”God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.” – Elbert Hubbard
Immediately after inspecting the crime scene…
Detective Rona Callaway and Detective Carlos Rodriguez sit in the bullpen area of the Gainesville Department of Corrections. Callaway is tapping the eraser end of a pencil on the desk in front of her, and Rodriguez is leaning back in his swivel chair, arms crossed.
“Now we know what Jeffrey did with their heads.”
Rodriguez nods. “Buried them in his childhood backyard, all facing the attic where his mom was murdered.”
She tilts her head slightly.
“And the deer eyes, he put them in their eye sockets.”
“You know,” Rodriguez interjects, sitting up and leaning forward toward the desk. “Maybe he wanted those dead women to see something.”
Callaway looks down at the desk. “Like…… like….”
Then looks up.
“His first kill. His own mother.”
Rodriguez sighs, unsure. “Rape was never his M.O., Rona.”
She looks up at the ceiling, thinking.
“Gotta be a reason he’s lining up the heads like that. We hear anything from the investigators yet on Jeffrey’s whereabouts?”
Rodriguez frowns, and shakes his head ‘no’.
“We had a beat on him, until three weeks ago. And then Jeffrey drops off the face of the Earth.”
Placing both hands on the tables, she slaps them down and stands up, and starts to aimlessly walk around the desk.
“All right. What do we know about Jeffrey’s mother’s murder?”
Rodriguez shrugs. “Robbery rape went South. Signs of forced entry. Mom was found stripped, bodily fluids recovered at the scene.”
“Any leads back on the doer?”
Rodriguez sighs again, smiling a baffled smile.
“The weapon that killed Simone was a Colt automatic, Woodsman series. Never recovered.”
“You know,” she stops, and looks at him. “Jeffrey couldn’t have killed his own mother.”
Rodriguez looks up at her, puzzled. “Why not?”
Something turns in her mind.
“He wasn’t in the house that night. DHS removed him hours earlier, put him in a group home at mom’s request.”
“Wait,” Rodriguez stands up, surprised. “His mother put him away?”
“It’s in the report. Told the authorities she was afraid of her own son.”
Just then, the door of an office nearby opens and Detective Simmons sticks his head out. “Rona… Carlos…. Got a tip on the Roberts case. Some guy who apparently was Jeffrey’s friend.”
Rodriguez blinks. “He had friends?”
Callaway shrugs her shoulders.
“Well let’s bring him in.”
Simmons smiles. “He’s already here. He’s waiting in the interview room right now.”
Callaway and Rodriguez look at each other, knowingly, and they stand up and head for a room about three doors down from Detective Simmons’ office, and step inside. Sitting there next to a standard office desk is a caucasian man in his mid-40s by appearance, only referred to as ‘Jerry’ by their boss, in decent shape if not overly athletic-looking, and he looks up at them.
Callaway offers a kind smile and sits down in the chair across from him. Rodriguez leans against the wall next to the door, standard interrogation posture.
“So, you were Jeffrey’s neighbor in…. the early 2000s?”
The man nods, solemnly. “Yeah um, my bedroom was right across from his. A haunted house is what we called his place.”
“Why?” Rodriguez posits.
Jerry looks up at him.
“Night after night, music would be blaring out of the attic.” The man fidgets, slightly uncomfortable. “Real sappy songs, John Denver, that sort of thing, over and over.”
“But you and Jeffrey were friends?”
Callaway looks at him intently, and he shrugs slightly.
“Wouldn’t call it that. We just fooled around with our flashlights at night. Morse code.”
Rodriguez stood up straight and wandered around next to Callaway. “What kind of Morse?”
“Um,” the man says, trying to recall. “Hi, bye, SOS, dumb stuff like that. My folks would have killed me if they found out. No one wanted their kid playing with Jeff.”
Callaway leans forward, listening intently. “And you were doing this Morse code thing the night Jeffrey’s mother was killed?”
The man nods. “Jeff never coded me back. So I went over to see why. When I walked around the side of his house, there were two men there, peeking into a window. One of them was asking the other about whether or not he was sure ‘she’ was alone, and the other man assured him that ‘she’ was. Anyway, I was standing there, and there was another window, just above me that went into their kitchen. I got startled by something moving and I looked up, and she was staring right at me…. not at me…. more like…. right through me.”
The two detectives look at each other, then back at the man.
He shakes his head.
“Then the guys started in on her window with a crowbar. I ran back home.”
Callaway glances at her partner, then turns back to Jerry and smiles.
“Thanks for coming out here, Jerry.”
Detective Rodriguez smiles and offers a handshake to Jerry as he stands. The two share a short nod, and Jerry leaves the room, closing it behind him. Rodriguez turns back to Callaway.
“You know, in the report there was something about how Simone had these knife marks on all her stairways, right?
She nodded. “Right. Marks and steps.”
“Yeah”, Rodriguez smiled. “And Jeffrey said he made those marks to help her.”
Not fully following, Callaway frowns. “Okay, so what?”
Rodriguez, still smiling, holds out his hands in a ‘voila’ gesture.
“Simone looked past Jerry because she couldn’t see him. Jeffrey’s mother was blind.”
And now, Callaway’s eyes grow big.
“That’s why Jeffrey has a fixation with the victims’ eyes. His mother was blind. Knife marks in the wall were kind of a crude rail for her.”
He nodded back. “And no one else knew about her blindness. She was a shut-in. Barely came in contact with the outside world. And the two guys, some jerk from DHS gets the lay of the land earlier that night. But he didn’t kill Simone….”
Callaway shakes her head no, agreeing.
“Come into people’s homes as the do good social worker, but on the side, he’s casing the joint. Then something went wrong with the robbery that night. His partner wants to do more than just rob Simone. She recognized the DHS guy’s voice, and he took off.”
Rodriguez tilts his head, slightly.
“Then what did the other guy do in that house?”
”Sometimes human places create inhuman monsters.” – Stephen King
The Home of Simone Roberts.
Pulled from Police Reports.
Upstairs in the attic, Simone Roberts is standing there. All around her on the walls are murals of swamps, alligators, a man standing near the bayou’s edge. She hears something and turns toward the direction of the stairs.
“Who are you? What do you want with me?”
The man cautiously steps up the last few steps, his eyes trained on her, and he looks around briefly. “No one’s gotta know about this.”
Her hands go up, defensively, and she takes a couple of steps backward, and speaks again, her voice rising in volume.
“What are you gonna do? Dirty acts? IS THAT WHY YOU’RE HERE? To do filthy, dirty acts?”
The man holds up a hand. “Keep your voice down.”
Simone stammers, and her foot bumps into the foot of the bed there.
“Making another monster… another one like him??”
Something moves in an adjacent closet, which is slightly cracked open, but only Simone notices it, and she becomes frightened.
“It’s darkness. It always comes back.”
”All monsters must die, except the beautiful ones.” – Cameron Jace
Detectives Callaway and Rodriguez sit in the visiting area of the Florida State Penitentiary, across from a man, Edward Matthews, in handcuffs, clad in a standard orange prison jumpsuit, looking not particularly like he wants to be bothered.
Callaway considers him, sternly, and bites her lower lip as she thinks.
“So, you were there with the DHS guy…”
“Yeah,” he huffed. “So what? Thought we had an easy mark for a quick job. Went upstairs, but I didn’t stay. Left my gun there and I tailed out. That fucking creepy music…”
The detectives glance at each other.
“You’re sure you heard that music coming from the attic?”
He looks annoyed. “You kidding? Scared the hell out of me. And she was muttering like a crazy person. ‘The darkness always comes back.’ I left. It was too much.”
Rodriguez puts a hand on Callaway’s arm and she turns to look at him.
“Shit… She was talking about Jeff.”
Callaway’s eyes go wide. “He was in the house. Security at those group homes is next to nil, and kids run away all the time.”
“So, Jeffrey could have, too.”
She looks back at the prisoner, glances at his name sewn into the jumper, where it says “Matthews,” and then back at her partner.
“So it’s just him and mom in the house… and the gun that killed her. Okay….” She turns back to Matthews and squints. “All right, so he scares this guy away, and then what?” Matthews flinches, but she turns back to Rodriguez and ignores it. “He shoots his own mother?”
“Yep,” Rodriguez responds. “Mom sent him away. Maybe he was looking to settle the score.”
“You two done with me or what?”
The prisoner agitates in his chair and the two detectives, without a word, stand up and walk away from the table. Behind them, Matthews grumbles as a guard approaches and escorts him back to the prison door.
Callaway and Rodriguez stop when the ringtone on Detective Rodriguez’s phone chirps. He grabs it and puts it to his ear.
“Yeah chief, whatta we got?…… Yeah…. “
He looks at Callaway, his eyes widening slightly.
“OK, thanks chief. Appreciate it…”
He ends the call and puts his hands on his hips.
“Well, we looked into the buyer of the house who ordered the inspection. Guy doesn’t exist.”
She shakes her head, confused. “Well, someone signed the escrow papers.”
Rodriguez nods. “Someone using an alias…. Who wanted us to find those skulls.”
Callaway sighs, slowly blowing her breath through her lips, heart beginning to race.
Rodriguez purses his lips. “He set this whole thing in motion.”
Just then his phone chirps again. He looks at the number, not recognizing it, and frowns slightly, then presses the phone’s screen to start the call. ”Hello?”
His face goes white, and he brings the phone down to his chest, pressed against his sternum.
“There’s a Frederick Smith on the phone for you.”
She looks at him, not recognizing the name. His eyebrows go up.
“That’s the name…. of the buyer.”
She catches her breath in her throat.
”The rejection of difference is what turns people into monsters.” – Ananda Devi
Sometimes life is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the story, close your eyes and plug up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you all need to imagine right now.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic, storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed in that ring, and you will bleed, too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood, and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive, if you do. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Losing opportunities, losing possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.
But closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will be even worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.
‘Let him who has ears….. Hear…’
Nothing you can physically do to me will harm me. I’m not frightened by the thought of broken bones or my own mortality. Narrow minds devoid of imagination, intolerance of thought, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the only things that frighten me; what I absolutely fear and loathe.
Here’s what I think. Everybody’s born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else. But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up.
What I’d really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can’t seem to do it. They just don’t get it. Of course, the problem could be that I’m not explaining it very well, but I think it’s because they’re not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they’re not. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things.
Those things had the opposite effect as my intention. It was myself I hurt, my own self I plainly eradicated from existence. I hurt myself deeply, though at the time I had no idea how deeply. I should have learned many things from the experience, but when I look back on it, all I gained was one single, undeniable fact. That ultimately I am a person who can do evil. I had never consciously tried to hurt anyone, yet intentions notwithstanding, when necessity demanded, I could become completely self-centered and cruel. I was the kind of person who could, using some plausible excuse, inflict on a person I cared for a wound that would never heal. All of this is vaguery because I bet these same words could describe any or all of you. I didn’t know this described me, not until I had already spent years alone with my own thoughts. The words of everyone had bounced off of me when spoken, like a great wall repelling invaders.
I read once about an illness called hysteria siberiana. Have you ever heard of it? Try to imagine this: you’re a farmer, living all alone on the Siberian tundra. Day after day you plow your fields. As far as the eye can see, nothing. To the north, the horizon, to the east, the horizon, to the south, to the west, more of the same. Every morning when the sun rises in the East, you go out to work in your fields. When it’s directly overhead, you take a break for lunch. When it sinks in the west, you go home to sleep.
And then one day, something inside you dies. Day after day you watch the sun rise in the east, pass across the sky, then sink in the west, and something breaks inside you and dies. You toss your plow aside and, your head completely empty of thought, begin walking toward the west. Heading toward a land that lies west of the sun. Like someone possessed, you walk on, day after day, not eating or drinking, until you collapse on the ground and die. That’s hysteria siberiana.
I nearly self-diagnosed myself with this, but what afflicts me is not quite the same. All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says. I thought I would be there forever, and that was the beginning and end of it. If I stayed there, something inside me would have soon been lost forever – something I couldn’t afford to lose. It was like a vague dream, a burning, unfulfilled desire. The kind of dream people have only when they’re nineteen and a fool.
But things change.
I would not have expected my current state of affairs when I was sitting alone, as I always did, rotting away in my cell. I could not fathom that I would be sitting here, a professional wrestling championship in my grasp, and another within my reach. I have a job to do, but there’s no reason I can’t fulfill some new goals, and as I have been given a task to complete, so can I give tasks to others in my own right.
Where I cannot be, my friends will do my work for me. The groundwork will be laid. The rest is up to me. All I have to do is beat a Hall of Famer, the former World Champion, a man who wants the current World champion dead, a future Hall of Famer, another Hall of Famer who has previously had a championship reign of over 200 days….
And the Son of God.
All the same, I do not come alone.
And with GOD, all things are possible.
”All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.” – Chuck Palahniuk