18 May Case File: Smiler Man
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"Case File: Smiler Man"Written by
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Estimated reading time — 27 minutes
I was sitting on some particularly comfortable hallway chairs in this very bare waiting room. The only thing that occupied the room beside me was this clearly fake plant. I had been asked to wait while this particularly clean yet short and stocky man prepared a room for us. After a relatively long wait time the official, who had the appearance of Barney Rubble, came to lead me to where I was going to be spending the next couple hours or so. I followed the cartoon double down a long hallway riddled with doors adorned various official’s names. It was my first time being invited to such a fancy government building with such bland attributes.
He opened a door to a rather comfortable looking room. He had me sit on one of the colder looking chairs on one side of the table. It looked like a generic interrogation room minus the one-sided mirror. I planted myself down completely uninterested in reliving the events that brought me here in the first place.
“Thank you for joining me Detective Buchanan.” Soon enough he sat himself down just across from me whilst placing down a recording device.
“I wasn’t one with much of a choice after such an elaborate invitation.” He was parked outside the hospital I was discharged from and informed me I needed to be at a certain address at a certain time for ‘debriefing’.
“Enough with the sarcasm Detective, I would like you to speak clearly and in great detail about every event of your case.” From the rumble of his serious tone, I decided it was probably against my best interest to continue with my attitude.
“To be honest, this was probably one of the wildest cases I was ever on. Granted, I went in with all my digits, then came out missing one with a severe need for a therapist.” I exhaled, relaxing back into the cold office chair that was provided for me. The man sitting across from me leaned in ready to listen.
“Start wherever is most convenient.”
“Good morning, Jarred.” I waved to my entirely too blonde partner. “Did you lose a bet or something?”
“My son went blonde and got bullied, so I decided to dye my hair, too.” He laughed.
“Fair enough.” I shrugged, “So what’s on today’s agenda?”
“New case. There’s been a disturbance downtown in the apartments by Main and 59th. Get on it.” The short, and slightly pudgy, chief of our office informed us.
“I call shotgun.” I chuckled slightly tossing my keys to my partner.
“Dagnabbit.” He frowned as he followed me out the door and to my car.
It didn’t take us long before we arrived at the crime scene. Upon arrival, we parked nearby and did our usual greetings to the cops who were posted at the scene. They filled us in on what they knew and we went on our way inside. When we entered the apartment it was pretty apparent there was a struggle, no signs of forced entry, however. Whoever came in here was let in opposed to breaking in. There were small puddles of blood across the living room and partially down the hall. As we moved farther down the hall the blood increased in volume. The trail lead to the bathroom and the source of its embodiment. Across the floor laid a relatively aged man in a pool of his own cooled and clotted crimson life. The majority of his body was still in tacked however there were parts of him that were forcefully removed; typical sick psychopath work in my eyes.
“Our victim is 43-year-old Kevin Harper. He is a clearly single man given the conduct of the apartment in addition to the lack of feminine products or a roommate. It was a co-worker that called when he didn’t show up for work. He has been dead for approximately seventy-four hours. Someone tried cleaning him up a bit but stopped midway.” A relatively young looking black man informed us before pulling Jarred off to the side.
Jarred stepped aside to talk to medical examiner better known as Arthur Davis. He had a grim look on his face as he looked back at me, I had a funny feeling I wasn’t going to like this case. He wandered over with half a smile and a lowered voice.
“So, Artie here informed me that the body parts were not severed by any normal means.” He sighed slightly.
“I hope you’re not implying what I think you are.” I felt my stomach churn ever so slightly.
“It also looks like we have pieces unaccounted for. Hank my friend,” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “We can talk to the chief about giving this case up…”
“It’s a cannibal case isn’t it.” I felt the churn worsen and my gut tightens up. He only nodded in response as I held back the urge to retch. After I composed myself I looked him right in the eyes.
“I’d rather not be a laughing stock, besides, the best way to face your fears is by beating it.” I shrugged off his hand.
“Yeah but fears and vomit inducing topics are totally different.” He laughed. I was always thankful of Jarred, he’s had my back since I was first transferred over to the precinct.
“My issues aside, any news on evidence left behind?” I veered away from the body to look at some of the broken furniture just outside the bathroom.
“We have some hair and a strange set of fingerprints but we won’t know anything until we get this to the lab,” Artie smiled waving his hand slightly.
“Thanks, Artie.” My partner interjected before I was able to retort with a smartass remark.
While we waited for the lab results, my partner and I decided it would be a good idea to look more into Mr. Harper. Jarred when to go talk to his coworker while I made a request in with a friend in the precinct. She did some digging for me but came up with virtually nothing. He had an ex-wife and a son who moved to the west coast five years back and had kept a steady office job since the divorce. By the time my partner came back I really had nothing to help lead us anywhere, he regrettably had the same issue.
A few days into the investigation we heard back from the lab only identifying the victims prints, hair, and blood. There was one other set of prints but those were nowhere in our system.
Flustered with my draw to nowhere, I decided to hit the bar with Jarred and a few other coworkers. I proceeded to drink the cases troubles away with some hearty laughter and strong beer. We enjoyed ourselves for a few hours before I got a call from Daphnie wondering where I was at. I laughed into the phone and assured I was on my way. I called a taxi not too long after and made my way home.
“Alcohol is the most commonly used depressant these days.” The agent scoffed.
“Hey, I am not getting any younger. One or two nights out with the guys is all good in my defense. I try not to make a habit out of it. Saw a guy once, drunk himself right into the unemployment line.” I crossed my arms.
“I suppose Daphnie wouldn’t let you do anything like that, now would she?”
I felt myself fall into a bit of a guilt trip, “Yeah, my daughter acts like a parent half the time.”
“She sounds like she has a head on her shoulders, now onward Mr. Buchanan.”
“Just when I thought we were opening up to each other you put that wall right back up. So hurtful Special Agent, so hurtful.” I took a deep breath.
“I was two weeks into that dead end when I got a call that there was another attack much like the one from the first scene. I had hopped into my car first thing and went straight over to the hospital.”
I entered the hospital bumping into a rather pretty fair skinned nurse on my way to the elevator. She looked tired and worried despite her nice soft glow. Just as I was going to ask if she was alright, she scurried off murmuring something about an appointment. I shrugged off the opportunity and stepped into the small metal box. I pressed the fifth floor and up I went.
I entered the hall seeing a cop stationed outside the room where the victim was staying. I saw a fairly old male, clearly he still had some spring in his step but I couldn’t see him keeping up with the cop next to him. His hair was thinned and grey in between his dim brown locks. His skin wrinkled with years of disgust and stress. His body was short, squashed even, but had a good amount of pudge clearly from his lack of interest in fitness. His bandaged hand twitched slightly as it rested on his bed sheets. Some of the blood still seeped from the bandages wrapping his arm and from a patch on his face.
I stood in front of my bed and watched as his gaze met mine.
“Ain’t nothing good ’bout this afternoon.” He hissed back.
“Poor opener.” I chuckled dryly, “My name is Hank Buchanan, I am the detective in charge of finding the person who did this to you.”
“Now’s the part where you ask them questions….well, get to it.” He prodded.
“So I was informed you were assaulted by a rather suspicious party?” I opened my notebook readily to take some quick notes. This was the first solid lead I managed to get my hands on in quite some time so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.
“He was a freak! A freak I tell you!” he stammered violently between breaths.
“Sir I need you calm down, please. I want to know what he looked like.”
“H-he had six fingers on each hand.” He lifted his hands as he spoke, “His skin was mixed with these dark brown and white patches all over like a cow. H-he was skinny, unnaturally so…” The man placed his hands back on the bed sheets.
“Anything else? Eye colour? Hair? Any other markings?”
His eyes darted up at me filled with anger I was all too familiar with. “His f-face.”
“Something about his face?”
“Long stitching, it outlined the break between the black skin and white skin on his face. There was just enough space on his forehead to see that it wasn’t a full circle b-but more of a…a smile if you will. Not an expression as much as an outline.”
I saw his gaze lower and the feeling of uneasiness rise. I moved on to asking about the place where he was attacked and if anyone else was there when it happened. He refused to speak to me any further in regards to the man, I at least had something to go on. I gave a call to my partner back at the office and informed him to start a local search for blotchy men with six fingers. At first, he laughed at me, honestly getting a call like that I probably would have done the same thing. After I repeated it a bit more sternly he stopped laughing. We hung up shortly after so I could pick my daughter up from cheerleading practice.
It wasn’t until morning the next day when Jarred got a chance to sit down with me to inform me I hit yet another dead end. There was only one person ever registered with a sixth finger and he went missing twenty-six years ago. He had no known relatives and lived in a foster home that had burned down just a couple years after he went missing. All of the records for the home were gone several bodies were discovered in the building. It was a cold arson case with no known survivors. Honestly, at that point, I needed a miracle.
A few days after I hit my dead end I decided to call it a night. I had spent the last seventy something hours of my life trying to come up with a way to track this cannibal with no luck. I figured a good night’s sleep and a meal with the kids would be a good little break. I managed to beat them both home to bake some chicken and make some steamed vegetables. It was cute the two of them looked so surprised to see me. The little one, Abby, came and gave me a hug when she saw me in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but laugh. Being in my field and them not having their mother makes family dinners hard sometimes.
It wasn’t long before we got a chance to sit down and eat together. My eldest , Daph, often asked me about work. She has shown an interest in getting into my kind of field, so sometimes I tell her what’s going on. She was like my at home helper.
“So what are you working on this time?” She scooped some of her greens onto her fork and ate them.
“I have an interesting case, it isn’t very appropriate for little ears like Abby, so I am not going into detail.” I pointed my fork at her, Abbigale was in the seventh grade so I wasn’t too comfortable with her learning about the dead bodies I deal with.
“Ugh, can you censor it or something! I haven’t seen you in like forever.” She protested pushing some of the food around on her plate.
I gave a deep sigh, “Okay, I can censor it a little. There is a bad guy kidnapping people and then poof they all disappear forever. There was one guy who he left behind and the guy managed to explain the culprit to me but…” I scratched my head.
“You hit a dead end. “ She finished for me.
“Daddy why do people steal other people?” Abby asked, taking a good bite of her chicken.
“If I only knew kiddo, maybe it would help me stop them.” I laughed.
“Sound’s like the guy’s done.” Daphnie shoved another forkful into her mouth.
I paused for a moment and looked at her, she stared at me like I didn’t catch on. For a second, I was confused but that had me thinking. If he had done such a good job with his other victims, having countless times to practice, why did that one man get away? He didn’t look very strong nor did he have any signs of fighting back. It was as if the man that had been kidnapping and attacking people wanted to get caught. But why?
“I wouldn’t know why though, people are crazy. Emotions are crazy. My English teacher told me life is unpredictable and people can go from wanting one thing to another on the turn of a dime.” She shrugged while picking up her glass of water to have a nice long drink.
“Maybe he was sorry for what he did.” Abby added, “I know I would be sorry if I hurt someone.”
Abby was so cute. If all of the criminals in the world acted like her, I think I’d be out of a job. Adorable seventh graders aside, Daphnie really had me thinking. After we had finished eating dinner I cleaned the dishes and tucked my girls into bed. Once I was sure they were asleep I took out my work and set up in the living room. I had brewed a nice cup of coffee and re-reviewed everything I had come across thus far.
Just about all the victims were near the same age. The most that had ever been left behind from the victims were fingers, toes, ears; basically the small parts. Some were cleanly taken off, others were not so lucky. They were all taken in the same five block radius not too far away from the hospital. The only known surviving victim described a man that had been missing for twenty-six years. During all that time there is a possibility that this was not his starting point, and that he presumably had some help. Most likely from someone that knew how to clean up a mess. Everything before hand only left a trail and a hint that the victim was even taken. This last victim threw everything off, not only was he intact ,for the most part, but he was left at the scene. Unfortunately, unless the victim recovers some other memory or a new lead falls out of the sky, I can’t move onto any set of individuals in the hospital.
I groaned leaning back on my couch. The only thing I could really do after this was give Johan Kingston a call and see if he’d be willing to help out any more. Until then I packed up my case and went to bed. I decided it would be a good idea to visit my friend Dr. Peter Totschlag, being a forensic psychologist, he may be able to give me a hand.
During my lunch, I gave him a call to see if he was free. To my surprise. he was and he happily agreed to give me a hand on the case. I met with him at his office after I picked us up come 6 from this cubbyhole joint he fancied.
“Oh, a case, and you actually brought me food? You must be stuck.” he laughed brushing some of his stray brown hair from his forehead.
“Drastic times call for drastic measures, Pete.” I pulled up a seat and handed him his food, as we ate, I managed to fill him in on everything and show him a few images from the crime scenes. Then I told him about the last scene and victim.
“Yeah, that is totally weird.” he slurped up the last of his soda, “Doesn’t sound like the other stuff at all.”
“You wouldn’t believe who got me to look at it this way.” I chuckled.
“Daphnie will be a great detective one day.” He looked at me and pushed some of the photos around. “I have ordered it from cleanest to messiest. Take a look at each of the scenes. Here, all the way on the left, it’s got the tightest job while the far right shows clearly there was no second person.”
“So there were two at the scene.”
“Yes and no. Some of them show there were both, others only one. You said some pieces were prettier than others right?”
“Those were the ones that had two people physically working. As time went on, it does give off the feeling that they were getting tired of doing it.” He picked up the photos of the last scene, “It shows that the killer may have been reluctant to let his assistant help. There could have been a concern that arose or even the killer was just done with her. ”
“Yup, no older male killer would be this caring about another man. Due to the type of crimes and the nature of this killer, there would be a female party or a younger male, I lean toward a female because of this idea of a romantic bridge the killer can construct. He clearly shows some level of acknowledgement of her and as time went on it kinda looks like he gave a damn.”
“Any suggestions of the line of work?”
He let out a rough laugh, “After all this talk of cleanliness you are really going to ask that?”
“I have an idea where she may work, to be honest.”
“Oh?” he leaned back in his chair. “Were you leaning toward hospital?”
“Bingo. All of the abductions were ten minutes from the hospital, if anyone would have the time to step away and come back from a break it would be someone from there.”
“It does make sense I would sug-” My phone cut him off with a loud ring.
“Sorry.” I picked it up and to my surprise, it looked like Jarred was giving me a call, “It’s my partner, one moment.”
I removed myself from the room, he was calling to let me know that the victim had returned to the station and wanted to speak to me. I quickly rushed inside to pick up my file and gave Pete a farewell and whisked myself back to the station. By the time I got back to the station, Johan was already waiting with my partner. Once he had spotted me, he stood using a cane probably provided by the hospital. He grabbed ahold of my arm shaking slightly.
“I heard her Detective.”
“Heard who?” I questioned sitting him down in his chair.
“The woman.” He stammered.
“Mr. Kingston, I am going to have to ask you to articulate what you are saying. I do not want to play the pronoun game with you.” I spoke firmly.
“When I was in the hospital I heard a voice, it was a woman’s voice it sounded like the one I heard before I was attacked by that monster.”
“And she was in the area you were staying at? Did you get any glimpse of her face?”
He shook his head.
“If I could get you somewhere where you could hear her voice, do you think you could point her out?”
“I believe I could.”
I gave a small smile, “Jarred get our warrant.”
It took some time but we managed to get all the women who worked on the floor where Johan was staying. A couple dozen nurses, a few doctors, and one janitor later, we had our line up ready to go.Mr. Kingston was more than happy to sit in, though, there was a mix of fear and rage on his face. I double checked with him to make sure he wanted to do this. He only looked at me for a moment and asked when we could begin. We set up each group accordingly as well as numbered each woman so we could keep track of everyone he thought was the voice from before. After two or three hours, we managed to bring it down to one line of six women. Jarred took care of most of the paperwork while a few other officers dealt with witness statements and escorting the previous ladies out.
“Do you want to take a break, Johan?” I questioned leaning towards the glass to examine the line of women.
“I will take a break once I point out who it was.” He poked back, I gave a small smirk.
We went through the routine one last time and he was able to narrow it down to two women. One was a nurse by the name of Mabelyn Peterson; the other, a janitor named Margaret Coleman. Both women had a very close speech pattern and vocal tones so I could see why he couldn’t point one out over the other. I thanked both him and the ladies for their time, and sent them on their way so we could begin our investigation on the women.
I returned to the office with the new information and sifted through all the clues again… not that there were many to go through. Both women worked at the hospital. While it was likely that the nurse had the medical expertise, that didn’t necessarily rule out the janitor. I must have gone over the evidence four or five times, and each time, I hit the same dead end. I had to get a warrant for the ladies’ records. In the meantime, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to call them in for an interrogation.
I filed for the search warrant and found Jarred. “Looks like we’re going fishing,” I said.
“Catch and release?” Jarred asked, eyes wide with excitement. He enjoyed interrogating suspects.
“Catch and release… for now,” I replied. “All the evidence adds up to these two suspects, but we need something more conclusive.”
“You did remember to let the Chief know, right?”
“As far as you know,” I told him. “Hey, you’re the interrogator this time, you have no reason to look a gift-horse in the mouth.”
Jarred decided to shut his trap after that…
A few hours later, I stood behind the two-way glass, watching Jarred play with Margaret. I could see that he went with the “We Know All” technique of interrogation. The tactic wasn’t doing any good, though; either she was really good at playing dumb, or she really didn’t know what was going on. I considered going in to interrogate Mabelyn, but there were a few problems. For starters, her record was squeaky clean; nothing I could use to intimidate her. That meant we had almost no tactic to use, and going in with a bunch of questions can always be misconstrued by the defense as coercing a confession… which means the case gets thrown out. I’ve always been a little hesitant during interrogations; that’s why I usually let Jarred handle it. In the meantime, however, I did peek in on Mabelyn through the glass, and something about her… it just got to me. She had this peaceful, serene look on her face, as if she didn’t have a care in the world… which was weird, considering that she was sitting in an interrogation room. Even people who are completely innocent will show some level of apprehension. Not one look of nervousness betrayed her features. She was just not right. I mentally scolded myself for letting my biases get in the way.
Jarred came out of the interrogation room. “If we didn’t have so much evidence against her, I’d say she was completely innocent,” he replied, with a puzzled look on his face. “I still have to question the nurse, but that’s just a formality right now. If I was the janitor, I’d plead insanity.”
As he walked away perusing the folder, I went to see the Chief about the status of those warrants, though I probably should have told him about this whole ordeal sooner. I knew he was going to ream me a new one yet again.
As soon as I set foot into the Chief’s office, I knew my partner had ratted me out. “We’ll talk about your lack of communication skills later,” he said, clearly annoyed, but used to me keeping him out of the loop.
“Yeah, well… speaking of communication,” I awkwardly transitioned, “Got any word on those warrants?”
Chief shook his head. “You know how the judge is about warrants,” he replied. “If I had known what you did behind my back, for the fiftieth time, I would’ve told you to hold off, or do more legwork, or something.”
“Great,” I murmured. “Best news on this case, yet.”
As I left the office, I heard Chief yell out, “Next time, be sure you keep me in the damned loop!”
Any investigator, regardless of organization or position, will tell you that busywork is the worst. It’s that stuff you do between hitting a brick wall in a case, and finding that one clue that ties it all together; that’s what I got stuck doing. I grabbed some coffee and went back to my desk. I worked on the board where we laid out all the different clues and tried to tie them together. I went back to my desk and listened to the recordings. I looked back through all of the evidence we gathered – even the stuff we originally thought was useless to the case- and got more coffee. All the evidence still said Margaret was the perp, but Mabelyn’s interview and her attitude before the interrogation, were so…off. In such an investigation, it’s always been my experience that innocent people don’t act so nervous, or so calm; only guilty people hit either of those extremes. Fidgeting, losing eye-contact, stuttering, problems working through timelines… on the other hand, staying completely still, glaring, a stone-faced expression, speech that sounds rehearsed, timelines that fit together too well… each extreme indicates something different, and you can just guess which extreme fits Mabelyn’s performance. Worst of all, there were the subtle cues, the microexpressions, which seemed to show that she had a feeling of serendipity; almost like you’d see in a woman who was covering for someone she loved. Going back through Johan’s story, it was clear that this was a two-person team. It made sense… but then again, the evidence was completely against it. It was like a criminologist had gone through the evidence, and Mabelyn’s record, and sterilized both.
We still had nothing clear enough to hold either of them. At least I could take my suspicions to the Chief and explain to him why I was against what the evidence had to say. First, however, I had to get a more authoritative voice on the subject, and I knew just who to consult…
Harrison was a friend of mine since college. He had been my Criminology professor, before the F.B.I. decided to call him up, and I joined the local P.D. He worked for the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, profiling psychos for a living. These days, he’s a child psychologist. I hadn’t seen him in forever – between work and family, I had zero time – but this was as good of a time as any.
I pulled up to his house/office, located just five minutes from the police station, with my notes at the ready. It was a beautiful, old Victorian; must have cost him a fortune, especially in the Historic District. I buzzed the intercom at his door and looked at the camera. “Come on, Harry,” I murmured.
“So impatient,” Harrison’s voice spoke from the intercom. “You’re lucky I’m not busy with a client.”
The door buzzed. I took that as my cue to walk in.
Harrison had an affinity for taxidermy and masks. I knew he wouldn’t have any of those decorations in his office, considering his clientele, but I wasn’t surprised to see a few tastefully mounted heads in the parlor, and several masks lining the hallway going upstairs. Many were colorful and garish, ranging from kabuki masks to a few cheap masks he had gotten from his Mardi-Gras vacation, but there were a couple that stood out. These were old, wooden masks, which looked like the kind they featured in old movies about Voodoo and zombies.
Harrison met me at the door to his office. “Admiring the decor?” he asked, with a slight smirk on his face. He seemed to have aged pretty well, for a man in his fifties. The grey streaks in his hair made him look distinguished, and he had just a few lightly-etched smile lines on his face. I patted him on the shoulder as I shook his hand. “Particularly those Voodoo masks,” I replied. “Think you have the time to help with a particularly tough case?”
Harrison’s face suddenly hardened. “I had hoped we could converse under more pleasant circumstances,” he said, in that passive-aggressive way of his. He had quit the B.A.U. during a case involving the ritual murder and cannibalization of ten young children. That was five years ago, and the look in his eyes still screamed that he wished he’d gotten that one profile right. In spite of all the other profiles he had gotten almost perfect, that one case both ended his career busting the worst criminals in America, and took a piece of his soul.
“Harry, you know I wouldn’t bother you with this unless it was important,” I tried to reassure him. “You’re the most experienced person I know when it comes to this sort of case. I’d hate to sound like this is some kind of story or something, but lives are, literally, on the line.”
Harrison rolled his eyes at my choice of words. “Alright,” he conceded, “Let’s have a look…”
A few minutes later, Harrison and I were both pouring over my notes. He shook his head. “My professional opinion?” He said. “I think this Mabelyn Petersen is your accomplice. She’s smart, dedicated, and shows signs of sociopathy.”
“So, why does she work for somebody else?” I asked. “I thought psychopaths were-”
“Times have changed, Hank,” Harrison replied, cutting me off. “Take a look at the newest issue of ‘Psychology Today’, and you’ll see that there is a technical difference between psychopathy and sociopathy. For one thing, psychopathy is generally believed to be hereditary, due to an underdevelopment of loci of the brain that control emotional and ethical development; sociopaths are made by a variety of childhood trauma. Furthermore, while psychopaths are meticulous in their actions, and detached from emotional states, sociopaths can form emotional attachments, even going to obsessive extremes; the only thing that doesn’t fit is, sociopaths are generally disorganized and erratic while psychopaths are accurate and detail-oriented.”
“So, what are you saying?” I asked. “Is she a sociopath, or not?”
“I believe she has formed an emotional attachment to a sociopath,” Harrison deduced, putting down the notes and moving towards the window. “She, herself, is not a sociopath; she’s found a way to rationalize her role as the sociopath’s accomplice. He may have manipulated her into falling in love with him, which would cause a strong emotional attachment so strong, she might be willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy.”
“Why a cannibal, though?” I asked.
Harrison stroked his clean-shaven chin. “I’m reminded of a case that, believe it or not, was featured on ‘Maury’,” he said. “There were two young boys who were severely abused and neglected by their parents. They had been forced into a diet of dog food to survive. A couple of years later, the Department of Children and Families took the boys out of the home, but for an entire month, they had to be slowly weaned off of the dog food and reconditioned to eat a normal diet. Their systems had become so accustomed to dog food, it was impossible for them to stomach too much of a typical human diet at any one time. It caused them to vomit whatever they ate.”
Looking back, it seems like an oddly specific thing to say, but at the time, I thought nothing of it. I did, however, take Harrison’s statement back with me. Chief would have a lot to complain about, but it would be worth it…
I decided to look in on the interrogation of Mabelyn again. This time, I could see that my smooth-talking partner was really laying on the charm. This was another technique in which you make a personal connection to the suspect. Make them like you, make them trust you, make them identify with you, and they might just be talked into opening up more; maybe, even relying on you to save them, which, of course, requires that you tell them the truth about everything. The only problem was, Mabelyn was really good at playing dumb… or maybe, she really was that dumb. Then again, how would a nurse, with all that medical training, be stupid?
Chief called me into the office shortly after I returned from taking a glance at Margaret in the interrogation room. Just outside his office there were two cleanly dressed men, they had the aura of ‘I’m higher up so back the fuck off’. He sat me down and gave out a rough sigh.
“Hank, I know you saw the two men outside.” He waved his hand in their direction, “I’ve been informed the kidnapping case we have you on will be given to those two.”
“Wait…wait, what? Why now? I am so close to finding this guy!” I protested. He gave another sigh as he picked up his coffee.
“I am not doing this because I want to Hank, they came to me about what you are working on. I was just picked to let you know. Please leave all your information with them and take the night off, you look like you haven’t slept in ages.” He took a sip of his coffee.
“I will have a new assignment on your desk when you come in tomorrow.”
Angrily, I stood and left his office. I walked over to my desk and packed everything into a manila folder for the two fantastic parties taking the case I’d been slaving over. Once everything was packed away, I happily handed over my work and left to go find some drive-through on the way home.
I sat in my car completely flustered with the case being taken from me. I had been so close to finally getting to the light at the end of the tunnel, then BAM, a cave in. I sighed deeply before taking a bite of a burrito I picked up to suffice as my dinner. I know Abby would get mad but I stayed out a little later to cool off. I had a sick feeling the killer would try to go after someone tonight so I had to at least listen for anything that could remotely fit the M.O. About mid-burrito, I overheard the radio call out a disturbance call for one of the houses in the neighborhood I was close to. I picked up my walkie and confirmed I’d go check it out since I wasn’t too far off. I set my food back in the bag and drove off to the address, just because my case was taken doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to give it one more go. It wasn’t until I stopped outside I noticed it was the nurse’s house. Her car was still in the driveway running but all the lights in the front of the house were off. I stopped my car and made my way to the door. I lightly grabbed the knob to test if it was open or not; once I confirmed it was unlocked I slowly opened the door.
I made my way into the house firearm drawn. I stopped dead in my tracks spotting the vitiligo cannibal eating in the dining room. Blood dripped onto the floor from the nurses freshly mangled body. With a short gag, he stopped what he was doing. His head turned to me part of her flesh being sucked into his mouth. My gun was drawn and aimed right at him. To be honest I was shaking for a moment, as I watched him chew I felt myself become queasy. Right before me was the nurse I had spoken to not more than four hours before, gutted on her own kitchen table.
“I think you forgot to say ‘freeze’ good sir.” A quick gulp and he had emptied his mouth and smiled, “You look positively green would you like a bucket?”
His voice was deep and crisply filled with joy to see me. He straightened himself out patting out the bloodied apron. “Pardon my table manners.” Laughter soon followed as his head and eyes scanned the room. My gun was still pointed at him. I was able to keep myself from throwing up for the second time in the last few minutes.
I groaned a bit changing positions in the chair I was sitting on. The suited man across from me looked displeased with my sudden pauses and verbal complaints regarding my seating arrangement. Honestly I was just stalling, I don’t know if he saw it, but I was particularly uneasy about the next part.
“A homicide detective with a weak stomach? That’s a bit ironic, now isn’t it.” He looked amused for a moment while I frowned.
“I can handle anything else, but the idea of a person eating another person gets me a little sick okay.” I grumbled in response.
“Continue Detective.” He urged.
“I am, I am. These chairs are not very guest friendly, now are they.” I kept moving about my seat.
“Okay…Basically, he asked me to listen to his story.” I exhaled. “He took a seat on a really comfortable, cushioned chair, and asked if I could listen to his story before I arrested him.”
“And you did that?” He spoke in disbelief and partial annoyance.
“I was stalling for backup on the verge of throwing up my snack. Now can I continue? Or are you going to pull up a nice seat and ask more questions?” I may or may not have growled at him just a bit with my side comment.
“What did he say to you?”
He sat back next to the body, my gun still pointed right at him. I only nodded in response to his question. He threw me an eerie smile, pulling at some of the stitching at the corners of his mouth.
“I was twelve….or somewhere around that age. Honestly, with the place where I was stuck at, I lost most of what little memories of my childhood I had. I was a foster kid. No mom, no dad just a bunch of other kids. It’s vague but I do remember a level of acceptance from all of them.” He stared at the ground while he pushed himself onto his feet as if he were dazed, lost in his own thoughts. “Then I was taken.”
“You’re missing person poster is still sitting on my desk. Who took you?”
“No clue, all I know is that his name is…or rather was..Jack.” His gaze connected with mine. “I took his name shortly after eating him.”
“S…so you ate the man who kidnapped you? At twelve?”
“Don’t misunderstand, I was not twelve when I ate the man that ruined me. Have you ever had everything you know, everyone you see, just…disappear? It makes you lonely. It drives you crazy. Now on top of that, you add on being trapped in a basement with a man named ‘Jack’ force feeding you humans after days and days of starvation. What do you think that does to a child? The torture of a man pinching and clamping the skin on your face until there’s nothing but a flap of skin much like when you become overweight and the rest of you hangs there once the fat is gone. I remember him taking the scissors out one day, he sharpened them and grabbed at the flap. He started on my forehead and cut his way down to the corners of my mouth. There was nothing to numb that pain but after what he would put me through, I don’t think I ever remember screaming. I just remember the blood and stitching he did to make my face whole again. He stretched out this white part here, it’s so tight over my nose and eyes.”
He lightly touched the center of his face then drug his fingers down to touch some of the stitching he had on his top lip. “He called me ‘Smiler’ from that day on. I don’t even know why he did it to me but hey, life’s a bitch now isn’t it.”
“And her?” I moved my head slightly directing it at the ever cooling body on the table.
“Ah yes…the Peach, she was a rather nice partner. I met her after trying to move back into society. As you can see.” he opened his arms wide as if he were showing himself off to me “I am not exactly appealing to society these days. So, I decided to just go back to the way that man made me; a monstrosity. She, however, thought she could reverse what he did to me. I told her it was a terrible idea to let a cannibal in the house.”
“How’d she persuade you…not to do what you just did to her sooner?”
“She promised me a good meal and a place to stay, come now you know the only way to a man’s heart is his stomach. In my particular case, I go through the chest cavity.” He laughed a little, “To tell you the truth, she reminded me of someone I once knew, but I came to realize I was living a make believe life. You just conveniently got to me today.”
“I was honestly rather engaged with his story…so much so that I hadn’t really realized he was getting closer until he had enough range to knock my gun out of my hand. Then we got into a good fight for a couple moment. He bit off my finger when we both landed on the floor.” I lifted my hand showing him my sudden love for the number nine. “After that, I managed to grab my gun and caught him right between the eyes.”
There was silence between us, as if he was expecting me to say more.
“Is that all detective?”
“Yes, sir.” I nodded leaning onto the table to give my back a break from the chair. “Is there supposed to be anything else?”
“I suppose not.” He sighed leaning forward for the device. Click. The recorder was turned off. He overlapped his fingers between his knuckles and rested them on the table between us. There was an awkward silence left between us before I cleared my throat.
“Special Agent Jackson.”
“So Agent Jack, why take such an interest in this case anyway? It was just another twisted man gone off his rocker.” I lightly patted the table. The man across from me removed the sunglasses shielding his eyes and stared at me.
“Detective Buchanan, I would heavily advise you to forget any of this ever happened.”
“Huh?” that caught me off guard, I spent months putting that case together just to get it taken then told to pretend it didn’t happen.
“You have two daughters at home correct?”
“Yes sir, I do.”
“Abbigale and Daphnie wouldn’t want to live their lives without their parent.” He replaced the glasses on his face and stood to open the door for me. “Have a good afternoon Detective.”
I gathered myself and made my way out of the room, back down the hall I went, and out the front doors. I took a few steps down the front marble stairs and pulled out a cigarette and a lighter from my jacket pockets. I stared back at the building as I lit it then went on my merry way. It was at that moment, that what that Smiler guy told me about made complete sense.
“This is the part of my tale that you keep to yourself, Hank. This type of information could endanger you and anyone else you hold dear.” Smiler sat right on top of me lifting the gun, placing it in my good hand and putting the barrel between his eyes.
“What is it?” I stammered, the pulsing of my missing finger ringing with pain.
“I want you to describe me as a terrible and twisted man, throw smiles and taunting. I shed no tears in front of you and Peach’s face must be riddled with fear. They will find out and want to know everything you know about me, please lie to them with every fiber in your body. I…I was not random. I was not alone. They wore suits. They broke us and they are making more.”
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