(excerpt from The Order of the Dragon)
Tom Bradshaw sat at a table near the windows that looked out to the beach and Lake Huron. With the morning fog covering the lake, he couldn’t see Mackinac Island. But he knew it was out there, and in the back of his mind he was hoping another body hadn’t been added to the count of violent crimes being committed on its pleasant shores.
He pulled his laptop out of its case, and placed it on the table. He opened it and signed in. Immediately an image appeared on his screen, the strange bloody cross he had been looking at when he retired the night before. He stared at it when he saw it. There was still something about it that was bugging him. He knew he had seen it before, but couldn’t put his finger on it. He had hoped sleeping on it when refresh his memory, but so far there was nothing.
Ronnie Savage, the owner and manager of Savage Bed and Breakfast, came to his table with a cup on a saucer. She placed it on the table. “Would you like some coffee, Mr. Bradshaw?” She asked.
“Yes, absolutely,” Bradshaw said, “But please just call me Tom.”
“Sure, Tom.” Ronnie said and poured some steaming hot coffee from the pot. “Creamer and sugar are on the table, as you can see.” She gestured to the items on the table. “Cook is making up a fresh keish with bacon, cheese, and spinach. Or would you prefer to look over the menu?”
“The keish sounds fine, thanks.” Bradshaw said.
Ronnie noticed the image on his laptop screen, and moved around behind him. She leaned in awkwardly close, placing her arm around him. Her face leaned in just to the side of his face. He was feeling as though his private space had been severely violated, and before he could ask what she was doing, she adjusted her glasses on her nose and gave her two cents about the cross.
“That’s not a cross, that’s a crest or something, isn’t it?” She said, and turned to face him, their noses almost touching. “Like one of those old family crests, on the chest or shield or flag or whatever those idiots did back then.” She must have sensed the awkwardness she was causing, because she pulled away with a puff. “Well, whatever, it’s none of my business.” And she stormed off to the kitchen.
Bradshaw sat silently brooding for a moment, and he knew she was right. That’s where he had seen it before. He minimized the image on his laptop, and opened a browser. He went to Bing and searched, crests with crosses on them. After a few minutes of browsing the images, he gave up. None of them were an exact match.
The bloody cross at the crime scene appeared to have some sort of feathered ends. Though it was somewhat difficult to interpret the true intent of the artist, since the blood had run before drying.
He pulled up another photo, this one from a previous crime scene. A pre-typed message had been written and pinned to the body, Where men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love. It was a quote from Sigmund Freud concerning the Madonna-whore complex. The statement and the cross seemed at odds with another. One was a quote from Freud, a man of science, and the father of psychoanalysis. The other was a cross, a symbol of the Christian religion and corporal punishment device for its savior. One was calling on a message, wrapped in men’s sexual desires and confusion regarding women’s sexuality and man’s confusion with his own mother. The other seemed to be a call back to the old Christian ways, which frowned heavily upon sexual promiscuity. One tried to understand man’s sexuality, the other repressed it. That’s when he realized they weren’t connected at all. And if they weren’t connected, it meant there were two killers. Two competing killers. One seemed to be rebuking the religious killer’s motives. The other seemed to be forcing its religious motives, akin to the Crusades of old.
That’s when the lightning bulb went off in his head. Vlad the Impaler. His brain was racing now, and he had to keep track of the thoughts and make the connections. Vlad III Dracul was the member of a Christian order that had the purpose of keeping the cross defended at all costs. Pushing aside all the typical thoughts that came to mind with thinking of Vlad III Dracul, the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he tried to remember the name of the order. He eventually gave up, as his mind became flooded with so many racing thoughts, he couldn’t pick a relevant one. He opened his browser once more and searched Wikipedia for Vlad the Impaler.
Ordo Draconum. Societas Draconistarum. The Order of the Dragon.
Vlad III’s father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member before him in the Order of the Dragon. Vlad II would later follow in his father’s footsteps in that regard.
Bradshaw clicked through to the Wikipedia page for the Order of the Dragon, and there it was in bright colors. A red cross with orange flames at the ends, not feathers as presumed. He sat back in his chair and looked at the image for a moment. Soaking it in, pondering its significance. He leaned forward to his computer and placed the two images side-by-side: the symbol of the Order of the Dragon and the bloody rendering. He took a screenshot and saved it to his laptop.
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