My reworked version. I'm happy with it
The building’s dark, and there’s a derelict feel to it. The walls are cracked, and the peeled wallpaper’s mostly gone. Half of the lights in the reception area are blown, and the lone Coke machine’s empty. The concierge looks up, grunts and goes back to his porno magazine, his face looking uninterested. I open my mouth to say some form of greeting to the man, but I’m too nervous and I don’t think he’d care. I walk toward the elevators – I know where I’m going, thankfully, though I’m in no hurry to get there.
I ask myself how old this building is. The elevator door has to be opened manually. One of those gates that, I find out, takes some effort to push open.
The squeaking makes me grimace, the unwelcome sound finding its way deep into my ear. I look down at my watch, but I’m not sure why. I shake my head as the elevator jumps at the beginning of its slow ascent.
The elevator stops and I force the doors open, revealing the hallway in front of me. I step out, wishing the building had air conditioning.
I look left and right and see we're alone. Good. I take a breath and walk on, down the foreboding hallway that lies ahead. I feel sweat build up and irritate the corners of my eyes. Doors pass on my left and right much faster then I'd like. I don't want to be here to be honest. Right now the old, overstuffed sofa in my apartment, with the filling falling out onto the floor like an untreated bullet wound, sitting in front of my television with its poor reception appeals to me more. Perhaps with a cold drink.
A distraction. An unwelcome thought - no, not an unwelcome one, but more an inconvenient one. My mind needs to be on the job.
I stare at the doors, one after the other, the hallway lights doing a poor job of lighting up the door numbers; I have to strain to see them. Perhaps I need to visit the opticians.
Another trespasser with heavy feet, treading on my focus. Be gone.
I stop and stare at the door. This is it. I take a deep breath and remind myself why I’m here.
It started for me while I was out at dinner – on my own as usual. The Chinese restaurant had that dark, orangey look to it. I wonder why that is – does it create an ambience? Does it make dinner for two more romantic? Or does it hide what’s really in the food?
I finish my food, and pick up the fortune cookie.
“You will hold someone’s life in your hands.”
I snort at that and put it down, noticing the lottery numbers on it.
It takes me a minute to recognise my own phone number. I turn cold.
Back at the office the next day I ponder the slip of paper. I confide in a colleague and we decide to look into it. Then my phone rings. I answer.
“It’s begun.” A voice says before hanging up. What the hell?
I pick the phone back up, and hit *, 6 and 9 and note down the number. I then call the directory.
Five minutes later, I stand looking at the huge wall-map. I rap my finger on the glossy paper.
Something’s not right. I feel a presence I have never felt before. I swallow hard, and grab my coat, storming out of the room.
My car’s an old one and, as is always the case, refuses to start when I want it to. I get it going and pull out onto the street.
Traffic’s heavy, but it’s moving steadily. It has also begun to rain, just another thing to deal with. Great.
I remember when I was a kid, playing games in the playground, pretending to be a space-man, a policeman, a builder, robots, or cowboys. I wonder how many people grew up and managed to get that dream job, the thing that they’d play as every day. How many people wake up, and go to work, happy to be there.
More to the point, however, how many people managed to get that dream job, only to find it does not live up to expectations. That romanticised fantasy is, in reality, a tedious daily grind that saps the enthusiasm from you like a parasite, feeding on your hopes and dreams until all tapped resources are dried up.
My car journey’s complete, and I pull over and step out. I pop my collar and walk toward the phone booth from which the mystery call came from. I look at my watch, and wonder why I get up before dawn, and rarely get home before dusk every day. For this? The highlight of my week is walking out in the rain looking for a prank caller, entertaining paranoid thoughts. Some dream job.
There is no one in the phone booth. Surprise, surprise. I shake my head, and turn to go back to the office.
I see a tiny pink shoe lying by the side of the booth. I chuckle, thinking of some kid somewhere crying to his/her mother at the loss of a shoe. I turn back to my car and freeze.
Why is there a sock in the shoe?
I turn back and ask why there’s a leg in the sock....
I sigh and approach.
Fifteen minutes later the area is sealed off as police walk around poking at what is now a crime scene.
A child’s body, dead, strangled, lying in the rain, with me standing there looking on, feeling so numb.
Almost two hours later I’m back in my office, to see my answer machine flashing. I press the button.
“I’m sorry I missed you. Her name’s Julie by the way. Hopefully next time I’ll come up against a more worthy opponent.”
So, I think to myself, a killer has, for some reason, selected me as his personal nemesis in a game of cat and mouse.
A week later another girl turns up, hidden behind another phone booth. Now my apparent nemesis has elevated himself to a serial killer.
But why me? He could select anyone – a successful business man, the child’s parents, a wise cop.... But me? I’m nobody.
I sit in my apartment, watching the story on the late night news. Fifty seconds later they move on and begin talking of the sports results which seem to bear more importance then a child’s life. I find that fact – rather worryingly – unsurprising.
I drop a slice of the pizza I got on the way home back into the box, with only a bite taken from it and stand up. I look around my almost bare apartment, wondering what drives a man to hunt and kill.... kids?
What kind of deprived animal could do that?
Does anyone actually care?
With a quick glance at the clock I decide to turn in.
“You ready?” My partner’s voice brings me back to the present, my memories nothing more then an imprint in the back of my mind. I turn to see the veteran face the voice belongs to. He's my partner – babysitter more like. Five years on the force. For me... well it's not my first
day, but it sure feels like it. It's my first serial killer. I realise I should be affected by this more then I am. My partner’s eyes hide a judging, righteous rage, masked by a veneer of professionalism. I catch a glimpse of myself in the brass door number panel, my eyes framed by black graffiti. In them I see... nothing. Do I lament the child’s unjust loss of life? No. Do I feel hated toward the killer? No.
Do I even admire
the killer? No.
I feel nothing.
I don't need to ask if this is our man. We know it is – I’m the one who figured that out. We're pretty sure of his MO too. He kidnaps small girls - always girls - and takes them back to his apartment. Then he cleans out, and soon the preteen body may surface in some god-forsaken part of town.
I glance at my partner again, then, for some reason, back at the elevator. I feel as though this moment should mean more to me, but it doesn’t. Just another day at work...
Although every single door in this hallway is the same, this one stands out. It's his.
My partner nods at me and I let my hand rest of my firearm. This is it. My first bust.
He kicks down the door and we run in. Immediately he runs into the bathroom and I head toward the bedroom.
Up until last night the case had been put aside. There were no leads. That was it...
The case is left open though; a serial killer case is never closed, really, but after a while it makes its way down the pile – unless, of course, the killer strikes again.
This case had disappeared into a mass of paperwork, and almost from my mind....
...Until another body appears, by the same phone booth.
Once again an investigation’s launched but comes up empty. I journey home, after another monotonous day, asking myself why I chose this job. I also question my morality. Is the fact that I feel nothing toward the victims a good thing or a bad thing? Is it better to be numb and objective, or to be remorseful and subjective?
I see ahead of me the Chinese restaurant I frequent and I decide that I’m hungry, so I pull over.
I tuck into my Szechuan Chicken and fumble around with the chopsticks – something that I never got the hang of, but use anyway because I feel I should. It occurs to me that many people would lack an appetite at such time but there it is again... I don’t really care...
Some child – no, two
– dies and I feel nothing...
I find myself re-evaluating my life. This ‘dream job’ is not what I had imagined. Whatever romanticised fantasy I had has been shattered, like the notional bubble being burst. Life is tedious and boring. The hours are long. Is this my life? Everyday, the same thing...?
Perhaps it’s time to retire.
I finish my meal and wave for the check. I crack open the fortune cookie and read it.Sophie’s choice lies by the monument to war
. Numbers follow: 11,3,22,30
I put the cookie in my mouth and bite down. The crunch fills my ears, and it suddenly hits me...
A fortune cookie...
Suddenly the case is blown wide open. I check my watch to confirm my suspicions.
It’s seven minutes past ten, on the third of November. It’s all I can do not to jump up and shout Eureka!
I know who the killer is...
And so, at Ten-twenty two, we run into the apartment of a man who works at the Chinese restaurant. We have a look around, but, no one's here.
We're too late.
The girl's not here. The apartment's empty.
I reflect on the symmetry of that before we leave. It seems strangely appropriate that the ‘case’ dead-ends here.
So that’s it... end of.
I find myself standing outside in the chilling air. My partner walks to the car and I just watch.
Up the street a bus is pulling over. My memory tells me that it stops three blocks from my apartment.
I turn back at my partner.
I find myself faced with a choice.
Turn left, take the blue pill, follow my partner into the car, go to the office and wait for the body to turn up.
Turn right, take the red pill, walk to the bus, go home, throw in the towel. Give up, find something new.
It’s a no brainer... This post has been edited by Mokrie Dela on Wednesday, Apr 6 2011, 23:48