Quinn could not contain his excitement; he was hoping to die tonight.
Immense black trees surrounded the clearing around the lake where Quinn stood.
“From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust. Really, what is the Divine’s plan? Living, dying, and fucking people we soon grow bored of fucking. More lives to watch and forget than remember. I will tell who he is. God is not some infinitely wise being with a long beard in the clouds so high you cannot see him. He is nothing but a kid with an ant farm who got bored of watching them whittle away the hours with work and sleep. In the end, how can it all matter? There’s no fucking heaven for us, not even a hell,” said a voice.
Quinn turned and faced the man known only as Maker, a man as thin as air. His pale skin luminous in the light of the moon.
“Will this be it, the end? The big finish?” Asked Quinn.
“Don’t look so worried.”
This was it, now and forever, with no turning back.
“You’re the one who is going to kill me,” said Maker.
“No, this is fucked up. You’re here to kill me so I can live forever.”
A cold heavy stake dropped into Quinn’s palms,
Maker reached out, grabbed hold of Quinn’s wrists, and impaled himself onto the stake. Quinn tried to pull away, but Maker pushed himself harder onto the point until it felt like it touched his spine.
Maker looked Quinn in the eye with a bloodied smile before his body slumped to the floor like a broken toy.
Quinn loomed over the mentor who never taught him enough.
An ocean of blue light washed over the stars, a wail of police sirens howled at the moon; tires tore into the grass as they pulled to a stop. A click of the car door, cocking of a gun.
“Put your hands up and drop your weapon!” screamed a voice from behind Quinn.
Measured footfalls creeping up from behind him. Quinn let the bloodied stake slip, held up his hands, not resisting the steel cuffs as they snapped around his wrists.
“Hey, Alan! Come and throw this fucking psycho in the back of the car. Don’t worry about his head when you duck him in the back” cruel laughter echoed in Quinn’s ears.
Quinn concluded that Maker called the cops to his murder, how else could they have known or made it here so quick? If Maker was to be dead to the world, why did it have to be like this?
“Hey Alan, it’s only nine o’clock and the whack-a-do’s are out already!”
Alan and Frank readied themselves for the play ahead upon the stage of the interview room. The fingerprint smudges of thousands of criminals pressed into immortality on the steel interview table.
Frank and Alan are as different as night and day stood together. Frank was a short but powerfully built man, a heavy head with a craggy face carved from contempt. Alan had softer features but stood taller. His skin an ill-fitting hood stretched over his face.
“So what do you think we have here? A fuckin’ mime?” said, Frank, as he handed Alan a Chesterfield brand cigarette. “I’m gettin’ angry askin’ the same question a second time.”
“What Detective Malone means to say is that’s its better all round that you just cooperate, so I’m not going to call you John Doe all night, so tell me, what’s your name? I’m Detective Alan Smith”
For the first time that night, Quinn smiled.
“You got caught. It’s all fun and fuckin’ games till you get caught. But now we gotcha. Okay, mister mystery, you’ve just made the big time. Now, we’re gonna have a little Q and A, and at the risk of sounding redundant, please make your answers genuine,” said Frank.
“Isn’t this where you’re supposed to lull me into a false sense of security? Isn’t this where you’re supposed to convince me that you’re my friend?” Said Quinn.
Frank slammed his meaty hand onto the table; the metal vibrated and echoed painfully around the interview room. Alan flinched; he had felt that fist before.
“I ain’t your friend. I’m the Anti-Christ. You get me in a vendetta kind of mood. Now, we got you at the crime scene with a stake in the poor bastard’s chest. What did he do to you? Was it revenge? Did he fuck your wife? Did he rob you?”
Quinn continued to smile, that strange all-knowing little grin.
“Alan. Take over for a moment.” Frank said between his gritted teeth, bringing his coffee to his lips before taking a seat against the wall.
“So what is your name? You could be innocent and if you then tell us your name. You’ve nothing to lose by telling us,” asked Alan.
“My name’s Quinn.”
“Finally we’re getting somewhere.” Frank looked at his watch as he spoke. It read 9.45 P.M. Its digital glow a blur within the sea of the overhead strip light.
Before Frank could continue, a knock came from the door. Frank strained his bulky frame out of his chair to answer the door. Quinn saw Frank’s lips move, yet heard nothing. He was more interested in what the person behind the door was saying. Frank uttered a few words, unheard by those in the interview room. Shutting the door behind him, Frank fell against the door and pulled deeply on his cigarette, blowing the blue smoke towards the ceiling.
Alan looked onward at Frank.
“What’s the latest, Frank?”
Quinn peered down at his hands beneath the table. His nails had grown into short spearheads sharp enough to cut the throat of God. Maker had told him this would happen in time, among other changes. Some blessings and others curses.
“Hey, boy, look at me,” Said Frank.
Quinn looked up at Frank, breath held.
“Finally sinking in, is it? Shame that. They’ll love you in prison. Got bitch wrote all over you.”
“Shut up. I got news for you…you’re not a killer. Not yet anyway.” Replied Frank.
Quinn opened his mouth then shut it again. His teeth felt bigger in his mouth. At some point, they had grown since he had entered the room. Running his tongue over and along them confirmed it.
“What’s going on Frank?” asked Alan.
“How can I put this? The body, the victim, was on the slab ready to go. The coroner left the room because he needed something, a fuckin’ sandwich knowing that sack of fat. When he got back, the body was gone. Just like that, he had gone as if he was never there.” Frank looked as though he was still trying to process everything.
Alan’s brow furrowed, “So any whereabouts on where this guy has gone? What the hell is going on?”
Frank’s fingers gripped into Quinn’s shoulder.
“Don’t think for one second you’re getting away with this. People like you make me sick. Even if he does turn up alive, you are still looking at an attempted murder charge. There will be a body somewhere. So don’t look so damn happy.”
“Hey Frank, fancy some coffee?” said Alan, stepping forward to intervene.
“Fuck the coffee Alan, look at this freak,” said Frank as he reached over and took hold of Quinn’s hand, turning it palms facing down. “Who does he think he is? That shit-eating grin. The way he thinks that nearly killing a man is okay. I see fuckheads like this all day, every day. They make me sick.” Spittle ran down the corner of Frank’s mouth.
“I’m getting some coffee. Said Alan “I don’t want any part of this.”
Quinn looked upwards at Frank, brought his hands from beneath the table and placed them on the surface, his nails scraping against the metal.
“We’re not so different me and you. We both have secrets, things to hide,” Said Quinn.
Frank stepped back with his arms across his chest as though he had to hold his secrets in.
He no longer had a wife to go home to; she had left him some years ago. The final straw for Annette came when she found the extra money came from the old Chinese man who was left with broken fingers for not coughing up the protection cash, the prostitute left for dead after Frank “kept her in line” just that one time too many.
“The greatest trick the devil ever performed was to convince the world he did not exist…So when you go home what is it, your wife sees when you get home? Does she see a fat corrupt cop? Or her Husband?”
Quinn recoiled as Frank bolted forward, his hands wrapping around Quinn’s face, Quinn’s hands meeting Frank’s with a strength he did not know he possessed. Quinn’s nails dug into the skin of Frank’s hands. Quinn watched Frank pull his hands away; his skin pulled taut as if caught on a rusty nail. Frank yanked away and held up his hands in front of him; the skin opened cleanly where the razor like nails had slashed. Frank tore at his shirt not caring how it looked. He quickly wrapped his hands in the shirt to stop the blood flow.
“You mother-” Frank shook his head. “You’re going to pay for that!” screeched Frank, his head leering forward.
At that same moment, Alan entered, rushing the few steps needed to reach his partner.
Quinn sat there with all the innocence of a child. The serene look on his face unsettled Alan. Frank continued to scream obscenities around the room while clutching the shirt that covered his hands. The once crisp white shirt was now a sopping red mess.
“What the fuck is going on?” asked Alan as he cupped Frank’s hands to see the extent of the damage.
Before he could lift the shirt away from Frank’s hands, Frank was already in front of Quinn, his hands fumbling to get a grip on Quinn’s face. The fingers pressed in hard until Quinn’s lips puckered and his teeth gritted. Alan could not reach Quinn in time as Frank raised his bloody fist, balled it up, and smacked Quinn in the face, snapping his skull back over his shoulders.
“Smarts, doesn’t it? Gettin’ slammed in the nose fucks you all up. You got that pain shootin’ through your brain. Your eyes fill up with water. It ain’t any kind of fun”
“C’ mon now Frank that’s enough! How are we going to explain that?”
“That’s easy he tripped and fell into the table.”
“The tape…Frank. This is not how we police!”
“Heh, we can edit. He’s going to pay.”
Quinn snapped his head forward. Before he could grasp his bearings, he felt Frank’s shovel sized hands upon the back of his collar.
“This interview is over,” Frank said as he picked Quinn up like a rag doll.
“Whoa, whoa Frank! Where are you taking him?”
The tips of his shoes scrapped against the floor, Quinn kept his mouth shut; there was no point catching another beating.
“Where are you taking him?” Alan asked again.
“Remember our old friend the biker?” Frank said coldly.
“Crazy Eight? No, not him.” Alan wanted to stop Frank.
Alan knew deep down that he could not. Not a man that big and full of fury.
“No such luck, but we got one of his crew behind the bars.”
“We can’t put Quinn with one of them. Those bikers should be behind rubber walls, not iron bars.”
Alan took hold of Quinn’s arm firmly, not enough to cause discomfort. Alan looked Quinn up and down, noticing he was still wearing a belt.
“Now who’s the killer, Frank?” Alan dropped his head downward, almost as if the solution was on the floor somewhere. After searching the floor that provided no answers, Alan could only draw his conclusion.
“I want nothing to do with this Frank; this is going too far. He’s just a kid. Nobody deserves this.”
Alan let go of Quinn’s arm and left him with a pat on the back to remember him by.
“Sorry kid, let’s hope you make it to the morning. I wish I could have been of more help.”
Alan gave Quinn one more look. It was almost as if it was the last time; there was no more he could do. He had seen others try to bring down Frank, only for them to leave in his place, never heard from again.
“Alan,” said Frank as held onto Quinn’s arm in one hand, reaching out for his partner the last ten years.
“We catch killers, not help to kill. I want nothing to do with this. I ignored a lot of stuff over the past, not this, though. I want no part of this,” replied Alan.
A pained look stretched across Frank’s face.
“I’ll write the report the way that will keep us clean.”
Alan shook his head in disappointment, taking a deep look into Frank’s eyes. He could not look into them for long. He never wanted to be this cop. A little hard, he had to be. Too much kindness was a weakness. He felt a little bit of that fresh-eyed kid, straight out of the academy with aspirations of saving the world, die a little inside with every year that passed since.
Frank called out, but Alan never responded, walking away as if a ghost, wandering away into the crowds of faceless criminals and forgotten justice.
Frank knew deep down that Alan would return to the fold, men like him always did.
It was a shame. Frank thought his efforts to groom an apprentice were working. Frank took comfort in the fact there was no dramatic handing in of the gun and badge, or maybe that was worse? Maybe he would go home and dwell upon it, only to leave a detailed report on the right desk ready for tomorrow.
“So are you going to show me to my room Francis?”
“I’ve somebody I want you to meet. You know what… I’ll leave it a couple of days before I notify your relatives.” Frank continued to chuckle as if entertained by his own threatening wit. Quinn gave no resistance as Frank led him out of the room, down the narrow hallways and protesting screams of innocence and guilt, ignoring all the wild and inventive threats uttered by Frank. In the corner of this grey concrete, hell sat his bunk-buddy, who spoke through his gritted teeth.
“I’m gonna suck out ya” eyeballs and skull fuck you stupid, badge wearing pigs,” bellowed a voice in the darkness.
“Play nice now,” replied Frank as he grabbed Quinn’s arm tighter, nipping at the flesh between thumb and forefinger. Much to Frank’s dissatisfaction, Quinn gave no response, not even a small recoil of his arm.
Frank shoved Quinn into the cell and slammed the door with an empty clang.
The cops of the day shift clocked off, exchanging tired greetings in the forms of nods and grunts with the night shift cops. Frank was amongst those cops. The comfort of his one-bedroom apartment beckoned. It would only be a matter of time before he really retired properly to the Florida Keys paid for by kickbacks, broken fingers and turning the odd blind eye for the right government official.
Frank had only made a couple of stops on his way home. Another visit to the old Chinese man who winced as he handed over a day’s earnings over to Frank with quivering, bandaged fingers.
Frank gave no sympathy, leaving the old man with a cold warning about payments. There were, after all, worse people out there. They would not offer the protection he would.
Traffic was heavy tonight; the rain pattered against his window screen. Frank’s window screen wipers kicked lazily into action, the gentle rubber squeaking relaxing him. There was a kind of peace between the rain and the road, a stark contrast to the other motorists honking their horns in anger in a hurry to get home. Taking his hands off the wheel, Frank reached into his glove compartment. He took off his beaten and scratched digital watch and exchanged it for another. He watched the stuck traffic for signs of movement as he put his other watch on. Frank brought his wrist up to his chest. His gold Rolex glimmered in the soft glows of rear view lights of those ahead. He would be home soon. Placing his hand back on the wheel, his foot ready to hit the gas as the traffic moved finally forward. The traffic slowly decongested. The cars now free. The honks of frustrated drivers drifted into silence, replaced by the gentle rumbles of engines. Frank put his foot down on the gas as he watched the storefronts and tenement buildings as he passed. All was quiet on the western front. After a couple of miles passed, he finally reached his destination. Frank pulled into the car park of the tenement building, home at last. He twisted the key in the ignition, and the engine fell silent. Frank sat for a moment, head tucked into his chest. Taking a deep breath, he ejected his seatbelt; it snapped back to its rightful place, ready again for use. Frank opened the car door, heaving himself out. Pulling his cell from his pocket, Frank noticed he had missed a couple of calls from both the station and Alan. Too late now, he was home. Whatever they wanted from him would have to wait until the morning.
Frank was too tired now to worry about the concerns of his partner. Perhaps Alan had changed his mind and realized that he could not fuck with the infinite. After all, it was a just balance, karmic. Frank dragged his body upwards to his sparsely furnished apartment; his feet felt heavy and ached. Frank unlocked his front door and flung he shut after he entered. He threw his keys onto the stand by the door. Frank threw himself into his big tattered chair. He reached over to the coffee table to grab his whiskey bottle and poured himself a glass. As the glass touched his lips, Frank’s cell phone rang Again. Frank cussed and sighed as he flicked the phone open.
“What now? Can’t you boys take a piss without needing me to hold your dick?”
“Alan’s tried to ring you. We’ve tried to ring you. You’re needed here now,” replied the firm voice.
“Why? What is so bad, that I am needed down there? I have just sat down after an eighteen-hour shift. My feet are killing me, I’m tired, I -”
“Your prisoners. Alan went down there to check on them; he found the biker and the other guy, dead. Alan’s not happy. It’s a mess down there.”
“Okay, okay. Tell me what happened so I know what to expect.”
“You really should be down here seeing for yourself. Forensics cannot make a move until you are here. But seeing as Alan’s on his way he can tell you.”
“Tell me now!” Barked Frank.
“Okay, okay. From how it looks, someone beat the biker to death. I mean he was almost beyond recognition, I don’t think even God would have recognized him.”
“The biker’s dead?”
“Yep. Not just that, the other guy has hung himself from the bars by his belt. He’s swinging like damn piñata; there must have been one helluva fight. Quinn had long deep lacerations to his face and hands. We cannot cut him down for further examination until you get here. Somebody dropped the ball. Get down here as soon as Frank, we -”
Frank closed the phone before the conversation could run any further. The cogs in his turned into over gear. How was he going to explain this one? Who could he pitch the blame on? He should have just let it go. Things were slipping. Frank paced the small apartment from one end to the other. Never before had he had a prisoner die like this, let alone two? In the past people had caught beatings, everyone took a beating at some time.
Frank walked back over to the table on which the whiskey sat, pouring himself another glass. The whiskey flowed into the glass, swirling around as it hit the bottom. Before it had any real chance to settle, Frank shot his arm upwards, glass in hand, down the hatch it went, then another and another. With enough whiskey in his body to settle his nerves, Frank took a cigarette and placed it in his mouth. A knock at the door echoed around the room as he tried to light his cigarette.
“Hang on! I’ll be there in a second.” Shouted Frank.
Only two or three people came to his door nowadays. None of them was welcome at this point if they ever were in the first place. The knock came again.
“Fucking wait will tell ya!”
Frank approached the fish eye lens of his door. It was like looking through a drunken telescope. At first, there was a flicker of a shadow; there was movement somewhere out there.
“Who is it?”
The reply came in the form of a whistle of the wind and the pattering of rain.
“Who is it? You’ve been knocking on my door long enough.”
Before Frank could walk away and get back in his seat, Alan came into view. His entire body was out of proportion in the fisheye lens, little head and large body. Franks’ shoulders slumped, and a heavy sigh followed. Here Alan was to wax lyrical in his self-righteous way about the evils of corruption, Frank considered himself lucky that Alan had not ratted on him. So at least Frank could invite him in, give Alan a drink, and explain everything. Well, everything with a few lies intertwined with nuggets of truth. Frank opened the door. Alan stood there face sullen. Rain dripped off his coat onto the floor by the door. Frank would have greeted him with a used car salesman’s smile, but now was not the time to act pleased.
“Don’t stand there all day, come in for a minute. I need to talk to you before we shoot off.”
“Okay,” Alan muttered grimly as he shook the rainwater from his umbrella. Frank took a step back, allowing Alan to pass. Frank popped his head out of the door to see if there was anyone else out there. Bringing his head and body back in, Frank closed the door. Frank turned to Alan, who was still standing awaiting further instruction.
“For the love of Christ, Alan, take a seat please.”
Alan hoisted his coat to the sides before he sat; he steadied himself slowly into the chair. His every move was delicate as if Frank was to be treated like a dangerous explosive.
“Alan, just relax. Now we have a lot of ground to cover. I am telling you now, I never meant for it to happen. It’s tragic. I only wanted to wipe off that shit-eating grin. I only wanted him to catch a beating. To be taught a lesson. I’ve done a lot of bad things, I know; maybe this is a wakeup call. Just back me up on this, one time and I’ll go straight, promise.”
Frank moved to the opposite side of the room where the whiskey sat. Alan’s eyes followed him. Frank bent down to the whiskey bottle and grabbed another glass.
“Want a drink, Alan?”
“Geez Alan, you’re cranky. Have a drink, relax; we’re on the same page now.” The words slurred a little from Franks’ lips. Frank turned his back, taking his time to fill both glasses with whiskey.
Frank muttered about mounting debts, the stress of the job, as he filled the glasses. Frank turned back to Alan, he walked over and handed Alan his drink. Frank walked back over to his own chair, his cogs turning quickly. Frank made himself comfortable, taking a sip from his drink. He looked Alan in the eyes. It took a moment or two to get his vision right, the alcohol had hit his system harder than he had realized.
“You’ve cost me a lot Frank; my entire life is now gone because of you,” Alan said sternly.
Frank took a deep breath and then spoke.
“Don’t worry Alan; you’ll still have a job. You must trust me okay. I will make things right; I will make it so that none of this ever gets back to us. Now, where can I begin…?”
“You can begin to tell me what makes you and me so different?” asked Alan.
“Uh?” Grunted Frank.
Alan leaned forward in his chair, placing his drink on the table before he continued.
“You know the greatest trick the devil ever performed, was convincing the world he never existed…”
“What the hell are you on about…?”
It left Frank dumfounded. He looked closer at Alan
“No, no, no! It’s not possible…”
Alan raised his hand, took hold of his face, and peeled the skin from his skull like a balaclava.
Alan’s face fell to the floor, and Frank saw a grinning skinless face of contorted muscle and bloody gristle.
“Oh yes Frank, It is.”
“Where?” Frank tried to catch a fleeting breath; his breathing came in short, quick stabs. “What? Where the hell is Alan?”
“Oh, they’ll find Alan hanging around, if you’ll forgive the pun.”
Frank’s drink dropped to the ground with an empty thud, the whiskey shooting out of the glass onto the floor. If Frank had neighbours, they would have heard his screams pierce the night.
No one answers screams until they fall silent.
No one ever saw Frank again.
The department gave Alan a fitting funeral service. They would remember him as a good cop, a hero to the downtrodden. The police never could keep those nights events contained for long. Quinn, he would hunt. He would watch through the windows of his intended prey, with Frank’s dirty money to help fund his new life. Unaware that Maker was watching him.
Here, far away from home among those smells and those voices, forever behind him.
Here and now, in death, not life, Quinn finally belonged.
Rob Teun writes horror, sc-fi and fantasy. He lives in Lincolnshire with his family.
You can follow Rob on Twitter @rob_teun