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!
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.
A small short story I’ve been tooling around with: A Work in Progress that was abandoned a few years back. I think I am going to try and pick it back up.
The Devil lived lonely on the top floor of the Chrysler Building. In the Devil’s House was the Devil’s Kitchen, the Devil’s Bed, the Devil’s Radio, and sitting lonely and cold atop the Devil’s Cold Fireplace was my lonely Soul. I wanted it back.
Exit Frying Pan
The Devil’s House looked nothing like I imagined. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, maybe a little flair. Brimstone, or Maroon Velvet, or the tortured Souls of the Innocent. I didn’t even know I was in the right place when I dropped down from the roof of the Chrysler and through the window. This place looked like it belonged to a Brownstone family in Brooklyn, not to the Lord of Hell, the Fallen Angel and the Morning Star.
The Devil’s Kitchen had a GE stove and a brand-name ice-box, his bed was an colonial four-poster, his radio was playing something baroque. His fireplace was warm with embers. The only thing I was right about was my small soul swimming in a jar above the Devil’s hearth.
It was quite like a fish, and swam around its jar like a fishbowl. I don’t know if it recognized me, but I recognized it. There was a hole in my chest that needed it back.
I went to grab it, having to stretch a little to put my fingers around the bowl. When I had just started lifting it a Voice behind me said, “That’s not yet yours to take”. It sounded like sulfur jazz.
With that, I was pushed into the devil’s open hearth, catching only a glance of the angel-wing band around his finger and a small whiff of cinnamon aftershave. I fell for far too long.
Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil so that he could play his guitar. At the age of 27 he died alone in his room. The Devil came to collect.
I made my deal the same way he did, alone at a crossroads on midnight in a new moon sky. I wanted to forget my pain. I was 22.
I don’t remember his face, I just remember the Cinnamon and the Voice. A voice that burned the nose and a smell that tasted of chocolate. He told me that 10 years without pain was not a fair price for my soul.
I asked if he needed more
He said it was too much
I said I didn’t care
We made the deal.
I didn’t feel the pain anymore.
I didn’t feel the pain for 10 years.
Then the day came when the Devil would collect. I was ready, I had sold everything I owned and said my goodbyes to everyone left I ever loved. I waited in an empty room for the Devil to come and take me to Hell. He never did. I waited there until they turned my water off and my stomach shriveled to the size of a raisin. Though I wasted away and my lips were cracked and dry I did not die.
The Devil never came.
I went to jump off the roof.
I didn’t die.
So I took matters into my own hands. I found where the Devil lived, I found where he kept my Soul. If I wasn’t going to be collected and if I couldn’t die, I damn well wanted it back.
So I tried to steal it from the Devil.
English itself, as a language, is made up of two component languages; how it is Written and how it is Spoken. We tend to see these two as a pair, believing them inextricably linked. But they aren’t. As anyone who has ever tried to learn a second language can attest, proficiency in reading is not necessarily matched by proficiency in speaking, and vice versa.
Written language is almost universally a system whose purpose is to contain and store the phonetic syllables that make up a language. It is interesting to note that those languages that aren’t written to hold phonetic data (Say, for instance, binary or hexadecimal) are much more efficient at holding data, but nearly impossible to learn how to speak fluently.
Now take for instance, your average English peasant in the 14th century. Here is a person who works, accomplishes complex tasks, knows more about nature than most of our current generation ever will, but he cannot read. Not knowing how to read does not in any way inhibit his ability to communicate, or does it demonstrate anything about his intelligence. The only difference is that he just hasn’t learned the Written Language. All told, this metaphorical peasant knows his spoken language as well as you or I, his lack of knowledge surrounding the written portion does not stand in his way of that.
But, could you try to imagine someone just learning the written language, without the spoken portion? Take a hypothetical world where suddenly no one may speak, but they are forced to learn to write. It seems weird, doesn’t it. This is because spoken language is at the core of our language, spoken language is why our language exists. Learning how to read the letters that represent the syllables without learning how to say the actual syllables seems a little inefficient, doesn’t it. It seems in this way that learning a language requires first the form of its sounds, then the forms of its letters. Here is why.
In addition to the two languages we have learnt once we are free of grade school (being written and spoken English) we learn a third language, and we learn it from birth. There is a reason why a fight is a fight in any language, or why smiles don’t require you to learn Swahili just so you can see if they are smiling. The third language is that Universal Language that most everyone on this earth understands; Emotion.
It seems bloody obvious when I say it, doesn’t it. But of course it’s always the obvious factor that we miss. This human language is the most essential language we ever learn. Imagine not being able to tell someone’s emotion, not being able to pick up on subtle body language, and everything else we don’t even notice anymore. There are some forms of autism, brain disorders, and psychological problems that can prevent someone from learning to “speak human” as it were, and the handicap they suffer is as great as any paraplegic’s.
We don’t notice how ingrained emotional language is in our culture, nor do we have any great need to. But it is helpful when looking at any social interaction to realize the depth that such an interaction contains. Looking at a transcript is not the same as hearing a recording, which pales in comparison to being able to actually See the social interaction. Body language is just as important (if not more) to diplomacy as good rhetoric is.
I know this seems like a bit of a non sequitur, and I can freely admit that it started as such, but the significance of this is not to be downplayed. Part 2 will cover how this effects performance.