Gary the monster squats against the wall, as if trying to reduce the bulk of his body, all three meters of it. As if trying to hide all his rocky self and the sparkles from the crystals on his face. I try not to look at the monster too much. Too directly. People say the monster gets unsettled when eyes are upon him. But it’s difficult to ignore his obvious presence in the room. Especially when his mouth, neck and hands are covered in someone else’s blood.
I have seen the monster many times before, although in most of those occasions there was much more of a distance between us, and no reason whatsoever for any interaction between us to occur. Now that we are in the same room it’s a struggle to ignore that he is only two meters away. I keep trying to focus on the victim, the minutiae of the crime scene. But the monster being here kills any possible strand of concentration. I‘m not scared, although I know too well that my gun would not even make a dent on the monster’s head. Or maybe I am scared. How to know? I should be, in any case. Most people would. Most people in the island would also feel disgusted by the monster’s proximity. I’m fine with his grey, granitic complexion, and the segmental crystals protruding from his skin. After all, it’s a monster, it’s supposed to be weird somehow. But the blood of the victim all over it, that’s what I find unnerving. That’s what complicates things, makes a bad situation even worse. Blood of the victim. Evidence. Murder. Possible unstable behavior. He could do something unexpected, out of craziness or desperation. Suddenly he could stretch his mineral arms and squeeze my head, or yell his lungs out and make my brain explode. I don’t even know if he breathes out fire. Gary may be the Rosalinda‘s inhabitant I know the least about. That was fine yesterday. Today it seems like a blatant lack of foresight on my part. “Profile the likely criminals before they commit the crime. Know their weapons, anticipate their actions.”
I had always considered Gary a safe anomaly, that type of feature in the landscape that can draw a sense of awe during a moment of contemplation, but that immediately fades away once we look somewhere else. An anomaly without much relevance to our day to day lives here in the island. In fact, before today it had been months since last I saw Gary, or heard anything said about him. It’s better that way, keeping monsters at a distance, forgetting about their existence.
But now that Gary has killed, his ugliness has become too present, too much stimuli for the senses; and his size and power are real and unpredictable. The monster is no longer something I can walk away from and contemplate from a distance, anonymously, without any involvement. I want to, I desperately want to go home, let someone else be in charge of the case, detain the monster, figure out who’s the victim, inform the victim’s next of kin. But who is going to do the job? I am the only one in the whole island that can make this job and this case justice. And that’s my problem, I’m trapped by my own efficiency into a job nobody wants to do, not even me. I definitely didn’t join the force to handle this level of mess. This intensity. Maybe this is a sign: the murdering monster, the blood, the victim broken in pieces. A sign that I should give up a job I no longer enjoy. An opportunity to start from scratch. Become someone else.
Or maybe I just need to start working, allow the pieces to fall into place and let the case solve itself. Maybe it’s just being confronted with a murder that is throwing me off. I have never been involved in a murder case before. Which was fine with me. Murder has not a place in Rosalinda. I like my criminals manageable, lame and pathetic, and being able to talk to the victims. I like small cases that I can easily forget.
But I will deal. If a murder comes, a murder we’ll deal with.
We will deal.
A deep breath and I am already dealing.
We will do a good job, we will follow the procedures and we will end up with a case-study report. Something I can feel proud of. We will collect all the information, tick all the boxes, write the report and whatnot. We will excel, we will reach an outcome. Then I can resign. That would be nice. But only then, once we finish with this last one. I have to do this. The others will not know what to do with all of this mess. Their idiocy will blind them again, as usual.
I think I’m scared after all.
Breath in, breath out. Better already. Trying to breathe silently; I don’t want Gary to notice me. Although he’s a monster, what do I know about his senses. Maybe he can even hear my blood moving through my veins, arteries, and capillaries. At least right now he doesn’t seem to care about my presence. As if I weren’t here. As if I were a mere sand grain in a beach.
Maybe he is thinking his next move.
Breath in, breath out. Repeat. Just like a succession of waves lapping on the beach and then receding.
The monster seems stable. He has not moved for several minutes. And he is completely silent. Like the rock he looks like. The head is tilted down. His bouldering brow hides his eyes. His forehead is so much like a piece of cliff, all angles and rock outcrops sticking out in random directions. It’s easy to assume that there’s not anything resembling a brain inside the head of the monster, maybe just a dried-up rock in the shape of a brain, doing the little thinking he may require.
Observing the stillness of the monster can be calming for a moment. My uneasiness, however, is now obvious, and it increases if I turn my head from the monster and focus my attention again in the victim. Just one meter from my feet. A middle-aged, caucasian man, head and arms detached, body splattered in the middle of the room. I’m not sure why, but it’s easier to look at the missing parts ripped apart and scattered around the room than at the main body. I guess the body feels more dead, more murdered.
One of the arms is incomplete, just the hand and the forearm and little else. An easy bite for the monster, having those teeth like slabs of stone with sharp edges jutting out from his mouth. One disinterested bite could have done the job. And then the rest of the arm thrown away.
The head of the victim is facing the bathroom. The matted hair is brown, unkempt. I can see an ear. It’s not covered in blood. It looks operational, like it can still hear.
I have to turn away from the monster and the victim. Just for a moment. I look at the sea in the distance. The room opens into a balcony that overlooks the beach and there is the strip of white sand and then the progressions of blues. And the horizon dividing the sea and the sky. I have always liked the horizon. The horizon is straight, clear, one can trust the horizon to be there no matter what, unchanged, unadulterated, unassuming. It’s not like this whole shit about the human or the monster condition. The horizon I can understand.
Details. I need to focus on the details. What do we know? It’s a small apartment, nothing fancy, nothing special. One small couch against a wall, a semicircular table and two chairs against the opposite wall. A separate bedroom, a separate bathroom, both opening into the living room with the victim and the perpetrator, and then the balcony. That’s it. A budget apartment. Economy tourists are always surprised by the low prices of some apartments in Rosalinda, and especially by the ones located close to the sea and with a beach view. They don’t seem to understand that the beach is just too long, there is space for everyone, both upscale mansions and rundown apartments like this one can mingle together. Why not?
How did the monster end up into this room? The ceiling is too low for him. It’s also not clear how he entered into the apartment. He must have crawled up the stairs and along the corridor. Or maybe he entered through the balcony, an easy climb for him, and then slithered into the room. I will ask him later. I don’t want him getting all agitated now. And it’s not going to change things anyway. Murderer and victim. All done now.
The sun is already high in the sky, the sand in the beach must be scorching. I don’t think the tourists care.
The tourists. We barely notice them. We know they are there, doing whatever it is that tourists do, but we can see through them or around them, as if they were diffuse clumps of fog. When necessary we can focus on them, and then we can discern their bodies in almost full detail, but we need to do so only on rare occasions. I guess I speak for myself. Those working in the tourism business must see more of the tourists than I do, but maybe even them don’t need to completely focus on the tourists. Maybe they can speak to hazy, featureless figures, and that’s sufficient to do their jobs. I should know. I should have asked someone over the years, obtained that information over some casual conversation. Over the years one accumulates so many things one should have done.
We also need to deal frequently with tourists, of course. They have a tendency to get involved in criminal acts. But by we I mean Officer Babette. I think she’s too incompetent to handle anything but petty crimes. The fact that she assures to enjoy solving fighting disputes between tourists, disorderly conduct by boisterous drunks, and urination incidents does not say much on her favor. I wonder if she focus on the tourists all the way. Maybe she can see something that we cannot. I should also know that. But that would require having a conversation with Babette, and thinking about tourists.
From here I can hear the subdued murmur of their activities. I can effectively ignore and not see the hundreds of bodies lying down or walking back and forth from the water. I almost see a deserted beach and the calm extension of turquoise water transitioning into the dark blue of the ocean. But I cannot block the cacophony of their chatter and their screams.
I wonder if tourists are either amused or insulted when they learn we choose not to see them. They may not care as long as the temperature remains high and the drinks keep coming.
The door to the apartment opens and Seb steps in.
“What took you so long?” I ask in a reproaching voice, but he smiles back at me. As usual, he flaunts his beauty and his youth as a key that could effortlessly open any doors. He’s relentlessly annoying, but happens to produce good work most of the time. I’m unlikely to get anyone better to work for me here in Rosalinda. All the talent resides in Catalina, being ten times larger and much more populous and sophisticated. But nobody from Catalina would want to move to Rosalinda, unless they were running away from something. We don’t have anything they don’t already have, we only dedicate ourselves to accommodating the stupidity of the tourists, we are just a pleasant but unnecessary rock in the middle of the sea.
“You told me to bring all this shit,” Seb replies, dropping two large duffle bags on the floor. He has the potential to excel, but I think he tries not to, maybe he thinks that that would diminish whatever sense of self he has. One only needs to look at his uniform to get discouraged. I doubt it has ever seen an iron. And the sleeves rolled up all the way to his shoulders is not precisely a sign of professionalism. He will say things like “in a tropical island comfort trumps etiquette’” and I will want to slap him across the face. I also know that the locals are unlikely to expect allegiance to the code and regulations, and may even prefer the incompetence that Seb portrays so well. He’s on their side and I am the outsider, no matter that I was born here all the same. Being a woman in charge of the police makes me even more of an anomaly, more of an outsider to the eyes of many.
“Did you call Catalina for backup?”
“I did, yeah.” He sounds exasperated. On purpose, of course. He knows today he can get through me more than usual. “I called the Catalina station as you asked me to, and that took forever, lots of chit-chatting. They are so bored over there, you cannot believe it. When I told them about this,” he points to the monster and the cadaver, “they were just flabbergasted, I can tell you that.”
Flabbergasted. I’m surprised to hear that word coming out from his mouth, although my surprise may say more about me than about him.
“Are they going to send someone from Catalina, then? That’s the only thing I told you to ask.”
“No,” he snaps, and I can tell he is fishing for a stupid remark, but he settles with a shrug. “They said it’s up to us. I don’t think they want to deal with monsters. Not their thing.”
“I guess you didn’t mention that we have never dealt with a murder here, and that they have much more experience than us, and that some supervision might be appropriate?”
“Nah, but you know what they are going to say if you put it like that. I mean, it’s quite a clear-cut case, ain’t it?” Seb nods in the direction of the monster. “It’s not like we are going to mess it up and charge the wrong guy.”
Instead of expressing my annoyance out loud, I turn around and recite his rights to Gary. “Gary, I am going to charge you with murder.” I try to discern if he is listening. I try to be ready for any bad reaction. For a while there’s no movement and I think he may be sleeping, but then he nods. His hair, like a bundle of weathered ropes, swings forward and then smacks his face. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” Of course he will have an attorney, I feel silly mentioning that. Among many other things his father has an army of attorneys. “Do you understand what I said, Gary?”
Gary nods again. “Sorry,” he says. You can tell he has tried to lower his voice, but it still comes out loud and deep, like the sound of a tuba.
“You don’t need to say anything, Gary,” I tell him. “Seb, why don’t you go ahead and make yourself useful, take some pictures and then search for fingerprints. And you called the doctor, right?”
“Yeah, he’s on his way. But why exactly do you want me to look for fingerprints? What do you expect me to find?”
“Just do it. Let’s go by the book on this one, if you don’t mind.”
“Whatever you say, boss. Good thing it’s a clear-cut case, at least. Like I said, no real investigation. No mystery to solve.”
“I guess so, Seb, I guess so.”
“What a mess you have created, Gary,” Seb says while taking pictures of the cadaver. “Too much sun on that head of yours? Going a little crazy in there?”
“Leave him alone, Seb.”
“I just… felt hungry, I think,” the monster roars. “It just made sense. I’m so sorry. I don’t know how it happened. But I didn’t think about it. It was quick.”
I like the idea of it having been quick.
“If you were so hungry why didn’t you eat it all up?”
“For the last time, Seb, stop harassing the suspect.”
“Well, your father is going to be very pleased with you, eh?” Seb laughs at his own remark.
I tell Seb to shut up again, this time I yell. But he’s right. I am not looking forward to discussing the case with Jeremiah, the Governor of Rosalinda and Gary’s father.