Chicago: July 23rd: 3:34 PM:
"The murders themselves were somewhat mundane, at least if you were the sort of cynical bastard who'd call the taking of human life mundane.
"No, strike that. That's a stupid way to tell this story. To start it off. Let's talk about the victims.
"Once a month, every month for the last six months. Every thirty days apart on the night of the Full Moon.
"I said I was going to talk about the victims. Not the dates. Shit.
"Okay, the victims. Men and women, ranging in age from 16 to 63. Black and white and brown, rich and poor and somewhere in-between, uptown and downtown and suburb. No real connections between them, except that they were alone at some point, disappeared, and were later found dumped in some out of the way location.
"The MO was usually strangulation, done with a length of hemp rope. They found fibers, pointing to a common-as-dirt type from who knows how many suppliers. The worse thing is - the worst thing was - that the victims were most likely strangled from the front, rather than behind. That's according to the guys who got to carve them up like turkeys and play with their guts for a few hours, anyway. And they called the killer sick.
"Oh, the others. Shot between the eyes. That's the second one and the last one. The very last one. .38 at point blank range. Both of them.
"Tied up. They were tied up. Manacles. The kind you could buy from a S&M catalogue or a sex store from anywhere in town. Probably paid in cash, the shit.
"So he was looking at them, wasn't he. What was he looking for? That's the big question. It has to be. Two of them were shot and four of them were strangled. No sexual contact. The guy's not a perv. Speaking sexually, anyway. Or maybe he is and he just doesn't get it mixed up with this work.
"And it is work, you know. It has to be. There's a goal, here. But what is it -"
There was a lucid 'snap' as the tape player was shut off. The fingers that pressed the black STOP button rose back up and were stroked across a forehead, just starting to sweat in the heat that only a Chi-town Summer could bring to a stuffy, cramped little office like this one. Ten years a Lt. and all they could give a Detective was some sorry, bone-white cinderblock rat trap with chickenwire over the windows, a radiator that made too much noise and never worked, and never enough space to put the evidence.
The desk was cluttered with stuff - most notably the exact same casefiles that the voice on the tape had been speaking of. A stamped, somewhat mail-mangled folder was on top of it all, addressed to the Detective, here at the station. There was no return address.
Lt. Meyers started crying. He didn't care who heard him. He didn't care if anyone passing in the hallway saw him. He just cried, holding his hands right where his forehead met what was left of his hairline and letting the tears drip down into the desk. His eyes were about as grey as what was left of his hair these days, and they made things very noticeable when he got red-eyed like this. But he didn't care. Not now.
He cried for what seemed a long time, and then, by degrees, got himself back together. He chucked the tape into the trash along with the envelope, and went downstairs for what passed as lunch in the station's sorry commissary. At least it'd take his mind off- things.
"Hey Meyers," one of his fellow Lts said on the way up the stairs, passing him on the way down: "Your boyfriend's down in the waiting room. Wants to know if you got his tape."
"Shit…" Meyers whispered, more to himself than anyone else.
"Why don't you just tell him to fuck off?"
"Because I can't," Meyers replied: "Because he's a friend, and because-"
"Because the Chief's the one who told you to send him the case files, just to keep him from going over your head to his desk."
"Yeah… that too…" he sighed, putting his hands in pants pockets and arching his girth a bit as he shrugged his shoulders.
"What a sorry little fucker. I swear-"
"Hey." Meyers shot back: "Fuck you. The man was a good cop, once. What happened to him ain't his fault."
"Yeah, well, what happened to Lou Gehrig wasn't his fault, either. But at least he had the sense to stop playing baseball before they had to wheel him from base to base-"
Meyer wasn't listening. He'd continued heading down right about when the other guy'd gotten to Lou Gehrig. He hated it when people brought that up.
Sure enough, Bob was down in the waiting room. He looked awful - like someone sitting outside an emergency room waiting for news about their gutshot spouse, or maybe someone waiting to see the IRS agent about their audit. His black hair was too long and too frizzy, and the sweatsuit he wore instead of normal clothing was soaked with this morning's rain. How long had he been waiting for…?
"Frank!" Bob yelled before Meyer could say anything. The man got up from the bench and got a little too close to the wooden partition keeping the civies from crossing into the police's part of things before the police were ready to see them. The Desk Sgt. sat up in his chair and started to open his mouth to say something.
"It's okay, Steve. I got it," Meyer said, walking over to the guy: "Hey, Willers. You're looking good."
"Did you get the tape?" Bob asked, eyes drilling into Meyer.
"Uh… yeah. Hey, can we talk it over? Outside?" Meyers said, opening the wooden dropgate and putting a hand on Bob's shoulder: "Yeah. Come on. Let's walk."
Bob walked quickly alongside Meyer, stopping every so often and taking a good, long look at someone. They made it about as far as the front steps before Bob put a hand on Meyer's shoulder and whispered in his ear.
"The lady over there."
"The lady over there. By the hot dog stand."
Meyer looked. There was a lady by the hot dog stand. She was buying a cheese dog and fumbling in her purse for change.
"What about her, Bob?" Meyer asked, knowing this routine too well.
"Look at her elbows."
"I'm… jesus. Bob, look… can we talk about this?"
"Can't you see… oh, no. You can't. You can't see her life counting down in front of her, can you. Not like I can."
"You can't see the tracks. Tracks running her down," Bob went on, matter of factly but way too rapid: "You can't see the child at home. Hungry because mommy would rather bang heroin. Bang men FOR heroin than feed her. You can't see the obituary… days from now-"
"BOB!" Meyer screamed, and then put his hands to his head. Dammit. Dammit dammit damn.
"What?" Bob asked, looking at Meyer as if nothing were wrong. His eyes were like crystal.
"Look… Bob, Jesus… I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm-"
"Why?" the man asked: "I'm not the one who's handicapped, Frank. I can see now. I can really SEE. And I'm trying to help out-"
"I. Don't. Want. Your help." Meyer stammered out: "I'm sorry. That's all there is to it."
There was silence, then. Deep and dark. Bob blinked a few times, looked back at the woman - now shuffling along the street with her hot dog - and sighed.
"You don't know what it's like, Frank," Bob said: "All the things… the things I can see, now. They're eating me up. I can't see someone without seeing. Seeing more. And I can't think about- about this without seeing more than I should-"
"Bob," Meyer said: "Look, it's alright. I know you want to help, but-"
"Then let me help!" the man screamed, attracting way too much attention.
"You can't help!" Meyer screamed back.
"The chief says I can."
"The chief… argh."
There was a crowd forming, now. Meyer flashed a badge and hitched a thumb at them. GET LOST. They did.
"Look, you want to help?" Meyer asked: "Then stay out of the way, okay? I don't need you sending me these damn tapes-"
"I can't type. Not anymore."
"I don't care if you wrote it all out in fucking longhand, Bob. That's not the point. The point is…"
He stalled out. The point was what? He didn't want to feel guilty? He didn't want to feel like the Chief was fucking him in the ass after six months of no leads? He didn't want to feel like a second-string actor in another bad psychic cop movie? What?
Bob made a strange gesture with his hands. It was like playing peekaboo, but with his adam's apple.
"The point is there is no point at all," Bob said. And then he sat down, looking rather dumpy. He HAD put on weight.
"Bob…" Meyer tried to say: "I'm sorry… but I can't trust you. I don't know if you're going to play it cool, or go nuts all over me. I don't know."
"I can't do things like that. Not anymore," Bob said: "They took away my badge. Remember?"
"Yeah, I remember."
"I just want to tell you. Have you see what I'm seeing. I just want you to know."
"Well… okay," Meyer said.
"Okay?" Bob perked up.
"You send them to me, I'll listen," Meyer said: "But don't come here anymore, okay? Just don't. Please."
"I won't," Bob said. And then he got up, turned right around and waddled away.
Meyer shook his head. This was stupid. That whole conversation was like something out of a bad cop movie. Why couldn't he talk like a normal person anymore?
"Fuck you, too," he said, looking up at the sky. Of course, it picked that moment to start to rain again.
New York: July 23rd: 5:01 PM
"What do you know about this guy?" The old man was saying to someone else, there with him in the big, dark room where they kept the maps. They were all alone, there.
His companion scrunched his eyes up, looking at the photo - a nice, clean-cut kid right out of the police academy - and thought a moment: "Bob Willers, right?"
"Chicago PD. Vice squad. Made it up to Lieutenant, and then something went wrong- right?"
The other man smiled slightly: Tiamat was never one for mincing words.
"Do you remember what went wrong?" The old man asked.
"Ah, not really. It's been a while since I remember hearing about him."
"Drug bust went bad," Tiamat intoned solemnly: "They crashed into some poor college kid's LSD lab in full riot gear, smashing everything in sight. They got the perps down on the ground and were in the middle of making the arrests when Bob, here, got hot and took his gloves off."
"Oh Jesus," Trebuchet said, remembering: "That's right. He put his hand down on one of the tables."
"Absorbed somewhere around a thousand hits worth of LSD."
Trebuchet grimaced, remembering his one and only trip, back in college. He'd taken a sugarcube at a Halloween party and had a bad reaction to all the goofy costumes people around him were wearing. He could only guess what it must have been like to suddenly trip out just after such an adrenalin rush, with guys wearing scary, black "darth vader" masks and brandishing riot guns all getting in his face and asking him if he was okay…
"Was hospitalized for around six months," Tiamat went on: "Screaming his head off the whole time about monsters from outer space."
Trebuchet nodded, knowing that story just a little too well, but trying to remain objective: "Yeah, him and half the acid casualties in Bellevue. What makes this guy different?"
"Well, when he came out of it, they tried to put him back on the force. He was fine for about a week- and then he became convinced that one of the men on his team was, as he put it, 'working for the enemy.'"
"The monsters from outer space," he replied: "Was he really?"
"Well, jury's a bit out on that one," Tiamat said: "Bob came in one day, pulled a gun on the guy and tried to blow his head off. Right in the office."
Trebuchet blinked: NOW it was coming back to him…
"Oh dammit," he said, shaking his head and looking at the picture.
"Mental imbalance, they thought," Tiamat went on: "They dragged him away for a mental competency, and he was screaming 'the bodies are under the water. Four men underwater.' Kept screaming it all through the hearing, too."
"And it turns out the guy he pulled the gun on was working as a part-time legbreaker," Trebuchet said: "Four police informants were in barrels under the lake, all put there because of him."
"Right. Internal Affairs got on his ass, and then he went home, wrote a confession and shot himself. Saved everyone the expense of a trial."
The two stared at the photo for a while.
"So what's new?" Trebuchet asked.
"What's new is that, after a few years of being in a nice home for people with special problems, Bob's back out on the streets and, in spite of his daily regimen of medication, he's seeing things again."
"In relation to the Full Moon murders?"
"So what's our angle? I didn't think there was anything really noteworthy about the murders- other than their connection with the Moon."
"Well, the Chief of the Station he used to be at's a friend of a friend. This chief's been sending Bob the case files in the hopes that he'll have an insight. In the meantime, word from up top is to make preliminary contact with him and see if he's got anything we could use."
Trebuchet nodded: "And if he does?"
"Well, bringing him into the fold might be… tricky. He might be better to keep on the sidelines and bring in when we need a bit of a push."
"So you want me to look into him?"
"We want you to go check him out," Tiamat said, handing him the photo: "Hook up with Tiana in Chicago. She's already there."
Trebuchet sighed, taking the photo: "You know I hate people like this."
"We know. That's why you're the one to go do it."
"You know WHY I hate people like this, too."
Trebuchet just smiled: "I have to get back to work, now."