19.A Chapter by Shiloh Black
At first, appointing Amphion as head of the Vigilante Case had appeared to be Benjamin Cossack’s brightest move yet. He soaked in the radiance of the young man, whether he was listening in on a huddle or lapping up praise for his forward-thinking direction at luncheons. First the surveillance cameras, and now putting power in the hands of the day’s youth -- truly, he was a marvel of the modern man!
The move on the potter’s field had been a brilliant one. In fact, he should have thought of it himself! The old gray matter wasn’t quite what it used to be, he supposed, but that didn’t stop him from eagerly awaiting what city council would say. The public, he knew, was hungry -- he still had his edge when it came to having a finger on the pulse of the people, he could say that much -- for the latest information on the case, and Cossack was determined to be the man to provide it.
Then, the report came in: city council wasn’t budging. Cossack frowned a little, but figured someone just had a case of cold feet. Several private investigators bludgeoned council members with every tactic in the book, but still they refused to submit even a vowel’s worth of information. Cossack frowned a little deeper. Days later they were still stuck -- at which point he made a few threatening phone calls to the man in city hall himself. His position as Commissioner was threatened, but a man has to do what a man has to do.
By Monday a single sheet of paper, hastily typed and lacking any official signature, lay waiting on Cossack’s desk. He read it over once, then again with his glasses. The words did not change, no matter how much he wished they would. They couldn’t forward this to the press. Hell, he was afraid to hand it over to his own officers.
There was no potter’s field. There was only an empty lot at the far end of the city’s Rectory, a lot filled with dozens of bodies left to rot among garbage. From then on, two cops were sent to patrol the area every night in case the culprit stopped by.
On Wednesday, a call came from the city’s shoddier quarters about a neighbour’s suspicious activity. The call was made from a payphone -- the person on the other end hung up when their name was asked.
Three NSPD car, sirens screaming, raced to the location minutes later. Two men were hauled from the home and the place was searched. Inside, they’d found all the equipment needed to fake a dead man’s fingerprints: latex gloves, surgical knives, and super glue. One pair of gloves had already been set with fingerprints extracted from the potter’s field. The men’s shoes were confirmed to match prints found at the two most recent murders.
That was the good news. From thereon, everything went downhill.
When interrogated, the suspects revealed they had been contracted by an anonymous man, who provided them with instructions on how to make the fake prints and firearms. A Colt, to be exact -- the same make and issue as those the NSPD used, and stamped with the station’s crest. Sure enough, a fake check arrived in the suspects’ mailbox. Fingerprints on the check were tested. They belonged to a woman who’d died weeks ago.
Cossack took a stroll through the NSPD’s locker room that evening. All the officers’ firearms appeared to be in place -- all except one.
Cursing under his breath, Cossack raced to the nearest telephone. This was exactly the last thing he needed at a time like this.
The next morning, Cossack found himself sitting across from Rachel Clowe inside a crummy café. They’d served his espresso cold -- he’d had to chew up a few heads to get that fixed -- and the only music played was some new doo-whop crud, but since he wasn’t there for espresso or music he didn’t make too much of a fuss. It was Rachel he came to see.
He’d met her only once before, at a staff party. She’d clung to Amphion’s arm like an ornament. He liked her -- thought she was a charming girl in fact -- but she did seem a little on the odd side. Whenever she’d spoken to someone, those darling eyes of hers rolled in their sockets, and she kept looking at Amphion. Other times, she’d stare at absolutely nothing with this real stupid grin on her face; he suspected she wasn’t the brightest broad in the world. In any case, Rachel was a gorgeous young woman. They didn’t make ‘em of stuff so fine nowadays.
“I don’t suppose you have any idea why you’re here,” Cossack remarked.
Rachel smiled blankly and shook her head -- smiling, always smiling! The girl had sunshine for a face. “No, I don’t,” she said. “Is it about Phinny?”
“Amphion? Yeah, that’d be it.” Cossack sighed, hating to be the bearer of bad news. “We’re a little concerned about your fiancé, Ms. Clowe.”
“What do you mean?”
“The department suspects he may be involved in some… illegal activities.”
“Oh”, breathed Rachel, punctuated by a slow blink. “Oh no, not my Amphion. He has his funny seasons, but he’s not like that, not at all.”
Resting against his elbows, Cossack leaned forward. It was best to make the interviewee feel comfortable by setting up an intimate atmosphere -- that was one of the first things he’d learned on the job. “Rachel,” he said. “You can look at me. I haven’t got that ugly a mug, have I?”
Rachel grinned and buried one cheek in her elbow. “No, sir, you look downright dashing!”
“Good, good. Now, let’s get back to Amphion for a moment, can we do that? Think of the last couple months. Has he displayed any behaviour you might consider a little odd?”
“Or out of the usual, in general.”
“It’s awfully hard to say. My Amphion’s always been an odd one. He wakes up at nights shrieking bloody murder -- thinks he’s been stabbed, he says. But that’s not really unusual for him; he’s been doing it since the accident. Out of the usual? Well, there’s been one or two things. He’s been smoking like crazy, for one. Drives me just about mad; I’m worried about his lungs, you see. That, and he’s been more agitated that normal, or at least it seems that way. But he works hard; one expects it after a while. And -- I guess there’s one other thing.”
“Well, a month or so ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and noticed Amphion wasn’t in his bed. A few nights later I heard him go outside -- at midnight! I couldn’t believe it! -- but I didn’t really think much of it then, knowing he used to keep a habit of sleepwalking.”
“Did you ever ask him about it?”
The smile had almost completely faded from her face -- what remained clung there by a string. “I didn’t dare mention it to him, but… I started placing tape, just a little piece of tape, on his door after he went to bed, and I’d check it every morning. Two, three times a week it’d be broken. Lately… lately, it’s been almost every day, but you can’t jump to conclusions from that, I suppose.”
At Rachel’s hands, Cossack gazed. They were locked together, white at the knuckles. She seemed like such a fragile thing. “Any changes in his mood, lately?”
“He’s been cold and withdrawn -- but he’s always like that, I forget that sometimes. Maybe a bit more… on edge… but -- oh! I just don’t know. He’s so hard to read, it’s like hitting a wall sometimes. I like to say I know my Phinny, but…” she trailed off. “… I just don’t know, Mr. Cossack. Maybe you’re asking the wrong person. I can’t tell you what goes through that man’s head; what I wouldn’t give to spend a day inside his mind, though! It must be a whole other world.”
“You’re probably right. Kid certainly seems to have half his brain on some other planet.”
“Commissioner,” Rachel interrupted. “What exactly is Amphion suspected of?”
“I’m reluctant to say it, but it’s bound to hit the press soon anyways. We believe Amphion may somehow be involved in the recent murders of criminals.”
Rachel’s expression of weariness and discomfort transformed; her eyebrows pulled together in a look of awe and perplexity. “No! There’s been some mistake. My Phinny’s not like that. He’s a good man, an admirable man!”
“But you just said -- .”
“ -- I said a whole lot of nonsense, that’s what I said. You should hear him when he speaks of the potential of the human spirit. The man’s a visionary, and visionaries don’t need to be understood. Murder? Blasphemy! Have you ever seen a man closer to God’s image? Can you image the beautiful things he would make, if the world were his clay and he could just mould it with his bare hands?”
Cossack left the interview feeling as if he’d come full circle. Amphion had Rachel by the hip -- she couldn’t possibly condemn him. The tape on the door, however, was something to go on. He now had a suspect who lacked an alibi.
That night, Amphion was asked to come down to the station for a non-custodial interrogation. No one had told the officer about it; he’d simply been plopped inside an empty office, and that was that. Cossack personally took measures to oversee the interview by insisting on sitting in on the process
Seeing Amphion in that room drained his confidence. The officer sat with his hands folded and back straight, eyes forward-set and steady. His lips were pulled into something that was not quite a smirk, but pretty close to it. The face of God’s image? Cossack would be damned if Amphion didn’t have the devil’s chops.
“Am I under arrest?” Amphion asked Officer Buck Minty, the interrogator.
Minty fiddled with his left ear and shuffled through some papers. He was only slightly younger than Amphion, but placed next to the other officer, it seemed to Cossack Minty was no more than a befuddled child. “No Officer Oswald, it’s just an investigation at this point,” said Minty. “You’re free to leave at any time.”
“I think I’ll have to waive on that privilege, thank you.”
In no time at all, the interview was underway.
“You’re aware of the eleven murders of criminals that have taken place between July 15th and September 27th, correct?”
“Yes,” Amphion replied.
“And you were appointed over the investigation of said murders?”
For a while, Minty continued with his rehashing of information. Cossack grew increasingly agitated. “Enough’s enough, Buck!” he snapped at last. “Are you going to ask if he clipped his toenails this morning now?”
Minty turned bright red and scrambled to find his place again. “When did you last see your firearm?”
From its holster, Amphion drew his standard-issue and laid it out on the table. “This the gun you’re talking about, gentlemen?”
Once Minty recovered from his gawking, he placed a plastic bag on the table containing an identical gun. “This is the weapon that was found in the suspect’s home. It has your fingerprints all over it. How did your gun end up in their possession?”
“That looks like the .38 I lost some time back. How it ended up in criminal hands is beyond me. I’d suspected that it’d been stolen, and it seems I was correct.”
“It was stolen from the locker room?!”
“Yes. Too bad they didn’t put cameras in there too, hmm?”
Cossack had to hand it to the kid -- he was good.
“Why didn’t you report the weapon as stolen?”
“I had this one,” Amphion tapped the pistol in front of him, “issued when I was getting the other cleaned a few months ago. When I lost the original Colt, to be honest, I just didn’t give it much thought. I had a spare on hand so requesting a new one didn’t seem necessary.”
“On the night of the 7th of October, your gun was missing from its locker, a violation of conduct.”
“I’ve got a young woman at home,” said Amphion, a slight shadow touching his brow. “I’m sure either one of you can relate to that, somehow. All I want to do is protect her.”
“So you broke the rules!” exclaimed Minty.
“Yes, I did. And I’ll understand if you decide to fire me.”
It was Cossack who jumped in. “Enough of your bullshitting, Amphion. Nobody’s letting you go just yet.”
Amphion grinned at him, his expression serene. It wasn’t the same as Rachel’s empty smile -- his had an cold, calculated feel to it that made Cossack uncomfortable. “That’s good to know, Commissioner.”
Already, Minty was coming apart. Cossack decided it was time to take over.
“I know you’re a man of principles,” he began. “You’re not going to fool me into thinking otherwise. Any man with half a soul to him would look at this world and gape. There’s a whole freak show of ugly here -- more sins than you can set your eyeballs on! And any man with half a soul would do something about it. I went and lost my soul back in ‘42, when I realized there was no good in this world worth fighting for -- but a man with a soul would do anything to preserve the goodness in the world. Might even kill for it.”
As he spoke, he studied Amphion’s face. The officer didn’t even flinch.
“Is that your reason for helping those low-lives bonk off criminals, Amphion?” asked Cossack. “You wanted something better for this city. Something the rest of us aren’t capable of attaining because we’re tied down by convention and public opinion. Or did you do it out of cold blood?”
“I did not help those men, Commissioner.”
Two hours later, Amphion’s response did not change. Minty had gone home, and Cossack was at his wit’s end. Eventually, he gave up and ushered Amphion out the door saying, “You’re off the investigation, Amphion. I better not see a single red hair on this thing or you’re through, got me? This isn’t over, you know.”
The next morning, the paper ran an article: Two Men Arrested in Connection to Vigilante Murders; NSPD Officer Linked to Suspects.
© 2010 Shiloh Black
Added on July 6, 2010
Last Updated on July 6, 2010
A Stone to Kill
Saint John, Canada
AboutI presently reside in Atlantic Canada. My interests, aside from writing include drawing, reading, and indulging in my love of all things British. I'm currently attending the University of Dalhousie, w.. more..