Author: Guede Mazaka
When he’d been standing at that door, watching the holy fervor in their faces, all Paul had felt was his stomach turning sickly over, like a starved child facing the wall. He could hear the righteousness all right—Connor and Murphy had the fire-and-brimstone act down better than most street-corner born-agains—but it just wasn’t getting through to him. Not like when he’d been sitting at his desk late at night, evidence swirling in impossible patterns around him while all his lazy-ass ‘humanly flawed’ co-workers opted for early nights over solved crimes. Not like when he’d been stumbling over a bloody crime scene and seeing it in his head, vivid and shocking and—
--yeah, he should’ve known when his mind had started to set things to fucking Wagner. Who didn’t even rate a CD in his collection. But it’d been so good.
He should’ve known.
The door beside him opens, and his ‘partner’ of the day steps out, shaking a pasty wedge-shaped head and scratching inside his jacket for a cigarette. The other man finally gets one out and absently offers the pack Paul’s way; Paul turns it down in favor of his own cigarettes, which he’s had to start importing to get them strong enough. “Getting a little too much for you? The resident Ironman?” the prick asks.
“She’s sixteen years old and she tried to cut open her wrist with a fucking mechanical pencil in the lobby last week,” Paul snaps. “You wanna have a pissing contest, you go and do it over some fucking basketball game. You wanna do that over people, then I suggest you take the walk to the shrink and get your baseline straight. How the hell you ever think you’re gonna be able to tell what psychosis is when you—”
“Jesus, okay, fine. Sorry.” This one’s a little smarter than the usual: he just turns his back on Smecker and walks away before his pride gets any more dented.
Or maybe Smecker’s just a little slower, a little more tired, a little less willing to fight the good fight nowadays. More than a little less certain that he knows what he’s seeing, that he can measure the man by eye instead of having to rely on cold words, black ink on white paper.
That’ll be what the transcripts of these interviews—two a day—that will show up on his desk later will look like. He doesn’t know if they really should be written in blood or in something else, but they should have color. These people, all of them telling him the same story, are painting the outlines in layer after layer of different shades. They’re laying it on so thick that he feels suffocated, imprisoned beneath the weight, and there’s no chance that it’ll dry up and flake away either. No, the truth has that nasty habit of staying fresh.
His cigarette’s done. Grimacing, Paul turns sharply on his heel and walks back into the room. He hears the click as the recording equipment goes on, and technically he really should wait for his partner to get back before he starts. But he’s not really thinking of starting, anyway.
She’s got a sweet-looking face. Her dress is a pretty virginal thing in flowery calico, and her skin’s deadly pale against it. She keeps her hands clasped together, sometimes in her lap and sometimes nearly pressing against her mouth. When she isn’t answering their questions, she’s rocking back and forth and murmuring prayers to herself. When she moves back, Paul can see the raw patch on the underside of her chin where she’s scrubbed off the skin nearly to the underlying muscle.
“Dear Father, today I have wrong thoughts again about taking my own life. And this is murder, and I know that that is against your three commandments, but I hope you’ll forgive me,” she says.
Paul takes his seat and watches her. “It’s ten,” he tiredly says.
She doesn’t hear him. God sure as hell doesn’t, either, though He really needs the reminder.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” she gasps into her hands.
“Amen,” Paul replies. Every interview, every story, and he’s back at that door, horror dawning on him as he sanctifies what goes on. He folds his own hands together, crushing his fingers around each other, and he doesn’t feel one bit of weight lift from him. “Amen.”