vermont. She disappeared a bit less than 2 months ago, and the case went cold. State Police departments in and around Vermont are still running ads to get her face out there, but so far, no luck.”
Carter walks over to him, to read the file herself. “She didn’t bring anyone with her?”
“Nope,” says Miller. “By the looks of things, she brought herself, her car, some cash, and whatever she could fit in the trunk.”
“And her parents just let her do that?”
“Uh, yeah,” he says. “Did you miss the part where she was 23? I don’t think her parents could have stopped her even if they had had a problem with it.”
Carter takes the folder from him and starts flipping through its pages herself.
“I mean,” Miller continues. “A solo road trip’s not exactly uncommon. It’s pretty mild, really, as far as what twenty-somethings usually get up to. What were you doing at 23?”
“Nothing exciting,” she says, idly. “Finishing up university and working part-time, mostly. I was pretty boring in my twenties.”
“So you’re saying not much has changed, then?” says Miller, as a sly grin crosses his face.
She rolls her eyes. “Walked right into that one, didn’t I?”
He chuckles. “Ah, but part-time jobs! There’s something I don’t miss. Was it a fast-food joint for you? Or maybe some kind of clerical work?”
She flips to the end of the folder, then snaps it shut. “I worked at a gym, actually. Taught self-defence for a while.”
“Figures, given how much of a martial arts aficionado you are.”
She shakes her head. “Anyway, if the case went cold, what’s changed?”
“We got a tip,” replies Miller. “An anonymous one, but still. It’s promising.”
[Upstate New York.
Ordinarily, Dean would not venture so far outside of town, and certainly not so late at night, but he owes money to his drug dealer. Roberto and his gang are a violent bunch, which makes them just slightly scarier than the thick woods that flank the dirt road he’s walking down. He is hunting for a car, or more specifically, a nice hood ornament that he could sell to pay off at least part of his debt. Obviously there were plenty of parking lots in town, but he couldn’t go to any of them. What if Roberto or some of his goons spotted him? They’d harass him for money he didn’t have, and he was sure that would not end well for him.
He jumps at every rustling leaf or snapping twig as thoughts of wolves, bears, mountain lions and even Bigfoot fill his paranoid mind. Old stories of “Butcher Bill, the Mad Hermit” keep resurfacing in his mind. Wasn’t the Butcher supposed to live in these woods, just outside of town? If even some of those old stories were true… Dean shakes his head, and tries not to think about it.
He knows how unlikely it is that he’s ever going to find a car out in woods, but he also knows he can’t just give up and go home empty-handed. So he soldiers on, despite his trembling hands and worsening sense of vertigo. He hasn’t gone far when distant screaming sends a chill down his spine, and as he reluctantly turns his head, he sees a little footpath through the trees.
Equal parts curious and scared, after a moment of hesitation, he begins to make his way down the path. Even as he is walking, a little voice in the back of his mind tells him that this is probably a bad idea, but Dean ignores it. He has never had very good judgement.
He soon reaches a clearing in the woods, and sees a very small, run-down house at the top of a hill. He creeps just a bit closer, despite his shaking legs and pounding heart. For a moment, he begins to wonder if maybe whoever owns this house has left something outside that he can bring back to town and sell.
The front door flies open. A girl falls out, bloody, screaming, and with ropes around her ankles. For just an instant, they make eye-contact. He sees the abject fear on her face, the immense desperation in her eyes…
And he runs for his life. But not before seeing the silhouette of a man, standing in the doorway behind her. Butcher Bill. Who else could it be?
Interstate Highway 87.
“I can’t believe you’ve never watched it,” says Carter. “It’s a classic show!”
Miller rolls his eyes and stares out the passenger-side window. “I don’t know. It sounds kitschy and weird.”
“What’s with you?” she says, a bit defensively. “‘The X-Files’ was a great show. Shut up.”
He chuckles. “Why do you like that show so much, anyway? You weren’t even around to watch it. It aired in the 90’s, didn’t it?”
“It came back in 2016,” she says. “I caught the first few episodes, liked them, and looked up the original series online.”
“Don’t tell me you joined the FBI because ‘The X-Files’ inspired you?” He laughs.
“Well, that wasn’t the main reason why I joined…” she shakes her head. “Not that you have any business making fun of me. I know for a fact that you were motivated to join just to one-up your brother.”
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Two months ago, Natalie Marsh, 23 years old, vanished. The FBI and State Police forces investigated for weeks but came up with nothing, and the case went cold. Then, out of the blue, an anonymous tip is received: someone is being held captive near Placidtown, a small place in Upstate New York, and their description matches Natalie's. The FBI reopens the case, and assigns Special Agent Jill Carter and her partner, Kaz Miller, to the investigation. But once they begin looking in to Natalie's disappearance, they are confronted with a recurring theme: a local urban legend about a killer, "Butcher Bill, the Mad Hermit." Could there be any truth to these old legends? What really happened to Natalie? Join Agents Carter and Miller as they track her down and discover that things might not be as simple as they seem...