Another Chapter! Chapter 4 Here
I knew that crime scene. I’d seen it before, spread over a loading dock in an alley in midtown. A scene I left chasing a man who was running from the scene. He was covered in blood. A man who I fired at and accidentally hit a lady further down the alley. She later apologized for getting in my way. The bullet is still in her collarbone, and she baked me a cake to say sorry.
The worst part was that the body disappeared when I got back to the loading dock.
So I took a squad car back to the precinct and I stopped on the highway to grab a bottle of water out of the trunk. I was getting lightheaded. I’d have to twist some balls to get the blood-work off of the scene by tonight. Its not that I didn’t appreciate what the techs did, I just wanted to have some real evidence to follow before I started chasing ghosts. Ghosts seemed to like long car rides anyways.
“I don’t want you to start looking into this” Misha was right, of course. My only stake in this investigation was supposed to be the murder of Adam Kraden.
“But there is too strong a chance that it could be linked.” She knew I wasn’t wrong.
“Michael, you have a pad of paper that doesn’t say anything and-“
“It doesn’t mean anything!” It didn’t mean much, but it meant something.
“Look at this thing, Misha.” The evidence bag and the pad was between us on her desk. “Kraden was holding this before he died.” I flipped it over, showing her the bloody fingerprints on the back.
“Then tell me what to do about it.”
“Nothing. Not yet.” Misha wasn’t happy. A dead politician and a commissioner who didn’t approve in her choice of detective was enough to make anyone jumpy. For Misha? She was pissed. I didn’t like waiting to drop the worse news on her, but I’d rather she kick me out than spend another hour yelling at me.
“Why,” She pinched the bridge of her nose and measured her words carefully, “The Hell. Are. You. Here.”
“I wanted to let you know that this might be more complicated than the murder,” I heard her mumble a small ‘fantastic’ before I continued, “And also that I am adding the midtown files to this case. The body I witnessed is concurrent with the way Kraden was killed.” I was scared for a second that she was going to lunge over the desk and kill me with a paperweight. She didn’t. I would later wish she did.
“This is my career on the line too. If you fuck up, I fucked up”
“Do you trust me?”
“No, but I believe you.” This wasn’t the response I expected.
Being witness to something like Midtown and then having no evidence to back it up and having no one believe you- It’s an awful thing. You start to become obsessed with proving it. The midtown file was nothing more than my report and some nearby security camera footage.
What I wanted to do was to dig back into it, to link it somehow to Kraden or to find any lead at all. I wanted to make it real. And the worst part about this was that just in the early dark hours of this morning I was driving around trying to make myself finally let go of it. I wanted so bad to let it go. But then I see the parts of Kraden laid around his living room. Now I can’t.
I was back at my desk sipping a cup of coffee for twenty minutes before I even realized I had gotten the file. It was open on my desk. I forced myself to close it.
Well I guess I’ve strayed into multimedia.
My friend and housemate Scott Key helped me out by throwing a little voice acting onto Devil’s House. I’m pretty damn pleased with the product, and this may be the mode of distribution from here on out.
The first two chapters are currently being hosted on SoundCloud. I encourage you to give a listen. They aren’t yet available for download- but they will be at a later date.
Please listen! Enjoy!
The next installment of What God. [Chapter 3 found here]
Some things don’t bear explanation. Every cop there was wondering who could have managed to tear Kraden apart like that. I was wondering how his wife and daughter could have stood to listen to him scream. 50 people in this house combing it for evidence and only 1 paramedic taking care of the two women outside wrapped in heat blankets
I walked out of the garage, past a few buckets full of sick and a few more expensive cars. Ms. Kraden sat in the back of the ambulance with her daughter. The wife sat with a face of stone, her daughter was beside her shivering and breathing oxygen from a tank.
“Ms. Kraden, I’m detective Grant-“
She even sounded stone, “Someone already took my statement, detective.” I was glad that at least somebody had taken some time away from the bloodbath in the living room carpet. Messes like that tended to occupy the attention of men in my position. I had no wish to spend more time in there than I had to.
“I know. I’m going to ask you to go through it again.” It was the worst part of the job; asking someone to relive what they had gone through. But repeated tellings of the incident can often reveal more than good forensics. Every time you make someone retell a story they process what they saw and and heard, leaving out the unimportant bits and dwelling on the more important ones.
“He came in late. He often did. Because of work.” Ms. Kraden didn’t believe herself but I let her continue, “He came in. He cursed a bit, I thought he stubbed his toe. I was upstairs sleeping. He then started talking, like he was on the phone. Then he started yelling, something like ‘I didn’t have anything to do with that, I left the company, how should I know’ then the screaming started.” I was marking all of this down when she stopped. I let her breath, studying my notes.
“They said it must have been more than one” It was the daughter.
I looked to Ms. Kraden for permission, but she was staring off into space. “What do you mean?”
“When they were talking there was only two sets of footsteps. My dads and the other persons.” She went back to the oxygen. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling.
“Did you hear him speak? Did he do anything else? the other man?” But I still had to ask. This was about more than Kraden.
“I only heard the footsteps. It could have been anyone.” She looked terrified, holding onto the oxygen mask like it was the only thing keeping her here.
I let them be, thanking them both. I told them I would keep in touch. It was a lie, but lies are comforting.
We have two scenarios. Either Kraden saw someone he knew well enough to know exactly why they were there, or the attacker delivered their message without speaking.
I went back to the living room and started looking around. A number of techs started trying to call for my attention but I waved them off. “Was there any paper recovered?” I asked the room. None of them answered. “It can be blank, a scrap, almost anything. Hell, I’ll take a whiteboard.” That seemed to help them along. A small tech walked up and passed me a blood-covered pad in an evidence bag. I gloved up, pulled it from the bag and grabbed a nearby pencil. The old tricks still worked. I shaded the top of the pad, the only part that wasn’t soaked in blood. In that I saw a relief of the last thing that had been written there. “Where is She” in bold, blocky print.
I got someone with a camera to document and had the pad sealed back up. I then went outside and threw up.
This is the second excerpt from “Devil’s House”, a Novella that will take you to hell and back. Excerpt One Found Here
Hell Is Other Waiting Rooms
I woke up in a warm room to the soft oompah of New Orlean’s Swing. I opened my eyes to look up at a managerial spackle cieling. I was in a waiting room on a rough nap carpet. I groaned and got to my feet. There were no doors. The walls had recreations of dutch skyscapes and impressionist lilies. There were a few low tables scattered around with pamphlets laid out on them.
I walked over and picked one up, “So You’re In Hell… What Now?”
I wasn’t really that surprised. I knew this day would come. I knew what I signed up for and I was ready for it so I settled down in a chair and started to find out what the rest of my damnation would look like. So I cracked open the paper when I heard a voice
“That doesn’t apply to you, actually” I hadn’t noticed when She arrived or what door through which she’d suddenly appeared- I waited for her to continue. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but-”
“I’m Dead?” It seemed like the likely explanation.
“Well… no” And apparently it wasn’t
“But I’m in Hell”
“But I’m not dead”
And now for the more difficult question: “So why am I in Hell?”
“Well” She started, “You’re an idiot.” You can say one thing about Hell: Its brutally honest.
“Was it because I stole from Satan?” I mean, it did seem like a good idea at the time.
She nodded, looking at me like I tried to push a door that said pull.
Something nagged at me, “So I’m not dead, but I am in Hell?”
“Why?” Because, you know, it seemed like a simple enough question
She sighed and turned her hand at an invisible door knob, opening a Matisse that stretched into a door. I felt a little like a drunk kitten in a gothic wonderland, innocent enough to just accept the impossible but not coherent enough to create a simile. I gathered myself, nabbed a pamphlet, and jogged to catch up.
“So,” Caught in the forbidding vortex of awkward silence, “Whats your name?”
“Lily” She didn’t even look over at me, and kept walking. The hallway was lined with doors whose glass windows were the transparent backs of canvasses. Each room was labeled 666. I chuckled, earning a straightforward glare from Lily. This was a long hallway.
“So whats in all these rooms? More people like me?”
“Yes” She had such eloquence
At long last an old elevator door came to view at the hallway’s end. She pressed the button and we waited. Again in silence. So I Asked: “You aren’t going to ask me my name?”
“No I am not”
“Do you already know it?”
“Nope” This was going wonderfully.
“You don’t even care.”
So I stood there and wondered why it was taking so long for the elevator to arrive. “Well… I’m Scratch.” I didn’t bother sticking out my hand
She grunted, a second later the elevator dinged and we stepped inside to badly played bluegrass. We both grimmaced.
“Why is the music-”
“Its Hell,” She snapped.
So after 15 minutes of, well, Hell, the elevator dinged again and she pulled aside the accordian doors and stepped through. I followed. The lobby beyond was massive and more hell-like than my quaintly beuarucratic waiting room. The marble and granite was a deep maroon with jet lines running through it. Decorative stalactites hung from the domed ceiling. All around us bussled the diverse and disheveled dead, led around by men and women in crisp suits. The Charons of Grand Central Styx.
At the far end of the lobby, flanked by large staircases leading down, is a foreboding set of double doors with a sign that read simple, “1”. Signs on the stairs said, in a too too cheery manner, “Levels 2-?”.
“Keep up!” I hadn’t realized I had stopped and had nearly forgotten Lily was standing there, I jogged again to keep up.
“Where” I paused for a moment before continuing. Some questions in the world you really don’t need the answers to, but even still you want them.
“Choose whichever level you want”
“Look, you were in a room, I brought you down here, you don’t have an assignment so you go where you want, I don’t care.” She scowled a little and turned heel and walked away.
I called after her, “What do I do?”
“That’s not my problem”
With that she was lost in the crowd. Then I did what any flesh-and-blood man with a pulse in Hell would do. I strode out into the first layer of hell and hoped to God I could find a bar.
I like to imagine that I kept to my principles in the end… I mean- I didn’t. But I like to imagine.
First thing to know: I haven’t been single in about 6 years. I have not been single for long. I haven’t tried to meet new people outside of school in a long time- which was why OKCupid and Tinder seemed like a good idea. I ended my last relationship on good (great) terms, and this might be part of the problem
Its great when you can end a relationship on good terms. Like the adults we know we are. But the human brain has a conditioned response to sudden loneliness- it wants to pitch and fit and throw a tantrum and not be lonely anymore. So when your brain wants to do this but you have no reason to, you start to look for an outlet.
It started with Tinder. I mean, it all seemed perfectly normal at first. I swipe right and I swipe left. It even comes with helpful labels. If you swipe right you see “Like” in friendly green, if you swipe left you see “Nope”.
This is when I should have known things could get bad.
If two people both swipe right on each other’s pictures, you get to “Chat”. Not being able to connect with people easily this seemed like a great idea! No need to go through that awkward period of finding out whether someone finds you annoying.
Its a trap.
Not in the beginning- No, Tinder makes you build your own prison. In the beginning you treat the system with respect, you only “Like” the people you’d actually like to talk to. You start to think that the system works. But it doesn’t. And you are why.
The swiping. Oh the Swiping. You start to no look at anything but the first picture, judging everything about a person on first glance. Duck Face? Swipe Left. Bikini Shot? Swipe Right. Every swipe brought me one step closer to hell- turning me into exactly the kind of person I hated. Soon I lost all sense of my principles, and after what seemed like weeks (it was only 2 days) without any matches I just started swiping right every time.
But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t near enough.
Led on by this dark ghost of single life I joined OKCupid.
I could have sworn I heard a thunderclap
It had been almost a week of online dating. I get a few matches: One woman with a boyfriend who told me I looked like Peter Dinklage, another I scared off by asking bluntly what she was looking for.
Then on OKCupid I tried messaging people. Every awkward joke and question was another brick added to my cell in Hades.
What kind of person had I become, Silently judging the attractiveness of strangers. And I grid to be fair to those I didn’t- but only at first. Soon I fell even further. I judged harshly and swiftly.
If I was a super villain with an origin story, this is how I would have turned evil.
And this is where this tragedy takes a turn for the lighthearted. You see, I thought I was evil in the same way that Kite-Man thinks he is evil. Yes he robbed banks and stole money and jewels from museums- but then Kite-man saw The Joker beat Jason Todd to death with a crowbar, and realized that he was just an average man who stole things for a job.
I started to realize that the bar was set so low with men and online dating that I was somehow still considered a good person. I hadn’t sent any unsolicited dick-picks or told a girl how “Hawt” she is. I was middle-of-the-pack evil- Stealing candy from babies evil.
So really, this is the story of how online dating turned me kind of evil.
The next chapter of the novel What God, At this point, I might just release it chapter by chapter until I get to the end. Enjoy! What God Chapter 2
According to my watch the 30 minute drive had taken 3 hours. The side of my mouth was wet. I was sleeping.
Its amazing how much 3 hours of sleep feels like a hangover. The difference is that coffee and a hangover makes you feel accomplished, coffee and 3 hours of sleep feels like cheating. But I didn’t have any coffee, so I just felt like crap. Some days life doesn’t measure up to what the cereal boxes told me it should, but I don’t have any cereal.
We were parked outside of a nice house: professional landscaping, expensive Maseratti. And of course there were the cops. Most crime scenes tend to be pretty sparse. Usually you see a few cops on the tapeline and a small spattering of forensics and detectives. I walked up to the sergeant who drove me here and took his coffee.
“Chief Mala told me to let you sleep-” He started to apologize as I walked away. I was thankful, but not thankful enough to thank him. I raised my coffee to acknowledge that I had heard and kept walking.
Probably 150 cops, and only a third from my precinct. There were pockets of state police and a spattering of suits. Halfway through wondering why the circus came to suburbia the name Kraden found a place in my mind. Ex-CEO of Aethenmus, a biotech and pharmaceutical company, former state senator gearing up for the November election. He’ll be on the ballot to represent our great state in the House.
The suits were Secret Service. Damn it.
As much as I wanted to start in on the case, I wanted to step on the toes of the Feds even less. I scanned around for someone to give me the green light to do my job. Even thinking that left a poor taste in my mouth. A few seconds of looking found me Commissioner Levy arguing with a few of the suits. He was talking.
“I don’t see why you can’t just take the investigation over yourself”
The first suit, looking a little bit like a line-backer’s older brother, didn’t agree. “There is a protocol to these things Gordon, and it is there for a reason. I thought you’d be happy that we weren’t coming in to-“
“I just think that with who is on this-” I am not a man who likes to watch other men squirm. I interrupted him before he tried insulting me.
“I’m Detective Grant, this is my investigation. Its good to meet you” To the Agents. And to Levy, “Commissioner, its good to see you again.” Gordon Levy: the man who invented politics with a femur for a club and a yard of mammoth hide. He scowled at me.
“I’ll leave you to it, Grant” And he walked away.
Gordon Levy was one of the first people to advocate for my imprisonment after the Midtown shooting. When that failed he wanted me fired, then suspended, and then demoted. The only reason I wasn’t was Chief Mala and a few retired cops with some pull. I got lucky and I am not shy about saying so.
The linebacker shook my hand first, “Grant, it is good to meet you.” The agent next to him, a smaller and very nondescript man, also stuck out his hand.
I shook, “Should I just call you Agent, or do you-“
“I’m Hatterfeld,” The linebacker smiled, “Thats Smith.” Hatterfeld gestured to the small man beside him.
“I think, gentlemen, that I have a crime scene to get to,” Somewhat hoping that they wouldn’t follow me in.
“Keep us posted, Grant,” Said a southern drawl. It must have been Smith. I kept walking.