“Staring into that old devil’s grin has got me a little loopy. It’s like when you look at a pattern long enough and everything starts to make sense.” I scratched at my fledgling beard and blinked my eyes, hard. It had been a long series of weeks without weekends, all spent sifting through data and poring over old paper files in what now felt like a vain attempt to make connections.

Sahara looked as bad as I felt. Her makeup had long been washed off in the dirty sink between our simple cots. If I looked closely enough, I could see a ring of residue haloing her features like the grime around the inside of a bathtub. She hadn’t smiled in days, and I didn’t blame her one bit. She pushed her chair away from the wide metal table where the disconnected evidence lay strewn. She cracked her neck from side to side and walked over to the corkboard wall that we’d been pinning our conclusions to. In the center was the blurry monochrome photograph of the face that had been haunting my dreams. It was a ghost of a shadow of an inkblot. A snarling smile of a mouth revealed neat white rows of teeth under a shelf of darkness that obscured the eyes and most of a hooked nose. Whoever he was he wore a suit, the quality of which I couldn’t read through the grain and blur of the image. There was a name written in smudged black ink on the other side of the picture, and that name had come up again and again in the pile of anecdotes on the table.

“Who are you, Josiah Malorne?” Sahara asked the picture, voicing the question we’d both been trying to answer.

2014.10.13 – 2023.06.04

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