PART 1 The blood was hard to stomach. Inspector Lt. Thomas Wade had seen plenty, and it was long ago that blood had made the inevitable transformation in his investigator’s mind from the crimson herald of violence, violation, and death into simply evidence.  The first corpse of his career was enough. Not anymore. Now, twenty-three years later, the inspector had come full circle with pain and misery, and he’d had seen more than enough; he’d seen too much. The brain, in all its many amazing functions, has only finite capacities—that includes dealing with the repetitive exposure to the inevitability of death—and the soul, an eternal thing, is confounded by the concept of ending, and repulsed by witnessing the horrid aftermath of the event. But it was more than that for Wade, wasn’t it? “The killers right-handed.” his junior partner, rookie Inspector Pat Doyle, said, deciding to fill the silence with this observation, and shining the beam of his flashlight across the deep, meaty wound of the girl’s slit throat. “Unless she was cut from behind.”  Wade responded. “Yes unless that.” Doyle replied. Wade stood and looked at the glassy eyes of his victim—like dolls eyes they were, always so unreal; shiny, yet dark and devoid of life, but hinting of the soul that once inhabited them, and seeming almost as if it could again.  He turned away and bumped into an officer peering over his shoulder. “Sorry, sir.”  The officer took several steps back. Wade appeared to not even notice the man.  He did however; shoot a look to Doyle who responded instantly. “Get back officer” Doyle ordered pointing. “All of you get back … all the way back to the curb.” The officer offered a half shrug as an apology, and then followed the junior Inspector’s order, as did the other three cops in attendance. Doyle looked back at Wade who kneeled on the other side of the body as he inspected the girl’s fingers, delicately lifting each with decorative chop-sticks from his coat pocket. “In fact, just get the fuck out of here, guys.”  Doyle waved with both hands, shooing the officers out of the lot.  He glanced back again. Wade gave a simple nod. “Thanks, gentlemen, thank you … you managed not to ass-fuck our crime scene.”  Wade looked up at this.  “We appreciate it … well done.”  Doyle faced Wade, a grin betraying his self-satisfaction. Wade’s right hand unconsciously responded to a signal from the brain—a complaint really, in the form of a synaptic grumble—informing the hand that it was suffering the beginnings of an uncomfortable and dangerous chemical imbalance.  The hand moved with efficient, practiced memory, and pulled his pack of Winston 100s from inside his overcoat.  Before Wade was even aware of it, a cigarette was protruding from his mouth. Doyle, always quick to respond to the physical tells of his superior, offered his lighter, knowing that his boss was strangely prone to losing his own. Wade lit up, returned the lighter to Doyle, and took a long drag.  He looked to the dark gray sky, and watched his exhaled smoke and condensation vanish into the aether. Damn it was cold for March.  The hot cigarette smoke seemed to warm him.  But what he really wanted was scotch. “She was strangled before her throat was cut.” Wade observed. Doyle looked back the corpse of the girl. “You think?” “I know.  When Dr. Sorenson gets her tell her so, before she has a look.”  Wade stood and headed for the trees. Doyle nodded.  He knew there was a strange game going on between Lt. Wade and Dr. Sorenson, but he couldn’t yet fathom it.  Be that as it may, one of his many unusual duties under the legendary Thomas Wade was to be a pawn in their game.  “Where you going?” Wade pointed ahead.  “That way … there’s a tree with my name on it.” Wade didn’t have to piss.  It was just a good excuse to get away.  Nobody looked over your shoulder, or interrupted your thoughts when you took piss.  It would give him a moment to think … a moment to breathe. He leaned against the tree, holding himself with one hand while his other handled the business of minding his Winston.  His palm found the bark of the oak tree cold. They’re supposed to be alive.  Why are they so cold then? He didn’t know, and for some reason it bothered him. Dead, dead, dead … Was there anything else but dead?  Dead eggs and dead ham for breakfast.  Dead coffee.  Dead sandwich with dead provolone for lunch.  Cold, dead pasta for dinner.  Dead … that’s all there was any more. Wife, dead.  Child, dead.  Friends … did he have any?  Yes.  DeSoto, was his friend.  He was dead too.  So, yes, friends, dead. Wife.  Child.  Friend. Cancer.  Overdose.  Gunshot. Violence … all dead from violence.  The violence of pathology.  The violence of psychology.  The violence of criminality. Wade had suffered it all with them. Time to die himself? No … just time to quit. Wade found he actually did need to take a piss now.  He plugged the smoke in his mouth, fished out his pecker, and urinated on the cold bark.  He watched the steam rise up and dissipate as headlights swept across the trunks of the trees. Why was it so damn cold this year? “Wake the fuck up,” he ordered the tree.  “There’s a whole world out there waiting to piss on you, so get used to it.” “Inspector!”  Doyle yelled from back at the crime scene.  Wade had seen the headlights, and knew why Doyle was calling for him before he said it.  “Dr. Sorenson’s here.” “Does that change something, Doyle?”  Wade growled over his shoulder. “No, sir.” You’re wrong about that, kid. Wade shook several times, milked his pecker, then shook again.  One had to be careful lest one deal with a tiny cold spot on the front of one’s boxers.  Wade hated it, and equated it to peeing in one’s pants. Wade turned to see Dr. Sorenson walking across the brown trampled grass of the vacant lot. Janine Sorenson … smart, attentive, observant, and disciplined; all a senior inspector could want from his chief forensic pathologist.  She was also young, healthy, athletic, and flexible; all an old man could want from his part-time lover. Wade zipped up as he walked over.  His final drag off his Winston took down an inch of the cigarette.  The ashes and butt he smashed into his hand, and buried in his coat pocket so as not to contaminate the crime scene. Sorenson looked up at him and offered a reserved half smile.  “That tree gonna live, Tom?” “Yeah, and be stronger for it.” “The elves and fairies might take exception to your philosophy.” “Fuck ’em.” Doyle chuckled.  Sorenson gave him her scolding eyes, then knelt down, and looked the victim over for a few short moments. “Strangled…”  She declared. “Yeah, before he cut her throat, though,” Doyle hurriedly blurted out. Simultaneously Wade and Sorenson shot Doyle a look.  He took several steps back as if to offer privacy for their conversation over the dead body of the murdered girl. Wade shook his head.  “Yeah, he strangled her good, and, like my idiot shadow said, he then cut her.” “Yes, right to left.  So the strangulation wasn’t an attempt to staunch blood flow.  You think the cut was to hide any particulars of an M.O.?” “There’s blood, as you can plainly see, and enough of it to indicate her heart hadn’t stopped beating all the way yet, so yes, that might be the case, or he simply hadn’t had enough.” Sorenson nodded and leaned close.  Wade kneeled down next to her.  He could feel her breath.  The white cloud of her exhalations washed over his face.  It smelled like pasta and red sauce—not home cooked—or so he imagined.  No.  He definitely got a whiff of tomato, garlic, and sausage carried to him on the chill night breeze. “Subway killer, you think?”  Sorenson inquired pointing at the woman’s neck. So Janine had had dinner out tonight.  Alone?  Not likely.  Wade suspected she had been juggling a few guys all along; just waiting for him to fuck up, and keeping someone on reserve in the event. “Yes.”  Wade answered her.  “It is possible.  Same age as the subway vic.  Fits the profile.  Get her in.  Do your work.  Make sure you check her … you know … her … her cavity.” He hated to say it … that word, at least when he was speaking of these young female victims.  This girl was about Emily’s age, or what Emily’s age would have been. “Sure thing, Tom, I’ll do my job, of course.” Janine snapped with a little more venom than she had intended.  She knew the nature of these killings bothered Tom, and that this girl, like the one last week in the subway tunnel, was hard for him to deal with because of Emily, but it still pissed her off when he gave her orders like that.  He was doing it more now that they weren’t involved anymore.  “Involved” … now there’s a sterile word. They locked eyes a moment.  His softened a bit.  Hers did not, and she looked away first. That sealed it for Wade; there was definitely another man. Fuck. He knew he’d fucked up the other week.  It wasn’t like it was something he could just lay on the table for discussion either; at least he didn’t want to.  She wouldn’t understand anyway, she made that damned apparent before. Fuck. Wade got up and left the scene.  It was in Forensics’ hands now; in the good doctor’s hands.  He would wait for the results of her findings. “Tom?  Where are you going?” Sorensen asked, “Tom!”  She threw his name into the small of his back like a dagger.  He could feel her eyes burning through the back of his skull, but he didn’t turn. Wade climbed into his Ford sedan left the scene.       PART 2 Home was nothing special.  Far from it. Boxes.  Books.  Bathroom.  Kitchen.  The bare necessities were the only shit he had kept and dragged around for the last ten years since Shelly passed away.  Not even furniture.  He left that all in the house when he sold it.  He did have his old comfy chair though … he still had that, and there is where he dropped his ass. A heavy sigh immediately escaped, surprising him with its sudden and shameless departure from his mouth. When you going to quit, Thomas, old boy? Third time this week he’d asked himself directly. When I’m fucking done. Same way he always answered. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back. Ligature marks; purple, blue and yellow … blood; dried, flaking, black … crusty, crimson foam at the corners of a sensual mouth of pale blue lips. No.  I’m done.  Fuck you all.  I’ve saved who I could.  So shut the fuck up.  I’m done for today. Wade stood up, and with a quick step, marched to the liquor cabinet, and poured for himself a glass of scotch.  He took a swig, still seeing blood bubbling from the slit throat of the girl, and then another victim this one only strangled, lying naked in the gravel of the subway tunnel; her legs spread wide, one bent, one straight, her pink socks her only clothing. He shook his head to dislodge the image, then gulped down the rest of his scotch, and poured another. He absentmindedly opened the fridge.  Empty.  Just like his pantry … empty.  Old condiments, that was all. Would Janine come by tonight?  Would she know his pain?  Had she seen it there in the vacant lot with his face in shadow?  Would she know, and come as a friend, as a caregiver, as a lover? Yes, she’d know he was in pain, she was keenly perceptive, and was acutely tuned somehow to Wade’s emotional barometer. But no, she would stay away.  She would not be the friend, the caregiver, the lover any more. Yes, it was better for her to be with someone stupid who knew nothing of their world of murder and misery than be with one who actually witnessed it in all its horror.  Easier to keep it all inside when you can’t talk about it. That’s what he’d always done.  He’d never told Shelly about his work.  But he had confided in Janine though.  Shit!  He even cried in her arms once when he was really drunk.  He should never have done that … should never shared the first word of his feelings with her.  He was okay before then.  Not now though.  Not anymore. He took down the rest of his scotch in a single tip of the glass. Fuck this.  Get some sleep, asshole. Bed … a mattress on the floor. Wade lay down still fully clothed.  His kicked his shoes off, that was it.  He closed his eyes, dreading those first few moments when he’d feel the warm contours of Shelley’s body next to him, as it had been those many sweet years of their marriage. Then his mind would begin its game. His dead wife’s body would grow cold, and begin to stink; that sickeningly sweet repugnancy that only a rotting human carcass can create.  Then her cold corpse would get warm again, and bloat and distend as it rotted next to him, then it would be Emily’s.  She would be there to save and comfort him like she did before, and then she would die while quietly sobbing. Son of a bitch… Wade left his mattress.  He traded the failing comfort of his pillow for the promised condolence of alcohol and his old, worn out easy chair.  He had two more full glasses, then considered a shower.  Sometimes that helped. The stink of the girls … their deathly fragrance wouldn’t be washed away by water alone, but maybe, just maybe… Goddammit! Finally he ejected himself from his safe haven, and violently stripped off his clothing.  Three buttons landed abandoned the carpet followed by his shirt, undershirt, and pants, with his socks and un-pee-sullied boxers landing on the blue tile of the bathroom floor. The water came out cold.  He wished it somehow would ground him and force out all images and thoughts, as if when he sucked in that first sudden breath, as the icy water rained down over his head and shoulders, it would blow away any previous manifestations from the malaise of his mind. But, no, he didn’t care at all as the water came down freezing cold.  He barely noticed.  Not even his skin responded. Am I dead? Then came the heat. No.  You’re not dead. He felt alive when the heat came.  Yes.  The dead feel no heat … they feel only the cold, bitter frost of forever. He rubbed his face, and shook his head.  With the cold gone, the visions were returning as if from the heat life was creeping back into them. The old bar of soap, no more than a sliver now, he snatched up and scrubbed vigorously all over himself.  The pathetic slippery thing was worn away to nothing from his efforts.  Somewhere around his right calf he realized he had no more soap left, and looked at his now empty hand.  Somehow this emptiness was poignant. Every time he closed his eyes he saw her—tonight’s victim—lying there on the dry, dirty-brown grass, or the other girl from last week sprawled out the filthy black dust-covered gravel of the subway tunnel.   Time to quit.  It gets worse … every day.   Fuck no. Thomas Wade never quit anything. He shut off the shower, and threw back the mildewed curtain. Subway Girl, the one that looked like Emily, was sprawled out, legs splayed wide on the blue tile of the bathroom floor.  He stared at her vagina, like he had that day; couldn’t take his eyes away.  The gentle hump of her pelvic mound, her short, delicate, coppery-colored pubic hair, her labia exceedingly pink in contrast to the grey-white of dead, bloodless skin. He squeezed his eyes shut.  Like staring at a light and closing your eyes, the image of that light lingers, remaining defiant even behind closed lids.  She did the same, and more.  Like a flashing strobe in his mind, she started to move.  A hand creeped to her genitals, then she, in slow, jerky movements, began to masturbate. Wade’s head began to shake side to side. Subway Girl forced all her fingers into her dry vagina. “Augh!” he shouted, and pounded his head with his fist, the knuckles driving into his temples, hammering away a shameful sensation he would not allow himself to explore. “Fuck you, God.  Fuck you!” Will this end when I quit? Would it?  Could it simply vanish like magic? No.  He knew somehow it would not. How did he get to this place of madness?  How did he become this … caretaker of death’s indiscriminant will, and carrier of the world’s guilt and shame? Wade sat naked on the edge of his tub and rubbed his temples. I just wanted to help people. That is how it started, isn’t it?  Yes.  But that’s too far back to return now. Too far back…                     PART 3 Wade remained there on the edge of his bath tub, slowly wearing holes into the sides of his skull with the circular motion of his index fingers.  Given enough time, he was certain he would end up doing just that, but his feet were getting cold on the moist tile. That’s okay.  His mind seemed to be calming down.  It was quiet now.  No screaming in his head.  Only the low hum of the fan pulling the steam out. Wade looked at it.  Maybe that’s where the horrors went, why he was calm; the fan sucked them right out, sliced them into tiny bits with its blades, and blew them outside for the late winter wind to carry to the four corners of the world. It was a nice thought. Wade stood in front of the partially fogged over mirror and regarded what he could see of himself, something he didn’t do often anymore.  Not much the last ten years, didn’t care really since… No … no more tonight. The day’s penance had been paid in full.  He would take some peace now. Six words Wade loathed when used in conjunction with a compliment on his health or looks were: “For a man of your age…” Fucking hated it.  Wasn’t too long ago they couldn’t tell his age.  Hell, everyone guessed a decade under. Chest, abs, shoulders, arms … his basic physique was, more or less, still good. For a man of your age… But these fucking wings at his waist, these … love handles.  Now there’s a couple more words he couldn’t abide. Love handles… Who the fuck came up with that?  A fat fucking wife, that’s who … to make her husband, who’s deep into the steep sliding decline of manhood, feel better about his disgrace.  No one loves fat flaps of skin—especially not on an old man—No one!  He was sure Janine didn’t. Wade looked himself over again and imagined what Janine’s new no-brained fuck stick with legs looked like.  Considering her overall physique—5′ 9″, extremely athletic, but with proper feminine curves—the boy better be tall and in “tip-top”. Wade stood 6′ 6″, and scaled in at … well, it had been a while, so he guessed now … oh, about 250 pounds.  230 had been his optimum weight since wrestling in college.  Somewhere he still had pictures.  Fuck, he was a monster back then … was even into his 40s.  But after Shelly…   No.  Done for the night.  Done! One had to keep the self-punishing guilt in line. He realized he was flexing.  He buried the embarrassment to self with a compliment of sorts, Fuck ‘for a man of your age!  You look good … strong.  He flexed again.  All things considered, he was still pretty damned yoked, and in much better shape than most anyone over, say, 35 at least. Wade’s eyes then wandered south. His pecker—now that was a different story!—recoiling from the growing chill in the bathroom, had shriveled up like a worm on a hot stove.  All that could be seen of it was the head, a strange shade of purple, and hiding in a bush of long, gray and brown pubic hairs that had gradually straightened with age.  To Wade, his pecker, all shriveled like that, looked like a beakless, cyclopean baby bird, helpless and shivering in its nest of grass and twigs.  Pa-fucking-thetic! Gravity was to a man’s balls, as it was to a woman’s breasts; the more time you spent vertical and exposed to the physics of those forces, the more said extremities sagged and dragged. Add to all the graying body hair, increasing nose hair, and random ear hair, and the general all around loss of tautness to his skin and … well, you really couldn’t deny all that regardless of your biceps. Wade was past his “hot” days, past his “stud” days, and even past his “handsome” days.  So what days were he left to him? My old days. Wade swatted a bottle of knock-off cologne from the counter, then flipped the light off.  He went to bed, leaving any good feelings about his appearance at 53 years old lying shattered on the blue tile of his bathroom floor. Sleep eluded him, replaced cruelly by thoughts of Janine.  More specifically; thoughts of Janine sucking and fucking some baby-faced gym-rat recruit. How does this happen?  How does one conjure such things?  He didn’t even know if she actually had a new lover, but he could see them perfectly … see his pecker plunging into her.  See Janine’s expression of ecstasy, and hear her deep moans, punctuated by shrill cries, all echoing in his head, all meant only for him, or so he’d once lied to himself. What would she do with this mystery guy?  Would her excitement run wild at having a new man—getting some “strange” they called it—and would it send her into some kind of Bacchanal frenzy of giving herself over completely, offering whatever he wanted? No, not with some green, shitbag recruit. A veteran, then … Janine respected, and was attracted to experience, and the natural confidence that comes with it.  Yes, she’d be attracted to a man like … Ah, fuck no! … Pat Doyle. No! Doyle would be perfect for her.  Wade treated him like an idiot because that’s what you do with rookie Inspectors, but Pat was intelligent, confident, and handsome, had excelled in his six years on the force, was in phenomenal physical condition, possessed several black belts, was a great shot, and, most importantly, he was single. Fuck… Doyle would be a great mark for her, and Wade had left them both at the crime scene together. Fuck… The fornication fest returned presently.  This time with Doyle serving up the pecker, and in Sorenson’s forensics lab too.  That had been “their” place, hers and Wade’s … another lie he had told himself. Janine’s tan-lined, heart-shaped ass on the cold stainless steel counter.  Doyle, holding her legs up behind the knees—sweat pouring down his arms, veins bulging in his biceps—rams himself deep into her with explosive thrusts of his hips.  Janine’s perfect natural breasts—evidence that God is indeed a sculptor—shook up, then slapped down in time with Doyle’s pounding rhythm.  No moans.  Nope.  All screams now … screams and filth; language she must have always wanted to use with Wade but couldn’t because it was “crude, vulgar, and beneath her.” No such issues does Doyle have, and she certainly didn’t feel there was anything beneath her. “Slam it, rookie!  Slam your cock into my fuck hole!  Yeah, fuck my cunt hard!  Fuck it!” Foul-mouthed bitch… “Yeah, serve me your cock, rookie punk … in my mouth.  I want to taste my cunt on your cock.”  Doyle obliges happily.  The shear, humbling size of his…well, cock—you had to call it that—more than paid Wade back for any slights that the rookie might have been dealt. The whole of its impressive length and girth glistens with Janine’s wetness.  She takes him in her mouth wholesale.  Sucks him.  Jerks him.  Then looks up, and says, while rubbing his engorged head all over her face, “I know what He wants.”  She squeezes his cock.  “You gonna take it, rookie?” Doyle, in a single Herculean hoist, lifts her up and spins her around, then presses her down onto the cold steel counter.  Janine, looks back, her eyes that of a famished predator, “It’s yours, rookie.  Take it.” Oh no… Doyle’s smile matches hers.  “Fuck, yeah, I’ll take it.”  He spreads her cheeks with his thumbs… No… …and in a single thrust… Don’t! …sinks his entire length into her ass. Janine screams. Doyle howls. Wade moans as he orgasms; his semen pumping out onto his belly, then gurgling over his hand. Oh no… How could he not know what he was doing to himself? Thomas Wade rolled over, went fetal, and bawled himself to sleep.   More to come…maybe…

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