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modus operandi

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The first was a young man. He was thirty-four and, as you learn later, thousands of dollars in debt. He killed a civilian and injured another in a heist. You shoot him in broad daylight when he charges in your direction.

The force congratulates you. You don't hear them. Your veins thrum.

You don't need pills to sleep that night.

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Two months after, you start again. A homeless man that hardly struggled. You saw his body three days later at the coroner’s, in the early stages of decomposition. They state that he died of pneumonia.

You sleep better than you have in ages.

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you tap your fingers against your desk (drum drum drum).

isn't it quiet in here it's too quiet. (drum drum.)

the air weighs on you like lead. (drum drum.)

you take a shower (drum drum) and go to sleep and the night
(drum drum)

swallows you whole

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You were investigating a string of murders across the city. Young couples ages 28 to 35. A blunt object. Bodies in the lake.

You take a hammer with you that night. Muffled screaming devolves into failed attempts to speak. Their words come out broken. It's hard to talk with a skull caved in. You dispose of the man and woman by dumping them over the side of the boat.

You arrest the murderer the day after. He confesses to the charges except for the last two. No one cares to listen to him.

He rots in jail for the rest of his life. You know this, but he doesn't.

Later that evening, the force throws a party in your honor.

You smile and smile.

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A young woman waves at you. She is perhaps three years your junior. Her hair is tucked in a ponytail and as she comes closer, you notice she is wearing apple-scented perfume.

She smiles and hands you a paper plate with a slice of cake on it. They were celebrating someone’s birthday, it seems.

“Saved one for you.” She winks.
You smile and thank her.

The cake is sweet.

You divide it with your fork, piece by piece.

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You meet a man. He has a kind face, a distant gentleness. The school, the forest. He was a haunted man. You see him weeks later, when his eyes are clear and the mark is gone.

When he speaks, your heart slows.

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start with the point of the knife at the navel.
then move towards the windpipe,
as if striking a match.

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You are interested in the limits of human endurance.
You find someone that everyone has forgotten and leave them in the middle of the street. Killed in a drunken stupor. Stomach split open by a shard of glass. They rule it a homicide but leave the case open, unsolved. No one remembers them except you, how blood was warm on your hands, how you carried the warmth with you through the night.

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someone is watching you in the window.
they tap on the glass but you look and see nothing

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The girl with apple-scented perfume bought you coffee this morning. She beams when she sees you.

“Let's make it a good one today!”

You smile back at her.
“How about a great one instead?”

She is innocent and loved. You know this by the way she talks to her parents on the phone.

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The man that you met is happy to have you over again. So you come by once in a while. He has difficulty putting things to words. Many things. The weather, his memories, his emotions. But you let him take time. His voice makes you think of autumn.

Some things you remember him saying:

  • - “I wish that things were easier.”
  • - “It hasn't rained for a long time.”
  • - “How have you been?”

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Observation: What a waste of effort
to research something
as fragile as the human body.

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Drowning suggests the involvement of a body of water, but that isn't always necessary.
This one coughs up his own blood until there is no air in his lungs.

A suspect is taken into custody a week after. His wife had an affair with the victim. They indict him.

Something cold hangs over you in the night. You wake freezing.

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The next time you come over, you fall asleep on the sofa. When you wake, the mansion is cold and dark. The light to his room is on. He is poring over the papers at his desk. He asks if you are all right. He states that he didn't want to wake you. His words do not seem to reach where you're standing.

“Why don't you stay the night? Take one of the rooms.”

“I want this one.”

He is a little taken by the request, but allows you to regardless. He offers to leave, but you refuse. He seems confused, and apologizes in advance for the noise.

You listen to him turning over the papers, opening books. You take in the sounds of his hands. Hours pass before he leaves either to shower or sleep, but you lay there, still awake.

You go the whole night without sleeping.

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They were still alive after the hammer, so you tied a plastic bag around their neck and watched their legs kick and kick until they only twitch involuntarily.

The body is never recovered.

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there is someone standing outside

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the man you met is kind and touches you gingerly
you want to carry his warmth through the night

when you get home you vomit
when you wake up you are on the bathroom floor

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please let me in

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There are certain people who are allowed to be forgotten. You know this. The dead between the pages of history books. The dead between your fingers.

Observation: you once watched someone on the force take the case file of a missing girl and shove it into a pile of papers to be forgotten.

There are certain forms of architecture that can be destroyed. Which is, understandable. Would you burn down a skyscraper? Perhaps you would if it was abandoned, right?

Now, what about barns? Would you burn down a perfectly good barn with animals in it? No, you wouldn't. But a desolate barn. No animals, no people. Who would care? At least the fire keeps someone warm at night.

Question: Who would you like to remember you?

Notice the definitions of worth and worthlessness.

Notice that the bodies are beyond recognition.

Notice that no one notices.

Notice that this is a Japanese short story.

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Your hands are restless. They itch. You need to do something with them or else you'll never be able to sleep.

They didn't even have time to scream.

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lately your dreams have been strange. a shadowed figure in the woods, your hands reaching into an endless dark.

god shuts one eye and gives us the sun.
he shuts the other and gives us night.

his hands give you a home,
your hands break it back down.

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You would have finished them off more quickly, but your work was interrupted by a witness, who you had to incapacitate.

The witness was a girl.

She smelled like apples.

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“I don’t think I will be forgiven for what I’ve done,” he said to you once. This time, it was you who invited him out. You wanted to see him. You wanted to feel his presence.

“Neither will I.”

The man looked up at you. His eyes were gentle.

“Do you think that we can keep going like this?”

The rain outside, the warm city lights. Your vision softening at the peripheries, alcohol on your breath.

“We will have to.”

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You beat them and let them roll around in the grass for a little bit. They try to stand but their legs are broken. They try to scream, but they’ve lost their voice. Several hours pass. You don’t know if it’s the cold that finally got them, or the blood pooling beneath their skin.

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The young woman begs for her life. She still calls you detective. Please, detective, I won’t tell anyone. I promise. I’ll go far away. You won’t ever hear from me again. Please, detective, have mercy. Please, detective, let me go home. I know that you aren’t really like this. I know that you are truly kind. Remember those people you helped, detective, remember that? I know this isn’t really you. I can go back to my life and you can go back to yours. Detective, you have someone you love, don’t you? I have a mother, she loves me so much, please think of her, at least, please, she only has me, please, if you lost the one you love, what would you do? What would you do?

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Dried blood cakes underneath your fingernails.
Yours or theirs?

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For you, or for me?

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The man’s eyes soften when he sees you. He is so desperate to love.
He asks you if you would like to spend the night again, and you,
desperate to be loved,
do not hesitate to answer.

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“The moon is beautiful tonight,” you say, to no one in particular.

The force is having trouble identifying the bodies.
The faces are mutilated beyond recognition.

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The young woman is too fatigued to speak. She cries soundlessly upon your visits. You have considered taking your knife to her throat. You have considered a multitude of ways of ending her life. But you want to ask her about the detective that she admired. What was he like? Does he sleep well? Was he happy? Was he loved?

She can barely look at you.

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concept: we meet again in different circumstances.
concept: we don’t meet ever again.
concept: we never meet in the beginning.

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You don’t even bother to bury them anymore.

One of the rookies on the force find the body and vomit on sight.

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perhaps, out of some oversight, or out of an untimely mercy, you are careless and the young woman is nowhere to be found.

you spend the night searching for her.

in the end, you wake up on the forest ground, covered in dirt. your phone is ringing in your back pocket. you stomp on it until it stops.

you wander the outskirts of the city like a corpse.

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once there was a little king.
and what rows of black teeth he had!
the night in his smile, the night in his voice.

the twist: the king never had a kingdom.
the king was but a man.
the king was a man who tried
to make something out of nothing,
but was swallowed whole instead.

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two days after, you arrive at the mansion late at night. you try the door and find that it is unlocked, as if the man was expecting you to come after all.

you have had nothing to eat. nothing to drink. your body does not feel like your body, but you don’t mind. your suit is dirty and torn. you smell like rain and soil.

you know that your apartment is forsaken. you know that the public has begun to search for your face in the crowds.

the mansion is dark. there is not even a light upstairs. but you have come by here so often, you have slept here so often. you know where you want to go.

you head up the stairs and open his door.

he is sleeping on the bed. he seems like the sort who does not sleep peacefully. his expression is almost pained.

why did you come here?

you want him to wake up. you want him to see you. but you need him to do it.

moonlight filters from the window, partially illuminating the room.

you stand and look down on him for a long time.
he shifts in his sleep.
your pen knife is warm in your hand.

morning does not come for either of you.