Archive for June, 2017

Detective Ruben Vasquez sat at his desk, eating a bowl of banana oatmeal. The sweet flavor was the highlight of his day. The hours had been rather boring, and the most exciting part so far was that he had finally begun the diet he had promised to start months ago for his wife. That’s all he really had to think about for the last few weeks. The city crime rate was very low, with only a couple of minor drug busts occurring throughout the county. It was good that the Force was doing its job and that the population was safe, but it was just so boring. A mixed blessing, for Vasquez loved the action. He wasn’t particularly strong or heroic, but he relished his career—the sheer motion of it all. Now, his life was more or less stagnant, and all he had to worry about was the occasional argument with his wife.

That all changed when his partner, Rick Andrews, walked through the door.

“Got somethin’ for ya, Rubie,” said Andrews, his face showing a clear expression of gravity. “Murder.”

The word immediately made Ruben wish for boredom again. He always enjoyed being a deliverer of justice, but the victims—his capacity for empathy was powerful, even for a cop.

“Let’s have it, Rick.”

Andrews threw a green folder onto the desk. Upon opening it, Vasquez was met with the sight of a grisly crime scene. Lying on top of the dew covered grass was a woman in her mid-thirties. Most of her face was hidden by heavy bruising, but it retained beauty nonetheless. This only added to Ruben’s empathy, coupled with the fact that the woman’s beauty was of a certain kind—an innocent kind of beauty. Though he didn’t yet know the circumstances of the situation, Vasquez believed with his entire spirit that no one deserved to be killed like this, especially not an attractive, innocent looking female.

But something was missing from the crime scene photos, something about the woman’s closed eyelids that Vasquez couldn’t quite put into words.

“Her eyes…”

“Gone,” said Andrews. The oxygen seemed to drain out of the room.

“Someone removed her eyes?” asked Ruben, more to existence itself than to his partner.

“Yeah. The lab thinks it was done with a sharp blade. Probably scissors of some kind.”

Vasquez felt a swell of anger that gave him the sensation of being on fire. He didn’t even know this woman, but he was already wanting to serve much more than mere justice to the perpetrator. He wanted vengeance. Cold, hard, and violent. Some faint voice within said that it was wrong, that dwelling on violence and eventually carrying it out would make him just as bad as the murderer, but he couldn’t help it. He felt such pity for this victim, and, to Ruben, angry thoughts were much easier to deal with than sad ones.

“We had something similar,” continued Andrews, “a couple years ago. Remember? That kid who killed all those animals and took out their eyes?”

Clinical detachment briefly returned to Ruben, a welcome respite from the feelings of pity and anger.

“Yeah,” he nodded, finally taking his eyes off the photographs. “I remember. Mental patient. Had something the doctors couldn’t even classify. He’s still locked away, right?”

“Yup,” replied Andrews. “So he’s not a suspect. This is different, anyway. Look at the pictures again.”

Ruben obeyed reluctantly and noticed something else. He couldn’t believe he had missed it before.

“There’s no blood on her face, Rick.”

Andrews smiled, which Vasquez thought to be in poor taste.

“Totally clean. Which means—”

“Which means,” shot Ruben, “that we have a killer who’s either completely off his rocker, ritualistic you know, or else he knew the victim. Cared about her.”

“Or both,” said Rick. “Our chief suspect—our only suspect—is the victim’s husband. A preacher. His name is—”

“Wait. What’s the woman’s name? It isn’t on the pictures.”

Andrews took a few steps to where he was peering over Ruben’s shoulder. He reached down and flipped through the pages in the folder.

“Pictures must have been taken before they identified her. Let’s see…ah, here. Zarabeth Williams, Beth for short. Husband’s name is Hector.”

Vasquez heard him, but he was letting emotional attachment fog his mind again. Zarabeth…Zarabeth Williams. In that moment, nothing in the world existed but her name. Her name, and the photographs.

“So,” sighed Andrews, “we got ritual, and we got someone close to her. Husband fits the bill.”

Ruben looked up.

“Any other reason you suspect him, Rick?”

“Yeah…quite a lot actually. Seems our pastor has a history. He kicked a married couple out of their church, right in front of everyone, ‘cause they couldn’t afford to tithe. Then, a year later, he beat the tar out of some homeless drunk hanging around the building. He was sleeping in the alley across the street, but he didn’t even get a warning. And there’s rumors—by God, there’s rumors.”

“Like what?”

“Well, everyone in town but his flock says he has a temper. A nasty one. Even uses it on his son, some of them say. Boy’s gone into school a couple of times with bruises on his face.”

Vasquez remained silent, his unblinking eyes focused on his partner and betraying absolutely no emotion.

“There’s more. Tax fraud…but who the hell hasn’t done that? People with money, anyway. And the wife herself—you’re gonna love this one, Rubie.”

“What is it?”

“A couple people say he thought she was cheating on him. No one actually believed it, though. Everyone says she was the sweetest little woman in the county. ‘Righteous’, they say, you know? Then again, everyone’s got their dirty little secrets. Even preachers’ wives.”

Vasquez looked at the pictures again. He didn’t know why, but he felt very strongly that this woman actually had been the paragon of virtue. He could just feel it. But, as Andrews had said, you never could tell.

“Well, that’s basically it, Rubie. We got a suspect. Reminds me why I don’t go to church. Zealots are all whack-jobs.”

Ruben stared silently for a few moments, and Andrews immediately regretted his choice of words.

“Hey, Rubie, I didn’t mean—”

“You think every church is full of secret murderers? Crazies? I swear, Rick, a few people go nuts or hurt someone, and if they just happen to belong to a church…”

“Easy, Rubie. I’m sorry. Let’s just get back to the case.”

Ruben himself belonged to a church, but not to the one they were talking about. His church was in the next county over. He came across people like Rick all the time—people who didn’t realize that bad men came in all forms. Yes, there were murderous zealots belonging to every faith imaginable, but there were also bad cops, bad lawyers, and even bad mailmen. Any person claiming to be of God who made a habit of causing pain or grief to others was no true believer as far as Ruben was concerned. And this Williams guy sounded more like a cult leader than a pastor. Real congregations, like the one Ruben belonged to, didn’t have leaders who passed judgment on their members or caused them pain and humiliation. Yes, there was rebuking and repentance—but any man who beat up homeless people, maliciously kicked out church members, or physically hurt his own son probably didn’t belong in the pulpit. Besides, this church must have been very far under the radar—in his five years as a cop, Vasquez had never even heard of it.

After pondering on this for a few moments, Ruben composed himself and let out a weary sigh. He knew that this wasn’t a time for defending his faith. He needed to think about Beth, her and nothing else. Not his beliefs, not his career, not even his wife—not until they caught the man who did this. Even if—especially if—it was the husband.

“You’re right, Rick. The case. What do you want to do about it?”

“I was gonna ask you.”

Vasquez thought for a moment, preparing himself for where he knew he would be within the next hour. He looked at Andrews and spoke.

“Let’s go to church.”

 

 

The cold air bit down hard onto the congregation, and the thick fog filled their lungs to the point of smothering. It was a clichéd coincidence—the violent nihilism of these people was mirrored back to them by the environment.

But to the clan, it was holy.

There were fourteen of them, walking hurriedly in a close-knit formation. From afar, the group would have appeared to be silent, but if you had been there and were able to move in closer, your bone marrow would have melted due to sheer terror. The noise—every single one of them was whispering. Harsh, hissing tones that sounded like wicked spells or enchantments. They were praying—or, at least, they believed they were praying.

But in the center of the group, the noise changed. It was louder, but it sounded muffled. Dog-like whimpering is the closest approximation, and in fact, the maker of the noise was being treated worse than a dog.

After moving through the woods for about a mile, the people stopped at the base of a hill. The whimpering ceased as the group gathered in a circle around a single figure. It was a man. Clean-shaven, handsome, crew-cut, casual suit with a pink tie—he looked, for all the world, like a preacher.

“Brothers and sisters!” he cried, tears flowing copiously from his sunken eyes. “We have a demon in our midst! It sat next to you in the pews, it sang in the choir, and it lived under my roof.”

The crowd remained silent.

“It shared my bed!” screamed the man. “My house! My children!” He raised his hands and closed his eyes. “And now, it’s time to cast it out.”

A crumpled mass was pushed out of the circle and onto the man’s polished black dress shoes. It was a human being, a woman in a pink dress with a burlap sack over her head. Her whimpering increased in decibel and filled up with panic as the man lifted the sack from her bruised and bleeding face. She tried to pray through the rope between her jaws, tried to plead with the people, and tried not to look the man in the eye. But she couldn’t help it. She knew him intimately.

“Look at me.” He lifted her chin forcefully and put his face inches from her own. “You don’t deserve to look at a child of God. You don’t even deserve the gift of sight.”

Still clutching her jaw, he looked up towards the crowd and hollered.

“By grace, we gonna fix that problem! Glory! Amen!”

Like vultures crossbred with parrots, the macabre congregation resounded with mimicry, accompanied by a torrent of hoots and hollers.

The man pulled a pair of gardening shears from his suit. The woman was no longer whimpering.

We drove through the country

An Angel sat beside me

Such a lovely joy.
Through the neighborhoods

Country lights, so beautiful

Christmas was daily
There the Angel goes

I’ll stop her in the hallway

“I love you, baby”

“Come and stay the night”

“Can I live with you, boyfriend?”

“Very soon, my love”

“Why don’t you believe?”

“I’ve never had a reason”

“Well, what of me?”
My faith was renewed

Never would have happened

If not for you 

I compared you to a sun.

The sun is a star

And just like those balls of flame

It started out small, but only with my vision.

For I was once far away

And your light was a pinpoint.

Do you remember?

You were the only star in the sky.

Faint, solitary

With nothing but darkness surrounding you.

That’s all my weary eyes could see – darkness.

But in the middle was a tiny light,

For I saw you from afar.

I know not how, but I found the courage.

I drew nigh.

The light grew,

Illuminating my life,

Revealing a spectrum of colors

That had never before existed.

The colors were your different shades,

The separate facets of your soul.

Anyone could see them, even with a chasm of distance between they and you.

But I drew nigh.

And your colors – a supernova.

From that first letter, scribed by my trembling hand,

A slab of volcanic rock struck my visage.

And I remembered.

Recalled my life, 19 months before.

You were there – a taste

A preview

A preclude

A preface to my life.

I wanted it back.

It was time to commence the novel.

The pages – you provided fresh ink

To the wasteland of my life.

“Are you sure,” you wrote in reply,

“That no one other is in your mind?”

I pondered for a moment

A slice of eternity. 

And realized – I realized YOU.

There was no other

Your presence made that clear.

And though you may not believe

And may not comprehend,

I knew, even then

That I wanted to drown in your light

My entire life.

Even as a child

Even as a nihilist

I knew you weren’t just a girl.

I fell in love with you, then and there.

But then you said “yes”

And my world was unmade.

We stood

And, strangely, you hit me.

Dazed, I watched your laughter.

So palpable

So real.

And even through the pain

The pain of your attack,

I said 

“This one is the one. I finally have her back.”

With what can I compare you?

Does the sun possess your grace?

Your humors, your nuances, your gentle whispering?

Yes, I hear your faint whisper whenever Sol rises.

But its light is too dim.

You, my love–your light brings existence into focus

And by your rays, I have cast a shadow.

A specter, a wraith

Full of selfishness and hate.

But no more.

I will stand, aligned with your rays

Directly beneath.

And I shall cast a shadow

No more.

 

Was a corpse of a heart

Made new from the ashes

the Eternal knows what to do with dust

Life, exhaled into it once

So it can be again

As many times renewed

AS the changing of clothing

The shedding of skin cells

and the changing of times
Candle wax, a glass entryway

And flies stuck in the tape

My surroundings, trivial and mundane

But I still hear your voice
“Get behind me, sadness!”

The words cascade from your lips

and reverberate through all my intentions
IF you can save me, then surely you can save us all

Mount a rescue!

Split the atoms!

Part the seas!
Power, ferocity

the Root of Personality

The only real Fact 

IN this wasteland of adjectives 
But you let us….

My God, you actually allow us

to describe you with our actions

And forgive us

When we try to be nouns
He on the throne waits with patience

He IS patience

Love, power, wisdom

Looks down on us with longing
You long to be near me?

I mustn’t try and argue

But I feel unworthy

Blasphemous, full of rage

and a crippling weakness

That makes me long for strength 
“Put down your envy” you say

“Grab hold of me. I am the only Power. 

You are only strong

When you relinquish control”
Master.

Savior.

Mystery.

Save.