November 2014 "What a Character" entry
Prompt for November, 2014 "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest" [E]: Introduce your character to the reader in their own voice. What would they think is important for someone to know about them? Their family? Hobbies? Friends? Occupation? Physical appearance?
"Thanks for the smoke." He leaned back in his chair, inhaling deeply. "Any chance of losing these?" he asked, jangling the cuffs on his wrists. "What'd'ya say? I promise not to bite."
They'd brought him in a few hours ago. Routine traffic stop turned anything but routine: rape kit in the trunk, personal items from several victims shoved deep inside the glove compartment. The serial killer we've been hunting for over a decade--the man we suspect of at least thirteen homicides--sitting here in my interrogation room. He is a mountain of a man: six foot six, 250 pounds. You can hear numbers like that a million times, but they don't really mean anything until you're in a room with the guy they refer to. Suddenly the room seems too small, the table between you too narrow, the door too far away.
"I'd feel more comfortable if we left them on for now," I said. I'm not easily intimidated, but this one made me uneasy. "We'll see how things go, okay?"
"Whatever you say, Officer," he said, an amused smirk on his handsome face.
I placed the tape recorder on the table between us and clicked the record button. "My name is Detective Peter Kessler. Please state your name and date of birth for the record."
"Walker Blackwell, July 3, 1969."
"Thank you. Tell me a little about yourself, Walker."
"I'd much rather talk about you. I bet you got a pretty little wife at home, don't you? Does she scream your name and shred your back with her pink-painted fingernails when you're fucking her?"
"How about we start with your childhood." I was used to this. The first thing perps try to do is show me how tough they are--get under my skin, gain the upper hand. Some detectives like to jump in feet first, start asking about the crimes right away, but in my experience that puts people off. I like to ease my way in--build a rapport. It's like what they say about boiling a frog: you drop a live frog into a pot of boiling water it'll just jump right back out, but if you lower it into a pot of cool water and slowly bring it to a boil it'll cook to death. It's bullshit when it comes to frogs, but true most of the time when it comes to suspects. "Was your father around? How about your mother? Do you have any siblings?"
Walker sniggered and looked at the floor. "I basically raised myself," he said, stretching out his long legs. "I was a lonely kid. I started out killing animals. I guess a lot of serial killers do that, huh? Start with animals? Mice, squirrels, I even trapped a raccoon once. I hid them in boxes under my bed. I'd stroke their fur and talk to them. But once I hit puberty ... well, animals just weren't enough to satisfy me anymore, so when I saw Katie walking home from school that day I snatched her up. She was real pretty, and she smelled good, too. We had fun for a couple days, me and Katie, but then she got stupid and tried to run. I had to stop her."
"Where were your parents? Couldn't they smell the decomposing animals? Did they find it odd that you had a teenage girl in your room for days in a row?" It's unusual for suspects to admit their crimes this quickly, this openly, so when it happens I'm suspicious, but cautiously optimistic.
"Who the hell knows. They were never home. Too busy drinking and drugging to give a shit about me, I guess."
"How old were you at the time of Katie's abduction?"
"Sixteen, but I looked older. I was over six feet tall by the time I was in the sixth grade, so no one really messed with me, you know? She didn't have a chance." Walker glanced at the one-way mirror on the west wall. This wasn't his first rodeo. He knew he was being watched. "They say you always remember your first," he said, a nostalgic smile curling the corners of his mouth. "Well, I sure do remember her. Her skin was smooth as molasses and twice as sweet."
"Her body was never recovered, is that correct?"
"I wanted her to myself. The other ones ... none of them even came close to making me feel like she did. Katie was special. I put her where no one would find her."
There was a knock on the door, and Officer Hill poked his head in. "Sir, Captain Phelps would like to speak with you for a minute."
I stood, shutting off the tape.
Phelps waved me inside when I opened his office door. "Kessler, there's nothing I'd like more than to put this piece of shit down once and for all, but the state's willing to take the death penalty off the table if Blackwell leads us to Katie Connolly's remains."
"You've got to be kidding me. Cap, that was thirteen years ago. Who knows what shape her body's in now, if there even is a body. The son of a bitch killed at least thirteen women. If anyone deserves the death penalty, it's that douchebag. Besides, he could be lying. He's a psychopath. They're notoriously manipulative and untrustworthy. We can't allow him to play--"
"You're the detective. See what you can get out of him. Lay it out there and see what he does. Just make it clear that unless and until he leads us to her body, his ass'll fry."
"Everything okay, Detective?" Blackwell asked, sliding the saliva-sodden cigarette butt between his lips and pulling deeply. "Nothing wrong with that hot little number you've got at home, I hope."
"The state's willing to take the death pen--"
"Fragile little thing, that one," Walker whispered just loud enough for Kessler to hear. "Not a lot to her, really. Wouldn't take much to overpower someone like that."
Peter stopped talking.
Blackwell grinned. "No, not much at all. You know, being such a handsome devil really does have its advantages. All I gotta do is flash these pearly whites and people open their doors to me." Walker grinned, leaning in closer. "Say, did McKenna make it to work this morning? I know she's been having car trouble. I'd hate to think something might have happened to her."
The blood drained from Kessler's face, his pulse throbbed in his forehead, and he swallowed the gorge that rose in his throat. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. His hand shook as he lifted the receiver from its cradle and dialed McKenna's office number. It went directly to her answering machine. He hung up and dialed again. No answer.
Blackwell shook his head. "Not there, huh? Too bad. Wonder where she is?"
Peter swallowed again and leaned in. "Look, asshole. I don't know what game you're playing, but--"
"Oh, I'm not playing, Detective. I'm serious as a heart attack. Either you get me outta here or that sweet little wife of yours will die a very slow, very miserable death. She's locked away where no one will ever find her. Not in time, anyway. And I understand congratulations are in order?"
Peter stared at him, stone faced, and didn't say a word.
"She's two months pregnant. Did you know you're going to be a father? Yeah, she tried using that as leverage when she was pleading for her life. Of course, there's no way for me to know whether or not she's telling the truth. I suppose I could buy one of those over-the-counter pregnancy tests. How accurate are they?"
I could kill him right now--shoot him in the head. One less predator in the world. Does he really have McKenna? What if she's chained up in some abandoned basement? If I kill him--
"If you kill me," Walker whispered, "Junior dies along with his moms. That something you can live with, Detective? Knowing you killed your own wife and child?"
"You know as well as I do they're watching us on the other side of that glass. They can hear us, too, or they could before we started whispering. They are going to start wondering what we're up to in here, though, so you'd better tell me what the hell you expect me to do."
"You're the detective. Lay it out there and see what they do."
Kessler bolted out of his seat, his chair skidding across the concrete floor. Rounding the table to stand on Blackwell's left, he leaned over him menacingly and whispered, "We only got one shot at this, so you better make it count."
Blackwell snatched the gun from the holster on Kessler's right hip, wrapped his handcuffed wrists around Kessler's throat, and pressed the barrel against his right temple. "Open sesame, boys, or Detective Kessler gets a .45 brain massage."
Peter, feigning defeat, raised his hands in surrender. "Calm down, big guy. No one needs to die today. There's been enough killing already, don't you think? We can work this out. Easy does it."
There was a buzzing sound, and Blackwell backed through the interrogation room door and into the hall, dragging Kessler with him. "We'll be taking the Detective's car," Walker said, inching his way backwards down the hall toward the front door. "If anyone follows us, Kessler gets it, got it? Good. Gimme your keys."
Peter dug the keys out of his right front pocket, lowering his head just enough to single out the ignition key, when a shot rang out from behind them. Blood and brain matter blanketed the back of Kessler's head and shoulders. Blackwell's grip around his throat eased and he slumped to the floor, pulling Kessler down on top of him.
Peter untangled himself from Walker's handcuffs and spun around, staring at the gaping hole where Blackwell's forehead used to be. "Jesus Christ!" he screamed at Officer Hill. "What the hell did you do?"
"Well, he was taking you hostage. I mean ... he had a gun to your head. What was I--"
Hill's words faded away, replaced by Blackwell's inside Peter's mind: If you kill me, Junior dies along with his moms. That something you can live with, Detective? Knowing you killed your own wife and child?
Detective Peter Kessler dropped to his knees, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed.
Word count (story only)--1,742
Written for November 2014