As I sit here in the darkness with a gun pointed at my head I am writing off my own life. The scrawling of the pen breaks the silence looming throughout the air. What am I doing? I have so much to live for, so much to do and see. After tonight, it would be all over with the simple click of the hammer from a gun. But I do not hold the gun in this case.
A man in black is in my room with me. He has come to take my life. He doesn’t he care that he’s stepping on my goals and crushing my future. Doesn’t care that I’m helpless. I’m vulnerable to the mercy of the assassin.
What if I stop, get up and say no more? What would he do? Would he kill me? How will that be any different to what he plans on doing? But here I sit, at my desk lost in my own thoughts.
I wipe the sweat from my brow with my right hand as I continue to write. I pause for a second in hope to possibly catch a glimpse of my unknown slayer. The dim glow of the candle doesn’t provide much light to ease my discomfort, but I know he’s there. Ready to kill sooner if necessary.
With a flourish of my hand I sign my name. Adrian Mosely. I’m finished. Finished with the letter and with eternity.
As I fold the note I’m conscious of the fact that with the closing of the envelope I will be sealing off my life as well. This is it.
I hear the cock of the gun, the cold feel of steel against my forehead and the final words of the killer. “I’ll see you in hell.”
Before my lips can escape a tiny prayer of help, there’s a swift detonation followed by a feeling of immense pain. A horrible pain that sprouts throughout my entire body that grows and cultivates, seeping into cracks and corners. Rapidly consuming my life and dreams until…until I can take it no more.
And then silence. Stifling the sound of the escaping assassin’s footsteps while I lay in my cold blood with only my last moments to comfort me. The footsteps. Walking away to abandon me like this cruel world has always done to those in need.
“We’ve got another suicide case, Detective!”
In the hustle and bustle of the Downtown Police Station this was an altogether everyday experience. I reached for my coffee mug as Frank Bemis, my partner handed me a report of yet another suicide killing.
I glanced at the victim’s name: Adrian Mosely. Poor guy. What brought these kids to taking their own lives? What could promote them to ruin every chance they have at existing?
Being a suicide detective was a tiring job itself. It was enough to send a guy off the edge, yet I had never thought of suicide. Hah, yet.
I briefly reviewed the case.
“What do you think Carter?” spoke up Frank.
He was always the silent type, young and careless at times. A universal detective, switching from case to case, but most of the times he helped me out on suicides.
“I’m not sure what to make of this case. I’d like a background check on the owners of that gun through.”
“Sure thing, chief.” He answered like he was ready to do anything to make me happy. “Real shame this kid. Seems he had a bright future. Parent’s contacted us as soon as the body was discovered dead on the floor in a pool of blood, a revolver fallen out of his right hand. Seems they have reason to suspect foul play. According to them, their son was a model kid. Star athlete, made good grades, had no trouble making friends…they didn’t know why he would think of doing such a thing.”
“Yeah Frank, I got that all from the report. Still, there’s no telling what’s going on in kid’s minds. I always wonder why I’m put on these open-shut cases. Parents only say there was foul play involved so they can receive their life insurance payments. Greedy bastards.” I stood up and walked around my chair. “But, I’m not getting paid for nothing, so I suggest we check out this kid’s house for ourselves.”
Thirty minutes later we pulled up to 22 Madison Drive. It was funny how these days no one cares about crime anymore. Normally there would have been cars blocking the road and people crowded around the barricades to see the action. Not anymore.
Crime is also scary in a way. People have gotten so used to seeing it, that it means nothing to them.
Frank ducked under the yellow plastic barrier and held it up so I could come through also. Together we walked up to the door, Frank in his tan trench coat and me in my bulging white collared shirt and stained tie.
The house itself was normal. Run down, shady, standard residence on the deprived block. The front door’s paint was peeling and the knocker broken. I opened the door and was led by Sergeant Michaels, another old friend of mine, into the crime scene. On the way I passed the parents of the deceased, who looked hung up in a letter of some sort. I ignored it for now.
“You okay Carter? These cases aren’t getting too much for you are they?” the large Sergeant put his arm around my shoulder and I threw it off.
“Lay off Michaels.” He asked me that same damn question every suicide case.
Finally we disappeared into the boy’s bedroom and I wasn’t surprised to see the usual picture. Blood stained carpet, gun with one cartridge missing, parent’s in the other room too shocked to help out or to watch; altogether this was tiring.
I heard some of the other rookie cops whispering something behind my back.
“Isn’t that Hard Carter?” one said.
“The guy with the wife?” another one asked.
“That’s him?” yet a third said.
This crap always bugged the hell out of me.
“Guys, do mind?” I turned around to face them. “I hear every goddamn thing you say you know. I’m not that old. What are you guys doing anyway? Standing around doing nothing? Get back to work you louses! The captain doesn’t pay you for nothing!”
I turned my back to those idiots again and addressed the Sergeant. “Michaels, did you by any chance see some sort of letter left on the crime scene?”
Jesus, why did they call this a crime scene? There was no crime.
“No sir, why do you ask?”
“It’s just that there’s usually some kind of suicide note…” My voice trailed off my mind went back to the parents huddled over something.
Two hours later, the only new discovery was the unearthing of the revolver’s owner. No surprise, it belonged to the victim’s father.
Another stupid word on a suicide case: Victim. But what the hell was I supposed to say? Murderer? Wasn’t he both? God, I hated these cases.
I turned to the policemen and other detectives around me. “Okay men, let’s call it a day. If any other news turns up, I want you to call me, and I mean it this time! I want every little detail known by me!”
A man with black hair and tough face stood against a wall eating a doughnut.
“Didn’t you just hear me punk, I said the day’s over now get moving. No use being here anyway if you’re not doing your job.” I sneered looking into his smart-aleck face.
These other detectives pissed me off too. It seemed that I was the only one that did their job, while everyone else sat around eating doughnuts and drinking coffee like this guy here.
I walked closer and saw that he had headphones in his ears. He was listening to a Walkman for Christ’s sake! I ripped them out of his ears and yelled so he could hear me,
“Get your butt out now!”
Finally he left with a shrug of his shoulders.
“I think that’s the last of them, Carter. Ready to go?” Frank peered around the doorway.
“Just a minute Bemis, I want to talk to the parents. What was their name again? Moses?”
That’s what I liked about Frank. He had his head on straight. He wasn’t like all the others. Never talked about me behind my back and he at least cared about the people involved in a case like this.
I secretly had known the names of the parents but just liked to test Frank every now and then to make sure he wasn’t becoming like all the other officers and detectives.
He left me by myself and I walked around the corner and into the living room where the parents still sat. I approached them with caution. Both had their heads in their hands and stared off into space.
“Mr. And Mrs. Mosely?”
They answered a little too quickly. Their faces were red and I could tell that they had both been crying.
“I’m sorry about what happened. I’ve done all I could today with everything I’ve been given, but so far this looks like suicide. Body on floor, gun with a bullet missing, and blood from the wound to your son’s head…”
“Yes, yes, don’t mention that. We know what happened just don’t make us picture everything that happened that night.” Mr. Mosely looked me in the eye with a sad expression as he said this.
“Still, we checked out your boy’s room and everything points to one thing: suicide. I’ve got to be going, but if there’s anything you need to talk to me about, you can reach me at this number.” I slipped the father a business card. “Anything,” I restated.
“Thank you Detective…”
“Carter, Detective Robert Carter.”
“Yes, thank you Detective Carter. Goodbye.”
Just before I walked out the door I said one last thing.
“Be sure to let me know when you’re done with that suicide letter Mr. Mosely. I wouldn’t want a nice couple like you getting in trouble with the law for withholding evidence.”
Then I closed the door leaving them dumbfounded and stunned, got Frank, who was leaning against a tree, and together we left the vicinity.
As expected, I got a phone call from the boy’s father the next day. He apologized for withholding evidence from the case and told me that they had found the letter neatly placed on Adrian’s desk. When they had first read it, they learned that it was Adrian’s suicide statement, that it had some kind of sentimental value to them, and at that time they couldn’t give it up to the cops. All the usual crap.
Mr. Mosley also notified me that if it really made any difference to the case, he would mail me the letter at my home address, which I readily gave him.
He seemed hung up on proving that his son didn’t take his own life and that he and his wife would prove it to me if I gave them the chance.
I didn’t pay much attention to this at the time. Like I mentioned earlier, parents know that suicide is illegal and that they can’t receive payments from life insurance if the deceased had killed themselves. Even with their kid’s dead, parents still are greedy. Society today was like that.
“Where to today, chief?” Frank Bemis came into my office and sat down in my guest chair.
“I figured we’d take a trip to the city morgue, Bemis. Think your stomach can take it?”
“Relax Carter I didn’t have breakfast yet. I assumed we’d get fast food along the way and eat while we were there.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
Frank didn’t say anything else on the matter or until we got to the morgue.
We pulled up and Frank jumped out while I was busy trying to park.
We walked through the corridors and passed rows and rows of compartments that looked like filing cabinets. They didn’t fool me for a second. I knew what was in there.
The doctor, Miss René Mann handed me the same report I had seen two times already. I threw it back down without even looking at it, giving her an annoyed look.
The autopsy was the usual thing. The kid was on top of a stiff table. The body was pale, lifeless, and naked.
Dr. Mann only had to look at it for a minute to see that there were no bruises or scrapes. No sign of death except for the large crater on the right side of the head where the bullet had met its mark.
The bullet was found lodged in the brain where it had struck. It was identified as the same bullet belonging to the other’s in Mr. Mosely’s revolver. The case was still at a dead end.
By now, all the other detectives had dropped the case but I still had to see the letter and hear the parents out before I gave up. The only thing I could do was wait.
The next day I received an envelope inside another manila envelope in the mail. Mr. Mosely had been true to his word.
I opened the interior sachet, which was labeled “Mom and Dad.” I was always careful and respectful when I read these things. Inside I knew that this kind of document held the last few thoughts of the suicide victims. I peered intently at the contents of the tragic letter.
Mom and Dad,
It seems that the time has come for me to go on to a better place. There’s no telling what lies ahead for me in life. I feel lost. Like I’m some kind of wondering soul with no purpose on earth.
It seems like I’m trapped between life and death. Not basking in the sun’s rays but not yet inviting dusk’s approach.
I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done, and I’m sorry it has to end this way. I really am.
It seems that this is all too soon, but trust me; if it wasn’t me it would be somebody else.
Don’t mourn for me. I want you to go ahead and have another son. Who knows, maybe he’ll be better off than me.
I wish you the best of luck in your life. Let yours end well. Mine never started, and now it’ll have to end.
I love you Mom. I love you Dad. Please don’t forget me. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do.
Now our time stands unused. I’m cornered into death’s end.
Goodbye cruel world…Goodbye…Adrian Mosely…
I lifted my head from the note and looked around. I couldn’t believe it. The poor kid must have been scared out of his mind, holding a gun to his head. The pain in his writing, the emotion shown from the teardrop on the paper. Or was that teardrop mine?
What would somebody say if they saw Hard Carter crying? Jesus. How long had it been since I had a good cry? Since the accident?
“Damn it Carter, don’t you dare think of that. Not after it took you so many years to forget what happened.”
Did I really expect to forget what happened? Did I honestly think that I could shove that memory into the back of my mind and eventually it would disappear?
Two different voices seemed to contradict each other in my mind.
The tragedy had taunted me every day since it happened. From the day I joined the police force as a suicide detective up until now.
But now the pain and sorrow of that memory opened up and all the emotion stored up inside of me after all these years came pouring out of me like blood from a wound being reopened.
“Oh, Maggie, why did you do it? If I was such a bad husband, couldn’t we have talked instead of ending things the way they did. That way nobody would have gotten hurt. Oh Maggie…” My voice trembled until it couldn’t be understood.
After all these years and even after I had worked so hard to erect this wall of solid steel around me, instantly my grief, my sorrow, my pain was busting all the way through. And I lay there on my bed, sobbing uncontrollably with my head in my hands until morning.
The next day I was empty. I forced myself to get on with my job and stopped feeling sorrow for my own problems of the past. I focused on the letter.
Something was disturbing about it. Something was hidden deep inside between the lines. Something that didn’t make sense. What was this something?
I read the letter again. This time without soaking up the emotional qualities of the adolescent’s writing but searching for parts that were confusing.
“Come on, there’s got to be something…Wait, what does he mean by this? ‘Now our time stands unused. I’m cornered into death’s end?’ What does he mean? Could he be trying to tell me something important, or was this just some seventeen-year-olds’ frantic attempt to end a tragic suicide note?”
I sat here puzzled for the longest time contemplating over what Adrian Mosely could have meant.
There, I said it. The name. Adrian Mosely. I had always avoided getting involved personally with my clients and their suicide victims, but now I had just convinced myself that this one was different.
“Now our time stands unused?” Was he saying that at this time of life, we’re idle and that there really isn’t anything worth living for? “I’m cornered into death’s end?” Does he mean that he feels trapped and considers the only option to be suicide? No, that couldn’t be it.
Maybe he had been thinking of just the right words and took that one night to do the job. Then that means he had been planning this. It wasn’t something that happened out of the blue.
Or was it……? That passage in his letter meant something important, and I just now saw what it was”
Not Suicide. Jesus Christ…I was out of my league. This wasn’t a coincidence. He didn’t write that confusing of a sentence accidentally. All the first letters of the words didn’t just happen spell ‘not suicide’. This kid was a genius. I had to show this to the boss.
I got up from my bed, put on my pants, and buttoning my collared shirt when I stopped. I was a suicide detective. If I brought this new evidence to the police, they would make me drop this case and send in some big shot homicide detective in to get credit for my discovery.
“Not this time,” I decided.
I was too attached to this case, too far to give it all up. This was too personal. I made up my mind to finish the case and find the meaning of Adrian’s statement before I would bring the true killer to justice. Maybe then my sorrow for Maggie would go away and leave me eternal peace.
I drove to Madison Drive on my own free will. I told Frank that I was sick and that I wouldn’t come into work today. He seemed puzzled but I knew he understood.
Once at Adrian’s old home I sat down across from Mr. and Mrs. Mosley and told them everything. About my grieve for Adrian’s death, about the ‘not suicide’ hidden in the letter, and I promised that I would go to the ends of the earth to bring the one responsible for their son’s death to justice.
Mrs. Mosely eyes got sort of moist and before I knew it, her face was buried on her husband’s shoulder and they both were sobbing irrepressibly.
Sitting here in this home I felt as if I had known Adrian all my life. For the first time I felt that it wasn’t my duty to wear a mask hiding my feelings for the victim. Yes, victim. This word could be used from now on.
Adrian might be dead to the world, but I could hear him deep within the bottom of my soul crying for help.
“Mrs. Mosely? Could you tell me now about your son?” I felt bad that I really didn’t know anything about the boy that was slowly changing whole perspective on life.
Mrs. Mosely nodded and started slowly. “First off, you should know that Adrian was a great writer. We were always very proud of our son.” There was a long pause. “We still are.”
“Could you show me any of his work?” I asked.
“Oh sure, he keeps all of his stuff up in his loft upstairs.” Mr. Mosely answered this time.
“Upstairs? I thought his room was on the first floor?” Thoughts of the frantic crime scene brought back memories of how already I had changed within a few days.
“Adrian’s room was downstairs, but he slept and did all his work upstairs in the attic. You don’t know how degrading it is to talk about him like he’s gone. Words like ‘was’ and ‘were’ are so depressing. They remind you about the past and its effects on their present and the future. Know what I mean Detective Carter?” Mr. Mosely asked.
“I can honestly say I do, I can honestly say I do…”
I followed them up a metal spiral staircase and into a small room painted with bright colors. The ceiling was one whole skylight, allowing the sun to shine through all day long.
Mr. Mosely noticed my diverted attention and said, “Adrian used to sleep on the couch up here most of the time. Sometimes late at night I’d come up and he’d be lying there still awake staring up at the stars. Sometimes it seemed that Adrian knew more about the world at seventeen than an old man that has been puzzled by its mysteries for a lifetime.
He looked me straight in the eye and told me in a serious tone, “My wife and I knew that Adrian never committed suicide from the start. A boy like that could have been somebody important. A boy like that could have made a difference but nobody notices that kind of stuff these days. I’m glad you did, and I want you to help us.”
I nodded, thinking about how suddenly reading only a small bit of Adrian’s work had made me cry after six years.
Mr. Mosely seemed even more exhausted than usual as he opened a large trunk and pulled out a stack of documents and manuscripts. He handed them to me to read.
I sat down of the worn out couch and read a few stories that were quite inspiring. They seemed to all be about life and society today. It was like reading his thoughts and his realizations of the world put into a fictional character. All characters in a book relate to the writer either consciously or sub-consciously.
I had always thought that psychology was interesting. You could tell a lot about a person by his or her writing. Like here I noticed right off the bat that Adrian was left-handed by the way his writing seemed to slant back.
“Wait a minute.” I jumped up accidentally throwing all the documents on the floor of the attic.
I turned to Mrs. Mosely, showed her the paper that I was currently reading and more stated than asked, “Your son was left-handed? Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“What difference does it make whether or not my son is left-handed? How’d you know?”
I ignored her. “Does he do everything left-handed or just write? I mean like, could he hold a gun with his left hand?”
Both parents instantly caught on and gasped. This was the proof I needed.
“Wait a second,” Mr. Mosely interrupted. “This won’t hold up in court. I can hold a gun in my left hand and shoot myself in the head, and I’m right handed.
“Picture this, Mr. Mosely.”
“Call me George.”
“Picture this George,” I continued. “Your upset about something and you’re sweaty and nervous and you’re shaking all over. Could you actually hold a gun in the hand your not as skilled or as strong with and use it? I mean, why would you if you’re right-handed? Wouldn’t it just be easier if you used your good hand?”
I paced back and forth now. I was getting all worked up.
“Jesus Christ,” George Mosely whispered. “The question is, who would do something like this?”
“Yes…” I pondered. “Who? And why?”
The killer was out there somewhere, and he had to be caught. Who knew? Maybe all of the suicides that had occurred recently had been the work of this assassin. Now wouldn’t that be something. A suicide conspiracy.
Things had been getting strange lately. I had been awfully busy on numerous cases, and all this made me somehow start to think of Maggie again. It was as if she was suddenly awakening again after all these years of not being in my life. I missed her so badly.
I cleared my mind of these thoughts again and focused on the case. I had to search every nook and cranny of this town before the criminal escaped or found another victim. He had to be captured and prosecuted.
I started by looking through some old police reports for anybody that had covered up murders by making them look like suicide in the past; none matched my description.
I checked up on the local Airport for anyone who had made any hasty reservations out of the country or the city, but once again my search remained idle.
This was a fairly large city, and there were lots of places to check out. The search persisted on being one-sided.
Two weeks later, my intentions for solving this case became known in town. I was constantly getting the feeling of being watched.
One night I received a phone call late at night. The person on the other end sounded gruff and irritated. “Detective Carter?”
There was a muffled breathing on the other end.
“Maybe. Who’s calling?”
My question was ignored. “Carter, Adrian died because he knew too much. Stay off this case before you also open your eyes and see more than you can take.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Is that a threat?”
“You tell me Carter, you’re the detective…”
I was just about to tell the man who apparently was the killer to go to hell, but the line went dead and I was left hanging onto the phone with more questions than answers.
I instantly got to work tracing the phone call to its caller and as I figured, it came from a telephone booth by the downtown docks.
There was no use making a special trip, but I was desperate. I hopped in my beat up Chevy Truck drove downtown. The street was vacant and I questioned a few people that lived in apartments nearby to see if they saw anyone just using the phone booth across the street. Either nobody saw anything or nobody cared.
Not a day went by when I didn’t receive a mysterious phone call or a threatening letter. I wouldn’t exactly call them threats. The killer, whoever he was, was above childish pranks and warnings. Instead, the slayer seemed to be taking notice in me from some unseen spot. Observing, and filling me into what he found out about me. Some of what he found was surprising.
One night I was away, taking a break. I came home and found a small index card on my bed, pasted with the usual variety of different colored fonts from newspapers and magazines. On it, it read:
This could have been a bomb. Watch it Carter, I’m capable of more than you realize.
This was the only thing that was different from all the letters. It was an index card. The telephone calls that he sent all sounded like different voices, but from the tone, I always knew it was he.
I began to get paranoid, watching my back wherever I went.
“If the assassin wanted to kill me, he would have done it by now.” I must have said that a thousand times to comfort myself. It wasn’t so much a fact, but something of reassurance.
Each night I went through the growing pile of papers that were sent. What was the connection?
The same person mailed them all to me. They never came with a return address. They all had pasted newspaper clippings. Maybe they were all the same kind of paper.
I tore off the letters from one parchment that the murderer had worked so hard to paste and held it up to the light.
“Strange watermark,” I noted.
I tore off all the other pasted parts of the letters. Each had the same peculiar watermark in the shape of a bird. I was curious to see what company made this kind of paper and guessed that the killer had purchased it from that place.
It might be a little clue, but maybe important all the same. When you’re a detective, you learn to notice every little thing, beneficial or not.
Poor guy, the assassin had worked so hard to avoid fingerprints and having his calls traced, but he just had made one mistake, which was about to make all the difference. Or did he mean to?
I had just stepped out of my vehicle and was approaching the Paper Printing Company in the West side of town when I saw a man closing up the front doors.
“Excuse me,” I said.
The man turned “Yes?”
“I was wondering. I need to talk to somebody who can identify special watermarks. Do you know if I can get in for just a while? I’ll be really quick.”
“Sir, can’t you see that we’re closing?” the short man said in an irritated voice. “Now unless you’re here for some really important reason, I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
“Actually, I am here for something important. I’m working on a murder case.” I pulled out my badge and showed him. “I’m Detective Carter and you are?”
“Somebody. What’s it to you? You didn’t come to find out my name, so I’ll help you for the reason you did come here. Right this way.” The man unlocked the front doors and led me to a large office where a tall, balding man sat at an oak table.
I introduced myself and told him why I was here. He seemed friendly enough despite the rudeness of the janitor who brought me in here, and told me his name was Hayes.
“Let me see if I can help you Mr. Carter,” he said with a smile.
I handed him the sample paper and watched as he took out some reading glasses and gave the watermark a closer look. He sat there for a minute puzzled.
“Something wrong, Mr. Hayes?” I asked.
“Oh? Yes, well this watermark appears to be a rare type. As you can see, the paper is old and yellowed. Most likely the company is not even around anymore. In this case, you note that the large bird’s wing seen in this watermark is bent inward. Now in the past there was a paper company that used a bird as a watermark, but this differs quite a bit.”
Hayes took out a large book and magnifying glass with a powerful light on it. After about five minutes of looking through the magnifying glass and flipping through pages, Hayes seemed to have figured out everything I needed to know.
“The manufacturer’s name is Eagle Printing Press. They went out of business a few years ago like I assumed they did. Their supplies of paper still around are limited. There is a man named Wormwood who knows a great deal about their company. He might be able to tell you more about who purchased some recently. I suggest you call his number if you’re interested in finding out more information. Be warned though, Wormwood is a shady character. A little strange in a way. Rumor is that he has had some trouble with the law, but that’s in the past now. Tell him that I sent you, and you might get on his good side.” Although this Hayes was nice, he talked a little too much and I was eager to get out of his office.
“Thanks a lot Mr. Hayes. You’ve been more than helpful. If there’s anything I can do for you in the future let me know. I’m sure you know my number. It’s 911.” I laughed. “Bye.”
I browsed through the yellow pages for an address to the number I had received, and soon found it. Minutes later I pulled up to Green Ridge Apartments and knocked on room A5. A lanky, shady looking fellow answered the door and peered at me nervously when I told him that I was a cop.
“Mr. Tom Wormwood I presume. I’m here on a mission and I have no interest in your past so if it’s okay with you, I’d like to come in. Mr. Hayes recommended your advice and said that you could be trusted.
The awkward fellow opened the door just barely wide enough for me to come in. Then he sat me down of a leather couch.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“No thanks, let’s get down to business.”
“I understand that you were an accountant for the Eagle Printing Press. I need a list of names of people who would have last bought large shipments of your paper before your company went out of business. Do you think you can help me?”
“There’s a chance that I might still have just the information you need downloaded on my hard drive. Let me check.” Tom sat down at his large computer and rapidly started typing in numbers and letters. It was amazing how fast accountants type.
While he was searching I took the time to inquire about the business. “How did you happen to lose your job anyway if you don’t mind telling me Mr. Wormwood?”
“I didn’t get fired if that’s what your thinking. The company’s money started running low until we went bankrupt. Hundreds of others like myself lost their jobs. I got into some trouble after that, but I’d prefer not to talk about it.”
“Sure thing, but if you are running from the law, I would have to do something about it. It is my job you know.”
Then things started turning nasty. “Look, I didn’t ask if you had a warrant, Detective. I stayed out of your business and I’d appreciate if you stayed out of mine.”
“Look, just give me the list will you?”
“What if I say no? Will you arrest me?” he asked cunningly.
“I might.” I decided to play it cool.
“Look, you don’t know anything about me. You came for a list of names not to accuse me, so get on with printing your list and get the hell out of my apartment!”
I remained silent and reached for a pile of disks that he had, stuffed it into his A drive and saved the data on the screen onto the disk.
“I’d appreciate, Detective, if you didn’t touch my computer.”
“Just chill out, Thomas.”
“The name is Tom. Tom Wormwood. Anything else makes me mad, and you don’t want to see me when I’m mad.”
“I’ll take your word for it. The way you’re acting, I might have to take you into custody.”
“I told you to might your own business, Copper!” He took a swing at me and I ducked, grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.
“Listen here, I’m a detective not a cop. I have no problem throwing you in jail without even a sentence. Trying to assault a member of the police force can give you time for 2 years enough. Got it?”
The file just finished writing everything off and I pushed the button on the drive and grabbed the disk.
“You better clean up your act, Thomas.” And then, without so much as even a thank you, I walked away.
I spent the next week either on the phone, staring at the computer or visiting suspects or anybody that could help. There must have been hundreds of sources and buyers of this company’s paper. I eliminated most of the people that were too old to be involved in anything illegal. Others were dead. Soon, only a few large shipments remained. Some people hung up on me, thinking I was crazy asking about paper. Others were rude and hung up. I lost my temper several times and called again just to tell them off.
Worst of all, I was straying farther and farther from my police work as a suicide detective. There were days when I came to work late and tired from staying up all night, and other days I didn’t even show up.
Frank Bemis had called once concerned about my health. He said that I had been acting strange lately ever since the case of Adrian Mosely.
Poor Frank, if only I could tell him the truth. The reality of this world and the reason Adrian was killed.
Adrian was becoming my whole life. There were nights when I didn’t sleep, making notes about all the people I had called, how they had reacted, and on a scale from one to ten, how much I suspected them.
It wasn’t until Thursday did I talk to Steve Hudson. I found his number nearly last on the list and his grandfather had been ordering the Eagle’s paper his whole life. When the grandfather died, the paper got mixed up in the inheritances of the will.
Apparently, the paper was stored in an office that this Mr. Hudson used and he had recently had a robbery where only a few pieces of jewelry were missing as well as large stacks of the paper. It seemed that this was the man I was looking for.
That afternoon I showed up on his doorstep. The house was actually a large mansion in Nottstown, two cities away. By the time I walked from the front gate and across the lawn, the man had already opened the door to greet me. He had obviously been expecting my company.
“Mr. Steve Hudson, I’m Detective Carter. I believe we spoke on the phone only a few hours ago.” I said shaking his hand. I pulled back my overcoat to show my detective badge pinned to the lining.
He nodded his head in approval and said, “I remember, Mr. Carter. It’s hard to forget someone who calls you early in the morning to ask about paper made long ago. Come in, come in, and let me tell you the whole story. I must say though, it isn’t much.” Hudson opened the door and let me into his spacious home.
Hudson himself was heavyset and pretty young, maybe early thirties or late twenties. He seemed intellectual enough and he had obviously come from a rich, cultured family. His home was loaded with priceless artifacts, tapestries, and old statues and paintings. It was no surprise why Steve hadn’t bothering calling the authorities about a few pieces of jewelry. Why, if the thief wanted, he could have taken millions of dollars worth of stuff.
“I guess I should start at the night of the robbery,” he started. “I had come home from a get-together with neighbors about three weeks ago and I noticed that the front door was open. My servant, Andrew, had taken the night off. When I went in, hardly anything had been touched. My wristwatch had been stolen however, and one of my mother’s necklaces. The only other things missing or rearranged was the paper in the office.”
“Mind if I take a look around?”
“Sure,” he said. His face got kind of red and he looked embarrassed about something. “Would you mind if I watch you? You see I’ve always been a detective fan. Started reading the old Hardy Boys books when I was six. Ever since, it’s kind of been my hobby and my dream to investigate crimes. I promise I won’t get in your way.”
“Alright, why not? It couldn’t hurt. Show me around. I feel like I’m going to get lost in this house.” I laughed.
Steve led me upstairs and down a down corridor talking nonstop the whole way about how when he was little he used to dress up like a detective and try to solve crimes in the neighborhood. Boy, did this criminal pick the wrong house to steal paper from.
“When I found my house broken into, I investigated a bit on my own. I looked around for my watch and jewelry, but I never did find it.”
“Why didn’t you call the police and at least report the stolen property?” I asked walking with my hands in my pockets.
Steve got red in the face and had trouble talking as he explained that the watch wasn’t real gold and the jewelry was fake.
“So I figured,” he continued. “That this burglar obviously had no taste. He must not be a very skilled robber if he can’t tell real value from counterfeit. And from what you’ve told me, I derive he was trying to cover up the paper robbery.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Hudson. Money obviously matters nothing to this madman, otherwise your home would have been picked clean. Hopefully we don’t have a psychopath on our hands that enjoys killing innocent people.”
“You sound as if we’re partners on a case, detective.” He said chuckling.
“You might actually make a pretty good detective after all. You should consider joined the force.” Of course I was really joking.
Steve beamed at my comment anyway and continued. “The question is, Mr. Carter, is why would he bother trying to cover the robbery up if all he wanted was worthless paper. Making a bigger scene would just make it easier to find him.”
Maybe this was all a game to the killer, I thought. Maybe, I was just a pawn on a chessboard under his control. Maybe I was his next victim…
At the end of the tour we arrived in the office. There in the corner stood piles and piles of paper.
I turned to Hudson. “Are you sure that you’re missing some?”
He laughed and picked up a sheet handing it to me. “I’m pretty sure.”
I held the thin paper up to the light and sure enough the familiar bird watermark could be seen. “Just as I thought. Made by the Eagle Printing Press. Now all this paper is the same?”
“Yep. All of it.”
“Mind if I look around the office?”
“Go right ahead. No one’s stopping you detective.”
“Well, you see I don’t—”
“Have a warrant? Don’t worry about it. It’ll be our little secret.” Steve smiled.
“You’re a good kid, Hudson. I would honestly enjoy working with you on the police force.”
“Thank you, Detective. Now don’t you have a job to do? I won’t hold you up anymore. I’ve got stuff to do. You can let yourself out when you’re done. Normally, Andrew would do it, but he’s got Thursdays off as well.”
“In that case, let me thank you right now. You’ve been more than helpful in my search. More helpful than some others that I’ve talked to on this case. So, thanks. Maybe I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, later,” said Steve as he turned to walk out of the room.
Once he was gone, I wiped the phony smile off my face and concentrated on business. Man, I couldn’t believe how much I had changed. Normally I would snap some cruel remark at cheery people like that, but I was being so cheesy now that I figured being nice for a change wouldn’t hurt. I guess people’s attitudes towards you can effect how you retaliate in return.
The office itself was as big as my bedroom. Two computers, a bookcase, a filing cabinet, and a large desk occupied the left side of the room. The right side was over loaded with thousands of blank pieces of paper, all made by the Eagle Printing Press. I had a long search ahead of me.
An hour later I had already looked through most of the papers and had found nothing. I hadn’t bothered dusting for fingerprints because the office was probably contaminated with them.
I was just finishing restacking all the paper and pushing in neat piles into the corner when I found something scratched on the wall through the red wallpaper. Normally it wouldn’t have concerned me what other people do to their own homes, but I caught a familiar word.
That always happens to me. I glance at something not thinking it’s significant, but then your brain finally sends the message that this is something you need to see and you jerk your neck back to get a second look.
Well this is what I did now, but when I saw the name Carter scrawled into the plaster wall my attention was instantly diverted. There is no mistaking your name.
I stared dumbfounded as recognizable small writing focused into words and then sentences. It read:
Carter, I see you’re catching up to me. Better luck next time.
‘6 – 4’ – ‘8 – 2’ – 4
2 – 7 – 6’ – ‘9 – 7’ – 5 – 9
“I guess I’m on the right track,” I said.
But what were those numbers at the bottom of the page? Was it some kind of code? It appeared to be a name of some sort, like a signature at the end of a letter.
I took a pen from the desk at the left of the office and a piece of paper from the large stack and jotted down the message.
“Let’s see if this Hudson character notices this piece of paper missing.” I said to humor myself while leaving the office. Then I walked down the flight of stairs and out the door closing it behind me glad to have found something else to keep myself busy with.
I had been working at the code for hours in my tiny little cubicle in my own office at the station, and I was getting fed up. This cipher was starting to bug me. I had practically memorized the numbers. In fact I had.
I figured that the numbers had to be transferred into letters, but I didn’t exactly know how to do it. Those apostrophes on the side of some of the numbers meant something significant as well. At first I thought that the two fours in the beginning were the same letter, but that only got me off track.
I tried looking through a police codebook to see if it said anything about codes with apostrophes and number figures, but that got me nowhere as well.
The fact that the killer knew that I would trace him to Steve Hudson’s house got me riled up. This guy was smart and he knew what I was doing.
I couldn’t go anywhere without feeling like I was being watched. I started getting paranoid and looking over my shoulder hoping to surprise this unknown assassin.
Even in large fields, I felt this feeling. It was as if death was looming over me, waiting to strike.
At times I grew impatient. “Just get it over with!” I had yelled before. The knowledge of death is sometimes far worse than death itself.
But I knew that I had to solve this case. If Adrian’s death was avenged, then maybe I would feel better about my wife.
My thoughts drifted off for the next hour or so, thinking about what Adrian would have been like if I had known him. I pictured him writing his letter with a gun to his head, trembling all over. Quivering, writing, and scared out of his mind.
Jesus, what monster could do such a thing? But in fact, I knew this monster was human just like all the rest of us, put on this earth with no other basis but to harm others.
“Putting in extra hours Carter?” A voice reverberated deep inside my sub-consciousness. At first I wondered who said that, but then realized it came from outside my cocoon and was being said by a real person.
The next thing I knew, my head was on the desk in my office. I looked up and the paper stuck to my face.
Frank Bemis was in my office and reached for the paper that clung to my cheek. I knew instantly that I must have fallen asleep.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Pretty late,” he said. “I forgot my coat and when I saw the light on in your office, I came to see what was up.”
“Nothings ‘up’ Frank, so you can go home now.”
“Boy, that was harsh Carter. Is something wrong? You’ve missed a lot of workdays, and the chief is starting to lose his temper. Now I’m your buddy, Carter. You can talk to me. What’s been going on in your life that has been making you act so strange lately?” He sat down in the chair opposite of my desk and gave me the look that said that he was staying until I told him everything.
“You’re right, Bemis. I have been acting strange, and I’m sorry about snapping at you like that. You’re the one guy on this force that understands me. I’ve just been a little tired lately. Other than that, nothings a matter.”
He gave me a look that said he wasn’t buying it, but all the same he got up to leave giving me that same bizarre glare.
“For Christ’s sake Bemis, I look this way because I just woke up. Now please leave me alone. I’ve got work to do.”
“You mean this paper with you’re name and these numbers on it? What’s this all about?”
“It’s just this code that I was working on, okay? Now give it back.” I jumped out of my seat and grabbed at it.
He pulled it out of my grasp and sat down again. “You know,” he said. “I’ve heard of a machine that can crack about any code. Just type it in and watch as it sorts out all the figures to find similarities to exist. It breaks the symbols down piece by piece, transfers them into letters, and spits it right back out to you in plain English. That’s really all I know about it though.”
“And do we own one of these modern contraptions or do you happen to know where I can find one?”
“Not exactly,” he said sheepishly.
“Then why’d you bother telling me all this when I could have been spending more time trying to crack the code? I’ve already tried breaking everything down, counting the amount of numbers used in each break and pairing them up with letters but it just doesn’t work. I tried adding them together and dividing it by the original amount of figures shown, but that doesn’t work either. And the thing that really puzzles me are those apostrophes.” I pointed to the paper in his hand.
“And sleeping wasn’t wasting this precious time of yours?” he questioned not even listening to what I said I had tried for the code. Suddenly his face sort of lit up when looking at the paper.
“Did you ever think that this code wasn’t as complicated as you might think, Carter? Look, the highest number here is nine.”
“Yeah, and what are you getting at?” I said eyeing him suspiciously.
“Just think Detective, what do you know of that uses nine digits?”
I stood there awhile still half asleep and also half thinking, but nothing came to mind. I took back the paper, sat down and looked at it again.
“Well, if you can’t figure it out sometime soon, give me a call. I might be able to help some more later on. You remember my phone number right?”
“Sure, sure.” I wasn’t even really listening to what he was saying.
“You sure you’re okay Carter? This doesn’t have anything to do with your wife does it?”
“What did you say?” I was now alert and gazed at him distrustfully as if seeing him for the first time in my life.
“Never mind, just give me a call if you ever need to get together outside of work and talk about stuff.” He closed the door behind him.
I could hear him whistling as he walked out of the building and out onto the street, while I just sat there astonished for a while.
Never once, had Frank let on that he knew about my past and about Maggie. All this time, I thought the reason he wasn’t scared of me was because he didn’t know. Good old Frank. He was a good guy after all. He actually was one of the ones who cared.
It was then that I noticed that he had left his trench coat folded over my office chair. Bemis was always forgetting stuff like that. I guess I did have to phone him after all.
I looked through my personal phone book, found his home number and was about to give him a buzz.
My finger stopped in mid-dial as I punched in the numbers. My thoughts went back to the code and Frank asking me about what I knew of that had nine digits. A telephone has nine digits!
I pushed away the thought for the moment and finished dialing. His answering machine picked up and I left a message giving him a hard time about leaving his jacket again. I also apologized for acting like such a jerk back at the office and that I was just a little cranky from sleeping with my head on a rock hard desk. The usual phony voice and talk.
The instant I hung up, I grabbed at the code with one hand and held up the phone with the other. On some telephone numbers, they have letters like 1-800-GO-TEAM. Something cheesy like that. But when dialing that number you would have to transfer the letters from that phone number into integers.
For the number two, on the side were the letters A, B, and C. For three, D, E, and F. Four, G, H, I. Five, J, K, L…and so on.
Now suppose those apostrophes determined what letter you wanted. Like a colon to the left of a two stood for the letter A. No colon on a two would be B, and a colon on the right of a two would be C.
Now for the exciting part. Using that telephone code, I transferred all the numbers with apostrophes into letters until it spelled out the name, Mitch Browsky.
“So that’s your name is it, you murderer?” I smiled from ear to ear at my intelligence really for the first time in ages.
But Frank really figured it out before me. He deserved credit for this code. Now I would have to find out who this Mike Browsky is and find him before he leaves town.
Only one thing didn’t fit correctly at this point of time. It was all too easy as if he wanted me to know his fake name. Surely he wouldn’t give me his real name, but why give his imposter identity if he didn’t want to be found. It was as if this Browsky was committing these crimes for his own amusement.
I spent most of the next day visiting hotels and other tourist attractions looking for someone registered under the name Mitch Browsky. I must have gone through at least four different phone books searching through the residential white pages and the commercial yellow pages. The name Mike Browsky appeared nowhere. Not even one person with the same last name emerged.
If only I knew more about this shady character then his phony name. Like what did he look like? Nobody had heard of him.
I searched through the old police records dating back from fifty years ago. I tried the library looking through old newspaper articles hoping to catch his name. No new information materialized out of thin air.
Finally, I had pretty much given up on my hopeless search. I decided that if this killer wanted to be found so bad, let him come to me. The safest thing I could do was carry around a gun.
I took a short break from the case and walked along the streets in the bad part of town, where everybody knew of everyone from the outside.
It had occurred to me that this Mitch could be an insider. Working his way through the town planting clues and arranging these fake suicides. Maybe I had gone about this the wrong way. Maybe he could be somebody that was well known across town with a completely opposite name. Maybe it was actually someone I knew and that was why I hadn’t picked up on anyone watching me that seemed unfamiliar.
Still, it might be better if I explored the streets myself.
After about an hour, I stumbled into a tavern, tired and ready for a drink.
The good thing about being a detective was that you didn’t have to wear a uniform. Some people don’t take kindly to cops, especially the ones in this area.
When I walked in, some men grunted, acknowledging my approach, but other than that, nobody seemed disturbed.
I sat down at the bar and ordered a beer. The bartender eyed me skeptically. He was a portly man with an unshaven face, had tattoos all over his arms and a nose ring connecting from one nostril to the other like a bull. Despite his grungy appearance, and once the ice was broken between us, he seemed pretty friendly.
“So what are you doing around these parts?” he asked.
“I mean you don’t see an outsider like you everyday.”
“I guess you could say that I’m here on business and decided to stop by for a drink. Speaking of outsiders, you haven’t happened to see anyone by the name of Mitch Browsky by any chance, have you?”
“Sorry Mac, there’s lots of people who come here and it ain’t my job to keep track of ‘em all. That would be the wife’s job.”
“You have a wife?” Every time I heard that word I winced. “Any idea where I could find her?”
“She might still be upstairs. We run an inn up there. Sometimes when people pass out in the bar, we take ‘em up and let them sleep their hangovers off. We also take in a lot of strangers who don’t have much cash on ‘em.”
“That’s very nice of you,” I said brusquely. “Could you show me where your wife is?”
“Sure thing Mac.” He never caught on to the edginess to my voice. “Take that door to get upstairs. Once there, take a right and knock on the door at the end of the hall. The hag should be in there sleeping. Don’t worry about waking her up, just try to stay on her good side.”
“Thanks a lot.” I said getting up from the stool without finishing my beer. I put some bills on the bar counter and left, leaving him the rest as tip.
I went through the door and up the stairs. The stairs were wobbly and old, creaking with every step. I had to hold on to the railing to keep from falling when one broke beneath my weight.
“Great job, Carter.” I said to myself. I had just gotten here when I already broke something.
I thought about what the bartender had said, and knew that I always had trouble keeping on somebody’s good side. Hopefully this wife of his wouldn’t give me any trouble.
I finally reached the top, took the right turn down the hallway and approached the room where the bartender’s wife was supposed to be. I knocked softly twice and opened the door without waiting for a response.
Inside I found a grumpy looking lady in her mid-fifties with graying hair. She wore thick, wired-rimmed glasses and gave me a nasty frown. I got the idea that I was due for some trouble.
“What do you think you’re doing barging in on somebody like that?” she screamed impatiently, lying down on a bed watching television. She looked at me as if enquiring my presence.
“Are you the bartender’s wife?”
“Depends. Who’s asking?” she stated again blankly watching the television. I always got that response.
I went over and shut off the T.V. “Detective Robert Carter, ma’am. I’m here on a murder case, looking for a subject who might have stayed or be staying in your inn. Would you happen to have a Mitch Browsky listed in your inn here? It’s important that I find him.”
She ignored my question for the moment, sat up and asked, “Do you have any identification?”
I sighed, and pulled out my badge.
I moved my hand closer.
“Closer!” she screamed again.
This woman was really getting on my nerves, and mostly out of sarcasm I put my ID directly in front of her eyes. She moved my hand away and held it at a reasonable distance from her eyes.
She gave me a snort of disgust, removed her glasses as if all hell was about to break loose and said, “It says here that you work on suicide cases, Detective,” she emphasized the word detective. “What are you doing working on a murder case.”
“Listen here Miss.”
“No you listen detective, you need to get out of here before I get the real cops on your butt. Now scram! Out!”
Next thing you knew, I was back downstairs again drinking another beer and talking with the bartender.
“So the old lady gave you trouble eh?” he asked. You just gotta get used to her that’s all. Guess now, you’re glad you’re not in my shoes. I have to put up with that crap twenty-four seven.
“Jesus,” I said, taking another sip from the bottle in my hand.
“Well the thing is, my wife has sort of a thing for cops.” We had a little trouble with them in the past. But we’re clean now.” He said that last part quickly, wiping the inside of a mug with a towel. I got myself a nice tavern and my wife runs the inn upstairs. We gots a nice little life now. Who exactly were you looking for again?”
“Guy named Mitch Browsky. How’d you know I was a cop?”
“No offense, but you can always pick a cop out from a crowd.”
“Offense? Why would I take offense? I take pride in my work. Actually, I’m a suicide detective working on a murder case.”
“What? Why a murder case?”
“It’s a long story.”
He nodded as if he understood. “Know what Mac?”
“I was thinking…”
“Whoa,” I laughed, “You were thinking?”
“Do you wanna hear this or not? I got a business to run and I don’t need no cop making funs of me.”
“Sorry.” I apologized. “Go ahead, talk.”
“Okay. I was thinking…” he paused, waiting for me to say some wisecrack but when I didn’t he continued. “Maybe this fugitive guy, Mitch Browsky has a tab or something here. A lot of the residents in this here inn spend the day drinking and watching the game on T.V. downstairs. Most have themselves a tab, to pay off later when they check out.”
“Interesting…” I said rubbing my chin with one finger. “Mind if I browse through them for a name.”
“Go right ahead Mac.” He reached under the bar and pulled out a stack of papers, receipts, bills, and tabs. “I haven’t had time to separate them yet, so I’ll let you do it for me,” he grinned.
“Thanks a lot,” I said sarcastically.
I must have sat there for an hour digging through papers. Thousands of names were permanently blazoned in my mind, and often I had to remind myself several times which one I was actually looking for. I must have actually run the name Mitch Browsky through my head that I was actually imagining seeing it on paper.
In the very end though, it all paid off. I sat at the bar on a wooden stool holding a bill high in the air, with the name Mitch Browsky signed on it with a flourish. In the top right hand corner, the number B12 was typed neatly.
I stood up quickly, and all the receipts, tabs, and bills that sat in a pile on my lap fell to the floor just like Adrian’s poems and stories did in his attic. I reached quickly into my pocket and pulled out my Colt .45 holding it up in the air with my right arm as I starting walking upstairs.
By now the tavern was basically empty except for a few drunkards and bums. The bartender had left his post and I was alone and ready to find this killer under the alias of Mitch Browsky.
I rounded the corner and avoided the open doorway to the right leading to that old hag’s room. I kept walking slowly down the halls looking from side to side watching the numbers on the doors.
The B’s started at the end of the hall and it was a little ways before I approached a twelve. It was sort of hard to see because the number two wasn’t screwed in tight and was hanging upside-down.
This was it, I thought. Time to catch the criminal, bring the assassin to justice, sooth my aching past. Time to get vengeance on young Adrian’s murder.
Maggie’s name popped up in my head when I thought of this, but I pushed the thought aside for a moment yet again. I needed to stay alert and cautious.
This was my chance. I stood, back against the doorway, gun raised and ready to kill. I wished myself luck, and with a swift kick, my heel smashed against the door, sending it flying ajar.
I turned quickly to face the open doorway, gun drawn.
“Freeze! Police!” I yelled as my eyes made a clean sweep of the small room.
Only a mattress with springs poking out lay in the corner of the cramped space. The only other object in the room was a small nightstand with an envelope resting on it.
I sighed, walked over and picked the envelope up. The name Carter is printed on the front in neat letters.
The room was uninhabited clearly, and Browsky had gotten away. I had a feeling that this was the end, that he was gone forever, out of my life as fast as he had come in.
This Mitch Browsky had done something to me. He had opened my eyes in a way. Had awakened an ancient feeling that I had stowed away since Maggie left. He had made me give up my life in a meaningless search for answers, and he had only left me with more questions.
I held the crisp envelope in one hand, and the Colt .45 in the other. I returned the gun to it’s holster and took out a pocket knife, opening it slowly and cutting the top off of the sachet and dropping it on the floor.
At last, I could sit down and read the incentive of this man, Mitch Browsky’s actions. At last I could rest, be at peace, although my mind was still in a jumble from its disturbance of the tranquility.
I took out the sheet of paper from the envelope and unfolded it slowly, reading every word as if it meant the world to me. Each word did for they spoke truth far beyond I could ever know and reason far beyond I could ever comprehend:
I’m deeply sorry that we had to part without ever encountering one another. I regret leaving on such short notice, for I had not yet had the privilege of meeting you. Maybe I’ll make a pit stop before I leave.
I had no idea that you’d be such a worthy opponent. From that one dark night in Adrian Mosely’s bedroom up until now, you have proved yourself commendable. I respect you for that Robert.
Adrian Mosely was just one of many children each sharing one quality: the power to control the future.
Adrian Mosely had to die Carter. He, like many these days, was starting to know too much about this wreck of a world that they live in. They see that there’s more to society than what meets the eye, and if they’re given the chance, they can do something about it. I can’t let this happen Carter.
Have you ever heard of the ideology known as Social Darwinism? It applies to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which states that only the strong will survive. Social Darwinism just applies that theory to society.
I deducted that if I countered that theory, making sure the strong are killed off first, the intellects in this case, I can truly corrupt the future. To put it in terms people these days can understand, it’s like trimming the flower before it blooms only never letting it ever grow back. If these children are allowed to grow and flourish, think about what they could become? Think about how much they could do for us? I couldn’t let this happen, being who I am.
Who am I you ask? You may consider me mad, but I assure you that I am all too mentally stable. It is my duty in fact to ensure what the future will hold. You might call me a Liberator. One who unfetters this world of its oddballs. The outcasts.
People don’t see it now, but they’re slowly doing themselves in. I just supply the little extra zing they need to blast off into distortion and mayhem.
Now, why disguise these killings as suicides? Let me display the answer with a question: What nowadays is the most common, most overlooked cause of deaths in the world? The answer: suicides.
At this point in time, we’ve become so immune to seeing suicides like the ones I staged with Adrian and others, that it doesn’t mean anything to us. If children and other powerful minds are killed off in the thought that they committed suicide, society wouldn’t even look at the fact that they’re gone because of what they knew. They’ll only focus on the fact that they did themselves in.
Society today is so enraptured by these frequent murders and suicides that they’ve become numb to that fact that they matter. It does matter Carter. What I’m doing is slowly making a difference. Innocent people are dying for important reasons, and society is so narrow-minded that they can’t see it.
Why am I helping you see it? I would say that you know too much already. You stumbled in on Adrian Mosely’s case and you got more than you bargained for. I figure, if I’m going to do you in, why not fatten you up more? Why not open your eyes a little wider before they’re permanently closed forever?
If you’re going to corrupt a nation Carter, you start with the intellects. The rest takes care of itself. You hit the main source, like poisoning the water supply. Eventually it will spread down to the rest of society and when they’re thirst hits them; they'll do themselves in.
It’s really not all that intricate really. It’s just that people these days are so insular that they don’t deserve to live. If they can’t realize what’s going on, why bother stopping?
Only one thing will be left to do after I leave town. Seek more dangers to the future. I’ll go off throughout the world searching for those like Adrian. Then I’ll then wait until just the right moment in time when they’d have reason for suicide. That is when I’ll strike. Like a snake seizing its pray, I’ll attack before anyone even knew what happened.
My tactics? I get to know my adversaries and victims quite well, Robert Carter. I expose their weak points and use them against them.
Know what your weak point is Carter? Maggie. You stumbled in on my suicide conspiracy and Adrian awakened your precious wife. You locked her up for six years thinking your memories of her would eventually dissolve. But the thought that you let Adrian slip through your fingers made your conscience inflict pain upon your soul.
What would Maggie say Carter is she knew you had become a suicide detective? Would you think that she would find it so amusing that she might turn in her grave?
I’ll leave you with that one last thought. Goodbye Carter. I’m off to see the world and put our futures in good hands. My hands.
Until we come face to face, I suggest you stand on guard. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you and I have a date…
He’s out there now. Somewhere out in the universe causing destruction. Or is he still in town looking for me, waiting to strike like he promised. How could I have let him get this far?
I look down at the soil that I’m kneeling on and think of Maggie again. How could I have let her slip through my fingers?
“Damn it Maggie,” I say aloud while kneeling in front of her gravestone in the cemetery. “Why did you do it? If you hated me so much, I would have backed off. Killing yourself only brought me pain. Or is that what you wanted?
For six years I refused to admit Maggie’s absence in my life. I refused to think about how she died. I should have known that when I became a suicide detective, I couldn’t shut out the truth forever. For six years, I kept my emotions confined. I erected those solid steel walls and became renowned as Hard Carter.
But then I came in contact with this Adrian Mosely. He was murdered brutally and without good reason. He had been vulnerable and was killed as an innocent teenager.
He caused me to feel again. To cry. And when that teardrop first fell on his last testament, I was undone. Out in the open, as if someone drove an ice pick into a water pipe, emotions suddenly came flooding through the hole.
With these newfound emotions came Maggie again, my late wife, who is now sealed underground in a coffin. With Maggie, came this suicide conspiracy and Mitch Browsky.
Now as I sit here alone in the night, my paranoia pokes at me with a stick. Browsky was out there somewhere, causing mayhem, annihilating our future, and causing us to forget the past.
Forgetting the past. Yes, we seem to do that a lot don’t we? Why can’t we learn from our mistakes? Why couldn’t I?
Maggie was a mistake that I had made. I had brought her into my life promising happiness and eternal love, but somehow, I had brought only pain and misery into Maggie’s life. So much of it that she stole her life from herself.
I had broken that promise I had made to her when we got married, shattering it like a mirror into a thousand pieces unable to be fixed.
And now I am here, in the graveyard, where I belong. I’m dead to the world, a wondering soul without a purpose. I have lost everything I have ever deeply cared for.
My intense emotions for Adrian changed me, and he was gone before I even had a chance to get to know him. Gone because of Mitch Browsky and his fucking ideas for the future.
All that’s left of Adrian now is his spirit, which is slowly dying just like I feel I am. He is deceased and lifeless inside of me now, gone.
Maggie’s dead as well. I never got to help her, and she left me too. Left this world alone and desperate. Desperate to get away from me.
But here I am now, standing on top of six feet of dirt and rubbish, where she lay trapped in a little box all under my feet. Enclosed inside a coffin, wrists cut and lifeless, all because of me.
There was so much I could have done to save Adrian and Maggie. If only I had opened my eyes sooner, saw what they saw instead of walking around in this world all my life as a zombie like everyone else.
I know this now, but it’s too late. Adrian Mosely is gone. Maggie Carter is gone. I’m gone. Just like all the others, and all the ones to come.
There were more to come. Deep down inside, I knew it. The killer had promised it, and sadly, he could be trusted to keep his promises.
The world is over. All that’s left to come are more deaths, more chaos, and more destruction. And after that…? No life. Nowhere.
Jesus, why did this happen when Adrian Mosely was so full of life and energy? The rising of the sun is always preceded by the coming of dusk.
Adrian might have been somebody. He could have been someone. A savior. A…a…liberator.
I pause for a moment, thinking it strange how that word first came to my mind. Someone who had done away with this liberator named Adrian automatically assumed that position.
Things are starting to make sense now. I realize that when someone dies they pass something on. Adrian helped open my eyes and bring my darkest fear to surface: Maggie.
And now…what now? Can I walk away? Walk away with nothing I came with? These flowers resting on her tombstone, my guilt? An exchange?
“I’m sorry, Maggie,” I say in between sobs. “I’m so…so…sorry.”
Footsteps on the dewy grass. I stay here on my knees alert, and fearful to turn around.
It’s him. He’s here. I can hear him, coming to put me at rest. An unknown assassin in the night.
My name. Spoken by a rough worn out voice, lingering in the cool night air. The one on the telephone.
I start to turn, but then I hear the click of a gun being cocked. Surprise doesn’t engulf me and I put my hands behind my head. Just when my world is shifting into focus, he comes.
Is this how Adrian felt? How all those countless other felt before they were brutally killed by this monster? Nobody deserves to be in this position. Nobody.
In the midst of all this, a sudden anger comes over me, surging through my blood and overcoming my vulnerability. I can feel my face turning red, and my adrenaline slowly reaching a boiling point.
Do I really have to die tonight? Do I have to accept the fact that because my eyes are opened, because I’m now an outcast, I have to die? Do I have to believe that the world is at the mercy of this man?
“I will not go down without a fight,” I whisper into the darkness, but soon I feel the cold steel of a gun on my the back of my neck and I begin to have my doubts.
I’m kneeling here now on Maggie’s grave, with my hands up behind the back of my skull. I’m picturing in my mind the image of this unknown assassin slowly pulling the trigger, and I wait, eyes closed, breathing fast and deep. My mouth moves but no sound comes out.
Then, in a quick movement I grab hold of the gun on my neck, get up and twist my whole body around. I kick the assailant and he goes down.
I get up now wiping the sweat off my brow while the gun rests comfortably in my right hand pointed at the fallen figure.
I see the dark outline of a man rising and I follow him with the weapon. He speaks to me with a smile on his murderous face.
“I see we finally meet, Carter. Nice try on your behalf, but I’m afraid things must end the way I choose them to. There’s no escaping your fate Carter, now put down the gun.”
“No.” I reply.
“Tell me Robert, do you really want to live in a world as an outcast? Live amongst this insolent society? Won’t you get lonely with no one to relate to?”
“I feel lonely because you murdered all the one’s like me Browsky. Adrian Mosely was your last murder. We both die tonight, you and I whether it’s in your plans or not.” I squeeze the trigger on the gun multiple times, and his body shudders as the bullets strike. Light from the detonations of the gun flash, and illuminate the darkness like a strobe light quickly blinking on and off.
At last, the killer falls, and I’m certain he’s dead. I turn my back on the body on the ground and drop the gun.
“Only one last thing for me to do,” I say, facing Maggie’s grave.
I reach into my sock and pull out a long sharp double-edged knife. I hold it up to the moon and twirl it back and forth, watching the light reflect off the blade.
“I will be the Liberator’s last death. Because of him I am a recluse. Because of him I can no longer bear to live.” I feel as if I am reciting a monologue. My lips move to what I’m saying, but I feel like a robot as I work through the motions. “At last I understand the nature of these suicides…” I raise the knife and peer into the shiny steel, looking at my reflection for the very last time.
Suddenly I see the dark outline of a man rising from the soft ground with a gun in his hand.
“Jesus, he’s not dead yet.” I whisper, turning around abruptly.
“And you’re gone Carter.” A loud bang pierces my ears and I fall backwards, toppling over Maggie’s granite tombstone.
The assassin bends down over my broken body and whispers into my ear the last words I’ll ever hear. “I can see that you’re starting to understand the way things work, Carter and I’m sorry to say, but I had to make that one last pit stop before I left town. I never break a promise…”
He gets up and my eyes follow him. He stands over me and points the gun directly at the center of my forehead.
“Send my regards to your wife and Adrian…” the slayer says, and pulls the trigger.
The Liberator lowers his arm and turns away from the still body. He dusts himself as if nothing happened. His steps are normal, for he is in no pain. He is alive and this is only the beginning for him.
He cranes his neck and regards the form bent over the tombstone. In the end, Carter died close to his wife. Now there was more to be done.
Just before the Liberator walks away out into the open world he whispers, “I’ll see you in hell Carter…”
The world is over.
I’m sorry if I couldn’t see
The things you wanted me to be.
For all the times I’ve let you down
For all the times I’ve made you frown.
I’m sorry for you, sorry for us
Our love to me was no big fuss.
The love that you had shared with me
I locked it up, never set it free.
I kept it from myself and you,
Leaving it for god-knows-what to do.
Sorry for keeping you abandoned until late at night,
For coming home drunk and ready to fight,
I made you cry, I made you pout
It seemed all I ever did was shout.
I took your love for granted my dear.
And if only you still were here…
I’d tell you I am sorry.