OLD TIME JUSTICE
The cold mist blinded Joe Salvatore for a moment as the sheriff’s deputy pushed him into the holding cell. Fluorescent lights behind thick grey Plexiglas popped and buzzed to life, bringing into reality and detail the sterile cell.
Joe’s first impression of the holding cell was how uncomfortable looking it was and how much it reminded him of the butcher shop’s walk-in freezer down the corner from his mother’s old home in Queens. Except for the light’s cover, the cell looked to be made of grey stainless steel. Even the wall bench and open toilet were made of the same material. The building material was not the only odd feature of the cell. There were no outside windows; a grilled drain hole was in the middle of the cell, and there was cold air being pumped into the room.
The deputy Joe nicknamed Droopy because of his long face, baggy cheek jowls, and slow way of speech had entered the holding cell with Joe. Droopy kept pushing Joe towards the back wall, while all the time Joe kept hearing in his mind the cartoon character Droopy saying, “There you go, sir”. Once Joe was flat against the wall, deputy Droopy moved to the side so his fellow partner had a clear shot into Joe’s back. That deputy Joe had named Dipstick because he was so tall, thin, and his black hair looked so greasy. “These hayseeds are really doing it fully by the book!” Joe thought to himself with some feeling of pride. With extreme care, deputy Droopy took off the handcuffs and slowly backed up so that deputy Dipstick never lost his shot. Finally, after the deputy was outside the holding cell, they closed the solid door, which more resembled a vault door than a normal prison door.
Rubbing his wrist, Joe sat down on the cold stainless steel bench and reflected about how he had gotten into this situation. This was his tenth month on the road but first time in the Deep South. Until now, he had been able to easily evade the police from Atlantic City, Jersey to Fort Wayne, Kansas. He had gone on the road because the Five Boughs had gotten too hot for him and his way of life. A slow smile of pride and satisfaction crept across Joe’s face as he thought of how he had easily infatuated his first set of women back home. He could always spot the “under loved and unappreciated” married women because he felt he had the “eye of an artist” in that regards. Once he found his “girl”, Joe began molding himself into the right type of man for her, which took time with the research and building of an identity, but Rome was not built in a day. It was during this time that Joe felt the most challenged and alive. Once his new identity was in place, Joe would make sure his “girl” did something to him accidently. From there, it was always led to the same song and dance of wining, dining, sixty-nineing until he had her full trust, which translated into having access to her and her husband’s money. This, most boring part of the game would continue until he decided that it was time to slit her throat and cut off the finger that still rested inside his “girl’s” wedding ring and engagement ring. He always kept the money in cash because everyone with real sense knew how crooked bankers were, and he always had a great meal followed with the most expensive cigar he could afford. The better the meal and cigar, the better he felt he had scored.
And he always kept the fingers.
Once on the road, it took a little longer to research his “girl” because he did not have the same home town advantage, but that only made this part more interesting. Joe always loved any challenge he could win. It was just dumb luck that when he came to “inbred country”, he got in a fender bender with some local granny who was too old to be alive, let alone driving. The old witch had rammed him so hard that his back bumper and his caved in trunk became inseparable. Damn automobile makers are so crooked; they have no pride anymore in their cheap ass built products. Sure enough, before he could sweet talk the old witch into going away or giving him cash so that he could go on, the fat tub of lard sheriff showed up. One bit of bad luck led to another till his “mementos” had been discovered poking out from a corner of the trunk. It was as if they were all pointing at him, saying “There’s your guy!”. Faster than a greased pig in a police uniform can eat a tray of donuts, he was arrested, put in front of a judge, and placed into this freezing holding cell.
How much time had passed, Joe was not sure, when suddenly the door’s little slit opened up. From the dull look in the eyes, Joe could tell Deputy Dipstick was looking around for him. Once he spotted Joe, he ordered him to go put his hands on the back wall. Wanting to begin building the aura of a cooperative inmate, Joe dutifully did as ordered. Joe knew he would not be able to get out of this “meat locker” or up the two flights of stairs it would take just to get back on the ground level, so there was no use trying to escape now, but if he could create the model of a falsely accused and cooperative inmate who knew he was going to be exonerated, then he knew his brilliant mind would find plenty of ways to escape when he was transferred back to New York.
With his hands against the wall and his breath fogging up the metal before him, he heard the heavy door open and in a moment close.
“Strange” thought Joe, “Why open it, just to close it again?" When Joe turned around, he was startled to see another man in the cell.
The man was average height and weight from what Joe could tell. The other man was wearing a clean orange jumpsuit and because of the grey shaded light, Joe could not tell for sure if he was either white or a light skinned Mexican. He was wearing disposable sandals like what you get at the hospital. The other man just stood still as he looked at Joe. Joe though ‘This guy has seen prison time’. Not wanting to ruin his newly created character, he not to get into a fight with the other man. Instead he started a conversation to see if he could keep the other man from feeling the need to claim the role of dominant male. “Hi there, my name is Joe,” he said, but did not hold out his hand so as to seem non-threatening.
“Good Evening” said the other man. “I am Victor”.
‘This guy is no local but I’ll be damned if I can hear an accent’ thought Joe, and then he said, “You said it is evening?"
“Yes” was Victor’s only reply.
Joe went to a wall bench and sat down. His mind was racing to figure Victor out. He still just stood there and looked at Joe. Victor calmly asked,” Are you the Killer Casanova?" Joe took what he thought was the right amount of time before answering,
“What? No…No...I am just a car thief from Oklahoma!! I was in a bad light with the local mobster, so I stole the first car I could. It was crappy luck that I nabbed a killer’s car!" Victor looked at Joe for a moment longer, then went to the opposite wall’s bench and sat down.
“I see. It is most unfortunate for you that your vehicle belonged to a killer who kept trophies from his kills”.
“You’re telling me, buddy”, Joe replied with a frown. A few cold moments passed before Joe acted like he had worked up the nerve to ask, “So what are you in for?"
“Murder” responded Victor. Joe gave a mock look of surprise, with a carefully crafted splash of concern.
“So did you…do it?"
“Yes Joe, I did it." Joe kept up his act, while reevaluating Victor physically. Joe felt he could kill Victor if it came down to it, due to being larger and more heavily muscled, but still, he acted like a person who was afraid of making Victor upset.
“So…was it someone you knew?’ asked Joe, to see what kind of reaction Victor might have to the question.
“No, they were all unknown to me. Many of them I killed because I was contracted to take their lives.” he said, very matter of fact.
“So you’re a hit-man” asked Joe.
“If that is how you perceive it, then yes, I am a hit-man."
Joe knew a lot about hit-men from growing up with criminals. Plus, they often popped up in the books and movies he enjoyed. He had wanted to be a hit-man when he was much younger, but in his teenage years, he had realized that hit-men were more like blue collar workers, while he was more of an artist. As he pondered this new fact about Victor and all he knew about the subject, Joe could see vapor from his breath float up in front of his eyes.
“Why do they keep it so damn cold in here!” Joe said out loud. Victor finally took his eyes from Joe and looked at the only air vent in the cell.
“The air system is set to have a negative air flow and it is easier and cost effective to use the same cool air created for the morgue on the floor above us.” Victor replied.
“What is negative air flow?” asked Joe, honestly puzzled.
Victor continued to look at the air vent as he answered, “The air system is set up so that nothing can flow back up towards its source due to the negative pressure pushing everything forward."
“So they can’t smell our farts or if we have a foul shit?” asked Joe.
“Something…like that” replied Victor, who once again brought his unblinking gaze on Joe, but this time a slight smile of amusement had touched his lips.
“Bingo!" Thought Joe, proudly. “Now I have a hook in him.”
More cold moments had passed when Joe asked, “So they think I am the, what did you say…Casanova Killer?"
“I said Killer Casanova” replied Victor.
“Yeah, yeah…same thing isn’t it?"
“Actually, the way you have said it would make some think you are the killer of someone named Casanova, where as I was using the non-dagir that the newspapers have given a serial killer who has been reported taking the wedding fingers of the women he has killed after robbing them.” Victor retorted.
“Okay then…The Killer Casanova! Is this who they think I am?” Joe asked roughly.
Victor’s expression had returned to its neutral state when he said, “Yes that is who authorities think you are. The authorities feel certain that you are the same “man” who has killed at least 27 women in the last 46 months in 8 states."
“That many women? Whoa this guy, whoever he is, must be pretty smart to get away will all those murders and never being caught or even identified” responded Joe, who secretly applauded his own skill and artistry.
Victor merely raised an eyebrow as he said, “The man is nothing but a clever animal that has had a streak of luck. If I were in your position, I would hope he kills again soon. That would prove your…innocence in those matters."
“Oh I feel confident he will be able to find another girl” said Joe with a feign air of innocent certainty. “So why do you think he takes the fingers?" Victor interlaced his fingers and placed his hands on his lap.
“He is punishing them for being so easily fooled into breaking their wedding vows spoken before God and their fellows. Most likely, his mother was the type of woman who knew many men. Those men stayed till they grew tired of her and then they left. Most likely, she was abused also but never had the strength to get away or protect her son. Though he takes the fingers as a trophy, he is also marking the women’s unfaithfulness." Joe merely sat on his bench as memories flooded his mind of all the men that had come into and out of his and his mother’s life; all while she continued to wear her cheap wedding ring.
“Do you believe in God, Joe?” Victor asked abruptly.
The question brought Joe back to the cold present. “Sure…sure I do.” He answered shakily, rattled by Victor’s intense stare.
“Really…Joe. I would think that being an automobile thief, you would worry about your defiance of the Ten Commandments."
“Listen Victor, I find it hard that a hit-man wants to call me out. You surely have strayed from the Ten Commandments your own damn self!”
“Come, come, Joe…one killer to another, surely you have wondered what happens when these bodies of flesh die? Is this truly all there will be or will there be another life beyond this flesh." Joe stared into Victor’s eyes and searched for what caused this sudden conversation topic.
“What are you, some born again ex-hit-man? Keep your bible thumping to yourself!"
“Joe, you misunderstand my question. I just wanted to know what your thoughts on God and the existence of an afterlife. For me, I know there is a God. I know there is an afterlife. I also know there is great evil in the world and beyond.” Victor said it with such certainty, Joe felt the must be losing his grip on reality.
“Not only are you a reborn Bible thumper, but now I’ll bet you’re going to tell me you have died and come back.”
Victor looked deeply into Joe’s eyes and said, “No Joe, I did not die and come back.
“Allow me to bring the subject back to my initial question. Joe Salvatore, I want to truly know if you are the Killer Casanova." As Joe looked deeply into Victor’s eyes, he could see in his mind the answer he wanted to give, but what he did say was as if spoken by another person, somewhere in the fog that had formed beyond his inner mind. What Joe could clearly heard was his own voice saying, “Yes, I am!”
After a moment Victor said with a hint of appreciation “Thank you Joe, for your honesty.” He paused for a long while before speaking again.
“I told you I was contracted to take people’s lives, but I never said I was a hit-man. That is the truth. I am an executioner. You have been found guilty of multiple murders. Because the legal system can make mistakes and you might walk free if you left this township, your final day on this world will be ending now. By the authority that has been granted to me by the township and local church, I will take your life.”
The words brought Joe’s sense of self back, but only in time to realize that he was going to die. Victor’s lower jaw had unhinged to reveal another row teeth, sharp and shark like. Victor’s eyes had lost all the white; replaced by color of blood. Victor’s nose had gone back into his skull so that all there were only nostril holes, while his forehead and cheek bones bulged forward.
Its body unaffected by the cold morgue air, the thing that was named Victor leapt like a great cat upon Joe. The thing’s clawed hands grabbed Joe by his shoulders and crushed them as one would crumple an empty can. Joe was not able to scream out in pain because his throat was ripped open by the serrated teeth. As it fed, Joe’s suffering was long and brutal, until finally, Joe no longer felt the cold.
The sudsy water was sprayed over the one trouble area as Deputy Demotte scrubbed harder with the special broom. Shouting to be heard over the water hose, “You ever wonder why some parts can be harder to get down the drain than others?"
Deputy Greene shut down the hose for a moment and replied, “I think it has something to do with the moisture freezing onto the cold surface."
“Damn if it does not make a mess sometimes!” exclaimed Deputy Demotte.
Both men looked at one another for a moment, and then went back to work cleaning up the holding cell.
Beeman is from Texas and whose favorite writers are Rod Serling, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Steven King, and Dean Koontz. Having learned the true meaning of horror living with a wife, child and four cats, while trying to survive the mind numbing plight of the corporate wage slave. Sorely disappointed that the zombie apocalypse did not happen in 2012 and having lost a couple of close personal friends who were ancient Mayans.
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