The murmur and music outside grew louder. It was an awkward silence. People passed by outside the window. Some going left, some going right and others stopped to read the flyers outside. There was a small menu posted in the window on the worn front door and several newspaper headlines were propped outside. This was a weird little place and by the looks of it, it only just managed to make ends meet. It was discount. It was cheap. Dirty. The tables were worn and looked like they had started their service around Woodstock, and decades of service taken for granted left the – once pristine and polished – wooden table tops looking like cracked windshields. They looked tired somehow. And the chairs were no better. It was clear that half the chairs came with the tables. They were quite uncomfortable and they squeaked, creaked and strained under any weight. The other half of the chairs were obviously bought from a thrift shop when the originals had given in to wear and tear. The lights were dim and the hum of the incandescent lights was clearly audible, even with the soft murmur coming in from the busy street outside. Every now and again the bulbs would flicker heralding their end of service. If only the worn furnishings had the same prospects.
The shopkeeper-slash-newsagent-slash-tobacconist-slash-cook was an old woman. Her grey hair fell in a mess of clusters unto her shoulders. And while she was worn, and her eyes were dead, she wore a quiant shirt, a long skirt and a pair of unfashionable orthopedic shoes. These were likely prescribed by a physician. She looked respectable, and the clothes looked fresh although the labour and the dust were leaving an impression as the day went on. It was early in the afternoon and the Saturday crowd brought in a few stragglers looking for a cup of coffee, a pack of smokes or a newspaper if a full moon was out. A small bell rang with forced enthusiasm when the door opened and someone entered. The old crone was at the counter in a flash, with a kind smile, a rehearsed tone and dead eyes. Her question: “What can I get you?,” ran over her lips with the routine of an old lumberjack cleaving the billionth log of his lifetime. And the customer would make a request or put the pack of smokes on the counter, the old shopkeeper would take care of it, her kind smile long gone.
My name is Giles. Giles Burden. And I was on a date with the devil. He sat across the table from me with a smug smile. He was observing me observing the interior. I took a sip of my coffee. It was warm, strong and fragrant. And black as night. The cups and saucers did not seem worn or marred by time. The service was clean, but definitely not fancy either. Probably the cheapest solution available, but in this hellhole, it seemed almost luxurious. “How long’ve you been with us?,” he asked. “13 years, sir,” I replied after some consideration. I put down my cup and he raised his. He sipped. In the hue of the buzzing light he looked old. He had recently turned 32, but under these lights, in this place, in this conversation, he looked at least twice his age. His tone was grave and his expression was set in stone. He slowly put his cup back down and hissed at the coffee. “Too strong for my taste,” he added.
The door creaked open and the bell jingled solemnly. A street musician was pouring his soul into his craft outside and a young girl stepped in. The old crone sprang alive: “Good afternoon.” “Hi,” the girl replied glancing around the shop. Her distaste was immediate and unmistakable. “What can I get you?” “I’ll have a latté,” the girl replied. “If only,” the devil sighed under his breath. “A what?,” asked the shopkeeper. “A cup of coffee,” the girl replied with repressed disappointment. “Coming up.” The old crone turned to the coffee machine. Her kind smile had vanished. She poured a cup to go, put it on the counter and named the price. The young girl paid, got her change and the old crone closed the register. It gave a loud and cheery chime. The young girl left the store and the doorbell rang contently behind her. From outside we could hear the street musician still at it. Why on Earth these people insisted on playing sad and obscure tunes was beyond me. Surely upbeat, happy and common tunes would resonate better with passers by.
“How’ve you been lately?,” asked the devil. His red face had a concerned expression, but his eyes were blank with disinterest. “Busy, sir. I’ve been juggling several large projects,” I replied. He was, after all, responsible for these projects ending up on my desk. “Giles,” he smiled: “I know what you’ve been doing, but I’m asking how you’re feeling.” “I’m doing great. I love my job and the work is interesting.” Aside from big company contracts and major stock exchange I had recently worked with some of the firm’s veteran customers. I had helped Denver Airlines recover from plummeting stocks. I had redesigned the business strategy of Gibbs Brothers’ Dentistry Inc. from the ground up and helped them stay alive and in business. Most recently I had assisted in a company restructuring of Murtaugh’s Marksmanship Emporium when the old CEO retired due to old age.
“Giles,” the devil began again: “You’re not on trial here. We’re not at work.” “It’s during business hours,” I interjected. “Yes, but this is not business. Be straight with me, please.” We might not have been at the office. We might not have been here for business, but he was still my boss. I worked for the devil. And it was evident he did not believe me. “I’m doing great,” I repeated: “I love my job and the work is interesting.” He sighed. Every bit of mock concern from his face was gone.
“We’ve been talking,” the devil stated sternly after a moments pause. The old crone looked at him briefly, but swiftly minded her own business. “We’ve been going over your performance reviews,” he continued. I nodded. We both knew where this was going. “It’s just not good, Giles.” He concluded. “Looking at your reviews and comparing them to company benchmarks, you’re–,” I stopped listening. Outside two teenagers passed by the window and looked in. Their paced slowed, but then they hurried out of sight – hand in hand.
I met Catherine in my early twenties – over a decade ago. I was 22 years old and on my way to campus when my useless heap of a car broke down in mid traffic. It was towed to a local mechanic. Catherine was working as an apprentice mechanic and that was where and when I first met her. At first it seemed as if we had nothing in common. I was a young lad steadily making my way through business school, and she was a mechanic with a flair for engines and exhaust pipes. Sure, we were both good looking, but that is hardly common ground for conversation. Well, not particularly interesting conversation. Anyway, it was love at second sight. When I came back a few days later to retrieve my vehicle, I got a few minutes with the mechanicess as she went over the repairs. She was funny, sarcastic and pragmatic to the exclusion of many other qualities. And I loved her for it. There was nothing she could not fix with a wrench, some grease and an oily rug. And that made her happy. She asked me out as I got in my car to leave. I went with her on my first date in the age of 22. It was terrifying, but it went smoothly. I had no frame of reference then.
On our one year anniversary we moved in together. We got an apartment in this city, close to her garage. Then we went out for a lovely dinner. Business had been going well for me and my plans were extravagant. When we got to the restaurant she looked around and turned to me: “What’s this about?” “What do you mean?” “This is really high end,” she replied with a smile. “Oh, come now,” I started rather pompously: “No less is good enough for you.” She smiled, kissed me and said: “That’s sweet, but I’d much rather go for a burger and a beer.” “You can get that here.” “Yeah, no, it’s all fancy crap. Probably a burger in a pretentious not-so-whole-wheat bun with some prime steak and oven baked fries with 75 thousand different spices – and no grease!” The sight of this lovely young lady in a stunning dress nagging about fry grease was something to behold. I had caught her eyeing the dress she was wearing and I had bought it for the occasion. The maître d’ scowled at us. Catherine noticed the scowl and turned to me. Her eyes sparkled. “And the beer is probably some import of a local brew from somewhere in Northern Fantasia that tastes like hops, halibut and horse piss,” she said quite audibly. The maître d’ started at us, but I quickly dismissed him: “Don’t worry, we’re leaving.” We left for the greasiest burger joint we could find. Our search ended in a questionable dive. Me in a suit and her in a stunning dress, among truckers, scum and low-lives. We had a lovely evening. Before she fell asleep that night I said to her: “I’m glad I met you.” She whispered back, tired and blissful: “I’m glad you met me, too.” She fell asleep with a smile on her face. We were engaged a few years later. Then she died.
A Monday morning she was going for her usual jog before work. She left the apartment and ran her usual 45 minute track down the street onto the main road, through the park, and then back home. That morning she never returned. According to an eye witness, Catherine had passed him on a bench and turned right – as per usual – when he heard a guttural growl. He turned to look. Catherine never heard it coming. Ear plugs blasted loud music into her ears and she had not seen or heard the beast behind her. The large ball of fur went straight for her and the man on the bench had screamed for Catherine’s attention. She had stopped and turned around only for the dog to pounce. She did not even have time to scream. The witness had called the police. Two officers arrived within minutes. They had been patrolling near the park and the city center. When they arrived they found her mangled body, torn to shreds. Muscles and limbs were missing. Blood was everywhere. Her throat had been ripped open and the dog had had its feast. A trail of blood vanished into the bushes and the two officers searched for the mutt. It was gone. Later, the police showed me the pictures of the crime scene. It was gory. Horrible. Messy. Most of Catherine’s face had been eaten, but just enough remained to confirm what her dentistry records already concluded: it was indeed Catherine. Was. When she had been out for an hour and a half I called her cell. Sometimes she could be gone for over an hour if the traffic was bad, or she had stopped for a drink on the way back. No one picked up. I tried again a few minutes later and an officer answered. There had been an accident, he told me. They came by to take me to the station to confirm the identification of her body. The pictures. The carcass. We were sitting in a dark interrogation room with a large mirror spanning the far wall. In the center of the room was a basic table with three chairs. One chair on one side of the table and two on the other side. I sat alone across from two officers when the pictures were pushed in front of me. I hurled. Faintly brown bile sprayed partially onto the table and partially onto one of the officers. The room was cleaned and I was driven home. I called in sick and went to bed, pulled the covers over my head and tried to escape.
The next morning, after a sleepless and tearful night, the officers came by to pick me up. They asked me if I had had breakfast. I had not. They asked me if I had eaten at all. I had not. They gave me a cup of coffee and some sandwiches, but it tasted weird; metallic. I forced myself to eat it anyway. They asked me about my whereabouts the day before, and I told them. I was at home in my apartment, eating breakfast and catching up on the news before getting dressed for work. Any witnesses? No. None. Not after Catherine left for her run. And her testimony beyond reach. The officers told me that the technicians and the coroner were unable to confirm the eye witness’ report. The bite marks did not appear canine. Not even in the least. Their analysis indicated it was closest to a primate assault, but this was not entirely certain, either. It was likely an error, they told me. No way a ferocious monkey could have assaulted a woman in a park and gotten away unnoticed. Too unlikely. They would have the technicians run the tests again and keep me in touch if anything new came up. It did not seem as if foul play had been at work, they told me. They just needed to find out the exact type of animal, and everything would be solved. I asked about the eye witness, but they could not tell me anything.
They asked their questions, but I could not answer most of them. The ones I could answer were trivial. A description of the devoured, her route and routines. She always went the same way and nine out of ten days she was like clockwork in her return. The officers, ever the pillars of understanding, recorded everything and sent me home. I went to bed. Next morning the same thing happened. Officers showed up, drove me to the station and offered me food and drink. It tasted better this time. A fourth person had joined the interrogation. He was introduced as a grief counselor. They called him Grey. He wore a white coat, sported a homely haircut and looked otherwise unremarkable. He was worried that I was struggling to adjust and cope. And I was obviously struggling, I agreed. The officers told me the details of the investigation. They had tracked the trail of Catherine’s blood in the park as best they could. A lot of feet had been over the ground since the assault and any hopes of finding a definite print of whatever consumed her were gone. The blood trail had lead them to a small duck pond where they had found a set of teeth. A pair of dentures were placed on the table in front of me. They had been at the bottom of the pond for 48 hours, and that had left an impression. They told me these dentures matched the marks on – and in – Catherine’s body perfectly. I looked at the dentures uncomprehendingly. What were they driving at? The officers told me that due to the pond’s contamination they were unable to recover any useful DNA or evidence from the dentures – only bird feces and algae. Somehow I felt relieved. A person did this. A person can be caught and punished. A beast might not. No, this was a sick maniac. A psycho. And the psycho could be found, stand trial and be punished. And vanish. As it should be.
Grey took over from the officers and attempted to tend to my mental well being. No such thing. I just needed to get out and get some fresh air. Maybe work would do me some good – take my mind off of things. It did not. Returning to work and entering my old routines of financial reports, moving numbers around columns and studying market developments and models, I had more time to think than at home under my bed covers. At nights I had vivid nightmares. I was there in the park, watching her get pounced. I tried to call out, but my voice was feeble and failed me. I could not move. Pinned, I stood and watched the psycho with the dentures tear her apart. I saw the teeth sink into her flesh. Her blood. She struggled, and then she just stopped. I was sprayed with her blood. Chunks scattered across the ground. I was dripping. Dirty. Messy. The psycho would turn his face to me, and I would wake up bathed in sweat. When I turned on the news, the report was there, and the nightmare returned. Even in my day dreams I could not escape. The only escape was the big projects. Working with clients on big assignments. This was able to distract me sufficiently. I could not think about Catherine. I did not have time to. And when the projects were over, I was sitting in my office, angry and confused, my thoughts fixed on her passing. My coworkers noticed. The higher-ups noticed as well. They offered to send me to therapy, but I declined. They offered me leave, but I declined. So they kept me busy.
When I had finished one project a new one would appear on my desk the next day, almost magically. Contracts and deals I had not caught the slightest wind of. Somehow, I always showed up to a fresh stack of papers and a hot cup of coffee on my desk. And when I had read the files and reports, people would come by. Collaborators, interested parties, financial backers and business contacts. My colleagues came by to have a chat now and again, asking how I was, how I was getting by and if I needed anything. Occasionally we would chat about a story on the news, but I never watched TV anymore. Turning on the TV brought me back to that Monday when ‘it’ had happened. It was amazing how fast I found a routine living day to day. Just getting by. But it worked. And it worked so well for me, that time flew by. The police eventually sent me a copy of the final report of the case. Until they were able to acquire further evidence in the case, i. e. the psycho struck again, they were unable to conduct further investigations. They ceased to care.
[Exerpt from the police report]
Mr. Giles Burden, fiancee of the deceased, has been cleared of all suspicion. Dr. Grey has found him incapable of committing the murder, nor have we any reason to believe he had any motive for committing the crime. The profile of the murderer by Dr. Grey, here attached, states we are searching for a character […] with a split personality disorder, at least one of which is self destructive, and at least one of which is extremely hygienic and neat. The murderer is narcissistic and suffers from a severe inferiority complex.
[…] The eye witness was unable to shed any light on what had transpired. When she had seen what had happened, she immediately contacted the police. She did not get any clear visuals on the murderer. She arrived at the scene of the murder approximately five to ten minutes after the assault had taken place. The pictures of the deceased, here attached, along with the technician’s and coroner’s reports clearly assert how the murder was conducted. […] It was an extraordinary circumstance that no one was around in the park that Monday morning to witness the crime, but considering the ruthlessness of the murderer, this was likely a lucky happenstance as well.
Something in this report rubbed me the wrong way, but I did not heed it. I put it behind me. As time heals all wounds, I stopped caring about the investigation. Time heals all wounds, but it leaves scars. It was clear, even to me, I had changed. But people never change. No. I had adapted. Dr. Grey tried to get in touch with me, but I brushed him aside. Everything was fine. I functioned. I did something. I was useful. Was that not enough? He did not think so, but it was my choice.
“Now, Giles, we’ve all noticed you have a bit of a temper,” the devil said from across the table. I found myself back in the small store. I took a sip of my coffee. It was cold now. It tasted faintly metallic: “And the fact of the matter is, you’ve not been doing well with other people since–” “Since what!?,” I retorted in an excessively aggressive tone. I apologised immediately. The devil sighed. “We know that losing,” he started. It felt wrong for him to say her name. “Don’t say it,” I pleaded silently. He looked at me puzzled. “It was tragic,” he nodded and drank the rest of his coffee. “No hard feelings, right?,” he asked as he got up. His horns cast shadows across his forehead in the light. I did not respond. “Come now, be reasonable,” he said in a courteous tone. He reached out his hand for a shake. “I’m sorry,” I said and shook his hand. It was cold and sweaty. His grip was firm, though. “All the best,” he said and started for the door. That was when I heard the growl. It began silently and distantly. Then it grew. I felt it. Then darkness.
An officer asked me what had happened. We were back in the old interrogation room. Nothing had changed since I had seen it last. The table and chairs were the same. Only this time I felt like more people were watching me. They asked me what had happened and I told them: “When the devil was half way out the door, the old crone had sicced her dog on him and everything went black.” The officers looked skeptically at me and turned their attention to some paperwork on the table. They had several folders in front of them. One was labelled “The Catherine Incident”. “And the dog tore him in pieces,” I continued. There was a knock on the door. The door opened. An armed officer came in, and one of the interrogators went out. He then returned with a man in a white coat. His hair had faded a bit and he still looked unremarkable. “Giles Burden,” he said and shook my hand: “It’s been a while.” Grey sat down at the end of the table. The armed officer stayed in the room. “Tell me,” Grey began: “What happened the weekend the week before Catherine passed away?” “Why do you care?,” asked one of the officers. Grey sighed. “Someone hasn’t been paying attention.” He nodded at the door. Grey and the officer went outside and shut the door behind them. They returned after a minute. “So, what did happen that weekend the week before her death?,” Grey asked. “Nothing that I remember,” I answered. “And that answer could pass a polygraph,” Grey nodded. “Think, Mr. Burden. Think,” he said compassionately and gave me time to consider. Nothing came to mind. I told him so.
“Bring him in,” Grey said to the mirror. The door opened and the devil entered. He was clad in a fresh suit, and his red skin glistened in the dim lights of the interrogation room. His horns cast faint shadows onto his face. “Thank you for coming,” Grey said. “I don’t think–,” protested an officer, but was interrupted by the white coat: “Could we have a chat outside and leave these two alone?”. They went outside. I looked at the devil. He looked back at me. Was this real? Maybe the dog had killed the crone and the devil had escaped? No. Maybe? Everything went dark after I heard the growl. I think I passed out. What dog? Never mind. “Sorry to get you mixed up in this,” I remarked. The devil smiled: “Nasty business,” he said and nodded. “Is there any way I can make up for this?,” I asked. He shook his head: “Don’t worry too much about it.” “But, I do. I do worry.” “It’s alright. They caught the bastard,” he said in a reassuring voice. I wanted to believe him. “Can I see him?,” I asked. The devil looked into the mirror and shook his head slowly: “I don’t think you can.”
Grey’s face had a vexed expression when he reentered the room with the officers. They assumed their seats. “Please, begin,” Grey beckoned the devil. He caressed his horns once or twice, stroking them gingerly. Then he began: “We were at a company retreat the weekend a week before Catherine’s murder.” His mention of her name felt wrong. He continued: “Mr. Burden and his fiancee were there as well.” “No, we weren’t,” I interjected. I had no memory of this. “Now, Saturday evening we had a grand dinner. The food was amazing and the champagne flowed in sweet and bubbly rivers. We were at a five star hotel just outside town, The Excellence, and we all got a little drunk.” “This is bullshit,” I blurted out, but no one listened as if they did not hear me. “Late in the evening, Giles and his fair lady had had just a few drinks too many, so Giles was heading to bed. Catherine was just going to use the restroom and would join him right away. Now what happened next I am not proud of,” he started with a sly smile while gently stroking his red chin. I zoned out, but Grey immediately snapped his fingers in front of my face and I returned. Rage spread inside me. I felt warm. “Shut your mouth,” I screamed at the man in the devil costume. Wait. What? No. The devil. He was the devil.
I observed Giles Burden. He was angry. His face reddened. He took deep and hard breaths. I felt myself uneasy and almost rushing to my feet every third second, ready to bolt for the door. The good actor Henry Stiles was earning his wage. Clad in a cheap suit, red face paint and Halloween devil horns he stood up and said: “One drunken night. I slept with Catherine.” “N-n-no,” Giles muttered. “I slept with his fiancee, and it was good!”. “You shut your mouth, you son of a–” Giles Burden threw himself across the table flailing wildly at Henry Stiles. This was the reaction I was waiting for. Both the officers jumped to their feet and restrained him. The first officer that got his hands on Mr. Burden was bit. Again and again. His arm was bleeding when the second officer reached for his taser and electrocuted poor Giles. He howled in pain. Henry Giles shot me a nervous glance: “Is there a full moon out?” I noticed his discomfort. “Thank you,” I said: “You may go now. Worth every penny.” He smiled and nodded: “If you ever need anyone for this again, call someone else.” The armed officer holding his armed gun pointing at Giles let the actor pass out the door and out of sight.
Giles was sitting pinned down in a corner of the room. The two officers held him down. He writhed and growled. His eyes were bestial. Almost canine. I reached into my pocket and unraveled a set of dentures. “Looking for these?” I put the dentures on the floor in front of him. The reaction was vicious. “I’ll eat you all,” he yelled and tried to bite the officer nearest his face. He did not succeed. The taser found its mark again and Giles squirmed in pain. In a pathetic attempt he bit towards the officer holding the taser, but to no avail. “You killed her,” I whispered. “She was my bitch,” Giles gnarled. “A pregnant bitch,” I remarked. His ferocious eyes locked on me and I met his terrifying gaze. I felt myself tremor slightly. “Your boss slept with her. And a week later you found a pregnancy test in the bathroom,” I explained in a frail voice. “No,” he whimpered. “It was positive.” “No!,” he barked with a guttural growl. “So you tracked her that morning. You waited in the bushes and you killed her,” I continued with disgust. The officers looked disturbed. Deeply disturbed. “She was mine,” Giles protested: “And she betrayed me!”. “So you killed her.” “Yes!” Silence. I could imagine the smile on the police sergeant’s face on the other side of the mirror. “Sedate him, put him in a jacket and throw him in isolation,” I said dispassionately and hurried out of the room. I went into the booth and joined the police sergeant behind the mirror.
“How’d you know, dr. Grey?,” the sergeant asked. “Well, it was a hunch, and it was unlikely, but it was the only option. The only alternative was a primate of unknown species living in the park, eating people,” I replied. “But you cleared him the first time around,” the sergeant remarked. “I did. I had no reason not to. When they brought him in the second day, I had a crew swing by his apartment and scour the place. It was spotless. It was so clean, the technicians had a hard time finding his finger prints. But they went through Mr. Burden’s trash. They found the pregnancy test.” “Why didn’t you present this earlier?,” the sergeant protested. “Would you have believed me if I’d claimed he’d eaten his girlfriend over a positive pregnancy test?” Silence. “They were engaged. A positive pregnancy test would only have had one possible interpretation. They were pregnant.” “So where did you get the idea of cannibalism?” “It was that, or a new species of primate living in the park. It wouldn’t have held up in court.” The sergeant nodded. “The old shopkeeper told us, he had just been laid off when he assaulted his employer on his way out of the store. She said he was inaudible in his brutality, but he was mumbling something about a devil. So I had a theory. A munch. It was a long shot, I admit and I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did.” “Must’ve been Hell inside his head,” the sergeant nodded. The officers were struggling to put the rabid psychotic burden in a straight jacket. Several times he broke free from the officer’s control only to be tased and collapse – back to status quo. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I think he found himself a rather reasonable bloke.” “Where did he get the dentures?,” the sergeant asked after a pause. “I’m guessing he got them from a business contact.” “Guessing?” “Yeah. I’ll leave that to the detectives.” The police sergeant smiled: “You got–” “I got lucky, I know.” He glanced over the coroner’s autopsy report on the autopsy of Catherine. “The coroner found nothing in her womb. It was gnawed and lacerated. That was it.” “Yes,” I nodded. His expression was grave. A green tint washed over his face. “He ate–,” he started, but gagged. “Yes,” I nodded slowly.
The next morning I showed up to work and was immediately summoned to the police sergeant’s office. The night watchman had handed in his resignation. He would not be coming back. He had been making rounds and, well, the security footage speaks for itself. The sergeant presented me with a photography from the cell after the ‘incident’ around midnight. Giles Burden’s body lay near the door of the cell. In the other end of the cell, his head rested near the wall. “He–,” I asked confused: “How?” “He pulled,” explained the sergeant. On the wall the cell, written in blood, were the words: “I’m sorry!”.
On the security footage I watched Giles Burden strolling back and forth in his cell like a caged animal. I watched the horrific images of Giles Burden alleviating his head from his shoulders. It was inhuman. It was impossible. His body collapsed and a cascade of blood poured forth on the padded floor of the cell. His head fell to the ground and rolled away. He screamed and howled. Then he gurgled. Then nothing. The night watchman came rushing to the door. A small crack in the door opened and two eyes looked in and quickly disappeared. Video from a different camera showed the watchman looking and immediately legging it. Nothing happened for the rest of the video. I looked at the photo the sergeant had shown me. The text on the wall caught my eye. I turned to the video footage. No text on the wall. I rewound and fast forwarded several times. He fell dead. Then nothing. The time stamp went as far as one hour before I had arrived at work. “Don’t you see it?,” I asked. The sergeant shook his head. “Do you have video from the last hour?” “Of course,” he said and we walked to the surveillance room. I went over the tapes. Nothing. The only thing in the cell was Giles Burden’s body. No one had come in. No one had written on the wall. I checked the photograph again. “You still don’t see it?,” I asked. “No,” he protested: “What is it?” “Who wrote that?” The sergeant looked at the photo. Then at the video. Back to the photo. And checked the video one last time. He looked disturbed.
We went to Burden’s cell and the sergeant had a watchman open the door. The heavy metal door swung open without noise. The isolation cell had padding on the walls, floor and ceiling. It had once been a pristine white, but after a long career it was now closer to a gray shade of brown. The police sergeant and I stepped inside careful not to step in the pool of blood. A metallic and rotten odor hung in the air. It was nauseating. The blood covered most of the padded floor. Giles’ body lay lifeless on the floor. His severed head rested a good distance from his body. Clearly severed. The eyes were still open. Although they were cloudy and decomposing, they were still every bit as ferocious as they had been the day before during interrogation. A ghastly visage. My impulse was to leave. Get out. Run. I swallowed once or twice and checked my fear. We searched, but we found no sharp objects in the cell – no means by which Giles could have severed his head. I nodded at the wall. The two of us stood looking at the bloody letters in deafening silence: “I’m sorry!”. A growl pierced the silence.