"Maybe he's not home?" Morgan suggested, though she doubted it. In her gut, she had a feeling that Alan Steinberg was nearby, watching them. There was a car in the driveway, after all.
"Or maybe he's just not answering," Derik countered, his eyes narrowing as he surveyed the area. "We should check around back."
"Agreed," Morgan said, her heart pounding in her chest. "Stay sharp, Derik."
"Always," he replied, offering her a tight smile before they split up, each taking a different path around the side of the house.
As she rounded the corner, Morgan couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. It wasn't just the eerie sculptures or the silence that enveloped the house - it was something deeper, more primal. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Morgan's boots crunched on the gravel as she made her way to the back of the house, her eyes scanning the area for any signs of movement. The shadows cast by the twisted sculptures seemed to dance and writhe with every step she took, sending shivers down her spine. She shook off the unease, reminding herself that eccentricities didn't automatically make someone a killer.
Reaching the back of the house, Morgan spotted a window partially obscured by overgrown ivy. Cautiously, she approached it, brushing aside the vines to get a better view of the interior.
Her heart skipped a beat as she peered through the glass - and what she saw made her blood freeze.
In the middle of the living room, a woman sat half-naked, mouth taped and tied to a chair. Long white gloves ran up her arms, eerily reminiscent of the crime scenes they had been investigating. Morgan's mind raced, a thousand thoughts colliding as she tried to process the scene before her.
"Derik, get over here!" Morgan shouted.
"Talk to me, Morgan," Derik called out as he rounded the corner, his gun drawn and at the ready.
"Look," she said, stepping aside to give him a clear view through the window. "We need to get in there right away."
"Jesus Christ," Derik breathed, his face pale with shock.
"Window," Morgan decided, her voice steady despite the turmoil churning within her. "It'll be faster, and we can't afford to waste any time."
"Got it." Derik nodded, his jaw set with determination. Together, they prepared themselves for what lay ahead, their hearts pounding in unison as they faced the unknown.
Without a second thought, Morgan swung her elbow into the window, shattering the glass with a loud crash.
Ignoring the sharp pain radiating from her arm, Morgan hoisted herself up and climbed through the broken window frame. She knew all too well how precious every second could be in situations like this.
As if on cue, the woman began to scream, her muffled cries filling the room as her wide eyes locked onto Morgan. The fear etched on her face was palpable, and Morgan felt her heart constrict in response. "Hold on," she called out, trying to reassure her despite the helplessness that threatened to swallow them both.
"Hey!" a deep voice boomed through the living room as a man entered, wearing a large apron splattered with what appeared to be clay or plaster. Alan Steinberg. He looked more like a mad artist than a cold-blooded killer, but Morgan wasn't about to let her guard down.
"Alan Steinberg?" Morgan demanded, her gun raised and aimed at his chest. "Step away from her, now!"
"Wh-what's going on? Who are you?" Alan stammered, his hands shaking as he held them up defensively.
"Federal agent," she replied tersely, her eyes darting between him and the terrified woman. "Untie her, slowly."
The moment Alan's eyes met Morgan's, wide with panic and surprise, his instincts kicked in. He bolted out of the room and towards the front door, leaving his half-naked girlfriend behind. The heavy apron he wore flapped wildly as he sprinted away.
"Stop!" Morgan shouted, but the sculptor was already out the door and into the yard. She followed him in hot pursuit, her heart pounding in her chest.
"Derik!" she yelled as she ran. "He's making a break for it!"
Morgan felt the adrenaline course through her veins as she chased after Alan, who was now desperately trying to get to his car. Her legs burned from the exertion, but she pushed herself harder, determined not to let him escape.
"Alan Steinberg, stop!" she called out again, but he didn't even glance back at her. His focus was entirely on reaching his vehicle and getting away from this nightmare.
She closed the distance between them. What was he hiding? Was there more to this than just a bizarre art project? She needed to catch him, to find out the truth.
As they rounded a corner, Morgan saw Alan's car parked haphazardly in the driveway. He fumbled for his keys, hands shaking violently, while Morgan continued to close the gap. Just as he opened the door and tried to slip inside, she lunged forward, grabbing onto his arm.