Art Imitating Life
There was an air of tension between me and Santiago. This was the first investigation and no one really knew what to expect. The twenty-five-year-old artist was in the process of destroying his art. Robert, the victim of an attempted murder-suicide, had landed in the hospital three times in the last two months. Given the new criteria, Robert was investigated when the hospital social worker flagged his case. It appears that Robert has been seen talking to himself in the days after his lover, a Tom Bentley shot him, and then himself.
Roberts most recent visit to the emergency room came about when he allegedly tripped down a flight of stairs and broke his arm. The bumps and bruises were nearly all gone, and he still had stitches over his left eyebrow. Before that, he was treated for two broken fingers when the door to his studio slammed shut and caught his right hand. But the first time he was seen, he said he was distracted by someone who called out his name. He was crossing the street and was clipped by a car. He suffered bruised ribs and a concussion.
“What in the world is he doing?” Santiago spoke. “It looks like he's cleaning house.”
“He's an artist. One would think he'd die before he'd part with his work. But since he's done the first, it may appear he's trying to start anew.”
“Just like you did, JT. I worried about you, you know. When I saw you throwing everything away.”
“When you no longer desire what you lost, Carlos, you want it gone. And when you decide that, you can't get rid of it fast enough. I think Robert has come to that bridge and is moving on.”
We got out of our shuttle and approached the studio. Robert had worked up a sweat, and had a long, flat, metallic rod made for such a need and was scratching under his cast.
“Robert Shipley?” I spoke, as I walked up to the young man. “I'm Detective James Thomas, and this is my partner, Detective Carlos Santiago.”
“Detectives? What can I do for you?” Robert put away his rod and was now reaching for a statue of a man sitting on a stool. “Heads up!” Robert yelled as he tossed it out the door.
“Can we speak with you? We understand that you've been in the hospital several times in the past couple of months. As you can imagine, this would lead us to believe that you are either very clumsy or you may be a victim of abuse.” I looked around the studio.
“Abuse? I think we can say, that I've met my quota of abuse in my lifetime.” Robert pointed to his chest. The scars were still red, where he was shot by his lover.
“Perhaps, but we're here for a different reason. Can we talk?” I pointed to the loft.
“Sure.” Robert led us up the stairs to the living quarters. The loft was spacious, indeed the den of an artist. But it was obvious that half of this man's life was out the window in a pile of rubble.
“We're here, because of the incident with Tom Bentley,” Santiago spoke.
“That's in the past, as far as I'm concerned, it's over,” Robert spoke, “And as soon as I get rid of all this crap, I will move on. Because that is all I can take. I have nothing more.”
I watched, as Robert reflected on his art. I could see how much Tom's belongings meant to him. Then from the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow cross the window behind Robert. There was a sudden gust of wind that blew in the window with a loud crash, sending glass all over us.
I felt the Reaper vibrate. I could see the outline of a man in the dust, and then he flashed his blue eyes angrily at Robert.
Detective Santiago ran to Robert, who was covered in glass, with serious lacerations on the back of his head, and neck.
“Jake, call this out!’’ Santiago looked to me, as I pulled out my gun. “Jake, what is that?!” Santiago pointed at the Reaper. “Where did you get that gun?”
“I'll tell you in a moment. Right now, I have to see if it's the real thing.” I pointed at the outline, “I believe Tom has been, and still is, trying to finish what he started with Robert.”
Robert was looking at me like I was a mad man. But when Robert saw the gun glowing blue, he looked in the direction of the window.
“You know what I'm talking about right, Robert? Like someone is always with you? Watching?”
“Tom?” Robert whispered, “Why?”
I pointed my gun at Tom, and then could see Tom in the gray. Tom was looking right at me.
“Who the hell are you?!” Tom yelled, which sounded like an echo. “Why are you here?! Have you come to help erase me from Robert's life? He is killing me over and over again, with each piece of me he tosses and destroys!”
“Just as you tried to erase and destroy Robert when you attempted to kill him?” I spoke, as Tom walked around Robert and Santiago. “You've tried three times unsuccessfully to kill Robert, and you are here to finish what you started that night. You no longer exist, Tom. You need to move on or be sent with a bullet to hell.”
“Heh, right.” Tom laughed. “There is no weapon that can kill a dead man. I am not going anywhere. Not without Robert!”
Toms face contorted with red glowing eyes, and sharp teeth. His body trembled as if it were being pummeled by an invisible force. Then he stopped when I pointed the Reaper at him.
“Send my regards to Asar, Tom. He's been expecting you.” I pulled the trigger, and felt the hammer of my gun strike the bullet, and exit the barrel. Everything was in slow motion as if every moment was to be witnessed.
Tom ran past Robert and Santiago, blowing items off their pedestals and from the walls. But the bullet, with the little metal man glowed blue and streaked in the air as it followed him. When he was struck, his outline radiated and both Santiago and Robert saw him.
“Good job, Jake.” Asar waved from the shadows. “Look's like your cherry's been popped.”
I made a face, as Asar laughed, then saw the room return to normal. Both Santiago and Robert stared at me. The loft was a mess, but I looked on in the direction where Tom disappeared.
“You will be fine now, Robert. It will get easier after today. Tossing everything away is good, worked for me. Just don't forget to live.”
For a long time, Santiago stared at me in the room we were sharing at the hospital. Santiago had several pieced of glass taken out of his scalp and shoulders where he defended Robert. He finally spoke, when he glanced at my gun.
“Will you tell me now, what the hell happened?”
I was looking at my hand. The gun left a small reminder that I had six bullets left, in the form of a blue hash mark on the inside of my wrist.
“Our new department was created for exactly what happened today, Santiago. These mysterious cold cases, and deaths of the present and past murder-suicide survivors? They will become easier to solve thanks to this. The Reaper. That is, my gun has been altered by Asar, the Devil, who is too busy to catch these dead perps. And then there's Gabriel, an Angel, and the chief messenger of the heavens, who will, sometimes redeem the kills I make with this gun.”
Santiago looked at me as if I had a second head. “I knew something was off. We lost you twice that day. I had given up hope, thinking you would return to us brain dead. But you did come back changed. My Madre has always told me, that people who return from the dead, always come back 'touched by Dios' you know, by God. But I've never heard of anyone returning with a weapon. Don't tell me, it's blessed by the church, no better yet, it has silver bullets?”
“Well, that's cool too, but how do they work? Can I use it?” Santiago touched the gun, and his hand went numb. “Shit! That thing is freezing!”
“Well, I guess you can't. I was told that the Reaper chooses it's handler.” I laughed.
“You can't be telling everyone about the Reaper, Jake,” Asar spoke from the shadows.
“Why not? I can't be taking officers into deadly situations where these vengeful fuck-ups want to kill these guys twice!” I protested.
“Um, who are you talking to?” Santiago looked around. “There isn't another ghost in here is there?” Santiago pulled out his crucifix and waved it in front of him.
Asar laughed. “There will be consequences, only you may know about the Reaper because the living cannot wield it. Only you.”
“Consequences?” I looked at my gun.
“Let's just say, that the Reaper doesn't like to share.” Asar whispered. “You will see.”
That night, Carlos and I were off duty for the next two days, until the investigation was closed. Drinks were in order. I should have listened to Asar. Carlos always got handsy after a few drinks, too bad it was at my doorstep.
“I'm not ready for this, Carlos. I'm not...sorry.” I pushed away from Carlos, who was trying to comfort me.
“The only way to move forward, is to let go of the past. Don't let it haunt you, Jake. I don't want to see you alone like this...” Carlos stepped forward, and kissed me.
I broke off, turning my head away. “I never thought of you, that way.” I moved away, as I unlocked my door.
“I'm sorry, I must have drank too much.” Carlos moved back. “I'll, see you in a couple of days...good night...”
I closed the door, leaving the lights off. I removed my holster, and gun and placed them with my badge on the coffee table.
I walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of vodka from the freezer. “I could use a good screw right about now.”
“Then why did you send him away?” A voice whispered near my ear.
I froze, and then slowly reached for the light switch. I turned it on, but nothing seemed out of place.
I went back to the fridge and got some orange juice, and ice. I poured some orange juice into a glass, some ice and more vodka than I usually drink. I dismissed what I heard and went upstairs and put some soft jazz to relax a bit. I changed my clothes and put on a pair of pajama bottoms. I looked in the mirror and saw the scar on my chest. It was not unlike Robert's. I also found the scar over my right eye, where I was shot by Cain.
“Who am I kidding? I'm never going to get over this shit.” I took another sip of my drink.
“Good..neither am I.” The voice was clear.
I heard it this time, and ran downstairs to my gun. It was glowing, and as I touched it, I felt a chill in the air, and then it was gone. The Reaper was back to it's usual form, but I knew something was wrong.
In the morning, I lounged around in bed, stretching across it's length, and glad for the time off. I could smell the coffee downstairs, happy to have it automatically brewing before I rose. I put on the pajama top leaving it unbuttoned. As he read the headlines on the view screen in my living room, I looked at my gun. I knew that there must have been a ghost in the house last night, but didn't know if it was an innocent, or a perp.
“This morning, fire investigators have ruled out arson, in the fire that killed two men in the early hours saying that faulty, outdated wiring was the cause in that fatal fire. The dead have been identified as twenty-three-year-old, Matthew Green, and his partner, twenty-seven-year-old, Anthony Spencer.....”
Just then, Jake's communicator came online in his ear. “Good morning, sunshine, sorry to call you on your day off, but we've had a development. Have you by any chance seen the news?” Detective Ken Chambers spoke.
“About the fire?” I mumbled.
“What of it?” I yawn.
“It's just been ruled a homicide.”
“Already? That was fast.” I sipped his coffee.
“The Lieutenant wants everyone to come in, so put down that cup of coffee, and get your ass in gear.”
“Hey, you stalking me again?” I looked around.
“Naw, you sound like you just woke up. Later.”
I didn't really want to come in, feeling perhaps a touch depressed after yesterday's first kill. I went upstairs to clean up, and get dressed. A nice hot shower would do wonders to work out the ache in my chest.
It was part of the healing process, Doc Peterson told me on one of his many unannounced and unauthorized check ups. I had grown accustomed to having the Coroner take a look at me, and for some reason, felt a bond with the man who almost stabbed me with a scalpel.
“They are ghost pains, detective.” He'd repeat, “The scar tissue will often pull the wrong way when you move around. Apart from the physical trauma to your body, there is also the psychological. You should actually make an effort to attend-”
“I don't need any more time in the shrinks office, Doc!” I began to button my shirt. “Besides, the best way to get over this, is to get back on the horse, right?”
I let the warm water spray my face, then I rubbed my body with soap, recalling how much I loved to take hot showers with Cain. I would reach behind his body and wash his back, which felt wonderful because our bodies would slip and slide, making bathing one of our favorite activities.
The soft pulse of the shower felt good as I stepped back and let it wash my abs and one more step, would have the water stroking my member. It was a real sensation, and my thoughts wandered off to better times and pleasant memories.
“Yes, that feels good, right, my love?” Cain would whisper in my ear. “Let me make sure everything is rinsed properly...” Cain would kneel down, and take my cock into his mouth.
“I need to get that, it might be the office...” I raised my hand to activate the embedded earpiece.
“No, they can wait...I can't!” Cain would reach up and take both of my hands, pulling them behind my back.
“You know, this is getting me hot...” A familiar voice was heard in my ear.
“What?” I was roused from my thoughts, as the earpiece came online.
“You really need to go offline when you shower, Jake,” Ken whispered in my ear.
“You need to stop stalking me, Detective,” I grumbled. Things were just getting good. I let the water hit my face once again, trying to break my train of thought of painful memories I thought were long forgotten.
“Did something happen last night? Santiago came in all hung over. Did you two tie one on?” Ken laughed as Santiago hit him a wadded paper. “Damn, he's in a frightful mood...”
I was feeling a bit guilty about last night. But the timing was just not right, and well, I was really not interested in Carlos.
“Don't know about that. I'll be there in thirty minutes. Out.”I turned off the water and stepped out to dry off. I hoped Santiago wouldn't hold it against me. Not only that, I hope he wasn't too flipped out over the Reaper, and what it can do.
I arrived at the department, just as Santiago was coming out of the elevator. “Hey.” I gave him a nod.
“Hey, yourself. Did you get some rest? I tell you, that uptown bar must have spiked our drinks. That's the last time I go there.” Carlos rubbed his head.
“Listen, about last night....” I began, “I'm sorry, I'm just not ready for that.”
“What are you talking about? The bar? Hell, ain't nobody ready for the chemical concoctions they serve! Thanks for the taxi ride, I retrieved my shuttle early this morning, before they impounded it, those schmucks!”
“Wait, what?” I was confused. “Last night you, said some things...you know...” I whispered in his ear.
“Hey now, don't go whispering sweet nothings in his ear, the whole department might be listening.” Ken came up behind us.
“Look, last night, I drank too much, and probably started telling you war stories. You aren't the only one who served you know. Though I don't have a metal plate in my head to show for it. But you see this scar on my right elbow-?”
“As you were, gentlemen,” Lieutenant Garrett spoke up, as everyone entered the conference room. “Yesterday's first solved cold-case of Robert Shipley, was met with cautious celebration. The N.D.E.D. has since begun to cough up more reincarnation names of survival victims and their mysterious present links. Now it isn't perfect, and we're still working out the kinks. But the learning curve extends in every direction. Each one of you Specialists will be paired up with a team of detectives, depending on the case assigned.”
“And when will that be, Lt?” The voice of Chaplain Blackcoat was heard behind us. “I understand that detectives, Thomas, and Santiago already solved the one case. Why did they not have a specialist with them?”
“Yesterday's case was not exactly a cold case, per se. It was a follow up to request by Social Services. We assigned detectives to it because the Janus Corporation asked for Detective Thomas by name.”
Everyone looked at Jake. Of course he knew it was to test out the program, but the reports had been altered. I would soon discover this. Right now, he was still trying to figure out what happened to Carlos, and why he had no memory of last night. It made no sense.
“I told you, there would be consequences, Detective,” Asar whispered in my ear. “The Reaper will not share its power, nor allow anyone else to know about it's unique abilities. Detective Santiago's memories have been altered, and he does not recall seeing it's true form. You will find that what you see, and what they recall, are two different things. The gray area in which you interact with the perps is an alternate reality to those who would otherwise witness the ghosts.”
My thoughts were so focused on Asar's voice that I zoned out of the briefing. “Detective Thomas, are we boring you?” Lieutenant Garrett called me out.
Damn. “Sir?” I blushed.
“I would like you to explain to the team, how the first case went. Your insight will help pave the way.”
I sat up and cleared my throat. “Yes, Detective Santiago and I visited the home of Roger Shipley, who was a survivor of a murder-suicide attempt, by Tom Bentley.” I was reviewing the report when I slowed down and stopped reading.
“Jake?” Lt. Garrett looked at me. “Is something wrong?”
“This report is not correct, there was no Thomas Bailey...” I looked up at Santiago as if looking for help. “The details are wrong..”
“I think you two drank a little too much of that uptown booze.” Ken laughed, and everyone joined in.
“Jake, we arrived at Roger Shipley's loft, after the Janus report of a cold-case dating back one hundred ninety-seven years. The report indicated that the victim, Roger Shipton was being stalked by his ex-lover, Thomas Bailey, eventually murdering him and then committed suicide in the year 2115.
“We intercepted Tom Bentley in the act of attempting to kill Roger Shipley. There was a shootout, and you fatally shot Bentley. Had we not arrived at the exact time we did, Roger would have been killed again. We saved a life.”
I stared at my monitor. It had been altered. But who did it? Was it the Janus Corporation? The Lieutenant? Asar?” I caught a shadow in the corner of my eye.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave...” Asar whispered. “Remember Jake, that gray area you find yourself in when facing a perp, is an alternate reality. When you send a perp to hell, the reality of the real world, and the one you live in are different.”
“And that's what we can expect, as these cold cases are assigned.” Lieutenant Garrett glanced at me. “It can be tricky, but Janus has mapped out the average time between the birth and death cycle of these old cold cases. There is a pattern the super think tank picked up, and this will involve the specialists, depending on the circumstances. Just as this was an investigation of possible abuse, Janus picked up the similarities between these two men, who matched the two of 2115.
“But the outcome is the same, is it not, Asar? This Thomas whatever-his-name-was, ended up in hell right?” I spoke in my mind, angry and confused.
“Yes, that is what the Reaper does. So when this perp died, he was sent head first with a blue bullet in his head.” Asar whispered. “And Jake, they will always kill their victim, or die trying. This particular perp was loitering around for 197 years! It's just the way it is.”
“That is really some fucked up shit, Asar. What do you say, Gabriel? I can see you in the light, just as well as I can see Asar in the shadows.”
Gabriel laughed softly. “Even when given a second chance, these ancient demented ghosts, invade the body of their reincarnated match. They find a way to possess them, in order to kill their victims, who do not have their prior memories, but gravitate into the life of their past lovers.”
“In short, Jake. It is some really fucked up shit.” Asar smirked.
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