Mystery Horror Crime

Detective Halloway walked down the stone steps. He took his time, despite the onslaught of rain that soaked him to the bone. Every article of clothing was damp and heavy, from his socks to his briefs. His feet squelched with each sodden step.

Grant weighed it all up in his mind.

The looks of recognition in the faces of those he’d interviewed.

The reactions.

The descriptions.

The eye-witness accounts.

And, because Grant was a visual man of a certain era, there was the CCTV footage.

You couldn’t argue with CCTV footage. Especially not in this day and age, when the clarity was exceptional. When the resolution was flawless. You could see the bags under the man’s eyes from the tape. Could see the broken blood vessels in the cheeks. Could see the five o’clock shadow on his chin.

He turned it over in his head as he arrived at the street level and took a left turn. Cars and vehicles whirred past. Neon lights throbbed and pulsed in the reflective grey waters of the puddles in the path. People scampered this way and that like drowned rats. Many held umbrellas or had waterproof hoods thrown up against the elements.

Grant had neither an umbrella nor a hood. He turned the collar of his brown raincoat up against the drizzle and buried his hands in his pockets. The detective blinked the water in his eyes away and sniffed. He had a cold on the way. The least of his problems, but it added to his misery.

He had two options.

The first — option one — would be to muddy the waters. To hide what he’d found. To kick up enough dust so that nobody behind could follow the trail he’d uncovered. There’d always be a danger that someone would uncover the buried leads. He’d live in fear — not only a fear of discovery but that they would discover he tried to cover his tracks. The one would be awful, the two combined would be dreadful. And there’d be no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again.

Or — option two — he could come clean. Head back to the station, show the cards he held and throw his hands up in the air. Give himself up. There was a certain shame there, yes, but there was also honour. To look at his colleagues in the eye and tell them what he’d found. To do his job, his duty, right up until the very last. Grant had never wavered in his role as a detective for the police force before. There was something romantic about upholding those same standards even now.

But could he do it? Did he have the strength, the resolve? Even as he pondered his courage, Grant knew what he was doing. After all, he’d taken a left after he departed, not a right. The contemplations were a distraction for his brain. Much like the kicked up dust he’d pondered for option one.

Grant hadn’t taken a taxi for a specific reason. When you get in a taxi, they expect you to give a destination. When you walk the streets, you can take all manner of twists and turns. Trick yourself into believing you’re going somewhere else.

Halloway grunted in feigned surprise when he found himself at the steps that led up to the station. He owed himself at the least the pretence that he’d caught himself off-guard.

* * *

“What are you thinking, then?”

Grant pulled a face and then swallowed his mouthful of saliva. “Multiple personality disorder. Schizophrenia.” He shook his head and threw a hand up. “I must admit, I don’t know an awful lot about it. I suppose you’d have to ask the doctors about how it properly works.” He leaned forward. “But I promise you, James, I do not remember anything.” Grant shook his head. “I can promise you that. Between you and I, I wouldn’t lie to you. Not to you, James.”

His badge and his gun were on the desk. Rich oak. Dark brown. Woody, with an ever-present scent of coffee. Smoke drifted up and away from their cigarettes. Smoking wasn’t allowed inside the precinct. Under current circumstances, the boss had made an exception.

James leaned back and took a sip of his coffee. He rested the mug on his belly. “I believe you, Grant. I don’t believe that you’d lie to me. I can’t. We’ve been through too much.” He placed his cup on the table and rested his hand on the telephone. “Now, you sure you want me to do this? I can’t take it back once it’s done. If you sign away that you really are the N.U. Killer, you’ll never be getting out. You know that, right? Seventeen, I believe the count is.”

“Do we have any other choice? I’m coming to you with evidence. Evidence that I—” Grant’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat. “That I committed those very crimes that you had me investigate. You can’t ignore what I’m bringing to you.” Detective Halloway licked his lips. His tongue darted to the corners of his mouth. “As much as we might like to.”

James sighed. “I know. I just wanted to…” His voice trailed away. He shook his head. “I don’t know.” Their gaze locked. “I guess I just don’t want to believe it, Grant.”

Grant’s eyes dropped to his feet. “Neither do I, James. But if you’d seen her face today — Miss Chelsea. The look of recognition. She knew me, James. She’d seen me before. And the CCTV—”

“The cameras can lie, Grant. You know that of all people.”

Grant’s voice was low and sandpapery. “Not this time. Not this time, James. I’ll have a copy for you by this evening. You’ll see. When you see it…” He shook his head. “There’s no denying it.” Grant’s eyes flicked to the phone. He pressed his lips together and nodded. “Do it.”

James sighed.

And picked up the phone.

* * *

The sound of the lock. Keys jangled. The door opened. One of the guards held the door open as one of the doctors came in. “Grant, you’ve got a visitor.”

He raised his head from the bed. His head swum. “The chief?”

The doctor frowned. “Not this time, Grant. It’s your brother.” He gestured to the open door.

“My—” Grant bit down on his tongue before he could finish his sentence. Perhaps it was the drugs, but he had the overwhelming sense that this was important. Something major. A revelation. Instead, Grant Halloway nodded. He got to his feet and stumbled. The doctor was there, an arm around him.

“Easy now. Come on, son, lean on me.”

Grant did.

The doctor laid a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll be right outside, Grant.” He didn’t need to say We’ll be watching. But he did add: “We won’t be listening in.” He looked up to the stranger and then cleared his throat. “I guess I better leave you to it. Didn’t know you had a brother.” The surprise in the doctor’s voice was clear. Grant could detect no distrust or accusation.

Grant sat down and stared at the man who claimed to be his brother. Scruffy hair, big round sunglasses. A scarf wound around the neck, almost to the point of being a turtleneck. And something was off about the skin. As if he’d been in a fire at a young age and had undergone reconstructive surgery.

Grant squeezed his eyes together and gripped the corners of the table as the room around him swayed. Damn tranquilisers and stabilisers and endless scores of drugs that ended in -iser. “I’m an only child,” he said at last. The former Detective Halloway had to squeeze the words out of himself, like water from a dry sponge.

The stranger guffawed. “How can you say that, Granty-boy?”

Grant opened his eyes and stared at the metal tabletop. The surface rippled. He forced his gaze upwards, into the bug-eyed shadows of the shades. “I’m an only child,” Grant repeated.

“Maybe at birth, Grant, I’ll concede.”

The man reached — with painstaking slowness — up and removed the sunglasses. The eyes were blue. Crystalline. Soulless. A shockwave of recognition rippled through Grant. He shuddered.

“But,” he continued, “we are all children of our own actions, are we not? We are all the parents of our consequences. Although, I might hasten to drop the metaphor before I come to the notion of birth.” The man smiled at that. A wistful smile, as if he hadn’t made a crude joke and was reminiscing over some childhood memory.

Grant shook his head. The room wobbled as he did so. “What?” His head rolled on its neck, top-heavy. The words were soft and mushy in his mouth.

“Well, I suppose to that extent, I’m less your brother than I am your son.” The man’s smile dropped away and the coldness in the eyes chilled. The pretty blues became ice. Arctic. Merciless. “Detective Halloway.” A small smirk tugged at the corners of his lips, but the grin didn’t reach the eyes. “Although, I thought ‘brother’ was a tad more believable than ‘son’. Even if it didn’t quite fit the metaphor as perfectly.” He gestured at his face. “This can only go so far. It can only remove so many years, I’m afraid, no matter how handsomely I pay them…”

“Who—” Grant fought with the words, pushed through the enunciation “—who are you?”

The man reached for the walls of the visiting room. “Why, I’m your brother of course!”

Grant shook his head and his jaw wagged, but no words came out. Only a low whine.

“Unless,” he leaned forward, elbows on the table, “of course, you’re referring to who I was.” He paused for a moment. It was theatrical. “If you were asking who I was, particularly when I was doing those terrible, fabulous things… well, then I guess you could say I was you.”

He winked.

The expression was all wrong. His face didn’t move as it should.

“Wha?” The former detective squinted at him. The light around the figure blurred, the definition fuzzed. As if someone had smeared vaseline over the camera lens of life. “Who are you?” Hoo aah oo? “What’s wrong with your with your—” Grant prodded his face.

“Oh, nothing.” He picked up his sunglasses and donned them again. Grant was glad to no longer see those inhuman pale eyes. “But on that note, I best be off, dear brother. Before someone does some digging around in your personal files and discovers you never had a brother.” The man got up and swept the scarf over his shoulder. “Some may say that I’m just here to boast, Grant, but what I’m doing is so much more than that.

“I’m here to torture you, Detective Halloway. And I’m here to commend you on the tremendous job you did in helping me in that endeavour.” He looked up and around at the white room, with its gentle light and soft walls. “I never thought you’d do this to yourself. I must say, you did a bang-up job. You really outdid me, here, Grant!” He chuckled and shook his head.

“Let me leave you with this before we separate forever.” He let his sunglasses slide down his nose. He looked over the top of the frame with librarian importance. Grant squirmed under the gaze of those washed-out blues.

“It’s amazing what a bit of plastic surgery will do for you, Grant Halloway.”

December 12, 2020 20:20

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