The musty basement hummed with the soft crackle of static. A police band radio purred from a small shelf above the heavily used utility sink. It cast an orange glow across the floor, highlighting an array of long forgotten paint cans and chemical jugs under the rickety wooden stairs.
A middle-aged man, sturdy but pudgy around the middle, stood at the sink listening with a cocked head.
“Quiet day on the scanner, a rare one indeed.”
He tossed a dirty screwdriver into the sink and walked the length of the room. The radio’s orange glow succumbed to darkness as he went, but he didn’t slow or stumble. He knew this room well. Much of his time over the last few years was spent in this basement working the labors of his passion, like he was right now. He approached the edge of the harsh white light pouring down from the fluorescent bulb affixed over his work area. Pausing there, on the fringe—the muddled line between light and dark—he continued speaking.
“Of course,” he said, “It’s probably just the calm before the storm—robberies being planned, atrocities like murder and rape taking place with their victims yet unable to call for help, or witnesses still on their way to their horrific discovery.”
He stepped into the light and over to his tool bench along the wall. With slow, deliberate movements he picked up a pair of slip-joint pliers. He admired them in the glow—their metal edges glinting as they turned between his fingers.
“And that means… no one is coming to save you for quite some time.”
A man bound to a chair before him started to scream again. Like before, the gag and the thick plaster walls absorbed the noise. The captive struggled against his layered binding of duct tape and zip ties, but to no avail. Sweat and blood sprayed out from his flaring nostrils with the hastened rhythm of his breaths.
“Come on now, Robinson. You know that’s a useless waste of energy.”
The captor stepped toward his victim and tapped the man’s metal badge with the pliers. “Speaking of cops wasting energy, shall we discuss what brought us here?”
Officer Robinson ceased fighting and listened.
“Your career was a waste. How many people did you save? How many did you condemn? The scales are tipped too far to the latter, aren’t they? Is that what you call justice?”
No reply came except for the sharp hiss of Robinson’s inhalations.
The man slapped his victim and ripped out the gag. “You might want to join the conversation—you’re on trial here.”
Robinson coughed and filled his lungs. His chest shuttered, his words stumbling free between gasps. “I don’t make the laws. Justice is not always black and white. You know that.”
“Yes. Yes I do. But please, elaborate. Are you claiming that your unjust actions were out of your control?”
“Look, if you let me go now, we’ll work out a deal—forget the whole thing.”
His expression soured from light amusement to rage and he slugged the officer in the jaw. “You didn’t let them go. Those women didn’t get a deal.”
Robinson spat blood and tooth fragments onto the floor. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t know about them… that I was ignorant? Or, did you just assume I was paid to look the other way like everyone else?”
The cop’s eyes widened. “H-how did you find out?”
He punched Robinson again.
“Lest you forget, I was a cop longer than you. It wasn’t too difficult to follow the fragmented facts of your cover up.”
“Andy. Andy, listen. I was forced to ride along, to help—” Officer Robinson stopped rambling when he noticed his captor moving in with the pliers.
After a few minutes of work, relishing the man’s screams in his ear, William Andrews stepped back and eyed the teeth in his hand. “You really need to brush better… well, at least with the few you’ve got left. And, don’t call me Andy, I hate that.”
Blood dripped from Robinson’s ruined mouth, his chin resting on his chest as he whimpered. While Andrews waited for his captive to regain a talking mood, he walked back to the sink, tossed in the pliers, and washed his hands.
Drying off with a small towel, he leaned against the utility sink.
“Those women didn’t have a choice in what was done to them. You had a choice. More than that, you had a responsibility to serve and protect.”
“They were victims of circumstance,” Robinson said, mumbling, slurring from too much exposed gum and not enough teeth. “Witnesses that had to be silenced.”
“Corruption begets corruption.” Andrews shook his head. “I get it, you guys are the victims, right? You were working within the confines of a corrupt system, trying to build cases, but the money and power decided all. Clean cases got tossed because bribes came down from on high and the political red tape handcuffed you at every turn. You joined the force to make a difference, to help people, but the truth of life was suffocating… the truth that money is power and a great amount of money corrupts greatly. It weighed you down, sucked you in. And, just like quicksand, the more you struggled the deeper you sunk. I get it. I do. It’s exactly why I retired early.”
Robinson lifted his head. Peering through the darkness, he watched his ex-partner with raised brows of hope. They were on common ground—maybe an understanding could be reached.
“But, don’t delude yourself,” Andrews continued. “You always have a choice. I made a choice. I chose to leave the corruption behind and work in my own system. You and your conspirators chose to conform, to alter your sense of morality to fit your environment. You chose to sink.”
The radio’s static hum broke into a flurry of voices trading information.
11-99, Code 3, Citizen reporting officer down at rear of 4217 Oak Valley Road in Glennville.
62 in route, five minutes south.
Severe injuries, no pulse. No witnesses known, body might have been dumped. Medical in route.
Andrews smiled. “Sounds like they just found one of your conspirators. After losing a few teeth himself, Detective Sloan talked quite a bit about you and your adventures together.”
Turning to head back to his project, Andrews noticed something in the orange glow. He walked over to the stairs and picked up a can of Turpentine. Inspecting it, he muttered to himself, “Looks like it was meant to be.”
As Andrews reentered the work area, the tin in his hand flashed under the harsh light. Recognition hit the captive cop as if Andrews slugged him again. He jerked in the chair with wild eyes leaping back and forth between the can and the man holding it.
“Whoa, hang on a minute. Just hear me out, please.”
Andrews gestured with an upturned hand. “Continue.”
“You—You were right.” Robinson said, speaking too fast, his words bumping into each other. “I’m a product of my environment, but I made mistake after mistake, bad choices. But, it began with blackmail. The only choice I had was to play along or lose my job and serve jail time. After the first few incidents, I got numb to right and wrong. Then, taking and covering up became habit. I was wrong. I’m sorry!”
Andrews put down the can. “It takes a real man to admit he’s wrong. I think you’ve made some progress here today.”
In a great shuddering exhale, Robinson sighed.
“But,” Andrews continued. “There’s something you said that’s been bugging me.”
The chair creaked as the bound cop tensed.
“Just a few minutes ago you said those women were simply witnesses that had to be silenced. If that’s true, then why did the real autopsy report show that they were raped and tortured before a sloppy attempt was made to hide their identities through pulling out all their teeth and burning them alive?”
“That’s above and beyond brutality, sadism, a psychopathic lack of compassion. Those are traits bonded to the soul not born of your environment. Of course, there are rare exceptions, such as a crime of passion where emotional trauma trumps morality.”
Andrews produced a utility knife from his pocket and stepped closer to Robinson.
“Here’s a bit of suffocating truth for you: those witnesses you silenced two years ago were my sisters and you’re about to suffer a fate far worse than theirs.”
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.
24 thoughts on “Truth’s Quicksand”
Great story, Tyr! I was born and raised in a state where cops looked the other way after their palms were greased. Sad, but true. I see more horrific truth in this tale than fiction. This is what makes your story so great: the believability of it. Bravo, my man! I only wish I had been there with a second pair of pliers.
Thanks, Blaze! I feel very strongly that corruption by those in a position of trust, of power, (i.e. the entire legal and political system) is far more heinous of a crime than when it comes from expected sources. Vigilantes may not follow the law, but it doesn’t mean what they do is wrong.
Justice was served and I wish I could have been there as well!
So true, Tyr. I just finished a novel where this is the case. I won’t be able to sit my ass down in New Jersey when they read this. My story people turn out to be damned good vigilantes, even those who are dead. Justice must be served.
Loved the story, Tyr! It’s always easier to tell the truth the first time around…of course, it’s always easier to extract the truth from a person with a little motivation as well 😉
I’m happy you enjoyed the story, Joe. It was both fun and gut wrenching to write this one. Too much corruption in this world goes unpunished and too many innocents are thrown to the wolves.
You spin a good tale, and took your time letting the reader in on the details making for excellent tension
Thanks, Sue! I love that slow leak of information in stories. It’s fun to watch the truth of a tale shift before your eyes and have a reader’s allegiance shift with it. Thank you for reading!
Great tale about the sometimes cruelty of justice served. Nice twist at the end!
Sometimes the only way to combat violence and corruption is with violence and corruption. Thanks, Hunter!
Ouch! Anything involving the removal of teeth really makes my skin crawl! Great story, gritty tone, well structured and paced too. As Blaze said, there is an element of realism that makes it all the more horrifying.
Thanks, Thomas! Teeth torture gets me too. I’m glad the structure and pace worked out, I was really aiming for a genuine loyalty shift in the reader.
The darkness got darker as the truth and the teeth came out. Finely woven tale, Tyr!
Ha ha, well said, Dragon! Thank you!
Too many places for truth to get bogged down. Keep pulling and extracting…
Excellent piece where the tables turn and the true monster is revealed.
Thanks, Leslie! Too many human monsters hiding out there, inflicting immeasurable damage on the human race. And sometimes it takes one to kill one, nothing wrong with that, I say.
I really enjoyed the story Tyr. I loathe corruption, in particular when it comes from positions of authority and trust.
When it comes to law enforcement? Let me just say that I was cheering this dude on. “Cry Havok, and let slip the dogs of war.”
Justice, bloody justince. The telling of the story was just as fun as the content my friend. Well done!
“Cry Havok, and let slip the dogs of war.” Love that line! Thanks, Zack! The width and depth of corruption in today’s society is mind boggling and terrifying! We need more dark avengers out there ducking the corrupt system to beat the cold-hearted bastards at their own game!
The corrosive element of corruption. Love it!
Very corrosive! Thanks for reading, Sheila!!!
Very we’ll written story. Nice ending twist.
Thank you for reading and for the kind words, Jaimie!
Love that ending. Wow!
I aim to please (or torment)! Thanks, Mari!
Tyr, I love the way you take a story, tell its base details, but in doing so, dissect every tiny nuance and use those carved pieces to enshroud your tale. Coming up with a good story is one thing, but coming up with a good story, layering it in building details, cloaking it in its own little slivers of meat, and still having a story that tracks to its intended goal is a difficult process – and you do it extremely well. Excellent read, Tyr, loved seeing it unfold (or perhaps enfold) to the end. 😉