Warning: This short story contains disturbing imagery that reflects evil in our society and may not be suitable for young readers.
By Derek P. Gilbert
“No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.”
– Sigmund Freud
SPRINGTIME in St. Louis is beautiful. Songbirds are everywhere, celebrating the annual reawakening of the world around them. Everything is lush and green, dogwoods, red buds, and Bradford pears are in bloom, and the cloying scent of lilac fills the air.
Unless your allergies are like mine. Then spring in St. Louis just stinks.
About the middle of April every year, St. Louisans wake up to find the world powder-coated with a fine, yellow-green dust. This dust is the combined effort of millions upon millions of green growing things to make humans suffer. I think they’re getting even for thousands of years of cultivating, harvesting, clear-cutting, spraying, burning, and other tortures to which they’ve been subjected by mankind.
So it was with burning eyes and blocked sinuses that I stumbled down the stairs of my apartment building with the weekend’s trash one Monday morning in April. The pollen count was astronomical. I’d forgotten to take my twelve-hour antihistamine-decongestant the night before, and my eyes were watering so badly I almost didn’t notice the misshapen gray lump at the bottom of the bin.
I don’t usually go dumpster diving. Once it’s in the can, I’m happy to concede it to the West County Landfill. But the lump looked too organic for the dumpster, not like the usual collection of plastic bags and odds and ends. It wasn’t moving at all, though, as far as I could tell.
I was curious. If we had vermin, I wanted management to know about it. I walked around the corner of the building and looked until I found a long stick. I carried it back to the dumpster, hoping I wasn’t about to awaken a sleeping rat. Holding the lid open with one hand, just in case, I maneuvered the stick around a couple of trash bags and gently poked the thing.
It didn’t move.
I poked again, trying to move it enough to see what it was. After a couple of misses, I managed to flip it face up.
It was a cat.
No, it was what was left of a cat. Someone had cut it open from sternum to tail.
I pushed the dumpster lid fully open to get a better look. The bright morning sun revealed another grotesque detail: the poor creature’s entrails had been pulled out and lay twisted in knots on the dumpster floor.
Understand, I’m not a cat person. I wouldn’t like them even if I weren’t allergic to them. If it weren’t for their occasional usefulness in controlling rats, I could do without cats altogether. But this was just sick.
I felt bad about the cat, but not bad enough to investigate further. I couldn’t see a collar, so I assumed—hoped—it was a stray, closed the dumpster and walked away. It was sad, but I had enough to do with people who were hurting other people.
None of them, thank God, like that.
I drove to the office trying not to think about the last few hours of that cat’s life. Even if the cat had been dead when it was cut open—I couldn’t tell, but I truly hoped it had—it was the work of a seriously disturbed individual.
My office is a ten-minute drive from my apartment. The building was once a warehouse at a small private airport near the Missouri River in western St. Louis County. After the Flood of ‘93, the airport’s owner decided to diversify, so he converted the building into a “small business enterprise zone”, which is a fancy way of describing one and two-room offices with a shared receptionist. Nothing glamorous, but it works for those of us who can’t afford our own help.
I parked my car in front of the steel-sided building, blew my nose and went inside. The latest receptionist and I exchanged some pleasantries, though I couldn’t remember her name to save my neck. We go through receptionists faster than Cardinals fans go through Budweiser at a day game in August.
It’s ten steps across the industrial gray level-loop carpet to my door, which opens into the compact two-room office that houses McGlone Investigations. I’m McGlone—Matthew Mark Lucas John McGlone. Call me Matt.
My name? Dad is a Baptist preacher. He was so thankful that Mom and I survived a very rough delivery that he named me after the authors of the gospels. Not that I mind; at least he didn’t feel led to honor all twelve apostles.
Dad wasn’t thrilled about my career choice, at least not at first. He’s independent Baptist, the kind who thinks the Southern Baptists are just way too liberal. He had hopes I’d feel called to preach, or at least to the mission field. I guess he was afraid I’d spend most of my time taking pictures through motel blinds and putting the moves on my secretary, like in the movies. But Dad believes in accountability, big time. Once he realized that most of what I do is chase down people who are trying to hide from their responsibilities, he quit hinting that I was closing my ears to a higher calling.
I still have to usher every Wednesday and Sunday, though.
The image of the mutilated cat faded as the week dragged on, buried under a couple of insurance fraud cases. I probably would have forgotten it altogether—if I hadn’t discovered another one exactly a week later.
My apartment is in Maryland Heights, a nice suburb that sits up against the Missouri River northwest of St. Louis. It’s a healthy community of middle and upper middle class neighborhoods, good schools, a strong tax base, and convenient shopping. People who live there are law-abiding, mostly, and tend not to bother their neighbors. Cat mutilators do not make up a large part of the population.
This cat bothered me more than the first. Beside the fact that I’d stumbled onto somebody making a regular practice of animal torture, this cat’s fur was singed in places. It seemed that tearing out its insides wasn’t enough this time; they had burned it, too.
Okay. I don’t like cats, but really, in the grand scheme, cats are a minor annoyance. On the other hand, I have a serious problem with anyone who enjoys inflicting pain, especially on beings that are smaller and weaker. To me, that is the true definition of a monster.
Staking out the dumpster seemed the place to start. The trash is picked up Friday mornings, and I’d found the cats on successive Mondays. Maybe this was a routine.
Friday night found me in the parking lot behind my apartment, huddled in my car with the windows down a crack. I was thankful it was early enough in the year that the night was still cool and the mosquitoes weren’t out in force.
I was parked in line of sight with the dumpster, but not close enough to make my presence obvious. A big pin oak sitting between me and the street lamp over the dumpster draped my car in shadow. It helps that my car is not one that attracts attention. I could drive something more stylish, I guess, but when you don’t want to be noticed, a pale green, twelve-year-old Subaru wagon is pretty close to invisible.
I had my low-light digital camera with me. It was expensive, but I get a lot of use out of it; it’s amazing how many “disabled” people find the strength for all kinds of physical activity under the cover of darkness. I settled in as night fell, around eight-thirty, and began reading a couple of science fiction stories I’d loaded into my PDA.
Our apartment complex appeals to young singles, so weekends are a busy time. Tonight was no exception; people coming home from work, changing, cleaning up, heading out, or just opening the patio door and throwing steaks on the grill. Friday happy hour begins a forty-eight hour cycle of frenzied activity in this human beehive.
I read and waited; snacked and waited; drank and waited. Twilight turned to night. The pleasantly cool evening air was alternately scented with honeysuckle and barbecue. A stereo somewhere thumped out the rhythmic beat of “Mambo Number Five”. Fellow tenants buzzed and swirled in and out of the parking lot like so many June bugs around a porch light.
It occurred to me about ten-thirty that I might have started my stakeout a bit early, unless the person I was waiting for was especially bold. Or stupid.
By one-thirty, I’d finished four short stories, a bag of pretzel rods, and forty-eight ounces of water, and I was debating whether to run up to my apartment to use the john. I finally decided it was better to risk ninety seconds away from my post than to be caught by a neighbor peeing into a plastic bottle in my car.
The building I live in is a three-story wood-sided rectangle about half a football field long with two gaps in it for stairs to the apartments. My apartment faces a building that’s its mirror image, away from the parking lot. I quietly ran up the stairs to the third floor, unlocked my door, went inside and took care of business. On the way back down, I noticed a pair of headlights swinging around and pulling up in front of the dumpster.
It figured. The dumpster was between me and my car.
The only way to get my camera without being seen was to reverse course around the other side of the building, away from the lot, and come at my car from opposite direction. That would take twenty or thirty seconds, and by then, the car at the dumpster could be gone.
I took the remaining stairs as quietly as possible, sticking to the shadows next to the building, until I was close enough to see faces.
The car was easy enough to make, sitting in the orange pool of light cast by the halogen lamp over the dumpster. It was a late-model Jeep Cherokee, red. A man—no, a kid, probably high school—dressed in black short-sleeved t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, climbed out of the passenger door carrying what looked like a small bag with a thick strap. He looked around, darted to the dumpster, lifted the lid, and threw his parcel inside.
The kid set the lid down gently, barely making a sound, then turned and jumped back into the Jeep. As it pulled away, I sprinted toward the dumpster, staying low, and noted the plate number before it turned out of the lot.
I waited a few seconds, and then ran to my car. I copied the license number into my PDA, grabbed my flashlight and camera and walked back to the dumpster.
It wasn’t hard to find what had been dropped inside. My flashlight immediately picked out the burned, sliced, and broken body of another cat in the nearly empty bin. I was angry that I’d missed a chance to get a picture of the drop, but at least I had a tag number. That was a start.
I went back up to my apartment, collected a trash bag, grill tongs, and a pair of rubber gloves, then returned to the dumpster. The tongs were just long enough for me to reach the cat without falling in headfirst. It was tortured the same as the last one—burned, cut open, and intestines torn out.
I didn’t know if the evidence would ever be used, but I grimaced, held my breath and gently lifted the cat out of the dumpster anyway. I dropped it into the trash bag and wrapped it tightly. Leaving the tongs in the trash, I climbed the stairs, put the cat in the freezer, and went to bed.
Monday morning, I called a friend with the St. Louis County police. Sergeant Bob Sepulveda and I went to high school together and we’ve stayed in touch since. He does small favors for me and I pass along anything I think the police should know. I told Bob what I was working on and asked him to run the plates on the Jeep for me.
“Yeah, no problem,” he said. “But what are you going to do about it? The DA’s office hasn’t got a lot of time to spend on animal abuse.”
“I don’t know. Maybe give the kid’s parents some pictures. Let them know what Junior does on Friday nights.”
“They might not care.”
“They should.” Bob and I have both read John Douglas’s books about his work with the FBI’s criminal profiling unit. Most of the famous killers started by practicing on animals.
“I know it. Good luck, Matt.”
Bob called back about an hour later with a name and address. The Jeep was registered to a Sherri Murchison in Creve Coeur, a West County suburb just south of Maryland Heights. I made a note to drive by on my way home.
The Jeep was sitting in the driveway of a home just off Ladue Road, east of I-270. It was a neighborhood of expansive, manicured lawns, long asphalt drives, and comfortable, traditional suburban homes on half-acre lots. The house was a brick and frame two-story with a rear-entry garage. The yard was nicely landscaped with flowers and low hedges along the front, rings of hardwood mulch around mature white pines, and a grouping of impatiens circling the mailbox.
I parked up the street and watched for twenty minutes without seeing any movement. I felt exposed.
Nobody in the subdivision parked on the street, and my car was a couple of notches below neighborhood standards. I decided to come back when it was dark.
Surveillance that night was a waste of time, as it was the next two nights. The Jeep was in the drive, but it didn’t move. Which made sense, once I thought about it; if I was looking for a high school kid, getting out on a school night might be more difficult than on a Friday.
I decided to devote Friday to the matter. I drove by the Murchison house in the morning. The Jeep was gone. I made a guess and drove out to the public high school for the area, Westview. The student lot was nearly full. Most of the cars were older, maybe hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings. A late model red Jeep would stand out like a cross-dresser at prayer meeting.
It did, and the plates matched.
I parked across from the high school and waited. It was a warm, sunny morning, the kind of bright spring day that makes you feel good to be alive, no matter what; the kind of day that makes evil seem far off and distant, like nothing more than a vague, abstract concept.
Students starting filing out of the modern, low-slung brick building around two o’clock. A tall, skinny kid dressed in black got into the Jeep, pulled out of the lot and turned south on Fee Fee. I followed. He turned left, east onto Olive Boulevard. It looked like the Murchison kid was heading home.
One of the advantages of life in St. Louis is that traffic is pretty tame for a big city. Rush hour traffic backs up at the same time and in the same places every weekday afternoon, a little earlier on Fridays. Unfortunately, one of those stretches of road is Olive Boulevard at I-270, especially now with the construction work on the bridge. The kid lost me without ever knowing I was behind him.
Fifteen minutes later I drove up the Murchisons’ street, looking for the Jeep. Either it wasn’t there, or he’d pulled it around behind the house.
I considered my choices and decided to pull into the parking lot of a church on Ladue Road, less than a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the subdivision. From there, I had a view of the entrance to the neighborhood. If he went home, I’d see him leave again, sooner or later.
Again, I found myself sitting and waiting. Time dragged. It was tough staying awake. Half a dozen vehicles entered the subdivision, two came out. None of them was the one I wanted. About four o’clock, I had to explain to a Creve Coeur patrolman that my car was fine, thank you, I was just waiting for someone.
By six-thirty, I was impatient enough to take another roll through Murchison’s neighborhood. No Jeep. I drove to a convenience store at Olive and 270, about five minutes away, and bought some pretzels, coffee, and a Coke. After using the facilities, I drove back to Murchison’s. Still not there.
Three hours later, it was dark enough to chance getting closer, in spite of the “Neighborhood Watch” sign just inside the subdivision entrance. I really didn’t need an old lady with binoculars reporting me to the local PD. I’d been up and down the Murchisons’ street too many times already.
It didn’t matter. The Jeep wasn’t there, and there was no sign of life inside the Murchison home. One light burning in a first floor room was supposed to convince a potential burglar that somebody was there.
Disgusted with myself for wasting the day, I decided to go home. I was hungry, tired, and achy from sitting in my car for hours. Worse, my allergy drugs had worn off and my sinuses were closing faster than a front door on a Jehovah’s Witness.
But then I thought again about the Murchinsons’ address. It had been bothering me ever since Bob Sepulveda had called. This upscale suburb was a good five miles from my apartment. Where had the kid tortured the cats that made our dumpster a convenient drop? On a hunch, I took a drive out Creve Coeur Mill Road.
Creve Coeur Mill runs past the little airport where our office building sits, and on through the bottoms alongside the Missouri River. It more or less marks the western edge of development for Creve Coeur and Maryland Heights. Any further west and you’re in the river.
During the flood of ninety-three, the road was under eight feet of water. There are a couple of farms, a tree nursery, a driving range, and a rugby field alongside the road. Nothing there that will cost an insurance company too much the next time the Missouri jumps its banks.
Nothing to keep people in the valley after dark, either. At night, the road is lit only by what the moon sends its way. Tonight, that was nothing.
Creve Coeur Mill Road also serves as the western boundary of Creve Coeur Park. The park is a wooded area encircling Creve Coeur Lake, an oversized pond formed years ago by a bend in the Missouri that was abandoned when the river changed direction. A glint of light in the trees near the lake caught my eye.
I made a U-turn at Marine Drive and backtracked to the closed driving range. Pulling into the lot, I noticed an SUV at the far end. I swung around and played the headlights across it. It was the red Cherokee.
It fit. The fastest way for the Murchison kid to get home from here was Marine Drive through the park to Dorsett Road, then east to I-270. Right past my apartment.
I parked, switched off the engine, and collected my camera, a flashlight, and my .22 caliber pistol.
Yes, a gun. I’m a Christian, but I’m not foolish.
My sneakers were less than ideal for a walk in the woods, especially in this part of the county. The ground is always soft along here in the spring, and with every step I carried more of it along with me. The night was near black, the moon barely a sliver behind high, thin clouds. Frogs and crickets filled the damp air with sound. I walked slowly, letting my eyes grow accustomed to the darkness. I gritted my teeth every time I squished into another unseen puddle, wondering how long it would take to clean my car and my clothes.
The light slowly grew closer. The darkness and the moist, heavy air pressed in on me, as though I were covered by a thick, wet blanket. I kept my flashlight off and picked my way slowly through the timber and scraggly ground cover, moving slowly across the mud and the uneven ground. My feet were soaked and my imagination was in overdrive, conjuring up armies of ticks every time I felt an itch. The glow shining through the trees was inconstant, flickering like a flame. I heard laughter, then I topped a small rise and two shapes appeared, silhouetted against a small campfire.
I stopped and took my camera out of the case hanging around my neck. The contrast between the fire and the shadows was too great to make out faces. I slid around to my left to find an angle where I could get a decent shot. The two figures in the firelight moved and sounded like teenage boys, but without a clear look at them it was impossible to be sure.
I worked about a quarter of the way around the fire at a distance of about fifty yards. They were having a good time, laughing, shouting, and drinking something. A lucky break—they were too far gone to notice me thrashing about in the brush.
Finally, I found a spot where I could make out the features of the two boys. Teens, about my height but thinner, eyes gleaming with a feral intensity in the firelight. Another look through the camera, a little focus, and I started recording the festivities for posterity.
I got a few shots of each kid, good enough for an ID. Between drinks, they poked at the campfire with long sticks, then at something on the ground between them. Whatever it was, they found it terribly entertaining. I couldn’t see it. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to, but I needed proof.
Edging forward, I tried to feel my way forward while avoiding anything that would make noise. Moving no further than I had to, I raised the camera to my eye and trained it on the object at the boys’ feet.
It was a dog.
A small dog, maybe a puppy. Lying on its side, panting. Quick, shallow breaths. Barely alive. Its stomach was open. A wooden stake pinned one end of its intestines to the soft earth. The boys were prodding the dog with burning sticks to make it move.
They were forcing it to pull out its own intestines.
I choked back nausea, disgust, and rage, and forced myself to take pictures. I don’t remember how many; enough to connect the two boys to the obscenity at their feet. Then I put the camera back in its case and pulled out my gun.
A .22 caliber pistol at thirty yards has to be pretty well aimed to do serious damage. I was sorely tempted. I closed my eyes for a moment. The boys laughed again. I raised the gun.
Instead of firing, I yelled, “Murchison!”
The two boys looked in my direction, frozen. They couldn’t see past the circle of light cast by their little fire.
I shouted again. “Murchison, you sick little freak!”
The taller kid said to his friend, “Dude, run!” They bolted. With their night vision ruined by firelight, one of them crashed noisily to the ground after a few steps, swearing loudly as he fell.
I let them go. I had their faces in the camera, I knew where at least one of them lived, and I wanted to attend to the dog.
He was beyond help. A brown and white terrier, maybe, or a mix. Two years old, at most. His eyes were closed and he whimpered softly. Two feet of entrails stretched from his tortured body to the bloody stake in the ground. I sat in the mud among empty and abandoned cans of beer and stroked the little dog’s head. And I cried.
I cried like I did when I was eight years old and Dad had to take our black lab, Grover, to the vet for his final visit. It called up an ache I hadn’t felt in a long time, one that I hoped I’d never feel again. I hated those kids for stirring up that nearly forgotten pain, and I hated them for feeding their sick appetites with a creature so much smaller than they. I pulled out my gun and looked at it for a few moments, trying to work up the nerve to end the poor dog’s misery.
Suddenly, he shuddered and exhaled with a long sigh. I was thankful the choice had been made for me.
I sat next to the dog’s lifeless form a few minutes longer. Then I unpacked the camera and took a few last pictures.
The night pressed in on me with a terrible weight. The adrenaline and anger drained from me like water from a spilled cup, and I sagged under the burden of what I’d seen. I had to push myself to keep moving. Lying down there next to the fire felt like a good idea.
I know a guy who belongs to the Real Church of Satan. We argue theology from time to time. Norman tells me that true Satanism isn’t about orgies and killing babies; he says that good and evil exist only inside our heads, that it’s about doing what we want, when we want, as long as we’re willing to take the consequences.
I wondered what he would have made of the scene in the park.
I put away the camera and walked back to my car, using the flashlight this time. Returning with a folding spade I keep for emergencies, I put out the fire and buried the dog.
The Bible is silent on the subject, but I hope it’s true that all dogs go to heaven. That little guy deserved better than he got in this life.
I printed the pictures the next morning. What I should have done was report the kid to Bob Sepulveda and file an official complaint. But I was still angry and shaken, and I wanted to see the kid get what he deserved.
I got to the Murchison house about 10:30. I suspected the kid wasn’t up, but the idea of his parents yanking him out of bed didn’t bother me.
The door was answered by a woman in her mid-forties who was trying hard to look early thirties. Her hair was bleached blonde, and her skin was a nut brown that spoke of long hours in the sun or the tanning booth. She was fully made up and her shoulder-length hair perfectly coiffed.
“Mrs. Murchison?” I asked when she opened the door.
“Yes?” She eyed me warily, ready to close the door at the first hint of a sales pitch.
“You have a son in high school?”
“Yes.” Her inflection made it a question as much as a statement.
“Is this him?” I held up a picture I’d cropped from one of the shots I’d taken the night before.
She frowned. “I…. Why do you ask?”
“I have some other photos I think you should see. May I come in?”
“Who are you?”
“Excuse me.” I held up my P.I.’s license. “My name is Matt McGlone, and I believe your son and one of his friends have been abducting and torturing small animals.”
She laughed, a harsh, quick sound. “What kind of bullsh….” She stopped as she examined the print I held in front of her. It showed her son prodding the dog with a stick. The dog’s pathetic condition was clear.
“Bobby!” She nearly screamed his name. “Bobby, get down here now!” She turned to me. “Wait here,” she said, and stormed back into the house.
The morning sun was warm on my back. A red-winged blackbird trilled nearby. After a few moments, a tall, thickly powerful man with graying hair appeared in the doorway.
“What is this about? Who are you?” He had a square jaw, softened a bit by years and maybe twenty-five extra pounds, and hard gray eyes that exuded command.
“My name is Matt McGlone. If you’re Mr. Murchison, I’d like to talk about your son.”
“What about Bobby?”
“May I come in? I have some pictures you should see.”
He looked me over for a second, then said, “Come in. Sit in the living room.”
I parked on an overstuffed Victorian-style couch in a room that looked like a display. Everything was perfectly arranged, from the tasteful prints on the walls to the throw pillows on the furniture. Beautiful, but cold.
I heard the sounds of an argument upstairs. Mrs. Murchison was having some trouble getting her son out of bed. Then a deeper voice joined the discussion, and a muted thud indicated that Mr. Murchison had convinced his son to reconsider.
A few moments later, three people joined me in the living room: Mr. and Mrs. Murchison, and the taller kid.
“Hello, Bobby,” I said. “Long time, no see.”
Bobby Murchison looked at me with puffy, sullen eyes. He didn’t respond.
Mr. Murchison sat in a chair next to the couch and addressed me with a businesslike tone, as though we were discussing new aluminum siding. “Suppose you tell me what this is about.”
I cleared my throat. “Two weeks ago, I discovered a mutilated cat in the dumpster behind my apartment in Maryland Heights. Last Friday night, I observed a red Jeep Cherokee with your tag number stop and dispose of another mutilated cat in our dumpster. Last night, I tracked your Jeep to Creve Coeur Park and witnessed your son and another boy torturing a small dog. It subsequently died of the injuries they inflicted.”
Murchison said, “Why should I believe this story?”
I opened the file folder I carried and handed the prints inside Murchison.
Mrs. Murchison moved to her husband’s side and looked over his shoulder as he examined the prints. She looked stricken—and frightened. His face was unreadable, granite. The boy looked at me with pure hatred.
“Where did you get these?” Murchison asked.
“I took them. I’m a private investigator. It’s what I do.”
His eyebrows lowered. “Who hired you?”
“No one hired me. I stumbled onto something I thought was wrong, and I thought you should know about it.”
“Don’t try to bullshit me, son. Who hired you?”
“I told you, sir. Nobody hired me. I’m here because your son needs help.”
Murchison leaned back in his chair. “I could make your life miserable, son. You don’t want to mess with me.”
I was confused. “I don’t follow you.”
“This doesn’t need to leave this room, you understand? You don’t want to make a big deal out of this. Make a name for yourself, see yourself on the news.”
The light began to dawn. “Mr. Murchison, I didn’t come here to threaten you or to ask you for anything, except that you get some help for your son. What he’s done is wrong, and he needs to stop.”
Murchison studied me again. I felt like an insect pinned to a display card. A clock somewhere in the house chimed the hour. Finally, he said, “Okay. I’ll deal with this. Leave it with me. I appreciate your discretion.” He paused for a beat. “If you’re smart, you’ll remember that old saying about discretion.”
“The better part of valor?” I asked.
I thought for a moment and decided there wasn’t anything else to say. I nodded, stood, and walked toward the door. As I turned in the foyer, I looked back—and my blood turned to ice.
Bobby Murchison was watching me. He was smiling. And as he smiled, his eyes flared with a hint of red.
“Why didn’t you call me, you idiot?” It was a couple days later, and Bob Sepulveda and I were talking over burgers at a sports bar.
Between bites of seasoned fries, I said, “I was angry. I wanted to see the parents scream at the kid.”
“No. His dad thought I wanted to shake him down. He threatened me.”
“I’m not surprised. He’s got a lot to lose.”
“What do you mean?”
Bob looked at me like I was his stupid kid brother. “You don’t know who Bill Murchison is?”
Rolling his eyes, Bob said, “He’s the majority leader of the state senate. Probably run for governor next election. Lots of friends. He really could make your life miserable if he wanted to.”
I stopped chewing. “So he was worried about publicity?”
“Yep.” Bob took a mouthful of burger, then added, “I hear they’ve had trouble with his kid before. DUIs, possession, an assault charge—all swept under the rug. Imagine what would happen to Murchison’s career if that had gotten out?”
Why do creatures like Bundy, Ramirez, and Dahmer fascinate us? We put them under the microscope, dissecting and analyzing, trying to discover how monsters are created. We want to know that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them, that the destruction they wrought might have been prevented by higher self-esteem, proper medication, or access to a government program.
Carefully, very carefully, we measure the distance between them and us.
And then a “normal” kid takes a gun to school and blows off a classmate’s head, or a “normal” guy is found with dead women stuffed into fifty-five gallon barrels, and we’re back to Square One, asking the only question that matters: Why?
Why pull the guts out of a cat?
Maybe we’re missing the obvious answer. Maybe we’re trying so hard to find quantifiable, scientific explanations that we just don’t recognize plain, old-fashioned evil when we see it anymore.
Maybe our eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness.
The other day, I opened my apartment door and nearly stepped on a stuffed toy cat. It was slit open from throat to belly. I thought about taking a copy of the file I left with Bill Murchison and filing a complaint with the Maryland Heights police, but I decided against it. With Murchison’s clout, any prosecutor taking the case would be risking his career. So I carried the mutilated stuffed cat downstairs and threw it into the dumpster.
I watch my back more closely now. The kid may never try anything, but I will go to my grave seeing Bobby Murchison’s red, glowing eyes. Maybe it was just a strange reflection from the sunlight streaming in through the living room windows as he smiled, and maybe not. Whatever. I know this: Evil is real, and it walks among us.
Bill Murchison got what he wanted, at least for now. His name stayed out of the papers. He’s considered an early front-runner to be our next governor. He might even be president someday.
If his kid doesn’t make headlines first.
©2003, Derek P. Gilbert — All rights reserved