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.