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Crime Horror Suspense

“It wasn’t me.”

They all say that, or most of them anyways. 

When it gets to this stage of the game, the ones that admit it are just as much of a problem. Those ones enjoy themselves too much. Revel in it. I suppose the deniers do too. It’s all a game to them and they think they have already won by the time they are sitting here.

I look into those baby blue eyes of hers and have to remind myself where we are. Who we are. At another time and in another place…

Yeah right, Arnold! Who you kiddin’? She’s way, way outta your league.

Even after what she has done, she is way out of my league. I shouldn’t be thinking like this. I have to be on it. Read the situation. Read her. That little fantastical side story of me and her having a thing going is a distraction I cannot afford.

“Who was it then?” I affect a bored tone, only it doesn’t take much to affect it. I’ve been here a thousand times before and I know how it goes. This is noise. I wonder whether we’ll ever get to the bit worth hearing.

Her eyes harden and I have to make an effort not to pull back from her. I’m in charge here and she needs to remember that. Those eyes though. This is a new one on me. This is different. I mean, I’ve seen it all before and eyes do harden here in this room. Only it’s not usually the eyes, not exactly. It’s the face and the expression on that face. Everything closes around the eyes and it makes them look different. Her eyes though? They are certainly different. If I’d not been paying proper attention I’d have said something fancy like they hardened to flints. You know how that goes. Her eyes do darken, that’s for sure, but then I see something move behind them and they change all the more.

I swear that for a second there, her eyes were a familiar, cold green. I blink and her eyes are still that baby blue of hers, and she’s angry. Ice cold angry. I shake off that little moment we had there and have a word with myself. It’s the same word as I always have. Cut down on the drinking, Arnold. You know you gotta clean yourself up. You’re losing your edge, and people will start noticing.

I hate those words. I hate the voice that carries them, and if I’m honest, I hate myself for being like this. Thing is I’ve seen things and I know things that normal people shouldn’t. When you’ve trod that dark path there ain’t no therapy that’s gonna cut it other than the therapy that you get in a bar, and as for meds, booze will do it and it’ll do it much better than anything else can. Those pills the doc gave me? They changed me. I had this cotton wool in my head and I couldn’t think straight, but I was still bright enough to know where that was headed. More and more pills until there was nothing of me left in here.

She hasn’t said a word, her answer was those eyes of hers. I think about the people who went before me. The ones that saw those very eyes, and now it’s my turn to harden up and do my job.

“I said, who was it then?” I don’t shout. There’s a way of speaking that goes beyond shouting, only without the obvious volume. There’s another form of volume and I see the words rattle inside her. Not as much as I would like. This one is composed. Calm even. I don’t know how they do it, and I’m glad of that. If I knew? Well, I’d be one of them wouldn’t I? 

“My father,” she is barely audible, but that thing I was saying about the other form of volume? Yeah, she’s got that one covered and I hear her loud and clear.

I draw in a deep breath and I look down at the paperwork in front of me. I haven’t brought in much. Not this time. Back in the murder room there is one hell of a pile of stuff to go through. She’s been busy and I know we don’t know the half of it yet. The way things are going, she may even eclipse the man she says is her father. Maybe, but I doubt it. He was a once in a lifetime phenomenon, and thank all the gods you can for that.

Bartholomew Cook, known as The Chef because when he was eventually caught his freezer was full of the butchered remains of his victims and the forensic evidence pointed overwhelmingly to his having eaten parts of his victims. Maybe the whole shebang, because we sure as hell didn’t find the bodies of those he killed. I heard once that there ain’t anything you can’t eat on a pig and we’re the closest you can get to pig on the menu. I sometimes wonder whether he made bacon out of some of the people he killed and I hate myself a little more for thinking that thought. He gets to you though. I should say got, because he went to the chair way back when I was a rookie. Fast tracked through death row with a one way ticket to hell. He’s still around though. Some people manage to do that. It’s like haunting, but much worse than a ghost could ever do.

“Cook had no offspring,” I tell her.

Her eyes do something bordering on unnatural again and I can’t look away. Then she laughs and her laughter hurts just like horizontal hail. I wait for her to finish and I keep right on staring at her, my message to her is clear. Expand. Tell me I’m wrong.

And she does.

“I’m his daughter alright,” she tells me, “do you really think he registered the birth? That he sent me to school and saw me off to my prom like all those good little daddies?”

I have this sinking feeling that I get when a truth bomb lands and goes off right under my feet. Often as not, the truth don’t set you free, it just hurts, and it makes things worse. The more you know, the less you want to know, and I’m paid to know things no one should ever have to.

Of course he didn’t register the birth. The Chef didn’t play by any of the rules. I’d have to sort DNA testing, but I already knew. And now the eyes made sense to me. You see, I’d been a junior detective on the team that had investigated The Chef, and I’d sat in on one of the interviews. Once was enough. More than enough. I wasn’t supposed to be in on that interview, but Larry Havers was a good boss and mentor to me and he thought it would be good for me to meet the celebrity that was in our holding cells. He said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I could say that I had been in the same room as The Chef, which was only right because I was on the team that had caught him. Character building was another thing he said.

Terrifying was what it was. It was like being in the same room as the ultimate apex predator. The Chef was like nothing I have experienced since, and I was locked inside the room with him. Oh, he was cuffed at ankle and wrist and chained to the floor, but that was nothing to a man like that. The worst of it was that he looked at me and he was instantly in my head. Been there ever since.

Now here is his daughter, I didn’t doubt she was his daughter because what I stupidly thought was attraction was a familiarity calling out from inside me. She is as much in my head now as her dear papa ever was. 

Funny how everything can change on a dime isn’t it?

Changes like this are avalanches. My mind racing to keep above it all. I am trying not to get dragged down by all of the ensuing thoughts and possibilities. But I have to know.

“You grew up with that monster?” I ask her.

Only after the words come out do I regret using that word. Monster. Maybe I wanted to provoke her. Get a response. Have her blurt things she may never say otherwise. Mostly it was revulsion and under that revulsion was my weakness.

“I was raised by a great man. In fact, the greatest man to have ever existed,” she tells me, and she smiles a serene smile under which lays another monster. Just like her dear papa. From the smile alone I can see it and it chills me to the bone.

“Where’s your mother?” I ask her.

She throws back her head and laughs that weaponised laugh of hers. Layer upon layer of plate glass breaking and crashing down on me.

I await her spoken response.

She looks at me the way a cat looks at a mouse, “my father enjoyed the flesh,” she says to me, as she grins a predatory grin.

My imagination does the rest. It doesn’t hesitate to do her work for her. I’m not going to pursue that line of enquiry right this minute. Plenty of time for that later, but not now. I’m not ready for that. Never will be.

“And you?” I ask her, “do you enjoy the flesh as well?”

The words are out and they feel wrong coming from my lips. The kinda words that a sex offender says to much younger women, or boys or both or whatever floats your boat. The point is, that they are not good words and they go to a bad place. Always.

The grin widens, “what do you think?”

My mind really is racing now. I’m overheating. I try not to pay it much heed. The implications to this are awful. The Chef had a kid? She grew up in a household where a guy tortured and butchered women. Literally butchered and ate them. Stood to reason that his daughter shared his diet. As I recalled there wasn’t much else of anything in that fridge of his, just the meat. But where was she when we found The Chef?

“What did he call you?” I ask this because I am just plain curious, but all the more curious because she hasn’t provided a name since we brought her in. No I.D. on her, but now this is starting to make sense. Starting to, but I still refuse to believe that she could exist in this world without some sort of footprint. 

“Meat,” she says matter-of-factly.

“Meat?” I repeat, not understanding her reply.

“He told me that names were an unnecessary affectation, that we were all meat. So that’s what he called me.”

I struggle with this. I don’t know why this hits me more than any of the rest of it. In my mind’s eye I see a little girl growing up in The Chef’s house. Sharing the spoils of his activities and being systematically dehumanised by a monster.

Something doesn’t ring true though. This woman has poise. She knows how to act. He hasn’t destroyed her and if he hasn’t done that then surely he’s made her into what she is now. Meat? Why had he called her meat? 

“You say it wasn’t you?” I say, returning to her opening statement. “You were there, covered in the victim’s blood when we found you. We have all the proof in the world.”

Another bout of that razorblade laughter.

“You still don’t get it do you?” she leans forwards and whispers, “he said you wouldn’t get it. None of you. That’s what makes it so… beautiful. You’re meat. All of you. Food for him, only you pretend that you are not so you can sleep at night.”

Her voice is becoming quieter and quieter, I have to lean forward to hear her. I’m doing exactly what she wants. Of course I am. She’s been taught by the best. I thought I had been taught by the best too, but maybe I didn’t listen too good. Maybe the booze has taken more of a toll than I care to admit.

She’s fast.

Too fast.

And I am dull and slow.

She’s on me before I know it and do you want to hear something crazy? I feel her embrace and congratulate myself on being right about her and about us. I knew there was an attraction, that she wanted me and only me. I was right about something at least.

I lay there and it all makes sense as she moves on top of me. I’m not alone anymore. I am with this woman and nothing is going to come between us. I feel a warmth spreading below me. A far distant voice cries inside of me, that is your blood. I smile. It can’t be. She’s kissing my neck I’m…

“Meat,” she says softly into my ear as the wound in my neck bleeds out.

I think I know I am dying and I can’t do anything about it. I’m not sure I want to do anything about it now.

Her lips against my ear, her voice soft and soothing, “you really didn’t work it out did you? I’m his meat. He made me. He is me. I’m just a vessel so he can carry on his sacred work.”

I stare up at the ceiling and feel a chill up my spine. I can’t feel my legs anymore and I know I’m gone. It’s just a formality now. This is a deathbed confession, only it ain’t me doing the confessing.

“There are more of you aren’t there?” it’s not a question. Not really. Stands to reason. Why stop at one? That’s why she’s so relaxed about it all. We haven’t stopped him. She’s just one of…

“How many?” I breath the words out into the room.

She sighs against my ear, “all of them.”

A tear slips from my eye. I feel it, but I feel little else. This life affords me enough time to see it all before I slip beyond the veil. The Chef must’ve been laughing at us all. He was just the start. He didn’t kill those women right away. They were all pregnant. He was farming them for more meat, only the meat he farmed was to become versions of him. Boys and girls growing up to continue his work. I wonder whether he took the women when they were already pregnant or did he make the meat-sacks he intended to mould into versions of himself? It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same anyways. I know that now. I know it all, or at least I know enough to understand. 

I know enough, and I know enough to understand that I can’t do a thing about it. No one can.

I’d seen him, and I knew then. I’d seen The Chef behind her eyes and I understood the danger she presented. Maybe I wonder why I didn’t do anything then, when I knew. It doesn’t matter now though does it? No point in blaming anyone. There will be people doing that later. When I’m gone. They’ll blame me after I have gone. 

Scapegoat.

Easy meat.

I speak again, not even sure whether the words come out, “you’re him?”

“We all are,” she whispers in my ear, “he told us we would follow in his footsteps, but he lied about that. A little white lie. When you executed him, we didn’t just follow in his footsteps, something changed within each and every one of us, a damn burst…”

I think she’s finished, drifted off with her thoughts the same way I am drifting and that thought is kinda beautiful. I want to keep drifting and the thought of us both drifting is a comfort. I close my eyes and abandon myself to that drifting.

Then she speaks for the very last time as I walk away from this life of mine, walking away with no sound coming from my final footsteps.

“And you’re the only one who will ever know. You take my secret to the grave. What a waste of such good meat.”

I think she bites down on my neck again. I’m too far gone to know for sure. All I know is that she isn’t in the room anymore. The second to last thing I ever hear is The Chef’s voice and I know that he has won.

The final thing I hear are footsteps. 

They saw it all on the camera and they came running, but they are too late. We are all too late. There is an army of them now, and we are meat. 

Dead meat.

June 22, 2022 13:37

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