Between frustrated tempers on one side and disregard for empathy on the other sat nothing but a cold steel table and a generation. Tension hung heavy in the air, poked but not punctured by the funboys’ frosted tips. The allegations against the two college-aged dudes were severe, staggering even, but their collective smugness hadn’t seemed to notice.
“I’m going to give you boys one more chance, because so far you haven’t shown a single iota of comprehension toward the magnitude of what we’re dealing with here. Let’s go over this again. In front of me are the names of seven people who, according to witness statements, the two of you murdered. Seven innocent people whose precious lives have been ta-”
“Um, actually, there were eight.” The interrupting statement ended with an inflection that followed the frat boy’s finger upward. A giggle fell from his buddy’s mouth, ugly bits of it sticking to his Dutch/German chin like the curdled, regurgitated Baileys of one-too-many Irish Car Bombs on St Patrick’s Day. Smiling wide and showing off the sparkling new veneers his parents recently paid for, the man with the Oakley-shaped sunburn lines turned to high-five his approving audience of one, but his arm was deftly caught by the callused kung-fu grip of “bad cop.”
“We have been in this room for the last seventeen hours,” started the second detective under his thick moustache. “All you two pukes have admitted to is going to a Cubs game, drinking, no, sorry, ‘pre-gaming,’ as you called it, at the Cubby Bear, and convincing numerous girls to flash their breasts with promises of a ride on your, God help me, ‘boloney pony.’ Do I have all this right?”
What followed was the longest bit of silence since the two twenty-somethings drunkenly crashed their beamer into a stop sign and tried to run. An additional charge of “while operating a cell phone” would have been added if heavily decorated Detective Jack O’Riley had found the self-portraits on the driver’s phone, the autoerotic glamour shots time-stamped just before the time of collision. If “The People’s Champion” Jack O’Riley had investigated further, he would have found the dumb video on the smart phone in which Steve and Brad tussled each other’s hair, called each other “fag,” then let out high-pitched squeals as their car plowed into a stop sign. If Jack “The Last Honest Cop Around” O’Riley had walked the two meatheads to their holding cell, he would have overheard Steve float to Brad what he thought were the whispered words “at least they don’t know about all the people we killed,” but which in reality were slurred, Jameson soaked words heard by everyone but Brad, who was too busy proclaiming to everyone how important his father was. However, Detective Jack O’Riley, whose desk featured a tobacco-stained plaque bragging “Over Two Thousand Booked” designed after the famous fast food restaurant’s sign but with a faded yellow “O” replacing the bright golden “M,” retired over ten years before, so Detectives Pete Kerwin and Frank Hall were assigned to the case.
Steve (the interrupter) rubbed his hand beneath his skin-tight Ed Hardy t-shirt, inadvertently, yet purposely, un-tucking it from his khaki cargo shorts and inching it up to expose his tanned washboard abs. His dark brown eyes were as dull as safety scissors, his mouth forming a silent, oval-shaped crevice. Brad (the giggler) rubbed his smooth, never-worked-an-honest-day-in-his-life hand against his smooth, perfectly shaven chin before compulsively, yet confidently, adjusting his Osmond-white “Cocks” cap. His light blue eyes were duller than safety scissors, his mouth forming an oval-shaped cavern which echoed Steve’s silence.
“Do I have this right, gentlemen?” Detective Kerwin asked again, louder. His words bounced off the cold stone walls, rattled around the popped collar of Brad’s pink polo, and finally tumbled into Steve’s ears, interrupting the “Dave” song that had held his attention.
“Ew. Hey Mister Cochise, or whatever, your breath is nasty. Go find a mint before asking me any more things, okay?”
Kerwin’s pale Southside face instantly reflected the same deep red as the heart draped in a “Love Kills Slowly” banner on Steve’s shirt. An instant later, Hall was dragging his cursing and flailing partner out of the room, a full-nelson headlock holding Kerwin back and revealing the patched elbows of his own corduroy jacket. The two bros sat smirking, their cocky reactions to the detective’s outburst no different than if they had just witnessed hara-kiri on Waveland Avenue and the same as if they were watching paint dry.
“Dude,” Brad stretched across three syllables, “that guy is totes pissed. What a nob. Probably never gets laid.”
“He must have ate two garlic and dog shit omelets for breakfast. And I bet he’s still hungry. Dude is nasty, and now he wants to blame me cuz no girl wants to touch his ding-dong. That shit’s not my fault.”
The two cackled a cacophony of grunts and groans that matched the sounds heard from behind the doors of each of their Panama City Beach hotel rooms during spring break, but without the accompanying scent of chloroform. When the two detectives re-entered the room and slammed the door, the laughing continued, not because the dudes didn’t notice, but because they just didn’t care. Their level of caring rose exponentially when Kerwin clamped the handcuffs down, locking all four tribal tattooed limbs to their respective chair arms.
“We are going to do things differently now.” Kerwin looked like a bucket of water had just dumped onto him from above a carefully propped door. The scent of the two cigarettes he had chain-smoked in hopes of calming down lingered on his clothes and wafted toward the two meatheads with every frustrated exhalation as he rolled up his long blue sleeves. He removed his gun from his shoulder harness and set it in the middle of the table, barrel pointed toward the bros. The veteran detective looked across the table, refusing eye contact. “Shit’s about to get real.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, my partner is angry, which spells bad news for all of us. So I suggest you start cooperating and answer some questions.” Hall had not once faltered in his role of “good cop,” despite the fatigue that burdened his face. He leaned across the table, first looking toward Steve, then into the eyes that Brad referred to as his “baby blues” when talking up the ladies, then sat down and opened up a thick manila folder that had not previously been in the room. “Let’s start with Mikey Powers. Who’s gonna volunteer some information?”
Steve and Brad looked at each other as if they had just realized they were in the wrong classroom.
“Who the shit is Mickey Powell?” Brad demanded.
Kerwin closed his eyes and massaged the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb, and in his mind he counted backward from ten, just as his therapist had instructed. Hall looked past the two alleged murderers, up toward the corner of the room, eyebrows raised and bottom lip clenched between his teeth.
Kerwin grabbed the folder from his partner, then slammed three glossy photos before the men, one at a time, each showing different angles of the same male body split in two.
“Mikey Powers!” he shouted.
“Whoa.” Steve sounded like he was practicing his lines for the next Bill and Ted movie. Brad’s face creased with an impressed smile as he studied his handiwork.
Kerwin continued tossing glossy eight by tens from the file folder onto the table as Brad began talking. The homicide scenes were like playing cards dealt face up to the two dudes. There were a total of seven suits, and each hand was a royal flush of gore and carnage.
“Check it, right. We had been at Steve’s place, right, getting ready for the game, when I realized I didn’t have any condoms. So we decided to grab a cab over to the Hindu-Mart down the road before heading over to Wrigleyville.” Brad’s last words hung in the air, a hand-off for Steve to grab and advance.
“Yeah, I was out of Jay-mo, so we just did some Yay-bos before heading out.”
“What?” Kerwin had been through sensitivity training twice for previous indecencies, so he avoided adding “Speak English.”
“I ran out of Jameson, and didn’t have any more Bacardi O, so we did some Jagerbombs instead, okay? Yay-bos. You know, Jager and Red Bull?” Steve waited, his pause and eye roll silently calling the detectives old and out of touch, then continued.
“Anyways, so we went outside to catch a cab, and as we were opening the door, that guy,” Steve pointed to a photo of a man face down in the street, his mouth split open like a king cobra trying to eat the curb, “he tried to steal our cab. I told that little scab what’s up. I’ve been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fearless man in all of the world. I really don’t give a shit, especially not about some homo wearing clothes I probably donated to the Salvation Army like five months ago. I told him ‘fuck you’ and we got in the car.”
“Yeah, I was like ‘thanks, stupid. Thanks for the cab. See ya later.’” Brad had jumped back in and still showed no signs of remorse. He looked next at a photo of a black man slumped over in a car, his head against the steering wheel, his blood Jackson Pollock’ed across his dashboard and taxi driver identification badge.
“We realized we didn’t have any cash for the cab, so we told the driver we needed an ATM. Anyways, we get to the store, get some cash out, and go to grab some cold ones. As I open the cooler, some douche-nozzle wearing Tommy Hilfiger,” at which point Steve muttered ‘total fag,’ “grabs the last sixer of Natural Ice. Like, right out of my hand. I told him it was mine, at which point, officer, he flicked my ear.”
Both detectives looked at Brad like he just said dinosaurs never existed. Not bothering to notice them, Steve focused on the other photos, stopping at one of an upper torso lying in the blood-speckled grass, the lower half of the body separated from it and just inches out of frame.
“Dude, that’s the guy.” Steve pointed to the half-man, verbally tagging his partner and jumping in the ring. “That’s the guy who stole our cold brews.”
Kerwin cleared his frustrated throat and spoke frustrated words. “First off, Natural Ice isn’t ever considered ‘cold brews.’” He sounded angrier about the mislabeling than the unsolved murders. “Now, are you identifying Mikey Powers as the man you met at the convenience store?”
“If that’s Mikey Powers, sure. For your information, F.Y.I., he attacked me first. We’re talking about unchecked aggression here, officer.” Normally, Brad would have given Steve a fist-bump for quoting The Big Lebowski, but the two men remained cuffed to their chairs.
“Wait, are you confessing to the murder of Mr. Powers?” Hall suddenly sat up and paid attention.
“Have you ever seen a body cut in half with a big fucking sword before, detectives? It’s pretty bad ass. It looked like all kinds of spaghettis and shit was coming out of him, it was so nasty! And the smell was so bad. I think he shit his pants or something.” Steve sounded like he had stopped playing and moved on to bragging.
“So you are confessing to the murder. You killed Mikey Powers.” Kerwin took a moment to mentally say ‘thank you’ to the God he didn’t believe in that the two funboys had not lawyered up yet. He knew a judge would have sustained the objection that he was leading the witness, but he was confident that Hall would allow it.
“Ha, I didn’t kill him. I cut that fucker in half. Ninja style.” It was obvious by the sudden jerk of the chair Steve was sitting in that he normally had hand gestures that went along with ‘ninja style.’ It was also obvious that he was so consumed with his own braggadocio that the fact that he was handcuffed to the chair had slipped his mind.
“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.” Kerwin said, a smile finally cracking his weary face. “Please, continue. Where did you boys find a sword?”
They continued for the next few hours, recording a director’s commentary over their own personal Faces of Death photo stills and identifying each person shown in the photos with bad vocal impressions and fashion insults. The two dudes gave an obnoxious account of their day, complete with murder, dismemberment, executions, and standard issue frat boy jokes about everything from AIDS and homosexuality to rape and “retards.” All photographed murder victims were accounted for. The detectives also learned details of another three murders that had not yet been reported, as well as the details of a bottle of tequila that was killed, a zombie contest that was won thanks to the blood and chunks of brains collected on their clothing, and “the” failsafe way to tell if a girl is a lesbian (“If a chick doesn’t want to blow one of us while the other watches, she’s obviously a total dyke.”)
Once the dudes ran out of words and steam, the room sat silent for a short time while notes were scribbled and photos were arranged, then rearranged. Eventually, Kerwin rose to his feet and leaned across the table.
“After all that you’ve told us, all the gory details, exaggerations, and half truths you’ve spilled for the past several hours, all of the hate and bad taste that you’ve thrown around as if we were all on the same football team and bragging in the locker room, I am confident that you two are the reason that abortion was first imagined. But I do have one more question for you. One simple question. Who won the game?” Kerwin’s question produced a look of confusion on the other faces in the room, his partner’s not excluded.
“Uh, what?” Had Steve been smarter, he might have thought this was a trick. Instead, when he asked the detective to clarify, he did so because he really didn’t understand the question.
“I asked you who won the baseball game.”
“The Cubs lost to the Mets, six to nothing. Santana pitched a shutout.”
Kerwin eased back into his seat with all the grace of a person catching their balance after missing the last step. Hall noticed the expression on his partner’s face, a look that one might have after an alien encounter or after witnessing the second coming of Christ. He paused for a long moment, collected himself, then got up and unlocked their handcuffs.
“You’re free to go.”
Steve and Brad looked at each other, then stood up and walked the egg-shell path to the door, rubbing their raw wrists, hoping not to do anything to change the detective’s mind. Once the door was open, the sound of two men running echoed through the silent hall. An equally silent Hall opened his mouth to say something, anything, but there were no words to set free.
“Hall, I tell ya, there are some days where being a Chicago police officer is worth it. They’re rare anymore, but today is one of those days.” He stopped and watched his partner’s expression twist from shocked to confused. “Do you understand what we’ve witnessed here?”
Hall shook his head. Kerwin took his cue and walked around the table to meet his partner. He wrapped his arm across his partner’s shoulders, the physical expression of consolation he wished he could have exhibited if his son lost the big game, but never would because he only had a daughter.
“We’ve encountered a veritable Yeti here today. Those two young, dumb, oversexed men went to Wrigley Field and paid attention to the game. They knew the score. They stayed to the end. They even knew who pitched. Tell me you honestly think we’ll ever see that again.”
Hall continued shaking his head as he finished collecting the crime scene photos from the table, setting them neatly back into their folder. After scanning them once more, reliving the gruesome scenes in the same montage fashion as might be found under the credits of a B-grade horror film, he raised the collection toward his partner.
“So what do we do about these?”
“I don’t care,” Kerwin said, then paused and rethought his response. “Nothing. We do nothing with those. Just imagine all the paperwork we’ll save ourselves. And besides, if there was a God, and he sent one of his miracles down to you, would you turn around and throw that miracle in jail?”
“Pete, I think you’re just misquoting movies now…”
“I’m getting too old for this shit, Hall. I feel like I’ve already seen it all, I’ve already done it all, and it just wasn’t for me. We should ask for a transfer. Somewhere warmer. Somewhere where honesty and integrity are still valued. Somewhere with less crime and nicer people. Somewhere like Los Angeles.” If he had thought about what he just said, Kerwin would have realized that his statement was the first time in the history of any language that those words had been put in that specific order.
Hall had the head tilted, confused look of a dog waiting for a treat or a masked killer studying his latest victim. “Well, that would give you a reason to shave off that Midwestern moustache. So, what do we do now?”
“Wanna head across the street to Township, drown today in a couple pints?”
Hall held every piece of evidence in his hands. It probably would have been called the Boystown Massacre by the local media. They’d probably get medals, a press conference, their pictures in the paper. There were the probable book deals and movie rights. They’d become just as famous as the guys who caught Dahmer, or Gacy, or Ramirez. What were their names again?
Hall looked down at the thick folder, then walked over and dropped it into the steel trash can near the door. When he looked up to his partner again, he had the start of a smile on his face.
“Yeah, I think I’d like that.”