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See No Evil
By Dan Madigan
World Wrestling EntertainmentCopyright © 2006 Dan Madigan
All right reserved.
"We are all born mad. Some remain so."
-- Samuel Beckett
Dusk. The time when day seeps into night. the changing of the guard. Not quite afternoon, not yet night. A time when the weary head home and the troubles of the day are locked outside.
The orange sun was drowning behind a landscape of abandoned factory smokestacks and old rusty machinery, remnants of a once industrious and prosperous time, now empty reminders of recession and foreclosures. Long, darkening shadows stretched across the city, past the old industrial parks and toward the road that led up to the hill where no one had ventured for some time.
Down a deserted cul-de-sac, the patrol car cruised in front of houses in long need of repair, abandoned and empty. The street sat on top of a hill where the view of the city was that of small pale lights flickering on and off in indiscriminate rhythms in the distance, like lonely stars that can't find their way. The whole neighborhood had slowly eroded away. First one family moved, then another family, then another. Gone. Vanished. What had been planned in the fifties to be a suburban prototype of tranquil community living had turned into a fiscally unsound settlement. In the seventies, when toxic waste from a dump on the otherside of the hill had spread its tendrils deep into the area's water supply, dream homes had turned into nightmares as sickness and lawsuits claimed the community. Apathy had settled in these streets, and everyone who could do so had taken to the open highways. The neighborhood had silently died out.
Quiet permeated the hillside. Occasional gusts of wind blew up from the gullies below. The frightened yips of hungry coyotes were the only sounds that crept upon these dormant dwellings when the sun was up. At night it was a different story. At night the sounds came. Different sounds. Fearful. Unrighteous. Sometimes voices followed, often screams. Desperate pleas. Unanswered prayers. Salvation was never an option. Mercy was never granted. The sounds of machines, mechanical and cold, reverberated throughout the deserted streets. The shrill combination of machine sounds and man sounds flowed down the hillside and into the gullies and ravines, where they dissipated, then disappeared among the rusted wreckage of an impromptu auto graveyard that littered the underbrush and that had deftly been hidden away from curious eyes for years.
The patrol car stopped at the last house, a dilapidated building that sat quietly, ominously at the end of the street. It was a house where a child's laughter or a parent's call never echoed within its walls. Instead, fearful sounds, rich with the timbre of human suffering, emanated from the house under the protective cloak of night.
In the distance, the sun's final rays slipped behind the dark velvet curtain of night that had slowly descended upon the valley and was making its way up the hillside, creeping ever so steadily toward the large house on the hill. The long shadows stretched hungrily, ready to consume any remaining vestiges of day.
Officer Frank Williams stepped out of the patrol car, the tired look of a cynic etched upon his hard face, the same look that he had acquired his first day on the job eighteen years earlier. It was a look that had been handed down from his father and grandfather before him. Francis Xavier Williams had inherited his father's features and his family's calling. He was the third generation to wear the dress blues and would be the last in his lineage to wear the fierce gaze that went with the uniform.
Some of his fellow officers would have called him unsympathetic, but never to his face. He had a strength of will that had been etched harder and deeper with every call he received -- every domestic disturbance, every liquor store homicide, every missing child. With every scene of depravity and brutality he stood tall and silent, never batting an eye, never flinching. He just sucked it in and held it deep inside. The years that Williams had been on the job had been long and harsh. Each one of them had melted a bit of his compassion. Every day -- every hour -- he served his city had chipped away at his goodwill as if it were an engraver's plate submerged in an acid bath. Yet every day he stood ready, but tired, to once again answer duty's call.
Williams never let what was burning inside of him show. He couldn't. If he did, even once, he was lost. And he knew it. "Neutrality -- a word despised by patriots but held dear by the enlightened" was his motto. His creed. Williams knew if he took on the burden of one case or victim personally, it was over for him. His effectiveness was in the efficient and direct manner in which he could gather and assimilate data. He couldn't let it matter that the store owner who was lying dead had four children and that now the family found themselves days from being homeless. He couldn't allow himself to care for the six-year-old girl who stared glassy-eyed at him, trying unsuccessfully to cover the dried blood on the inside of her bruised thigh with her torn dress. He needed a description of the man, the car, the weapon. He needed the facts, not the tears that came with them. Not the misery. Not the pain. Because if for one moment, one second, he did let himself get involved, if he let his stoic guard down and let human emotion slip past the hardened shell he had carefully created, it was over. If Williams let one of these things in, he knew he'd take his service revolver, his shotgun, and every round of ammunition he could carry on his back and kill every motherfucker in the city.
Williams looked over the hood of the patrol car to see himself of eighteen years ago. The eager face of rookie partner Neal Blaine caught the last shimmer of sunlight. His boyish features shined in the fading rays. He still had an air of innocence that had not yet been touched by the harsh elements of human turmoil. He still wore the mask of sincerity tightly screwed into place. Give him a few years of this shit. A few seasons of murder, molestation, and mayhem. A few winters of human depravity will knock some of the luster off his face. It'll sullen the optimism in his eyes. A few years until his personality inside and out will match his uniform -- dark blue. Just wait, Neal, you poor bastard, just wait, Williams sadly thought.
Blaine, anxious and ready to serve and protect, walked briskly behind the veteran officer.
Toward the dilapidated house both men went, up the long, crooked walkway that wound through a thick underbrush of weeds. Past a lawn barren of grass but plentiful in dirt and up the old stairs that sank deep under the strain of gravity.
The house was a large three-story Gothic structure. Once nobly erect, its pointed gables now sagged and bent painfully under the weight of age and weather. Grayed and stained, the house gave off an ominous air of foreboding. The architectural design of the house was foreign to the other houses on the street. It was unique in its concept and strategic in its placement. From the attic, one could see both the entire city laid bare below it and the street leading up to the front door. This house wasn't built but created, its every timber and shingle, every brick and stone, set down with a purpose not meant for living but for something else, something not right. As the two police officers reached the front door, the senior man felt all of this. The unworldly sensations that poured out of the house made the hairs on his muscular forearms tingle.
From behind the door, from deep inside the house somewhere, the sound of music unnervingly rang out.
Williams knocked on the rotted door. The hum of music continued.
"Well, somebody's home," Blaine commented al-most apathetically.
Williams checked the address of the house in his black notebook. "This is the place." He scanned the lonely, darkening street for any signs of life other than themselves. There weren't any.
"Someone reported a disturbance from this location."
"Yeah. What type of disturbance did they say it was?" the older man asked.
"That would constitute a disturbance," Williams replied dryly, looking around the empty front porch. "Who reported it?"
"Some worker from the gas company was out here today looking around. Said he heard screams," Blaine answered, trying to gauge his partner's reaction.
Poker-faced, Officer Williams knocked again. The door creaked open. The music grew louder once they stepped inside the dust-covered foyer. Williams tried to place the tune. It was a sickly sweet children's rendition of something he knew. Something he couldn't put his nervous finger on. Loud banging sounds crashed along in accompaniment to the music, as if someone were keeping time by smashing pots and pans together.
"Do you hear that?" Williams whispered over his shoulder to Blaine.
"You know what that sound is?"
"Very bad church music?" Blaine replied sarcastically.
"No, that's the sound of probable cause."
The melody was sweet and the lyrics comforting, but the sounds that echoed off the old walls of the house felt wrong. There was something hidden beneath the chorus of children's voices that filled the darkness of the house. Something sinister.
A suspicious look passed between the men -- the un-spoken dialogue understood by all police officers on the beat. They pulled out their guns.
"Call for backup!" ordered Williams.
Blaine complied without hesitation. Knowing reinforcements were on the way, he began to feel a sense of relief. Briefly, he wondered why he was even afraid. This wasn't the first time he had been out on a call, nor the first time that he faced potential danger. In fact, as far as Blaine knew, the reported screams meant nothing more than that the fellow inside had gotten careless and may have injured himself. The poor schmuck probably hurt himself walking around this dark place. He tried to tell himself that this call was going to be like the rest of the calls he had gotten all week -- nothing but a big bust. Nothing to worry about, Blaine, nothing at all. Even so, he wondered why his testicles had started to tighten and his breathing was becoming shallow as he stood in the shadow of the big house.
Williams nodded to Blaine. They continued into the dark house.
"Police Department! Hello! Police Department!" Williams yelled, trying to make his voice heard over the music that filled the house. "Is anyone home?"
Williams laughed at himself. Is anyone home? No, the record player is working by itself, you idiot. Of course someone was home. For some unknown reason, that prospect put a chill in his heart.
Williams's hand crept along the wall, looking for a light switch. His fingers found it and flicked it on and off in quick succession. Nothing. The power had been cut off long ago. There has to be power somewhere in the house. How's the turntable working? he thought. The house continued to darken slowly as the golden rays of sunlight filtered through the moth holes that perforated the dirty curtains. Caught in those final rays of warmth, Williams watched as dust particles floated softly and aimlessly around the sheets that covered the living room furniture.
Both men followed the music -- and the crackling, cracking sounds of a chipped needle running along the well-worn grooves of old vinyl. The music was beckoning them. Teasing them. Tempting them. The voices of the young singers sounded out of place, out of time. Williams thought how old the music sounded, and he imagined that the group of youngsters who were serenading them now must all be either very old or very dead. The thought of hearing the captured voices of dead children in this darkening place made him feel uneasy. It made Blaine feel uneasy too.
They were used to the loud, unmelodious pounding that was hip-hop -- they were assaulted with it from every street corner they passed in their patrol car. It was as if the harsh music on the streets were a tribal warning that the enemy was approaching, urban voodoo drums sounding an alarm that "the man" was in the area. It was a musical talisman to ward off the evil of the men in blue. But this was different. The holy music that was playing for them now was something far more displeasing to their ears. It was crying for redemption. It was Christian reverence dripping from the lips of wide-eyed innocents, and it was skin-crawling creepy.
They walked out of the living room to the back of the house. Down a long hallway, toward the music and into the belly of the beast.
In 1973, as eighteen-year-old marine private Frank Williams trudged through the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, he carried an M-1 rifle tightly in his arms and the advice of his sergeant firmly in his head. Shoot first. Then...shoot again was Sergeant Lipton's sole piece of advice to his men. Lips, as every man in his squad called him, believed in one thing: survival. And your survival usually meant that someone else's survival would have to be forfeited. Fuck 'em. If they're standing in front of you when you start shooting, tough shit. In the bush nobody asked questions, in the bush nobody knew what was going on, in the bush you better be on your game, brother, 'cause you didn't have a second chance to make things right. As Private Williams marched deeper into the quagmire that was Vietnam, he had a trusted companion that marched alongside him. At first his companion was an enemy that transformed itself into an ally. His ally soon became his best friend. His best friend's name was Fear.
Fear had been the greatest government-issued side-arm Williams received after his induction. It hung closer to his heart than his dog tags. Fear was what kept his rifle clean and working properly. Fear kept his eyes sharp and his ears open. Fear whispered him to sleep at night and barked him awake in the morning. Fear helped him keep his mind sharp, his reflexes quick, and his instincts accurate. He had come to love fear more than baseball, his mom's apple pie, and America all rolled up in one big red, white, and blue joint. He would love, honor, and obey fear as they joined in an unholy matrimony of man and emotion. Without fear to carry him through, Private Frank Williams was lost. Fear kept him safe, it kept him alive, and all it asked in return was his soul. It wasn't a bad bargain for a kid fresh out of high school who pissed himself silly every time a twig snapped or a branch shook. Fear kept Private Williams alive and healthy -- physically, at least -- and they parted company two years later when Saigon fell by the wayside and thousands of rabid V.C. regulars painted the town commie red with civilian blood. The last time Private Williams had seen Fear, it was waving good-bye to him, blowing him kisses from an embassy rooftop, as he hugged his seat in the last chopper out of town. And under the whirling winds of the helicopter's blades he sadly left behind the only friend he had come to know and trust in Vietnam.
The helicopter blades that whirred away in Frank Williams's memory melted away into the sickly sweet chorus of children singing to the Almighty. And standing at the end of the hallway was a trusted old friend Officer Frank Williams hadn't seen in years.
Hello, Fear. You're looking good. Put on a little weight, but that comes with the territory of swallowing all those souls, huh? What is it, old buddy? I should be afraid? Beat you to it. I'm already scared shitless, but thanks for the heads-up. Come on and join me. Why are you giggling? Is there something I should know? Officer Frank Williams once again was keeping step with a trusted companion as he and his partner headed farther down the hallway and closer to the music.
The hallway was long and wide. From the outside of the house one would assume that the hallway would be half this long. Once you entered, the place seemed to take on dimensions of its own liking. Only the dying strains of sunlight from the living room meekly fingered their way down the hall, casting off one final glow of receding daylight. The farther Williams and Blaine walked into the shadows, the more the darkness smiled and greeted them into its open arms. Halfway down the hall, both men pulled out their flashlights and switched them on. Two strong shafts of light shined over moldy chairs and dust-covered end tables. A pair of yellow pools of light darted across the floor, illuminating their way closer to the sound.
Williams sniffed, and something tickled the back of his throat. It was a scent he hadn't smelled in years, something that triggered an olfactory memory that had been locked away and forgotten. It was the same scent he had known when he'd been in the bush, the same stink of depravity and inhumanity. The stench of man, only this reeked worse. Fear smelled it too and held its nose.
The music continued. The sound of the needle being dragged across a record punctuated the musical interlude that both men walked into blindly.
The quickening heartbeats of the two men in blue pounded in anxious unison. Williams stopped at the last door in the hallway. As his hand went out to reach for the handle, he noticed the wall. An image on the wallpaper caught his attention. Pausing, he tilted his flashlight up and stared at the picture before him. He studied the image curiously, with the vague feeling that he had seen it before. Although his shadow hadn't fallen across a house of worship in over twenty years, Williams knew the image of a crucifix when he saw it. His eyes darted along the wall, and he realized that what was hanging on the walls was not traditional wallpaper. From ceiling to floor, the entire wall had been covered in scripture, thousands of pages torn from a bible, plastered haphazardly on the wall, and held there by filth and grime. He quickly slid his gun back into his holster and leaned closer to see the torn pages. He reached out to touch the crumbling parchment and felt the brown and crusty coating that covered the yellowing paper. It was dried blood. Lots of it.
Suddenly the men heard a loud scream.
Something had fallen behind the door, causing a loud metallic thud. It sounded like a careless workman dropping his tools for the day. Both officers jumped. Their hearts almost stopped beating. The thud quickly took Williams's mind away from the thousands of pages of blood-smeared gospel that surrounded them. He pressed his fingers against the door and gently, ever so gently, he pushed it open. It hadn't even occurred to Williams and his partner that neither man had taken a breath since they had started down the hallway. Now, with their lungs bursting with anxiety, the door opened slightly and a sliver of red light spilled out of the room, casting a narrow scarlet stripe down the center of Williams's face.
Williams grasped his revolver and quietly slid it out of its holster. He pushed open the door, using the barrel of his gun. The room was dim, almost black. One lone candle burned quietly on an old table in the middle of the room. A bare lightbulb dangled from the ceiling in the middle of the room. Sounds from an old Victrola spinning in the shadows leaked out from the darkness that engulfed them.
Williams moved his flashlight quickly around the room. Within the oval pools of light it cast, he caught quick glimpses of decay and deterioration. Mold, filth, and fungus clung to the walls hungrily. He could tell the room had rotted; the musty scent of mildew was strong. Years, decades of neglect had caused the house to decompose from within. Blaine coughed behind him.
A human figure quickly shuffled out of the shadows past Williams's flashlight. The dark silhouette stumbled toward a large chair that was partially illuminated from above by the blood-encrusted bulb.
"Jesus Christ!" Blaine cried out in an octave that made Williams's ears ring.
Williams just caught himself from jumping out of his own skin. Shaking the reverberations of his partner's scream out of his head, he pointed his flashlight toward the figure that was now lying on the floor. The figure was curled up and pressed against the wall. He saw it convulsing with sobs.
Williams walked closer to the chair. He passed his light over the figure and saw that the subject was female. She was dressed more in dirty rags than in clothing. She buried her head deep within her arms, crossed protectively over her chest. The sobs grew louder, deeper.
"It's okay. It's okay. We're here," Williams reassured the filthy, frightened woman. She tightened herself into a ball as he knelt down in front of her chair. "Ma'am, you're safe now. Please, tell me who you are."
Williams laid his gun on the moist old carpet. He held his flashlight with his left hand and with his right he gently stroked the woman's hair. He moved his hand easily down her cheek and under her chin.
"Everything is going to be all right, miss," Williams said as he carefully started to tilt the woman's head up. His flashlight lit her from underneath and he saw the woman's face. Once he saw her clearly, Williams -- a decorated war veteran and with eighteen hard years on the job -- knew that everything was definitely not going to be all right.
He heard Blaine gasp behind him.
"What...the...fuck?" Williams stammered.
Then it happened.
In a blur of frenzied movement a massive shadow sprang to life from the dark corner. The shadow was huge, monstrous. The gleam of metal sparkled out from the darkness as Williams's flashlight caught a glimpse of the axe blade being aimed at his partner.
Williams fell back against the wall. He saw the monstrous shadow descend upon Blaine. The man stood, transfixed and terrified, as the shadow raised the axe high above its head.
A pinkish glow was cast around the room as blood speckles started to burn on the hot glass of the overhead lightbulb. As weakness started to spread through his body, Williams turned his head, trying to block the scene from his sight. Instead, he saw Blaine's butchery played out as shadows on the wall.
Unable to tear his eyes away, Williams watched the shadow puppet show as the monstrous dark shape chopped Blaine all the way to the ground. The axe fell repeatedly, hard and fast, severing Blaine's head from his body. Each blow from the axe produced a sickening sound of sharp metal slicing skin and crushing bones. The noises escaping Blaine's body reminded Williams of another time in his life. They were the sounds he had heard in combat: bowels, guts, viscera spilling out of the human cavity and splashing upon the ground.
Williams grasped the handle of his revolver. The shadow raised its axe. Williams's finger crawled around the trigger.
The shadow approached.
Williams's torso jerked with a final burst of energy and he turned himself onto his side. His old buddy Fear was there to lend a well-needed hand and help him up. Williams raised his gun.
The shadow closed in.
It kept coming.
The revolver was as heavy as an anvil in Williams's hand. His strength was seeping into the carpet. Fear once again jumped in from the sidelines and gave Williams one final push of adrenaline. Knowing this might be the last action he would ever complete in this life and the last thing he would probably ever say, Officer Frank Williams pointed the gun at the approaching shadow's head and fired.
"Fuck you, cocksucker!" Williams screamed as he started to plunge headfirst into a dimming world of unconsciousness.
The bullet splattered into the shape's head. Chunks of shadow flew off from its skull as bone and blood erupted out from the darkness.
The shadow swayed.
With its axe, the thing stalked over to the officer and prepared to attack. Williams felt the sharpened steel slice into his muscle. The sound of flesh and bone crushing created a distinct resonating sound that shattered the silence engulfing the red room.
An arterial spray exploded across the room, extinguishing the candle in a crimson wave as Williams fell back, trying to clutch an arm that was no longer there. When he looked down, he saw that his arm had been sliced off in the middle of his bicep. The severed limb was still clutching the flashlight. As it shook in spasms, the flashlight's beams wildly shot around the room.
The pain transcended thresholds unimagined by Williams. Then, a life-draining numbness started to push the pain away as blood gushed out in crimson torrents.
Williams's heart beat thunderously. Each beat pumped out more blood until his life was slowly oozing from his body. Death by sanguination was mercifully moments away, if he could live through the decapitation that seemed to be seconds away. The monstrous shadow started toward Williams.
The will to live had been locked away in the back of Williams's mind long ago. It had been something that had been complacently stored away and forgotten about. Suddenly, it broke loose. Fear urged him on.
The creature slowly stalked across the room toward the bleeding police officer. It was in no rush, the dying cop was not going anywhere.
With a force that he didn't know he had, Williams fired his gun again.
The monstrous shadow fell into the darkness, like a giant rhino falling to a hunter's bullet. The body landed with a massive thud against the door, crushing the rotted wood. Seeping into the room were those last tarnished rays of sunlight that had followed Williams down the hallway. Williams watched as the massive black shadow staggered into the gloom of the hallway and stumbled away from the sounds of sirens blaring up the lonely street. A window crashed somewhere in the house. Williams collapsed onto the carpet, his head splashing into a sticky red pool as his eyes rolled back into his head. With the remaining dregs of his strength, Williams reached for his radio.
"Officer...down." He struggled to get the words out of his mouth.
Williams's dying arm was still convulsing on the ground. Both the limb and the flashlight twitched. Yellow streaks of light illuminated portions of the room.
Barely staying conscious while death tugged him over to the other side, he saw the girl. The young woman's face, or what was left of it, stared blindly out at Williams. Her eyes were gone. Her empty eye sockets were cavernous and dark. His flashlight cast horrific highlights on her face, and it looked like shadows were dripping from her sockets. In reality, the shadows were a gory mixture of blood and tears streaming down her cheeks.
Sirens screamed in the streets. Eventually, they gave way to the sounds of hurried voices traveling down the hallway toward the back room. Police radios crackled as the house started to fill with reinforcements. All of these sounds followed Officer Frank Williams as he started his journey to the next life, as he marched with his old faithful friend Fear leading him by his one remaining hand, toward the abyss.
The monster staggered down the alley. The red neon sign hissed and crackled and cast down a pinkish glow. Dirty rain puddles glistened brightly off the wet brick walkway. Stacks of trash bulged over Dumpsters. Aside from the monster's deep, heavy breathing, the scurrying of rats with their hungry little scampers was the only sound in the alley. The monster's head throbbed, a burning seared deep inside the thing's brain like the gnawing of a buzz saw. The giant, for all its immense size and misshapen proportions, stayed hidden within the cool black shadows that flowed narrowly down the long alley. He moved expertly and with much guile, as though living in the dark and far from the eyes of society was second nature to it. The monster's mind went back to a time when he had been in the alley -- it was as if he had been there in another life, when he wasn't an evil being, when he was something else. A human? But that had been lifetimes ago. He remembered this place, the door, the man, his face. He remembered that the man behind the door knew magic -- the man was some type of shaman, one who had a gift to take the pain away. The woman had taken the monster to see the man. The man who performed magic. The man who took the pain away. The monster remembered the woman and man whispering in hushed secrecy and nodding in his direction. But the man had many secrets and skills, and the most important of those skills was his ability to take the pain away.
Now the pain was back, worse than ever. The monster had long ago forgotten who the woman was. He knew that she was someone from his past. The past was a world that was dead to him now.
The pain was now starting to leak out, seep out of the bullet holes in the side of his head. The monster knew instinctively that if the holes weren't filled, the world would be able to look in, look deep into his head, and see all of his secrets and fears. He could not allow that. No matter how bad the pain, the fear of having the world see his soul was a thought that petrified the monster. He stopped in front of the gray steel door at the back of the alley. It was the only door to the building, and he vaguely recalled how big and ominous it had looked a lifetime before. Now the mighty door seemed cardboard-thin and flimsy to the wounded behemoth that stood in front of it.
Copyright 2006 by Dan Madigan
Excerpted from See No Evil by Dan Madigan Copyright © 2006 by Dan Madigan. Excerpted by permission.
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